Wonderful Welsh Fodder

I had an impromptu trip to the North Wales coast this weekend. Without going into too much boring detail, I was all set for a holiday to the Basque country (I was packed and everything) when I realised my sodding passport had gone AWOL. I am now probably the leading expert in replacing passports in the whole of West Leeds. Needless to say travel to Spain had to be cancelled. Having said that I was all hyped up for a trip away and had no intention of returning to work, and so we picked a destination that was pleasant and close enough to the Liverpool passport office! The small saving grace was that the weather in Wales was actually far nicer than what was being forecast in our foreign destination, what a relief!

So, North Wales… land of castles, Anglesey salt, slate (for using as plates) and BLACK BOMBER CHEESE, mmmmmm. An unexpected foodie paradise I am sure you will agree. We kick started our weekend at the newly opened Welsh Farm Food Centre, housed in an old farm on the edge of Colwyn Bay. Beautifully renovated, it’s home to a massive farm shop, bee centre, tea room, restaurant, cookery school and overnight accommodation – lovely! I rinsed the farm shop buying local ales, mustard, honey, cheeses, biscuits, fudge and reasonably priced crockery. The meat counter also looked first class, but sadly we didn’t need any meat and so there seemed no point in browsing further if I couldn’t buy any.

Their Hayloft Restaurant is a bit of a destination dinner spot. It won’t get much footfall and so will rely on those who know that the farm shop exists. We decided to book for later in our trip after we’d visited the shop. As it’s all newly renovated the spaces are absolutely gorgeous and dripping in luxurious fabrics and furniture that reflect the colours and shapes of the natural world.  We perused our menus whilst sat in the quiet bar area. I ordered a local Welsh white wine to slurp as I chose. Unfortunately this was sold out so I went for a French counterpart, which was a bit disappointing. In hindsight I guess it’s the wrong time of year to expect local wine – especially after last year’s summer.

The Hayloft Bar

The Hayloft Bar

The dining room was similarly gorgeous, with views out over the Colwyn valley. It wasn’t overly busy – but then it was a random Monday evening in early May. The lighting slightly let down the venue (it was a bit dark). Luckily we were sat right by a window and so could see our food! Also, there was no music or background noise, which made it slightly excruciating. On some evenings they host a piano player, and this would be amazing to experience in the venue.

The Hayloft Dining Room

The Hayloft Dining Room

For starters I opted for a fish and a chips salad. If I’m honest this was just a mini portion of fish and chips served with some salad leaves. The pickled fennel tartare sauce was gorgeously crisp and piquante but I was kicking myself that I didn’t go for the prawns with a burnt orange, chilli and whisky reduction, which looked wonderful. Plus, no sooner had the food been put down and the fire alarm went off! Luckily we weren’t delayed for too long as it was a false alarm, however it was slightly irritating and it would have been nice to be offered a drink as compensation.

Fish and chip salad with pickled fennel tartar sauce

Fish and chip salad with pickled fennel tartar sauce

The main courses were mainly meat based. I would have loved to have gone for the lamb cutlets but I didn’t fancy the sound of the butterbean cassoulet or citrus crème fraiche they came served with. I’d already seen the steaks and they were humongous, so I didn’t fancy that either. In the end I opted for a far lighter pork belly dish. This came with steamed greens, locally foraged mushrooms and a sweet cider broth. The plate looked stunning, but sadly was also a bit disappointing. The textures from the mushrooms and pork were not quite right – everso slightly slimy and chewy. I admit that the dish was adorned with thin strips of homemade crackling – however, horror of horrors, they were chewy and not crisp (worst crime ever). The flavour of the scratchings was amazing, I think they must have used lots of powdered Anglesey salt – which was beautiful. Despite the chewy nature of them I still ate them but the lack of crispness was devastating.

Cider and honey glazed pork belly with greens, mushrooms and scratchings

Cider and honey glazed pork belly with greens, mushrooms and scratchings

Anyway because I’d had such a light main I felt impelled to do dessert. Part of the reason I wanted to dine here was because I’d seen their homemade raspberry sorbet in the farm shop and it looked out of this world – rich ruby red, creamy and tangy. As a result I went for the leaning tower of desserts, a meringue nest topped with lemon curd, dressed berries, whipped cream and a scoop of the aforementioned sorbet. This was a nice and refreshing end to the meal. The meringue could have down with a bit more chew, however the sorbet and berry combo was heaven in the mouth. I’ve no idea how they make their sorbet so creamy, must have sold their soul to the devil or something.

Meringue nest, lemon curd, dressed berries, raspberry sorbet

Meringue nest, lemon curd, dressed berries, raspberry sorbet

Overall this wasn’t an expensive meal given that we had three courses and wine each. The service was attentive and efficient. Yes the food wasn’t perfect but the restaurant is still new and I commend them for paying homage to local food production. A few tweaks and this meal would have been just right, and for that I would be prepared to come back and give it another go. If you’re in North Wales then do pay a visit as the combination of beautiful location and use of local food is a good experience, despite the teething problems.

p.s the holiday hasn’t been entirely ruined. I’m off to France today!

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