“Fine restaurant-with-rooms in an old Georgian rectory in lovely countryside.”
Review by Fiona Duncan, published 27th August 2006.
Why don't I go to Wales more often? The farther we drive west, after leaving the M6, the lovelier the scenery, with the promise of Snowdonia still to come.
Just outside Llandrillo stands Tyddyn Llan, a modest Georgian house with a cleverly complementary extension of local slate and stone. The house was once a shooting lodge belonging to the Dukes of Westminster (the telephone box in the village was one of the first in the country, apparently, because cabinet ministers were apt to stay for shooting parties and might need to use it). The views from the house are stunning, with the Vale of Edeyrnion's meadows and the slopes of the Berwyn mountains beyond flecked with sheep.
Twenty five years ago Tyddyn Llan ceased to be a private house and became a respected restaurant-with-rooms. In 2002 it was taken on by chef Bryan Webb (previously of Hilaire in London) and his wife Susan, who manages front of house, backed by five Polish waiters and waitresses.
Private operations like this tend not to change hands with ease, but the Webbs have improved on the already high standards, and the term "restaurant-with-rooms" hardly does their tenure justice. Really it's a small country-house hotel of the highest order, with 12 attractive, beautifully kept bedrooms priced according to shape and size (my favourite is No 4) and one elegant ground-floor suite with French windows leading on to a private terrace.
Unlike most restaurants-with-rooms, this one may tempt you to stay put all day (you can even have your hair and nails done by a visiting beautician). But if you are determined to drag yourself away, after an excellent breakfast, you can follow local walks around the village or into the Berwyns, return for lunch, then stroll around the four acres of grounds - awash with daffodils in spring - with specimen plants, clipped yew hedges, a fountain and a pond, and then linger over afternoon tea by the fire or on the veranda, with Welsh cake and bara brith. If you want to explore farther afield, options for day trips from Tyddyn Llan are carefully described (Llandudno and Conwy, Anglesey, the Lleyn peninsula and Snowdonia are all within reach) as well as details of canoeing, fishing, shooting, riding and golf. "People assume that we are in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do, but it's just not the case," says Bryan Webb. "We couldn't be better placed for seeing Wales."
And then there's the food. If I eat better in Wales, I'll let you know. In the dining room, Wedgwood blue with tall windows on three sides, the menu is seasonal and changes daily. My griddled, plump scallops and loin of local lamb with tapenade and couscous were divine, while my son tucked into the best steak (or fillet of Welsh black beef au poivre) and chips he could remember in a long history of devotion to steak and chips.
For pudding he was offered homemade, intensely flavoured vanilla, chocolate and caramel ice cream. The wine list was superb, too, with bottles sensibly ordered by style.
Next morning we were chatting with some fellow guests. "We own a restaurant, too," they told us, "and we've got a Michelin star. But, to be honest, our food isn't as good as Bryan's." The star may have eluded him, but Tyddyn Llan is worth a trip.
Llandrillo, near Corwen, Denbighshire (01490 440264; www.tyddynllan.co.uk). From £95 to £150 per person per night, including dinner and breakfast.
The Hotel Guru verdict
More like rooms in a private house, unflashy but attractive and all different
Foreign staff, some with weak english, seem a little out of place, but efficient
Its charms are gentle and understated but nonetheless memorable
|Food and drink|
Talented, unpretentious chef; excellent wine list
|Value for money|
A fair bill for high standards