Tyddyn Llan describes itself as a restaurant with rooms, placing the focus firmly on their excellent food, rather than a typical hotel experience. Based in a beautiful Georgian country house dating from 1742, set in the beautiful Vale of Edeyrnion in Denighshire, North East Wales, Tyddyn Llan is perfectly placed to explore the local area including Llyn Tegid (the largest natural lake in Wales), and Snowdonia National Park.
Tyddyn Llan is a member of Welsh Rarebits Hotels of Distinction, a small collection of properties with quality of food and accommodation at its heart. Most of the collection are small to medium sized, personally owned and run, and include everything from traditional country houses to modern boutique boltholes, each offering warm hospitality and a touch of luxury to their guests.
Full of beautiful period features and furnishings, Tyddyn Llan has been owned and run by Bryan and Susan Webb for 20 years. During its history, the house has been used as a shooting lodge within the Duke of Westminster’s estate, as a vicarage, and as a family home. It first opened its doors to paying guests as a bed and breakfast in the 1980s, and following extensions to the dining room and sitting areas, it became a hotel in 1990. When Susan and Bryan took it over from the previous owners (who they knew personally), they re-branded the offering as a restaurant with rooms, as it still is today.
The rooms are simple and comfortable, with good quality beds and well-designed bathrooms. There’s nothing better than enjoying a long, lingering meal and being able to stroll to your room for the night, rather than go back out into the cold and drive home!
The seating areas are particularly inviting with big, comfy sofas, an open fire (kept topped up with wood by staff during our March-time visit) and lots of light and tables. It’s a good place to sit and read, or to enjoy a drink before or after your meal.
Our booking was for a one night stay on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis, which includes a three course dinner. On seeing the difference between the three courses (priced at £90) and the eight course tasting menu (£110), we quickly decided to upgrade for an extra £20 each, the better to experience a wider range of Bryan’s dishes.
The focus of Bryan’s food is to source the highest quality, seasonal ingredients, and then allow them to shine by way of his cooking. He buys locally as much as possible, especially meat and game. Fish comes primarily from the South Coast of England, and a few items come from further afield such as diver-caught scallops from Scotland, Somerset smoked eel, Buffalo Mozzarella from Naples, and Wyndham Farm chicken.
Canapes are served in the sitting room, where you are invited to have a pre-dinner drink, and to choose from the menu and wine list.
Served cold are two little salmon roulades, the rest arrive fresh and hot – palmiers (anchovy, I think), crisp gougeres, richly flavoured truffle arancini, and cute little quail scotch eggs. Lots of textures and flavours, and a generous amuse bouche before we transfer into the dining room.
Because of the current climate – the pandemic, Brexit and their impact on availability of hospitality staff – Susan has joined Bryan to be his kitchen sous chef, rather than her usual front of house role.
Fortunately, Manu, who has worked with Bryan and Susan for many years and also spent several years as the restaurant manager for the Chester Grosvenor’s Michelin-starred restaurant, is now back at Tyddyn Llan and covering Susan’s usual task of introducing the dishes and answering any questions guests may have about the food. She is charming, poised and knowledgeable; a pleasure to chat with.
Nadia serves and introduces the matched wines for each dish, giving us a comprehensive yet succinct overview of each wine and why it’s been chosen. They are well selected and the information she gives us adds to the experience.
The first course is a simple, fresh and delicious broad bean and bacon soup, perfect to enjoy alongside fresh white and brown bread, and butter.
We ask for one change to the menu for Pete, so he can avoid crab and langoustine (which he dislikes), and he’s served instead a salad of salt baked beetroot, buffalo Mozzarella, wilted radicchio and pomegranate. It’s a beautifully balanced dish with the creamy mozzarella providing a perfect foil to the sweet, acidic and earthy flavours of beetroot.
My dressed crab and langoustine with fennel, avocado and radish salad is one of the more delicious renditions of this dish that I’ve enjoyed – the seafood so very fresh that flavours truly sing. Avocado, fennel, radish and pea shoots are the perfect support act, never overshadowing the seafood stars of the show.
