We recently traveled to the home of Dylan Thomas in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire for the launch of the new Jean-Christophe Novelli Food Academy at The Corran Resort and Spa. I’d only ever been to Laugharne once and it was a brief stop to see Dylan’s boat house on the way back from camping down Tenby a couple of years ago so I wasn’t sure what else was around.
The Corran is located on the grounds of a 300 year+ farm house a short drive from the town centre of Laugharne. We thought we’d taken a wrong turn with my less than impressive google map reading skills taking us to what I thought was in the middle of nowhere, but we finally saw the resort coming into view from a narrow single track farm road.
The Spa and Novelli Academy building are built in a more modern outbuilding next to the car park less than 100 yards form the reception within the original farm building. I didn’t know what to expect from the hotel as I’d heard mixed reviews online. Whilst carrying our bags for the weekend to reception we were blown away by the idyllic setting of cottages and converted farm buildings creating a perimeter around a grassy courtyard, drenched in sunlight that was hidden away from view when you first arrive at the car park.
Our Cottage Room
After checking in, we had a quick tour around the main building and were shown to our luxury cottage less than 10 metres from the reception building. Again, I really wasn’t expecting such charming, rustic lodgings set over two floors with a log burning heater taking centre stage on the ground living area, huge TV with original wooden beams making a big impact when you first walk in. To the left a massive bathroom with open top bath, exposed brick walls with a shower nestled in the middle of the room, attached to a rugged, old wooden pillar. The room was lush and I couldn’t wait to test out both washing devices. I’ve had actual hotel rooms smaller than the bathroom.
A doorway on a raised platform took us out to a decked area outside with tables and chairs that gave a sheltered escape to sip a vino away from the main hotel or enjoy a bbq if you fancied making the most of the summer sun. Back inside a set of stairs led to a mezzanine floor hiding a massive bed, some seats and area to get ready.
The room offered a fridge to keep drinks cold, with a couple of bottles of complimentary water, although I’m not a fan of sparkling. Tea and coffee supplies were also available. A box next to the log burner was filled with some logs, ready to light in the evening with a large lighter.
We had a couple of hours to kill before we had to meet up with our fellow cookery students and Jean-Christophe of course, so we dumped the bags, threw some swimming attire on and made use of the complimentary robes in the room. We then trotted on over to the spa about 20 metres from our door and across the grassy courtyard.
The woman on reception was lovely and couldn’t be more welcoming. She gave us a tour of the facilities in the spa, which included indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, chill out room and sauna. Unfortunately the steam room was out of order but by the time we did a lap on the other rooms we were pushed for time anyway. We happened to be the only people in the spa at the time so we had the whole place to ourselves, which was great.
They offer a full spa service if you’re there for the weekend and fancy making yourself look extra fabulous with an extensive list of massages and treatments. I forgot to bring any gym gear but was keen to have a nosey in and to be fair I was really impressed with the kit especially for a hotel gym. You usually just get a running machine, 5kg dumbbells and a half deflated exercise ball.
They had the usual runners, rowing machine and cross trainers but they also had an ample amount of kettlebells going up to 20kg. They had selection of dumbbells up to 25kg, which i’d probably struggle on these days and a cable pulley multi gym for all your upper body needs.
The restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and evening meal was lovely. It’s also used as the function room for weddings and events and you can see why in the pictures.
I just don’t get why people pay to get married in a big white tent in a hotel, it could be anywhere and always look the same. They don’t need to do anything to the room here, it’s ready to roll as it is. Long glass chandeliers, vintage white chairs and long glass doors looking out into the adjacent grass courtyard that can open up during the summer for a perfect game of halves with inside and outside space to cater for everyone.
Breakfast Day 1
As we were staying for two nights I thought i’d go off piste with breakfast the first morning in the knowledge I’d get my full Welsh breakfast the following morning.
On top of the selection of cereals, pastries, fruit, cured meats, jams and honey there are a few other options you can have in addition if you want something a bit healthier than a fry up.
Both favouring a pescatarian breakfast, I opted for a smoked haddock and poached eggs, Llio opting for the smoked salmon and eggs.
There wasn’t a radioactive yellow fillet in site. What I did get was a generous, delicately smoked, white, flakey portion of hadock teamed with the most perfect poached eggs on top of a toasted muffin.
