The Mither Tap Restaurant, Pittodrie House (Macdonald Resort Hotel) #cravingstellarservice

“One of the most historic and romantic hotels in Scotland, with roaring fire places and sweeping spiral staircases, Macdonald Pittodrie House is set in 2,400 acres of glorious grounds.”

36345301_10156629336508578_2266013986476523520_n.jpg

I love historic houses with roaring fireplaces, floor to ceiling windows, wood panelled rooms with dark green or burgundy paint used in the theme of the Victorian era, effectively used to create a cosy mood. Unique and interesting pieces of furniture, oil paintings and trinkets adorning the shelves and fireplace used to complete the scheme; with woodwork, cornices and ceilings also painted. I grew up in a house that was over 150 years old, with no rooms in the simple shape of a square, coal fires and little nooks and crannies for us to hide as children when playing hide and seek. So I find myself feeling both nostalgic and extremely at home when I’m sitting in an old leather chair looking out open bay windows enjoying some coffee. Unfortunately however, this wasn’t the emotions I was feeling when I was sitting in the drawing room of Pittodrie House for the first time. But it was the room where my emotions were swiftly swung around quite quickly by excellent customer service.

36339980_10156629336168578_7773920801811595264_n.jpg

My friend and I had booked Pittodrie House via an Itison voucher for DBB @ £139 (which is now sold out), and booked it for the day after I returned from my holiday in Italy (Sat 16th – Sun 17th June). We travelled up from Glasgow and arrived around 3pm to check in. I’d had some issues during the booking of this voucher, as although it states a Feature Room they had twice sent me confirmation of a classic room only. This was resolved over a few phones calls, but I had printed off the confirmation stating a Feature Room to take with us. Call me contrary… but when I need to deal with something as simple as confirming what is stated on the voucher deal, it doesn’t fill me with confidence when arriving – but I remained optimistic!

36345292_10156629934323578_5530382701317586944_n

We arrived, checked in, confirmed it was a Feature Room (yes) and headed up the stairs. There was a wedding on whilst we were there, which was nice to see, as I’m at the stage of considering various venues for my own wedding. Entering our room, my first feeling was of being underwhelmed; from the photos online of four poster beds, couches, dining tables and ornate furniture we were slightly confused with ‘The Night Nursery’ and its proclamation of being a Feature Room. The order of their rooms is: Classic, Executive, Feature and Suite. Now one thing I’ve learned from my many, many travels across Scotland with work is that there is an easy way to check what category your room falls into – check if what you have in your room matches the amenities they state for that room type on their website, e.g.:

1

pittdorie trip advisor vs. pittodrie-featurefourposter-gallery.jpg

Please Note: the photos above are not my own; they were taken from Trip Advisor (pictured: Night Nursery room) and the Macdonald Hotels website (advertised ‘Feature Room’) respectively.

So upon finding we didn’t even have the soft bathrobe and slippers (which apparently comes into play at Executive room level) and no sign of the sofa, table and chairs, Arran Aromatics, Fruit Bowl etc., I was quite disappointed that even with numerous conversations prior to arriving I would need to discuss the room anomaly further. Leaving our stuff in the room, we went back down to Reception to discuss the matter, and were transferred over to Becca to deal with. She advised she would need to discuss it with someone else and asked us to wait in the Drawing Room and she would organise some tea and coffee for us whilst we waited (first bonus point here – well done). Cue the scene of sitting in a room that I would ordinarily be feeling comfy, slightly awed and generally happy to the actual feelings of trepidation, anticipation and irritation with the current state we found ourselves in. At the risk of sounding cheesy however, this is where our Knightess in Shining Armour arrived to salvage our feelings and subsequently the whole trip.

36278601_10156629336423578_2845505319243612160_n

After waiting for about 15 minutes, Kelly the Operations Manager introduced herself and although she stated that The Night Nursery is a Feature Room (apparently due to the fire place), she could understand how our expectations weren’t met and that we hadn’t received the items that it clearly stated should be present within a Feature Room. Firstly, she stated she would waive the £50 charge that we should have been paying extra for staying on a Saturday night. She offered us some sandwiches or a snack, but we declined as we had just eaten an hour or so previously at The Creel Inn. Thereafter, she arranged for Housekeeping to ensure all items were in our room that is promised, and she also included a bottle of prosecco and 2 x Lush bath bombs. She also offered to move us to the nearby Norwood Hall Hotel at no charge to ensure we had an upgraded room, but we declined in favour of staying at Pittodrie as the general hotel was lovely and we felt that in theme of the current conversation, we’d be well looked after and we both wanted to leave having had a good experience. The voucher only included 2 x courses at dinner, but she allowed us 3 x courses at no extra charge and also provided us with 2 x glasses each of champagne to accompany it (I’ll provide a run through of our dinner soon – as it was the final push needed to lift our spirits back to feeling excitement and enjoyment).

