Finding a decent place to eat on a Monday night isn't always easy but when it's your Wedding Anniversary and the wife wants to go 'somewhere new', the pressure is really on.
So imagine my relief when I discovered that somewhere I'd been meaning to go for a while, had just started to open on Mondays. One quick phone call later and we had a table at Sosban in Llanelli.
For those of you not in the know yet, Sosban, which opened in 2011, is part owned by restaurateur and food broadcaster Simon Wright (previously one half of Y Polyn), 2 ex rugby internationals – Stephen Jones and Dwayne Peel, and construction entrepreneur Robert Williams. Being a great fan of Y Polyn I was really hoping that some of their food ethos had managed to make its way a few miles due south along with Simon.
The first thing to notice about Sosban is the building, a grade 2 listed ex-pump house that used to provide hydraulic power to operate the dock gates. Although the square 90ft tower that housed the pump may mislead you at first glance into thinking that you are visiting an old church. Walk through the entrance door and you are standing at the base of the tower, which still houses part of the pump. Tip your head back and look up and you begin to realise just what a powerful piece of machinery this thing must have been in its day.
Circumvent the pump, go through the inner doors and you are in the reception area, with it's comfy leather chairs and sofas. This in turn opens into the main dining space, and what an incredible space it is. High ceilings, exposed stonework, wooden ceilings, lots of light. I just loved it! If you ever need to take anyone some place with a 'wow' factor then take them here. There's even an open plan kitchen, separated from the dining room but a light, glass roofed link section.
We sat down on one of those comfy sofa's for a pre-dinner drink and to peruse the menu. The staff, although young, were all incredibly helpful, polite and friendly and competent to answer any of our questions on the various dishes.
Having placed our order we were shown to our table. Sosban, like Y Polyn, serves 'house water' and complimentary bread, and refills of both were offered.
To start I chose the 'Welsh charcuterie board, piccalilli'. A great plate of locally cured meats and a really nice piccalilli which combined with the gherkins and pickled onions brought not only crunch but bite!
MrsA chose the 'Crab lasagne'. However, the wafer thin pasta and whipped consistency made this dish seem more like a mousse than a lasagne. Still a tasty dish, with a nice sauce to boot, it didn't quite deliver texturally on it's decription.
For main course I went for the 'Slow cooked belly of pork, braised cabbage, Madeira sauce'. Finished off with a nice strip of crackling and some super smooth mashed potato this was a really nice dish. The slow cooked belly pork was flavourful and tender, yeilding to the edge of the fork and hardly requiring a knife. Scrumptious!
'Rump of lamb, parsnip puree, potato gnocchi, spring vegetables' was MrsA's choice. She loved the gnocci but thought the lamb was a little strong in flavour, especially as it was from the Preseli hills, we are used to our Welsh Mountain Lamb being on the sweeter side. It was still a nicely balanced dish, but we both thought the pork was the better of the two.
As we were both getting quite full we decided to order one Bakewell tart and two forks. Served hot, this was an almond and frangipani delight with a lovely thin pastry case. Not too sweet, nice and light.
To bring our evening to a close we opted to return to the comfort of the sofa for coffee.
All in all, we both really liked Sosban. The renovation of the building has been carried out to an exceptional standard (check out google streetview for some pre-restoration images) and the interior layout and design is first class. What could so easily have been a cold, echoey space has been transformed into something light and spacious, yet warm and welcoming. Well done!
The food is, in the main, good local produce treated well and cooked with care. As the menu says "Unless we tell you otherwise… pork is from pedigree Welsh breed pigs on the Gower, lamb is from the Preseli Hills, smoked food is from Crickhowell, beef is from farms in north and mid Wales, chicken is from Pembrokeshire, fish and shellfish are landed around the Welsh coast, and the chef is from Kidwelly."
Sosban can serve 90 covers and it was good to see, in these austere times, that on a Monday night at the beginning of April they were at least half full. Prices are very reasonable, our 2 starters, 2 mains, shared dessert came in with 1 bottle beer, 2 large glasses and 1 small glass of wine at a respectable £73.50.
At lunch times and early evening (6-7pm) they offer the fixed price Sosban Fach menu at an incredible £13 for two courses or £15 for three courses. Now that certainly has to be the best bargain this side of the Towy!
Tel: 01554 270020