Story

Putting on the Ritz

Synonymous with luxury, the Ritz in London is open to all who can afford the very expensive afternoon tea (£49.50 per person), lunch (£57pp) or a room (starts at £445.20).  Nicky and I have been twice, once for the said afternoon tea (a gift to us both from the staff at our then office) and secondly for Sunday lunch, this time as guests of friends.  We thought the whole place overrated, afternoon tea just ordinary and lunch competent but the extraordinary mark ups on wine produced severe wallet palpitations – sure they will have eye watering overheads (and I wonder what their staff are paid) but mark ups of six times cost price seems well, greedy is an understatement.

We felt that most guests were there for the the first time (possibly only time) at both tea and lunch and these first timers were just (a lot) intimidated by the OTT kitsch of the dining room and some of the waiters’ antics.The Ritz still operates a dress code and one review speaks, with outrage, of not being allowed in to dine because they were both wearing trainers.  Cue American accent “But the combined cost of these trainers was $1600” (has the world gone mad?).  “It is our dress policy”.  Ok, not one we would enforce but its their place and their rules.  Did I imagine the review where a woman said she had to borrow a skirt?  I am not sure.

The real question is “How far is Hammet@Castell Malgwyn different from the Ritz”.  The simple answer is not that much, in that like the legendary destination hotel, we do rooms, afternoon tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner at much lesser prices.  But we are in the same business of serving a public looking for a treat, be it a night away or a special meal. What amused me most, looking at the reviews, was the fact that even the Ritz is not immune to criticisms about its water supply or the fact that updating is required. Like us, it occupies an old building, not as old as Castell Malgwyn admittedly, but still old.  Old buildings require constant TLC  and the use, by the public, of facilities on a daily basis, is grievously punishing and means endless repair and replacement. To many people a night at Hammet@Castell Malgwyn is undreamed of luxury.  To many many more, a night at the Ritz is even more remote but, and it is a big but, dinner with us costs very little more than three courses at many pubs and for the small increase in cost, diners eat delicious and expertly crafted food in a lovely room, surrounded by real rather than corporate artwork, served by friendly local people paid more than the industry norm, with linen table cloths and linen napkins.  

And our rooms, all right the starting price will not get one of our very best rooms but one that is perfectly serviceable and comfortable, start at only £100 for two without breakfast or not much more than a B&B.

And since we are VAT registered, a whole one sixth of everything we sell is collected by us on behalf of a rapacious and greedy government and HMRC has more powers than the Nazi SS or apartheid South African police force.  But that is for another day.   But, do you know what?  TripAdvisor rating for the Ritz = 4.5.  TripAdvisor for us = 4.5.  That’s nice.

Ten best reasons to have your wedding at Hammet @ Castell Malgwyn

We realise that looking for the perfect wedding venue can be tricky (where do you begin?!). So we wanted to share the top ten reasons for choosing us as a wedding venue, amongst the vast choice of others in Pembrokeshire.

  • You can have as small a ceremony as you would like, no minimum guest numbers required!
  • We are very flexible; it’s your big day after all. If you have a wild idea or would like something a little bit out of the ordinary, chat to us about it and we can see if we can make it happen. In 2018, we had one couple hire bell tents for the croquet lawn so that more of their nearest and dearest could stay close by.
  • You can bring dogs and children(!).
  • If you are foodies, this one is going to be as important to you, as it is to us. Your wedding breakfast will be restaurant quality food, catered for by our award-winning kitchen team. There’s also an extensive wine list to accompany, personally selected by Chris, the proprietor, himself.
  • Your ceremony can be conducted anywhere onsite. Whether it be our stunning Art Room, quirky Wunderkammer, cosy Library Bar or even our beautiful ornate Ballroom. Outside ceremonies can also be performed on one of our lovely open lawns surrounded by extensive tree canopies.
  • You’ll have our in-house Wedding Co-ordinator, Carys, to answer any of your questions and assist you on the big day. She has already answered a few here.
  • We are NOT a corporate conveyor belt, who churns out as many weddings as possible. We are quite traditional in the sense that we like to meet you both, show you around our venue, then sit down and have a chat about your big day. Based on that, we can that put together an initial estimate for you.
  • You can choose exclusive use of the whole property.
  • We don’t inflate our prices during peak times of the year. Like Valentine’s, we don’t believe it is fair to charge more because of the time of the year (we have had some stunning Winter weddings here)
  • You can have the music as loud as you would like, or invite a live band to come and play for you. 
  • We were awarded ‘Wedding Venue of the Year South West Wales’  in 2018. We have also been shortlisted for both ‘Wedding Venue of the Year’ and ‘Wedding Co-ordinator of the Year’ in 2019.

