Food Made Good

Foraged bitter tastes sweet for hat trick hero

The Gallery in Barry has been open barely three years. But in that short time it’s attracted more than its fair share of rave reviews and awards. Owner Barney Hibbert seriously downplays things in his description of the restaurant: a neighbourhood eatery serving seasonal and local produce. It’s so much more than this.

But when it comes to celebrating success, that’s where the understatement ends. Thoroughly chuffed with being named Welsh Food Made Good Restaurant of the Year for the third time in March this year, Barney decided he needed to mark this great achievement.

Ever since opening in 2013, Barney’s been mustard keen to brew his own beer. Plans for a brewery in the restaurant’s basement, ideally using hops that he’d grow in a five-acre field nearby – becoming the first commercial grower of hops in Wales, haven’t yet come to fruition. But Barney’s love of beer and a passion for working with local producers (evidenced by the dedicated page on the restaurant website) means he’s developed excellent ties with a number of brewers on his doorstep.

Teaming up with Swansea-based Boss Brewing, run by Sarah John, Barney settled on the idea of creating a beer to celebrate the restaurant’s success. And this wouldn’t be any old beer.

“I thought why not do a beer that’s a celebration of being Sustainable Restaurant of the Year three times, with three heritage hops, three grains and three foraged ingredients and call it The Hat Trick.”

For the three foraged ingredients, Barney turned to local master forager, Henry Ashby, who works with Michelin starred The Whitebrook. Henry, who’s been scouring the wild larder for delicious edibles for 53 years, explained that hops were only introduced to the UK in the 16th century and prior to that beer was made with a wild foraged ingredient – ale hoof.

“He’s the granddaddy of foragers,” says Barney, who, guided by his foraging mentor, selected the three wild ingredients: grass kelp, pineapple week and maritime pine, all of them from within spitting distance of the restaurant. They’re added three minutes before the end of the boil to add the ‘nose’.

The result is a citrusy Welsh Pale Ale. “It’s going down really well. The flavour is lovely. The foraged ingredients just give it a little difference.”

And customers at The Gallery are enjoying a host of foraged ingredients right now, including sloes, cob nuts and some mushrooms, as well as marsh leaf and the hairy bitter cress that now grows in Barney’s troughs.

Forager Henry’s top tip may surprise a few. “Try eating the hops as a vegetable. They taste much better than they do in beer.”