City Café, City Inn, Finnieston Quay, Glasgow. Phone: 0141 240 1002
This moderately-priced restaurant offers good food, with one of the most beautiful settings in Glasgow. The City Inn is somewhat off the beaten track, about a mile from the city centre, on the banks of the river Clyde. It is surrounded by Glasgow's most jaw-dropping modern architecture, including the titanium-clad Science Centre and Norman Foster's armadillo-like concert hall. Remnants of a great ship-building past also abound, like the massive fixed crane, and twin rotundas of a disused Victorian tunnel system. The Café always feels very Californian to me, both in its clean, minimalist decor, and in its food that has a lightness of touch. Chef Richard Lyth is not afraid of decisive flavours and a nod to fusion cuisine. My starter consisted of discs of goat's cheese, crusted with parmesan and towered with little rounds of toast on a chile-dressed orange salad. For a main course I had crisp-skinned fillets of sea bream, which came with a piquant warm sald of balsamic roasted tomatoes and asparagus. These flavours were cushioned by a delicate cauliflower puré. Dessert was a bit uninspring after such punchy flavours, and the wine list ranks only as 'pretty good', with choices in the £12 - £30 range, and several by the glass options. (2010)
About £50 for lunch, £65 for dinner. Open 7 days.
Northstar, 108 Queen Margaret Dr, Glasgow. Phone: 0141 946 5365
La Parmigiana, 447 Great Western Rd, Glasgow. Phone 0141 334 0686
La Vallée Blanche, 360 Byres Road, Glasgow G12 8AW Phone: 0141 334 3333
Kirroughtree House, near Newton Stewart. Phone: 01671 402141
It is easy to miss this tiny, cramped, Bohemian little deli and restaurant tucked in amongst a row of shops in a residential corner of Glasgow's West End. And missing it would be a great shame! Portugeuse and Mediterranean-sourced ingredients are fashioned into mouthwatering "small plates", larger-than-tapas dishes like a chorizo and saffron risotto, or patatas bravas, each costing only a few pounds. Excellent coffee (Sical, from Portugal), a wide range of organic soft drinks, and yummy home-made cakes complete a lovely lunch for less than a tenner a head. (2010) Number 16, 16 Byres Rd, Glasgow. Phone 0141 339 2544
A tiny place at the bottom of Glasgow's buzzing Byres Rd, this space has had a chequered, but largely very positive history as a restaurant, not least in its current incarnation. No 16 has been a favourite neighbourhood choice for years, but when it changed hands a couple of years ago I felt standards slipped, and I downgraded it from a two thumbs up, to one or maybe one and a half. Whatever has happened recently, I've eaten there three times in the past few months and each meal has been excellent. It still has the same mix and match furniture (take my advice and request a ground floor table with the new and rather smart leather tub chairs when booking) and the same cramped conditions, but the food is as inventive as it is well cooked. A tasty starter of seared chicken livers came in thick stew of Puy lentils, and was beautifully textured and cooked. My main course was a risotto, liberally folded with roasted sweet pepper, wild garlic and finished with creme fraiche, and parmesan. It was heartwarming stuff, and delicously creamy. A classic pudding to finish - of the sticky toffee variety - was the real thing, rich with dates and fruits, and served with home made ice-cream. The wine list has around 20 reds and whites from £12 to £27 pounds, and all in all, this is one of the nicest casual places in the city at the moment in my opinion. (2014)
£65 for dinner. Closed Sundays.
