Origins of Tomos Parry

A love of British shellfish, a passion for the culture and history of the Basque Country and commitment to ‘the complete package’ of hospitality are at the root of Tomos’s desire to push the boat out


‘Brat’ is old slang for a turbot. It’s not commonly used but I liked the ring to it, and in Welsh, my first language, it means ‘apron’, so there’s a double meaning. Turbot, cooked over an open fire, is an iconic dish in Basque Country. A lot of explorers set off from there and they took charcoal with them to cook the fish they caught on the ships, and that style of cooking eventually made its way inland.

Basque Country

North Wales is very mountainous, green, luscious, and wet, and that’s similar to the Basque Country. They play rugby there, too, and there’s a very big mining community – they’d swap workers with Wales. After the Spanish Civil War, the Welsh were the main people who took in Basque refugees. I’ve spent time there cooking and travelling, and felt a connection.


I was a pretty normal kid growing up in Anglesey. I come from a town on the water, and all my summer jobs revolved around tourists coming to the area and eating shellfish. Mussel fishing, oysters, cleaning mussels, working in cafés… And we’d have campfires, we’d cook on the beaches. It was standard stuff that I didn’t notice at the time, but it was all going in.

Grady Atkins

When I went to Cardiff to study politics and history I worked at a restaurant called Le Gallois. At the time, it was probably the best restaurant in Cardiff, and mostly French cuisine. Grady Atkins, the head chef, was classically trained, but he’d lived in California in the Nineties when they were so far ahead in terms of healthy, raw, even vegan food, and he brought a bit of that to Cardiff. He was an amazing mentor.

The River Café

I later worked at The Ledbury, and I did a stage at Noma, but The River Café was the biggest eye opener. A lot of chefs can cook but blending that with service, knowing how to run a restaurant? That’s a different thing, and The River Café really showed me that. It’s the complete package. I go back there to be reminded what hospitality should be.

British game

I like things that taste of where they come from, that terroir thing. We work closely with our farmers and work a year in advance – we try to pay in advance, too – but game is the most exciting season for me. It’s distinctly British, so very sustainable, incredibly delicious and so varied. We have mallard on the menu at the moment, and it’s delicious, so distinctive.

Shellfish and seafood

Our cold waters mean Britain has excellent shellfish. Fish plays a large part in our menu – we’re probably the only people serving hake kokotxas (throat) in the UK – but our oysters, our langoustines, our velvet crabs are among the most exciting things. The brown crab meat has this incredible depth of flavour, so we don’t really have to do anything to it.

Cooking over wood

We have a wood oven that uses mainly oak, for sustained heat, and birch for flavour. We also grill over charcoal: engineered charcoal is made from sawdust, compressed at high pressure, and it’s very sustainable. We also use holm oak charcoal, made from coppice wood when it’s trimmed for conservation. Cooking over wood is different every day, it changes every meal slightly. It’s difficult for chefs but I like that variety, that human element.

Burnt Basque cheesecake

I’m not a big cheesecake fan, but when I was in San Sebastián I popped into La Vina, a coffee shop with shelves and shelves of this burnt cheesecake. We put it on the menu with our own twist of seasonal fruit, and it’s become one of our signatures. That was an approach I saw at River Café: the same dish every day but with little differences through the seasons.

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