Situated in a scenic part of Wales, with outstanding natural beauty and spots of interest surrounding it, family-run Carlton Riverside – a charming townhouse, stone-clad, situated next to a babbling waterway – is understandably popular and well-respected. However, whereas most retreats of a similar ilk can only really offer a pleasant culinary surprise in the form of an extra slice of black pudding with your fry-up, the restaurant here is widely-acclaimed by the guides and critics as well.
With cooking presided over by Mary Ann Gilchrist and wine by Alan Gilchrist, the restaurant seeks to locate fine local ingredients and present them in imaginative and unusual ways while never losing sight of the central ingredient. Service takes place in an invitingly comfortable dining room, with chic decorative touches like slate placemats and charming views. Proximity to the lounges, with their ‘squishy’ sofas and piles of cookbooks, emphasises the make-yourself-at-home feel - although the restaurant itself boasts good, knowledgeable service and an intimate, convivial air.
Although Welsh ingredients take pride of place on the menu, the influences come from all over – poached eggs are served in a Parmesan crust with crisp bacon and steamed spinach a la Florentine, duck breast could arrive with a duck spring roll, and salmon might be cured in beetroot and served with a very Scandinavian-style horseradish and baby beet accompaniment. Flourishes selected for additional depth of flavour and texture – duck scratchings, spiced butter, devilled kidneys, and the inspired addition of Waldorf salad to the cheese board – elevate the familiar and well-executed dishes well into ‘fine dining’ territory.
Wine is available from a wide list with a few competitively-priced house selections, plus a selection of pudding varieties. There’s a brasserie for less lofty dining and a vegetarian menu is available – thoughtful touches which again reinforce the care and consideration taken in setting the standards well above the norm.