La Parmigiana is a real institution. An upmarket, but very typical Italian family restaurant, it has been around since the 70's, and is one of those places were the staff never changes, and everything works with a comfortable, well-oiled precision. The menu is short and has lots of staples which never change, like lobster ravioli in a tomato cream sauce, chargrilled scallops, or medallions of venison with a porcini mushroom and Italian sausage ragu. Other seasonal items come and go, but all cooked with great skill and presented in an honest, understated fashion. This is quality Italian cuisine with a nod towards the best Scottish ingredients. There is a short, but quite serious wine list. It is exclusively Italian, presented by region, from house wines up to Sassicaia and Tignanello. The regular "wines of the month" are always interesting. We drank Silvio Jermann's delightful Pinot Bianco at £21. La Parmigiana is a bit old-fashioned, but is none the worse for that. (2012) £70 for dinner, cheaper lunch and pre-theatre
Simply Fish, 111 Cleveden Rd, Glasgow, UK G12 0JU. Phone: 0141 334 0111
This was a disappointment. Simply Fish is the latest incarnation in a restaurant space that has had several themes over the years (most recently Italian), none of which have gone the distance. The location is a very suburban one, surrounded by plenty of affluent housing, but well away from the buzz of the city centre or thronging heart of the West End. So a restaurant either has to become a real destination, renowned for its quality, or it has to offer the locals really good food that's affordable enough to eat there often. Unfortunately based on this evidence, the terrific concept of 'Simply Fish' hasn't cracked either. Already doing cheap meals on 'deal of the day' sites, the atmosphere was lacking, with two other tables occupied. However it was the service that added to the chill: it is efficient, but was not warm or welcoming. And then the food was a let down - a smoked haddock risotto was the highlight, the salty, smoky flavour enlivened by a touch of gremolata adding a nice astringency. But if you are going to be "simply fish" and offer fish and chips made with frozen fish, it's little short of a disaster. The fish had the typical spongy texture and lack of flavour that gave it away instantly, though chips and home-made tartare sauce were good. From a throwaway dessert selection, sticky toffee pudding was pub grub average, and the portion was tiny. Wines are nothing to write home about. The house Sauvignon blanc was characterless, though the list does rise to Gaja Chardonnay at £70. We ate an early evening, cheap menu, so perhaps it's unfair to write this place off, but though a 15 minute stroll from home, there was little in terms of ambiance or food to make us want to return. Someone needs to look again at quality and service. Closed Mondays, lunch menu £9.95 for three courses, evening menu around £30 per person. (2014) Stravaigin, 28 Gibson St, Glasgow G12 8NX. Phone: 0141 334 2665
A little like an Aboriginal 'Walkabout', Stravaigin is old Scottish parlance meaning to wander, and a philosophy of travelling and crossing boundaries has always been at the heart of Colin Clydesdale's operation. It is 15 years since the doors first opened, and quite a few since Clydesdale himself was behind the stoves: managing the family's small group of restaurants in Glasgow now takes up his time. Today Daniel Blencowe runs the kitchen, an Australian who has brought some Pacific-rim style to the always eclectic food. My starter was pretty resolutely European, a fricassee of duck livers and rabbit served with a truffled brioche. This was a great dish, the livers soft and buttery in creamy sauce, two perfect morsels of moist rabbit served to the side and the warm brioche perfect for mopping it all up. There was more of an Oriental influence in my main course of duck breast roasted with a Tamari glaze (a turbo-charge soy sauce) and served with a little tower of roasted yam and kimchi. The duck was beautifully cooked, and the rest of the flavours where hugely powerful - perhaps even a touch too powerful. The sweetness of the yams (roasted with sesame seeds) and the vinegary sourness of the kimchi (Korean pickled vegetables) were wonderful in their own right and with the duck, but the combination was pretty explosive. A rich anise-flavoured gravy was yet another component in a dish with perhaps just one ingredient too many. Still, this is bold, confident and original food and far too many places manage none of those. For dessert, toffee apple delice with green apple sorbet was very good, managing to simultaneously cleanse the palate and provide some sweet-toothed comfort. Wine-wise, Stravaigin prides itself on a list chosen by the staff from regular tastings and there are some very interesting things in the selection of around 80 bins. It is all well-chosen, with names like Domaine A and Jean Marc Brocard in the mix. I let our waiter recommend a bottle of Cline Cellars Zinfandel to match my duck and my companion's slow-braised pork which it did very nicely for £24.45. Stravaigin is a real survivor in Glasgow's often quite transient restaurant scene. There's a reason for that, and that reason is the adventurous and honest cooking, welcoming staff and relaxed, buzzy atmosphere. More power to them. (2014) Open daily for dinner (£80 for two). Lunch Thursday - Sunday. The upstairs bar serves food daily. The Ubiquitous Chip, 12 Ashton Lane, Glasgow. Phone: 0141 334 5007
"The Chip" is a venerable linchpin of the Glasgow fine dining scene. At the helm for 30 years, owner Ronnie Clydesdale may be the father of modern Scottish cuisine, but there is still plenty to like about this operation. The Chip offers a very attractive package of food, wine and atmosphere. The verdant conservatory courtyard is still my favourite of its many dining spaces, and a great place to enjoy their terrific value Sunday lunch. An appetising little cup of cullen skink (a creamy soup, laden with chunks of smoked fish) sets the tone for a Scottish-flavoured but eclectic menu. My starter - new season carrots braised with cardamom and wrapped in spinach, served on a creamy juniper sauce - was inventive and superbly executed. The loin of herbed free-range pork was served with crunchy wok-fried pak choi, and dessert was a comforting and calorific pavlova crammed with fresh Scottish raspberries. The Chip suffers from a bit of inconsistency, and not all of the eclectic partnerships work, but with its unique atmosphere, comprehensive wine list extensive collection of single malts, it deserves its following. (2014) £60 for lunch, £100 for dinner. Open 7 days.
