Abersoch and the Llyn Peninsula are surrounded by water. Lot’s of it. Teeming with fish and members of the crustacean family – lobster and crab. So it’s no surprise that there is a real demand for quality seafood. Couple that supply and that demand with a beautiful converted shippon barn in the peaceful, sleepily beautiful location of Rhydyclafdy, and an experienced seafood chef with roots deep in the maritime and catering history of the peninsula and you have a recipe for an enviable seafood restaurant and a superb dining experience.
Which is exactly what Twnti provides. More years ago than he cares to remember, Keith Jackson was at Hotel School where he met the young Marisa. The couple took their first jobs in the hotel trade down in Gatwick after graduating, Marisa becoming Executive Housekeeper at the newly operational Gatwick Hilton Hotel. They carried on working in the area – Keith shifting to ground based work for the airlines and Marisa developing her experience in the catering and hospitality trade – but the pair had a dream. A dream rooted in Marisa’s family heritage in the seafood industry here on the Llyn Peninsula courtesy of the legendary Dive Inn over on the north shore near Tudweiliog. And a dream rooted in raising a family in the same beautiful area – far away from the grime and hustle of the capital and it’s crowded, noisy airport.
That dream came to fruition in the form of Twnti Seafood Restaurant in Rhydyclafdy, just inland between Abersoch and Pwllheli. Already successfully operating as an established bistro, Marisa and Keith saw the opportunity to keep hold of the goodwill and develop it for a new customer base looking for quality seafood in a beautiful building in a lovely location. The pair set to work on the stunning, high-ceilinged former barn – it has real echoes of a medieval dining hall – to bring it into line with their vision. The result is a tastefully and subtly seafood-themed environment – spotlights picking out the wooden lobsters on the walls, fish-themed lamps sourced from a garden centre over in Portugal illuminating the lovely wooden bar and welcoming gateposts at the entrance to the drive – topped with white-washed stone fish. There’s no mistaking the experience you will be served up when you arrive at Twnti and you will not be disappointed by what’s on offer.
“Twenty six years and counting is proof of that,” says Keith with a smile. “It wasn’t easy at the start but we have offered locals and visitors a fabulous dining experience for over a quarter of a century and managed to make a profit every year!” It is some achievement for a restaurant tucked away in a tiny village here on this sleepy peninsula and testimony to the great food and quality dining and social experience that Keith and Marisa serve.
So how about we take you to Twnti? From Abersoch take the Pwllheli road to Llanbedrog and take the left turn up the hill opposite the Glyn-Y-Weddw pub. Continue up the hill for about a quarter of a mile and take the right turn signed to Rhydyclafdy. After a mile or so turn right at the ‘T junction’, continuing straight on towards Rhydyclafdy village where you will find the lovely seafood-themed signs for Twnti immediately after the Tavarn Tu Hwnt l’r Afon Inn. Bright red French Geraniums welcome you at the gateway to Twnti where there is plenty of parking in front of the lovely lime-washed, old stone buildings that house your destination. When you step out of your car and into the restaurant be prepared for a sensory overload as the sweet, subtle flavours of fresh, expertly prepared and cooked seafood tempts you into a wide ranging menu that offers a clever mix of both the traditional and contemporary takes on marine based cuisine. It is welcome absolutely fitting of a restaurant dedicated to serving up the fruits of the sea that sits so close to the front door.
Keith and Marisa are happy to try and accommodate walk-up customers amongst the 40 to 50 covers, but such is the popularity of Twnti that booking is strongly recommended. Especially for the larger groups that are attracted to this great local seafood experience in the summer months. “The atmosphere is a lovely mix,” says Keith. “Mellow and calm whilst guests are dining and maybe a little music to round off a great evening.” It’s a terrific image – superb food in a beautiful rural setting just a short drive from Abersoch.
Word on the street (well the lane anyway!) is that yesteryear in Twnti has seen some legendary nights as the wine has flowed and the beers and lagers have been ordered in the warmth of a summers evening! “I’m past all that these days,” says Keith. “I don’t mind putting the music on, but really the ‘big nights’ are a thing of the past.” But something about the twinkle in his eye and the casual mention of ‘keeping a small flat at the back of the restaurant when its too late to go home after a busy night,’ tells me that the Keith of old is still lurking there, even if he takes a little more coaxing these days! He may be deep beneath the surface as he contemplates a quieter future but he’s definitely still there.
