When retired Cardigan solicitor Stephen Welch first began considering whether the town’s old newspaper printworks could be transformed into a viable food outlet, little did he think it would evolve into one of South West Wales’ most inspired and creative new restaurants.
This is thanks in no small part to his son Chris, who has skilfully designed a stylish, rustic interior alongside a menu unlike any other for miles around.
“The idea was put to me when I was in my 20s, of taking over The Printworks, but at the time I wasn’t ready for it,” Chris told The Pembrokeshire Herald.
“I wanted to travel, explore and just get some of those great life experiences before I became too old, and I knew that taking on Yr Hen Printworks was going to be a big commitment.”
Chris worked as a ski instructor which funded his travels around Europe and then in April 2017, he and his father began the mammoth task of transforming the Victorian building in Carriers Lane, Cardigan, into the culinary jewel which it has become today.
“It was a full scale project, as the building was just a shell. But we’ve tried to retain as much of its original character as possible which shows off the quality of the original structure.
” We’ve used as much up-cycled stuff as possible, such as the bar which has been built from an old chimney that was at the back of the building while most of the wood has come from trees at my parents’ home in Penbryn.”
Yr Hen Printworks opened in June 2021 and from the outset, it was obvious that it was going to set a new trend.
“We decided to offer smaller portions which would give people an insight into the wealth of quality local produce which we have around us in south Ceredigion and north Pembrokeshire,” he said.
Diners choose between three and four plates, sometimes accompanied by a side dish or a snack, with the option of re-ordering additional plates as the meal continues.
Small plates include a pork and apricot terrine with prine ketchup, an oyster mushroom tart and a smoked salmon rillette with beetroot and horseradish while sides include the parmesan and rosemary chips and a leek gratin.
The beef is all organic, produced by Chris’s father-in-law Richard Linfoot at Bigni Farm in Mwnt, while the pork is from a pedigree pig farm in Cenarth. The crab and lobster comes from local fisherman Len Walters and his wife Mandy, with the other fish coming from the Albatross Fisheries in Narberth. Yr Hen Printworks also tries to source as much local vegetables as possible, including the oyster and shitake mushrooms.
The menu has been carefully designed by Chris Walker of Solva, who was previously employed as the senior sous chef at The Grove in Narberth.
“What Chris is achieving here is truly incredible, “ continues Chris Welsh. “He casts the die as far as the menu is concerned, and has free rein to create what he thinks will work.”
Chris Walker is joined in the kitchen by two other chefs who begin work each day at 9am to begin creating that day’s dishes for the evening service.
“Initially we weren’t sure how people would respond to the tapas-style idea of small plates, but we’re seeing lots of repeat bookings which shows that yes, the initiative really is working after all.
“And the response we’re heaving from our customers has been incredible.”
Earlier this year Yr Hen Printworks became only the third restaurant in Wales to be awarded a prestigious Michelin accolade after being awarded the Bib Gourmand award, which recognises ‘establishments that serve good food at moderate prices’.
Meanwhile Chris is confident of Cardigan’s future as a quality culinary destination.
“Cardigan is most definitely an up-and-coming food place,” he concluded.
“The last few years have seen some very strong new restaurants emerging in the town and the future is most definitely looking good.”