This restauarnt is now Russo Italian. Full review to follow (2015)
Braidwood's, by Dalry, Ayrshire. Phone: 01294 833 544
A recent makeover has given one of my favourite British restaurants a glamorous new look, but Keith and Nicola Braidwood are doing exactly what they do best; serving up some of Scotland's greatest cooking in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Braidwoods gained a Michelin star in 2000, and were simultaneously the AA's "Best Restaurant in Scotland". Their informal restaurant is in a converted farm cottage which nestles in the lush Ayrshire country side. They use the best seasonal local produce and traditional techniques to create really superb food. A typical meal might include a brilliant lobster ravioli in a rich, herb infused, shellfish jus, a beautiful, palate-cleansing terrine of citrus fruits, melt-in-the-mouth roast loin of red deer on a bed of caramelised shallots and finally, a trio of raspberry desserts: three jewel-like little miniatures of perfection. The wine list has been evolving over recent years and is now one of Scotland's most interesting, including a very well chosen selection of half bottles and a selection of mature Bordeaux and Burgundy at reasonable mark-ups. There is always a very warm welcome and touches such as home made chocolates with coffee add even more to the experience. I'll declare an interest here as the Braidwoods and I present special food and wine dinners together, but make no mistake: this is a gem of a place that displays remarkably high and consistent quality. It has become the standard by which I measure all Scottish restaurants. (2014)
£60 for lunch, £100 for dinner. Open Tuesday dinner to Sunday lunch. Lochgreen Hotel, Monktonhill Road, Troon. Phone: 01292 313 343
The Lochgreen hotel's restaurant is something of a hidden gem, being part of a country house hotel near to the Ayrshire coast at Troon, that is an extremely popular wedding and function venue. Such a description would normally raise a big warning flag in my mind, as catering for large functions is often the death knell for seriously good food. But Lochgreen's bright and comfortable fine dining restaurant is tucked away from the wedding action, and is serving excellent 3 AA rosette food, with a very good wine list, overlooking the hotel's beautifully maintained gardens. The lunch is an absolute bargain at £22.95 at time of writing for three courses plus coffee and petit fours. Little nibbles of crisply-breadcrumbed haggis balls and parmesan biscuits with a goat's cheese dip were served, and a couple of glasses of house Champagne slipped down a treat at only £6.50 per glass. A little amuse of a cube of cauliflower panacotta on a rich red onion marmalade was delicious too. For my first course I had roast quail, wrapped in bacon and served with braised cabbage. It was juicy and delicious, the delicate flavour of the de-boned quail melding with the salty and smoky bite of the ham. For my main course, a pithivier of lamb was lovely: an elegantly thin case of buttery puff pastry encasing a rich, dense, mound of shredded and lightly spicy lamb shoulder, served with a delicious hot salad of thin slices of new season asparagus, curly kale and broad beans. For dessert, an Early Grey sorbet packed a lot of flavour, served with a little scoop of a lemony verbena ice-cream. We drank glasses of Rioja at £6.50 for a 175ml measure and a bottle of sparkling water, and as we sat on one of the plump sofas in the lounge for coffee, macaroons and blackcurrant fruit jellies we considered the bill for £75 all in to be a stand-out bargain. (2012) McCallum's Oyster Bar, Troon, Ayrshire. Phone: 01292 319339
Another extremely fine seafood restaurant, this one spectacularly sited right on the working harbour of this West Coast town. Gulls wheel over-head and a charming back-drop is formed by the fishing boats that to-and-fro constantly. The restaurant itself is a converted pumping station, with a vast, vaulted ceiling. Bare stone walls are almost entirely taken up with a collection of yacht-building and Americas Cup memorabilia. The menu is seasonal, reflecting the best of the current catch. Choices are restricted to 4 or 5 per course, very heavily biased towards fish and seafood. I had a plump, soft, ravioli of lobster, bound with salmon mousse, and served in a seafood sauce. For my main course I opted for char-grilled tuna on a bed of noodles with a sauce nero (cuttle-fish ink sauce). The tuna was a little over-cooked (I like it pink) but it was tasty. My partner's pan-fried brill was pronounced excellent. A dish of market vegetables was included. Puddings and cheeses are pretty good too, though maybe not McCallum's real forte. The wine list is short, sound but not exciting. In all, a restaurant that is strong when it keeps things simple - and has a great situation. (2010)
£50 for lunch, £80 for dinner. Closed Sunday dinner and Monday.
