If you’ve been following me on my travels over the years, you’ll have probably realised I have a slight obsession with Wales. The snowy topped mountains, the views, the amazing produce and the people. There’s also much more of a sense of community here in Wales and you can feel that everywhere you visit, once you step outside of the big cities. My favourite part of Wales however is the north. Spending time in and around Snowdonia is like spending time in a scene from The Lord of the Rings movie – with its rugged hills and cascading waterfalls.
With such spectacular backdrops it comes to no surprise that some of the best hotels in the UK are also located here and most notably one of its newest additions, Pale Hall. A Victorian country house which has been completely renovated back to its former glory and with no expense spared. It’s stunning. For dinner we started with a glass of Champagne in the lounge and divulged with a selection of canapes.
Unfortunately I wasn’t exactly blessed with perfect camera lighting conditions, but I can assure you the food looks even better in real life and much more vibrant. Plates of colour and excitement. The home-made bread basket was a great start too. Warm, fluffy and perfectly crafted. Those baguettes were a triumph – even the French should be worried. The restaurant is looked after by the talented head chef, Gareth Stevenson and has legendary Michael Caines backing it as its culinary mentor.
Starter of warm salad of native lobster with mango a& cardamom vinaigrette, basil and curry mayonnaise was a truly sumptuous dish, packed with lots of flavour and a recognisable firm nod to the east. Better still was the Welsh black beef cheek cannelloni with pickled mustard seed and roasted onion consommé. The cannelloni itself was stunning, visually and in taste – packed with a real depth of flavour. The dish could have been a little warmer overall, but otherwise I had absolutely no complaints.
Main course of Coed y brenin roe deer loin with braised red cabbage, pancetta, fig and chestnut puree was another stunning medley of foods and while I don’t like making such bold statements – this deer may well have been the finest I’ve ever eaten. Cooked medium, well seasoned and cut through like a slab of butter, but still had a little bite to it and lots of richness. Presentation was a little messy, but take one bite and you won’t care.
Being the dessert obsessed foodie that I am, I’m always rather scrupulously inspecting my dessert plates and I must say that they were a real highlight at Pale Hall. Familiar flavours, deconstructed for pleasure. A pre-amuse bouche was a lovely touch. A mixture of sorbet, jelly and cream – I believe.
But the desserts themselves were what got me really excited. Sea salt caramel custard with dark chocolate ganache, candied walnut and milk ice cream was how all desserts should be – immensely satisfying. It was a plate of food you simply didn’t want to end. Even the cheese plate was good. Served at perfect room temperature, fantastic textures and a few pockets of crunchy salt in that red Leicester. When cheese is this good, you almost forget that it didn’t start with a gargantuan cheese trolley wheeled over.
We had such a lovely time at Pale Hall Restaurant and given how much we fell in love with the hotel, it was refreshing that the food is every bit as good as the surroundings. Exciting cuisine, great service and delicious wines – all at relatively reasonable prices. Would we return? We’re already planning it. There’s even an honestly bar to enjoy afterwards in one of the many lounges.