If you want to retreat into the Welsh hills for a spot of destination dining here’s where to stay
Destination dining has become a pastime of many. And luckily Staffordshire has plenty of wonderful places to explore on the doorstep. So, when we were invited to the star of North Wales’ hotel dining roster – Palé Hall – we were extremely eager to go along.
Pale Hall is a historic Grade II* listed country house situated in the sleepy village of Llandderfel near Bala on the edge of Snowdonia. Sitting within a 50-acre estate surrounded by the Welsh hills, it’s quite the private, hidden gem.
Having opened in 2016 as an 18-bedroom hotel and fine dining restaurant, owners Alan and Angela Harper are keen to make Pale Hall a favourite for those looking to explore destination dining.
The 19th century mansion was originally built by engineer and industrialist Henry Robertson and it’s clear no expense was spared. It has a distinct Jacobean style; and so much was its grandeur, it’s been host to a number of historic figures over the years including Winston Churchill and Queen Victoria.
Rich in antique furniture, fine wood panelling, painted ceilings and Chinoserie details, there is most definitely a high-style finish throughout. But, the couple have made every effort to keep the interior a firm reflection of its era.
There’s everything luxury about an exclusive hotel without the stuffy and arrogant atmosphere. Sure, you’ve got valet parking on arrival but once you set foot inside the grand entrance you feel calm and comfortable.
It’s relaxed without being complacent. There’s no big reception area to wander up to and minimal staff buzzing around. You are immediately shown to an extravagant sitting room and it’s not long before you have a glass of fizz served to you in a traditional crystal saucer.
It’s clear that the Harpers want you to feel like you are a guest in the home of a Victorian aristocrat rather than a hotel. And, boy, don’t you just.
After one (or two) of those glasses of fizz, we’re shown to the Churchill suite on the 1st floor of the main building. I’m told that Churchill used this room to play Billiards in when he visited the house during the 1950s and so it was named in his honour.
Looking up there is a magnificent vaulted ceiling with fine wood panelling, intricately detailed stained-glass windows and hanging chandeliers. A focal marble fireplace dresses each end of the room and two bay windows at the front flood the room with light. I can imagine Churchill smoking his cigar and leaning up against one of the fireplaces to check his pocket watch.
A large four-poster king-sized bed sits in the middle of the room, a dressing area is neatly placed on the left of the original door frame. A lounge area with armchairs sits in front of the bed and a perfectly placed breakfast table allows you to view the gardens and distant Snowdonia hills from the window.
A secret door down one side of the room leads you into a beautifully modern marble-lined en suite with freestanding copper and zinc tub.
There are no mod cons – no fridge or mini-bar. A crystal decanter of Madeira wine sits on the table along with a fruit bowl and bottled water from the estate. Tea, coffee and a kettle are hidden in an antique storage box and the TV doubles as a mirror on the wall.
It’s a wonderful setting to completely escape the modern world, yet it has everything you need to feel relaxed and comfortable.
At the heart of the Palé Hall experience is the food. A three-rosette fine dining restaurant is run by head chef Gareth Stevenson.
In addition to the a la carte menu is a six or ten course tasting menu with wine flight to match. We chose the six course menu offering a series of exciting and inventive dishes. We were served everything from oysters to wood pigeon, pork, beef brisket and a particularly tasty hake with a Thai green curry foam. To finish we devoured a sweet mojito pudding and lemon mousse dessert.
The next morning we had an extremely impressive breakfast brought to the room. Well, it seemed such a shame to waste the view. Both cooked and continental options were delightful. The particularly delicious full Welsh breakfast included black pudding and Laverbread.
While Palé Hall is close (about four miles away) to the activity-centric Bala Lake, you’ll probably be happy enough in the grounds of the hotel. A walk around the gardens provided enough fresh air for me during our stay, and if you’re there for just one night you’ll want to soak up as much of the atmosphere as possible before having to head back to normality.
This is destination dining at its finest and we can’t wait to go back again.
A stay in the Churchill Suite for dinner, bed and breakfast including a six-course tasting menu is pricedfrom £970 per night. Nightly rates at Palé Hall start from £275 B&B. www.palehall.co.uk.
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