Airds Hotel, Port Appin, Argyle. Phone: 01631 730236
The Allan family raised their small luxury hotel to international fame, and since they sold up, new owners Shaun and Jenny McKivragan have continued the good work with 3 AA rosettes for the restaurant and a Hotel Chef of the Year award for Paul Burns in the kitchen. Airds sits facing the ruggedly beautiful Loch Linnhe with views from its delightful gardens to a little lighthouse and the slate-blue Morven hills beyond. The picture-postcard setting and simple whitewashed exterior belie the luxury within. Public rooms are traditional with plump sofas, books, games, the tick of grandfather clocks and a multitude of cosy corners to take tea or sip an after-dinner malt. Rooms were already extremely comfortable (this is a Relais & Châteaux property) but there has been a substanial programme of upgrading to bring 21st century chic, with limestoned 'spa' bathrooms, falt-screen TVs, wi-fi, et al. The restaurant is excellent, with an innate understanding of balance and classical techniques, married to definite flavours and emphasis on the finest Scottish ingredients. My starter of seared breast of squab pigeon in a pastry shell, doused in wild mushrooms and with a lobe of seared foie-gras on top, was typical of two dinners studded with highlights. Baked halibut with a crab crust, came with a pungent but never over-powering herb mash. Desserts included a beautiful pistachio and chocolate soufflé, served with a jug of chocolate sauce to pour into the freshly cracked crust. Coffee and petit-fours are taken back in the cosseting tranquility of one of the lounges. Airds is a very grown-up sort of place, and whilst the welcome could not be warmer or more charming, it has a hushed atmosphere that some might describe as rather formal. I'd disagree: formality is often a state of mind, and a weekend break at Airds is one of the most relaxing and restorative ways I can think of to blow the bank balance. Room, dinner and (brilliant) breakfast for two starts around £260 per night off-season, £300 and up from Easter to September. (2010)
Isle of Eriska Hotel, Benderloch, Argyll. Phone 01631 720 371
Whilst the dinner service in this country house hotel may be formal, there is a relaxed atmosphere whether seated in the chic, contemporary surroundings of the dining room or large conservatory extension. For non-residents, prior reservations are required. Clearly there is a chef here who keeps abreast of culinary innovation, and the kitchen garden supplies herbs and vegetables, whilst local sourcing is taken seriously. Over the course of my two dinners this kitchen rarely put a foot - or even a toe - wrong. Dinner is a table d'hote affair, with three choices at each course. Highlights for me included a brilliant and quite simple dish of grilled fillet of Sea Bass on a cassoulet of mussels, roasted peppers and young leeks. The fish was crisp-skinned, juicy and moist, the mussels plump and full of flavour and the little stew of vegetables deeply flavoured and cooked perfectly. Roasted fillet of aged Scotch beef came with a shallot jam, a brilliantly simple dish of salsify cooked in red wine and rather up-market Yorkshire pudding. Eriska's cheese trolley is quite rightly famed, and is one of the best selections (and served in the best condition) that I have seen in Scotland. Around 40 British and French cheeses make up the selection, which can be sampled pre- or post-dessert. Puddings themselves were very good indeed, my favourite probably being a silky ginger and lemongrass panacotta, set against the contrasting texture and flavour of a little walnut cake and honey syrup. A word for the wine list too: holder of the AA notable wine list award, there is a very good choice with whites and reds starting at just £14, Champagnes at £33.50. At the serious end of the list there is value to be found, where wine lovers have been given a relative break on margins, and wines like the 1998 Ch√Ęteau Batailley (£69), 1988 Ch√Ęteau Canon (£80) or 2005 Cheval des Andes (£73.50) all represent fair prices. (2013).
