Getting a Taste for Life's Luxuries; Tastetest: Lisa Markham at Penmaenuchaf Hall, Dolgellau
Byline: Lisa Markham
KEN and I, along with friends Wil and Nia, decided to sample the culinary expertise of Mark Watson and Lorraine Fielding at Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel near Dolgellau.
It was a celebration of Nia's new job at the National Library and a temporary farewell to Wil before he departs on his voyage of discovery to Argentina.
On a winter's evening, it was a joy to walk in to the sound of crackling logs, creating a wonderful cosy atmosphere.
This luxurious country house hotel stands in 21 acres of woodland and landscaped gardens. Years past, the grounds covered thousands of acres to encompass Cregennan Lakes, George III Inn and the wooden toll bridge in Penmaenpool.
The hall was bought in 1989 by Mark and Lorraine, who spent two years revamping it to a high standard. Their investment has paid off: for the last three years they've won the Visit Wales Gold Award and it was also AA hotel of the year for 2009.
Opting for the table d'hote at pounds 40 a head, we sat on the comfortable red fabric sofas by the open fire to read the menu while enjoying the canaps and aperitifs. Then we were escorted through to the dining room, which makes the most of its views of the Mawddach estuary.
Wil naturally chose an Argentinian wine, a bottle of Finca La Colonia Barbera made in the foothills of the Andes - a flavour of what's to come for him in the next few weeks.
The starters were full of surprises. I decided on a fish theme, choosing the cannelloni of crab and smoked salmon with a herb salad and escabche dressing.
Ken and Nia went for the honey glazed Nant Hir pork belly with an onion compote and chilli caramel sauce. Wil opted for the confit duck leg with celeriac mash and a five spice sauce.
All the dishes were exquisitely presented, a colourful culmination of flavours and textures put together by head chef Just Pilkington. His kitchen team uses herbs, salads and vegetables from the hotel gardens along with produce from local suppliers. …