Category Archives: North Wales restaurants

Branding, Guardian review’s and new supper club dates

January is supposed to be a slow quiet month. It arrives with false promise, new years resolutions swiftly broken as the month creeps through endless dark nights, rain and gloom. Like many I often feel lethargic and slightly despondent, lacking in vitamin D gained from a bit of natural sunshine. This year its different. The new year arrived with more of an explosion than I expected. Instead of drooping about the house I felt renewed, invigorated and ready for action. New year, new me. I had a feeling life was going to be different from now on, and I soon discovered I wasn’t wrong.

Moel Faban

Bursting with excitement I launched my ‘new look’. A fresh logo, new pictures and design graced my blog and Facebook page and received an enthusiastic response from readers. I’d procrastinated over branding and identity for a long time. Being a picky perfectionist i’m hard to please but wonderful artist and designer Nina Farrell at &Agency (who was also Felicity Cloakes art director at Penguin books) took up the gauntlet. She did so admirably really capturing the essence of ME! She merged colours that reflected my Welsh rural life, images that showed my love of local produce and foraged food, with a thoroughly modern, yet also kind of vintage logo.

A warm feeling of contentment crept through me with wedding and private dinner bookings rolling in, interesting discussions and plans for future supper clubs and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I received a text from my neighbour saying

“Den, CONGRATS on being in the Guardian mag under 5 of best supper clubs Xx”

I read the text wondering what the hell she was on about. I called her back. Are you serious? I asked. I searched on-line and there it was…how about that to start the year?!!!!

Guardian article on starting a supper club and top 5 supper clubs in the UK

Guardian article on starting a supper club and top 5 supper clubs in the UK

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As January rolled into February life increased its pace. As I mentioned January and February are traditionally lean months in the catering world, no festivals, no weddings and very few parties, but this article kickstarted something. I suddenly found myself inundated with bookings for supper clubs I didn’t yet know I was going to hold, people wishing to collaborate, offering venues and wanting to help. It was overwhelming. My landlord gave me permission to run little suppers in my new house.

The article was a metaphorical kick up the jacksy. I knew I wanted to work with more people, engage more with the local community, use more interesting spaces. Last year I wanted to branch out but plans had to be put on the back burner…now i’m off into the unknown…time to be brave!

And so to dates….there is plenty going on this year and on Friday the first of those events came to life.  A mini supper for six VERY different people in my new house.  I was nervous as hell. I felt like a new supper club host doing it all for the first time. All those old fears of will it work? Will people like my house, feel comfortable, get on with each other!

I don’t know why I worried so much, everyone got on well, conversation flowed as did the wine and cocktails. What better way to christen the new house and enjoy Valentines evening than to have four supper club regulars and two ‘virgins’ (one of whom I have known for over 20 years…ever since I made Wales my home).

The evening finished relatively early (about 10pm which is a first) as people went off to other events or battled their way home through the foul weather, but that didn’t matter…it was lovely. Rosanna had no idea where her boyfriend was taking her for Valentines night, she looked terrified when she arrived  (she’s quite a shy person)….I looked at her and said “he didn’t tell you did he?”

“No” she replied “and if it was anyone other than you i’d have run away”

At the end I suggested it was  a romantic thing to do to. She agreed claiming it was probably was the most romantic thing he had ever done! Aahhh, how sweet!…just because I have no romance in my life right now, doesn’t mean I can’t bring it to others 🙂

Supper club table all ready to go

Supper club table all ready to go…sorry about the poor quality, I only managed to get a few quick pics on my phone!

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The table decorated with rose petals, hearts and a menu with cupid wings

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White onion soup with cider and thyme, seared scallops and parsley-garlic puree

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A full table of happy guests

AND SO ON TO THE NEXT EVENTS:…

8TH MARCH……pop-up supper club at Cafe Seren, Bethesda. The aim is to use local spaces when they are generally not in use. Cafe Seren is open during the day and hopefully this will be the beginning of a regular collaboration.

The evening features live acoustic music from John Lawrence and Jaci Williams…check out John and Jaci’s collaborations here. The menu will have a wild woodland theme…I saw John and Jaci play recently and they were fantastic!! ..(limited spaces so get in quick!! We have room for 24 and we are HALF FULL ALREADY)

21ST MARCH……Equinox Bal and French Feast (pop-up cafe). Another live music and food event this time at Mynydd Llandegai Community Hall and with folk band Mouton  …this is a ticketed event and prices are £11 in advance with food (purchased from Wegottickets here) or £5 on the door without food.

Feast menu: Two courses to include either…

Boeuf bourguinon or beetroot bourguignon with roast new potatoes and a mixed leaf salad with roasted nuts and seeds (meat or vegetarian/vegan)

Traditional French crepes with orange and lemon syrup and cream

29TH MARCH…..Celebrate Earth Hour with a candlelit supper at Ty Bryn Adda; the old laundry and drying house on The Vaynol Estate, Bangor.  This is a collaboration with the owners Kim and Martin who run personal coaching workshops, but would like to see the space used for some different events. She is also a supper club fan!…. To get an idea of what the venue is like watch this video on Youtube or check out their website

This is a rare opportunity to spend time in a very unique space. There are also three rooms available in the house and bed and breakfast can be booked by those wishing to make a weekend of it (this can be discussed directly with Kim). More details regarding the menu will follow shortly.

