Food review - Signatures, Aberconwy Resort & Spa
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 September 2017
Is Wales’s best restaurant to be found on a caravan park? Louise Allen-Taylor heads to Signatures in Conwy to find out.
Don’t get me wrong...I’m a life-long devotee of the caravan holiday and a caravan owner to boot. But caravans and gastronomy seem to go together like chalk and cheese.
Isn’t caravan food about picnic lunches and barbecue grub?...at best, a bit of mackerel caught by a fellow camper who had a good day’s fishing?
The idea that you could step out of your holiday caravan and into a restaurant as posh as the poshest in Hale...well, it’s a lovely culture shock to say the least.
But if Signatures is no ordinary caravan park eaterie, then the Aberconwy Resort & Spa at Conwy is no ordinary caravan park. The clue’s in the name. Yes, it has a spa, indoor swimming pool, a country club, hair salon and holiday homes for which you could pay the price of the average family house. It’s a smart and impressive setting.
Signatures is a shiny, sophisticated room which weaves a little Welsh tradition - slate walls - into an otherwise 21st century international ambience, with shiny cream banquette seating, elegant dark wood furniture, lots of wreathed chandeliers and an eye-catching open kitchen.
As we peruse the wine list (a good selection from £17.95 upwards, plus useful food-matched wine flights of 75ml) we have a view into executive chef Jimmy Williams’s kitchen where one sees the work going into each plate - effort which has seen Signatures named Best Restaurant in Wales in 2013 and 2017.
There is a menu of the day (two courses £22.95, three courses £28.95) but we go for the greater choice of à la carte (two courses £29.95, three courses £36.95). Mr T starts with scallops Rockefeller - scallops crusted with herbs and parmesan, with little nuggets of chorizo, lemon hollandaise, wilted spinach and a parmesan crisp. It’s a pleasingly rich array of flavours. My starter is an exceptionally good shellfish bisque, accompanied by a crisp sliver of ciabatta bearing a rillette of crab meat, buttered poached king prawns and tarragon crème fraîche. It all looks as good as it tastes.
My main course of lamb two ways - roast rump and shoulder meat in pastry, Wellington-style - comes with braised leeks, tagliatelli-like honeyed parsnips and heavily-minted potato. Our other main is Signatures’ own take on coq au vin - a deconstructed affair featuring a cylinder-like chicken breast, hunks of lip-smacking confit bacon, a nicely charred shallot, fricassee of chanterelles and some black truffle and red wine sauce.
Having feasted on all those robust flavours, we opt to share a dessert, and the ‘Little Italy’ proves enough for two: a shot glass full of very fine tiramisu, a vanilla pannacotta and an addictively sweet Ferrero Rocher semifreddo which would definitely pass muster at the ambassador’s reception.
Well, what do you know? There is much more to caravan cuisine than barbecues and picnics.
Signatures is open to the public. Signatures, Aberconwy Resort & Spa, Conwy LL32 8GA. The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday, tel 01492 583513. For full details go to www.darwinescapes.co.uk