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Summer Isles Restaurant
£30 - £49
Achiltibuie, Unknown, Highlands, IV26 2YG
Strung out dramatically on the far north-west coast of Scotland, this much-loved Highland institution could hardly be more romantically escapist. After four decades at the helm, the Irvine family
sold their beloved hotel in 2008, & the handover appears to have been seamless. Charm, warmth & comfort still abound. Chef Chris Firth-Bernard remains at the stoves, & he delivers
five-course evening meals as well as simpler dishes for the back bar. Dinner is a finely tuned operation that begins with drinks & canapes in the lounge, before guests process to the candlelit
dining room. An autumn feast brought a filo parcel of monkfish followed by a light cheese souffle, then Achiltibuie lobster in butter sauce. For dessert, choose from an old-style trolley laden with
hazelnut log, chocolate cheesecake, raspberry souffle & the like. A fine selection of cheeses comes next, with coffee & tablet (sugary Scottish sweet) in the lounge completing a full-blown evening.
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The Witchery by the Castle
£50 - £79
352 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2NF
Occupying a prime site deep in Edinburgh’s “touristville”, this gloriously gothic 16th-century building is renowned for its genuinely archaic and extravagantly baronial decor – a riot of elaborate tapestries, luxurious drapes, statues and cherubs, plus an enchanting Secret Garden reached via stone staircase. It’s a shoo-in for romance with a big dollop of heritage thrown in for good measure. The kitchen covers all bases, and it isn’t afraid of bullish Franco/Scottish flavours: dressed crab, haggis, steak tartare or Oban oysters on ice could precede roast turbot with parsley sauce, grilled fillet of Scotch beef or roast loin of Cairngorm venison with black quinoa, pumpkin, pickled pear and bitter chocolate oil. For afters, indulge in frozen berries with Amaretto sabayon or a deconstructed marjolaine. Prices are “steep”, although you can also soak up the Witchery experience by ordering from the two-course lunch and theatre menu. Sadly, the regime sometimes creaks under pressure, but all is forgiven once you start perusing the extraordinary wine list – a huge all-embracing tome stuffed with treasures from around the globe.
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Restaurant Andrew Fairlie
Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF
Gleneagles’ extravagantly expensive redevelopment continues apace, although there are no signs of upheaval at Andrew Fairlie’s “top-class” two-Michelin-starred restaurant nestled within the world-famous hospitality resort. Occupying “the most perfect setting” in a quiet corner of the complex, this is a calm, sophisticated space with enough formality to create a sense of occasion – think diffuse lighting, soft furnishings and lively paintings hung on textured brown/black walls. Fairlie’s precise and highly assured cooking is rooted in the classic European tradition and he’s a master of refinement: home-smoked Scottish lobster dressed with warm lime butter has been on the menu since the very early days, and other dishes also seem like old friends – the Highland lamb loin with slow-cooked shoulder, onion and red pepper, for example. Elsewhere, sophistication is the watchword (think wild mushroom and truffle ravioli with minted pea velouté or fillet of red mullet with saffron and fennel), while desserts such as lemon curd with citrus fruits and white chocolate are works of art. The “amazing” wine list may be as long as a school register, but the sommelier is eager to offer teasing suggestions.
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The Brasserie at Sir Christopher Wren
£30 - £49
Sir Christopher Wren Hotel & Spa, Thames Street, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1PX
This is upmarket territory and the prices reflect the historical backdrop (the ramparts of Windsor Castle) and location (overlooking the Thames). But for your money you might get venison and truffle pie, fried Norfolk duck egg, or chicken wrapped in pancetta and served in a port wine jus.
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Rabble Taphouse & Grill
£30 - £49
55A Frederick Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH2 1LH
An Edinburgh trailblazer when it opened back in the noughties, Rick’s comprises a small, chic boutique hotel with a stylish bar and restaurant. Other young contenders in the neighbourhood are
making their bid for the glamorous limelight these days, but this place still has a deserved reputation for decent cocktails and friendly staff. The restaurant itself offers an eclectic hotchpotch
of dishes, although simpler ideas tend to be the best bets – think smoked haddock fishcakes with lime and caper mayo, followed by a steak, burger or confit pork belly, with caramelised lemon tart
to finish. If you’re tempted to go off-piste, you might consider corn-fed chicken and chorizo terrine, Thai green curry or carrot and walnut ravioli with pea shoots and pickled walnuts. Fish,
cheese and charcuterie sharing boards are also a popular call.
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Road Hole Grill
£50 - £79
Old Course Hotel, St Andrews, Fife, St. Andrews, Central Scotland, KY16 9SP
The modern Scottish cooking is every bit as diverting as the view from this dinner-only restaurant overlooking the renowned Old & New courses, the golden sandy beach & the sea. Day-fresh,
hazel nut-crusted scallops delicately seared & moated by a celeriac puree enhanced with the sharp accompaniments of celery, apple & truffle salad & a truffle froth typifies the
kitchen’s style of updating classical combinations. At main course stage a dish of roasted loin of lamb is served with steamed mutton & caper pudding, root vegetable pave, carrot purée &
braised tongue – all with a minimum of fuss for a maximum of pleasure. Friendly service & the help of a globetrotting sommelier add to the enjoyment & the next-door bar promises a boozy end
to the evening – it’s the only one in the world to stock at least one malt whisky representative of every Scottish distillery, past or present. For a less expensive & less formal dining option,
the ground floor Sands restaurant is worth a look & it’s also open at lunch.
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Number One Restaurant
£50 - £79
Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH2 2EQ
Situated at the east end of Princes Street, the grand old Balmoral has been an Edinburgh icon for more than a century. It has various options for food and drink, but Number One remains its
Michelin-starred flagship, long supervised by executive chef Jeff Bland. The restaurant has its own entrance down some steps from street level, and it feels fairly timeless with gold banquettes and
original exhibits from the Royal College of Art on red lacquered walls – although the menu is modern French, with seasonal ingredients playing an important part. Scallops might be paired with
oxtail, carrot purée and Vadouvan olive oil, while dry-aged Orkney beef could appear with cavolo nero, mustard and barwheys cheese. To finish, a pairing of soft Crowdie and mandarin with carrot
cake and chocolate sorbet is in tune with the prevailing theme. Number One also shows its pedigree with a tasting menu and a mighty wine list.
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