The Abergwaun is an independently and locally owned hotel in Fishguard with its very own award winning chef at its helm.
The JT Abergwaun Hotel can be found in the centre of town and is considered a local landmark, with the building itself originally a coaching inn with history dating back over 200 years. However, in recent years, it has been the talk of the town and not all for the right reasons. It was previously a Brains Brewery pub, it has been auctioned and even stood derelict for 10 years.
Luckily, that’s all changed following the acquisition of the premises by young local couple Daniel Jones and Lois Thomas, whose initials make “JT” in the restaurant’s name. Since their ownership in 2020, they have turned the hotel’s fortunes around with a full refurbishment, transforming The Abergwaun into a contemporary 4* hotel.
The building now stands proudly just off the main high street and has brought with it a new lease of life to Fishguard. There are plans to bring its offering to even more people through its private dining and events side of the business.
About Fishguard, Pembrokeshire
The coastal village of Fishguard remains a hidden gem and is off the beaten path of other more well-known tourist hotspots such as Tenby, a short distance away. If you have been before, you may have been one of thousands of visitors that cut-through each year to use the Stena Line ferry service to Rosslare, Ireland.
However, Fishguard has a lot to offer, especially if you’re looking for a short break-away in a quieter part of Wales. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty with its towering cliffs, hills and valleys, and seems somewhat untouched by heavy commercialisation like other local towns. For example, there are a lot of independents including cafes, pubs and shops. Boots, Co-op and the Principality Building Society are perhaps the only glimpses of ‘chains’. Most are closed on Saturdays, and some will close for lunch – but that’s the charm of the place.
Fishguard is also home to a weekly market and for art and music lovers, Fishguard International Music Festival has brought world-class music to the area for 50 years. This year’s event takes place in August.
A short 10-minute walk away you’ll find lower Fishguard, an extremely picturesque location that’s well worth a visit. It might be downhill from the town, but just be warned, if you do go for a stroll then you must walk back up. However, there is a free car park in the village if you drive. There are also plenty of other walking routes, especially with it being on the coastal path, so you’ll find a walk to suit most abilities.
Award-winning pub restaurant
The restaurant environment is both welcoming and relaxing, with inventive menus and cocktails on offer. You could say it’s the perfect pairing whether you decide to stay over or are just visiting to unwind in the evening.
Executive chef and co-owner Daniel Jones took first place in the prestigious International Salon Culinaire awards 2023 on 22nd March. Highly regarded as one of the world’s top competitions for chefs, the category Daniel competed in was Pub Chef of the Year. The Pembrokeshire chef has put JT At the Abergwaunn Hotel on the Welsh culinary map of places to eat.
The winning dish, Lemon Sole, Spring Vegetables, Bluestone Ale and Cockle Vinaigrette with ‘Welshman’s caviar’, will be added to the restaurant menu in the summer.
Chef Jones is no stranger to competitive cooking, having taken part and made it to the semi-finals of Masterchef: The Professionals in 2010, some 8 years later in 2018 he also reached the semi-finals of the National Chef of the Year awards.
The modern European restaurant is steeped in Welsh heritage, doing their bit to support local suppliers and offering ingredients like Welsh ribeye steak and Welsh lamb, with a selection of fine Welsh cheeses. The meats are rotated depending on availability and most work their way onto the Sunday lunch menu too.
The menu varies depending on what is currently available locally by means of foraging, farming and fishing including ingredients such as spider crab and lobster.
We were treated to three courses of pure flavour sensation, with so many options it was difficult to choose.
Chef Daniel regularly tries out new recipes and some evenings will provide these as complimentary mini dishes to the delight of diners. We were lucky enough to be present for one of those occasions, the Pea Veloute served hot, with garlic bread being offered. It was our first taste of JT and we weren’t disappointed. The Pea Veloute was bursting with fresh flavour and the garlic bread was rich in flavour. We’d happily have this again if it makes it way onto the menu.
For starters, we opted for Roast scallops and “Finger licking JT chicken”.
The roast scallops are plated with curried cauliflower, bhaji, pomegranate and dressed spring salad. Who would have thought that scallops and curried cauliflower would taste so good together? The use of fragrant spices rather than chillies is what adds those oriental flavours to the dish Chef Jones tells us. The scallops fell apart and with the lack of overwhelming saltiness that we’ve experienced elsewhere, enhanced the sweetness from the pomegranate.
The “Finger licking JT chicken” was coated with truffled honey, black sesame dressing and truffle mayo. It is some of the tastiest chicken that we’ve ever had. The stickiness of the honey really stood out for us and we think this would make a wonderful main.
