Situated on the Promenade of Llandudno in North Wales, the Imperial Hotel proudly looks out across the sea-front and the bay, with beautiful views of the Great Orme and Little Orme headlands. Recently announced as one of one of Visit Wales’ Gold hotels and recognised by the AA, The Imperial Hotel has a fantastic reputation across North Wales and is self-proclaimed, “The Queen of Welsh Resorts.”
The hotel is home to Chantrey’s Restaurant, a fine dining venue awarded an AA rosette for the popular signature dishes of Executive Chef, Arwel Jones, which are said to be known throughout the region.
Arriving at the hotel, my guest and I are greeted at the bar by a young, foreign barman who escorts us through to the restaurant, introducing us to a friendly waitress. She politely greets us and leads us to a table next to the window, allowing us to admire the picturesque views over the sea and Llandudno Pier.
The interior of Chantrey’s is elegant, elaborate and exquisite. Looking up to the ceiling a mass of gold stars are embossed onto a deep red background, creating a luxurious look reinforced by pearlescent, damask-print walls and long, draped curtains. A Victorian sculpture of a nude female stands in the centre of the dining area, next to the sparkling clean window panes of the Speakeasy Bar, so-called after the 1920s speakeasies which sold alcohol illegally during the Prohibition. The lavish, luxurious decor just exudes Victorian charm, and as classical music sounds out in the background, I feel like I’m in a scene from Titanic.
The a la carte menu features a selection of appetisers, entrees and desserts strongly influenced by traditional Welsh cuisine, with popular regional dishes like laverbread, Welsh lamb and Welsh beef. As part of the restaurant’s food policy all meat and poultry is fully traceable – which is definitely a good thing in the aftermath of the horsemeat scandal. The restaurant aims to use locally-sourced, seasonal produce wherever possible, with all dishes cooked fresh to order and all vegetables steamed to preserve flavour and nutrition. Click here to view Chantrey’s Spring a la carte menu. An extensive wine list is also available.
For starters I order the braised ham hock (£6.50), served with confit chicken leg and spring vegetable terrine, apricot and pear compote and rye bread crisp. At first glance the presentation is superb, the rye bread crisp bridging the plate as it leans down from the ham hock to the compote. The ham hock is lean and tasty and the compote has a pleasant, fruity taste.
However, the rye bread crisp is actually not in the slightest bit crispy – in fact, it’s the opposite. I bite into it with my front teeth expecting it to break, but I struggle to even get my teeth through the surface. It’s so rigid and chewy, I have to put it between my back teeth and give it a good yank just to bite a piece off.
I am further disappointed to notice that several of the rocket leaves are wilting, and the edges are discoloured and brown. A closer examination reveals that most of the rocket is in the same poor condition, with holes in some of the leaves.
My guest opts for the creamed Glanwydden goat’s cheese (£6.50) to start, consisting of confit vine tomatoes and red peppers, clear tomato jelly, basil pesto and a filo and sesame wafer. The dish is carefully presented on a traditional Welsh slateboard, and my guest describes the goat’s cheese as, “sinfully creamy”. After my experience with the rocket, though, she doesn’t find the watercress quite so appealing.
For my main course I am drawn to the breast of free-range chicken (£6.50), filled with pine nut and leek mousse, cauliflower, cannellini beans and baby gem lettuce, with a serving of sweet potato dauphinoise. I can definitely detect the pine nuts in the mousse, but I can’t taste the leeks. Perhaps they are over-powered slightly by the other vegetables, which have been cooked to perfection, the cauliflower full of shape and texture. I love potato dauphinoise and sweet potato, but I’ve never tasted them together before. It’s a combination that definitely works, but the small square on my plate just doesn’t fill me up – it would be nice to have just a little bit more.
My guest opts for the pan-fried fillet of sea bass (£16.50), flavoured with roasted chicory, lemon fennel and sorrel, sauté samphire, new potatoes and a sauce vierge. The plate features a large fillet of succulent fish garnished with finely chopped onion, tomato and herbs, a large handful of fragrant samphire and several potato wedges. This is near flawless, even if the menu does state baby potatoes rather than wedges.
