We discover rolling valleys, slap-up feasts and cosy luxury in beautiful South Wales
Clough Williams Ellis, architect and visionary, has a special place in my heart. I married my husband at Ellis’ most famous Italianesque creation, Portmeirion, so when we were invited to visit another of his designs we jumped at the chance.
Llangoed Hall has been a hotel since 1990, lovingly and sympathetically restored in true Edwardian style by Sir Bernard Ashley, husband of renowned textile designer Laura Ashley. The building is set in 17 acres of parkland, with the Wye Valley rolling hills as a backdrop and, despite the grandness of its tree-lined driveway, there is a warmth in the ivy-clad stone.
This warmth is something that the current owner (since 2012) is committed to continuing. The team prides itself on offering an ‘at home’ experience, with no reception desk, spacious lounge areas and family photos adorning the walls. The hotel is also home to an exquisite fine art collection, including James McNeil Whistler, which you stumble upon over pre-dinner drinks or a stroll up the grand staircase to your room.
Our room was a spacious, charming master suite, complete with a spacious sitting, dining and sleeping area, not to mention roll-top bath and views across the parkland.
We were here to escape and unwind, with good food and the great outdoors on our minds. The restaurant, headed up by Nick Brodie, is one of the only ones in a Welsh hotel to be listed in the Waitrose Good Food Guide’s ‘Top 50 UK Restaurants 2017’, with two seasonal eight-course tasting menus on offer, ‘prestige’ and ‘vegetarian’, accompanied by the essential wine flight. Intrigued by the vegetarian offer, I persuaded my meat-eating husband to join me. With parsnip hash, pheasant egg, mushroom fricasee, soft polenta, and Bath soft cheese with salt-baked pear on the menu, it was a delightful journey to take our taste buds on, each course teasing all of our senses.
There were, however, two stand-out plates: the potato gnocchi, squash and garden greens, and the Hafod Eccles cake. The former was so simple, light and indulgent and the latter – well, as a Yorkshire girl who made everyone have fruit cake and cheese at her wedding, it was always going to be a hit. Just as the whole vegetarian dining extravaganza was for a cynical husband.
The restaurant team was charming and knowledgeable and answered our questions with politeness. One thing of note: there is no dress code in the restaurant, beyond the expected smart casual. Sometimes culinary offerings of this type come with a stuffy environment, but not so here.
We dined with obvious foodies and happy amateurs, regulars and those celebrating a special occasion, and all were at home. As a destination hotel, Llangoed offers a whole host of opportunities to explore, from getting lost in the bookstores of Hay-on-Wye to the rugged beauty of the Brecon Beacons, so you’ll never be short of things to do.