Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Bank Restaurant, Adamo Hotel, Stirling
Stirling has been described as the "brooch that pins the Highlands and Lowlands together." The Ochil Hills, the southernmost boundary of the Highlands, are just to the north of the city, even though it lies in the valley of the river Forth. Stirling is strongly associated with William Wallace who won a famous battle over the English invaders at Stirling Bridge in 1297. An impressive memorial to Wallace stands to the north, on Abbey Craig, where Wallace had camped before the battle. The Adamo Hotel restaurant has a large, imposing painting of the Ochils covering one of its walls.
The Adamo Hotel is located just up from Craigs Roundabout, a major road junction on the A9 main road through the city. The imposing building was at one time a regional head office of the Bank of Scotland, built in the days when banks tried to impress their customers with marble columns and spacious banking halls. There is a small car park to the rear of the building and a small open-air seating area there also. The conversion to a hotel and restaurant has retained the elegance of its former role, both inside and out. The 4-star luxury Adamo Hotel currently has seven double bedrooms with king-sized beds and is part of a small boutique group of up-market hotels with executive toys such as plasma screen TVs and Wi-Fi internet connections. There is another Adamo Hotel in Bridge of Allan only a few miles to the north and another hotel is planned for Stirling. "Adamo" is Latin for "to fall in love with" or "find pleasure in."
The restaurant has retained the original internal marble columns and the decor is full of plush, dark wood and subdued, coloured lighting. The Stirling building was bought from its previous owners for £2 million in October 2008 by local businessman Euan Snowie. Despite their brief existence, the Adamo Hotels have quickly established a reputation for fine food - my dinner companion, a former banking colleague, lives in Bridge of Allan and had heard of the high standards which had been set by executive head chef David Maskell, who has worked at such high class venues as One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow and Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond.
It was a nice touch to have the multi-page menu in a folder which had echoes of a cheque book. The format is loose-leaf however, as the menu is changed on a frequent basis. As you would expect, ingredients are sourced locally or from Scotland, wherever possible to ensure that they are as fresh as possible.
There is an impressively long selection of starters on the menu ranging from Bruschetta (toasted homemade bread with plum tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil) and Baby Caesar Salad (baby Gem lettuce with grilled chicken breast, anchovies, parmesan and focaccia crouton) to Scottish Scallops and Stornoway Black Pudding and Petite Steak Pie with Scottish beef, onion and thyme wrapped in short crust pastry, with a red wine jus. It's a while since I've had traditional Black Pudding (the Scottish version is usually made with oatmeal, barley and suet as well as pig's blood) and I also thought it would make an interesting picture for the review! It proved to be even more photogenic than I thought as it came wrapped in flaky pastry, accompanied by delicious mango chutney. The herbs and spices in the black pudding still shone through the pastry as well.
My dinner companion had an easy choice as he had a liking for meat balls. I always think of these being a Swedish dish but Ian had recently been on holiday in Sweden and had been disappointed to find a lack of them on the restaurant menus there. The Adamo version was made from minced pork and beef infused with rosemary and parmesan, with a rich tomato and basil sauce. Since I like parmesan cheese, I noted approvingly that instead of just sprinkling a small amount of shaved parmesan, the waitress left the dish for Ian to help himself to a liberal quantity. He pronounced the meat balls as "delicious" - and that from an expert!
There is of course a wide selection of main course items on the Adamo menu. For fans of Italian food, there's a pasta section with penne, spaghetti, lasagne and risotto and pizza (Chorizo and Stornoway Black Pudding looked an interesting option), while the Bank Grill offered an Adamo Burger (with Isle of Mull cheddar), 10 ounce sirloin of Scottish beef and mixed grill which the menu suggested was a "feast for one or you could share." But the "Wallace Chicken" caught my eye, stuffed with haggis and wrapped in Ayrshire bacon. That bacon was excellent, really succulent and tasty and so I was delighted when I found that there was second slice there! The chicken was mainly tender and succulent though a little was dry at the edges. But the bed of Arran mustard mash, with a flavoursome whisky cream sauce soon made up for that.
My dinner companion was keen on lamb and so opted for Rack of Lamb, accompanied by Stornoway black pudding, a barley broth and mashed (creamed) potato. Personally I don't often go for lamb as there is often not much meat in such dishes. But as you can see from the graphic, this was a substantial helping of tender lamb, cooked exactly as ordered. Unlike my starter, his slice of black pudding was without any pastry covering and provided a tasty accompaniment to the lamb.
Regular readers of these reviews will know that so as to provide a complete picture of what is on offer, I force myself to have a dessert, even if fully replete with the first two courses.. The selection of items on the "Finish" page of the Adamo menu made that an easy decision, especially when the attentive waitress described that day's freshly made cheesecake as having white and dark chocolate with orange. That looked and tasted as good as it sounded! The strongly flavoured chocolate sauce was a delight and it needed all that cheesecake to mop it all up. Ian went for the Lemon Meringue Pie which had sweet short crust pastry with lemon custard topped with glazed Italian Meringue - with a dash of strawberries on the side.
Starters: £3.95 to £7.95 (scallops and black pudding). Mains: Pasta £9.25 to £13.95. Pizza £9.95 to £10.95. Specials £12.95 to £14.95 (Seafood platter £19.95 - enough for two). Grill £10.55 to £26 (Mixed Grill). Desserts £4.95 to £6.25.
At lunchtime there is an Express Menu, with starters such as bruschetta, butternut squash and spinach risotto cakes, that black pudding and goat's cheese tart, crispy calamari or lamb kofta and main courses such as stone baked pizza, seafood and chorizo risotto, Adamo Scotch beef burger, char grilled chicken breast and pan seared salmon (with cabbage, bacon, sauté potatoes and a creamy Arran mustard sauce). Desserts are similar to those in the evening dinner menu. The lunch menu costs £8.95 for two courses or £12.50 for three. There is also a "Temptations" section on the lunchtime menu which includes beer battered haddock with chips and peas, seared Asian tuna, rack of lamb and seared scallop salad. Prices for these range from around £9 to £15.
The Adamo hotel is at 78 Upper Craigs, Stirling FK8 2DT, just up from Craigs Roundabout on the A9 - see Map Location - (zoom to enlarge the scale). The hotel has a Web Site for further information, including current menus, or to make a table or room reservation. Their telephone number is +44(0)1786 430890.
Even if they don't know that Adamo is the Latin for "find pleasure in", the customers at the Bank Restaurant in the Adamo Hotel are sure to find pleasure in a visit there. This up-market establishment is providing a high standard of tasty food in pleasant, relaxed surroundings and the Adamo formula has already attracted favourable comment in the area, both in Stirling and Bridge of Allan.
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