Located on the south side of the River Usk, The Vine Tree has become a popular restaurant amongst locals and visitors, alike.
Over the years, the 19th century style coaching inn has gained a strong reputation for its locally sourced, fresh produce; friendly service; and spectacular tableside views of Crickhowell and the Black Mountains.
However, behind the fantastic food; not many people are aware of the Chef and his unique journey to a career in the kitchen.
Originally for Poland, Jim Ziemowit Nowicki admitted that his introduction to cookery was quite unorthodox, “I was living in Cyprus at the time and searching for a job. I applied to work at this beautiful boutique hotel called ‘Thalassa’ in the kitchen where I would do maintenance such as dishwashing.
“Becoming a Chef came to me by accident” Jim recalled, “I had no experience in cookery but was drawn to it. One day I saw a couple of guests come in and my boss was not around, so I decided to make the call to cook for them - even though I wasn’t allowed.
“When my boss came back and found out, she was obviously very angry, but the guests came back to say it was some of the best food I had. After that my boss turned around and invited me to work with them on the other side of the kitchen... the rest is history!”
Jim proceeded to work in Cyprus for eight years, gaining a passion for Mediterranean dining. “I really love using olive oil-based salsas, like salsa Verde, or slow roasted tomato with capers. Always packed with those amazing fresh herbs.
“I love fresh tasting produce that is not overly reliant on other strong flavours such as gravy or over seasoned with salt.”
When asked his favourite dish to make, Jim said: “I like to cook fish and seafood. We are currently working with Ashtons fishmonger based in Cardiff. Those guys never fail to understand what I'm looking for... and I am rather picky!”
Since starting his position at The Vine Tree over two years ago, Jim has developed a great appreciation for the local produce and the quality of food sourced in Wales.
“Wales is such a small country that not many people in the wider world know but produce beautiful, delicious food. Lamb is the best example. We are lucky to have Richard's Butchers, Crickhowell based, as our meat supplier. Hats down to Lee and his team! Great cheese too. Unique laverbread.”
While in keeping with the European cuisine, Jim has also attempted to bring his own flair to the restaurant. “Since working at The Vine, I have hopefully brought my own twist to things with my style of cooking. We try to be local, seasonal and fresh. Three pillars, that I believe every good restaurant should be based on.”
With this in acknowledgement, Jim hopes that all guests should come to The Vine expecting the unexpected - “I want to surprise people with the flavour! I want them to be shocked by how much flavour they can get one spoonful.”