IF the secret of a successful business is to know its customers, then the Bryn Awel Hotel should go from strength to strength.
Without pretension and with the minimum of fuss, this small hotel bistro on the outskirts of Mold, gets on with doing what it is best at - catering for its loyal regulars.
Foodies from the Chester restaurant scene would run a mile and this is not the venue for young couples in search of a romantic evening, but the Bryn Awel knows exactly what it is doing.
When we visited, on a beautiful, balmy Saturday evening, the place was filling up with a mixture of family parties, with a small sprinkling of immaculately behaved children, and groups of older folk.
Everybody seemed to know each other and they especially seemed to know the friendly and chatty staff ! We felt like intruders at a private party.
A glance at the menu revealed one of the attractions. A three-course meal with a glass of wine is just £10.95 - and children eat free from Monday to Thursday.
That looked like a bargain - but would it be reflected in a lack of quality? Only one way to find out.
There was a slight difficulty finding the place. Bryn Awel's address is given as Denbigh Road, otherwise know as the A541, but seems to be impossible to access directly, if driving from the Chester direction.
That slight confusion ironed out, we presented ourselves at reception and were ushered directly through to what was described as the bistro.
Our visit was actually belated, we had to cry off a week earlier through illness, but although our cancellation had been very late - in fact it was in the early evening for a 7.30 booking the charming lady on the phone transferred us without fuss.
The bistro is a slightly odd affair - minimalist does not do it justice. It is bare to the point of being stark, although a wall of picture windows offers impressive views over rolling countryside, once you have mentally cropped off the A541 and nearby County Hall.
'It's not like a restaurant,' said Beverley, 'it's like a dining room.' As usual, she was right.
I had a rather limp pint of Tetley's and Beverley an adequate glass of dry, house white, while we ordered.
The menu is small, although we were assured it was changed every week. We were offered a choice of five starters and a similar number of main courses.
The home-made celery soup was tempting, but only momentarily on such a hot night.
I went for creamy garlic mushrooms on a crouton. The cream was a little stodgy and the crouton a little greasy, but generally it was fine.
Beverley's smoked salmon and prawn rolls, accompanied by a Marie Rose sauce, was very good and I gallantly offered her a helping hand to finish it off.
Beverley wasn't happy with her complimentary glass of white wine, which she described as greasy. I thought it OK. Neither of us could pin it down, although we suspected Chardonnay.
Neither starter came with a bread accompaniment - but at that price, who's complaining?
I have nothing against small menus - on the contrary, I find a large one can raise questions over quality - but the problem with a menu as small as this became apparent when we realised there was only one veggie option.
Neither of us are vegetarians, but Beverley does enjoy vegetarian food, so opted for the sweet peppers stuffed with vegetables and cous cous. She described it as 'good'.
Other options included an 8oz sirloin steak at a £2.95 supplement - still marvellous value.
I went for the steamed haddock finished with a chive sauce.
Both dishes came with an accompaniment of potatoes and seasonal vegetables - a little incongruous with the peppers.
The peppers were, according to Beverley, OK and my fish was enjoyable, although the sauce was a little bland... although not compared to a tape of elevator-style background music that was by this time gently lulling me into a stupor.
In fact, bland was a word that was starting to enter the conversation with regularity, although it was not one that seemed to trouble our fellow diners. Pretension was definitely NOT on offer... and I have enough experience of dining with family parties to know that one man's bland is another man's good, solid fare.
I could definitely see the attraction of the Bryn Awel - especially when we tucked into excellent fresh carrots and beans and a dish of new potatoes that bordered on the spectacular.
The waitress read our dessert choice from a list. Beverley, awkward as ever, asked for cheese and biscuits. Although this option was not advertised, she was rewarded with an excellent cheeseboard, and at no extra cost! Impressive indeed.
I had the home-made apple pie and again, it was excellent, providing an enjoyable end to an enjoyable evening.
But the biggest thrill came when we received the bill - £27.20 for two three-course meals with two glasses of wine (four if you count the complimentary ones) and a pint of beer.
* The Bryn Awel Hotel,Denbigh Road, Mold.
* Telephone 01352 758622.
* Best thing: Amazing value.
* Worst thing: Would not suit the adventurous.
* Would suit: Mixed family parties on a budget.
* Bill: For three courses and drinks, £27.20.