A wedding at Hammet @ Castell Malgwyn is one-of-a-kind. No two are ever the same – and we love that. We adore that each of our couples bring a different vision and their own personalities to the place.

To give you some more inspiration, you can look through our ‘Story’ page to see a selection of weddings from 2018. Our lovely Wedding Co-ordinator, Carys, says a quick hello over here. Or if you still want to hear more, you can read testimonials from our newlyweds here.

For those interested, the photograph of Emma & Aidan’s first dance was taken by the super-talented, Pembrokeshire-based photographers, O&C Photography.

Best,

The very accommodating Hammet @ Castell Malgwyn crew.

P.S. Happy St. Dwynwen’s Day <3 Dwynwen Santes Dydd Hapus

A Hello from our Wedding Co-ordinator

Hi everyone! 

Welcome to our Wedding pages and thank you all for making it here to find out more about Hammet @ Castell Malgwyn.

My name is Carys Williams, I’m the Wedding Coordinator at this lovely venue. We figured it would be really useful for all you planning a wedding to be able to get to know what we, as a venue, are about but also to see what kind of people you would be working with. Wedding planning can feel like a daunting task, so let’s make it as easy as possible shall we?

What is a wedding co-ordinator exactly?

Simply put, my job is to make sure that all the components of your wedding relating to the hotel run smoothly. This means that I make sure your accommodation bookings are sorted for you and your guests, your drink and food packages are exactly what you want, the ceremony and ballroom is set up how you’d always imagined and that your timings flow seamlessly from one part of the day to the other….there’s also a whole load of little details that go with this but we’ll get onto that later!

How does this work?

From our first initial meeting to the big day, I will meet, email, phone with you as often as you need to go through the details of your day. I can set up  and amend estimates and quotes based on what YOU WANT for your wedding and at the price point you are comfortable with. There aren’t any hidden costs here! 

In the build up to your wedding, I will be on hand to make sure you are happy and comfortable with everything and to help in any way I can. We can go into as much detail  as you want. We also have an extensive external supplier and local accommodation list to make help make those other important decisions easy as well.

When the big day arrives, I will be around from the early morning getting everything ready. From making sure each place setting and centrepiece is perfectly set to making sure all the champagne is chilled and ready to go. I’ll be there through till the early hours of the next morning, ensuring that you all get to enjoy the day knowing that everything has been seen to and organised beforehand. I also like to make sure that we have room available at least a week before the wedding so that you can begin to bring over decorations and favours. One of the last things I want is for a Bride and groom and their guests to be rushing around the night before their wedding making sure the place names are in the right place and so on. For us, once you are through the doors here, its all about relaxing and having a good time. We got you, and those little last minute worries, we’ll take care of them.

 How are you different to other venues?

I believe we are an unique hotel in many ways. First of all the building is beautifully appointed and, like its owners, full of personality. We have worked hard to create a tasteful and modern interior with bold greys and black walls, complimented with an AMAZING array of artwork and antiques throughout the hotel. I think there’s an impression of a blank slate here; full of potential to add your own personality and themes, but, it also works as it is, understated as much as it is rich. Its a lovely building to work in and we all feel very lucky to be a part of it.

