There are few things better in my little world than going out for dinner on a Friday night and knowing that I can roll home from work and not have to think about cooking. Having lived in my new hometown of Dyffryn Ardudwy in North Wales for 9 months now, I realised I still hadn't paid a visit to the Ael y Bryn Guest House and Restaurant that I pass on the way to and from work every morning.
The Ael y Bryn sits on top of a hill in the town, with spectacular views out across Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea. It offers B&B accommodation, as well as a cosy bar, a restaurant and conservatory for eating, drinking and generally being merry, and some lovely outdoor seating where you can sit and enjoy the views, if the Welsh weather allows you to survive for that length of time.
Dyffryn Ardudwy is a small village in the Gwynedd region of North Wales and sits within the confines of Snowdonia National Park. The village lies between the larger seaside towns of Barmouth and Harlech and has a resident population of around 1,500 (plus an additional two from Scotland...)
We drove up to Ael y Bryn at 6pm on a chilly Friday evening and took a table in the conservatory with views out across the sea. It's a spacious and well-decorated area and our waitress very kindly closed off the glass door between us and the bar, presumably to knock out any noise. We popped up to the bar to steal some menus and order soft drinks and it's a really cosy area, which looks perfect for a glass of red on a cold night. Or any night, to be honest.
We were impressed with the menu for its inclusion of local produce, which we find is often a staple in our local area where restaurants seem to pay close attention to the products that are made locally and include them where they can. On this occasion, the menu included the award winning sausages of our local butcher, which is about half a mile down the road. You can't really go better than that, can you? Not so much food miles as food mill, really. The sausages from London House Butcher are renowned for being the best in North Wales, and I'm going to say beyond, because they really are that tasty. When my parents come to visit, we always make sure we have them at home and they go down a treat.
In light of our local sausage commitment, my hubby decided that bangers and mash was the way to go with his evening meal, while I was toying over the delicious sounding quorn and ratatouille lasagne. I'm not vegetarian, but do find myself ordering a lot of meat free dishes when I go out to eat because it's so different to what I cook at home. I often find there are only a couple of options to choose from, but the menu at Ael y Bryn included veggie meals, as well as gluten free, which was great to see.
After perusing the menu for a starter, we opted for an antipasti sharing plate, which comprised different meats, crusty bread and olives in well…olive oil. It was served on a gorgeous chunk of Welsh slate and was promptly devoured. We then followed up with orders for bangers and mash and beef madras, with the choice of veg, chips and accompanying poppadums' and chutney.
Massive sausage and mash. Comfort food at its best.
Les was delivered the biggest plate of sausage and mash I've ever seen, with 4 massive sausages neatly arranged on top of a huge pile of potato. It was smothered in gravy, and also came with an extra portion so, in short, he was very happy. My curry was lovely and hot and the rice was fluffy and light. My husband has a very big appetite, but he actually struggled to finish his meal, which is probably the first time that's ever happened. I tried to purloin one of his remaining sausages as I had spotted two little spaniels in the corner of the conservatory, who were in for dinner and drinks with their humans.
Ael y Bryn, as well as its great food and fantastic service from our young lad and lady servers, who were so attentive and polite, also turned out to be a haven for dogs. This makes me very happy. I tried to get in as many cuddles as I could during the time I was there. Given there's a decked area immediately outside the conservatory, I had an unimpeded view of a Boxer dog called Maxwell, who was having a pint with his Dad. I also spoke to a pug, two spaniels and a black lab. I LOVE the idea of my local being the friendly, rural pub where you can stop in of an evening when you're out walking your furry friend. It really adds to the atmosphere. I imagined that the dogs were all texting each other beforehand, asking what time they were meeting up and what kind of water they fancied. ' Still or sparkling, Rex? 'Don't have too many or you'll never get out of bed in time to chase the local cat from the recycle bins in the morning, yeah?' Or possibly something like that...
My husband was amused throughout his meal at me cooing over all the dogs I spotted, as he doesn't really understand my fascination. I have signalled my intention to get a dog now (or possibly borrow a local one) so that I can walk it to the bar and back and truly fit into the local community. Regardless of my dog owning/stealing status, I can safely say I'll be back at Ael y Bryn very soon.
The total bill for the meal, including a shared starter, two main courses and two diet colas, was £38, excluding tip. Free wifi is also available in the bar and conservatory, which is always a welcome bonus.