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Fonab Castle’s Sandemans Restaurant: Seven wonders served up for top-class dining

How many times can you say ‘wow’ during an evening meal? More than a few, discovers Courier Food & Drink Magazine editor Brian Stormont and his wife Karen.

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When offered the opportunity to sample the seven-course tasting menu at Fonab Castle, I was certainly intrigued.

I absolutely love a tasting menu. The opportunity to sample a number of dishes expertly prepared by a top chef has never been a let-down for me.

But I certainly wasn’t prepared for the incredible gastronomic journey I was about to embark on during a recent visit to the luxury hotel nestled in the Perthshire countryside, with spectacular views over Faskally Loch.

Tasting menus are always interesting, particularly those with paired wines that my wife, Karen, and I sampled at Fonab Castle’s Sandemans Restaurant.

The stunning Fonab Castle.
The stunning Fonab Castle. Image: The Dovetail Agency.

One of the first things you notice about Fonab Castle is the customer’s experience is 100% top of the list.

As soon as we walked into the hotel, the friendly concierge gave us a fantastic welcome and offered us a brief tour of the premises and its grounds. We gladly took the gentleman up on the offer and we had our bearings in no time.

Ready to enjoy a real foodie experience, of main interest to my wife Karen and me was the location of the restaurant and the 1892 on the Loch bar.

The bar area is large with incredibly comfy soft furnishings – it truly was a joy to enjoy a refreshing gin and tonic before heading downstairs to the 3 AA Rosette Sandemans for the main event.

Sandemans Restaurant at Fonab

After being shown to our table in the intimate dining space, which features attractive orange and green decor and discreet lighting, we settled down with some water as we were brought the amuse bouche to begin the evening.

The cornet of spiced baba ghanoush and crab tartlet with lime gel, pickled apple and dill emulsion were a luxurious introduction to the evening’s delights.

Crab tartlet lime gel pickled apple, dill emulsion at Fonab.
Crab tartlet lime gel pickled apple, dill emulsion.

The emphasis at Sandemans is all about taking your time as a gourmet dining experience is delivered before your very eyes. Karen and I genuinely felt we had been transported to a world of leisure and luxury.

Molasses sourdough was next to arrive, with our knowledgeable server, Sophie, giving us the tip of keeping some bread in reserve to help with mopping up some of the divine sauces our dishes would be dressed in as the evening continued.

The seven-course tasting experience began with lobster tortellone, sweet carrot puree and lobster foam. The pasta, as you would expect, having been prepared by a chef who hails from Naples, was light and delicious, encasing the sweet lobster. We later discovered it was the chef’s mother’s recipe.

Lobster totellone, sweet carrot puree and lobster foam. Inage: Brian Stormont.

The carrot puree was a moreish accompaniment, topped off by the light and fluffy lobster foam.

It was accompanied by a Les Prunelles Chardonnay which was a delightful pairing with its fresh citrus and apple notes cutting through the sweetness of the dish.

Tomato farcies (stuffed tomato) followed as the second course – and this was a real surprise. The care and skill that had been required to hollow out the lovely sweet tomato was obvious and to be admired, this was a craftsman at work.

Tomato farcies, avocado mousse, burrata cheese and pickled cucumber. Image: Brian Stormont.

I found myself asking what was going on in my mouth as the avocado mousse, burrata cheese and pickled cucumber played a symphony for my senses. This was simple, yet hugely indulgent fare – a real crowdpleaser.

Maximin Riesling was the wine pairing for the farcies. I hadn’t tasted a Riesling in years but this hit the spot with fruity notes and a crispy finish a match made in heaven.

I absolutely love my Scottish seafood and I was excited to see that an Orkney scallop was our next delight. This was a scallop but not as I had ever tasted before. The creamy, perfectly cooked scallop was covered in a cauliflower couscous, pecan and macadamia crust, the sweet buerre blanc was the perfect contrast to this, while the kaffir lime oil cut through a gloriously constructed course.

Orkney scallop, pecan and macadamia crust, and cauliflower couscous at Sandemans Restaurant in Fonab Castle.
Orkney scallop, pecan and macadamia crust, and cauliflower couscous. Image: Brian Stormont.

A Pouilly Fume 2021 accompanied the scallop course, with its zesty fruitiness and lovely dry finish complementing the dish.

Meaty monkish

We were now halfway through our evening of fusion and fascination, with the next course a curried rub monkfish with trotter terrine and curry foam.