36378346_10156629934288578_3470151704777850880_n

Once our room was ready, we left The Drawing Room feeling like Kelly genuinely cared and was personally invested in ensuring we enjoyed the rest of our stay. I won’t provide you too much detail (‘cause I think you’re already realising that short and snappy ain’t my strong point in blog writing, which is the total antithesis of real life LOL) on the next few hours, except it included hot baths with Lush bath bombs, fluffy bathrobes and prosecco enjoyed in the room!

36353417_10156629336228578_6864951940673961984_n

We had dinner booked for 8.30pm, as we’d had quite a generous lunch … gotta give your appetite time to work itself up again so you can do a decent meal justice! The Mither Tap Restaurant at Pittodrie House is a 2 AA rosette, and the setting is quite intimate as it’s in another of their lovely wood panelled and decorative front rooms. I was particularly fond of the large mirror on the wall, but we’re here to talk about food, not my love of period ornate furniture.

36378395_10156629336533578_951119202029142016_n

Our order compromised the following:

Starters

36485312_10156629336068578_814628804969365504_n

Scottish smoked salmon, served with heritage beetroot, capers, caper berries and a quail’s egg

36384645_10156629335753578_5615342304098254848_n

Ham Hock Terrine

The salmon, as is the case with the majority of Scottish salmon, was tender and delicious even whilst being quite thickly cut in comparison to what is usual. It was of such good quality though that I was extremely happy for the thicker slices – meant I had more to eat! The capers and caper berries provided an edge of saltiness, and the only suggestion I would have is to pickle the beetroot and serve a couple more of the thin slices to add another level of flavour contrast, or some apple slice/cubes etc. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the egg was cooked perfectly!

Levi enjoyed her terrine as well, and specifically mentioned she loves the salty notes coming through as it’s a total novelty for her as she generally eats the same as her kids and thus doesn’t cook anything with salt anymore. The addition of cherry added a sharp sweetness that cut through the saltiness in a perfect balance on the palate.

Mains

36385997_10156629335908578_5464768516001366016_n

Roast lamb, fondant potato, roast onion and garlic cloves, buttered savoy cabbage, sweetcorn puree and rich gravy

The lamb was pink, thus cooked exactly the way I like it, and smothered in the richest tasting gravy I’ve had for a looong while, so well done on the thorugh execution of that! The creamy sweetcorn puree and buttered cabbage provided difference in texture and added to the decadence, with the roast onion and garlic giving a strong punch of favour considering they were small additions – perfect! Roast garlic cloves have to be a favourite of mine; I’d never last as a Vampire with my serious love for copious amounts of garlic on everything and anything.

Desserts

36402040_10156629335738578_1850185131302584320_n

Strawberry Bavarois with meringue, sesame tuile, fresh strawberry and strawberry daiquiri sorbet

36345303_10156629336103578_1364973854010638336_n

Tonka Bean Crème Brûlée with shortbread, fresh passion fruit and passion fruit sorbet

Considering I decided to forego cheese for a set dessert – unheard of – I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the strawberry bavarois (translating to a dessert consisting of milk thickened with eggs, containing gelatin and whipped cream). It was very moreish and I somehow managed to eat it all, even after the first two courses and copious amount of champagne … what a champion! I’ll let Levi tell you about how much she enjoyed her dessert in her section at the end.

36461269_10156629934303578_2460850766928150528_n

We then sat in the small, intimate bar area enjoying the last of our champagne before bed. Kelly came through to say goodbye to us before heading off home, and checking one final time that we were happy with everything. Thank you so much for turning our whole experience of the overnight stay around – it’s all as a result of your excellent approach and customer service (and the amazing food!) that we had such a good time, regardless of the room situation.

36386200_10156629951968578_5110442368440467456_n

We enjoyed the breakfast the next day; we decided to eat in the room with the huge skylight as it provided a lot of natural light to enjoy your morning meal. The sausages, beans, mushroom and bacon were tasty, but I did find the beans got cold quite quickly, potentially due to it only being a couple of the small burners underneath the trays to keep them warm and it was a deep dish. I also had to ask for some poached eggs, as after I’d been seated they pointed us towards the buffet but it only had fried eggs on offer. Unsure if this was only one that one occasion, as there was a wedding in so the waiting staff seemed to be under some pressure to manage the sheer number of people, but otherwise I would have liked it if they had explained that if we wanted anything else then we were free to ask/request e.g. for poached or boiled eggs/omelette etc.

