Lovely Cadiz

Lovely Cadiz
Cadiz - my favorite place so far in the trip to Southern Spain

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bloggo Quattordicesimo: My Weekend in Llandudno: part 3 of what was to be part 2 but now is 3 (and soon to be 4)

Other than its considerable attractions, Llandudno is a fairly usual British town, with small shops, malls and chain stores, a few places in which you can purchase Welsh souvenirs, worth a wander around certainly. And it has more than its fair share of hotels (700!) and an abundance of restaurants to boot. I ate very well here, but I’m going to tell you a Tale of Two Dinners, that you may find interesting, and/or that you may have found to be your experience as well. Both dinners were excellent, the first a fine casserole made up of monkfish, white beans, tomatoes and I believe leeks (a good Welsh vegetable – see Fluellen in Henry V); the second a wonderful haddock topped with Welsh Rarebit, a lovely green salad and delicious potatoes. Yum to both! So where’s the tale of TWO dinners if both were excellent? As some of you have probably already guessed, the service! At the St. George Hotel, in a nearly empty restaurant, I was made to wait and wait before they decided I could in fact have a table – and got one with a view of the sea, which of course was loverly (or lloverly in Llandudno), and copped the most condescending attitude in terms of what to eat and what to drink in recent memory. The topic of condescending waitstaff is worth several posts alone, in my blog, as I have had a few experiences of this so awful as to ruin an otherwise delicious meal, so I’ll not go into much detail here, but just get to the capper. After ten minutes of sitting with an empty plate and glass – remember that the restaurant is about half full and there is an overabundance of waitstaff (I really hate that term, by the way) – and having been passed by this staff several times I was about to get up and leave – which I have done before in these circumstances. Amazing how quickly they produce the bill then! When I finally collared one and said loudly “ Can you please get someone here who can give me my check!” A moment later the most condescending of them all appeared and handed me the bill, and turned away. I stopped him by saying just take the credit card. He turned and said to me, “Never trust anyone with your credit card,” as if I were a five-year old! An explanation: in the U.S. we are very used to waiters, sorry! waitstaff! taking our card and returning with it. Here they bring a small machine to your table, which I find much smarter and efficient. But in this case I feared the man would never return – I wonder if they’d have put me up for the night? It was a four-star hotel, and you already know about The Winchmore. He must have seen the steam escaping from my ears and nose and came back immediately. I settled quickly, tipped them too well under the circumstances, and left abruptly.

The result? A very fine meal nearly ruined. I say nearly because I decided to walk it off and remember the delicious food and the good wine and forget the f-ing waitstaff. But so unnecessary. Weigh in if you like, as I imagine some of you have had similar or even worse experiences. I have had worse, but as I noted above, that’s another post.

The next day, however, I chose a much smaller hotel with a much higher reputation, the St. Tudno. I had lunch there, as dinners are prohibitively expensive (about what it cost me at the St. George the night before!). I walked into a lovely room with smallish tables and very comfortable chairs, sat down and was immediately attended by a sweet young woman ready to serve. Another couple, the only others at the bar area, nodded as I sat down. I wanted fish again, and the young woman pointed out my choices, recommended the haddock. I accepted and picked out a glass of sauvignon blanc to accompany the meal. I’ve already described it. The haddock was prepared as well as I’ve ever seen it. And I cleaned my plate of fish, salad and potatoes, as the young woman checked in an unobtrusive, pleasant manner, and as the couple chatted briefly with me. And that’s all there is to report on this second part of the tale. Why? Because, even though the St. Tudno has a formidable reputation, it doesn’t seem to have gone to its head. Good food and good service equal not only a fine meal but a lovely dining experience. A simple formula, right? Shame on St. George! Bravo St. Tudno!

And now, because my tale took longer than I thought it might, and because I had a fascinating day on my short trip to Conwy, I’m going to turn what originally was a two-part blog on my weekend in Llandudno, and then three-part, into a four-part. I hope to have that final part – and this time I really mean it – up either later today or early tomorrow. Meanwhile I have a last walk on the promenade to get to, a last breakfast at the Winchmore to gobble down, and a train ride back to London to deal with. Cheers all!

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