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Cromlix Hotel, Lochside BBQ review

As summer is in full swing, Rosalind Erskine tries out a new offering from this luxury country house hotel.

Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
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You think I’d get used to it, having lived without a garden now for about eight years, but every summer on the (all too often rare) sunny days, the smell of a BBQ slowly wafting up the street will always fill me with jealousy (and more often than not result in a prolonged look on Zoopla).

After a dismal spring, we’re very much now back into BBQ weather, and sitting on a window seat with an oven cooked burger just won’t cut it.

Luckily for me, Cromlix Hotel near Dunblane has recently introduced a Lochside BBQ offering to its dining options.

The five star hotel is already home to a Chez Roux restaurant which offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner in its plush dining room. But this relaxed option is ideal for a family or friends group on a summer’s day.

On arrival we were warmly greeted before swapping white trainers for wellies (the path was a bit muddy after rainfall the night before).

The BBQ area is situated a five minute walk from the hotel, in a lovely secluded spot. Before we even reached the location, we could see and smell the distinct clouds of BBQ smoke, wafting delicious scents of coals and cooking food. On arrival, we were met by head chef Darin Campbell, who was busy cooking our order.

The table was set, and a stocked cool bucket was filled with drinks - wine, prosecco and water, all by a charming fishing hut.

The BBQ menu has a range of meat options, from wagyu burgers to Scotch minute steak and sausages (you pick three of these each), fish, such as mackerel fillets with lime and chilli, and whole sea bream with fennel (guest pick two of these), as well as sides, salads and vegetables.

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These include a giant couscous salad and vine tomato and roscoff onion salad, and corn on the cob or garlic Portobello mushrooms.

As with the hotel, the BBQ is dog-friendly and our pooch had his own bed, treats, water bowl and towel all set up next to the table.

After a welcome glass of prosecco to toast the afternoon (and the end of a stressful week of politics and work), the Spanish style covered dishes on the table were revealed to contain a creamy coleslaw, dill speckled baby potato salad and flower-topped garden salad.

Before long we were presented with a plate chock full of the most luxuriously BBQ food you can imagine.

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We were each served a homemade Cumberland sausage spiral, mini beef burger with tomato, lettuce and mini pickle, two langoustines, two pieces of succulent chicken that had been marinated in ponzu dressing, a fillet of seabream en papillote - fish steamed in ponzu sauce with yellow courgette, onions and fennel bulb and tighten wrapped in a balloon-like foil container. On the side, in a small bowl, was a hot vegetable dish of grilled radicchio, halloumi, onions, tomatoes and courgette.

The langoustines, served in their shells, were fresh and deliciously sweet, their plump pink flesh a welcome addition to the seasonal salad. Plus is there anything nicer (or more luxurious) on a hot summer’s day then fresh grilled langoustines and chilled white wine?

After peeling back the foil, the delicate fish was revealed floating in a light, unctuous broth punctuated with small pieces of yellow courgette. This was by far the stand out dish thanks to its fresh, elegant flavour but also because it showed the quality of ingredients and chef-man-ship that can be brought to a BBQ.

It’s definitely not something that I’ve ever experienced at family gatherings, where you’re more likely to be served a slightly cremated sausage and burger combo.

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The sausage here too was spectacular, the seemingly never-ending wheel was packed full of flavour at each bite (and yes, there was the obligatory tomato ketchup for traditionalists).

The two succulent pieces of chicken had just the right amount of sweetness due to the marinated and complemented the garden salad, with its sprinkling of fennel, dill and fresh as a daisy tomatoes and leaves. While the burger, eaten in a couple of bites, was a little bit dry but we put that down to the size.

White Sauvignon Blanc or red Malbec wine was free flowing throughout, as well as water and soft drinks for those driving and before long it was time for dessert. Two slate platters were held picture perfect lemon cupcakes topped with half a macaron and strawberry and raspberry tarts.

Despite being extremely full, these small bites were a lovely sweet treat to end the meal. The crisp pastry tarts filled with jelly-like creme patisserie and adorned with fresh, sweet strawberries or tart raspberries. While the soft cupcakes were shot through with a zesty lemon cream. It’s easy to see why these have become a signature bake at the hotel.

Tea and coffee are served in the hotel, after a slow meander back to reality through the gardens.

The Lochside BBQ is an ideal way to spend a relaxing afternoon with friends or family in the sunshine (the staff were very flexible with us in moving our booking to a day with better weather) and the quiet and peaceful location just adds to the tranquil, holiday-like feeling.

While the location is stunning, it’s the addition of good food and drink that make an event, and the range and quality, including local produce, was excellent. So, the next time I get the familiar scent of a far off BBQ, it’ll now just remind me that we can return to Cromlix, which let’s face it, is a less-stressful idea than moving.

The private dining BBQ is £125 per guest, including drink package (minimum party size of 8, maximum 14)

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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