We’re lucky to have many wonderful places in Wales to eat, drink, stay and play and in Pembrokeshire you’ll find so many, but it’s just digging up the gems – which are sometimes found in the middle of nowhere.
One of those family-run places that serves crisp food and offers views of the beautiful Preseli Hills is just minutes from the big names in tourism, Bluestone and Oakwood. The wakeboard and water park, Wild Lakes in Martlewy, is a hive of water activities, but if you look deeper you can get a brilliant dinner inside or outside their cute fairy-lit teepee. where the menu is put together by chef Ian Willson, who was previously at Wolfscastle Country Hotel and Slebech Park as head chef.
The menu, which is filled with local and seasonal produce, will see visitors try small plates – or ‘dwti plates’ – such as dirty barbecue brisket fries, grilled prawns with lime and chilli, a choice impressive Pembrokeshire beef burgers and wood-fired pizzas. It’s exactly the type of food you want after a day of hiking in the hills, swimming on the coast or an adrenaline-filled afternoon on a roller coaster at the nearby theme park.
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Wild Lakes is run by siblings Sarah, Steph and Mark Harris, whose story behind the wakeboard park you can read here, and they wanted to offer something a little different from your usual activity center fare , and that certainly sets them apart – the food is tasty, fresh and served quickly in the tipi which is a lovely place to sit in the evening. You also don’t need to book into the park for an activity to eat there as their food offering is open to anyone to book.
Steph told WalesOnline what they wanted to achieve when opening the teepee: “They’re fun and relaxed and provide a sense of informality that kids can play while you eat, or families can have a good chat. with little restriction of ‘you only have your table until this time’.
“We’re a family business so it makes sense to offer a dining room for families, we also allow dogs so the whole family can come. We didn’t want to go the way of your standard food and what l expected of a place of activity. Instead we wanted to provide an experience. Having Ian Willson on board with us and setting up the tipi menus was the fundamental factor, Ian has a lot of experience in all aspects of casual and formal dining, so he has carte blanche to do what he wants, when he wants.
“He is a wizard in the kitchen and when it comes to creating fabulous tasting menus, suited to the environment, he certainly knows how to do it. This also means that as the summer season progresses , Ian can upgrade to full fine dining and still deliver a totally different experience to customers.”
Being so close to big attractions like Bluestone and Oakwood is a plus for Wild Lakes on the one hand, which makes the place much easier to find, added Steph: “It’s a double plus for the view we have on the Preselis and the sunsets over the fields. . We often receive families who come for food and good coffee. It’s a great little haven and hub for activities. However, our only negative sometimes is that people often assume that we are owned and operated by Oakwood or Bluestone, which at times can be a little frustrating. We are just one family business among a few great local attractions.
Having two AA Rosette chefs, Ian, on board is a plus, given that he’s good at building over the winter – this year they’re hoping to expand the galley – and he’s also an excellent wakeboarder. He is joined in the kitchen by two other chefs, Pau and Cai, who have been trained to run a service while he does a little DIY or enjoys the waves. Steph said: “Ian is definitely family – we think even our family dogs Bryn and Dewi love him!”