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Jun 25, 2013 11:33 PM

North Wales

I don't know how many readers will be heading towards the Conwy/Llandudno area, but we had some fantastic meals there last week, and it's my duty to report on where we ate,

Our first lunch was at The Queen's Head outside of Conwy. DH had a white onion soup that was perfection, and I had a delicious duck wrap, warm and juicy with hoisin sauce. I also had some onion rings which were good but not the best I've ever eaten.The place is friendly and very nicely decorated and made my local gastropub seem a bit second rate.

Dinners were at three places. First was Jaya, what we thought was an excellent Indian restaurant housed in our B&B. This was true home cooking done by a young woman with Kenyan roots, and the menu is huge and the dishes we had were delicious.. great service and I only wish the restaurant had a branch near my house.

The Hayloft outside Conwy and attached to the Bodnant Farm Shop, was a wonderful evening. The meal begins with drinks in a beautiful lounge where the menus can be perused. I had the best ribeye steak I've had in years (must mention I rarely eat steak these days), preceded by a beetroot hummous dish. DH had his usual fish main.. I think it was sea bass. The emphasis here is on local, fresh produce and now I really know what that term means. It didn't hurt that we were seated near the male harpist who played my favorite show and movie tunes. Dessert was an orange sponge with orange custard.. a bit sweet but delicious. The service is very, very professional and the dining room is rustic in a very sophisticated way.

Paysanne in Deganwy bills itself as a 'tiny piece of rural France.' I think that's a bit overstating the truth, but it was a good meal. My husband felt it was actually 'tarted up' British cuisine, and I had to agree. My guinea fowl wrapped in bacon was fine but nothing to rave about.. same for his fish dish. The veg is not chosen but included some delicious carrots and parsnips and a large casserole of what I call scalloped potatoes. The potatoes were bland and not very good. The meal ended with a good dessert - lemon curd ice cream and a very nice apple tart crumble. The restaurant was filled (it's not very large) with locals who seem to enjoy the food. Maybe they've never been to France?

In Caernarvon we had a scrummy lunch in a small shop and cafe called Sarah's. It was really good value for money with huge portions. I had a good quiche with mounds of potato salad and cole slaw and DH had a soup of the day.

I would make the 4 hour drive again just to eat at The Hayloft,

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  1. Great tips, June, thanks! Our boat's in Conwy so always looking for alternatives to beans on toast!!!

    18 Replies
    1. re: helen b

      I eyed those boats in the harbour, helen b, and I felt homesick. I once had a nice sailboat back in the Stone Age and there are so many happy memories. Do try The Hayloft.. it's not at all fancy, but the food is very nice.

      1. re: zuriga1

        Quite excited about the Kenyan Indian lady too. The slight problem whenever we're sailing though and trying to eat anywhere 'naice' is we wheel in, dripping barnacles and stinking of Davy's Locker! My beloved has never seen fit to invest in a decent shower on board...

        1. re: helen b


          For one of those days, when you've both tarted up -

          Bodysgallen Hall - just on the way into Llandudno from the A55. Really rather pleasant in that sort of old fashioned way that's usually rather pleasant.

          Main dining room not the bistro (which is a bit shite).

          1. re: Harters

            Ta. We've got the Kinmel Arms on the list too, following your recc, and my 40th treat is Tyddan Llan and am actually being allowed to sleep there and not on the boat :)

            Else will continue my extensive search of takeaways that will deliver to the marina and report back if any of them is ever halfway decent!

            1. re: helen b

              I look forwad to hearing about Tyddan Llan. It's too much of schlep for an evening, so it looks as though we'll have to stop over . That probably means "celebration". Which probably means not this year - arrangements already made for herself's birthday (Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter) and mine (Simon Rogan at the Midland French).

              1. re: Harters

                John - I see MoL reviews The French in this weeks Grauniad - I think you are quoted....?

                1. re: PhilD

                  Nah, not mine , Phil.

                  Me? Review on TripAdviser? Only when there's no other outlet (i.e. Tenerife restaurants)

                  Although I'm sure I'm in complete sympathy with the other old farts about the demise of the old Midland French. I remain disappointed that, after more than 100 years serving the city, the Midland felt there was no longer a case for a "grand restaurant".

