Barry, a few miles South West of Cardiff, may not be the most obvious location for an elegant upscale restaurant from Michelin-starred chef James Sommerin, but over the last couple of years it’s become a hotspot for food lovers thanks to Hangfire Southern Kitchen, and Goodsheds, which houses a selection of superb food and drink retailers as well as James Sommerin’s The Shed.
Like the menu, the space is modern and contemporary with floor-to-ceiling windows to one side. The interior and furniture use locally sourced and reclaimed materials, including timber from the Barry Docks area that’s used for the table tops, and slate from old snooker tables that features in the bar and pass.
Upscale, yes but there’s no stuffiness here – no tablecloths, a single set of cutlery at each place setting and a relaxed and welcoming vibe.
There are tables outside too, perfect for warm dry weather, and The Shed is right next door to the fabulous Craft Republic, a fantastic bar and bottle shop selling craft beer, wine and spirits (including their own brand Barry Island Spirits gin and rum).
Our visit is as a table of four, celebrating friend (and regular guest poster) Jack‘s birthday, so we are geared up to order three courses each; we briefly consider four with the addition of a cheese course before the reality of our finite capacity kicks in!
The menu seeks to promote Welsh produce, and the restaurant works closely with carefully selected local suppliers. Only Sean Willis of Douglas Willis Butchers is mentioned explicitly on the menu, but there’s a clear focus on seasonal and local ingredients.
To start, some Rosemary and Olive Oil Focaccia With Seaweed Butter (£3.50) which is warm, soft and delicious (though I’d describe it as soft white bread rather than focaccia).
My starter of Roast Wood Pigeon, Black Pudding, Beetroot, Raspberry (£8.50) combines tender pieces of slightly gamey pigeon breast with sweet, sharp cubes of beetroot, piped swirls of black pudding mousse and a sharp raspberry dressing. I wasn’t sure these disparate ingredients would work together but the contrasting flavours manage to complement each other beautifully.
Lobster Bisque, Sweetcorn, Fennel, Star Anise (£9.50) elicits happy sighs from its owner, who describes the lobster as juicy, the sweet corn as fresh, crunchy and really sweet, and the bisque itself as deep and rich with a gentle star anise flavour and aroma.
The Salmon and Hake Fishcake, Caper, Dill , Tarragon (£8.00) is a generous size, served with a garnish of black caviar, salad leaves and a creamy herb dressing. It’s a decent enough fish cake, but less exciting than the other two starters tried.
Two of us have the Slow Cooked Woodland Pork Belly, Sage, Apple, Celeriac (£18.00) and we are not disappointed. This dish is very rich and indulgent! The gingery apples and crisp fried sage leaves cut through the fat, and the celeriac puree is also a good foil.
The other two choose the Chicken Kiev, Caramelised Cauliflower, Chicken Butter Sauce (£18.50) and it’s a hard choice to decide which of the mains I like more. This is definitely a higher end kiev – soft succulent chicken and a welcome pool of garlicky butter – and the cauliflower and sauce provide full flavour garnishes.
Sides of Triple Cooked Chips (£3.50) and Truffle Mac ‘n ‘ Cheese (£5.00) are decent. The macaroni cheese is less sauced than expected with cheese mainly relegated to a gratin layer on the top, but the lighter truffle oil sauce makes for a lighter dish that works well as a side to the rich food. We probably ought to have chosen some green vegetables or a salad!
I’m not sure how often the Shed Soufflé (£12.00) changes flavours but on the day of our visit it was raspberry soufflé served with Parma Violets ice cream, and three of the four of us couldn’t resist! The soufflé itself was light and soft without being overcooked into wispy nothingness or undercooked and eggy (my bugbears with soufflés I’ve been served previously) and the raspberry sauce poured into each one at the table gave additional sharpness. Eating the souffle with the sweet and punchy ice cream brought balance to the battle of sweet and sour; this was a smashing end to our meals.
Pricing feels very reasonable indeed for the calibre of ingredients, inventive and delicious dishes and very skilled hands in the kitchen, making it a good choice whenever a great meal out is sought, as well as for special occasional celebrations.