Where are we going Saturday?” is a familiar phrase in Corpulent Towers. “Time for somewhere new”, I said reaching for the phone. Both of the places I had in mind were already fully booked and so I headed to Google for some inspiration. Out of my results I picked “The Clytha Arms” on the old Abergavenny to Raglan Road. Previously mentioned in a few ‘guides’ I was pleased to find that a reservation for two at 7.00pm was no problem.
When we arrived the place was buzzing. There were at least 20 people standing outside and being a mild evening not all of them were smokers. Inside was packed, the bar was full as was the lounge, but we fought through to the lounge bar closely followed by a young lady who turned out to be the barmaid come waitress. She seemed very surprised to find the place as busy as it was. As there was no seating available we opted to go straight to our table in the restaurant.
It was at this point that we realised that the majority of the customers were there to attend a private party in the rear dinning room. Either they were early or the party was late as the staff were running around at high speed trying to organise everything. Even after the party were seated the staff remained stretched all night and service was at best patchy.
I decided to start with chorizo and lentil soup, whilst MrsA went for the crab rissoles. I was expecting a hearty soup with lentils and chunks of chorizo but what I got was certainly not that. Firstly the lentils were of the very small variety and there were no meaty chunks of chorizo, instead it appeared as if the chorizo had been put through a blender as the only thing that remained that could remotely be reminiscent of that fine Iberian sausage were a few flecks of orange in the muddy brown contents of my bowl. In fact the only solid matter other the lentils was a single solitary piece of what I can only describe as a 1/2 mm thick slice of a certain product that labels itself “a bit of an animal”! The flavour was as poor as the appearance being slightly reminiscent of a watery brown windsor as opposed to the hearty and tasty dish I was expecting. Very unimpressive! MrsA’s starter of crab rissoles with chilli and coriander sauce, not only looked better but tasted nicer too. Unfortunately ‘tasted nicer’ pretty much equates to tasted OK in this instance with a distinct lack of crab in the crab rissoles..
For main course I had chosen goat, not something you often find on a menu in South Wales. “How is it cooked?” I had asked. Apparently it was braised, and served in a red wine sauce. Sounded good so I had gone with it. MrsA had chosen the skate wings with prawns. Well braised it may have been but certainly not for long enough, so instead of falling apart it clung together with the resistance of blocks of rubber. The red wine sauce hadn’t been reduced enough and so had remained thin and bitter.
I asked MrsA, a fishaholic, what she thought of the skate wings. “I’ve never had skate before,” she said. “So I don’t know if I don’t like skate or if they didn’t cook it well, but as I pretty much like every other fish there is……..”
MrsA decided to cut her losses and skip dessert, whilst I opted for a simple meringue with ice cream and sauce. It wasn’t fantastic but it was the best thing I ate all evening. After a herbal tea, a coffee and a long wait for the bill we paid up and left.
During our time in the restaurant I noticed that at another table one main course didn’t turn up and by the time the kitchen had rustled it up the other diners had almost finished. A third table needed to send a plate back for some reason.
A poor show all round I’m afraid from a place that has the very best of Welsh produce almost on its doorstep and I certainly won’t be rushing back.
The Clytha Arms http://www.clytha-arms.com/