The monkfish was meaty as you would expect, with a lovely light curry sauce carefully prepared not to overpower the dish. Nestled on a toasted brioche which was deliciously crunchy and a trotter terrine that was a little gem of richness, while some Japanese mayo set the dish alight.

Curried monkfish, trotter terrine and curry foam. Image: Brian Stormont.

A Mesta Garnacha 2022, a light red wine, accompanied the monkfish. The notes of cherry and raspberry sang and it paired very well indeed with the richness of the dish.

The main event was to be the fillet of beef, which Karen and I both agreed was a work of art – both in presentation and flavour.

The fillet of beef, black truffle and chanterelles. Image: Brian Stormont.

The fillet was simply incredible, my knife slicing through it with ease. The delicious slivers of beef melted in my mouth as I savoured each morsel. There was a hint of smokiness to the dish which was lifted by black truffle, chanterelles foraged from around the castle and a delicious jus.

The beef was perfect in every way.

A Piattelli Trinita, an Argentinian red blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, married perfectly with the fillet – its richness and fruitiness adding an even more luxurious element to the course.

A divine conclusion

One of two desserts to conclude the evening was then served – Cathy Rodgers cannelloni. This course was a nod to a local farmer whose yoghurt is used to make the light mousse that is part of a sweet surprise.

Apricot sorbet and an apricot rosemary compote accompanied the cannelloni of the mousse, contained in a gel shell which proudly sat on some thin pastry.

Cathy Rodgers cannelloni at Sandemans Restaurant.
Cathy Rodgers cannelloni. Image: Brian Stormont.

This was a next-level dessert and the Royal Tokaij 2017 dessert wine, with its almost liqueur-like consistency, sweetness and slight fresh acidity, just enhanced the experience.

An evening of luxury came to an end with the Valrhona Manjari chocolate. Made with 64% chocolate, cutting into the rich dessert revealed a griottines cherry centre, while it nestled on a crunchy crumbed biscuit base. It was heaven on a plate and, while exceedingly rich, there was a warmness and satisfaction felt as I savoured every morsel.

The final dish of the seven course meal at Sandemans Restaurant: Valrhona manjari chocolate.
Valrhona manjari chocolate. Image: Brian Stormont.

A Sandemans 10 Year Old Tawny Port was our last drink pairing of the evening. Sandemans is recognised by many as one of the best ports available and its sweetness proved a delicate foil to the richness of the chocolate.

The verdict

It is fair to say that Karen and I were blown away by our experience at Sandemans Restaurant.

The executive chef, Rikki Preston, is a chef clearly at the top of his game, having carved out a menu that expresses his love for what he is creating.

The menu is a homage to all that is good about Scottish produce. It is great ingredients served simply, yet creatively, with a nod to other cuisines.

And let’s not forget the service – it is such a huge part of the evening.

Everyone is just so lovely and can’t do enough for you. However, what really stands out is their knowledge. Any question directed to our server, Sophie, or sommelier, Jamie, was immediately answered articulately and confidently.

Sumptuous Scottish treat

Brian’s wife, Karen, gives her opinion of their Fonab Castle treat:

Fonab Castle, with its incredible views over Faskally Loch, can only mean one thing – a sumptuous Scottish treat.

Being greeted at the door by a knowledgeable concierge with a very warm welcome settles you in nicely for what you already know is going to be an evening of luxury.

While we were there to sample the food, I must enthuse about Fonab Castle and its surroundings. They are an absolute joy, with the location and vistas on offer among some of the best our fabulous country can offer.

The stylish and ambient Sandemans Restaurant at Fonab Castle.
The stylish and ambient Sandemans Restaurant at Fonab Castle. Image: The Dovetail Agency.

Whatever you want to do it is catered for here. Lovely Pitlochry is only a short walk, while you could swim in the hotel pool or simply relax in the hot tub.

Or maybe you fancy a massage, a facial or treat yourself to something from the Ishga range.

The entire experience is aimed at helping you take away the stresses and strains.

A sense of ease, relaxation and calm settles into your soul as you gaze out over Faskally either from your room, balcony or the 1892 on the Loch bar.

My visit to Fonab was so much more than I expected.


  • Sandemans Restaurant is at Fonab Castle, Foss Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5ND
  • 01796 470410

Price: Seven-course tasting menu is £95 per person; paired wines £75.