But the focus is primarily on fine dining, backed up by superb service and a great selection of drinks. Marisa is devoted to her sea-based dishes with the menu offering a wide selection including Lemon Sole Florentine (offered with fresh spinach, crayfish tails and a home made hollandaise sauce), oven Baked King Scallops with Pancetta and Chorizo, Thai style seabass and Grilled Whole Dover Sole – “the King of fish!” as Marisa will tell you. Inevitably the whole local lobster is a resident star of the menu served either Thermidor (rich and creamy), Grilled (plain or with Garlic Butter) or Cold with side salad and mayonnaise. There are always specials on the board, depending on whats available or in season – John Dory with wild mushrooms and cream sauce is a current favourite, along with fresh crab, caught and dressed locally in Aberdaron – the King of crab locations! For the unconverted fillet steak and duck dishes are always available, and a tempting selection of hand-made desserts is there for all to back up the extensive starters menu.
“As the Aberdaron crab and local lobster demonstrates, ingredients are as far as possible sourced locally, with supplies backed up by overnight deliveries of the freshest ingredients from the legendary fish market at St Mawes in Cornwall,” Keith tells me. “The quality is incomparable and a big part of why we have so many repeat customers – locals who return month after month and visitors who return year after year.”
Marisa’s stunning food selection is backed up by a wine list and drinks selection that will accompany a quiet romantic meal for two as well as it will keep a larger group happy. Ten different reds include a well recommended house red along with eighteen whites, again with a house option, as well as Abersoch-lovers favourite summer fizz – Prosecco – the old favourite Cava and a selection of quality champagnes. “A good wine can make all the difference to your enjoyment of a seafood dish,” says Keith. “So all our selections, from a house wine to a premier cru, are selected to provide the perfect accompaniment to our menu, including some fabulous dessert wines. We place just as much importance on ensuring that our house wines work with our food as we do our top of the range wines. We also have an increasingly strong selection of gins to reflect the growing taste for the many subtle variations of this traditional spirit now available (just don’t mention the ‘Manchester Gin’ to visitors from Liverpool (Editors note – there are plenty of other gin options for the particularly sensitive!). For the lager drinkers, summer evenings demand a glass of the liquid gold that is draft San Miguel, backed up by a refreshing range of bottled bitters and lagers.”
The layout of Twnti is such that it provides a lovely flow for your evening and great flexibility for those with children in the party. Above the bar is the first of the two galleries that look out over the main dining area with it’s full barn-height beamed ceiling. Here you can have a drink from the great selection on offer before your meal or whilst you wait to be seated. On warmer evenings the gallery gives direct access to that lovely decked balcony outside, with its pink and white geraniums cascading from planters all around you, adding to the rural tranquility of the sleepy village setting that Twnti offers – I can think of few better place to reflect on a great day on the beach or a walk around the coastal path! At the other end of the restaurant is a second raised gallery available for groups with younger children, but again with that outlook over the main dining hall so everybody feels part of the great atmosphere served up thanks to Keith’s well-honed front-of-house skills.
The combination of the lighting, the beautiful old building, the tasteful seafood-themed accessories and the lovely warm reds and clarets that are a feature of the décor create an equally ‘warm’, welcoming environment that encourages the mellowest of mood, the conversation to flow and for the superb food to be enjoyed in the setting it deserves. It’s a rare combination of a place that offers the sort of atmosphere that brings out the best in a larger party on the annual get-together here in the Abersoch area where so many extended families love to meet up year after, whilst also offering a lovely romantic setting for a couple. And it’s popularity with locals, both here in the village, and across the peninsula, is testimony to the consistency and quality of experience that Marisa and Keith have offered for those twenty six years!
They are a couple who had a dream and made it come true. They have run and developed this lovely, warm place with its superb dining experience tucked away in this beautiful little village as a couple for half a lifetime, creating the destination and the food that they knew their experience, skills and dedication could deliver. And they lived the rest of their dream too, creating the little family they wanted in the location where Marisa had her roots and where they knew their two boys (Mark and Gareth, both now in their twenties) could have the kind of childhood they wanted for them.
It is a great story of a true family business that is part of the high quality, eclectic mix of hospitality we find throughout the Abersoch area and tucked away across the width of this stunning strip of land that breaks off from mainland Wales to push out deep into the Irish sea. The same sea that delivers the superb Aberdaron Crab and local lobster offered by Twnti, and part of the same waters that every day serve up the fresh seafood spoils that Marisa takes into her busy kitchen to create the mouth-watering menu Twnti serves up day after day, year after year.
Twnti is open Wednesday to Sunday evenings throughout the season
To make a reservation at Twnti call 01758 740929
Written by Abersoch Magazine editor Kevin Bell (Featured in the Autumn 2017 issue)
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All photos by : Totally Abersoch www.totallyabersoch.co.uk