Sunday, 29 August 2010

A week in Wales

I have just returned from a week's holiday in South Wales with my oldest friend and her brother. The criteria for this annual jaunt is that we rent an English Country Cottage, usually in the middle of nowhere, it must have its own swimming pool, and there have to be some good restaurants in the vicinity as we treat ourselves to at least 2 excellent meals out. This time we stayed just outside the village of Dryslwyn, near Carmarthen, which has a ruined castle and one hotel and that's it!

We lodged in one of 3 cottages which had been superbly renovated and had at one time been a couple of barns. We were about a mile down an unmade road which traversed woods, cattle and beehives and had the beautiful River Towy running alongside. It was delightful.

On Sunday we made the trip to Laugharne, workplace and home to Dylan Thomas for much of his life. I was sorry that the famous Brown's Hotel had closed down as I had enjoyed a very good lunch there some years ago. Still, we had a good carvery lunch at one of the local pubs.

For Tuesday evening Liz booked Y Polyn a restaurant about 5 miles away which features in this year's Good Food Guide for the first of our foodie outings. The gentleman who answered the phone had said they could squeeze us in at 8. However when we arrived they had reserved a table for 2 not 3, told us it was our mistake not theirs and then made quite a fuss of trying to squash us in. This had the effect of putting Liz in an extremely bad mood for the whole outing. And given their credentials on the website they really should train their young front-of-house staff better.

Fortunately the food was amazing so the evening wasn't a disaster. As soon as we tasted the home-baked, gloriously salty foccacia we knew we were in for a treat. I started with a fabulous fish soup with rouille and croutons which was absolutely top-notch. Dave had local Black Mountain smoked salmon and Liz had pork rillettes. Unfortunately her pictures of their starters didn't work! I know they liked the food though. I tried the rillettes and they were just right.

For our main courses the others chose local rack of lamb and, as is getting more and more usual for me, I had to go with the crispy belly pork. Both the lamb and the pork were sensational. We shared a dish of Dauphinoise potatoes, baked fennel and leeks.

We all felt a bit too stuffed for pudding but decided that, in the interests of research we would suffer. I went for strawberry Eton Mess and Dave had a yogurty pannacotta. I'm afraid another downer for the restaurant was that there was only one pudding on the menu that was for dairy-intolerant people like my friend. That was Lemon Tart and she doesn't like pastry . . .

In fairness they did offer to bring her some fruit which she declined.

The meal for 3 included local fizzy water which was gorgeous and we shared a bottle of house red. The price excluding service was around £100. Liz treated us and I think she knocked the service charge down, if not completely off.

On Wednesday it rained all day and Dave paid for a very good lunch at Pizza Express in Carmarthen. I'm glad to see that those tiny macerated figs are back on the menu.

Thursday evening was to be my treat but in fact it ended up being the worst night by far of our holiday. The Angel at Salem was about the same distance away and also in this year's GFG. Because we were at the back of beyond we had very limited internet access and so we couldn't look up the URL and see that there was now a different chef. The meal was awful. Everything was served with chips and a pot of minted mushy peas. And it wasn't cheap. I brought home my so called rump steak as a holiday treat for the dog.

But at least I know now to double-check these places before I actually book them. So something else to put down to experience.

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