Bodnant Welsh Food Centre - travel review
Foodie James Pugh samples the delights of the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre...
For many, quality, locally sourced food is high on the priority list when they are thinking about where to stay. Cue Bodnant Welsh Food Centre and Cookery School in North Wales, which is helping the country to establish its growing reputation as a nation of passionate producers and fanatical foodies.
Situated just a stone's throw from the seaside town of Conwy, the centre was established in 2012 to provide the showcase for the best Welsh food such as fresh meat from the local valleys and hills.
It is set in a cluster of stone farm buildings dating back to the 18th century, which have been lovingly restored to house a host of businesses, all of which champion the best products from the local area.
On site is a farm shop, selling products sourced from the surrounding Bodnant estate, from award-winning Welsh suppliers and the in-house bakery, butchers and dairy.
This food is also used to supply the elegant on-site Hayloft Restaurant, intimate River Room and Furnace Tea Room.
My wife and I stayed in one of the five on-site bedrooms, which boast stunning views over the Conwy Estuary.
The accommodation, which we found very comfortable, has been elegantly finished with stylish furnishings, ironwork lights and Welsh handmade fabrics as well as the usual mod cons.
The accommodation also benefits from an impressive communal kitchen and living room, which unfortunately we didn't get to enjoy on our visit because it was being used by a group of women celebrating a 40th birthday party.
But staying over is an excellent excuse to make use of both the Hayloft and River Room, where chefs make the best possible use of Bodnant's ingredients.
The menu is changed regularly to suit the seasons and boasts generous portions.
Typical dishes in the Hayloft include a 'festival of Welsh lamb', 'soused Llandudno mackerel' and 'peaches and Bodnant ice cream' – all reasonably priced and served with wines from Bodnant's own cellar.
Alternatively, The River Room restaurant offers an intimate and informal fine dining experience with a unique seven-course tasting menu, each course refined and carefully selected by Andrew Sheridan.
The restaurant, which provides a fine dining experience for just 12 guests per evening, was the brainchild of Mr Sheridan.
It was this me and my wife got the pleasure of sampling during our stay.
Each dish was immaculately presented and bursting with flavours, including the mackerel and wood pigeon which I had never tried before.
The mix of pre-chosen white and red wines, which is optional with the tasting menu, accompanied the main dishes perfectly.
Mr Sheridan, who has trained alongside Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines, said: "The River Room was the realisation of a personal ambition to make fine dining more accessible to people.
"I passionately believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience top quality food.
"The idea behind The River Room is to combine fine dining with an informal atmosphere.
"There is absolutely no pretence here – guests don't need to worry about wearing a formal jacket or which cutlery to choose, they can just enjoy the high quality food."
The difference between a great place and shall we say a not so good place is the detail. And it was really comforting when a pre-visit warning about my wife being pregnant was taken on board when they swapped the scallops for quail eggs for one of the dishes.
Just like the food, the service was first-class, with the knowledgeable waiter introducing each dish and wine.
Breakfast the following morning in the Hayloft restaurant was equally appetising. For me it was one of a wide selection of pastries followed by the traditional Welsh breakfast featuring sausages, bacon, eggs and mushrooms.
The venue also boasts a function room for weddings and other events and the Welsh National Bee-keeping Centre – as well as its impressive Cookery School, which again promotes local ingredients.
Courses tie in with what is in season, catering for just what you fancy all around the year, with classes varying from bread-making to tapas fusion, skilled patisserie and dinner party dishes. Bodnant's sessions come highly recommended for chefs of all levels – and would certainly make an ideal gift for a food enthusiast.
For those seeking a little more adventure, there is plenty of exploration to be done in the rugged local landscape of Snowdonia, a sanctuary for outdoors enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Situated in quiet estate surroundings, in the heart of Conwy Valley, the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre offers something for everyone including foodies keen on locally sourced food, couples seeking a idyllic holiday retreat, or someone looking to host a party, hen do or wedding. I would definitely recommend it for someone looking to celebrate a special occasion where you are able to book out all of the accommodation and make use of all of its impressive facilities.
For more details visit the website at www.bodnant-welshfood.co.uk