Friday, December 19, 2014

Outdoorsy caffs......Abandon hope all ye who enter here!

"An unsmiling man appeared' photo-The Mirror

I was interested to read about an eatery in Castleton, in the Peak District which attracts a fair few outdoorsy folk, being described in the national press as a real life Fawlty Towers on account of a curmudgeonly owner and mine host who treats his clientele as an inconvenience to be at best tolerated, and at worst abused! Dolly’s Hidden Tearooms in the village is run by Mike Clarke who according to The Mirror,” tells hikers they are not welcome and hurls abuse at anyone daring to order drinks without food’.  The cafe’s Trip Advisor page reads like a extract from a League of Gentleman script....
”The gentleman who greeted us in his gruff and thick accent looked like a homeless Father Christmas and was in need of a bath and a good scrub’. Another punter opined .”The owner is clearly missing a screw as he informed us he is from Aberdeen, when in fact he is from the local area. In addition, he seemed to take exception that my wife and kids are southerners (small narrow minded idiot) and when my wife asked to use the toilet he handed her a bucket and newspaper. “ 

Well, sounds a character then, but what about the food and drink?  “2 words .... Filthy hovel!! Avoid at all costs! Dirty plates and cups. Flies all around Filthy owner, We tipped our drinks away for fear of catching something bad and left!”..while in the same vein another customer proffered.. “Owner very strange and disturbing, room and tables etc dirty and burnt scones very overpriced. Paid and ran!’

Out of 135 ratings ‘Father Jack’s’ establishment gets 104 ‘Terrible’ ratings but perhaps more bizarrely, 3 ‘ Excellent’ ratings which proves that even grumpy old gits have some friends! So; Dolly’s Hidden Tearooms is not exactly Pete’s Eats but North Wales does have its share of rubbish cafes I’m afraid. One caff in the heart of Snowdonia used to be renowned for its poor service and unfriendly staff although looking at its Trip Advisor page, it appears to have got its act together and generally gets decent ratings these days. The cafe in Capel Curig at the junction which includes a general store and outdoor shop regularly garnered negative comments when the subject of outdoor caffs came up on forums. Punters complaining that asking something outrageous like requesting an extra piece of toast instead of an egg with their full English, sent the staff into panic mode and a ‘We can’t do that-it’s against the rules’ response!  The menu was treated as if it had been carried down the mount and etched on tablets of stone! Thou shalt not deviate from the menu for the menu is the word’!

I never liked the outdoor shop either. In contrast with the friendly nature of Joe Brown’s next door where you could browse and fester out of the rain without being pestered, the book section in the cafe/shop had a “ THIS IS NOT A LIBRARY!’ sign over its books and magazines section. I’m not sure the state of play these days as I never set foot in the place having developed an instinctive dislike of the establishment, but as mentioned above, the cafe at least seems to be getting better reviews these days and I believe the Moel Siabod cafe down the road is very good.

If you need to find out the best caffs in North Wales well the Trip Advisor list offers these places although I must admit that I haven’t been in most of them so I can’t  offer my own opinion on their qualities or otherwise....If in doubt, take a packed lunch and spend the money you saved in the pub!


  1. The Siabod Café at Capel Curig, as mentioned by John above, is excellent. Good coffee, the food looks good [not tried it], nice & warm [a real stove], comfy chairs and friendly & helpful staff...oh...and not too dear.

  2. I can definitely vouch for the Siabod, John. I'm surprised you haven't stopped there! It's excellent. As for the Pinnacle Cafe/Shop, I not sure about the cafe, but they do seem to be making more of an effort to be friendly in the shop these days. At least you don't feel like you are trespassing any more! Also the Conwy Falls Cafe have finally done something about their previously awful toilets, it is now quite civilised.

  3. Re the Conwy Falls cafe mentioned above. I discovered recently that the building was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis of Portmerion fame. As Michael Caine might say..Not a lot of people know that!

    1. Hi time, look at the external colour scheme. You'll see it's the CW-E pale blue that is all around Portmeirion/Llanfrothen/Croesor area. [Just realised that you probably don't go there, so wouldn't see it!]. They make their own delicious cakes, which is more useful info!