Allt-yr-Afon Restaurant at the Wolfscastle Country Hotel, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Although Allt-yr-Afon Restaurant has been around for yonks, I’d never eaten there before, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I swept into its front drive last Sunday.
After being directed through to my corner table in a decidedly ornate dining room, dominated by deep colours, a marble fireplace and neoclassical statuettes, a smiling waitress handed me the bulging leather bound menu. The atmosphere was relaxed, friendly and unpretentious, free of the unwelcome stuffiness you so often encounter in British hotels.
Head Chef Owen Hall and his team prepare first courses ranging from traditional favourites like leek and potato soup to more exotic options such as pesto risotto and Caesar salad. I chose mackerel pâté served with granary toast, spicy apple chutney and mixed leaves.
It was a mighty success - the pâté was light, fresh, full of zing and perfectly seasoned with fresh parsley, and the locally baked granary was a delight. I checked the fish was local and sure enough it was landed locally and supplied to the hotel by the aptly named Mark the Shark, ho ho.
Now onto the main course - the eclectic menu included roast loin of pork, pan fried confit of duck, a few vegetarian options and even a curry. Anyway, how could I resist the organic roast beef? And this wasn’t just any old beef, it was organically reared Welsh Black beef from Little Treffgarne Farm near Wolfscastle - Welsh Black is a white horned native breed similar to the renowned Aberdeen Angus.
Along came several good slices of extremely tender and flavoursome sirloin served with generous portions of potatoes, carrots and deliciously buttery cabbage, not forgetting the homemade horseradish and giant, bulbous, perfectly cooked Yorkshire pud. There was no poncing about with this good, honest food and there was no evidence of portion control either, thank goodness.
Properly made beef stock gravy added to my food happiness - how great it is to eat somewhere that still gets the basics right. Being intent on staying dry in more ways than one, seeing that I was going on an afternoon hike through the local river gorge, I decided to give the wine list a miss, even though it included some seriously tempting claret.
It was time for pud and again the selection was impressive. I was nearly tempted by the Welsh cheeses - there’s some great ‘caws’ in this part of the world, from Perl Wen to Caerfai Caerfilli - but I regressed to childhood by plumping for a yummy sponge pudding with homemade custard. Perhaps I was overdoing it, but what the hell. Everything was rounded off with a cup of herbal tea and some homemade fudge.
On an environmental note, and I must always include one seeing that I’m a sustainability consultant, the restaurant sourced plenty of local and organic produce. How much saner it is to be served grass-fed organic beef reared in local fields rather than some place on the other side of the planet.
This eatery definitely deserves its place on the culinary map of Wales, which has undergone something of a national food revival over recent years. For the sake of us West Walian gastronomes, let’s hope the financial crisis doesn’t reverse the progress that’s been made.
To conclude, Allt-yr-Afon really is heaven on earth for diners with a yearning for delicious food, robust flavours and tradition with a big T. And the prices are well suited to these times of economic doom and gloom too, with Sunday lunch costing £9.50 for the main course, £13.50 for 2 courses or £16.50 for 3 courses.
PS. In case you’re wondering, Allt-yr-Afon means ‘hill by the river’.