Sunday, a day of rest – except, of course, when her ladyship demands that the bedroom I started decorating only a month before has to be finished in five hours flat. Pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears and even the ‘I’ve just fallen off the step-ladder’ excuse – backed up with a pronounced limp which deserved an Oscar nomination – is met with a steely gaze from malevolent eyes.
So, ignoring the sound of an exciting Arsenal match drifting in from the lounge, I’m left to work my fingers to the bone while my little tarantula supervises my every move until the work is complete. It’s only then we decide it’s too late to start cooking – so why not nip out for a bar meal?
And that’s when the problems started. Where do you go at the last minute?
Now, I accept there was a certain lack of planning and foresight but, after a quick shower, we jump in the car – I got to drive again – and set off from home in Gwernymynydd towards Queensferry.
I’d seen the Leprechaun, opposite the Gateway to Wales, advertise a daily carvery. Sally agreed it sounded good – until we walked in to be told they weren’t doing food due to a power cut.
We then decided Chinese sounded good so it was back up to Mold to the Hot Wok.
Except they were fully booked – but did offer a table for the following Sunday.
We were now getting hungry. We left the car parked and walked around the corner to the 56 High Street restaurant, only for more disappointment – it was closed.
Sally, having now decided I was totally useless, began mumbling something about wishing she’d listened to something her mum had said years ago and how it was all too late. She came up with the Crown in Pantymwyn, which apparently has a superb Thai menu.
Ten minutes later, we were struggling back across the snow-covered car park, having been told the Crown wasn’t doing food as the licensees were on holiday until Wednesday.
I’m now confused and angry – but, above all else, determined to get a meal.
It was then I remembered many years earlier having a great dinner at the Pwll Gwyn (White Pool) out on the Mold to Denbigh Road at Afonwen. We decided to gamble and set off down the A541.
The car park looked a little deserted but at least a warm, orange glow was spilling from the windows.
I nipped in and inquired if they were doing food and was soon back out on the car park, celebrating as if I’d just ridden a Grand National winner – which, taking into account my current stature, is not a picture that’s too easily conjured.
Within two minutes, we were sat in front of a roaring log fire looking at an extensive menu while I sipped a soft drink, again, and Sally enjoyed a house white wine, again.
The pub appears to have changed little over the years, as the grainy black and white pictures above a fireplace showing crowds of visitors and charabancs parked in front of the inn testify.
Imagine the archetypal country pub – hundreds of horse brasses around the fireplace, old pictures depicting village scenes of days gone by, traditional solid oak tables – and that’s the Pwll Gwyn.
It’s homely, warm and the young man behind the bar was helpful, polite and eager to please.
The menu is extensive, with most dishes prefixed with ‘home-made’.
Sally started with the chicken liver paté served with salad and a hot crispy baguette, while I decided on the baked mushroom filled with sundried tomato and blue Stilton. Both were served quickly and beautifully presented.
Sally was a little fazed by the size of the portion of paté and the accompanying salad. It was more of a main course than a starter.
However, getting portion sizes right for each customer is an impossible task and you are always better having too much than not enough.
For my main course, I couldn’t resist the 9oz rib eye steak, cooked rare, with mushrooms, salad and chips and a pepper sauce.
Sally was tempted by the steak and several chicken dishes but instead decided on a vegetable gratin – a selection of fresh vegetables, baked in a cheese sauce with a Stilton crumb topping, served with salad and chips. As with the starters, service was quick and the food superb.
And, I would add, it was nice to ask for a rare steak and have it arrive at the table cooked to perfection. All too often, I ask for a rare steak only for it to arrive at the table either blue or cremated.
I’m not sure how we managed to fit in a sweet – probably through a joint decision not to go home defeated.
Sally struggled to finish her home-made meringue with fresh fruit, while my rather large portion of Amaretto cheesecake with peaches and fresh cream was delightful.
I’m always suspicious of inns and restaurants that feel the need to display Egon Ronay Good Food Guide stickers alongside others from a host of food award schemes in their doors and windows.
But the Pwll Gwyn is a wonderful culinary experience and, even if it wasn’t our first choice that night, it’s certainly deserving of its high reputation.
And in these days of bland multi-site franchises serving up microwaved tasteless junk food fresh from the freezer, it’s great to have some proper home-cooked country food.
However, I have to say the Pwll Gwyn was desperately quiet. We were the only customers on a cold, wet and windy Sunday night until another couple, who were clearly regular diners, came in just as we were preparing to leave.
I have no doubt that the Pwll Gwyn will be packed to the rafters during the warmer months.
And we will be making a return visit. But having learned a valuable lesson, I’ll definitely be making a reservation first.
The Pwll Gwyn, Afonwen, Near Mold
Telephone 01352 720227.
Best points: Traditional country pub, spotlessly clean with great food.
Worst points: Limited vegetarian choice.
Would suit: Families, groups, those looking for a romantic meal and non-smokers.
Cost for two: Drinks £12.85, three courses £44.20.