By Lowri Haf Cooke
For a Welsh getaway, it’s hard to beat the world-class resort of Portmeirion. The Italian-style village offers an escape from it all and a hallucinatory, multi-coloured trip. Get lost in the Ghost Garden past the Dancing Tree, then experience an explosion of flavours at the Hotel Portmeirion dining room.
The art-deco style restaurant is the jewel in the crown of Clough Williams-Ellis’ grand vision for the estate. Reminiscent of an elegant cruise liner, you half expect Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot to appear at the table next to you. However, it’s the warm Welsh welcome, and magnificent view of the Dwyryd estuary that soothe the soul and ‘bring you back to your trees’.
Criccieth-born Head Chef Mark Threadgill began his career at Portmeirion, before a stint at Hibiscus in Ludlow and Aix-en-Provence, then made a hero’s return back home. He’s brought his adventurous nature and verve to the plate, combining a keen local sensibility with inspiration from overseas.
With a selection of tasting menus, there’s an emphasis on Snowdonian spring produce, including Penllyn lamb shoulder, wild garlic emulsion and tangy asparagus. A perennial signature dish that is popular all year, is a starter that’s an ‘old’ favourite of mine. On a recent visit, the crispy Duck Egg with rich truffle ‘soldiers’ – as always – had me quacking for more. But the main, for me, was a highlight indeed – the memory lingered for days! It was a Monkfish Thai Green Curry, and the flavours were off the scale; balancing warm nutty textures with citrussy notes that hit you straight on the nose.
To finish, a spring twist on the house soufflé; mint choc chip, with a scoop of white chocolate ice cream. This featherlight treat reminded me of ‘Peppermint Bark’ – that moreish American ‘Holiday’ treat. Or, to bring it back home to Wales, imagine a white chocolate Aero whilst humming the old Gino Ginnelli ad! These are tastes to inspire joy, and delight.
My first thought the next morning was not the heavenly bed, nor the fabulous view from my quirky village suite, but of the multi-coloured flavours still dancing in my head. That got me straight to my feet, for a jog down to base for the best breakfast in Wales (and yes – you can quote me on that). Wild redcurrant compote, with Llaeth y Llan Yoghurt, then a full platter of Meirionnyddshire bacon, sausage, black pudding and eggs. It is a breakfast of champions and, much like the village of Portmeirion, has to be seen to be believed yourself.