Review: Fonab Castle

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently stayed overnight at Fonab Castle in Pitlochry. I’d spent ages trying to find a decent 2 night break for my husband’s birthday at the end of Feb but I kept finding niggles with everywhere. I kept coming back to Fonab & decided to book their winter special DBB deal.

castle

The castle itself is tucked away just off the A9 at Pitlochry. Although the hotel is a castle, it has a modern block build onto to which does slightly detract from the novelty of staying in a castle. Inside the hotel, the decor is very modern with splashes of Scottish thrown in with thistles on the wallpaper & stags heads for coat hooks on the doors.

decor

The reception staff were very informative, giving us the low down on where all facilities were in the hotel & taking our reservation for dinner. The hotel has 2 restaurants – a bistro & a more formal dining experience with tasting menus. As part of our deal, we had dinner included in the bistro & being the foodie I am, I had perused the menu beforehand & already picked my dishes!

We had booked a room in the castle (ticking another thing off my bucketlist!) & our room was situated on the third floor. Unfortunately our room overlooked the carpark which didn’t provide much entertainment as you’d expect! The room itself was gorgeous. It had a large oversized king bed, feature wall, nespresso machine, smart tv & ipod dock! What more could you ask for?! Oh yeah, a bath! That was the one disappointing element about the room – the bathroom only had a large shower. Although, the shower head was the largest I had ever seen – it was wider than my head! The toiletries in the bathroom were Thierry Mugler (of Angel perfume fame) so that did make up for no bath slightly as well.

room

We ventured over to the newly built spa building across the carpark for an afternoon dip. We struck lucky & the pool was deserted! It was obvious that the hotel were finding their feet with the new pool as we had to leave the jacuzzi as the chlorine levels were too high. In the changing rooms, there were more small touches to add to the experience such as luxury toiletries & bathrobes to use.

pool

Since our trip coincided with my husband’s birthday, we brought some champagne along with us. On past trips, when we’ve asked for an ice bucket, hotels have wanted to charge £5+ just to bring the bucket to the room. We knew asking for one, we might face a similar charge given the high class of the hotel. When we asked for one to be sent up, the porter also asked what type of glasses we would like. That’s service you don’t get in a travelodge! And to make it better, we were not charged for it. I’ll admit that it took every ounce of restraint to not take the tray that the bucket & glasses were brought up on. I mean check it out – who could resist that?!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Before dinner, we went for a drink in the lounge which overlooks the Loch. The bar has a mix of chesterfield & oversized fabric sofas which made it feel quite homely. One wall of the lounge is covered in a mirrored bottle rack, with the second largest collection of wine I’ve ever seen, only rivalled by the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong.  The hotel prides itself on its gin collection & did not disappoint! It was the first place I have ever seen to stock Rock Rose gin which made me a happy bunny!

bar

Despite picking out my dishes, the menu we were presented with had some changes to the one I’d viewed online. For starters, we had smoked salmon & avocado on brioche & confit of duck. I was slightly disappointed with the salmon as I was expecting either slices or chunks of avocado on the dish. However, the avocado was more like a mousse which made me feel a bit short changed. The whole combo was delicious, along with the lime creme fraiche that accompanied the dish. Duck is not a meat I’m overly keen on but it would have been rude not to sample a bit of the confit. I was pleasantly surprised to taste a smokey & tender meat with no trace of fat. Duck may be another meat I’ve been converted to!

The main I’d had my heart set on, braised ox cheek, was not on the current menu. This left me with a dilemma of having chicken or taking a leap & trying venison. I’d tried venison a few years back but found it too gamey for my tastes. I decided to take the risk & I did not regret it! The venison was slightly pink, making it really tender. For me the taste was between lamb & steak with the sweet yet meaty taste. The dish was accompanied by braised cabbage & a bramble jus which just left me with a taste explosion with every mouthful. It was by far the best dish I’ve had in a long time.

dinner

The other main, spiced monkfish with sweet potato & lime & coriander puree, was also a hit. The dish contained the biggest monkfish tail I’ve ever seen! Considering the dish was priced at £19.95, it was a complete bargain for the quality & quantity of food on the plate.

