ql_own_sosban_decor1Sosban is in a converted derelict building in Llanelli’s North Dock regeneration project. It’s location is a little out of the way (a fair walk from the station for example) but it is set in an open waterside locale and has a rather striking appearance

Service and decor at Sosban

I’ve used the term “bonnie Scot” before to describe service; and it’s applicable here – well, “bonnie Welsh” anyway. Friendly, attentive without being interfering, but slightly understaffed – you could feel they needed one more pair of hands on the evening of our visit. It wasn’t a problem per se, just a tinge of it in the atmosphere.

There’s a good selection of beer and cider, with several sourced locally. It’s a theme growing nationally, but in my research of places in Llanelli and our ultimate destination in Pembrokeshire, it’s something the Welsh have seemingly picked up a long time ago and triumphed with. Sosban is no exception here.

The environment is stunning; a large open space , great attention to detail in the lighting (see the photos), an open pass into the kitchen, and a large terrace area facing onto the water. Sosban would make for an incredible party venue – I can imagine it being the perfect wedding reception location for large radius, for example.

The wine list is short, but still broad and is very reasonably priced.

Food at Sosban

I’m going to critique Sosban as if it were a fine dining style of establishment inside the M25. In one sense this unfair. Llanelli is not London, and may it forever remain so. Nor should Sosban lose some of the informality that is its charm in striving to improve, what I hope this critique does is provide guidance on the finer details in building on the fantastic start they’ve made.

Firstly, having butter served that isn’t rock hard from the fridge with the artisanal bread to start is a big plus; this is an important point that many omit. However, I always appreciate a small bowl of sea salt (I spent a lot of time in Belgium) with good bread and butter (also oil and vinegar but good butter and salt is better in my opinion). I’d also expect that when you have mussels in an excellent cider cream sauce, more would be offered or The Welsh charcuterie board was good a selection of cured meats, served with an epic home-made piccalilli (I mean seriously good – not heavy on the yellow sauce, but just enough to deal with the heavy on the diced crudités) but it felt a little stingy; at the price  point I think a few more slices of it all would have been more fitting. That said, when the piccalilli is good enough to eat on its own with a spoon (yes really, I did), such things can be forgiven.

Main for us was a chateaubriand for two, medium rare. Well cooked meat, well rested and served with an excellent red wine sauce. This is the second establishment this month I have visited that has sauces/pickles nailed; whether that’s luck or the rise of the professional saucier is to be seen, but frankly it’s about time. The green beans and carrots were the perfect accompaniment, alongside a tray of chips. Chips 101 – if they aren’t evenly cut (I.e similar size and shape) then they cook unevenly and you have an inconsistent side dish. Sosban seemed to have fallen into this trap; gone to the effort of chipping their own, clearly at least double or even triple cooking them but producing a mix of fries and, well, roast potatoes. Also, if you’ve gone to the effort of souring good chateaubriand, local ale and cured meats, produce excellent sauces, it’s a disappointment to see that you don’t make your own mayonnaise. It takes all of five minutes before a service and really makes a difference.

Pudding was a pear tarte tatin for my friend; this was excellently executed and cooked to order (even though purists would criticise it be cause it was puff, not shortcrust, pastry). I had a well chosen selection of Welsh cheeses, although I’m glad to say I checked it wasn’t refrigerated when I placed the order; the 20 minutes it took for the tarte tatin allowed the cheese to acclimatise to a temperature passable for its consumption – had I not checked then Sosban would have committed a cardinal sin in my eyes. These two dishes were both matched with their own suggested port and desert wine; their sommelier is certainly someone that has some skill.

Conclusion

It’s Llanelli. It’s not renowned for being a gastronomic paradise; or even a tourist destination for that matter. It’s a town where many of the highest rated trip advisor establishments are common-or-garden pubs, for example. Sosban is a beacon in all of this and is thoroughly worth a look. If it were London, the constructive criticisms above would matter; but it isn’t. It was clearly being enjoyed by locals as the place to go for a special evening – and that’s what matters, not what an out-of-town amateur writer says (even if his final musing is that it is close to beating the Savoy Grill).

Which brings me nearly to my final point; I had a minor rant about how ubiquitous the little Kilner jars had become recently, triggered by the generally excellent Langley’s. Sosban avoided this (good) but appear to have a glut of miniature copper saucepans; one (piccalilli) in a dinner is cute. Two is probably pushing it even if ostensibly justified (chateaubriand sauce) Three (mayonnaise), well, similar reaction from me to when I was handed a hymn sheet in Welsh the next morning.

Sosban
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