I love Aber, of course, but sometimes a girl needs somewhere a little bigger.
I’m grateful to the people of Aber for keeping the town 70s-style (that’s the 1870s) but sometimes you do need to go to M&S or Waitrose.
Shrewsbury is an old favourite, as it’s an easy train journey, it has all the shops and restaurants you could want, and has beautiful gardens by the river.
Plus it reminds me of Christmas shopping with my mum
And Dafydd had got us a very good deal on Travelzoo – dinner, bed and breakfast for two at the Lion Hotel for £99.
Surely that’s too cheap for a quality weekend, isn’t it?
It’s right in the centre of town on Wyle Cop, next to fine Tudor buildings, and amidst all the shops and pubs.
We were a little early to check in, but the reception staff were happy to look after our bags.
Spring had sprung, so we went for a walk in beautiful gardens by the river.
We had lunch at The Boathouse (pictured below) – which was so nice we’ve done a review of that too.
Back at the hotel, we had a quick look round, and were very impressed
The interior is as elegant as the exterior, with high ceilings, parquet floors and even oil paintings. There are many bars, snugs and even a ballroom. And look at this lounge!
We recovered our bags, and checked in.
Even the lift has an antique feel, with beautiful brass controls.
Since we’d only paid £99 for the room and dinner, we expected to be given a tired little box, so we were pleasantly surprised with what we got.
It was at the back – so pretty quiet – and with a pleasant view out over the town. The heating was belting away so we had the windows open most of the weekend. In March!
As you can see, it had plenty of space.
Those chairs were a boon to our tired feet – it was lovely to be able to come back from our shopping trip and have a coffee and read the papers in our own room.
Well, I say our tired feet – Dafydd had brought his CAMRA guide and went off to visit several beautiful real ales pubs such as the Three Fishes
We met up again at the hotel (did I mention how conveniently central it is?) and I had a bath since the bathroom had a wonderful skylight that lit the room.
Refreshed, we headed down to dinner.
We couldn’t go straight in, of course, since Dafydd had spotted their fine front bar, so we had to go in there for a pint of his favourite, Butty Bach
Alas, he’d forgotten about hotel bar prices (£3.75 a pint!) but by then he was a little too emotional to notice
The dining room is large and sophisticated.
It certainly felt more romantic than you would expect a well-priced bargain break to be (which combined with Dafydd’s afternoon of booze to make him more amorous than strictly necessary)
The menu read much better than we expected, too.
We’d been told to expect a limited range, but we could choose anything from their normal menu.
I was tempted to begin with the chicken liver parfait, or the ham hock terrine, but they had made effort with the soup so I had that.
Field mushroom soup with tarragon cream had big flavours with perfect balance.
Dafydd had the pork belly with bean sprouts, ginger and sesame, and was also suitably pleased. Pork belly can be fatty, but this was mostly meat, and tasty meat at that. The accompaniments had a pleasing Chinese twist, and there was a bit of sweet chilli sauce in there as a bonus.
This would be a good point to point out how marvellous the service was.
We only notice service when it’s bad, but here it was right on the money (so equal credit to the kitchen)
Starters were out promptly, and the gap until mains and then dessert was ideal. Just enough time to look round the room, make snidey comments about other diners, and sip our wine.
In fact, the wine was the only bum note of the evening, which is a surprise as they’re from Tanners over the road.
We had a glass of Prosecco with our deal, and that was good (lightly sparkled, pleasingly pear-scented)
But the Tanners Claret, the jewel in the Tanners crown, was a damper squid than the little one that accompanied my sea bass.
I remember when Lady Hooson of Llanidloes had a case of this claret every Christmas – I hope she’s stopped now. Yuck.
Our mains were excellent, of course.
The sea bass was generous with crispy skin and tasty flesh.
The chorizo, calimari and wee squiddies all played their part too.
The sweet potato mash was good, although it had no reason to be there when new potatoes would have worked better, but we’ll let the chef off.
I’m not sure Dafydd’s shin of beef was well-paired with Risotto Milanese, but he was very pleased with it.
The beef had been cooked 12 hours and was unctious, soft and flavoursome. And unctious all over again.
Though all Dafydd could say was “Look, they’re left the bone marrow in!” How he loved that bone marrow, like a favourite dog given a treat, and I hadn’t the heart to explain how it had been returned to the bone later.
By now we were tiring fast. And even though desserts were paid for, and I fancied the treacle tart, we decided to share the chocolate and walnut brownie with a chocolate & caramel mousse and vanilla ice cream (homemade). (Wow, that took longer to write than it took to eat.)
It was very tasty.
I was very full.
We were given a bill for £61, but we only owed them £12 for the wine
Dafydd put down £1.20 as a tip so I had to sneak a bit extra in – people who’ve never run a restaurant don’t know how rare good English-speaking staff are (it’s one or the other normally)
And then I let the side down.
The Lion has a fine Adam ballroom, and Dafydd got talking to the person whose party it was (in the gents!)
He got us both invited up there, but I was too full, and tired in foot, so I declined and he was a gentleman so came with me.
Up we went in the fine lift, and were asleep at a time when people in Barcelona are thinking about going out.
I was woken in the night by some of the partyfolk having a smoke outside, but not much, and woke refreshed and ready for my brek next morning.
The buffet had some excellent juices, muesli, croissants, brie, ham and yoghurt, which gave me a most enjoyable breakfast.
The coffee was blunt – strong without much taste but they leave you a pot, rather than have to chase waiters for top-ups.
Dafydd has to have a cooked breakfast, particularly if they offer poached eggs
And if you look at his brek, with its neatly trimmed poached egg and generous bacon, you’d never guess what the problem was.
The only proper mistake the Lion made.
Can you see? No?
The poached egg was – you’ll never guess – COLD
Not just cool, but actively cold, as if put in iced water to stop the yolk cooking (good idea) but then not warmed (bad move)
And not just his. The people on the next table’s were too!
Have you ever heard of such a thing?
We didn’t say anything because we’re British, and everything else had been fine.
His bacon and sausage were both “very porky, excellent”, and then he copied me and had a brie croissant
And we popped into the Coach and Horses for a drink and a rest (worth a visit for their well-priced home-cooked food)
And we popped into the Armoury for a drink too (interesting food, but they let people make reservations so you can have tables sat empty for hours, idiots)
There can’t be anywhere better for watching the start of spring than by the river in Shrewsbury
And if you see Travelzoo doing DB&B for £99 for two at the Lion, I’d recommend that you go.
The Lion Hotel
Tel: 01743 353107
Trip paid for ourselves