5TH APRIL….pop-up event (details will be confirmed shortly)

26TH APRIL……mini supper club (spaces for 6 to 8 people)

18TH MAY…..mini Sunday lunch (spaces for 6 to 8 people)

To find out more about any of these events please email me on moelfabansuppers@gmail.com, send me a message on Facebook, Twitter or give me a call on 07775828769

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Filed under home cooking, in the press, North Wales restaurants, reviews, secret supper, underground restaurant, Welsh food

Conwy Rural Producers dinner at Coleg Llandrillo

Back in October last year, before life became a tad fraught, I attended the Conwy Rural producers dinner, a showcase for some of the best produce in the area. Hosted by the catering department at Coleg Llandrillo in Colwyn Bay in their training restaurant The Orme View, the evening brought together selected producers, local businesses, restauranteurs and chefs to try out a variety of dishes made from wonderful local produce and it gave Llandrillo catering students the opportunity to show off their talents. Supervised by the wonderful team of Mark, Glenn and Mike (they pay me to say that you know!) they put together a creative and interesting menu.

I spend most of my time too-ing and fro-ing around Anglesey and Gwynedd so it made a change to head off down the coast in the other direction.  Even though it’s just 20 mins drive away I rarely get up to places like the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre or get the opportunity to meet up with other Conwy Food producers and businesses, so it was a pleasure to venture out of my usual domain.

I’m also lucky that I know the college lecturers well. I’ve worked closely with a couple (Mark being one who regularly joins me on jobs and keeps me in order) and that gave me access to the frantically busy kitchen. I enjoy taking pictures of people when they are busy. The rest of the evening was hilariously surreal. In between speaking to producers and annoying the chef’s and waitresses with my camera, I sat chatting to the other occupants of my table. These included the quiet but friendly owners of a local farm, the pretty blond owner of a local B&B who it transpired was vegetarian so couldn’t eat most of the food, myself, the host of the event John Rooney from Conwy council, and the manager and chef from a local restaurant. The latter of the last two proceeded to order copious amounts of wine, which he tried to ply both myself and the blond woman with. We were both driving so not drinking. We then spent the rest of the evening watching him get drunker and more outrageous. As we got ready to leave he asked me if I was sure he couldn’t give me a lift somewhere….I declined, stating that I was driving. He turned to the blond and asked her the same thing…she too declined. A jokey comment about ‘independent women’ floated around the table, and his passing remark, before his colleague ushered him from restaurant towards the waiting cab...’yes, you independent women…I bet you’ve got toys as well’.…an awkward silence descended over the table, broken only by me dissolving into peels of laughter. Chefs, I know them well. Crude to the last!

The menu

**Pant Ysgawen goats cheese in a ginger crumb with beetroot cake and chutney (produce supplied by Tan Lan Bakery, Cae Melwr Farm and Cegin Croesonen

**Courgette veloute with brioche flavoured with truffle oil (Produce supplied by Cae Melwr Farm)

**Welsh black beef steak tartar (Produce from AL & RO Jones)

**Elderflower sorbet

**Seared loin of pork with slow cooked belly served with braised potato, squash and apples (Produce supplied by Pigging good Pork, Cae Melwr Farm and Bryn Cocyn Farm)

**Carrots cooked in duck fat (Produce from Belmont Farm)

**Lamb Scottadito (Produce from O E Metcalfe)

**Ice cream served with soft fruits (Produce supplied by Bodnant Welsh Food Centre and Bryn Dowsi Farm)

**A selection of Bodnant cheese

**Coffee (supplied by Chris Martindale at Caffi Cristobal/Cilydd)

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The Orme View Restaurant is open to the public. Attending a training restaurant is a great way to try out new food, prepared by the trainess, at a fraction of the price of a restaurant. You never know you might be tasting the early creations of the next Bryn Williams, Angela Hartnett, Jamie Oliver or Tom Kerridge. Opening times and contact details are below.

Lunch: Tuesday – Friday 12:00 for 12:15
Dinner: Wednesday Evening 19:00 for 19:30
Contact: Joan Hammond 01492 542 341

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The Oyster Catcher restaurant and the Timpsons connection

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Last week I attended the graduation evening for the trainee chefs completing their training at The Oyster Catcher restaurant in Rhosneigr (Anglesey). It was an honour to be there because this was no ordinary graduation. For the nine young chefs it marked an enormous transition and a huge achievement. For these lads, who could have ended up stuck in North Wales with few opportunities for training or employment, it was a real celebration of what a young person can do with the right guidance, motivation and support. To see the pride on the faces of their families and friends almost brought me to tears (I am a bit emotional at times). It was a very special night.

Most of you will have heard of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen, well, The Oyster Catcher runs along the same lines taking on disadvantaged young people and providing them with the training and life skills necessary to help them find a rewarding career in the food industry.  Established by The Timpson Foundation, which has a long history of philanthropic work, it is still in its infancy but it has already set two lots of graduates on the path to a successful career.

A bit of history about the Timpsons then; they are a family firm established in 1865 by 16-year-old William Timpson. William’s first shoe shop opened in Manchester and from there the organisation grew, adapted and diversified. They opened more shoe shops and then heel bars. Business continued to grow, then waned as modern cheaper shoe manufacturers entered the market. Some areas of the business were more successful and although John Timpson (the great-grandson of William) who heads the organisation today, finally sold off the shoe shop part of the business in 1987, the shoe repair business remains hugely successful. They carry a  reputation for being caring and easy-going employers and an organisation that puts high value on a good quality service and customer care. They offer their staff lots of perks, even free holiday accommodation in one of the homes they own across the North West and Wales.

