Andy Tabberner and Oli Thompson are the new faces of the Gaerwen Arms on Anglesey…
We first interviewed Andy Tabberner back in the summer of 2018 when he was the executive chef at The Bull in Beaumaris. It’s safe to say that a lot has changed for him in the past 18 months, as he has now moved on to pastures new and has leased the Gaerwen Arms with partner in crime Oli Thompson.
Getting a little restless at The Bull, Andy decided that it was time to branch out on his own and, as luck would have it, his future partner was already working with him.
“I hosted a course at Coleg Llandrillo in Rhos-on-Sea where Oli was studying,” explains Andy. “Luckily for me he liked what he saw and applied to do some work experience at The Bull.”
Oli was studying Level 3 in hospitality and catering, and was even crowned ‘student of the year’ while at college.
“After my work experience finished a position came up at The Bull, and I was so happy when Andy offered me the job,” says Oli. “After working with him now for over two years I can really see a different way of cooking – I understand now that food is more than just a meal – it’s about providing the experience for the customer. I didn’t really play around with food too much before I met Andy – he really is my inspiration.”
So when Andy decided that the time was right to take the plunge into self employment it made sense for him to include Oli in the venture, and the two of them leased the Gaerwen Arms from Star Pubs, one of Heineken’s subsidiaries.
“It’s been a massive learning curve,” says Andy. “The pub was pretty tired when we first got the keys and so we had to spend the first week doing an industrial deep clean. It’s a very classic pub and we haven’t changed the design as such – but we have changed people’s expectations.”
Whereas the locals used to frequent the Gaerwen Arms for a burger and a beer, they are now presented with fresh, seasonal produce that wouldn’t be out of place in a fine dining restaurant.
“The pub has only been open for 14 weeks and we’ve had four menu changes already,” explains Andy. “This is because we only want to use local produce that is in season – and so if we can’t get the ingredients for a dish locally then we won’t do that particular dish.”
The pork belly is currently proving the pub’s most popular dish, and it’s perhaps no surprise when you hear the care and attention that has gone into creating it.
“We cook the pork for 24 hours in a sous vide machine to get the texture just right, and then we serve it with a homemade potato rosti that has been cooked in duck fat.”
Despite such attention to detail and the increasingly adventurous menu – the Gaerwen Arms has just started serving venison – the dynamic duo are also keen to keep the locals happy.
“We have a bar menu which has things like a pie and a pint on it,” says Oli. “However the difference is that it’s a really good homemade pie.”
And it’s not just the food that has had a revamp since the boys took over. The wine list now hosts a wide range of vino from a quality house wine up to a £50 bottle of Amarone.
“We just want to make sure that there is something here for everyone,” adds Andy. “Whether you have travelled especially to see us or live just down the road, we want to make sure that you have an experience to be remembered.”
And they are certainly going out of their way to ensure that this is the case. Next on their list is a revamp of the exterior of the pub and, as they have a fair bit of outside space, a summer food festival is also on the cards.
December at the Gaerwen Arms is set to be quite the event, with no less than 700 guests booked in for the festive season. And Valentine’s Day looks set to be pretty special too, seeing as how the pub has just won The Most Romantic Restaurant award at the Restaurant Awards – Welsh Edition – an accolade that came just weeks after the pub got awarded 2AA Rosettes.
And when you consider that all of this has been achieved in just 14 weeks, then it really is time to take your hats off to both Andy and Oli. But, when you realise that they are only 27 and 21 respectively, then they are in a different league altogether. Watch this space, because the Gaerwen Arms could just be about to put Anglesey on the foodie map…