We also differ in that we (as our owner Chris is forever telling us!) aren’t a corporate conveyor belt for weddings. What we mean by that is that when we say we are bespoke, we mean it- and we don’t charge extra for it. We have put together some really great packages for potential bride and grooms to look over. We think they are options that work really well and, for the most part it hits the right note with people, especially if you don’t know exactly what you want! But if you have something a bit different you want to add then we’d LOVE to talk about it. This is your day! Whether you want an unusual cocktails, bell tents on the front lawn, a menu that includes your favourite childhood dish,  helicopters, bird shows, fireworks and firepits etc etc…. we want to know and hear about it! The great part about this flexibility we can talk about a small intimate wedding for 10 people or a festival dance rave for a group of 150, or go from a traditional and no fuss wedding setting to something far more outlandish and unique. If we can’t do it then we can’t, but we always love to talk and see what we can do. Our aim is to be a dedicated team that listens to you and do our best to make sure it suits you.

Personal experience and ethos:

I have been working in the hospitality industry for over 14 years now, and have done so all around the world and in a variety of places. I began my hospitality career in New Zealand and from there I have a keen appreciation for great food, wine and atmosphere. I know that the quality of your product and service  is what will always be remembered. Luckily we work with the most amazing Chef (Cornel Uys-check him out)  and an owner whose love of wine translates into an exquisite wine list. All is left is the atmosphere. I learned over the years that it takes a lot of effort to make something feel effortless, and that is a lesson I have carried to heart. So, with knowledge and preparation I know that once the day is here, it falls into place with an ease…..which then sets the tone for the rest of the day. I have always loved weddings and get emotional whenever I see a ceremony,  and so it was a natural slide into Coordinating from my restaurant career.  It genuinely brings me great joy to work with a bridal party- from the initial possibilities, figuring out what makes people excited, to finally seeing it all unfold on the day. 

Advice for anyone planning a wedding:

I have been lucky in my Wedding Coordinator roles that I have worked with some wonderful brides and I love meeting each and every person who inquires with us, and its amazing how different we all are. One thing I notice though is that at one point everyone feels a bit overwhelmed with the experience, and with so many venues, suppliers, fantastical Pinterest Board ideas its not hard to see why! The things is: the expectations we all place on Weddings can be hard to get your head around. There are a lot of pressure to please everyone. DON’T. This is your day and should reflect your relationship and what’s special to you. That’s all. And, think of it this way, once you have booked you venue (in our case anyway) the essentials for the day (accommodation, food, drinks, space) are all done. The rest are all details, and with help from your family, friends, suppliers (and Wedding coordinators like myself!) these details are easily managed. There’s a veritable rabbit hole of things that you can get caught up in to worry about, but stick to what’s true to you and remember what the day is really about, and it will be perfect no matter what happens. 

Wedding Testimonials


Words from a selection of our newlyweds and their closest friends over 2018:

“Over the August bank holiday, Chris and Nicky hosted our wedding which was a pretty full on affair, given our quite outlandish requests. They couldn’t have been more accommodating. Ably helped by their superb staff, and event planner Carys, they catered for our every whim and made our guests feel as if it was a home from home. We had a fantastic weekend and this beautiful and versatile house makes the perfect getaway for a private and exclusive party. I would highly recommend this place and encourage you to talk to their team about what you’d like to do. They didn’t say No to any of our requests, however large or small. The food was also superb, thanks to their amazing chef Cornel. Thanks guys, we will be back!” – Emma

“Fabulous house, beautiful location & amazing hosts. My best friend got married there at the weekend, and it was spot on from start to finish. The owners are fascinating & delightful, the staff great at their jobs and I left feeling much more relaxed and happy then when I arrived. Always the acid test for any experience. The icing on the cake was Chris’s back story & exquisite life-time collection of art, that anyone can enjoy for free and includes an eccentric explanation by the curator himself – Chris. Try it, if you enjoy it as much as we did then it’s a no-brainer! xx” – Dan

