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The New White Lion Llandovery - Cymru Culture Review

(February 16, 2011)

The New White Lion, Llandovery

New White Lion Interior 3


When we stay away, we tend to lean towards traditional manor houses, or former lodges, such as Ty Mawr, Llangoed Hall and Lake Vyrnwy. So I was quite surprised that an establishment in Llandovery, referred to as a 'boutique B&B' on Mr & Mrs Smith, caught my attention so avidly.

After looking at their website, we decided to stay for two days, following on from our two day stay at the Crown at Whitebrook, near Monmouth. I wasn't certain this was wise, having gone from a Michelin starred restaurant with rooms, straight to a type of accommodation we had not stayed in before, and was concerned that the glossy and very sophisticated website suggested more style over substance. However, I was reassured by the reference to good, honest, home cooked meals using seasonal ingredients being on offer, and thought this would offer an interesting contrast to the formality of The Crown.

 Llandovery is famed as the town in which the hero Llywelyn ap Gruffydd Fychan was executed (1401). Although my partner has family from the area, now long passed, we don't know of any connection.  In later centuries it became a 'droving town' . The drovers were trustworthy men, in charge of large numbers of valuable livestock and, when sold, considerable sums of money. In the heart of rural Carmarthenshire, Llandovery is still a market town; on the cusp of the Brecon Beacons National Park and an excellent base for exploring its beautiful surrounding countryside.

Entering the unprepossessing town we drove around the main roads, trying to find our bearings and the hotel. This proved fairly easy, as the sophisticated and restrained front decoration of the building drew our attention as we drove alongside. To the back is a generous private car-park. Entering the hotel I was struck immediately by the heady smell of 'Stargazer Lillies', my favourite flower, and thought this a good omen. We were greated warmly by the proprietress, Sylvia, who showed us to our room, named 'The Physicians of Myddfai'.


New White Lion Bedroom 3


Each room at the hotel is individually named and designed. Considerable care and attention has been paid to even the smallest detail. Our room was inspired by the lauded 'Physicians of Myddfai'; the assortment of old medicine bottles and other medical paraphernalia dotted around the room, a lovely touch. The room was dominated by a stunning hand-carved black bedstead, with quilted bed cover. An assortment of oriental themed silk cushions were scattered around. Also in the room was a sumptuous day-bed (again strewn with a plethora of richly covered cushions), large flat screen TV and a generous en-suite bathroom with a cavernous corner bath.


New White Lion Bedroom 1


New White Lion Bedroom 2


Before dinner, we were invited into the beautifully furnished lounge and served a selection of nibbles, ranging from chilli corn puffs (available in most large Deli's), black olives and roasted cashews, to assorted vegetable crisps (of special mention were the beetroot crisps). On both evenings we choose a rosé Cava, excellently priced at £11 per bottle, which we sampled in the lounge and taken for us into the beautifully furnished restaurant.

White Lion Lounge new


White Lion Lounge new 2


White Lion Lounge new 3


New White Lion Interior 4


Dinner on both evenings was an absolute pleasure. On the first evening I had mackerel with horseradish; my partner, Welsh Rarebit. Both were wonderful, with generous portions. For mains, I had rack of lamb with delicious dauphiois potatoes and a selection of fresh vegetables (of particular note was the buttered corn on the cob and the sweetest carrots I have ever eaten), and my partner, salmon with assorted vegetables (many of which came from the proprietor's own allotment). For desert on the first evening we both optedd for the apple crumble with ice cream. The oat topping was a lovely surprise, its sweetness contrasted wonderfully with the slightly tart apples. On the second evening we ate spiced tomato soup and goat's cheese with roasted onions, and wild boar and sea bass. As on the first evening, the food was presented with pride and elegance, and the servings wonderfully generous. Desert was a chocolate fondant (although the centre was not as loose as we would have liked) and pancakes steeped in brandy and stuffed with fruit – another wonderful conclusion to the meal. I wished we had been able to sample the tea and coffee available, with a selection of Welsh chocolates, however we just didn't have room!


New White Lion Rest New


New Whire Lion Rest New 2


New White Lion Rest 2


Breakfast was also a delicious affair. We were offered a selection of Welsh cheeses and spelt bread, home-made marmalade and jam accompanied with thickly sliced brown and white toast. A selection of cereals and porridge, together with sliced mixed fruit, apricots, prunes and a selection of yoghurt. This was followed by cooked breakfasts. I choose the full cooked Welsh breakfast (the first morning) and smoked mackerel, the second (my partner also chose the same on the second morning). My partner remarked that the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs he was served were delicious and one of the dishes he had most enjoyed during our anniversary travels. Sylvia (who prepared the food) took considerable pride and care in the preparation of each dish. The dishes were wholesome, flavoursome and unpretentious, and the range of dishes available was truly astonishing, when one considers that this is a relatively small establishment. The chef seemed genuinely interested in whether we enjoyed each dish. I hope that my consistently cleared plate was a testament to her culinary abilities.

New White Lion 6 Jam


Of special mention must be the care and attention with which the establishment has been decorated. A mixture of antique and new items, the chic, eclectic mix of styles, textures and fabrics was a delight. Stunning pieces, such as a vast velvet chesterfield and silk dupion covered chairs, were a feast for the eyes. Unique details, like cut glass antique containers and former trophies made into lamp bases, meant something stunning and unusual was in virtually every corner.


Another lovely touch was the 'honesty bar', which permitted residents to help themselves to a wonderful range of predominently Welsh beverages - beers, liqueurs and shorts – relying on your honesty (and memory) to correctly declare the number of drinks consumed. Also, being able to serve oneself was a lovely touch. The concealed drinks-bar which, when opened, was illuminated by neon lights, was another design inspiration.


In conclusion, we had a wonderfully relaxed but sophisticated stay at the White Lion. The establishment, and proprietors, have achieved the correct balance between considered elegance and warm, genuine, welcome, which is plainly evident in the style of the hotel, their approach to you as guests and the food served. If you're looking for a chic and sophisticated get-away, we would highly recommend the New White Lion at Llandovery.


Claire Meredith

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