NEW VIDEO: “Your menu is your CV. It shows where you've worked, it shows where you've travelled”

Alex South

Alex South



Nathan Davies is the next LAFONT featured chef, he talks to The Staff Canteen about SY23, his love for the Welsh countryside and his favourite methods of cooking at the one Michelin-starred restaurant.

The storming success of his SY23 has shot chef patron Nathan Davies into hospitality stardom making him the next big thing.

Nestled neatly on the west coast of Wales, in the coastal town of Aberystwyth, SY23 comprises of three unique dining experiences for guests who seek to sample some of the most captivating food and drink on offer in the UK.

The focal point is the SY23 restaurant itself, with the venue also offering an outside terrace area providing 30 seats, and a wine bar next door capable of seating 90 guests, to ensure that all needs are sufficiently catered for.

In the last twelve months, Nathan’s attention for detail and knack for understanding what his guests want has helped him win a host of awards including a Michelin star, Michelin’s Opening of the Year for 2022, and Number 12 in Good Food Guide’s Top 20 British Restaurants.

Describing the numbers needed to operate such a culinary powerhouse, Nathan said: “Numbers of chefs we have here on site is around ten. We normally operate with three chefs including myself in SY23 restaurant, we've got two on the terrace, we've got a little prep room like a little prep kitchen that we've got a few chefs in, and then we've got a little service kitchen in the wine bar in the courtyard.”

SY23’s offerings have grown and evolved as have the team in a natural and harmonious unravelling much like the restaurant’s eye-catching menu and distinctive vibe.

“I think influences and things like that come from where you've worked, where you've been, where you visited," explained Nathan.

He added: "I think the point where you become a head chef, I think your menu is really your CV, it shows where you've worked, it shows where you've travelled,”

Before opening a place of his own Nathan worked in professional kitchens in London - including Shakespeare's Globe Theatre - and was briefly a private chef in France before moving back to Wales.

After finding his feet in the industry, Nathan worked for Steven Terry at The Hardwick in Abergavenny and was Gareth Ward's head chef at the two Michelin-starred Ynyshir restaurant for four years before moving to Cardiganshire to open SY23 with business owner Mark Phillips in late 2019.

Talking about his time working with Gareth at Ynyshir and his own influences, Nathan said: “I spent a long time with Gareth at Ynyshir, and obviously that's had a knock-on effect to me and my food style and just approaching things a bit differently, but then we've got our own style. I love the Basque Country cooking, that live fire thing, and a lot of the fish-based things that we're doing.”


The running of SY23 is managed by 40 employees across the venue’s restaurant, kitchens, bar, front of house and office, something of a challenge when your location is slap bang on the west coast of Wales.

Describing how he ensured that the right people were selected for role, irrespective of the restaurant’s unique location, Nathan revealed that creating relationships with the town’s university and colleges ensured the location wouldn’t be a problem.

“Being where we are on the far west of Wales, it's not the easiest place in the universe to get staff, to combat that what I've done is I've gone and worked with the university, so we've got a really good relationship with the colleges and university here,” explained Nathan.

Talking about getting experienced talent from elsewhere, Nathan said: “We need to appeal to staff, like Charlie that's travelled from Liverpool to come and work here, who's a sous chef, it's about offering something different and also when they get here, it's a different way of life. You know, the beaches are here, the woodland are here, it's that work life balance we need to do and that's what helps us retain our staff.”

Nathan’s comments about the town’s remote setting shouldn’t distract or deter readers from the immense benefits.

The coastal location provides the full benefits of being by sea, offering a vast supply of seafood, but also access to woodlands and hills, which allows Nathan and his team to forage a wide range wild produce.


Nathan’s vision for SY23 is governed by cooking the best locally sourced ingredients over an open live fire.

“The restaurant is really built around cooking over fire and for me the first ingredient that before anything gets on the plate is what we're cooking with,” he said.

Discussing the importance of getting the right fuel for the fire Nathan explained: “We use local charcoal that's produced a couple of miles away by a friend and for that we can get like single species charcoal, so really developing different flavours.”

Emphasising it’s not just charcoal that fuels the SY23 fire, he added: “I've also always had a keen hand in tree surgery. I've got my tickets so I can fell trees and I've always worked with a close friend Steve, on sort of tree work, and because of that I've been able to get my hands on different woods and different fuels for the fire that otherwise would be quite difficult to get.”


For a chef of Nathan’s calibre, the influences that run throughout his restaurant and menu interlink and originate from a host different locations and regions.

Whether it be methods of cooking from the Basque, Japanese Yakitori barbeque, or the rich range of Welsh produce on offer to him, all these influences play a big part into Nathan’s vision for SY23.

With local and wild produce playing a big part of his cooking, seasonality in Wales dictates his menu and the larger community that he operates in.

"As a chef, favourite season for me is probably the spring where everything comes to life. We're very, very busy with preserving, and starting to forage, so it really like kicks off our year and then we know we're getting ready for summer," explained Nathan.

He added: "Everything around here evolves around the summer, but the spring really gets into gear. I love the ingredients in the summer, the foraging, everything just kicks off after a long winter.”


Before opening SY23, Nathan worked as head chef at Ynyshir for four years under the restaurant’s chef patron Gareth Ward.

Talking about how this period of his career influence his own restaurant Nathan said: “Obviously, there was influence in my food from then because I'd been there for a very long time, I was the head chef there, and lived and breathed in Ynyshir for four long years.”

For Nathan, being influenced by past employers and experiences is an inherently positive and natural process with the trick lying in using these experiences to shape and develop something.

Detailing how Ynyshir’s and Gareth’s cooking shaped him for his recent success, whilst emphasising the stark differences between both chef’s venues, he explained: “I didn't want to lose everything that Ynyshir had taught me because otherwise what was the point in going there and working there. I had acquired a skill set there that was going to change my life in cooking."

Nathan added: "That's where coming here creating what we've done here, it was very important that we made a very different move to what Gaz is offering at Ynyshir. I think they're getting 30 courses, where here we do 10 to 12, so the dishes are naturally bigger.”

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Alex South

Alex South

Editor 6th January 2023

NEW VIDEO: “Your menu is your CV. It shows where you've worked, it shows where you've travelled”