“Dear Carys and the Castell Malgwyn crew, We’ve just touched down after an amazing honeymoon and wanted to say thank you so much for making our big day, on September 1st, so wonderful! All staff, but especially Carys, were fab and made everyone feel so welcome as well as ensuring the day ran as smoothly as possible. We had some lovely comments on the food, wine and how pretty the place is! It can’t be easy working with anxious brides but Carys was so competent and reassuring from start to finish. We really felt like she understood what we were looking for and was genuinely enthusiastic when we discussed ideas. Carys – you’re awesome, thanks for putting up with me! 😉 Finally, thank you to Chris and Nicky who were also so kind and understanding. We can’t wait to use our free stay on our first anniversary! Such a lovely, generous offer. One of our guests also bought us a voucher to use there so you can expect us for dinner sometime soon! We’ll be sure to send photos as soon as we have them. Congrats on being FABULOUS!” – El

“What an amazing find Hammet@Castell Malgwyn was for our December 2018 wedding; a real gem in West Wales!  We were planning to get married in either London or Surrey simply because we weren’t sure we wouldn’t find a venue in rural West Wales that could deliver the level of catering and accommodation that we so wanted, plus the atmosphere and interior style – how wrong we were. Hammet@Castell Malgwyn is a truly unique venue, outstanding service, incredibly stylish interiors and superb food.   We also enjoyed the added bonus of having the venue entirely to ourselves, which made the occasion all the more special as it felt as though we were at home. Working in corporate hospitality myself, I knew that I probably wouldn’t be the easiest of clients but Carys was a pleasure to work with and totally understood what I was wanting to achieve.  I felt confident leaving everything to her and wasn’t disappointed.  Our wedding was totally bespoke yet affordable, which is a rare occurrence when as soon as you mention the ‘W’ word to venues, dressmakers or caterers there seems to be several 0’s added to the invoice. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Carys and the venue for a much deserved award!” – Rachel

“[Carys] and the rest of the staff […] were brilliant at helping us organise the wedding! Nothing was too much trouble and the day went superbly! We are even coming back for our wedding anniversary next week! It is such a beautiful venue with a very helpful and dedicated team” – Nicole

Culinary Excellence

Cornel Uys, our head chef, has spent seventeen years in the food industry. His experience stems from his time at manor house Ardanaiseig.

He carefully curates every dish on our ‘Art Room Menu’. Occasionally it is adapted in order to match the seasonal ingredients sourced in Pembrokeshire and beyond. The restaurant holds 2 AA Rosettes which is an award for higher standards. It has received this award consecutively in 2017 and 2018. A superb achievement for us with only 40% of the whole AA Restaurant Guide receiving this award.

Take a look behind the kitchen doors to see snippets of Cornel and his team at work. This dish is ‘Sea Trout, Mussels, Fennel, Potato, Saffron Chowder’ as part of the ‘Tasting Menu’.

Head Chef peels onions in preparation for evening service.
Head Chef, Cornel Uys, prepping Pembrokeshire ingredients for the ‘Art Room Menu’.

A roasting tray with garlic, chopped onion and spices.
Spices, garlic and onions for our ‘Curry Flavoured Monkfish, Roast Garlic, Parsley’ dish.

Head Chef, preparing elements of our award-winning menu.
Head Chef, Cornel Uys, uses parsley for as a decorative element for our ‘Curry Flavoured Monkfish’ main.

 

Our Game of Thrones

I don’t normally complain

but there are occasions when the whole experience has been so disappointing that something needs to be said

This was one such.  As readers will realize, we have a hotel ourselves in an 18th century building with 16 bedrooms and are well aware of the fact that things go wrong and with the best will in the world it is difficult either to predict them or resolve them immediately. However, our disappointment with this hotel was not so much a result of unforeseen events as, well read on.

