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Restaurant reviews Palé Hall Hotel, Near Bala, Snowdonia

Palé Hall is a fairy-tale Gothic (actually ‘eclectic Jacobean’) pile in the hills between Bala and Llandderfel. Inside it, bright, attentive and brilliant staff appear to know what you want before you do. Log fires illumine. Paintings hang. Fascinatingly ornate woodwork abounds. It is, so far, Wales’s only recipient of a Michelin Green star, awarded in recognition of culinary excellence allied with eco-friendly commitments; recyclable materials, sustainability, employment of local produce and suppliers. The Hall is hydro-powered; it is entirely carbon neutral. Vegetables and herbs are taken from the grounds themselves, mere metres away from the kitchens in which the chef, Gareth Stevenson, works his magic.

And oh what magic it is; this is truly the finest dining. The eight-course tasting menu is a symphonic, exquisitely creative and sculptured joy to experience. Actually, the experience begins in the bar, with a canapé of deep-fried, crispy choux with a core of sharp, molten cheddar; completely delicious. And it’s impossible to pick highlights from uniform excellence, so I’ll rely on random memory (I write this the day after my visit, and I’m still blissfully basking); the fluffy cushion of the bao bun with its filling of foraged mushroom all loam and distilled forest floor, fathoms of richness honed by the sherry vinegar sauce. The negroni mousse, as if a benign and magnanimous warlock had waved his wand over that staple cocktail and turned it into some fabulous froth. The roast brill with glazed celeriac cake, chive beurre blanc and truffle butter; the sheer skill of this dish, the balance of tastes and textures, was breathtaking. And oh, the cod loin; I bit once, and thought ‘a tad underdone’; I bit twice, and thought ‘no, overdone’; and at bite three I understood that no fish I’ve ever tasted has been cooked so flawlessly, so successfully. It came with a tangle of spaghetti squash, pumpkin puree, and crispy-then melty confit potato. Superb. And the cheese course; a wedge of Lincolnshire poacher alongside a crisp tartlet of cheese and chutney custard.

The salt, the sweet, the hit of umami intensity humming in the head. And oh, the dessert course; crack through the roundel of white chocolate casing into the dark chocolate ganache and tangerine pulp. Chase it with the tartness of mango sherbet then settle into the mellowness of pistachio mousse and reach a place you’ll never want to leave. And there was succotash, with both seared and green corn, as it should be and as it hardly ever is in the UK. There were many other miraculous moments. There was the thrill of not knowing what astonishing morsels were going to be next delivered to our table. Try as I might, I can not find even the mildest of gripes. Full, we were ushered by unique cocktails (Christmas

cocktails, crafted by Christopher) into a bed, the size of a field woke to bathe in a tub the size of a swimming pool and then ate kippers, whose utter deliciousness must be celebrated in song and legend. Perfection is the only word.

Niall Griffiths

Tel: 01678 530285

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