Another excellent example of a favourite dish for both of us is the parfait of foie gras and chicken livers with onion chutney which comes with slices of buttery brioche, toasted. Remarkably rich and velvety smooth, the parfait is perfect!
By the time our griddled scallops with cauliflower purée, pancetta, caper and raisin dressing arrive, I already know i’m going to run out of superlatives and repetitively describe the perfection of cooking (so easy to get wrong with scallops), and the intensity and beautiful balance of flavours. This is a stunning few mouthfuls.
Yep, and again for the risotto of leeks and shaved truffles! The risotto has that perfect creamy texture that comes from cooking it just so (rather than the cheat’s addition of cream), and that tiny remnant of bite that separates it from baby food. The leeks give their trademark allium sweetness, and the truffle works its heady magic.
I’m a latecomer to coco beans, which I’ve only encountered in the last couple of years. They are part of another superb dish in this plate of roast turbot with coco beans, Morteau sausage, mustard sauce – the smokey flavours of the classic French sausage are balanced with a just-right hit of mustard in the light, creamy sauce. The turbot, as we have already come to expect from this kitchen, is cooked perfectly, and the coco beans and a little savoury jus finish the plate off just so.
When it comes to mains there’s a choice of two, and between us we have one of each. Pete’s fillet of venison with goat’s cheese gnocchi, port and juniper sauce is possibly some of the most tender and flavoursome venison we’ve tasted, and everything from the giant gnocchi to the pile of mushrooms and cauliflower puree are enhanced by the sublime port and juniper gravy.
My Goosnargh duck breast and faggot, confit potato, cider and apples is just as good, though I am, by this point struggling to finish it. I need to save space for dessert, after all! Within the layers of potato is more shredded duck, and of course there’s also the faggot. I’d like more apple and cider flavour to come through – I’m struggling to detect it – but superbly delicious nonetheless.
The menu offers a choice of six desserts. Pete almost inhales his rhubarb and champagne trifle, and then the perfect little Madeleine alongside.
My Basque cheesecake with rum and raisin ice cream and honeycomb is a more generous pudd – I’m a little daunted by this big slice of cheesecake after so much delicious food. The cheesecake is rich, creamy, and pairs so well with the rum raisin ice cream (and the extra rum-soaked raisins underneath). The huge chunk of honeycomb, I simply pick with my fingers and gnaw upon! I could have been more sensible and chosen a lighter dessert, but I regret nothing!
Tea or coffee served with petit fours is available for an extra £6.50 per person, but we are stuffed to the gunnels so decide to skip and – several pounds heavier than when we started – groan our un-caffeinated way up the stairs to our room.
The next morning, we are tempted to take breakfast outside on the veranda as it’s such a glorious day, but in reality, it’s still a little too chilly. As the weather gets warmer, being able to hear birdsong as we eat will no doubt be hugely appealing.
Breakfast is generous, with tea, coffee and juice followed by your choice of fruit, croissants and cereal, before a hot dish such as a full Welsh breakfast, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, smoked haddock and eggs, laverbread with smoked salmon or bacon, plain omelette, avocado and eggs on sourdough toast, or buttermilk pancakes with blueberries and yoghurt.
Croissants, which are baked fresh to order, are easily the best we’ve had in a UK hotel – buttery, flaky, crisp and soft where they should be… and even more of a treat with homemade marmalade.
The cooked breakfast is a good offering with a really decent quality sausage, bacon (swapped from back to streaky on our request), black pudding, breadcrumb-coated laverbread, mushrooms, eggs and beans. That laverbread is another winner for me, I’ve never had it served like this and I love it!
Finally we are done and it’s time to pack up and check out. The comfortable bedroom and welcoming living room have made us feel at home, and our stay at Tyddyn Llan has been a fantastic gastronomic treat, featuring dishes we’ll be thinking back on for quite some time.
Kavey Eats stayed at Tyddyn Llan as guests of Susan and Bryan Webb on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis. We paid to upgrade from the three course dinner plan to the eight course tasting menu and for the matching wine flight.