As a Cheshire family they have a history of holidaying in North Wales. John and his wife Alex have owned a holiday cottage close to Rhoscolyn for years. Their first food related business buy in the area was The White Eagle when it closed down in 2004/2005.  A love of good food and sadness at not finding anywhere decent to eat locally fuelled their purchase and later refurbishment, making The White Eagle a place of good repute in the area.

The Timpsons initially bought the old Maelog Lake Hotel in 2009 with plans to create more holiday accommodation for their staff, but around the same time James Timpson (chief executive and John’s son) visited Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen. He began to think about doing something similar and slowly those plans for the Maelog changed. James decided the site was the perfect place for a North Wales chef’s academy and so The Maelog Project and The Oyster Catcher were born.

The Timpsons demolished the original building which was looking rather sad and dated and employed Huf Haus, a German company, to build a modern, airy glass fronted, environmentally friendly building that allows diners to view the stunning scenery through the huge windows, while introducing energy-efficient features such as bore holes with a ground source pump to provide hot water and heating, and clever computers that keep energy use to a minimum.

Although I have been aware of The Maelog Project and The Oyster Catcher since the projects start this was my first visit. My personal background in psychology, youth work, counselling and prison research. plus my voluntary directorship of another local Social Enterprise project make the Oyster Catchers Ethos one that’s close to my heart and whose progress I have followed closely and with great interest (despite always being too busy to eat out!)

The building has undergone some refurbishment since it opened. Since this was the first commercial Huf Haus the builders were entering unknown territory. They weren’t entirely sure how it would all work and so, after living with it for a while, a few issues came to light. Noise levels were high due to the open plan nature of the building and some people were not so enamoured by the decor and design. They took measures to introduce sound proofing, laid carpet and carried out a refit. Now the decor and layout is smart and trendy, with elements that fit well with the beach side location. I particularly like the little beach huts on the balcony and the new seating alcoves within the restaurant. I know once they also displayed art work from The Koestler Trust (another organisation I follow closely as my sister, artist, photographer and art blogger is a strong supporter of their work) but I admit I was so busy talking and taking photographs that I forgot to have a look!

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In 2011 the first wave of sixteen cadets began their training, spending their first year in the local catering college (Coleg Menai) gaining basic skills, then moving into the restaurant to work with The Oyster Catcher chefs (notably head chef Roger Gorman from The White Eagle and motivational chef Eamon Fullalove, previously head chef at Fifteen) gaining practical skills and experience. With mentoring and further support provided by The Timpson Foundation. Nine of those chefs completed the course and started work full-time at the Oyster Catcher. Since then a second wave of cadets has started. I had the pleasure of working with one of this years graduates (Matt) and one of the new intake (Elfed) on a recent job; both worked their arses off!…Festival catering is hard going, but a great opportunity for a young chef looking for new experiences. This time it was a pleasure to see them on home turf; one where I didn’t look as if I’d crawled from a hedge in chef’s whites, having slept for less than six hours over 3 days. Elfed almost didn’t recognise the nicely scrubbed up version of me.

As I hadn’t visited the Oyster Catcher I wasn’t sure what to expect food wise. I’ve heard mixed reviews from friends, mostly related to expensive food and small portion sizes. This is a bug-bear of mine, but my visit was quite the opposite. There was so much food we were bursting at the seams! As the waitresses wandered round asking “would you like another mini-burger? Or maybe some more chips? we wondered if we would be able to manage pudding. By the time it arrived I think the guests on most tables had eaten one too many mini burgers leaving many bowls barely touched. We had no trouble on our table. Hearty appetites all round!

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The meal was cooked by the latest intake of chefs and this was probably reflected in the menu. Dishes were simple, well cooked and beautifully presented. Choosing to serve family style made the meal a much more interactive and communal experience, which I liked.

All in all my experience of The Oyster Catcher was a good one. I strongly support the project and will hopefully return to eat again soon. I also hope it grows and gains support in the way Fifteen has. It’s so much more than just a gimmick (which is what I thought Jamie Oliver’s place was when I first heard about it) and it really does offer young people like Matt (who has now been employed full-time at The Oyster Catcher), Kyle (who is off to do a stint at The Fat Duck) and the rest of the graduates a fighting chance. And really, hats off to the Timpsons for giving them that.

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Bodnant Welsh food centre and the Hayloft Restaurant

Although it opened in the summer, its only in recent weeks that I’ve had a chance to explore the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre. A twitter follower mentioned it was coming at the beginning of the year and later I received a couple of emails telling me to keep an eye out for the opening. I followed development with interest and hoped to attend the opening, but typically I was mad busy and away working so its only now that I’m becoming acquainted with the place.

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre is more of a Welsh food hub and has lots of different parts. The first thing you come across when entering the courtyard is the Furnace Farm Shop which sells an extensive array of Welsh food. They produce and make a lot of what they sell in the shop and serve in the tea room, plus a wide variety of goods from local suppliers.

The tea room across the courtyard has spectacular views over the Conwy Estuary and Carneddau mountains. You can sit and admire them with a warming drink, from a comfy sofa, knowing you are sitting where the cattle once stood. You also know that just next to the old cattle byre talented artisans are baking and making the ingredients for your lunch. The centre boasts its own dairy, butchery and bakery. You can’t get produce much more local than that!

