When I first visited Pen Bryn Bach in 1986 it was a small cafe serving cream teas in the day time and a very popular seafood restaurant in the evening. Following several happy years of summer holidays dining there it was the summer of 1999that I was able to return. By this time it had morphed into solely an evening restaurant promising locally caught fish and seafood run by a gentleman called Roger (who swore blind he didn’t run it back in the 80s but I beg to differ). One night a week a special evening was provided in the way of a seafood extravaganza with accompanying harpist. An evening, regretably I was unable to experience myself.
So it comes as no surprise that a restaurant that holds many happy memories of holidays and meals past should reach a high status in my esteem. By this time my pallete had matured and my tastes became more refined. Indeed, so highly regarded this place became in my estimation that I even tried to mimic some of the dishes at home with limited success. As the Internet developed I was unable to find any reviews or website for the restaurant itself so I designed, hosted and published my own webshrine in honour of the place until 2010.
Another period of North Wales abstinence began and it wasn’t until 2010 that I was able to return to the area. It was during this time that I noticed the Pen Bryn Bach had “Under new Management” signs outside and with a measure of sunken heart I realised that the days of Roger and his excellent seafood mornay were probably no more.
So this is probably the trickiest review I have written since graduating with a Journalism qualification. In it I have endeavoured to be as detached and as objective as I can. I promise that I have not let my prior experiences dictate what I write here and that all within this review stems from my visit to the restaurant at the end of July 2011.
Booking in advance has always been important in the Pen Bryn Bach. Its remote location means that there is little in the way of passing trade but it is also able to command a position where it is able to dominate the area with culinary prowess and reputation.
Follow the crab shaped sign posts from any of the inroads into Aberdaron and near the very edge of Wales you will find the Pen Bryn Bach hidden on a fudge box Welsh country lane. The restaurant boasts locally caught fish and seafood with a small variety of other locally sourced meats and ingredients.
On arrival you are usually taken into the rear of the restaurant to relax with a drink while you decide what meals you are to choose from the menu. On the menu on this visit was a list of dishes similar to Roger’s traditional menu. Seafood mornay, whitebait, Mixed fish bites…all the usual fayre.
I opted for the Whitebait and the Seafood Mornay while my dining companion on this trip, Nick, went for the Whitebait and the Seabass. Within a short while we were called to take our seats at our table which boasted views of Mynned Analog.
The Whitebait was delightful. Absolutely perfect in every respect. The right amount of mayonnaise, the correct amount of salad garnish and the fish itself cooked without bread crumbs remained crispy and perfect. I felt some bread may have enhanced the dish as a perfect accompaniment but its absence was not a detriment.
Soon thereafter, the main course arrived.
The Mornay was rich, tasty but not a patch on Roger’s old recipe. The cheesy “brulee” crust was not present and the portion size was meagre. Nick struggled with the sea bass saying that it was slightly under cooked. The accompanying vegetables were also a bit sorrowful.
Desert was brief, unmemorable and fleeting, as were the end of meal teas and coffees. I left feeling lighter of pocket and unsated. Which saddened me greatly having praised the restaurant to friends and family for so long.
Stop Press In 2012, I returned to the area on a camping trip to find that the restaurant had closed and was up for sale. In 2014, the complex is still closed and for sale. It looks sad and lonely now it no longer serves the public the best seafood and fish in North Wales. If I had the £750k to buy the complex and reopen as a restaurant, I would. I feel though, for that price, the next owner might not consider reopening the restaurant opting for a quieter way of life to enjoy their millions…..