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Test: Culinary dragon runs out of puff; Hywel Trewyn at Ogof y Ddraig,Caernarfon.

Byline: Hywel Trewyn

VISITING Ogof y Ddraig (translatedas Dragon's Cave),nestled within the atmospheric town walls of Caernarfon,is more of an experience than just eating out. Here,for instance, you can be excused for expecting to see a fire-breathing dragon appear without warning -and that's even before you've had a drink.

Ogof y Ddraig is a small,intimate place divided between three floors: the kitchen situated in the basement; three tables for non-smokers on the ground floor where the walls are patriotically painted red; and four tables for smokers upstairs where the walls are green,and where there is space to accommodate more tables and diners.

The restaurant has a mixture of artefacts, some echoing the mythical dragon theme.

Ogof y Ddraig is run by young chef Luke Williams,better known as Andrew from S4C's children's drama series Rownd a Rownd. He is ably supported by members of his family as well as attentive waiting staff.

As a ravenous group of four, we were pleased to be offered some tasty cheese and prawn nib lets on our arrival, which we devoured before glugging the first of three excellent bottles of Shiraz.

Welsh songs played in the background while we nibbled and chose from the menu, which was only inEnglish.

Our starters were delightful. We ordered a melon with raspberries and strawberries, drizzled in a honey dressing which was well-presented; a smoked chicken salad with avocado and tomatoes dressed in a pesto vinaigrette; deep fried mushrooms stuffed with Welsh brie and served with a garlic aoli; and Mediterranean- style baked mussels topped with a fresh tomato sauce, breadcrumbs,herbes de Provence and Reggiano cheese -the latter two particularly tasty.

For main meals we ordered a steak with Diane sauce; a flavour some bass fillet with orange and parsley (although the whole fish is normally more flavoursome); strips of duck breast, sliced onions and cashew nuts in a Chinese five spice and sesame oil sauce served on a bed of rice; and a pork tenderloin stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in Carmarthen ham, served with a Calvados and glazed apple sauce.

Although the steak was rather tough, the other choices received a resounding thumbs up and we all cleared our plates.

The main meals were served with vegetables -cauliflower,carrots,baby sweet corn and, to our surprise, red broccoli -and potatoes As well as meat,poultry and fish, there were vegetarian meals on offer including a Welsh cheese and leek bread and butter pudding and goats' cheese basil and red-pepper cannelloni.

When it came to desserts, we were disappointed to learn there were no poached pears or warm chocolate sponges left,having been lapped up by fellow diners.

My companions opted for the rather disappointing consolation prize of raspberries and shortbread towers -not sweet enough was the unanimous verdict -while I chose a trio of different flavoured ice creams garnished with fresh strawberries -well,one strawberry to be exact.

In the great scale of things,however, the disappointment of the desserts followed by insipid coffee to finish off were outweighed by our overall satisfaction at devouring the Dragon's starters and main meals. We all agreed that we should return.

The bill

three bottles of shiraz no 5 pounds 37.35 melon pounds 2.95 mussels pounds 4.25 mushrooms pounds 3.95 chicken salad pounds 4.45 sea bass pounds 13.45 steak diane pounds 12.45 pork tenderloin pounds 9.95 duck with cashew nuts pounds 10.95 three raspberry towers pounds 11.85 ice cream pounds 2.95 three coffees pounds 5.85 total pounds 121.10

CAPTION(S):

Starters and main meals are a tasty treat at Ogof y Ddraig,but sadly the Dragon blows hot and cold when it comes to desserts Picture: JEFF PITT
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 8, 2003
Words:629
Previous Article:Start your day in style; Ed Carty reveals how to make breakfast fit for the Savoy.
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