We travel to our house in Greece every year, driving there and taking our dogs and making something of a road trip in each direction, choosing deliberately what we think will be interesting places to stay, preferably small independently run historic house hotels with good food. Our dogs cannot be left by themselves, poor little Bartleby is severely autistic and shrieks and howls if left alone and Mrs Ruskin joins in. Many years ago I left my then two dogs in a car and returned to find both front seats shredded – an experience I am not anxious to repeat. Hence when booking I always ensure that there is a place for us to eat where dogs are permitted.

On arrival at this nameless hotel in a 17th century chateau we were greeted by Monsieur Le Proprietaire who, while taking us to our room and, when asked about the dogs in the restaurant, said that they were not allowed and they would have to stay in the room or the car.

No, there was no bar area where we could eat.

No, there was no little private room where we could eat.

No, the meal could not be served in our room.

No, they could not come in the restaurant and if we did not want to leave them in the car or our room we should go somewhere else to eat but he added “As it is Monday a lot of places will be shut”.

I pointed out that there had been an exchange of emails where we had been told that dogs were welcome in the dining room and he flatly denied this.

In a previous life I have been both a lawyer and a judge and frankly to have my word doubted was offensive but hey,let’s not go there.

We were shown our room and this turned out to be a small room (tagged as suitable for the disabled) on the ground floor opening straight into the garden with a large lavatory in one corner and a shower in the other. ie no privacy whatsoever. Looking at other comments I saw that this had been mentioned before in a negative way, and Monsieur Le Prop said, in September 2017, it would be remedied. Beware, dear reader, it has not and if you are of sensitive disposition (which I suspect most people are) this would very definitely not be a room for you.

Third problem. The internet would not work. I wanted to find the email where the hotel confirmed that the dogs could go in the restaurant. I went to Monsieur Le Prop but he could not make it work either and still refused to countenance having the dogs in, well his exact words were “Je suis le propietaire and je ne veux pas les chiens dans mon gourmet restaurant”.

I went back to the Chamber of Horrors and, using my wife’s telephone, managed to get my laptop going and found the email which said “and of course the dogs are welcome in the restaurant”. I took this to Monsieur Le Prop and showed him it. He capitulated with very evident bad grace. Had he not done so I think we would have left but were tired so decided to accept the ghastly room and not argue further.

We were one of two couples dining in the restaurant that night. There was no one else and the other couple seemed completely unperturbed by our dogs who lay quietly under the table.

In fact our dogs had lain quietly under the table the night before at the restaurant in Northern Italy and, indeed, have done so at approaching 20 Michelin starred restaurants across Europe including several 2 stars.

The meal itself was 49 euros per person and competent – 2 AA rosette standard we thought – and as such the price was unremarkable.

However, the wine list. Our fourth problem. My goodness what eye-watering prices with a very limited selection but starting at 50 euros. We drank a bottle of Macon Solutre-Pouilly marked up at four times its cost price

And yes, (fifth problem)  there was a lot of vehicle and train noise so if one is used to the utter peace and quiet of the countryside, apart from the occasional animal or owl doing its red in tooth and claw number – as we are – this is not the place to stay .

Nor is it if you have dogs. We paid 30 euros extra for the privilege of having them in our lavatory with a bed in it.

And (oh yes, sixth problem) no milk, one bag of black tea, three coffee pods and a machine without instructions meant no early morning drink either. And no, we do not want to pay 18 euros each for coffee and croissants, fruit etc so did not and found, a couple of miles down the road, a boulangerie with all manner of nice things.

So all in all, following our previous night’s Michelin star experience in a old-fashioned coaching inn in Northern Italy, the previous night to that in the principal suite of a medieval Italian castle with a polished concrete bath in which 4 people could have disported and a bedroom where the ceiling had been painted in celebration of the marriage of a member of the family to a daughter of Tsar Nicholas I, to be stuck in a room containing an oversized lavatory (after what must have been the most unwelcoming of greetings in our lives) we could only conclude that Monsieur Le Prop was having a joke at the expense of Les Rosbifs.