Dinner £50 per person. Open every day, dinner only. Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Argyle. Phone: 01499 600217
This venerable seafood venue is now a national chain, but this is where it all started. Expanded over the years, this is a large, airy and comfortable restaurant and a retail shop. As well as the oysters (which are truly delicious) a whole range of seafood and fish are the specialities, with their own smoke-house producing wonderful smoked salmon, trout, kippers, etc. The restaurant can be very busy at weekends and holiday periods, and only a limited number of reservations are accepted. My personal favourite dish is the "Bradon Rost" - a plump piece of salmon fillet, roasted in a oak-fired kiln making it tender and flaky inside, smoky and blackened outside. Prices are a bit steep, the wine list is uninspiring, and the non-fish dishes are nothing to write home about. But it's well worth trying for the seafood (and delicious brown bread and butter). (2011)
£65 lunch or dinner. Open 7 days a week lunch and dinner
Highlands & Islands
The first three reviews below are for restaurants in Stornoway, the main town and port of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides. It's fair to say that whilst Lewis and Harris are the most stunning places
to visit, the reasons for doing so don't generally revolve around high-end dining or fine wine. Two of the restaurants below are within hotels, only Digby Chick being a stand-alone restaurant with ambitions nodding towards
'fine dining'. Wines appeared to all come from the same wholesale supplier as far as I could see, even down to near identical house wine choices in all three establishments. Many small hotels and
guest houses scattered around the island will serve good quality local food and seafood, and I can recommend the coffee and cakes in two café/galleries on Harris: Hebrides Art near the beach at Seilebost and
Hebscape at Ardhasaig.
Digby Chick, 5 Bank Street, Stornoway. Phone: 01851 700026
I meant to ask the origin of this restaurant's unusual name, but in my enjoyment of a terrific meal served by a charming young waitress from the island I completely forgot. Digby Chick probably qualifies as an excellent neighbourhood bistro rather than destination restaurant, but I have to say it really put the two hotel dining options to shame with the quality of its cooking. There are à la carte, table d'hôte and steak menus to choose from, with mixing and matching encouraged. I started with arguably the highlight dish of my four days on the island: lemon and garlic-roasted monkfish with a chorizo guacamole and spicy carrot pickle. The fish was melt in the mouth soft, glistening with a good olive oil and surrounded by little mounds of the tangy pickle and guacamole, as well as a soft and nutty chick pea and cumin purée. The balance and elegance was exemplary, with flavour packed into every mouthful, but never overpowering the fish. My main course fillet steak was of lovely quality and cooked perfectly too, accompanied by goose fat chips, crunchy-fresh onion rings and an obviously home made pepper sauce. To finish, you'd need to have a sweet tooth for the dessert of the day (which I certainly do have), but it was a just heavenly: a toffee and honeycomb pavlova that was textbook creamy, crunchy, toffeed and sweet. With coffees and three glasses of wine, the bill came to £89 before tip - a very good price for food of this quality on the island. (2015) The Boatshed, Royal Hotel, Cromwell St, Stornoway. Phone: 01851 702109
The Boatshed is one of two options within the shore-front Royal hotel, the other being the more casual HS1 serving burgers and simple dishes. Done out with a fairly kitsch mariners theme - fishing nets draped from walls, lots of marine memorabilia - its a cosy rather than formal room, but the menu set alarm bells ringing almost immediately - my eye was drawn to a main course chargrilled monkfish, then I noticed that not only was it wrapped in bacon, but it was served with scallops, smoked mussels, an arborio rice risotto flavoured with lime butter and capers, boiled potatoes and mixed vegetables. What an unholy alliance of ingredients, and certainly enough to put me off. I started instead with tempura of vegetables with a kikkoman dipping sauce. The batter was a touch less crisp than it should have been, the sauce a little vinegary, though the veg were tasty, especially slices of cauliflower. For my main course I choose Borders roe deer, which came with bowls of buttery potatoes and mixed veg - beans, carrots and baby corn - a pillow of puff pastry and a celeriac mash. The whole dish was a bit underwhelming in execution, and at that point we decided to cut our losses and skip dessert. A bill of £65 including two large glasses of house wine was OK, but paid with little enthusiasm for a return visit. (2015). Solas, Cabarfeidh Hotel, Perceval Rd, Stornoway. Phone: 01851 702604
