North Wales Life Luncheon - Bodnant Welsh Food
PUBLISHED: 11:52 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 21:28 21 October 2015
North Wales has long been blessed with an abundance of superb ingredients. Bodnant Welsh Food put on a delightful lunch for Cheshire Life which showcased what's on offer
I was 11 years old before I realised there was more to Wales beyond the hills at the back of Prestatyn, where we used to go to my aunt and uncle’s home for seaside holidays. The school trip to the Lledr Valley - repeated the following year - was an eye-opener, since when the glories of the valleys, hills, mountains and coastline of North Wales have delighted every other sense; most particularly in the last couple of decades, the sense of taste.
The country has long been blessed with an abundance of fantastic ingredients whose provenance is second to none, now deservedly championed by top chefs and recognised in fine restaurants and the dining rooms of country house hotels that have flourished over the past 20 years. So it is entirely fitting, albeit some may say a little late, that this gastronomic bounty is now being celebrated in a home o f its own - the Welsh food centre in the lush and beautiful Conwy Valley.
Bwyd Cymru Bodnant - Bodnant Welsh Food - is located at Furnace Farm, originally built in the 18th century and so named because a blast furnace operated there from the early 1700s until 1841. In 1874 the estate, including its 25 farms, was bought by Victorian chemist and industrialist Henry Davis Pochin. When he died the farm was tenanted until the Second World War when it was used to accommodate evacuees from Liverpool and Manchester and was requisitioned by the Home Guard.
When farming finally ceased in the 1960s it fell into disrepair but Henry Pochin’s grandson, Michael McLaren and his wide Caroline took it on and lovingly restored the buildings to house a farm shop, tea room, the Hayloft Restaurant, cookery school and farmhouse accommodation. Restoration began in 2010 and the centre was opened by 2012 by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. It now employs more than 60 people, 90 per cent of whom come from the local community.
Fittingly it was in the Pochin room, a delightful space available for weddings and functions, that guests of Cheshire Life’s April luncheon gathered for flutes of refreshingly light, off-dry sparkling Pure Prosecco. Accompanying canapés were delicious, featuring hot smoked salmon, black pudding and vol-au-vents of Aberwen cheese, made to an historic recipe in Bodnant’s own dairy. Indeed everything you can taste at Bodnant is available from the Farm Shop, and if they haven’t made it in-house - all the artisan bread in the restaurant, tea rooms and shop is made in Bodnant’s own bakery for instance, and the National Beekeeping Centre of Wales is located here - it is impeccably sourced from local suppliers.
If that wasn’t enough to whet guests’ appetites, the demonstration staged by Dai ‘Chef’ Davies - one of the best known culinary figures in North Wales and a champion of local food for 30 years - certainly was. Appointed resident chef just eight days previously, Dai, assisted by his charming young daughter Megan, cooked the dishes on the luncheon menu with an entertaining blend of skill, humour and....poetry!
We began with a fresh pineapple, deftly fashioned into a daffodil shape with Cwt Caws goat cheese from Dulas in Anglesey, red fruit coulis, purple micro basil and mint which looked a picture and tasted every bit as good. The main course brought a casserole of succulent Welsh lamb, cooked in a “crochan” or, as Chef Dai put it, ‘a black pot’, with leeks and laverbread and served with excellent sliced and layered Aberwen cheese glazed potatoes. The flavours were outstanding and could any dish have been more indicative of the excellence of Welsh food?
Pudding was a traditional sensation - Welsh toffee trifle whose sponge had been spiked with Tofoc Welsh Vodka and topped with fabulous toffee yogurt made in the village dairy at Llaeth y Llan, near Denbigh (we later bought a large pot in the shop to take home). Coffee was served with exquisite chocolates from Chester-based chocolatiers Cocoa Solid.
The wines, described by much-travelled Tim Watson, manager of Bodnant’s recently-opened wine shop, also had Welsh connections. Both the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon and Merlot hailed from Patagonia in Argentina, whence many Welsh families emigrated in the 19th Century. The white delivered intense floral and fruity notes to counter the acidity of the pineapple; the red exhibited robust berry fruit with hints of vanilla and spice to complement the lamb.
Cheshire Life Luncheon Menu
Pineapple Dewi Sant, Cwt Caws Cheese, Red Fruit Coulis, Purple Micro Basil, Mint
Postales del Fin del Mundo Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2011, Argentina
Crochan of Welsh Spring Lamb, Leeks, Laverbread, Aberwen Cheese Glazed Potatoes
Newen Merlot 2011, Argentina
Welsh Toffee Trifle, Llaeth y LLan Yogurt, Tofoc Welsh Vodka
Coffee & Cocoa Solid Chocolates
Bodnant Welsh Food, Furnace Farm, Tal-y-Cafn (on A470), Conwy LL28 5RP;
Tel: 01492651100; www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk
Hayloft Restaurant - Lunch Mon-Sat noon-3pm, Sun noon-4pm; Dinner Thu-Sat all year 6pm-9pm, Mon-Wed May to end of August. Lunch £11.95 for two courses, £14.95 for three. Dinner starters £5.95, mains from £11.95, desserts £5.95.