Friday, October 7, 2011

Travel: Snowdonia Day Two

So I woke up the next morning and after having an amazing shower (it was this funky modern shower with, like, a steam room function and all these funny jets and a radio- it was so cool) I heated up me and nick some croissants and we had some with my lovely damson jam for brekkie. I loved the farmer's dogs there- as soon as we left the cottage to go out for the day, (and then every time we got in at the end of the evening) these three dogs would come running up to the door/patio windows. So sweet.

We decided since the weather was looking all right that we would drive to visit Portmeirion for the day. It is an iconic Italian style village this guy called Sir Clough Williams Ellis designed and built between 1925 and 1975. Some of you might know Portmeirion/ find these pictures vaguely familiar, because it was the set for a cult classic TV series from the 60s called “The Prisoner”. Mum, Dad and Nick really loved this show, and I’ve seen a couple of episodes so I found the place quite fun/ kinda recognisable.

After looking around a bit, going to “The Prisoner” shop, checking out the little areas, we stopped off for lunch at a café we found. If I’m honest, it wasn’t AMAZING. It was a place that did Italian food, but also cakes and coffees and things like that. The menu sounded like a proper Italian place as well, so we both had pizzas and they were a little disappointing. Wood oven baked, and nice and thin, but the cheese and toppings were of poor quality. I definitely have a recommendation for you if you visit Portmeirion- DON’T go to this café, go to the posher official Portmeirion restaurant. It’s down at the bottom of the town, right next to the coast; near the weird fake boat that they built that’s set in concrete, but at full-tide looks like a proper boat. Insane. The whole place is like that, just a weird dream of someone that had enough money to make it a reality- a strange closed off Italianate village in the middle of north wales. Just utterly bizarre. Anyway, back to the point- we saw the menu for the posh restaurant and it looked really nice, and the meals were only a few quid more expensive than the average café place (I say the meals- food was well priced, but they were selling really REALLY expensive wines to go with your food, I mean we’re talking £60 bottles+ . Mental.)

So after checking the place out, walking for a bit on one of the scenic walks they have round there (they have a forest walk and a coastal walk, both take about an hour, so we didn’t really have time for the whole thing) and set off in the car to a village where we could catch the Ffestiniog Railway.

The Ffestiniog railway is an old fashioned steam train driven railway, which travels from Porthmadog (which is where we caught it) to the small slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog . The trips about an hour each way, and there is a mix of beautiful Welsh countryside/ mountains/ seaside views that you get on it. I do highly recommend it, it was a really nice and beautiful trip, BUT I will mention that it certainly aint cheap. For a standard 2nd class return ticket (theres only 1st and 2nd) it costs £19, and the first class one costs £29. We got two second class tickets- but literally, if you’re going to spend money on this railway trip, you may as well shell out the extra tenna to get first class, because 2nd class was very cramped, which is not what you want if you’ve just spent £20 on a ticket to have a comfortable traditional steam train ride.

So yeah, we did 2nd class on the way there, then we thought, screw it, let’s go 1st class on the way back- and it was luuush! We got the carriage right at the front of the train all to ourselves, which was cool because we could see how the old train works and everything. When we drove back, we decided to have dinner at this place that a lot of people had recommended in the visitors book back at the cottage: “The Castle Restaurant Armoury and Bar”. It is a gourmet Caribbean restaurant situated in Harlech- we couldn’t believe it, here we are practically in the middle of nowhere, and we find a gourmet Caribbean place, what are the odds? Oh, and check out this sunset I took a picture of before we went into the restaurant- isn’t it stunning? It was weird cause it was really really cloudy and rainy, but there was still this magnificent sunset.

I was excited as well, because I’d never been to a Caribbean restaurant before, but I guess I knew what to expect from it- especially since we watched Levi Roots “Caribbean Food Made Easy” recipe program the night before (soooo coincidental!). I was so impressed by this place, quite a cosy little restaurant. Which had a fairly cool looking bar area on the 2nd floor that you could book for parties and events. Nick had a chilli and lime marinated chicken, and I had the beef and coconut curry. Both of these came with rice and peas, a vegetable curry, a pumpkin and spinach curry, salad and either a roti (with my curry!) and macaroni pie with nick’s dish. I took a picture of it- doesn’t it look luuush?? Gert portions too.

I liked the look of the dessert menu when I came in, so I didn’t have a starter. For my pud, I chose the mango bavarois, and nick had the “Chocolate Box”- which was kinda like layers of chocolate mousse and chocolate sponge, encased in a hard chocolate shell. Both desserts were quite nice but nick’s was better- jealous! We then decided to go home, watch a bit of TV and plan the next day. As a final note, I have to say that if you do any travelling in North Wales, make sure you check out Harlech, because there seem to be a few really nice looking decent restaurants in that little town, plus some charming traditional cafes for lunch too, I highly recommend you visit the place.


  1. Hi Chef Mel, I was just googling reviews of Becws as I've just booked it for next month and your blog came up - love it! Thanks for the tips about washing up liquid..... let me know of any others... If you have any tips of any nice restaurants to take my bloke for his 30th please let me know! You've also inspired me to get off my a**e and update my blog, thanks!

  2. Oh yeah i definitely have some reccomendations! I'm just writing up the third day too, which has some more good reccomendations for what to do/ what to eat/ where to drink round near Becws.

    But yeah from this entry i fully reccomend this Caribbean restaurant - and would be great for a 30th bday, and if you were going to have mates over for the party, on the 2nd floor of that restaurant has a bar that is really funky, and can be booked for parties.

    There was also a nice looking Indian restaurant in Harlech, as well as a v v posh fairly expensive restaurant called "Castle Cottage restaurant" , but if your pushing the boat out i'm sure it'd be worth it.

    Anyway, yeah, you'll love Becws, and check out my third entry for more reccomendations.