Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Falcondale Hotel & Restaurant, Lampeter Review

On Friday Mrs G was presenting at a conference in Aberystwyth.  The upshot of this was that I was her guest at the conference dinner at The Falcondale in Lampeter. Tasked for the evening with looking presentable and engaging in polite conversation, I was partly successful in my duties.

View from our room
Built in 1859, the grand Italian style building of The Falcondale is closely located to the University town of Lampeter. It’s an ideal base for exploring destinations such as Cardigan Bay, Aberystwyth, Aberaeron and Camarthen. On this occasion, Mrs G and I didn’t have time to explore before returning to the ‘diff.  It’s just as well. The mere mention of Aberaeron stirred one of my earliest memories of childhood - a journey on the nightmarish and thankfully defunct Aeron Express, a rickety hand powered cable ferry which used to shuttle passengers back and forth across the harbour.

We were staying in one of the best rooms (£189 bed and breakfast) with stunning views over the Teifi Valley. Accommodation-wise I couldn’t fault the place. We had such a good night’s sleep that Mrs G is now demanding the purchase of a new, more comfortable and more expensive bed.

Having read the ambitious restaurant menu online, and with the knowledge that the restaurant has held 2AA rosettes for the last 5 years and has a focus on local produce, I’d been looking forward to dinner all week. Unfortunately, in comparison to our excellent night’s sleep some of the food we ate disappointed.  

One of the two dining rooms
We selected our menu options at check-in and as a result my exact recollection of what I’d ordered was sufficiently hazy for me to not question the starter I was presented with. What should have been a tomato and mozzarella salad with crispy pancetta and balsamic reduction in fact turned out to be one of the oddest dishes I’ve eaten in a while. A mediocre pastry case was filled with a large slice of uncooked tomato, a few small pieces of melted mozzarella and a drizzle of a red sauce which tasted uncannily like strawberry jam. The effect was a starter of dessert-like sweetness. It was edible but not particularly enjoyable.

Mrs G’s started with a prawn and crab risotto with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce. The risotto had a good amount of fish but sadly the usual creaminess of risotto was replaced by wateriness as the stock had not been cooked off properly.

Main courses were of a significantly higher quality. My rack of Welsh lamb was perfectly pink, exceptionally tender, well flavoured and had an excellent crisp herb crust. The accompaniments too were of a high standard. Pomme puree was smooth and creamy, a minty Yorkshire pudding was peculiarly enjoyable, a puck of stuffing was meaty and well seasoned and seasonal vegetables retained their bite. My only criticism was the meagre drizzle of the lovely gravy. It was the kind of sauce stinginess which Gregg Wallace would have had a field day with.

Mrs G’s main dish of duck breast, potato fondant and braised red cabbage was also very good. Like my lamb, the duck was well flavoured, tender and a perfect pink. The potato fondant was brilliantly executed and the sweetness of the braised red cabbage balanced the richness of the duck perfectly.

Sadly, desserts weren’t as good as the main courses.

My apple pie was very tasty but unremarkable for a restaurant at this level. The pastry was crisp and the apple filling soft and well flavoured with cinnamon. However the custard was no better than Bird’s custard and lacked the kick of vanilla of the best homemade examples.

Equally Mrs G’s brandy snap with lemon curd ice cream and strawberries was enjoyable yet flawed. The excellent lemon curd ice cream was sharp and creamy. The dish also looked rather attractive with the decorative retro piece of chocolate work. Sadly, the brandy snap basket didn’t snap and instead was rather chewy.

Thankfully the patchy food was tempered by the charming company and efficient service. Our cooked breakfast the following morning was also delicious. The bacon, black pudding and sausage were all top drawer. In addition the presence of fried bread on the cooked breakfast of a high end hotel cheered me up no end.

Our stay at the Falcondale was lovely and I’d certainly stay there again when we’re in the area. Hopefully a meal from their a la carte menu would be more reflective of their accolades than the mass catering style banquet we attended.  

The Details:
Address - The Falcondale, Falcondale Drive, Lampeter, Ceredigion, SA48 7RX
Telephone - 01570 422910

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