The National Beekeeping Centre of Wales purpose-built visitor centre is just next to the tea room. You can visit and speak to the dedicated expert staff, visit on site apiaries, view bees in their natural environment at work via the live webcam and generally learn all you need to know about keeping bees. I always thought you needed lots of land and  plenty of distance from other houses, but I’ve since discovered that you can pretty much have a bee hive anywhere, apparently they have them on the top of the Waldorf Astoria in New York!

For a more substantial lunch you can visit the The Hayloft Restaurant. Its situated above the Furnace shop and has its own entrance and outside seating area (for when the weather warms up again). If you climb the stairs again you come to the The Bodnant Cookery School where a variety of cookery courses are held, usually at a weekend, although there are some midweek too. Of course since the centre is only in its infancy the programme is still under development ( I have recently attended a course there, but that deserves a post of its own!).

If this wasn’t enough there is also guest accommodation, a training/event room for hire and of course the most stunning views you can imagine!

Personally I’m thrilled that these once run-down farm buildings have a new lease of life . Their restoration has been sympathetically carried out and they are beautifully styled and decorated having retained every bit of their earthy traditional charm. You can sit by the open fire in the restaurant lounge and view original beams throughout, while little unique touches such as the antler chandelier on the stairs and the reclaimed wood tables give a modern yet rustic feel. It’s also good to see the place so busy. The quietest time was when I first visited midweek; small amounts of building and finishing work were still going on and you could tell it was still not yet complete,  but now that is all done and at the weekend it’s absolutely packed!

I recently dropped in for lunch at the Hayloft restaurant, eager to try their food after hearing good reports from friends. I booked a table just in case it was busy, but there was no need. I guess at the weekend it might well be fully booked, but on a Thursday lunchtime there was plenty of space. This may of course change as their reputation grows.

The lounge area is beautiful and the refurbishment project has really brought out the best in the buildings. The roaring open fire and comfortable sofas create a homely relaxed atmosphere. I could have sat there drinking gin and tonic all day and not felt any pressure to move on.

The restaurant itself is bright, modern and pleasant. My dining companion dislikes music in restaurants, he finds it distracts from good food and conversation so he was pleased at its absence, although I thought the jazz in the lounge was rather nice. I also liked that there was a variety of clientele; families with young children sat alongside retired couples, others had clearly dropped in for lunch after having a walk but no one looked out-of-place and staff were friendly and attentive, helpful and polite.

The lunch menu is not extensive, but offers enough choice for everyone to find something they like. I opted for Menai mussels in white wine, cream and garlic and my dinner partner chose pan-fried pigeon breast with orange and beetroot salad with ginger dressing.

Menai mussels with cream and garlic

Pigeon breast with orange, beetroot & ginger salad

The mussels were creamy and delicious. The sauce was quite rich and heavy and could have been too much had the portion size been larger, but it was spot on leaving me plenty of room for my main and not over filling me. The rich gamey-ness of the pigeon breast worked nicely with the sharpness of the salad. The contrast of sweet, bitter, sharp and meaty worked very well, although there could have been a little more ginger in the dressing as it wasn’t so obvious.

For my main course I chose Bodnant steak burger with juniper and morello cherries, salad and root vegetable shavings and my dinner partner chose a slow cooked shoulder of lamb on mashed potato, with garlic and rosemary sauce. I have to say my dining partner was very happy, no miniscule portions here! A really good hearty lunch put a big smile on his face; the vegetables were perfectly cooked, the lamb fell tenderly from the bone and his only gripe was that there wasn’t more sauce to soak into the mash.

My burger was sweet and juicy, well-flavoured with the juniper and cherry and the root vegetable shavings were deliciously crisp with a hint of sweet and salt. A small salad accompanied and a bun baked on site. The only thing missing was a dressing or relish for the burger. A home-made burger without any relish can veer on the dry side and as the salad not dressed either it just needed a little something. I wondered if I would be offered anything but after a minute or two I decided to ask the waitress if there was anything to go on the burger, or if she had any dressing of any kind. She offered a mustard dressing for the salad, which was very tasty.

Of course we couldn’t resist dessert, even though we were pretty full. I went for a lighter choice, the white chocolate and lemon parfait with raspberry coulis and home-made tuille while my partner (to my amazement after all that lamb) chose blackberry and apple crumble with fresh egg custard. Apparently he just HAD to go for all the winter options because it was cold outside. That’s his excuse!

The parfait was light and delicate but I could hardly taste the lemon in it. The coulis matched beautifully with the white chocolate and the crisp tuille finished the dish perfectly. The crumble was nice and crunchy, the apple well cooked; still holding its form so it had a good texture but not too crunchy, however it was quite tart (which I like, but others with a sweeter tooth may find a little too sharp). The egg custard was, well eggy and delicious.

The only criticisms we had, as I said above, were quite minor things really and mostly related to the finishing touches and rather cautious use of flavourings. They certainly didn’t detract from quality or our enjoyment of the meal.  As for cost, we both had three courses, a drink each and I finished with a coffee. The total bill came to £42.00 which I think is excellent value for money.

