Short Break - Tyddyn Llan, Lllandrillo, Denbighshire, North Wales
PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 October 2014 | UPDATED: 21:27 21 October 2015
Tucked away in the North Wales countryside is a restaurant that's a bit of a star...a Michelin star, to be precise
Tyddyn Llan announces itself to the world as a ‘restaurant with rooms’. That description comes with a soupçon of modesty. Yes, many will beat a path to Tyddyn Llan’s door purely for the Michelin-starred cuisine of chef Bryan Webb.
But the bonus is that it is served up in an elegant Georgian country house, with expansive clipped lawns edged by huge mature trees, some impressively geometric topiary - hedges formed into grassy courtyards and narrow leafy ginnels - and some splendid views, beyond Tyddyn Llan’s acres, across the woods and pastures of the Vale of Edeyrnion.
And those rooms are rather more than just a place to sleep off a good meal. We found ourselves in a comfy four-poster bed in a spacious room styled in pale blue and chocolate hues, with views from windows over the hotel front entrance and across those lawns to the rear.
Downstairs, Tyddyn Llan’s lounge is a tranquil place in which to digest a good meal over coffee and petits fours, while engaging in conversation with other satisfied diners. In our case, they were an impressively international bunch - a pair of Americans, a brace of Florida-based Swedes on a European driving holiday, a well-to-do Welsh businessman and his wife.
But the centrepiece of Tyddyn Llan is the restaurant. This, along with the verandah surrounding it, hints at colonial style. The bold green colour scheme and the airy feel created by so many elegant windows seem like the trappings of a Brit abroad, be it in New England or Kenya.
And yet Tyddyn Llan represents not a foreign adventure but a coming home for chef Bryan, who came to Tyddyn Llan in 2002 with wife Susan. He began his career in the kitchens of another Welsh restaurant with rooms, the Crown at Whitebrook, near Monmouth. By way of the Drangway restaurant in Swansea - where he learned his enduring love of seasonal food - he went on to spend 14 years as owner and head chef of Hilaire in south Kensington, London, taking over from Simon Hopkinson.
Bury-born Hopkinson - a chef’s chef whose cookery books are revered by those in the know - was a big influence on Bryan, whose philosophy is summed up rather neatly in his Twitter account: ‘Chef for many years, too old to change my style now, finest ingredients cooked with care and simplicity’.
There is nothing quite like the metallic tang of seaweed. We munched our way through a healthy portion of it - deep fried, briny, green and delicious - along with pre-dinner canapés. And there it was again in the main course of the meal, flecks of laverbread in a lush buttery sauce accompanying grilled wild bass.
You expect good local seasonal ingredients (and what’s more Welsh than seaweed?) to speak for themselves in the hands of a chef of Bryan Webb’s experience. And they do. A starter of rilettes of pork with piccalilli, dandelion and watercress salad just oinked its piggy origins. The dressed crab and langoustine mayonnaise with fennel and pea shoot salad had a fresh-off-the-boat zest. A fillet steak of aged Welsh black beef ‘au poivre’ was an object lesson in unfussy culinary perfection, and went splendidly with an Argentinian pinot noir from Tyddyn Llan’s very extensive wine list.
Bryan Webb’s style is without faff and pretension. It’s the art of elevating and framing essential flavours, perhaps best exemplified by the lip-smacking amuse-bouches we got on our two nights there: a watercress soup with just a hint of truffle, and a sweetcorn soup like sunshine in a bowl.
I particularly loved the main of roast turbot with leek risotto and red wine sauce, the only possible gripe that the portion was over-generous, as was a whopping starter of deep fried stuffed courgette flowers with the zingiest of tomato and basil sauces.
The proof of the skills in Tyddyn Llan’s kitchen is in the pudding. Several triumphs of flavour here: a fabulous whimberry crème brûlée with a whimberry sorbet, a damson soup with blackberries and cinnamon ice cream (autumn in a dish, that one) and rum and raisin ice cream with chunks of honeycomb so ingeniously smoky that it was like biting into a Crunchie on bonfire night.
A three-course dinner at Tyddyn Llan is £55 per person, two courses £45, and tasting menus of six and nine courses are available at £70 and £85.
We stayed as guests of Bryan and Susan Webb, the owners of Tyddyn Llan Restaurant with Rooms at Llandrillo, near Corwen, Denbighshire, North Wales. A special offer is available for stays between Sundays and Thursdays until late March 2015. An overnight stay in a standard room, including the six-course tasting menu and full Welsh breakfast the following morning, costs from £100 per person (two sharing a room). Room upgrades available from £30, with extra nights from £45 per person B&B, provided dinner is taken.
The hotel regularly stages special wine dinners. Call 01490 440 264 or go to www.tyddynllan.co.uk.
Tyddyn Llan is a member of the Welsh Rarebits collection of hotels - www.rarebits.co.uk.
Things to do near Tyddyn Llan
Walk up the Berwyn mountains to the Moel Ty Uchaf stone circle (ask at the hotel for a guide leaflet).
Take a steam train from Llanuwchllyn on the Bala Lake narrow gauge railway.
Take a canal boat trip over Thomas Telford’s renowned Pontcysyllte aqueduct.
Visit Rug Chapel, an ornate 17th century chapel, and the small medieval Llangar Church, both near Corwen.
Just drive. Lots of wonderful scenery. We liked the single-track road from the south of Bala Lake to
Trawsfynydd, but be prepared to open several gates along the way.