There are numerous activities that can be arranged for your stay – including golf, clay pigeon shooting, pony trekking etc. I’m a big fan of clay pigeon shooting personally, so I love when hotels accommodate group activities to suit all parties. The walled garden was quite overgrown unfortunately, which is a shame as it would have been a nice area for photos during a wedding. It’s clear that the driveway has recently been updated and tended to, so it would be nice to see the garden kept up to the same standard.

Overall, Kelly’s personable attitude and excellent customer service, in addition to the wonderful chefs carefully crafted creations at dinner, are truly what won over Pittodrie House for Levi and I. We left extremely happy and I personally felt really glad that my friend’s experience and well-deserved night away turned out so well!

Until next time,

Signature

Levi’s Viewpoint:

“I had a fabulous night away with Lauren. When we first arrived at Pittodrie House we were initially slightly disappointed with the room. We were expecting a much larger room, with a feature bed, bathrobes and a fruit bowl! Although we didn’t move rooms, we were reassured it was in fact a feature room (although a small one). The duty manager, Kelly, could not have been more accommodating. We were given complimentary tea/coffee, prosecco, champagne, a third course for dinner and Lush bath bombs for the room. She also ensured that the bathrobes and fruit bowl were in our room. This effort is what made our stay so special and led Lauren to consider this as a wedding venue.

The dinner itself was a pleasant surprise. It truly was fine dining.  The presentation was immaculate and there was not anything I could fault. I am so pleased we had the complimentary dessert as I got to taste the tonka bean brulee. It is now my new favourite flavour! I have now discovered that you can buy many tonka bean associated flavours online.  It tasted so good it led me to a frantic Google search when I returned home.  The only way I can describe it is that it tastes homely.  After dinner we found the bar in a lovely little cosy room with a real fire, which was the perfectt way to end the night with a few drinks.

Before we left the next morning we went to explore the grounds.  We found the walled garden, which (if given a little TLC) would be lovely. With Bennachie in the background the setting was beautifully atmospheric. All in all we had a very enjoyable stay.  Kelly made every effort to make sure we left as happy guests, which we did.

I would definitely consider visiting Pittodrie House again.”

The Strathearn, Gleneagles Hotel #cravingperfection

“Representing Scotland at its best – its heritage, history and beauty – The Strathearn experience is like going to the theatre and being entertained. One of the last bastions of first-class Highland dining, The Strathearn’s traditional walnut gueridon trolleys, silver cloches and butler trays deliver the touch of a bygone era, while a setting of elegant grandeur reflects the essence of Gleneagles glamour.”

Overall Rating: 10/10

31743634_10156489184198578_6121728208246145024_n

I’ve got a confession – I adore Gleneagles. This makes it extremely easy for me to write a review or blog post on anything related to it, as it’s almost like reliving the great experience all over again, whilst trying to articulate the excellence of the experience in words that do it justice. I’ve posted the Trip Advisor review I wrote from my stay at Gleneagles for Jonathan’s birthday treat in April HERE, which focuses more on the hotel itself. I’m going to use this opportunity to discuss my experience of The Strathearn restaurant, as that’s where I decided to dine on my recent visit. The opportunity to stay this time around came as a joyous perk of having a mother who loves Gleneagles as much as I do; she was there to celebrate her friend’s 60th birthday with a table booking in Andrew Fairlie’s. I was tempted to try room service for the first time, but after reviewing the available menu items, I decided to venture out on the iconic allure of the cheese trolley.

31738764_10156489184143578_3216249765272485888_n

I wandered round from Braid House around 7.45pm and I was pleased to be seated in the conservatory area, beside the window, by the hostess Francesca. My table provided lovely lighting for a few photos as it was still light outside; and meant I had a view of the lawns out to the side of the hotel. The sommelier Elena-Diana offered me the drinks menu, which I declined as I do prefer to spend my calories on food rather than alcohol… depressing, but true. I also wasn’t feeling all that hungry, so I decided I would order 2 x starters followed by (duhhh) the cheese trolley, because, well… cheese. I always have room for cheese; it’s my chocolate dessert belly equivalent (i.e. people who say they can be full to the brim, but mention a chocolate dessert and suddenly they have room for it). Gleneagles offers 3 x courses for £65 in The Strathearn restaurant, but if you aren’t feeling up to 3 courses, you can choose from the same menu as if it were A La Carte.