When you stay at a hotel on a DBB deal, it’s usually stated how much allowance you have for dinner. At Fonab, there was no such information given to us which made us unsure if we could have a dessert or not. I’m finding myself being more drawn to desserts these days & the treacle tart on the menu, I couldn’t resist! We ordered that along with a dark chocolate fondant to finish our meal.

The treacle tart arrived & looked scrumptious. One bite into it & I remembered why I don’t order desserts. It was so disappointing. The tart was quite dry & didn’t have the wow factor I had expected. The dark chocolate fondant was a hit with my husband who devoured the gooey pudding.

breakfast

At breakfast the next morning, the hotel offered a 3 course feast. The offerings include your typical breakfast items such as a full breakfast, eggs benedict & kippers. I decided to branch out & try some of the more unfamiliar items. To start I had caramelised pink grapefruit which was followed by toast. My main breakfast item was steak & eggs. I swear I did not eat late afternoon after such a feast!

viewThe view at breakfast was a nice ending to our brief stay. The restaurant overlooks the Loch with a vista of the snowed covered hills in the background. A reminder of why it’s sometimes better to make the most of what’s on your doorstep 🙂

Get Stuffed Chronicles – Celebrations & Bad Bread

I initially started this series with the aim of it being a weekly feature on my blog. However, I’ll admit I’ve been struggling to find the time to ensure I get a decent post written each week! Honestly, I have around 6 blog posts I need to write & have been meaning to for almost 2 weeks now. Such a bad blogger but I’ll fully lay blame on my new role in work which is causing me to work longer hours! From now on, this will be a fortnightly round up rather than a blow by blow account of all the foodie things I’ve done & eaten! I’m also open to ideas on content that people would like to see. For example, if I remember, I’ll be including details of any new openings I’ve heard about.

Anyway back to business! It’s been a pretty busy past couple of weeks, both in & out of the kitchen. At the end of Feb, it was my husband’s birthday so we had a few days of celebrations as we both took some time off work. We headed up to Pitlochry, just north of Perth, to the luxurious Fonab Castle for an overnight stay. I won’t give away all the details about the castle as I’ve still got a review to write but let’s just say it was fabulous! The rooms were spacious & well furnished & the new spa building was lovely.

Being one of the highest rated hotels in the country, you would expect a great dining experience & we were not disappointed. I took the plunge & had venison for my main course which was a risk for me as I’d had it previously on a Hogmanay break a few years ago & did not like it at all. This time around, I savoured every bit of meat on the plate as it was delicious! I’m actually gutted as I feel like I’ve been missing out all this time! We even had a rare dessert with dinner as the choices were so good! And then there was breakfast the next day, with steak on the menu, I felt I couldn’t turn it down! Anyway, as I mentioned, not too many details here as I have a post coming (hopefully) this week.

fonab

The following evening we visited Opium in Glasgow for dinner. It’s a restaurant that’s been on my “must try” list for quite a while now, mainly due to their extensive list of dim sum on offer! We had a wonderful meal there & left with very full bellies! Another review that will be coming very soon.

opium

If you follow my blog, you will have seen that I received a foodie parcel from Spice Review with lots of wonderful spice mixes. From the mixes, I put together 2 really tasty dishes for dinner last week – Jamaican Jerk Chicken & Bombay Potatoes. Click on either link to receive the recipe for the dishes.

Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Rice

As the title suggests, I’ve been having some issues baking bread recently. Although I’m following recipes to the t, I’m finding that my loaves are coming out slightly underdone & smaller in size.  You might not see it but the loaf in the picture is actually still doughy in the middle.    I’m not 100% what’s happening but it is very frustrating. I’m laying full blame on the yeast as it’s a store brand type I’m using rather than Allinson’s yeast which I normally use. Ok, there’s clearly something else I’m not doing right, in terms of kneading enough or the oven not being pre-heated enough but for next time, I aim to have baked at least 2 decent loaves!

loaf

Baking has taken a bit of a back seat the past few weeks, in part due to me trying to lose weight (more on that another day). No point in baking treats if I can’t sample the goods! I do miss experimenting & have a cupboard full of baking goodies so it’s something I need to pick up again soon since I’m scared I’ll forget how to bake! I did make the gooeyist (is that even a word?!) salted caramel shortbread at my husband’s request for his birthday but didn’t take a picture as I wasn’t happy with how runny the caramel was.

I noticed last week that we hadn’t had a takeaway for dinner all February & figured that we should keep the moment going. That obviously doesn’t stop the odd notion for a takeaway so I took matters into my own hands on Saturday & created a fakeaway feast. I’ve made donner meat in the slow cooker several times (recipe soon) & it tastes just like the real deal but you know every ingredient that’s went into making it! I whipped up a batch on for dinner along with some kebab sauce, pitta bread, spiced onions, chicken tikka & bombay potatoes. It was indeed a feast & hit the spot perfectly! Who needs a takeaway?!

takeaywa

As promised, I’ll sign off with some new & recent openings I’ve been informed of recently:

  • Chimichanga, Silverburn Shopping Centre – I think this should be opening this weekend as I was invited to the soft launch this Thursday but unfortunately can’t make it
  • Bakery 47, Victoria Road, Glasgow – Bakery 47 have finally opened their long awaited bakery in the heart of the Southside. The opening hours vary day to day soI’d recommend checking their facebook page before venturing over
  • Meadow Road Coffee, Dumbarton Road, Glasgow – Meadow Road are the latest addition to the Partick coffee scene (and handily 2 minutes from my flat!). The opened their doors a few weeks ago & have recently started providing some tasty sounding sandwiches to go with the Dear Green Coffee & Bakery 47 cakes on offer.

Auchrannie Resort, Arran

Last weekend we visit the Auchrannie Resort on the Isle of Arran. Instead of getting each other a Christmas present, we decided to go away after Christmas & Auchrannie was somewhere I had always had my eye on. By chance, in late November a Groupon appeared so we decided to book a weekend away.

We were lucky with the weather as previous weekends had saw the ferry cancelled & diverted to Gourock. Luckily for us, the sailing was smooth & the crossing took a mere hour. The Auchrannie provide transport from the ferry port so there is no need to bring your car (which costs £55 on the ferry!!). We only had to wait a couple of minutes for the bus to arrive & our luggage was promptly put on board.

Now I don’t know about you but when I think of a house hotel, I imagine a vast house up a gravel path sitting in acres of its own land. This was not the case with Auchrannie which was up a path but it is surrounded by other houses which I found a bit unusual. The resort is made up of 3 sections: the house hotel which is adults only, the Spa Resort which is family friendly & then lodges which are available to rent & buy as timeshares. We were staying in the house hotel which was the first drop off for the bus. The staff were very friendly & provided a warm welcome.

We were shown to our room which was just up the stairs from the reception. On entering, the receptionist mentioned that she found the room a bit cold but it should heat up soon. The room was well decorated & actually a bit bigger than other hotel rooms we had stayed in. The phone suddenly rang & it was reception informing us that they felt the room was too cold so they were upgrading us to a suite for free! You hear of this happening to other people so it was a total shock for it to happen to us! Our suite was AMAZING! It had a bedroom & lounge as well as the biggest bathroom I’ve ever seen! We quickly settled in before heading off for a wander.

Bathroom

The house hotel has 2 restaurants: Brambles & eighteen69. It also contains a small bar in the main lounge, a 20 metre pool & small gym. In the Spa resort, which is a few minutes walk away, there is the Cruize bar & brasserie, a 20 metre pool, a kids play area, spa & gym area.

