When a place describes itself as a “restaurant with rooms”, rather than a “hotel with Michelin starred restaurant”, you know that food is at the centre of the operation. We’d booked an overnight deal, which got us a lovely room, bara brith & Welsh cakes with tea on arrival and a very decent “full Welsh” in the morning. And, in between, three courses from the dinner menu.
There were good canapés – a gougere was memorable. And an amuse bouche of asparagus soup was bang for seasonality and flavour.
Asparagus also featured in my starter. Still just with a bit of bite to it, it was perfect for dunking in the crispy duck egg. The egg must be tricky to get right – presumably boiled and peeled, it’s breadcrumbed and fried. Delish! As was the scattering of morels which decorated the plate, along with some watercress.
Dressed crab and langoustine was the other very restrained starter. Clean flavours here, enhanced with a fennel salad and pea shoots. Another winner that was helped down with the lovely bread that had come in the basket.
That was followed by a main course that needs to have little more said about it than to give the menu description – “roast turbot, with leek risotto, red wine sauce”. It did exactly what it said on the tin – everything perfectly cooked, everything doing what it should do.
I’d had a big lunch and had intended to show something of restraint with my ordering but a plate of local organic piggy was impossible to resist. There was long braised cheek which I’d have happily eaten just on its own. There was a little fillet, just cooked through. There was a breaded trotter. And there was belly and black pudding. Now this was something of a culinary work of art. The belly had been roasted. It had then been cut into its layers; black pudding had been interleaved and it had then been reassembled. And, as you’d hope, there was perfectly crisp crackling. Also on the plate, a fondant potato, some apple puree and a good savoury sauce.
For desserts, one order of prune and mascarpone ice cream which was rich and fruity. And one order of rhubarb and champagne jelly trifle which was all sweet, fruity and boozy in every mouthful.
We took coffee in the lounge. It came with petit fours which, truth be told, were not that brill. But that was the only minor criticism that I’d make of the evening. Everything else was bang-on. It’s a menu of food that just makes sense. There’s no fancy foams nor technology getting in the way of flavour. And service, from the two young women, was entirely right for the place – approachable but “proper” if you know what I mean. However, it’s a dining room without much atmosphere – OK, there weren’t that many tables occupied but you felt that, like everyone else, you had to speak in hushed whispers but, other than that, we liked it there.