Gliffaes Hotel, Brecon Beacons, review
A country hotel with a restaurant that follows the Slow Food Movement, and river views that could make a grown man cry; Gliffaes is a true haven.
After a leisurely drive through well-manicured gardens first impressions of Gliffaes is of a somewhat incongruous Victorian building built in the Italianate style then knocked about by the Welsh weather. But the imposing exterior belies the homely interior. From the terrace, the breathtaking view is of mature parkland that slopes lazily down to the river Usk.
Gliffaes is smart but relaxed. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is partly down to the agreeable proprietors James and Susie Suter – the house has been in Susie’s family for 60 years – a husband and wife team who act like obliging friends who just happen to own a sizeable pile in the country. There’s lots of space for lounging: the terrace, bar and conservatory all take advantage of the outstanding vista and the wood-panelled sitting room is well stocked with large sofas and an open fire.
Gliffaes’ USP is fishing; a private stretch of river offers some of the best hotel salmon and trout fishing in the UK, making it a popular spot with keen anglers. For those who don’t partake, there’s a tennis court and walks to be had in the ground’s 33 acres. You can swim in the river or visit the Brecon Beacons close by for golf, cycling or horse riding, and there are more castles, caves and gardens than you can shake a leek at.
Wales has a wealth of great produce and as a member of the Slow Food Movement James sources 65% of the fresh produce from within 75 miles of the hotel. Even the water comes from Gliffaes’ own spring. The food served here is very much in tune with its surroundings: classic and unpretentious. In the spacious dining room we eat starters of oak roast salmon tian with pickled cucumber, and Cornish mackerel fillet with julienne carrot and courgette salad. The well-seasoned tian is light and fresh and there’s no dreaded fishiness to the mackerel, which comes crispy-skinned and drizzled with delicious olive oil.
The slow roast belly pork comes as thick slices of pork rather than the customary fatty hunk of meat. It’s a pleasant change and the creamed leeks and cannelloni beans conspire to make this a quality rustic dish. A supreme of guinea fowl is, well, supremely cooked; the smoky chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables are flavourful; the side order of risotto liberal.
A shared dessert is a tongue-tinglingly light chocolate truffle with fresh strawbs – it’s a more apt pud to the dense, sleep-inducing cocoa wedges so often presented after a meal. The artisan cheese board – a proud showcase of Wales’ talents for cheese-making – washed down with light, sharp Celtic Gold beer, includes Perl Las, an organic blue with a unique, lingering aftertaste and the Snowdonia Black Bomber, a mature Cheddar as feisty as a jumped-up boxer – until it shows a softer side.
Rooms are fairly priced according to size and views. All are comfortable and classically decorated with bold, elegant interiors. Those with river views and a balcony come at a premium but they’re worth it. We leave the thick drapes open so when dawn wakes us we can watch the sunrise over the glorious countryside. At this time, the meaning of Gliffaes – a corruption of Gwlydd Faes, meaning dewy field – comes into its own.
At breakfast the piquant local apple juice is great for clearing the head, and the baked Y Feni goat’s cheese and oatmeal slice with local maple-cured bacon a regional treat. Other options include smoked salmon from the Black Mountain Smokery.
Gliffaes would be convivial year round, whatever the weather. Children are welcome; dogs are catered for. In an unassuming way, it really is somewhere special. Together, the stunning landscape and congenial atmosphere evoke a feeling of wellbeing. It’s perfect for guests wanting a taste of the outdoors before returning to homely luxury, while the tranquil setting will help the weariest soul recoup.
Prices start from £98 B&B for small double with a garden view to £238 B&B for a luxury double with balcony and river view. Dinner costs £29 for two courses; £36.75 for three.