The Lands of Loyal Hotel on the outskirts of Alyth has a fascinating history, dating back to its birth in the mid-19th Century as the home of a local aristocrat and military man, who saw action at the battle of Waterloo but came home to live out his days in style in the peace of his native Perthshire.
Later developments included the creation of a spectacular wood-panelled central hall, modelled on the luxurious main lounge of the famous steamship Mauretania.
Its story and reputation for hospitality in stunning baronial surroundings make it an in-demand wedding venue. And at Christmas, its dining rooms, decorated with glass baubles and tree branches festooned with tiny twinkling lights, make even an old Bah Humbugger like me feel positively merry.
But this beautiful place is worth a visit at any time of year.
If you like minimalist, this is not the place for you but if you would love to enjoy a taste of life in your own Victorian country house, you won’t go far wrong here.
In spring and summer, its lovely open setting looking out southwards over the Vale of Strathmore is food for the soul, to accompany the substantial fare on offer for the inner man or woman in one of the three separate period dining rooms.
A couple of G&Ts (around a fiver a throw) in the cosy little bar, followed by a glass of sauvignon blanc (£5.90) while seated in the amazing main hall studying the menu made a great start to our evening.
To start, the husband went traditional, opting for prawn cocktail (£7.50) but with a twist that took it away from the usual Marie Rose sauce.
Instead, it was served with lime and dill. The prawns were large, sweet and plentiful! and the dressing brought a new lease of life to an old favourite.
Agreeing as I do with one of my closest friends who reckons that any food can only taste better in pastry, I was not going to pass by the hot game pate en croute, served with a rich port and red berry sauce (£7.95). It was richer than Bill Gates but the fruity accompaniments meant it never cloyed. And the croute was flaky and crisp, with a melting inner coating no separately made, added-at-the-last-minute pastry lids here.
Himself had been looking forward for days to the Lands of Loyal lamb shank, a slow-cooked Perthshire version served with leek mash and seasonal vegetables (£18.95), and it lived up to expectations, falling off the bone into an intense sauce that did full justice to the meat without overpowering it.
The duck I chose (£18.95) was quite simply one of the best examples of this often tricky fowl that I have ever had. Pink, succulent, yet crispy-skinned, the meat complemented the juicy puy lentils, vegetables and an oozing square of dauphinoise potato beautifully.
Eating here on a previous occasion, we had found it necessary to take a walk down the drive between main course and pudding just to make room but this time, good sense prevailed and we shared a board of four Scottish and French cheeses complete with chutney, grapes, celery and oatcakes (£7.95).
I have to say, the pudding menu (including sticky toffee pudding and clootie dumpling) looked fantastic but even I was beginning to put up the “full” signs by then.
Our waitress cheerily agreed that house portions have often been described as “generous” and that’s putting it mildly.
You do not need to be on a diet to eat here but if you like good, honest, well-flavoured food with few pretensions, you’ve come to the right place.
This is assured but not tricksy cooking and could hardly be more appropriate for the setting in which it is offered.
Price: Starters from £6.95; mains from £15; desserts from £6.95.