Tŷ Castell, 18 High Street, Caernarfon, Gwynedd LL55 1RN; Tel: 01286 674937 www.tycastell.cymru
A boutique hotel within ancient castle walls, with a restaurant-bar offering artisan gin and Welsh tapas? Yes please! Open less than a year, Tŷ Castell (Castle House) has created quite a stir, and plays a role in the recent revival of the World Heritage town of Caernarfon. It’s the brainchild of Roland Evans and Gareth Fôn Jones, who – many moons ago – admired the building over a pint of Wrexham Lager. Gareth dreamed of turning the council office building into a wine bar for ‘Cofi Town’; needless to say, in 2017, he and Roland went much further.
Located a stone’s throw from Edward I’s 13th Century fortress, Tŷ Castell was originally home to the castle’s constable. Later registered as a wine cellar, it was also a grocer’s shop, but lay dormant for decades, until fate – and Roland and Gareth – stepped in. During the extensive renovations they discovered many historical details that play a role in the striking old-meets-new Welsh decor.
Behind the American rosewood bar (slate-ship ballast that returned from the New World to Caernarfon harbour) there’s an array of bottles of North Wales gin, that are very in right now. A favourite is Blue Slate from Dinorwig, with its burst of coriander seed aromas. Also popular is Aber Falls from Abergwyngregyn, that comes in marmalade, rhubarb and ginger or parma violet flavours. And for the craft ale crowd, there’s a very fine selection from local brewery Bragdy Lleu in Dyffryn Nantlle, named after various heroes and villains from the Mabinogi (think Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones, but much, much older).
Indeed, the theme continues to the hotel upstairs, and the 4 luxurious en-suite rooms. Again, all are named after local Mabinogi characters, whilst the comfy beds are covered in cool Caernarfon tapestries. The buzzy restaurant downstairs is a casual affair, yet make sure to book a table. It’s a popular venue with the after-work crowd, and the fab Welsh tapas is not to be missed. The menu was a work in progress for a while, but chef Robbie Worgan has struck a sweet spot between keeping visitors and hungry locals happy. The Welsh lamb crispy rolls with Teriyaki sauce was a knock-out dish – a true melt-in-the mouth affair. Also a must are the laverbread risotto croquettes – a salty ‘Cofi’ twist on arancini balls. As for the a la carte menu, I’ll be returning for the crab linguine, and the perennially popular sirloin steak and pepper sauce. My recent visit to the area took me to the legendary peak of Yr Wyddfa, and Tŷ Castell certainly added to the drama. There, heroes and villains from the distant past mix with a contemporary Caernarfon crowd. It’s a dream come true, and a cool, modern twist to a legendary Welsh saga.