“Outstanding gourmet cuisine, 3 small-but-perfect rooms, wild mountains on your doorstep - and it's only 3.5 hours from London”
You step off the road into a pair of cosy-but-stylish drawing rooms: plump leather armchairs, whispering log fires, Ella's soothing tones, and a warm, unpretentious welcome from Melanie in her chef's jacket. It all bodes well for a delightful dinner - which does not disappoint, from the homemade date and walnut bread to melt-in-the-mouth black beef and a sublime lemon sabayon tart. Make sure you've walked long and hard to earn it. Afterwards, smart, compact and immaculately thought out bedrooms cosset you with power showers, Fired Earth hues and Penhaligon ointments. Bliss.
- The cuisine alone makes the journey worth while – largely local, often organic, always cooked to the second, it has all the flavours and delicacy of a Michelin star, but none of the stuffiness
- The walking around the Elan valley is among the best in the country: colourful woods, tumbling streams, fantastic birdlife, and windswept summits to blow any cobwebs away
- Perfect for a romantic weekend away, or you can take the whole place for a special celebration of up to 6 guests
- The afternoon tea with bara brith (Welsh fruit cake) is a delight
- Two of the rooms are small, but they're all extremely comfortable and well thought out, and you won't be spending much time in them
- You're right on the road, but it is a quiet, little-used spur (a new bypass takes all the A470's through traffic)
- This is a restaurant with rooms, not a hotel, so don't expect all-day reception or swathes of staff (it's just a husband and wife team)
- Dinner needs to be booked ahead, and be aware that you're expected to dine in, unless you've agreed otherwise beforehand
Best time to go
Our top tips
Canoes and bicycles can be rented locally e.g. in Hay, Glasbury, Rhayader - though you might want to bring your own cycling helmet or life jacket.”
- Restaurant with Rooms
- Dinner and breakfast (daily)
- Over 12s welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
There are just 3 rooms, one of them good sized and the other 2 are considerably smaller. But, like everything here, they're impeccably thought out and beautifully finished. Expect delicate Fired Earth hues, crisp white Laura Ashley bedlinen, masses of pillows, a flatscreen TV (bring your own DVDs in case of rainy days) and some gorgeous furnishings, from exuberant chandeliers to a Venetian glass dressing table. Bathrooms have underfloor heating, stacks of fluffy towels and enough Penhaligon smellies to coax the weariest limbs back to life. Overall it feels smart but not over-designed, indulgent without being fussy.
Side-facing Oliver is the one to go for, if it's available. Blood-red walls, a leather armchair, a vast wrought-iron sleigh bed, and a freestanding tub in the bathroom - there's plenty of material for mooching. We slept like babies on an excellent mattress with a lambswool throw over our duvet, and were not disturbed by road noise, even with the window open.
Side-facing Phoebe is smaller, but still manages a kingsize bed in its pale-blue and cream snugness; there's a decent sized shower room with a glass-brick window and travertine floor. It's not a place to linger during the day, but with 2 homely sitting rooms downstairs and an endless expanse of countryside outside your window, there's no reason to.
Road-facing Otis is the smallest, but the Venetian glass dressing table and mirrors reflect light and pale beige stencilled wallpaper keeps it bright. It's the only one with a standard sized double bed, most of which seems to be occupied with pillows. There's a short slipper bath next door, among grey-white tiles with occasional glimmers of precious metal in their glass casings.
- Central heating
- DVD player
This is what you come for so make sure you reserve a table in good time (it can get busy with locals). In the kitchen is a husband and wife team: Colin in the engine room, Melanie as maitre-cum-assistant chef (pastries, pastas, desserts). After fireside aperitifs, she ushers you into a kitchen dining room (or the private 'chef's room' for groups up to 8) where you peruse the grey menu card propped against gleaming glasses and shiny Vileroy and Boch cutlery. With 3 choices for each course (and they change daily), you may wish you had booked for an extra day or 2, just to try them all.
Our taste of gourmet heaven started with sculpted lattices of parmesan crisp with buds of goats' cheese mousse and a glass of Juvé and Camps Cava (crisp and bright and decent value - or there are 75 other wines to choose from!). The seafood platter (scallops, langoustine, mussels) and the salad of Cardigan Bay crabs with caviar and avocado got the taste buds going. A dinner speciality is the Welsh black beef - firm and flavoursome and a perfect texture - with a finely layered potato-onion galette and a neatly wrapped parcel of crunchy mangetout, baby sweetcorn and other veg, including chanterelles and deceivers picked by a Ludlow mushroomer. Brecon venison and mountain lamb are also local - Melanie and Colin set great store by this, as by the freshness of the ingredients - and cooked with a touch of the unusual (peppercorn and blueberry sauce, Mediterranean-style vegetables) to set them apart. Our banana and rum soufflé oozed its warm heart gratifyingly into the praline ice cream, and the sabayon tart was pure lemon and pine nuts and butter and bliss.
After that, it's no surprise to find a breakfast menu encompassing wild mushroom sauté with duck eggs, scrambled eggs with caviar, rhubarb and orange jam and fresh-pressed apple juice - enough to set you up for a full day's walk (you'll barely need lunch). And as for Melanie's dark date and walnut bread, well, Marie Antoinette would have given up cake for it.
- Organic produce
- Don't miss the 5 reservoirs of the Elan valley above Rhayader (20 minutes' drive), with their colourful larch and deciduous woods, tumbling streams, fantastic birdlife, and enough windswept summits to blow any city cobwebs away. It's some of the loveliest and remotest hiking south of the Cairngorms
- Further south (30-40 minutes) are the spectacular Brecon Beacons, with their sharp edges, deep valleys and high-mountain feeling; and the rounder Black Mountains which surround the pretty valley and historic priory of Llanthony
- Builth Wells is a bustling market and spa town on the river Wye, where the annual Royal Welsh Agricultural Show takes place every July
- There are also open-air markets, including a weekly at Llandrindod Wells ('Llandod'); come here in late August and you'll find everyone dressed in antique costumes as part of their annual Victorian week
- Also in August is the Brecon Jazz Festival, spread over several indoor and outdoor venues
- Hay on Wye is famous for its bookshops (over 30 of them) and its huge literary festival in early June - where you can also buy a peerage from a 'king' wielding a toilet plunger
- Melanie and Colin can arrange for you to visit some of the local food producers (chomp your way through Cawes Cenarth organic cheeses with homemade crackers and green bean chutney), to go mushroom picking in autumn, or to visit the water mill where they get the flour for their bread.
- Good fishing abounds, including on the man-made lake outside Llandod; and the possibilities for mountain-biking are endless
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Horse riding
The Drawing Room is in mid Wales (Powys), a few miles north of Builth Wells on the A470, heading towards Newbridge and Rhayader.
It's about 1.5 hours from Cardiff (airport), 2 hours from Bristol (airport), 2.5 hours from Birmingham and 3.5 hours from London. See our car rental recommendations.
There is a rail station about a mile away, at Builth Road, but you'll have to arrange transport from there to the Drawing Room, and bear in mind that you are in the middle of nowhere! See Seat 61 for more details about train travel.
More on getting to the UK and getting around.
- Cardiff International 120.0 km CWL
- Bristol International 142.0 km BRS
- Beach 40.0 km
- Shops 5.0 km
- Restaurant 5.0 km