When we finish eating our main courses, we are still feeling quite hungry. As Chantrey’s specialise in fine dining, each dish looks almost too good to eat but the portions themselves are relatively small. It is only now that we notice a small range of side dishes on the menu, to be served with main meals. As the main meals are not particularly filling, we feel that the waiting staff should really be recommending guests to order a side with their meal.
One good thing about us still being hungry is that we still have plenty of room for dessert. All of the options are so tempting it’s difficult to choose just one. By now, our original waitress is serving another table and so we place our orders with a different waitress.
I ask her for some more information about the dessert dishes because I am intrigued about something – since when did roast pecan and treacle tart (£6.50) refer to homemade Jamaican ginger cake? I begin to think Chantrey’s have mixed up the dessert descriptions. I question this with the waitress, who tells me that it is a “sweet sponge” which I shouldn’t order unless I like sugary things. I understand that she is foreign (possibly French) and her English isn’t great, but I am hoping for a clearer answer. Probing further I ask, “Is it a cake or a tart, and does it have pecan nuts on it?” and she replies, “It is a sweet, moist cake with pecan nuts sprinkled around the edge.” I don’t actually feel as though I understand the concept any better than I did before, and so I decide to order the “roast pecan and treacle tart” just to find out what it is.
It turns out to be a sweet, treacle sponge which has been cooked inside a crumbly tart case, served with clotted cream ice cream in a crunchy, brandy tuille. It doesn’t taste remotely like Jamaican ginger cake, but the plate is sprinkled with pecan nuts as the waitress described. I’m glad I satisfied my curiosity and ordered this dessert because it is delicious in every way – in fact it’s probably my favourite of the three courses.
My guest encounters similar confusion with the item descriptions when choosing her dessert. She likes the look of the white chocolate and pistachio mousse (£6.50), but the description says it is a chocolate brownie trifle, with milk chocolate and orange cream. This was somewhat contradictory, leaving us to wonder whether the dessert itself would consist of white chocolate, or milk chocolate. Again we ask the waitress, and again we are left feeling possibly more confused than we were before. So, of course, my friend opts for this choice just to put our minds at rest.
This dish came as a trio of miniature desserts – a white chocolate and pistachio mousse, a milk chocolate trifle in a shot glass and a dollop of chocolate-orange cream. This fits the original description more so than my dessert did, but we both still think that it could be a lot clearer. Perhaps it should be advertised as a trio, alike some other dishes on the menu.
The dessert itself is paradise for any chocolate lover. We like the idea of having three smaller dishes on the plate, rather than one main item. This way you can experience a variety of tastes and textures all at once, which makes for a delectable dining experience.
We have ordered two lattes to wake us up before the drive back to Cardiff, but they still haven’t arrived. Our waitress is nowhere to be seen and so we ask one of the waiters (again likely French) how long they will be. He doesn’t seem to understand that we have already placed our order, telling us, “We don’t order drinks until after dessert.” As it turns out the waitress has forgotten to place our order and so the waiter orders us two lattes. They arrive within less than ten minutes and they are comfortingly milky and aromatic – the perfect boost for a long drive home – it’s just a shame they didn’t come when we asked for them.
Overall, we have enjoyed our visit to Chantrey’s Restaurant. The decor is truly beautiful, the location is a haven for relaxation and each dish looks like it’s taken forever to present. However, we are disappointed by the quality of the rocket in my starter, the absence of any offer of side orders and the quality of the customer service. Although the staff are polite and friendly, we have had to deal with several different waiting staff and the language barrier seems to prevent them from giving an accurate description of the food. Chantrey’s Restaurant is fairly good, but it hasn’t lived up to our expectations. There is room for improvement and I would love to re-visit the restaurant, if and when this happens. If you’re in the local area I wouldn’t tell you to avoid Chantrey’s, but don’t get your hopes up too much – at least that way, you’re less likely to be disappointed.
The Imperial Hotel,
(01492 877 466)
Monday – Thursday: 6.00pm – 9.00pm
Friday & Saturday: 6.00pm – 9.30pm
Sunday: 12.00pm – 2.30pm & 6.00pm – 9.00pmI was invited to Chantrey’s Restaurant as a guest and our food and drinks were complimentary.