Dawson?s Bar Cuisine - The Castle Hotel, High Street, Conwy, LL32 8DB. Tel - 01492 582800. URL ? www.castlewales.co.uk Welcome to Conwy Conwy is a typical tourist?s dreams come true; shops selling stuffed toy dragons and daffodil-shaped rock are to be found on every corner. We found a shop that sells swords and muskets! Great! It?s a pretty little walled town, complete with an intact and very impressive castle, a small harbour and lovely narrow streets. There is an abundance of fairly decent fish ?n? chip cafes if you feel like raising your cholesterol a tad. Two competing bakers seem to try and out-do each other on giant pastries ? the world?s biggest cream slice vs. the world?s biggest pasties. But what if you?re looking to experience something a bit more ?upmarket?? I would recommend an evening at The Castle Hotel for anyone who truly cares about food. As soon as you sit down in the sumptuous, yet relaxed and cosy surroundings of the hotel?s bar you know that the staff will be attentive and that the slightly higher-than-average prices are going to be worth it. You can eat in the main restaurant, where a main course will set you back between £15-£20 and starters and desserts are a pricey £5-£10. The hotel is obviously a favourite local eatery so I advise that you book early, especially at weekends and during the peak holiday season. We chose to have our meal in the Dawson?s Bar, which is more relaxed and also a bit cheaper! There is a downside of course - you can?t book a table in the bar, so get there early, or be prepared to hover and pounce as other diners leave. Prices Drinks at the bar are regular pub prices, so a pint is £2.75, soft drinks are £1.25 per large glass, and wine starts at £11.75 per bottle. Starters range from
£1.25 for olives, to around £6.00. Main courses are around £9.95, although doorstep sandwiches and other choices are available for around £5.00. Desserts are a ll priced at £5.25, and a cheese board will be £5.95 should you have less of a sweet tooth. Our meal Starters I chose a light starter of a mix of breads, served with a very good extra virgin olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar, along with a bowl of mixed olives, tossed in herbs. My other half had Thai noodles topped with a prawn toast. The olives were wonderful. The bread was all ?home-made? and ensured I was not too full up before my meal began. The noodles were served cold, and were perfectly cooked, with a crisp quarter of sesame encrusted prawn toast. She was delighted with the presentation, and the flavour was exceptional. Main course I chose a dish of Conwy Mussels in a Cream, white wine and garlic sauce, served with crusty bread and a green pesto dressing. Not one mussel was closed, and the creamy sauce set the seafood taste off perfectly. Mussels are always very labour intensive to eat, but this was the most enjoyable seafood dish I have had since I ate moules and frites in Brugee. My girlfriend had a Pan fried Fillet of Salmon served on a creamy crab risotto. I pinched a bit of the rice ? amazing! I would never of thought to use white crab meat in a risotto dish, but this was a great addition to a creamy, al-dente rice dish, with the subtle seafood taste you get from really good white crab meat. I assumed the chef used a fish stock, as the rice had kept a lovely white colour. Dessert Desserts were a matter of much debate ? the menu was tempting, but the meal was filling enough. In the end we were both unable to resist. I went for a Rum-baba served on a hedgerow berry coulee, wi
th whippe d vanilla ice-cream. The Rum baba was very light, spongy and delightfully sticky on the outside. The berry coulee had a lovely sharp bite to it, set off with the excellent vanilla ice-cream. The girlfriend never believed me when I told her how good a Crème Brulee could be, but the dish served at the castle did a lot to make my point. The set cream was served over stoned, half cherries, and had been given a great, hardened sugar top. Cherry Madalaines and more of that wonderful ice cream completed a sugary treat. Both desserts came served on stylish, tempered square glass plates ? I was so impressed I had to ask the waitress where they got them. The bill The whole meal, including wine and a couple of beers came to just under £54. A lot for your average pub meal, but trust me ? this is no pub restaurant. I think it?s a good price for a three-course meal that contained two seafood dishes, and the service and atmosphere of such a friendly bar made the whole evening well worth the money. Our companions for the weekend have actually stayed in the hotel, and would recommend this to anyone too. I think next time we are in the area, we will be trying out the full Castle experience.