Nov 4 2011 by Alison Lowson, Perthshire Advertiser Friday
TO celebrate our first wedding anniversary, my Other Half bought me a Maglite. Yes, a bloody torch! I kid you not!
In his defence, I owned an old Mini at the time which was always breaking down on dark, country roads.
“But darling,” he declared. “I was only thinking of you.
“You’ll be able to see properly when you’re changing a tyre. And you can bop weirdos over the head with it if you don’t like the look of them.
“I’ll bop YOU over the head with it,” I thought, before patiently explaining why all future anniversary presents should come courtesy of Tiffany NOT Halfords.
But sitting in the stylish guest lounge of the Ardeonaig Hotel 20 years later (opening a tiny, baby-blue box by candle-light), I’m happy to report he’s taken my original instructions to heart.
Previously owned by South African-born Pete Gottgens, the Ardeonaig has been in the capable hands of the Adamo Hotel Group since September.
And boasting 25 elegant en suite bedrooms, a contemporary restaurant, five individual thatched Shieling lodges and two cottage suites, this fabulously romantic 16th century former coaching inn on the banks of Loch Tay is an ideal spot to celebrate a special occasion.
Although Pete Gottgens’ original vision for Ardeonaig still shines through in the luxe, safari-chic style of the hotel and restaurant, the new owners have been quick to stamp their personality on what they hope will become the Adamo Group’s flagship property.
Impeccable service and fine dining are the watchwords. No surprise when you consider the new team is headed up by James Payne (Skye’s Three Chimneys, Kinnaird Country Estate), while the kitchen is the domain of head chef Ross Miller (The Champany Inn, Martin Wishart, La Gavroche).
Ardeonaig’s residents’ lounge (all peat fires and squashy cream sofas) is a lovely spot to sip an aperitif while scrutinising the small but beautifully formed menu.
Our dining experience started with four amuse bouche, the highlight (for me) being an itsy, bitsy pistachio green macaron filled with a dab of apple cream sauce, and (for him) a melt-in-your mouth cheese gougère.
Starters were equally impressive. Although tempted by the Boquhan Estate steak tartare, the lure of the Scottish salmon proved too strong. Served hay-smoked in a Japanese-style beetroot glaze and beautifully garnished with cucumber, lemon and clams, it was a mouthful of the sea. Other Half reported that his squab pigeon with boudin noir, apple and cabbage was also a showstopper.
Good job the dinner service was plain white porcelain, otherwise OH would have rubbed the pattern off by mopping up the sauce with Ross’s freshly-baked bread rolls.
A small bowl of intensely-flavoured, caramelised onion soup was then served to further stimulate the appetite before the main courses appeared.
OH chose the highland venison. Accompanied with celeriac and pomme anna, the loin was rare and flavoursome, while the shredded meat from the haunch melted in the mouth. My Dornoch lamb was served in a similar loin and haunch format, complimented by black olive and sage flavours. Both were perfectly cooked, exquisitely presented, and made the very best of Scotland’s larder.
Amazingly we both still had room for pudding. OH reported that his carmelia (a sort of chocolate fondant mousse served with bramble and banana) was a triumph, while my pistachio souffle with pineapple and pink praline demonstrated why Ross Miller is a culinary genius.
Sipping our coffee and cognacs and nibbling home-made petit fours in the bar sometime later we both agreed that this ranked as one of our top ten means of all time.
And after 20 years of married life, it’s good to agree on something!