‘It’s a café not a bistro.’
That was my first impression of S&G in Llangollen. From a distance, it exuded a warm, bistro-y glow. But close up, it had the unmistakable appearance of a café with aspirations. Nothing wrong with that; however, the extensive menu also had me doubting its bistro credentials – there were pastas, pizzas, risottos, fish & seafood, wraps, paninis, crowd-pleasing pub grub. Something to suit every taste. That’s good, isn’t it? Nope, generally not. It’s rare to find a place that successfully manages to be all things to a wide range of gastro preferences. You can’t really be fine dining and cheap & cheerful at the same time.
So, we walked on by.
Llangollen was proving a problem as far as finding somewhere to eat dinner.
It’s prudent to book restaurants in advance these days. Walking Offa’s Dyke and staying just a night in various places, I’d done just that throughout our journey. I thought I’d done it for our first night in Llangollen, but Fouzi’s in the town has a bloody annoying booking system. Basically, you book your table online and, sometime in the next 24 hours, the restaurant confirms the booking … or not. Which was what happened in this case, while we were yomping our way across a 29km stretch of Welsh countryside. Trying to sort out somewhere to eat while negotiating steep ascents and descents isn’t the wisest thing. We had no option but to try to wing it. Which is why, at 19:30 on a Friday night, we wandered the streets of the pretty Welsh town looking for somewhere that appealed to our tastebuds.
Llangollen is one of those towns that caters more for day-trippers. Subsequently, there are plenty of places if you fancy lunch or a snack. But not so much choice if you want dinner in a convivial restaurant or pub, especially when you haven’t booked in advance. Plus, quite a few places close early (another common sign in day-tripper towns). In the end, our options were fish & chips, an Indian, or S&G.
TripAdvisor reviews were glowing. Many raved about the amazing food, the friendly service, and the fab atmosphere.
To be fair, the staff were very friendly and welcoming. And that went a long way to relaxing us after a long, hard day. It wasn’t particularly full, so the atmosphere wasn’t really anything. As suspected, it felt like a café.
As for the food, well the ordering process didn’t get off to a good start. Despite advertising pizza, there wasn’t a pizza list on the menu. There was a section which mentioned a pizza base and individual toppings. When Andy asked for quattro formaggi, the waiter hesitated before replying he’d have to ask the chef if they could manage that. Andy decided on a pasta dish instead. I had a yen for carbs, and fancied pizza, so requested the base pizza with olives and anchovies. It came with a generous smattering of both. As pizzas go, it was decent enough. I enjoyed it. Andy’s pasta dish was mediocre at best, with blobs of uncooked flour in the sauce. Although entering the bistro ravenous, she couldn’t finish it. But we had wine, food, friendly staff, and pleasant enough surroundings, so were happy we’d found somewhere to chill out.
What it wasn’t, was the experience described by many TripAdvisor reviewers.
At first, I wondered if some reviews might be false; many featured very similar sentiments. But there was enough detail in most to make them sound authentic. Which meant it was a case of that other TripAdvisor problem – other people’s dodgy tastes. I’ve experienced this in many ‘popular’ locations. Some of the main resorts in the south of Tenerife being prime examples. I lost count of the number of times we ate in mediocre restaurants that had rave reviews on TA, usually paying more than we did in far superior establishments frequented by Canarios in other parts of the island.
It’s another example of why TripAdvisor should be treated with extreme caution. But there’s another point of view. If most people who wrote reviews on TA loved the food at S&G, then so will many others who read those reviews.
But we all know the majority aren’t always right. Exhibit A – Brexit.
Incidentally, we ate at The Corn Mill the following night and it was a completely different experience – great food, buzzing atmosphere, gorgeous surroundings. And here’s what the latest reviewer on TripAdvisor wrote – ‘Don’t bother … food was basic to say the least.’
One other explanation is we exist in parallel universes.