Goodbye to Wales
[Previously, we were being squeezed]
After our tight squeeze and our failure to reach Rhyd, we were back to debating whether or not to keep Hank. The weight of opinion was for returning to retrieve Brunhilde but that would mean that our final week would involve a lot of very long days. We continued to discuss what to do throughout the day and well into the evening.
I was very jumpy about routes and did some checking. Just as well that I did - there was an arch in the walls at Conwy that we could not pass through without removing our mirrors. We took a detour! I was glad that we were prepared and did not suffer another surprise like yesterday's.
It was a beautiful sunny day and really quite warm. We stopped at Caernarfon to stock up the larder.
We parked easily in the "Buses only" car park behind Tesco. There was plenty of room and we happily stumped up the £3 bus parking fee.
We treated Nell to a good long walk on the footpath beside the Menai Strait.
Then took our detour to a destination that we were very excited about. A Britstop outside Conwy, the Groes Inn is an historic pub with a good reputation for food. It was time for us to scrub up and to have a really good meal.
It was to be the highlight of our trip.
We parked by the Petanque square and considered digging out our Boules later in the evening.
We popped in to the bar say that we had arrived, to book a table for dinner and had a swift afternoon pint whilst we were about it. I liked the Inn. It was rather posh (for us) but not at all stuffy or fussy and the young hospitality team were very friendly and helpful.
We could not waste the glorious weather and asked about footpaths for dog walking. There were none! We had to walk along narrow lanes with high hedges and no verge. Not ideal.
After showering and getting changed, I checked out the Inn's Facebook page in the hope of finding a menu. What I found was a post made that very day, saying that they had vacancies for kitchen staff. Perhaps I should have paused to think on that.
Dinner was to put it politely, a disappointment. Mr Snail's starter of black pudding, bacon and poached egg was excellent indeed, freshly made, beautifully presented and quite delicious. I did not fare quite so well with my grilled aubergine and feta salad. We had picked the same main course, slow-cooked Belly Pork, and as soon as it came to the table I could tell at a glance that the meal was not hot - it was dull, congealed and giving off no steam. I was correct; it was not at all hot and I had to return mine to the kitchen, where it was nuked and re-plated rather less attractively. Tasty enough but the skin was entirely wet and gelatinous, making the whole dish somewhat revolting.
Not to go into too much detail, the service was patchy. The arrival of the wine was very late and the veg were brought to the table some time after the meat plate.
Dessert was massively disappointing, all the more so because we had lashed out on a bottle of our favourite dessert wine, Elysium. Both of our chosen desserts were very tired-looking, as though they had been plated up on Sunday and left out uncovered. Executed initially well enough, they would have been good if fresh, but they tasted as dull as they looked.
It was not all bad, my request to have my chocolate tart served with a scoop of their cinnamon ice cream on the side instead of whipped cream was cheerfully met and the ice cream was delicious indeed.
We passed on the coffee as they could only offer Nespresso and not real coffee - so we went back to the van and fired up the Espresso pot.What kind of upmarket establishment fails to serve freshly ground coffee!
After supping a whole bottle of Elysium between us on top of sherry and the main course wine, I was no longer hankering for a game of Petanque.
We discussed the meal and how underwhelming it had been despite how well the menu read and the Inn's reputation. I concluded, given the earlier post regarding kitchen staff, that they were suffering a kitchen staffing crisis and had been fire-fighting. Everything added up to the suggestion that they were short of chefs and that the chef staff that they did have on hand were addressing just those dishes that had to have immediate attention - such as Mr Snail's Black Pudding and Poached Egg, which was faultless. Everything else looked as though it had been plated up in advance to be dealt with by lesser-skilled hands.
Overall we decided not to damn the restaurant out of hand and would give it a second chance some other time. It still left a foul taste in the mouth as we had pushed the boat out after looking forward to this for weeks and had spent a great deal of money on a less than distinguished meal. The high point of our break turned out to be quite a slump. At least the view from Hank's window was a good one.
It was decision time, the crunch point. Would we go get Brunhilde back or would we hang on to Hank and go straight home. In the end we elected to retain Hank for a while longer, perhaps up to two years. It was really the idea of the extra mileage and very long days that it would take to get home again if we returned now to Cheltenham. Tomorrow we would be leaving Wales and returning to Yorkshire but we were still not in love with Hank.
The full album:
Next: the road home