That night we decided to have dinner in the Cruize restaurant. Going for dinner around 6:30 it was quieter than we are used to but since it was low season, the whole resort was generally quieter than normal. The Cruize restaurant is aimed at a more laidback dining experience with a varied menu with a gastropub feel to it. We ordered salt & pepper prawns & an antipasto board to start followed by a cajun chicken pizza & burger with japalenos & Arran chilli cheese (when in Rome etc). The meal overall was delicious! The prawns came in a light but not quite tempura & the salt & pepper seasoning was subtle enough not to take away the taste of the prawns. The antipasto platter did not have as much meat as I would’ve have liked but it meant that it was light enough for me to enjoy my main. The ciabatta that accompanied it was lovely & fresh. Our mains also did not disappointed. The burger patty was moist & quite large. The jalapenos & chili cheese went with the standard tomato relish that accompanied it. The pizza was a delight. It was quite large & full of peppers, onions, cajun chicken & jalapenos. It was also drizzled with sour cream which I don’t normally like but it contrasted well with the spice.

Tempura PrawnsAntipasto

BurgerCajun Chicken Pizza

We followed dinner with some drinks in the bar area which has normal chairs & table as well as a den like area which has a tv if you wish to watch something whilst having some drinks. I sampled a few cocktails off the menu which were a tad pricey (most over £7) but they were well mixed & tasted lovely. My particular favourite was the Auchrannie bramble – their twist on the classic bramble which was so fresh & fruity.

White Russian

Our rate did not include breakfast so we had the choice of either the house hotel or spa resort. We opted to head over to Cruize as it was slightly cheaper than the house hotel breakfast. We were greeted with a standard hot breakfast buffet with a continental selection which had a good selection of fish & Arran cheeses. The breakfast was nice & there was nothing you can really complain about. Only thing I wasn’t too keen on were the links which had leek within them. I found that a bit weird.

I could document our day but I’d rather not bore you with the details! That evening we had booked into the Brambles restaurant. We arrived on time but had to wait 5-10 minutes as our table wasn’t ready. We ordered drinks & were given menus to peruse so the wait didn’t feel too long. We promptly ordered after being seated – prawns were on the menu again with tempura prawns & the “famous” fishcake for starters & fiery hot chicken & pepper kebabs & tomato & chorizo mussels to follow. The tempura prawns were lovely, accompanied by a tasty tomato & chilli jam. I ordered the fishcake which I was apprehensive about since I have childhood memories of dry, tasteless fishcakes. I had nothing to worry about with this! The fishcake was filled with smoked salmon & haddock & accompanied with a sunblushed tomato aioli. It was filled with fish which meant you didn’t really notice the potato within the fishcake. It was a bit on the large side for a starter so I did struggle to finish it. Our mains arrived & I have honestly never seen mussels so big in my life! They were massive! The tomato & chorizo sauce was so flavoursome which makes a change from other restaurants were the mussel sauce can be a bit bland. The kebabs were not as hot as had been advertised. They came with tortillas, sour cream, guacamole & salsa. The accompaniments were very fresh, the salsa being very tasty but the guacamole had too much lime in it making it slightly difficult to eat as it overpowered the other tastes.

Salt n Pepper PrawnsFishcake

MusselsMussels

Kebabs

That evening we decided to have drinks in the house hotel bar. The lounge area is decorated in a traditional Scottish style with a large fire. The bar itself is small but well stocked. I ordered a margarita later in the evening & although they didn’t have all of the ingredients there, the bartender went to get lime juice & I had my drink 10 minutes later. The staff were also quite chatty & willing to chat away with the residents sitting in the lounge.

We left the next morning but I could’ve stayed there another night or 2. Overall, we loved our stay at the Auchrannie, I mean who couldn’t with a room like that! But in all honesty, the facilities were fantastic & the restaurants were definitely worth the visit. We will more than likely return & actually make use of the pool & spa facilities next time!!