As a whole Bodnant Welsh food centre has impressed me. It makes a great stop off while exploring the surrounding area, a fab lunch destination and an interesting place to visit in its own right. I’m looking forward to checking out the Bee Centre and what courses they have on offer and I’m already booked on a course in the new year. I think there are still some pricing inconsistencies that might put people off; yes the restaurant is excellent value, but some of the products on sale in the shop are quite expensive in comparison to other outlets in the area, and courses are not cheap either. I know it’s still early days, but I suppose my hope is that Bodnant Welsh food centre becomes widely known both in and outside of North Wales. If it can make itself accessible to more than just those in a particular wage bracket or the tourist industry and raise awareness among locals of the food we have on our doorstep its on to a winner. Hopefully then we will see this rather unique centre thrive and grow.

Bodnant Welsh Food is open from 10.00am – 6.00pm, Monday to Saturday & 11.00am – 5.00pm on Sunday.
Hayloft Restaurant is open Mon-Wed 12pm-3pm, Thurs-Sat 12pm-9pm and Sun 12pm-4pm
Bodnant Welsh Food, Furnace Farm, Tal-y-cafn, Conwy, LL28 5RP T: 01492 651100
E: customerservices@bodnant-welshfood.co.uk

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Perry Higgins and the Lazy Dollar

On my way back from dropping the teen at school for her last GCSE exam I took the opportunity (during a moment of calm between weddings) to indulge myself with a visit to my favourite spot for a bit of vintage browsing.

Perry Higgins in Penmaenmawr is rather a hidden gem along the North Wales coast. Lots of people travelling along the A55 expressway would easily miss it as they zoom through from central England on route to Holyhead Port and the Irish ferries. It’s a shame as its well worth a detour. Although maybe not, because I like having it almost to myself!

My main reason for dropping in was for the pleasure of uncovering countless curiosities and treasures, but it wasn’t my only reason. There was a foodie related motive to my trip and that was to look for more vintage serving bowls. Really large ones for lots of people! With three floors to browse I was in there a while.

The top and ground floors are full of beautiful artifacts, furniture, costume and kitchen ware. I easily found what I was looking for before I’d even descended to the basement which is a treasure trove of bargains, bric a brac and chairs! There are absolutely loads of cheap chairs (prefect for starting a supper club!!…This is where I bought a few of mine and at £20 for four…I haggled…I couldn’t really argue, even though they needed a sand and varnish). If you happen to come across the owner…well you can’t miss him, he’s eccentric, bordering on grumpy, especially if you have younger inquisitive children in tow..but he’s often open to a spot of bartering and he is helpful if he thinks you have a genuine interest or are a genuine buyer 🙂

As well as the items I eventually purchased I came across this

I totally fell in love with it but couldn’t justify the £37 the shop was asking. What? I hear you say, only £37 for a beautiful vintage, intact picnic hamper. Well I kicked myself the following week on a return visit when the owner told me it had sold that very morning. I was devastated. I wanted to cry.

The last little gem that makes this place a MUST visit is the cafe which adjoins the shop.

No where else in North Wales will you find as authentic an American diner. Perfect in every detail. The jukebox, the pictures on the wall, the decor. I stayed around for a coffee and pancakes (I’d yet to have breakfast) which were sadly rather disappointing. This is the one problem with the Lazy Dollar; the food doesn’t live up to the setting. Even though their cooking facilities are limited (they have no proper kitchen on site and only the means to keep food warm or cold) they could invest in some better ingredients from local suppliers. There’s no need to use Carte’D Or ice cream in their Knickerbocker glory when they could use Mon ar Lwy or Fortes or Llanfes Dairy, need I go on?

On a return visit with the kid and his 1950’s loving mate (trust me I’ve never met a nine-year old that knows more about the 1950’s than Yani…this is a boy who got a sequined Elvis all in one for Christmas!!), my boy struggled to eat his ice cream because it was too ‘artificial’! Yani on the other hand thought he’d gone to 1950’s heaven and loved every second of his after school treat.

Now that I’ve discovered the lazy dollar my mind has gone into overdrive. So many possibilities; so much potential!

….watch this space there are plans afoot.

Perry Higgins and The Lazy Dollar are open 7 days a week. The Lazy Dollar serves teas. coffees, ice cream and sundaes.

Mon-Sat: 11 til 4.30pm

Sun: 11 til 3.30pm

You will find them both on the main street; Bangor Road which runs through Penmaenmawr.

 

 

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There’s nothing like Sunday brunch to put a smile on your face

You know how sometimes you get those weeks where everything seems to go wrong…or the simplest jobs become difficult and complicated? Well that’s the way it has been for me last week. It started with a broken wrist (the other half) which meant we were down one driver in the house….and trust me that is dire when you live in a rural area and everything is at least five miles away….this was closely followed by several outbreaks of cold/flu, a locked pin number which left me stranded with a trolley load of shopping and needing to visit the local branch (yep, five miles away) to retrieve cash, plus various other events sent to try me which for the sake of discretion I will not divulge here in public!!

Close to tearing my hair out I also wasn’t sure if our very first Sunday brunch would go ahead. I was on the verge of cancelling when I received several late bookings so changed my mind….and I have to say I’m very glad I did.

Despite the hubby’s broken wrist, self-inflicted hangover and general reticence about getting out of bed to help, we couldn’t have asked for a nicer group of breakfast guests and we relished the rare opportunity to sit down and join them. Before they arrived I was a nervous wreck…by the time they left I was happy, smiling and relaxed. I knew brunch was a good idea. I think a decent brunch can cure anything!!

