Short break - Porth Tocyn Country Hotel, Abersoch
PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 September 2016
Porth Tocyn Country Hotel impressed judges of the Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards and it's likely to impress you too, writes Louise Allen-Taylor.
There’s a familiar voice rising over the gentle hubbub of conversation in the dining room of Porth Tocyn as we tuck in to fine food while gazing over Cardigan Bay.
When I put a face to the voice, I spy Cheshire’s own William Roache - Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow - and his family among the discerning diners here tonight. A little like Bill, Porth Tocyn has been quietly delivering star performances, week in, week out for over half a century. The Fletcher-Brewer family took the place on in 1948, and three generations have thus far devoted themselves to this small hotel with a big reputation for food.
Porth Tocyn is but a five-minute drive down narrow, winding roads from the centre of Abersoch - a place so beloved of holidaymakers from Cheshire. Wander through the hotel gardens and down a rubbly path and you are soon at the water’s edge, looking across a yacht-dotted seascape back towards the honeypot beaches of Abersoch.
But we’re here to eat, confirming Porth Tocyn’s choice as winner of the North Wales Dining Excellence category in the 2016 Cheshire Life Food and Drink Awards. The dining room is very definitely a room with a view, the wide picture window looking out across lawns and gardens to the bay. It’s a homely room, full of sturdy antique furniture recalling the era when this hotel was a row of lead miners’ cottages.
From the main dinner menu (three courses for £47, two courses plus coffee and petits fours, £40), I opt for a starter of oriental duck pancakes. Instead of the bolder, cloying flavours of traditional Peking Duck, this duck comes with a sweet chilli and spring onion sauce, wrapped in soft pancakes on a bed of noodles - it’s light, intriguing, a lovely balance of heat and sweet. My companion has crab and coriander fishcakes with a crème fraîche tartare sauce and a coriander leaf salad - another clever melding of oriental influences.
My main is grilled salmon with an asparagus purée, potatoes, beans and a strawberry and black pepper sauce - another heat-and-sweet confection as the muted strawberry flavours keep yielding to little crunches of pepperiness. My companion’s seared supreme of cod comes with a mussel cream casserole, cocotte potatoes, spicy onion rings and curry oil: subtle, creamy, hints of curry and essentially a very superior fish stew.
A pud of chocolate tipsy trifle with chantilly cream, shortbread crumbs and macerated raspberries turns out to be a rich chocolate cake with fruity accoutrements - distinctly untrifle-ish. My warm prune sponge with brandy soaked prunes, toffee sauce and raspberry ripple clotted cream is a gorgeous comfort food - dense but not stodgy, the dark syrupy flavours punctured by little bursts of sharp fruit.
There’s a nice informality about the post-prandials at Porth Tocyn. Help yourself to coffee and petits fours and kick back in the lounge. And if you want to stay longer than just one meal, there are 17 bedrooms. w
Porth Tocyn Country Hotel is at Abersoch LL53 7BU, tel 01758 713303, www.porthtocynhotel.co.uk