Bryn Williams’ Porth Eirias Bistro sits in a modern building – all floor to ceiling glass and sloped rooves – right on Porth Eirias beach. The Porth Eirias Waterfront building was completed in 2013, funded by the local council to house a watersports centre, educational and conference facilities, retail unit and cafe/ bistro. Bryn Williams took on the catering lease and opened his bistro restaurant, cafe and bar in 2015. Even on a dull Monday lunch time in March, it was busy. Once we tried the food, we could see why!
Our visit to the bistro was an impromptu one. Our hosts at Tyddyn Llan provided helpful tips on local sights and recommended lunch spots in the guest folders in each room, and one such tip was Bryn’s bistro in Colwyn Bay. Only an hour’s drive, it fit perfectly into our plans to pootle around the region, and I quickly booked a table via the website.
I first tried Williams’ food during a press invitation to experience his newly launched Kitchen Table at Odette’s Restaurant in Primrose Hill. The Porth Eirias Bistro is a return to his roots for Williams who grew up in nearby Denbigh, less than 20 miles from Colwyn Bay.
Whilst Odette’s wasn’t stuffy by any means, the bistro is an altogether more relaxed and casual affair. On its opening, Williams explained that he wanted “it to be a relaxed and noisy environment with people enjoying themselves. If you want to come in off the beach and get something to go from our cafe, then that is fine too.”
Conscious that we’re booked in for a three course dinner in the evening, I order two starters to be served at the same time as Pete’s main dish.
The roasted prawns with garlic and chilli (£9) are phenomenal! Oblivious to other diners, I suck the head of each prawn, then use the peeled tail as a spoon for the garlicky mayo and garlic chilli oil in turns. The prawns are so fresh and sweet; their flavour is intense even against the strong flavours of the mayo and oil. And that oil! I’m mesmerised by notes of orange, and though the waitress I ask tells me it’s just lemon, chatting to Bryn later, he confirms his use of orange and lime. The result is aromatic and heady…and several days later, I can’t stop thinking about the dish.
My other starter is one of the daily specials, a cod tempura (£9). Marvellously light batter clings to firm, just-cooked morsels of fresh cod, lovely with a rich, homemade tartar sauce. This is an excellent dish, and one that’s ideal for sharing, but is outshone by the outstanding prawns.
Pete chooses the daily catch fish fingers (£17) which comes with fries, crushed peas and tartar sauce. They are an order of magnitude more expensive than those from Birds Eye but they’re at least the same order of magnitude more magnificent too. And both of us will always prefer a mash of sweet, fresh peas over boiled mushy marrowfat peas. Fabulous food!
On arrival we had no intention of having dessert, mindful of later plans. But given how extraordinary our three seafood dishes have been, we reverse that decision and order the Porth Eirias Baked Alaska (£8) to share.
Wow! This is a stunning dessert, a real showcase of Williams’ skills with sweet as well as savoury. Soft peaks of blow-torched meringue hide a thin layer of cake, a mound of vanilla ice cream and good quality jam (raspberry I think) that provides a counter to the super-sweet elements.
It’s a pretty generous pudd, making it ideal for sharing, but conscious of my recent diabetes diagnosis, I enjoy a few deeply pleasurable mouthfuls before declaring that I’m done. Pete manfully finishes the rest!
Afterwards I pop across to the open kitchen and say hello to Bryn. As the busy lunch period is quietening down, he comes out to chat and we end up talking about my visit to Odette’s, and then our recent-ish move to Wales. He knows all the good restaurants in our neck of the woods (near Abergavenny) and is genuinely warm and engaging. Other customers pay their bill and ask for photos with him, and I follow suit; a lovely way to remember a very lovely meal.
Our bill comes to £49 plus service.