As a mid course to share, we tried a simpler version of Daniel’s award-winning dish, Baked Lemon sole, which just melted in our mouth. The dish was also served with caper and brown butter sauce, green grape, samphire, and “potato-potato”.
Pork belly, crispy bacon “pork ball”, including honey glazed carrots and dauphinoise. The pork was tender with a snappy layer of crackling that was full of flavour, juicy carrots and the creamy dauphinoise not overly peppery.
The locally sourced Welsh Sirloin Steak, is accompanied by what we believe to be beer-battered house chips. The rocket & parmesan salad was tasty and refreshing, and the peppercorn sauce was the perfect companion. Who doesn’t love a good peppercorn sauce? Everyone has their own personal preference when it comes to steak, cooked medium-well just as we like it. This piece of meat dominated the plate and the taste buds with its rich flavours, all sealed in with melt in the mouth cuts of steak.
After those delicious courses, we unfortunately didn’t have space for dessert however the dessert options include Afforgato, dark chocolate device, salt caramel, passionfruit & orange with pembs promise ice cream, and welsh cheese selection with oat cake, chutney and fresh apple.
Not what anyone would consider classic pub food, the menu Daniel has put together is something you’d expect to see at a Michelin Star restaurant. For those in search of a simpler dish, the lunch menu offers Aber Club Sandwich, Aber Burger and a selection of Paninis.
There are changes on the horizon for JT At the Abergwaun Hotel with Saturday all-day dining being introduced – for locals and guests – but most exciting to hear is the launch of a seven-course taster menu. This will showcase the award-winning dish and local Pembrokeshire produce Daniel is so proud of.
There are also talks of a second restaurant opening, alongside the events company they currently run. This duo even have a big project on the go next door, alongside the planning of their own wedding. With the success of their first pub restaurant with rooms, we’re confident that this winning couple will succeed.
Staying the night
The Abergwaun features four luxury ensuite rooms (one is dog-friendly) and a two-bedroom apartment. There are also plans to expand the hotel’s offering in 2023, so watch this space.
The owners describe themselves as a ‘restaurant with rooms’ and yes, the restaurant clearly stands on its own two feet, but that doesn’t mean they have compromised on the rooms either.
Lois, co-owner or one of their team will give you a warm welcome on your arrival. Guests will need to check-in at the bar, but once you’re in, you will be given a key and instructions on how to enter and exit through the hotel’s own entrance. As a popular spot for walkers, JT even offers a shoe “polish & shine service” – completely free of charge. So, even your boots get a well-deserved rest as you do.
The rooms are surprisingly spacious and boast traditional sash windows that overlook the town square outside. The windows provide plenty of light and there are table lamps and ceiling lights aplenty.
The bed is one of the comfiest that we’ve had the pleasure of staying in. It strikes the right balance of softness and comfort without being too firm. There is plenty of storage space, which is handy if you’re staying more than one night.
Combined with a fairly neutral and homely decor based on Laura Ashley designs with their own twist, the rooms provide very comfortable surroundings for a good night’s sleep. The rooms are decorated to a high standard by its owners and include a tasteful mix of mod-cons and traditional furnishings.
Guests will find everything from USB plug sockets, a large flat screen TV (with swivel bracket) with Netflix and Prime access, but also quirky pieces such as a vintage telephone seat.
This continues into a tiled ensuite with a large heated towel rail and generously sized shower. The water is consistently hot and features a detachable, adjustable shower head, as well as a rain shower – something that is only often found in higher end establishments.
Breakfast is included in your stay and there is an array of items on offer, including but not limited to – fruit juices, smoothies, breakfast cocktails, hot drinks, continental and traditional cooked breakfast. Guests can customise any of the items and create your own ‘eggs with’ choices, including Eggs Benedict and Royale (personal favourites when travelling).
The breakfast is prepared by the award-winning chef himself, Daniel, and soon to be wife Lois. The food itself was fresh, full of flavour and cooked to perfection. It’s rare to find an establishment that offers such fine food from start to finish, including breakfast and dessert. Everything has been thoroughly thought about and the effort that these two have put into everything is sensationally obvious.
The Abergwaun is in a popular location and offers something a bit different in the town, especially with its combination of fine-dining. If you are thinking of staying, we’d recommend booking early due to the limited on-site accommodation – at least for now. We’d also recommend booking a table in advance, as the restaurant is often fully booked, especially on Saturday evenings.
Parking is available a short distance away at Parc y Shwt at a cost of £2 for 24hrs.
A one-night stay costs from £100 for two sharing a double room, including breakfast. To book, visit https://www.jtabergwaunhotel.co.uk/ Call 01348 874 584