I didn’t think I would ever reach the age when I fancied a drive in the country on a Sunday. This is something my grandparents do and I rib them for it regularly. But, alas, that time has come and as Mr Kerry and I wanted a nice cosy lunch somewhere with our wee one, we picked a restaurant that took us on to the stunning Perthshire back roads.
Ballathie House Hotel needs to be destination in its own right as it’s rather out of the way. After 40 minutes of enjoying the scenery, the new stupid non-word “hangry” was starting to make a lot more sense.
However, as we swept up the long driveway to this hotel and estate, and headed through the heavy front door, it was clear we were entering a special part of Scotland’s history.
The front desk staff handed us to the restaurant staff who led us through a very traditional lounge with an open fire and into the dining room. First impressions count for a lot when it comes to dining out as this is when the mood is set. I must admit that when I first turned the corner into the dining room, my heart sank. The tables had been meticulously dressed with heavy dark cloths with crisp white linen over the top, the waiter who led us was formally dressed and our lovely round table by the window looked very odd with a high chair in place of one of the comfortable armed dining chairs.
The dining room is beautiful and very traditional in style. There are intricate birds and flowers expertly painted directly on to the walls in between the ornate cornicing and panelling, and the large draped picture windows draw the eye to the River Tay sauntering past outside.
I find that when there is no music in a dining room, patrons tend to talk more quietly as there is no background noise to muffle their conversation. This makes for a very still and slightly stifled atmosphere and in this case made me even more nervous about the high chair situation.
I hadn’t looked at the menu when I booked and I had visions of prawn cocktail served in a wine glass followed by steak Diane. I was wrong. Very wrong. The service we received from the moment we arrived was highly efficient but so relaxed and incredibly cheery. Our bubbly waiter made such an effort to make pals with our daughter and include her in our dining experience. She warmed to him instantly and there were waves and high-fives throughout our lunch. He really was a credit to the hotel.
The Sunday lunch menu had a choice of four dishes for each course and no 80s classics in sight – but a nice selection nonetheless. Mr Kerry had salmon tartare to start and I had goats cheese. The presentation was immaculate. The bright white plates lit up with splashes of intricate bursts of colour. Mr Kerry’s bright gleaming salmon surrounded a potato salad packed full of creamy, vinegary, mustardy flavours and the addition of the cucumber relish topped off a light delight. My goats cheese had been whipped and was accompanied by fresh figs, teeny cubes of compressed apple, candied nuts and a spiced granola crisp. Each delicate element had been prepared and placed with care.
Mr Kerry had slow roasted lamb as his main course and given a choice between that and the roast beef, I think it was the idea of the roasted baby onions that swung it for him. The delicate vegetables and light mashed potatoes obviously went well with the tender meat but it was the jus that really made it with its deep savoury flavours.
I chose puy lentil Wellington that would have been a tad on the dry side if it hadn’t been for the spiced butternut squash velouté which was creamy and velvety and decadent. The pleasingly al denté vegetables dotted around the plate had been shaped and trimmed and placed to form a really attractive dish.
We were so happy with our lunch and, as we’re trying to be a little bit good at the moment, we may have decided to skip dessert at this point if it hadn’t been a set three-course menu but oh my goodness, am I glad we didn’t. The starters and main courses were great but the desserts were simply heavenly.
Mr Kerry’s creme brûlée was not served in a ramekin but standing proud on its own. There was sous vide rhubarb, sorbet, gel, and gingerbread all enhancing the creamy dream, and it was all prepared and presented with fabulous flair. My baked chocolate tart was divine. The pastry was buttery and crumbly, the filling custardy and rich and the accompanying marmalade ice cream so deliciously bitter it reminded me of my favourite tipple – Campari. It was served with a jug of sauce anglaise which Mr Kerry ended up pouring on to his spoon and lapping up. Uncouth and a terrible dining role-model for our daughter but a testament to the calibre of the puddings.
We had a really lovely lunch at the Ballathie House Hotel. It is steeped in so much history that next time we would love to cosy-in by the fire and learn a bit more about it and its wealth of interesting historical visitors. Although the setting seems traditional and formal at first, the service is just charming. We discovered a little slice of fine dining in the hotel and all at gastropub prices. Incredible value for real quality.
Price: Special Lunches – Weds – Sat £19.95 for 3 courses; Sunday lunch £27.95 for 3 courses
Info: Ballathie House Hotel
Address: Kinclaven, Stanely, Perthshire, Ph1 4QN
Tel: 01250 883268