Short Break - St Tudno Hotel and Restaurant, Llandudno
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:02 22 June 2017
St Tudno Hotel and Restaurant occupies a commanding position on Llandudno's sea front, and an interesting footnote in literary history
So there we were, sitting down to a menu of stylish Welsh fare while gazing at views of Lake Como.
The decor in the restaurant at St Tudno Hotel, Llandudno, is as Italian as Silvio Berlusconi on a Vespa - alcoves filled with photographic vistas of Como, great swags of fabric gathered into tented ceiling decoration above floral chandeliers, furniture brought in from Italy.
It’s a pleasing Italian folly. But the real-life view from the window of the sitting room where we had just enjoyed champagne and canapés of salmon mousse en croute and pork pie was almost as impressive as anything Lake Como boasts. From St Tudno’s place on North Parade, you can gaze along the entire arc of Llandudno’s promenade and its impressive hotels. If you ever hankered for the unspoilt elegance of the Victorian seaside resort in its heyday, here it is, preserved in aspic.
The St Tudno Hotel has just 18 rooms and the restaurant 65 covers. It punches well above its weight, however, with a string of awards and accolades over the years. Under the guiding hand of head chef Andy Foster, sous chef Jack Davison recently became North Wales winner in the Culinary Association of Wales’s National Chef of Wales competition and runner-up in the national contest, while Ben Jones is North Wales Junior Chef of the Year.
St Tudno is the patron saint of Llandudno, who brought Christianity to those who lived on the Great Orme. But the hotel bearing his name has another claim to fame as the last remaining property in Llandudno to have a connection with the Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame. When Alice Liddell was eight, her family, with a retinue of servants, came to stay at what is now the hotel - then a new villa on North Parade. During their stay, the 1861 Census was carried out - proof positive that Alice was here at the very age she was portrayed in Lewis Carroll’s book.
Naturally, the hotel’s proprietor Martin Bland - who bought St Tudno as an empty convalescent home in 1972 with his late wife Janette - is fascinated by this history. Among his collection of Alice-related artefacts is a first edition of the book, and another book signed by Alice herself, two years before her death in 1934.
As more tourists seek out Llandudno’s Alice connections, St Tudno Hotel is the natural stopping point for afternoon tea., not necessarily in the company of a Mad Hatter. If you stay at the hotel, you can occupy the Alice Suite at £155 per person per night. We had the Rhoda suite (named after one of Alice’s sisters) with splendid views across the bay and down the prom.
Back in the little Italy of St Tudno’s restaurant, though, there was a harpist playing and a menu to peruse. And it was a menu which drew heavily on the local produce from sea and from land.
There are few dishes quite so satisfying as a good chowder, and St Tudno served me a great one: Conwy mussels, smoked bacon, leeks and parsley combining in a smoky, creamy dish which makes the mouth water even writing about it now. Across the table, my companion’s Valentine’s Day special of ‘love apple soup’ with Caerphilly cheese and basil oil was a real bowlful of sunshine - sweet, intensely tomatoey and heady with basil.
My main was baked loin of haddock glazed with Welsh rarebit, atop tomato, leeks, parmentier potato and buttered kale. It was a succulent piece of fish with charred cheesy topping, beautifully set off by the sweetness of the tomato and the slightly metallic tang of the kale. Our other main was medallions of Welsh beef fillet, mushroom, tomato, dauphinoise potato and a red wine sauce - a familiar dish done very finely indeed.
The meal was rounded off with an assiette of Tudno desserts, leaning towards the chocolately.
St Tudno has an extremely wide-ranging wine list, running even to Lebanese and English wines, and, for the lottery-winners among you, a £285 bottle of 2000 Louis Roederer Cristal champagne.
Our Valentine’s Day special menu was £35 per head. In addition to the a la carte menu, a table d’hote menu is available at lunch time and early evening at £22.50 per person for two courses and £27.50 for three courses.
St Tudno Hotel and Restaurant, North Parade, Promenade, Llandudno LL30 2LP, 01492 874411, www.st-tudno.co.uk