Couple's fresh start
“I hate going for a meal somewhere and feeling hungry afterwards. I prefer comfort foods and slow roasting.”
Matt Cox, head chef at the Cambrian Inn, in Solva, believes in hearty food.
And having opened his own restaurant in December, with partner Katie Birch, his dreams are finally being realised.
“I do not like to be prudish – I believe in good, hearty meals, which are also affordable,” said Matt, who joined forced with his old school friend Jerome Barton to buy the premises.
“Like our slow roasted pork belly with sausage, crackling, mustard mash and gravy – perfect.”
The former head chef at Cwtch in St Davids offers three menus, including a traditional bar menu, a restaurant menu and a Sunday lunch menu, with all dishes made to order from fresh ingredients.
Matt said: “I am a big believer in low food miles, and I am concerned about where meat is sourced from. I only use meat that comes from sustainable sources where animals are well reared, because that way, the food tastes better.
“Our steaks are Celtic Pride steaks, sourced in Wales and matured for 21 days.”
The restaurant prides itself on serving traditional pub food with a twist.
“A good example is our maple-cured ham, black pudding, fried duck eggs and goosefat chips. Pub food, but with a twist,” said Matt.
“Our eggs come from a local farm, and our fish is bought in Milford Haven. We do not use anything frozen.”
The couple, who opened the Cambrian Inn on December 15th after three weeks renovating, said they always dreamt of a place of their own.
Matt said: “I have always aspired to have my own place at some point, because it’s nice to have something for yourself, and this place came around at the right time.
“Solva is such a lovely area, there’s a lot more going on than you think.
“And there are plenty of nice restaurants and pubs, which all compliment each other. It’s always better if everyone works together, rather than against one another.
“That’s partly why everyone has been so supportive – if we do something good here, it will reflect well on their business too.”
The restaurant, which serves traditional British food, sees the couple putting in 16-hour shifts almost every day.
“It’s long hours but good fun. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love what I was doing,” said Matt, who has been a chef for 20 years.
“I am passionate about food and cooking, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
In fact, the chef isn’t the only one in his family with a passion for food. His parents used to run a pub in St Davids, while his sister wears the whites herself.
“You could say it’s pretty much in the blood,” said Matt.
Katie added: “We will have to work hard to get a good reputation as a nice gastro pub, but we’re prepared to put the work in. At the moment, we’re still trying to find our way around the kitchen, but we’re determined to make it a success.”