Another night, another hotel restaurant, but this experience much better and in a very contrasting style. The restaurant is within a bright and modern extension of the town's only 4 star hotel, and is airy and contemporary, especially if you request a table in the conservatory. The menu was simpler than The Boatshed and whilst looking a bit like standard hotel fare, much more promising. My starter of a goat's cheese and leak ravioli was good. It was arguably a touch gloopy, coming in a rich and slightly sweet creamy pumpkin sauce, but the pasta was well cooked and the filling tasty, and I really enjoyed its wholeome flavours. For mains the only fish choice didn't appeal, and somehow I found myself ordering venison again - this time a pan fried loin, more succulent and better cooked (medium rare) than at the Boatshed version, and despite coming on a perfectly suited and ample bed of mash with sweet and spicy red cabbage, once more ubiquitous bowls of potatoes and veg appeared. For pudding I ordered a passion fruit cheesecake. What arrived could well have been bought in I suspect, but it was good, not too big and not too heavy, and a fine way to finish the meal. Coffees came with little shortbread rounds and the bill, including two large glasses of house wine, came to a reasonable £88 before tip. (2015) Summer Isles Hotel, Achiltibuie, near Ullapool. Phone: 01854 622282
Note that as of 2013 Chef Chris Firth-Bernard has left the Summer Isles Hotel. This review dates from 2011. The Summer Isles kitchen has a Michelin star, and is presided over by chef Chris Firth-Bernard. Scallops, lobster, langoustines or crab from the cold offshore waters feature nightly, along with venison and lamb from the hillsides and big brown eggs from the Irvine's hens. Delicious breads come straight from the oven, and the 400-strong wine list runs the gamut from £15 southern French and Chilean quaffs, to trophy wines like P√©trus, Roman√©e-Conti and Screaming Eagle. Though there's a certain formality about the dining room, this is a place to wear walking boots and wind-cheating clothes by day, and dress up a bit for dinner after a long soak in your over-sized bath. There's also a busy bar at the side of the hotel, where you can rub shoulders with locals and sample the Skye Brewery's excellent cask ales. The set, no-choice dinner is not cheap at £47, but offers good value for five course, coffee and service. One starter I particularly enjoyed on my two-night stay was a fine fish soup, creamy and light, touched with saffron, and studded with chunks of locally netted salmon, turbot and lobster. Though a haunch of Roe Deer venison was dark and delicious, it was a scintillating poached lobster that stole the main course show. This was an object lesson in simplicity, with copious, impossibly fresh meat presented with minimum intervention. Puddings and cheeses are brought round on trolleys, followed by coffee served in the lounge. By 10:30 we had the place to ourselves: all those hearty hill-walking guests had retired early. (2011)
Closed November - March. Rooms from £130 per night, bed and breakfast
This handsome private country house dates from 1719. Robert Burns was once a frequent house guest and recited poetry from the staircase to fellow guests in the oak-panelled lounge. A hotel since the 1950's, this is an absolute retreat from the stresses of modern life. It is a very grown-up hotel, with a rather mature clientelle by and large where the emphasis is on relaxation. There is a croquet lawn and tennis court (both teaming with red squirrels, rabbits and grouse rather than people on my visits) and cosy lounges stuffed with books and games. Rooms are fantastically comfortable and huge, and filled with light from large bay windows that afford stunning views of the Galloway countryside. The evening menu and wine list is placed in your room each afternoon, so you can do a little forward planning. The food is good. Little appetisers and amuse-bouche are included, then recently, a boned quail stuffed with foie-gras on a bed of garlic creamed potato, followed by an excellent fillet steak with thick-cut chips and sautéed vegetables. A fine pear tart with cinnamon ice-cream led on to petit-fours taken in the lounge with coffee. The wine list is good, though I've watched some well-priced gems like Leoville-Poyferré 1961 or d'Yquem 1979 disapper over the years! It may be too middle-aged and qiuet for some, but attention to detail and superb management still makes Kirroughtree special. (2012) Dinner, bed and breakfast from £100 - £140 per person, per night.