I had a very busy day planned ahead with the cookery academy so this filled me up with the fruit and pastries without the potential to leave bloated and flagging later on like a fry-up sometimes does.
I’m not a fan of salmon in any form but Llio enjoyed her smoked salmon and creamy scrambled eggs.
After slightly more alcohol being consumed the night before compared to the first night and the thought of long drive down to St Fagans straight after breakfast to do a talk about gin for Cardiff Gin Club, there was only one thing on the menu today.
I loved the smoked haddock the previous morning but it was only right that I covered the other options on the menu for research purposes and put my order in for the full Welsh fried breakfast.
The oversized plate does make it look like a child’s portion but I can confirm it was ample in size in real life. Thick cut bacon, local sausages, tender wheel of black pudding, runny egg and actual beans. Beangate seems to be a common occurrence lately, with more and more places starving me of my daily ration of baked, tomatoey plant based protein, much to my dissatisfaction.
The breakfast was cooked to perfection with no chisel needed for any item on my plate, which i’ve resorted to carrying on my person when attending breakfast serving establishments in Cardiff of late.
With all of us leaving the Jean-Christophe Novelli Academy clutching all of our fingers and thumbs in tact, it was cause for celebration with a bit of French dinning and vino to finish off an epic weekend stay at the Corran Resort.
A menu can’t be truly French in my eyes with out Fois Gras on the menu for starters and much to my delight they delivered.
Foolishly devouring the bread for the table as soon as it came out, I could of used an extra square to finish off my slab of rich, buttery goose liver. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man (or woman) in possession of a good fois gras, must be in want of an extra slice. Wherever you are in the world, the ratio of bread to spreadable liver concoctions is never quite right, so I won’t hold it against them as the dish was all that I craved and more (apart from an extra triangle of carbs).
For main, I went for the sirloin of beef cooked medium / rare, with carrot puree, potatoes and a rich jus. The beef was perfectly pink and meltingly soft. A sweet carrot puree, with the jus adding a thick lick of emulsion to each chunk of beef I used to mop up with.
Llio opted for pork with with wilted greens and little pearls of apple caviar. Both dishes were delish, but I was glad I had the beef as that just pipped the two.
Plenty more of the free flowing vino tinto was consumed in between courses, which then led to my dessert of molten chocolate cored pudding, nuggets of honeycomb, a swirl of caramel and a healthy slab of ice cream. This was a dreamy dessert, with lots of textures going on. Intense, rich chocolate, sweet caramel, a light bitter crunch from the honeycomb with a creamy ice cream thrown in, just because. Lush!
Llio struggled on her dessert, just from being full and not through lack of trying. I played the good boyfriend and helped her polish her creme brûlée with a healthy slice of brioche to slather the the crunch nuggets of sugar and blistered cream on for a decadent finisher. This was a close one to choose between and I think I’ll score them an even Steven.
I loved every minute of the weekend stay, from relaxing in the spa, falling from gazing at the inferno I created with my own hands in the log burner, letting it all hang out whilst showing centre stage in the huuuge bathroom. We then had the intensive schooling from chef supremo Jean-Christophe Novelli at the Academy, learning some very useful cooking and prepping skills in the kitchen.
I couldn’t fault any of the food we ate over the two days from healthy breakfasts of fish and fruit on the first day and finishing on a full Welsh fried breakfast on the last morning.
It was great to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine and good food with the fellow academy students and sitting with Jean-Christophe. Chef was in full entertaining mode, giving us some stories from growing up in rural France and how he got to where he is now, warts and all.
I was gutted we had to rush off early on the Sunday to do a gin masterclass and talk at the St Fagans Food festival because I would of made the most of the Spa again and tried to fit some pampering in from the masseuse.
We got chatting to the owner too, who gave us a run down of the events of Christmas. We’ve got our minds set on the New Years Eve extravaganza if we aren’t up North, which sounds like the perfect way to see in the New Year.
We were invited to attend the launch of the new food academy. The accommodation and food was complimentary but I really couldn’t fault our weekend stay and would go back in a flash. There’s not much around the resort but that’s the point, it’s all dedicated to escaping the norm and unwinding in the countryside with everything you need on your doorstep.