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.

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

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.

A First Hello

Lately we have been wanting somewhere to tell you; our regular visitors, our newlyweds, members of the Pembrokeshire community, and ‘just passing by’ers a little bit more about what goes on at the hotel. What better way than to do that than through a blog! So here is our first hello.

Our Pembrokeshire hotel is nestled quietly in the countryside. This perfect introduction is for those stumbling upon our blog by chance and who have not heard of us before….

History

The house was built in 1795 by Sir Benjamin Hammet, who also purchased the Penygored tin works up the river.

Sir Benjamin died in 1800 leaving his wife and son at the estate. John Hammet, his son, died at the age of 44 in 1811, the estate remained in the Hammet family until Louisa’s death in 1824. At which point it was purchased by Abel Anthony Gower.

Part of the original estate is now home to Llechryd Cricket Club, which is fitting as famous former England cricket captain David Gower is a descendant of James Gower, brother to Abel Gower.

The house was converted into a hotel in 1960 and has been functioning as one ever since.

In 2012 the estate was re-christened ‘Hammet House’ in honour of Sir Benjamin Hammet.

It has been 18 months since Chris and Nicky took the reins over and decided to bring back the former name of ‘Castell Malgwyn’, as it was known to locals for many decades.

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So if you didn’t already know, Castell Malgwyn is back. To book a romantic getaway, a weekend break or a family holiday at our hotel click here.

For any other enquiries give us a call on 01239682382.

Best,

The Hammet @ Castell Malgwyn crew

A Summer day at country house hotel, Hammet @ Castell Malgwyn.
Luxury country house hotel in the rural village of Llechryd, Pembrokeshire.