Local boy Tony Pierce took over the helm in the kitchen in 1994 and has held his Michelin star ever since. A large kitchen garden produces much of the restaurant's herbs and vegetables, and local produce features prominently. Knockinaam offer only a set menu (though dietary requirements can be catered for) and above all else this is precise and very refined cooking with portions that are satisfying without ever being heavy - essential if you are going to dine here on three or four consecutive nights. Flavours are distinctive yet subtle. logo Really, the kitchen did not put a foot wrong over our two nights. Highlights included a perfect little roast fillet of line-caught sea bass with a potato crust and beurre noisette. The delicacy of the fish was matched by the delicacy of the crust, just adding a faint textural crunch and extra element of buttery flavour. Little soups are served between starter and main, my favourite being a frothy "cappuccino" of pea, pear and mint, where the sweet fleshy bite of little cubes of pear added an unexpected dimension. Local ingredients took centre stage for the main course on both nights, and cannon of Galloway lamb with a shallot puree was wonderful, but then I loved the playful accompaniments to the paupiettes of roast free-range chicken and seasonal green asparagus; a garlic mousse and little garlic beignets. We shared the excellent cheese plate on both evenings before pud: hot passionfruit souffl√© with its own sorbet was outstanding, but then a warm and gooey chocolate souffl√© pudding with sour cherry ice cream would win many fans too. The lovely thing about staying for a couple of nights in such a place is that the entire wine list opens up for you too: even if you don't feel like a whole bottle of red to finish that cheese or bottle of dessert wine to accompany dessert, the restaurant will happily hold on to what you do not drink for tomorrow. And the list here is good, with 450 bins running from house wines at £22, to many vintages of top growths. Prices will delight those looking to splash out towards the top of the list: 1978 Ch√Ęteau Lafite at £495 is retail price, whilst less mainstream choices show a keen wine interest. We enjoyed the Pintas Character from the Douro for £57 amongst others. Fantastic. (2011)
Dinner is £58 per person. Trigony House, Closeburn. Phone 01848 331211
The Moore family took over this handsome sandstone Scottish house in autumn 1999 and set about a revolution in the kitchen. Whether dining in the snug bar or low-key but more formal dining room, you will be treated to food that falls squarely into the "comfort" bracket. Adam Moore is passionate about food and about organic methods. He has tracked down local contacts with a vengeance to source the best natural produce, like black-face sheep and Tamworth pigs, often working with other artisans in the area to realise his ambitions. The Moore's are also showing their commitment by replanting the charming old walled garden just to the side of the hotel. They aim to be largely self-sufficient in organic herbs and vegetables. Food is substantial and good for the soul, like braised shank of lamb, the meat falling from the bone and served with three perfectly cooked pink noisettes of lamb. Having spent time working in Spain, Adam brings unexpected Mediterranean influences to many dishes, but still based in peasant cuisine. As a real bonus, there's a very nice little wine list, strong on southern France and Spain, and offered at a standard low mark-up. Only an hour or so from Glasgow, Edinburgh or the North of England, this is a fine place for a weekend break (2008). £75 for dinner for two in the restaurant, moderate room prices.
La Parmigiana, 447 Great Western Rd, Glasgow. Phone 0141 334 0686
La Vallée Blanche, 360 Byres Road, Glasgow G12 8AW Phone: 0141 334 3333
Kirroughtree House, near Newton Stewart. Phone: 01671 402141
La Vallée Blanche, 360 Byres Road, Glasgow G12 8AW Phone: 0141 334 3333
Kirroughtree House, near Newton Stewart. Phone: 01671 402141