We didn’t really get going until 12.30. I’d been vague about the time and everyone drifted in as and when they managed to find us, but on this occasion it wasn’t a problem. Those that arrived earlier read papers and drank tea whilst we awaited the arrival of the rest.

The menu was as follows…

  • American drop pancakes with either smoked dry cure bacon and maple syrup or blackcurrant compote and Rachel’s dairy vanilla yogurt
  • Potato and scallion pancakes with smoked salmon (from Llandudno smokery), sour cream and dill
  • Red onion and smoked Welsh cheese frittata, slow roast tomatoes with rosemary and home-baked beans with chorizo
  • Home made blaas (from Niamh Shields book Comfort and Spice) and my own toasted spelt and black sesame bread
  • Home made jams and marmalade

As I got down to cooking pancakes the guests relaxed and started chatting and very soon the sound of laughter and conversation flooded the kitchen, a sure sign everyone had relaxed. Even our three-year old guest Orla had fun; rummaging through the box of toys we provided, tucking into pancakes, sausages and fresh-baked bread and she looked at home sitting round the table with everyone else.

Pancakes consumed we moved on to our second course. The tea and coffee pots replenished we all sat down and had a long leisurely chat. It was perfect. Even the other half enjoyed himself despite his ailments! No one could quite belive it when we looked at the clock and it said twenty to three!

It was such a sociable gathering I forgot to take pictures of the food (except the bread)…totally forgot.

Hosting Sunday brunch seems to impact more on family life. With hubby working full-time sometimes he needs a break at the weekend just to flop, so brunch might not happen weekend …but I think it was far too enjoyable to say never again!

Keep an eye out for ad hoc brunch events…the next one will be in the spring. As everyone left Orla smiled and said thank you for the lovely food….oh and here’s what the grown up guests said about it as well 🙂

Denise, thank you so very much for your hospitality today. I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed everything about our brunch, it really was brilliant and we would all love to come again sometime (Steve)

Absolutely delicious brunch enjoyed today, huge thankyou to Dee, family and the other guests. A dull wet Sunday transformed into a very enjoyable food experience (Mark)

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Lazy Sunday brunch

I love a long drawn out Sunday brunch…whether it aids recovery after a Saturday night out, or sets me up for a day of healthy hill walking there’s nothing better to prepare me for the day ahead.

For me the perfect brunch includes lots of different elements; a bit of sweet, savoury, salty, spicy some carbs for energy (and maybe just a bit of oil to settle the stomach…I swear by a fry up to cure a hangover)..

This weekend will see the first in an ad hoc series of Sunday brunches at which we will be giving you the opportunity to sample some of the sausages from the new range I have created with Johnny 6 the butchers (G Williams & son in Bangor) as well as trying other lovely brunch dishes…dont worry vegetarians, it’s not just a sausage fest…there will be plenty of vegetarian alternatives!

If you’d like to join us for the perfect start to your Sunday the menu is as follows……

 

American style pancakes with bacon and maple syrup or blueberries

or

Potato pancakes with smoked salmon and sour cream

followed by:

Home made baked beans with chorizo (or without if you are vegetarian)

Rosemary roasted tomatoes

Smoky cheese frittata

plus

Fresh squeezed fruit juices

toast and jam if you are still hungry

Pots of organic fair trade coffee or tea

the Sunday papers, a log fire, a big table and a comfy sofa

Donation will be £10 a head…yep thats all we are asking…and if you need a hair of the dog you have to bring your own!! Brunch will be served between 11 and 2 and bookings are essential….its kid friendly so don’t be afraid to ask and we will provide toys.

either email on moelfabansecretsupperclub@live.co.uk I will respond immediately so if you don’t hear back try phoning on 07775 828769

or send a message through Facebook or twitter

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Cennin: review

After a flat-out week of Christmas markets, jam and chutney making and three back to back supper clubs I thought it was time someone else cooked for me, so as a pre-Christmas treat while my parents were visiting I booked a table at Cennin.

Cennin (meaning leeks in Welsh) opened about four months ago. Owned by Brian and Ffiona Thomas of MooBaaOink local produce deli in Beaumaris with award-winning head chef Aled Williams in charge. Aled won the Welsh heats of The Great British Menu and was the youngest finalist in 2010, he won the acclaim of Gordon Ramsey back in 2006 and seems to have worked everywhere from the Bathers Pavillion in Sydney to Heston Blumenthals Fat Duck at Bray.

Back home in Wales Beaumaris seems to be turning into the gastro centre of the North..I’ve long been a fan of the loft restaurant and brasserie at Ye Olde Bulls Head and The White Lion prides itself on its use of local produce (although i’ve not eaten there recently so can’t comment on the quality) so I wondered whether they had met their match with Aled moving into town.

Back in October I met Aled in passing at Conwy Feast and watched his demo, praise was high amongst the other chefs for this new venture so I’ve been really keen to visit. It was coincidental that on the day we were due to go I discovered MooBaaOink had won the Daily Post food hero 2011.

Cennin is small and personal. It seats less than thirty and booking is essential at the weekend, although on the day we visited it was less busy. It is a simple unpretentious place, comfortably decorated with local art adorning the walls. Of course as it was Christmas we were also treated to a Christmas tree and tasteful decorations.

