You only have to glance at Sosban Restaurant in Llanelli, south-west Wales to know that it’s a pretty special place. A Grade-II listed Victorian pump house perched on Llanelli’s North Dock, this awe-inspiring building is a beacon for the iconic industrial heritage of the surrounding area.
Lovingly restored by Bendigo 9-10 (a team consisting of Wales and British Lions rugby internationals, Stephen Jones and Dwayne Peel; construction entrepreneur, Robert Williams; and restaurateur and food broadcaster, Simon Wright), the building boasts high ceilings, solid wooden beams and exposed stone walls.
Sosban restaurant: the story behind the name
So, why ‘Sosban’? ‘Sosban’ is the Welsh term for ‘saucepan’ and ‘Sosban Fach’ is a popular Welsh folk song associated with Llanelli RFC and the Scarlets regional rugby team. The reference to ‘sosban’ actually relates to Llanelli’s booming tin plating industry, which once involved tin-plating steel saucepans and other kitchen utensils. During the final years of Stradey Park (the former playing grounds of Llanelli RFC and the Scarlets), the goalposts were decorated with Scarlet saucepans in a nod to the town’s history. The utensils have since been transferred to the clubs’ new home, Parc y Scarlets.
Head Chef Andrew Sheridan
It’s not just the look and feel of Sosban that makes it worth the hour-and-a-half train journey from Cardiff to Llanelli. Sosban’s Head Chef, Andrew Sheridan has built up quite the reputation for himself, having recently represented Wales on BBC television series, Great British Menu alongside Chris Harrod from The Whitebrook, Monmouthshire (who eventually won the Welsh regional heats) and Jason Hughes from Chateau Rhianfa, Anglesey.
Each of Sosban’s menus offer contemporary adaptations of classical British dishes crafted using only the finest locally sourced ingredients, and Andrew certainly isn’t afraid of experimenting with bold flavours. With every dish on the menu, he attempts to tell a story through either memories, tastes or seasons, hoping to really connect his guests with their food.
Sosban’s five-course Sunday tasting menu
Visiting Sosban for the five-course Sunday tasting menu, I’m feeling somewhat apprehensive. I’m a big fan of a traditional roast dinner, piled high with all the trimmings and an extra boat of gravy. While Sosban’s tasting menus have received rave reviews, how will a five-course fine dining menu compare to a classic roast?
Arriving at the restaurant with fellow blogger, Becky of Munchies and Munchkins, we get comfy on the leather sofas and take our pick from the cocktail menu. A pair of espresso martinis are served icy cold and delightfully strong, perking us up for the five courses that lay ahead of us as we chat to Andrew about Great British Menu.
It’s crazy to think the series was actually filmed last year, so Andrew has had to keep quiet about how he got on for a whole year! Talking to him about his future plans for the restaurant, it’s clear he has some great ideas in the pipeline, including talk of inviting guest chefs to cook alongside him at exclusive events.
Once our glasses are empty, we’re led into the restaurant itself. A spacious dining area kitted out with wooden tables and chairs, room dividers, sofa-style seating and lampshades fashioned from reddish-brown autumnal leaves, the casual bistro-style vibes help to soften the industrial nature of the place.
An appetiser takes the form of a warm wholemeal organic loaf dotted with oats and sunflower seeds, served with separate portions of homemade Marmite butter and award-winning Shirgar salted butter. They say you either love or hate Marmite, but it’s difficult to see how anyone could dislike this aerated, mousse-like Marmite butter; the flavour is so subtle, it could convert even the staunchest of Marmite haters.
Meanwhile, the Shirgar butter is delightfully creamy and slightly salty, as you’d expect from a farmhouse butter churned in the traditional manner.
Next up is a crunchy sweet potato cracker laden with cheddar custard, onion marmalade, pickled mustard seeds and fresh chives in a definitive marriage of flavours and textures. It may not be a prawn cocktail, pâté or any of the other starters you’d expect to be dished up ahead of a Sunday roast, but it certainly gets us off to a good start.
In our second course, Andrew puts a gourmet twist on classic British fish and chips in his signature dish, Cod Five Ways: lightly battered cod cheek, deep-fried crispy cod skin, succulently silky cod loin, cod tartare and cod roe mayonnaise. This delicious array of cod delicacies is served with pea puree, golden salt and vinegar chips, fresh dill and capers.
It isn’t until our third course that our meal begins to resemble a typical Sunday dinner. 90-day aged Herefordshire beef is cooked medium-rare and teamed with a crispy mini Yorkshire pudding, fresh whole carrots, Swiss chard, peppery nasturtium, onion textures and walnut crumble.
Our dessert takes the form of a coffee panna cotta, served with chocolate and coffee textures. Besides the panna cotta, this also includes a coffee mousse, chocolate sorbet, chocolate brownie, chocolate ganache and coffee jelly.
A self-confessed javaphile, I’m delighted to discover we’ll be having coffee pannacotta with chocolate and coffee textures for dessert. A chocolate sorbet, malted chocolate brownie, and chocolate ganache are incredibly rich and decadent; had they been served alone, they would’ve been too sickly for my liking, but the coffee-infused pannacotta, mousse and jelly offset the sweetness. However, it would be good to have another dessert option just in case you’re not keen on coffee (although I’m sure the restaurant would happily accommodate any preferences either way).
Normally, a five-course meal would leave me feeling absolutely stuffed, but I’m feeling pleasantly full by the time we polish off our desserts. This is just as well, as Andrew has another treat in store for us in the form of the apple rice pudding made famous by his appearance on Great British Menu. “Nurse Onion’s rice pudding” is inspired by Andrew’s great-grandmother, Rebecca Onions, who worked as a nurse right up until she was 82. When she wan’t working, she loved nothing more than to cook for her family and her rice pudding was always a hit with the family. It also proved popular with Great British Menu judge, Paul Ainsworth and two of the judges in the Friday final, all of whom scored the dessert 10/10.
Creamy, vanilla-infused rice pudding is served cold, topped with a scoop of sweet hay ice cream, macerated blackberries, salted almond crumble and caramelised milk skin. This classic autumnal dessert is available to order on the desserts menu for just £6.50. Definitely a 10 if you ask us!
Despite my love for the traditional British Sunday roast dinner, I thoroughly enjoyed the Sunday tasting menu at Sosban. At just £49 for five courses for two (+£40 per person with wine pairing), it offers exceptional value for money, especially when you consider the usual cost of each dish; the Cod Five Ways alone is normally priced at £21 per head! A vegetarian tasting menu is also available for the same cost. The Sunday tasting menu is served from 12pm until 2.30pm every Sunday, and advance booking is recommended.
Dining at Sosban restaurant throughout the week, you can choose from a lunch menu, a la carte menu and seven-course tasting menu (£55 per person, with wine pairing available at an additional £40 per person). Children are very welcome to dine at the restaurant and the children’s menu offers a three-course meal with a drink for just £9.50 per child.
Sosban Restaurant | The Pump House | North Dock | Llanelli |SA15 2LF
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