Some say it with flowers, but when Bangor-born chef-owner Mike Jones wanted to remember a dear friend who passed away he decided to dedicate his restaurant to him, naming it after Ren Gill’s song and album Freckled Angels. Beautiful, right? It gets better… A giant angel mural keeps watch over this minimalist-cool bistro, where the small plates menu packs a punch with its Welsh-meets-the-world flavours.
Why we love it…
With its mix of rustic warmth and urban chic, Freckled Angel is like a breath of fresh sea air on the Anglesey food scene. We would happily linger for hours over dish after delicious small dish in its intimate, subtly lit, hip bistro-style interior, which is equally suited to date nights (try to snag a bay window table) and fun share-a-bit-of-everything meals with friends or family. The location in Menai Bridge, mere steps from the pretty, tree-fringed waters of the Menai Strait, and the touching story of how the restaurant got its moniker, help to cement this firmly in our minds as one of the most memorable, heart-warming and original places to eat on the island.
Freckled Angel won us over with its relaxed, chatty, come-as-you-are mood. Snowflake lights fickered on the ceiling, Christmas decorations were up and the neighbouring table were enjoying a socially distanced birthday celebration, complete with party hats and prosecco. The small, cosy space was filled with a lively buzz: a refreshing burst of normality in Covid-era times. And you get the sense that there are a lot of regulars: a testament to both the food and the warmth of the welcome.
The decor is pretty stylish for these parts, too: a slick blend of minimalist lines, monochrome tones, wood-cladding and bistro seating, with framed prints lending personality, and a cool street-art-style mural of a male angel – wings outspread – dominating an entire wall.
Incredibly friendly. We took our 11-month-old daughter and nothing was too much trouble. The staff went out of their way to please. Everyone receives a warm croeso (welcome) here.
Now we’re talking… Mike is on a roll when it comes to reinventing the Welsh small plate – yes, you can say tapas if you really must… – menu. He takes much pride in championing the crème de la crème of local produce, while allowing individual flavours to have their moment to shine in a carefully composed menu also reflecting his passion for travelling overseas. The result is a winner, bringing together top-quality ingredients with simplicity and flair. Gluten-free and vegetarian choices showed the same level of care and imagination.
To drink? House wines come in at around a reasonable £18.50 a bottle (£4 for a small glass) and include a juicy Chilean Merlot, while beers and ciders spotlight some interesting Welsh options.
We were advised to order two to three small plates each plus sides, which was ample, but we could have quite happily eaten our way through the entire menu. Standouts for us included the gloriously sticky, meltingly tender Korean BBQ ox cheek with kimchi slaw and king oyster mushroom, the divine twice-baked Perl Lâs soufflé (cheese lovers do not let this one pass you by) with balsamic grapes, and the plump monkfish tail with a hearty chorizo and bean cassoulet, which was bang on for a winter evening. Sides are often an afterthought on menus but not here: the gooey potato gratin with truffle and parmesan is Last Supper wish list stuff.
Desserts met the mark, too. The unusual yuzu meringue pie with ginger, cardamom and coconut struck perfect sweet-and-sour balance, and the chocolate parfait and brownie with passionfruit and hazelnut was densely chocolatey without being cloyingly sweet.
COVID-19 UPDATE: Freckled Angel is currently closed due to the latest introduced Covid-19 restrictions, but it plans to be up and flying again in the New Year. Watch this space and log onto Facebook for the latest.
NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: From the Freckled Angel, it’s only 10.5 miles north-northwest to the Lligwy ancient monuments, a triumvirate of historic sights spanning three millennia.
At a glance
Welcome: 10 Top points.
Food & drink: 9 Lots of dishes mean lots of flavours, and the majority of what we tried was skilfully and creatively executed.
Location: 8 On the High Street in Menai Bridge, just a few paces from the water.
Cost: Moderate. Small plates come in at around the £7 mark, sides cost between £3.50 and £5, desserts are £7.
Opening hours: Monday: 5-8.30pm, Tuesday-Saturday: 12-2pm & 5-8.30pm
Address/telephone number: 49 High Street, Menai Bridge LL59 5EF; 01248-209952