We were offered three different menu’s to chose from; the a la carte, December special and a seperate vegetarian (with a really nice selection of dishes). We did struggle a bit because we wanted things off the three different menu’s; Rosie wanted a vegetarian starter but a main off the December menu, the parents didn’t want dessert so went for a la carte, it was all so confusing but eventually we managed to work out the best solution, I had a starter from the December menu so madam could have her chicken and Aidan could have a pudding!! In fact I decided to opt for a vegetarian main. I remember when I was a full-time vegetarian I was always hugely disappointed with the selection that supposedly good restaurants had on offer (mostly uninspired and tasteless) so I thought I’d try one out here.

Rosie opted for a tomato and fennel risotto with pesto to start and she actually ate it all! That is reference enough in itself.

Aidan (the nine-year old) chose sweetcorn soup with Anglesey ham hock and basil oil as did my Dad. The soup was deliciously rich and creamy and totally won us over although the sweetcorn somewhat overwhelmed the ham hock and basil oil.

Mum chose scotch egg of Llandudno smoked haddock, king prawn and Anglesey quail egg with braised leeks, watercress salad and sauce vierge which was her favourite dish of the meal. A unusual and unexpected combination that worked well with the leeks and sauce vierge. Balanced to perfection.

I chose the Ballotine of Anglesey ham hock with Welsh honey mustard and celeriac remoulade. I’m a massive fan of celeriac remoulade and this didn’t disappoint, a perfectly combination of creaminess and acidity . The ham hock was cooked to perfection, delicate, light and melt in the mouth but it was perhaps a little overwhelmed by the remoulade and I hardly tasted the honey mustard (I’m a woman who likes to be hit in the taste buds!!).

For main course Rosie chose the roast breast of chicken with pan-fried chestnut gnocchi, sautéed sprout leaves, wilted spinach and thyme leaves which once again she ate (mostly..the chestnut gnocchi was less popular with her), a sure sign that it was good.

Mum chose the pan-fried fillet of Menai sea bass with peperonata, roasted polenta, aubergine puree and marjoram sauce. Of all the dishes on the night I felt this was the least successful, everything was cooked beautifully but polenta is hard to pull off and is not to everyone’s taste and I know mum wasn’t that keen. She also felt that there was a bit too much peperonata for her taste, although I know she loved the fish.

Dad opted for the grilled fillet of halibut with sun-dried tomato and olive crusted Anglesey potatoes, wilted red chard and verjus sauce which he loved and I went for the vege option of field mushroom, spinach and pine nut filo galette with cumin roasted new potatoes…and I have to congratulate Aled because he impressed me with such a strong vegetarian main course. It really was a lovely combination of woody earthy mushroom, crispy filo pastry and a lovely rich sauce.

Aidan went for a burger and chips…oh well!

The food was fantastic, the service friendly and efficient I couldn’t fault it. My usual bug bear…portion size, was not an issue and actually we were so full even I turned down dessert (although I did ‘help’ Aidan out with his). Aidan just HAD to have a chocolate fondant with white chocolate bubbles and mint choc chip ice cream. I have to say it was the bubbles that enticed him but these were the least impressive part of the desert (I’ve never been one for froths, foams and bubbles!!). The fondant on the other hand was sublime as was the ice cream. We almost fought over it and I wished I’d ordered my own.

I have to say I loved Cennin. Everything was beautifully presented, but it wasn’t just art on a plate, it did actually fulfill the role that a meal out is supposed to; it filled me up. I knew I’d eaten well. Okay it might be a bit on the pricey side for most people in North Wales but perhaps that’s also the result of us not being used to having top quality, high-end restaurants around here. His attention to detail, use of high quality local produce and commitment to local suppliers justifies the price tag and although it would stop me from eating here regularly, it certainly wouldn’t stop me from coming back….in fact wild horses won’t keep me from Cennin and I can’t wait until my next visit.

At the end of the evening it was a pleasure to meet and chat to Aled and it was easy to see how much he loves what he does……oh and the little matter of the Daily Post food hero award? Well no competition really…they deserve every bit of their success.

Cennin is open Tuesday til Sunday 6.30pm til 9.30pm

For further information and to make a booking call 01248 811230

13 Castle Street
Beaumaris
Anglesey
LL58 8AP

info@restaurantcennin.com

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Signatures Restaurant, Conwy: Review

I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Signatures before Conwy Feast. When the idea of cooking a supper club with Jimmy was first mentioned I quickly went off to do my research.  I discovered that Jimmy Williams, the executive chef at Signatures has some fine credentials.  Gold medal winning chef; part of the Welsh culinary team. I was quite daunted at the prospect of meeting him and kicking myself that I hadn’t been paying  more attention to what is a slowly improving local culinary scene, especially when I regularly bemoan our lack of decent eating establishments.

Of course once I’d met and worked with Jimmy I realised how welcoming and talented he is and so I had to go and see Signatures and taste his food for myself. It would have been rude not to. So we booked for the family and made it our post festival treat, well-earned and totally justified. Just to add, before you claim my review is biased, most people will know that I’m not one to shy away from speaking my mind and so I promise complete honesty.

I was rather confused when I first visited the restaurant, to find it situated in an upmarket caravan/holiday park. I thought it was  a strange place to find a quality restaurant and wondered whether customers had trouble finding it stuck as it is outside the main town. I guess from what I have heard that it gets great business from those staying at the park and since its reputation is growing, word of mouth is enough to bring in the rest.

