[St George, Abergele] Kinmel Arms

Unlike many places that coin the name, the Kinmel Arms is a proper gastropub to my mind. By that, I mean it’s not a restaurant operating in what once was a pub. No, this is a proper pub where you’re more than welcome to pop in for a pint or three. And, off to the side of the bar area, tables are set out for eating. There’s a refinement to the food that makes it “gastro” rather than “pub grub”, offered across a short menu of around half a dozen choices at each course. There’s good effort here, even if not everything quite hits the mark.

A parsnip, apple and chestnut soup screamed “autumn” at you. In the bottom of the bowl, parsnip, slices of apple and chunks of chestnut. Served separately, a jug of the parsnip soup itself. The various elements all tasted fine in themselves but it was woefully underseasoned - it’s one of those places where salt & pepper are not put on the table routinely and the servers had all gone missing so we couldn’t ask for condiments. It’s served with a brioche bun stuffed with sausagemeat that, in itself, almost forgives the seasoning issue.

A spelt risotto was well made – slightly wetter than you often see in the UK and better for it. There’s a chunk of long cooked breast of lamb, crispy lamb sweetbreads and very thinly sliced mushroom. It all works very well – indeed, in a larger portion, I’d have scoffed this as a main course. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my main course. A ballotine of guinea fowl encased sausage meat and was wrapped in thin bacon. It sounds a bit heavy but wasn’t. Alongside, there’s a “Kiev” of leg meat and charred sweet corn – the charring giving a nice slightly bitter edge. There was a dab of an indeterminate sauce and the plate really cried out for much more of it. Spuds were a chargeable extra.

Fish of the day, in this case Conwy plaice, comes with saffron potatoes, kale and a tomato and mussel stew. The fish was the real star – delicate and sweet – and worked so well with everything else. Seasoning was again an issue but, this time, we asked for salt and pepper and corrected it.

We weren’t particularly fussed about dessert but waited a while for the menu to appear. When it didn’t, it was an easy decision to just get the bill. This part of North Wales isn’t well-endowed with good restaurants and, if we lived locally, I’m sure we’d be visiting fairly regularly.