The Castle is the main hotel in town and I’ve eaten lunch in the bar a number of times. But a decision to turn a day trip into an overnighter meant we got a chance to have dinner in the restaurant – Shakespeares. Been wanting to try it since I saw its listing in the Good Food Guide
It’s an odd room – oldfashioned with “faux Elizabethean” wallpaper(I can’t find better words). It was also airless and unbearably hot. Service was quick to the point of us feeling rushed. It was friendly but amateurish – crewed by the “Saturday Girls”.
There is a reasonably comprehensive a la carte menu but also a table d’hote offering three courses at £22. This proves to be a bit odd as the selections are lifted straight off the carte and offer very minimal savings. Perhaps just as well, as they charged us full carte prices – but it was only a quid and I couldn’t be bothered to get it changed – desperate as I was to get out into the fresh air.
Starter of Snowdonia cheddar and hazelnut quiche, with herb salad. Good concept. Good pastry. Let down by bland cheese and no dressing on the salad.
Starter of smoked haddock & chorizo risotto, topped with poached egg. I prefer my risotto a bit soupy, whereas this was very “claggy”. My local smokehouse does a really smoky haddock but this was fairly bland. Even so, a good dish but enormous portion size. I struggled through it manfully.
We both had Conwy Valley lamb hotpot, tarragon & bacon dumplings and pickled red cabbage (of course). You have to have the Llamb if you’ve been to Llandudno.
This was an excellent piece of craftsmanship from the kitchen. Tender Llamby Llamb, with onions, celery, carrot and swede. Good topping of potato (which could have done with being a bit crispier). Tarragon was an interesting & successful addition to the dumplings. We reckon the red cabbage may have been home pickled or, at least, not the usual stuff you get in the supermarket. There was an unusual flavour to it – star anise, perhaps?
Dessert of rice pudding creme brulee came with two min-doughnuts on the side. Whatever was the chef thinking of? Doughnuts? A stodgy and unnecessary distraction from a very good brulee. Herself left them after the first bite.
I had a chocolate & vanilla gateau with caramelised oranges. I’m sure I’ve seen this done by a TV chef in the not too distant past. Gateau had a biscuit base (which was soggy), then a layer of chocolate mouse. Then an overly thick layer of vanilla cream; then a thin sponge layer, and topped off with chocolate ganache. It was not the sum of its part (the sort of cake you might get in a Debenhams café, if you see what I mean). Oranges were the best bit.
So, a summary then. There’s some good ideas here but, unfortunately, not always brought off successfully. They also need to think about some lighter choices and/or more manageable portions. It’d be better if the table d’hote included some “specials”. Service also needs sharpening – they’d solve this if the manager actually came into the dining room to see what’s what, rather than hovvering outside near the till.
It’s a credit to them that they have a very good selection of wines by the glass. But drinks and 10% service quickly racked up the bill to £73.
I rather suspect the Good Food Guide inspector who raves about Shakespeares is the same one who also raves about the St Tudno in Llandudno. Both are good – but not that good. That said, every table was taken.