Monday, 28 July 2014

The Portmeirion Hotel Restaurant, Wales.

Portmeirion means more to me more than pretty much anywhere in Britain apart from home. This is because we got married there ten years ago and return every five years to celebrate. It never loses it's magic for us, it really has a special place in our hearts. If you didn't know, essentially, between 1925 and 1975 Clough Williams-Ellis built Portmeirion on the Welsh coastline, in the style of an Italian village, 'pay(ing) tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean'. Which is exactly why we got married there. 
We always stay in the same room in the hotel, on the corner looking over the water. Most people staying there take the package which includes breakfast in the hotel and an evening meal there (or at 'The Castle' further up). We remember the restaurant as being pretty good on our last visit so we were excited to eat there again for our anniversary meal.
Sadly, the food was a huge disappointment this time.
We took drinks outside the dining room overlooking the estuary before being led to our table in the conservatory section. Service was friendly but amateurish at times and in need of stepping up a bit for what they're trying to achieve. I could tell that there wasn't a strong front of house manager running the show. The main problem with Portmeirion though is that it's incredibly expensive; Michelin star expensive. The meal is part of the package, but different courses have different amounts of supplements. It's a really confusing mess to be honest and desperately needs simplifying. You only really know how much you've paid until you check out. We got quite a nasty surprise last time. I suppose all the cocktails and oysters we had at the Castle mounted up!
So what of the food? The head chef is way out of his or her depth in all honesty, it really wasn't too impressive considering how much it was. I guess they have a captive audience but it simply wasn't good enough.
The little appetizers were quite nice, a few little snacks and then some gazpacho and salmon.
We ordered three starters as we wanted to try a few.
Langoustine tails, pink grapefruit, smoked apple and celery (Supplement £5.00).
Crispy duck egg with smoked duck and truffle soldiers (Supplement £4.50).
Black truffle tart, iced feta, asparagus and purple shiso (Supplement £2.00).
Confit chicken and foie gras terrine, red pepper chutney, treacle and stout loaf and marmite butter. (Supplement £5.00). All were little more than average, the confit chicken foie gras terrine had very little taste of foie. There is very little point in eating foie gras if you don't get that luxurious dreamy taste.
I had a slight sinking feeling but we were with our friends and the wine was flowing, we were having a good time despite the food. 
Loin and cutlet of Welsh lamb, potato dauphinoise, confit onion, purple sprouting, apricot, anchovy and mint (supplement £9.00) really wasn't that good. The quality of the meat wasn't great, it was overly fatty but without the flavour. I often order lamb, it's probably my most favourite meat, this was probably the poorest I've had in recent memory. Such a shame. I could have sworn I saw that it's £30 when paying as a none guest as well, absolutely incredible prices for essentially average pub food (I've had better lamb in pubs in fact).
 Wild Seabass, Aberdaron crab transparent ravioli, fennel, coriander, lemongrass and crab consommé (Supplement £6.00) was even worse. It really was a dog's dinner this one. When you get food from a top chef, Simon Rogan for instance, they have the ability to make each flavour sing. In this case it was the opposite. The flavours were confused, muddy and weak. There was simply no love of food in this cooking.
Oh dear, it really was quite poor.
The desserts, Rhubarb and custard parfait, custard doughnut and rhubarb sorbet and the Coconut panna cotta with mango sorbet were both ok, but the presentation promised much more than what was delivered.
The problem with the Portmeirion Hotel restaurant is that it's in Portmeirion. It's like going to a restaurant with an amazing view. They don't always have to work so much as they have a captive audience anyway, in this case the guests who stay in this wonderful hotel. But really it could be and should be so much better. I hate saying it as this place means so much to me, but it's sadly the truth.
When we return in five years I hope we'll see an improvement but I wouldn't hold my breath as there's just no urgency for change.


Hotel Portmeirion on Urbanspoon

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