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Dec, 2013

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It’s a funny time – that weekend between Christmas day and New Year’s Eve. The hectic build-up to festivities, frantic preparations in the kitchen, last minute shopping and then – peace. A contented, quiet stillness, a time to relax, recover your sense of humour and fondness for the human race before welcoming a new year of challenges. This was a perfect time to take advantage of the special ‘Friday in December’ offer of dinner, bed and breakfast for £160 per couple at the 5* Harbourmaster hotel, 20 miles south of Aberystwyth. Its distinctive façade is seen around Wales and beyond, due to excellent marketing of this high-quality hotel in the Georgian harbour town of Aberaeron, its enviable choice of superb wines and the chef’s seafood dishes. Staff are welcoming and always take care to greet you as an old friend if you have visited them before. Rooms are first class, well appointed, especially the bathrooms, the fantastically-snuggly beds covered with smooth, white linen. Facing the harbour, it was surprisingly quiet on this particular stormy night despite gale-force winds and high tides forcing waves through the narrow harbour mouth, the smooth swell crashing against walls and spray cascading over the path as fast-flowing river meets the incessant pounding of the sea. Almost all the boats have been hauled out of the harbour by crane leaving just one or two still anchored to their allotted marker each precariously shifting with the force of the tide. A more careful glance picks out a dark line of an object surfacing every now and then. Maybe a tree trunk? But no, we could see it was an overturned open tender now forlornly battered by the storm and unable to right itself in the swirling water. This special offer includes a three-course meal in the restaurant and what a delight this was! Starters included cockles and lava bread patties or Welsh Perl Las blue cheese soufflé. For our visit, the main course was something to remember and talk about many times in the future. We chose the two-haddock dish, one deep fried in a light beer batter sat on a bed of crushed peas with a swirl of tartar sauce (we were convinced there was a hint of horseradish too) and the other a ramekin dish with smoked haddock in a creamy sauce and brown bread crumble. This was the most exceptional fish dish we have experienced in a long time. Twelve fat chips were stacked like bricks in four layers – OK, so it doesn’t sound much but it really was all you needed to accompany the fish. With a bottle of dry Chenin Blanc, it was our idea of heaven. We could not manage a dessert, but for those with a bigger appetite, the ones we saw looked suitably substantial. It was a treat to just relax and enjoy the whole experience whether you travel a long distance of just three miles as we did. Enjoy an unrushed breakfast of your choice and promise yourself another comforting break next year. Photograph see The Harbourmaster website Notes: there are facilities for those with wheelchairs and staff are happy to help. There is a small car park behind the hotel but plenty of on-road parking along the harbour wall.

Jacqueline Jeynes

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