                  1. re: Harters


                    when will you get it into your head? The old French was losing money I won't tell you how much but if it was a stand alone operation it would have closed years ago. I personally understand your liking for the place as it was but something had to be done and hopefully now being profitable the restaurant will still be around in another 100 years.

              2. re: helen b

                It sounds like we will have to return!

                The cook at Jaya is from London but her mother came from Kenya. Just put on some clean clothes. No one will be worried about the sea salt.

              3. re: Harters

                Yes, Bodysgallen is "fine dining the way it used to be". Yet, it doesn't seem pretentious Lovely for lunch when you can also stroll the gardens

                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                  I'm also a big fan of Bodysgallen attitude to service/service charges/tipping:-

                  "Our Tariffs are fully inclusive of SERVICE AND VAT. If they wish, guests may leave gratuities at their discretion."

                  I just wish more places would adopt the "service included" style, as Belgium & France.

                  1. re: Harters

                    It's rare lately for us to go anywhere that doesn't have service included. Even small Ghengis Khan does that, although not being in London, the charge was only 10%.

                    1. re: zuriga1

                      Do you mean as a % service charge added to the bottom line or, as at Bodysgallen, service being included in the menu price and no further payment required?

                      1. re: Harters

                        I see Phil has explained the system. What I was referring to was the % service charge added to the bottom line.

                        I just checked The Square menu since I'm going today and it lists this for the set lunch..

                        An optional 12.5% gratuity will be added to your bill

                        1. re: zuriga1


                          The % service charge is fast replacing old-fashioned tipping and I regard it as progress.

                          It's very common in the London area ( I've come across it even in cafes) and increasingly common elsewhere. The going rate in (central) London seems to be 12.5%, whilst elsewhere in the country it generally remains at 10% (reflecting the usual going rate for a cash tip)

                          1. re: Harters

                            I agree, John. I like the 12.5% service charge. That's what we paid, no surprise, at The Square today. My area has a mixture, but for an American used to leaving 15-20% (and that was 10 years ago), this seems a bargain.

                            1. re: zuriga1

                              Only seems like a bargain if you discount the fact that, in the UK, "minimum wage" means "minimum wage" and applies to all adult employees. And that most restaurant servers are paid more than minimum wage (plus tips or service charge).

                              None of this $2 an hour tosh you get in many American states.

                      2. re: zuriga1

                        In theUK if they add 10% to the bill it means service isn't included - this is a discretionary service charge you can choose not to pay.

                        Service included means that if a dish is £10 on the menu the bill you are given totals £10. The best ones then say they don't accept tips as well....! (Because they pay their staff properly).

          2. Great write-up, June! Felt like I was there :-)

            2 Replies
            1. re: klyeoh

              Thanks for the kind words. My husband is the writer, not me, but it's fun to think back to the nice meals. My photos are on Facebook. :-)

              1. re: zuriga1

                Ah, a writer-husband and a photographer-son - June, you can get together and publish a food guide! :-D

            2. Thanks for the tip re the Hayloft, June. Had a great meal there.

              I have a new recc, too - Watson's Bistro in Conwy. Went there for lunch recently and had the best homemade fish & chips ever. Absolutely delicious. Amazing value at £11 for 2 courses. Great to see a good food place within the walls of Conwy town.

              4 Replies
              1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                Hi there, DST.

                Any reccs for lunch around Bala & Wrexham? Dinner (and overnighter) is at Tyydan Llan but we'll need lunch both days. At the moment, I'm thinking of the Cross Foxes near Wrexham , which is a Brunning & Price place so will be reasonably decent. Bala seems a desert.

                1. re: Harters

                  HI there - sorry only just seen this! I don't have any tips for that area apart from Rhug farm (which you recc'd to me!) and The Tea Rooms in Chirk which I haven't tried yet but looks a great place for home-made style cakes. Hope you are well

                  1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                    Thanks for the mention of the place at Chirk - I'll remember it for next time we're out that way. In the event, we only needed one lunch and went to the Bryntirion Inn near Bala. Damn good pub grub - nothing poncy.

                    Thanks for asking - and I'm fine (except for my left knee which is knackered and probably needs replacement surgery). Hope you're well, as well - are you still down in London?

                2. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                  I'm so glad you enjoyed the Hayloft! We really had a very good dinner there. I'll try to remember about your place in Conwy. I have a feeling we may get back to Llandudno one of these days. It was a good holiday, even though we are not beach people. :-)