Sorry to have gone on a bit but every one of our complaints, with the exception of road and train noise, was avoidable

Question for The Moral Maze “Should we also have complained about our room or simply told him what to do with his Bog Room?”

Anyway, we live and learn and visitors to Hammet@Castell Malgwyn can be assured that

  1. Dogs are welcome in all public areas except the restaurant (we are in the UK where a lot of people seem to dislike children and dogs) but their owners can eat with them in our bar, a small private room or their own rooms
  2. There is no rail or road noise
  3. Our wine mark ups are much less than industry norms
  4. There is a supply of coffee and teas with milk (fresh available on request) in every room
  5. Wifi is patchy in some rooms but good in public areas

and finally

f .All our bathrooms have doors…

Storm Callum

After our last post about ‘Storm Callum’ we encountered the highest record level of the River Teifi since records began – a huge six metres was recorded on Saturday 13th October…

Two of our members of the Hammet @ Castell Malgwyn team, Amanda and Sian, were personally affected by the flooding. With their homes being right next to the Teifi, the destruction that they both returned to on the Monday morning was phenomenal. Both of them are coping amazingly well.

During the flooding, we had four guests, two dogs, five members of the team and three local residents and two cats marooned at the hotel. They managed to stay safe and warm with the log fire and cheese toasties with homemade soup (thanks to Cornel, the Head Chef) to share between them.

The hotel has been unaffected, thankfully, and we are back open for business. Any guests that are due to stay with us over the next few days should be aware that Llechryd bridge is currently closed. Please allow more time for travel and if you need any help with alternative routes then please give us a call on 01239 682 382.

Teifi river reached a record height of six metres during Storm Callum.

Autumn

Autumn is officially here and with it brings ‘Storm Callum’. Some of our beautiful trees along our private drive are feeling the strain!

At the end of the lane, we welcome you with a roaring fire, hot chocolates and Welsh-roasted coffees to order, a gin flight special (three gins and a Fevertree tonic of your choice @ £13) and a two AA Rosette menu on offer most nights of the week. With over thirty gins stocking our Library Bar shelves, there will be plenty of choice; old favourites, something a little different and even a couple of our top-selling, Welsh gins.

New to the Art Room Menu is Cornel’s ‘Apple, White Chocolate Mousse, Blackberry and Mint’. We have reduced our menu to three options over the Autumn/Winter period as things start to wind down and life plays a slower pace in this corner of rural Pembrokeshire.

Mr & Mrs Jones

Lynne and Brendan chose to have their ceremony in our ‘Art Room’ restaurant (which is transformed especially for the occasion). The guests appreciated the melodies of the harpist, whilst they patiently awaited the arrival of the bride.

For the wedding breakfast, the couple decided upon striking fuchsia pink chair sashes, enhanced by the simple chair covers. We adored these large L-O-V-E letters and the LED dance floor – all provided by one of our recommended, local suppliers Bridget at ‘Pretty Seats and Bows‘.

The couple had selected our new ‘Shotgun Package’ which is only available six months before the big day. Ideal for those who can’t wait to get down the aisle! For information on our ‘Shotgun Package’ give us a call or drop us an e-mail.

 

Mr & Mrs McLaughlin

Emma and Aidan had a huge three day wedding, with extra accommodation on the croquet lawn in the shape of bell tents! They even hired some large outdoor games for the families attending.

We thought their ceremony tent was on another level! A beautiful, floral archway was built at the entrance and Emma walked up the patio steps to meet her future husband-to-be, Aidan. A special atmosphere was designed by simply hanging spotlight garlands around the inside of the tent. Pure magic.

One of our long time, recommended wedding suppliers, O&C Photography, were there to capture the big day. Emma and Aidan happily shared a selection of the images with us and we are delighted that they did! Take a peek below to see what the husband and wife photography team, O&C, created.