31749466_10156489184388578_4354673212634693632_n

I knew I would be ordering the beetroot and goats cheese starter, as it had lingered on my taste buds since my visit in April. So my only real choice came down to whether I wanted Scottish Langoustine Bisque or Wild Mushroom and Fennel soup. I hadn’t noticed the soup on the menu the month previously and although not directly responsible for the food menu at all, I need to thank Elena-Diana for her recommendation to try the wild mushroom soup. Our logic was neither of us had tried it, but both loved mushroom and I’d had the langoustine bisque numerous times before. I’m extremely glad I took her advice, as the depth of flavour in my bowl was staggering. I didn’t get a particularly aesthetic photograph, which is maybe my failing as an experienced blogger but I’m blaming it on greed and anticipation; I didn’t relish pausing the waitress whilst she poured the warm soup over a nicely constructed pile of fennel and mushrooms in my bowl. It all tastes the same when it’s in your mouth anyway, so I didn’t feel so bad about not catching the little vegetable mountain in all its glory before it was swallowed up by fungus-decadence. So my personal thanks to Elena-Diana, and also the chefs for this wonderful new and delightful addition to the menu!

31870844_10156489184408578_5115562978774614016_n

31841451_10156489184468578_3682768412884336640_n

Following my soup, I had the Heritage beetroot, goat’s cheese and baby leek salad with truffle honey and toasted seeds. I enjoyed it so much when I tried it on my last visit in April, I HAD to get it again. As I said to Elizabeth who was one of the waitresses attending to my table, I genuinely thought it was even better than last time (if that’s possible!). The earthy smell of the fresh beetroot is what assails your senses when the plate is placed in front of you, followed by the vibrant colours against the stark white of the dinner plate. The pickled radish provides a sharp contrast to the rich sweetness of the truffle honey and fresh beetroot. I thoroughly appreciated every mouthful of that salad; taking my time with it and revelling in how such few ingredients can be prepared and treated with such care and attention to gift diners with so many zeniths of sensory delight from one ‘simple’ dish. Another small touch, which really sets Gleneagles apart, was Elizabeth remembering me when I mentioned to her she had served me the month before. She even remembered what Jonathan, my fiance, had ordered! She must have an excellent memory, but it truly elicits the experience and feeling of exemplary service.

31772988_10156489184723578_4538670328854872064_n

To close, I had a final course, which I had been leading up to with fervour and anticipation… the cheese trolley. Cheese is included in the 3 x courses for £65 menu at no extra charge, but you can allow them to bring you a selection or you can ask for the trolley to pick yourself. Being a bit of a control freak in certain aspects (Jonathan would say many!) I prefer to pick my own. I also think having the opportunity to see the cheeses and ask questions about them are part of the experience; one which Christina helped grandly with. I’m a big fan of soft, strong cheeses and goat’s cheese (unless that wasn’t already obvious with how much I raved about the beetroot and goat’s cheese salad). So apologies in advance if you’re a hard cheese or blue fan, ‘cause I’ll be disappointing you miserably with my recommendations here! I chose 6 x cheeses from the trolley:

31841423_10156489184908578_1712493844206977024_n

You can see from above I’m clearly a French cheese fan, oui oui!

My favourite of the evening was the St Maure (11 o’clock position), but I cleared the plate so they were all delicious! Only disappointing element of the evening for me was that they didn’t have any of the charcoal crackers I like, which they usually do have available. I’m not an oatcakes with cheese lover so I asked for some more of the pumpkin seed bread rolls, which was no issue at all. This was also accompanied with truffle honey (again, I know… but it’ so yummy!), quince and chutney.

Whilst enjoying my cheese, I became acutely aware of the piano playing Clair Du Lune followed by Tale as Old as Time in the background and I just stopped for a moment to appreciate my surroundings and the ambiance created within The Strathearn. I left feeling well looked after, content and happy, and I really couldn’t have asked for much more than that having eaten alone. Thank you!

____________________________________________________________________________

Francesca greeted my Mum and I warmly again the next morning for breakfast and seated us at the same table I’d had the night before. Sunshine illuminated the room and the conservatory was heating up quite quickly due to the greenhouse effect. Thankfully there were a set of doors behind us that were opened up, providing some cool air and a welcome breeze. I won’t delve too much into the breakfast on this review (I’ve shared some photos on my Instagram), but let me know if you want to know more about it on another post!

31841913_10156489185183578_8464070510966210560_n

Service: 10/10

Food: 10/10

Ambiance: 10/10

Value: 8/10

Instagram: @laurenscravings