Nathan Davies Great British Menu chef on winning a michelin star

Nathan Davies is a chef very much in a purple patch. Almost overnight the 31-year-old became the envy of many an aspiring chef when his Aberystwyth restaurant SY23 was named Opening of the Year in the 2022 edition of the Michelin Guide, and a day later was awarded a Michelin star having only been fully operational for a handful of months because of Covid restrictions. With weekend tables at the restaurant now booked up until September, 2022 has so far been kind.

You wouldn’t begrudge the chef such spoils given the short history of his debut restaurant and his choice of timing. Davies launched SY23 in December 2019 having bought the site only a month before, but by March he was forced to close it when the pandemic hit. With the Omicron variant later having an impact, and Wales’ strict lockdown rules, in the past two years the restaurant has only been open for a total of nine months. So how can he explain his debut solo venture’s meteoric rise to fame?

the early days

“In a word, it was tough,” says Davies with notable litotes of the first few months of his new place. “When we first opened all we wanted to do was open a good restaurant in the area. We never really thought we would be anywhere near this sort of level at this stage.”

That’s not to say SY23 wasn’t ambitious in its first iteration. With his debut restaurant Davies, a former head chef of nearby Ynyshir, Gareth Ward’s freshly anointed two Michelin-starred restaurant, Davies wanted to take his learnings to the coastal town of Aberystwyth. “Ynyshir was the only restaurant around here to have any ambition to do anything in terms of quality or experience, rather than just feeding people,” he says. “SY23 was a new concept to the area that followed this vision. Everybody said it wouldn’t work.”

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