Of all the 500 plus pubs I’ve featured, by far the most comments have been made about the Dinorben Arms at Bodfari in North Wales, which obviously occupied a special place in many people’s memories. It started off as a small village pub next to the church, but steadily grew into an Alpine chalet-style extension, with a balcony giving dramatic views over the Clwydian Range. To accommodate its customers, a multi-tiered car park was carved out, which can still be discerned on Google Maps.
Its speciality was a lavish Scandinavian-style smorgasbord menu, which drew customers from many miles around. It was one of those special pubs whose reputation for food led to people driving fifty miles to get there, not least from Liverpool. I have to say I never actually visited it – I once parked up and took a look, but decided it was far too upmarket for me, and repaired to the ordinary pub down the hill on the main road.
From the comments, it seems to have steadily declined over the years, and one commenter reports it serving cold baked beans as part of the buffet. Nevertheless, this review from 2003 is still pretty favourable, and it features as a “lucky dip” in my 2006 edition of the Good Pub Guide - although that publication has been known to list pubs that have been closed for several years. However, it eventually closed in 2007, with a food hygiene prosecution, foot and mouth disease, and a poor summer being listed as causes.
That looked rather final, and indeed the 2009 StreetView image (above) shows it in a pretty derelict state. But all is not lost, as upmarket dining pub operator Brunning & Price have decided to take it on and are in the process of renovating it. B&P have a distinctive formula that puts local produce and local cask beers high on the agenda, and I wish them luck in bringing the Dinorben Arms back to its former glory.
Although, to be honest, any pub chain that offers "Braised shoulder of lamb served with dauphinoise potatoes, mixed vegetables and rosemary gravy" for £16.95 - as appears on one of their menus - cannot really be regarded as appealing to the ordinary punter. Cheese and onion cob, anyone? And I’d expect their beer prices are now nudging £4 a pint even for ordinary bitters.