I have to say on my first visit I was a bit overwhelmed by the decor. It’s not at all what I’d expected, especially for North Wales and it did look as if a fashionable city restaurant had just been plonked down in the middle of the park. It’s not a rustic, casual drop in kind of place, in fact it’s quite glitzy with just a hint of eighties bling, but still with undeniable style. Now I am pretty comfortable taking my unruly kids to restaurants, even quite posh ones, but im not sure everyone would be. Although it is certainly less formal than a high-end fine dining establishment, it was still formal enough for me to wish my son hadn’t fallen in the harbour during the afternoon…his slightly muddy appearance and vague aroma of sea life made me want to hide him in the corner!

To be honest though no-one batted an eyelid so before anyone looked more closely at him we settled ourselves in the lounge where the attentive waiter wasted no time in taking drinks orders. Since we were a little early there was plenty of time to sit and relax after a hectic day and take a leisurely look over the menu.  The waiter also gave us a children’s menu with its ubiquitous pizza, sausage and chicken or fish goujons. I’m not keen on children’s menu’s. I’d rather restaurants offered kids smaller, maybe less fancy portions of the adult dishes. I’ve always believed in getting them started in appreciating proper food early and although I know not everyone has such food loving kids, I’m still not sure a restaurant such as this should indulge the pizza generation…but thats just my opinion!

Aidan did in fact spurn the children’s menu opting for his favourite roast beef dinner. In fact my father, step-mother and I also went for the beef, I think we were in need of a really good dinner! Sean opted for Welsh lamb shoulder and Roisin in her own bizarre style asked for chicken breast with yorkshire pudding and no gravy. For starter she chose soup of the day which was vegetable as did my step-mum, Sean chose warm smoked salmon with sautéed potatoes and a watercress and orange salad and Dad and I went for Chicken liver pate with toasted brioche and fruit chutney. So while our food was prepared we continued to chill out with our drinks. There was no pressure to hurry and it was a lovely relaxed environment.

Chicken liver pate with fruity chutney and toasted brioche...beautifully presented on a piece of Welsh slate

Ro's vegetable soup

Sean's salmon with sautéed potatoes and watercress and orange salad

Our waitress eventually escorted us to our table where we were presented with a bowl of fresh warm bread, something else they make at the restaurant. Shortly afterwards our starters arrived. The soup was tasty and flavoursome, although not wildly exciting, the salmon was a lovely combination of flavours, but Sean refused to let me photograph it. He hates me reviewing and wont be part of it! The pate was delicious. Mild, delicate and creamy it contrasted well with the sweetness of the really lovely fruity chutney and buttery brioche.

With four of us having roast beef, Sean refusing to let me take a picture of his lamb and Roisin proceeding to fill her yorkshire pudding with chopped chicken breast, potato and broccoli there was little to do but get on with eating. Aidan had already been to the counter of the open plan kitchen, chatted to the chefs, checked out what they were doing and demanded the biggest yorkshire pudding they had with extra gravy. I don’t think all kids would get away with that!

beef with all the trimmings and the most enormous yorkshire puddings!!

The meal was perfect. Roisin said it was the best chicken breast she had EVER had and Aidan said the yorkshire puddings were better than mine (although I think this assertion was based on size alone!). Sean loved the lamb (that’s all he would say) and the beef was tender, cooked medium as requested and the potatoes were golden and crispy. My main bug bear when I eat out is usually restaurant portion sizes, but there were no such complaints here. We were all heartily full, but not over full. We only realised afterwards that we could have had more vegetables if only we’d asked, so that’s our fault really.

Of course we saved some room for pudding. Four of our party opted for the trio of home-made ice cream and sorbet (combinations of raspberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, milk sorbet). The fruitier sorbet was lovely, really tangy and full of flavour, but the milk sorbet was a bit nondescript for me, I like big flavours and this was rather too subtle. The vanilla wasn’t as popular as the rest either. We agreed it needed a stronger hit of vanilla and tasted more like frozen cream than ice cream. Dad chose the Irish cream coffee brulee with vanilla shortbread and milk sorbet, which sounded like rather a rich combination, but he said it was lovely and I opted for the pannacotta with mixed berry compote. I can’t remember what the sorbet was, raspberry I think, but I do remember it was delicious! personally I would have liked a bigger pannacotta but then I’m a greedy girl and pannacotta is one of my favourites.

pannacotta with mixed berry compote and raspberry sorbet

Dad's Irish cream coffee Brulee with vanilla shortbread and milk sorbet

trio of ice cream and sorbet: chocolate, raspberry and strawberry. All made on the premises.

At £19.95 for three courses I would say this is very good value. The standard of the food was exceptional, it was beautifully cooked and presented and the service was excellent. Some people don’t like an open plan kitchen but I think it makes for a more friendly environment. You can see who is cooking your food and that gives a greater appreciation of the attention they give to detail at Signatures.

I can honestly say they impressed me. The food wasn’t as fussed about with as I’d anticipated (mainly based on Jimmy’s OCD need for tiny perfect portions for his Conwy Feast menu) and the portions satisfied even the biggest appetite. Based on this experience I will definitely be making a return visit. Next time though I think it will be minus the kids and on a grown up evening out.

Signatures Restaurant : Aberconwy Resort & Spa : Aberconwy Park : Conwy : LL32 8GA

Telephone 01492 583513

Email bookings@signaturesrestaurant.co.uk

opening times courtesy of Signatures website

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