Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Uplawmoor Hotel, East Renfrewshire

The Location
Uplawmoor is six miles south of the Glasgow city boundary, on the border between East Renfrewshire and North Ayrshire. The area was originally named Caldwell after the castle and estate of that name owned by the More (or Mure) family from the 13th century. In the 19th century a hamlet known initially as "Ouplaymoor" grew up and by 1903 the little village was served by two competing railway lines! It was the railway companies that named the station - and hence the village - Uplawmoor. Nowadays, there are only around 600 residents - and no railways.

Uplawmoor is nestled in a valley through which the main A736 road runs south from Barrhead to Ayrshire. Caldwell Golf Club, established in 1903, is a well-known attraction in the area. It describes itself as "a parkland course (par 71) and is set in the quaint surrounds of the Renfrewshire countryside, and offers a most enjoyable test of golf."

The Hotel

There has been a coaching inn at Uplawmoor since 1759 - when it had just one room. The present substantial building has been extended and adapted and inside is a labyrinth of connected rooms which have been compared to the BBC TV sci-fi series "Dr Who" and its Tardis (which is so much larger inside than it looks from the outside).

The present owners are husband and wife team of Stuart and Emma Peacock, who have been there since 1992. Stuart is the third generation of a family that has been involved in the licensed trade and catering and Emma's creative skills have produced an ambitious and attractive menu. Recognising that they would have to bring in customers from well outside the village of Uplawmoor, they have enhanced the building and its reputation, raising it from a simple country inn to a high quality establishment with fine food, recognised by "Taste of Scotland" and with two AA rosettes. Despite all that modernisation, Uplawmoor Hotel has retained its character and reputation for warm, friendly service.

That high level of thoughtful service is perhaps epitomised by the decanter in the hallway beside the bedrooms, where guests can help themselves to a complimentary glass of sherry! Bedrooms have been recently refurbished to a high standard, with sparkling new en-suite facilities that would not be out of place in top-flight city hotel.

The 14 bedrooms are all individually decorated, with subdued, tasteful colours and flat-screen satellite television and wireless broadband. And of course there is a hearty Scottish breakfast available in the morning, which can include a bowl of porridge or black pudding. There is also a buffet selection, including fresh fruit, cereal and choice of fruit & herbal teas or freshly ground coffee.

While the hotel caters for tourists and passing travellers, the facilities are also well used by guests having a relaxing meal downstairs (including perhaps wine and a few "wee refreshments") and who then choose stay overnight.

The Restaurant and Cocktail Bar

The restaurant was originally an old beamed barn and today's tasteful décor, with its use of wood on the far wall (with its copper-canopied open fire) and roof beams, reflects its history. It has a warm, cosy atmosphere and is next door to the cocktail bar.

The restaurant is not open at lunchtime but operates from 6pm every evening and on Sundays at lunchtime. An Early Evening Menu also available Sun-Fri between 5.00pm and 7.00pm and must be pre-booked.

The à la carte and table d'hôte menus in the Uplawmoor Hotel restaurant are far more extensive and ambitious than you would normally expect from a country inn and are a main reason for those two AA rosettes. The table d'hôte offers such delights as sliced smoked salmon or pressed game terrine to start and main courses include oven roast duck breast (with fondant potato, red cabbage with juniper and kumquat jus) or fillet of black bream (with crushed potatoes, aubergine caviar and rocket salad). The à la carte menu includes roast loin of venison, seared fillet of salmon and a choice of peppered, Gaelic or garni steaks, made with prime beef. Meats are supplied by a W.P Tulloch, a butcher who sources beef and lamb from five local farms. As you would expect, only the freshest available ingredients are used and the menus change with the season as a result

Next door to the main restaurant and open for similar hours, the cocktail bar provides a perfect location to enjoy a drink before or after your meal (or both!) - whether it's sampling one of a wide range of malt whiskies or a soft drink.

There is an impressive copper canopied fire forming an interesting centrepiece to the cocktail Bar - just the place to gather round on a winter's evening. You are reminded of the closeness of Ayrshire by the inscription all around it with quotes from the Robert Burns famous work, Tam O`Shanter:

"Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
Wi' reamin swats that drank divinely"

""Reamin' swats" are frothy, newly brewed beers!

Even if you are not having a meal, the cocktail bar is a great place to relax and it has proved to be a popular venue for special family occasions, such as christenings, and as the reception area for weddings and celebration dinners.

The Lounge Bar

The lounge bar is the oldest part of the building and thankfully it has been allowed to remain as a classic family pub, with soft light, oak beams on the ceiling, seating that provides nooks and corners for a quiet drink and bench seating for large groups to gather round. Those fixed bench seats could cause a problem for larger parties having a meal, as the table can be a bit far from the seat. But for my lunch companion and myself that was easily solved by just sitting side by side and pulling the table over a bit!

The draught beer is provided by local breweries such as Kelburn Brewery in Barrhead and award winning Houston Brewery in Renfrewshire. As a result, Uplawmoor Hotel is recommended by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale).

The Lounge Bar is open seven days a week, from 12 noon to 9.30pm, offering not just good liquid refreshments but a first class and extensive food menu. It was specifically that which brought me to Uplawmoor - and I was not disappointed.

The Food
Don't be misled by the term "bar lunch". While some are one step removed from fast food restaurants, others are aiming to provide a high standard of made-to-order, good quality food, but at a reasonable price. Uplawmoor Hotel has gone even further, aiming to ensure that they exceed customer expectations - and do so with ease. For example, my lunch companion (my wife, on this occasion) opted for what looked like a simple starter - fan of melon. Her eyes opened wide when it arrived, looking like a work of art, accompanied by delicious soft fruit coulis and sorbet. You can see in the picture what it looked like - but you have to taste that fresh, soft fruit, just bursting with flavour. I have to admit that I tried a forkful from her plate - and confirmed her verdict.

My breaded mushrooms didn't look quite as sensational, but it was nevertheless well presented and the cream cheese and chive stuffing and garlic mayonnaise dip combined well with the good-size, fleshy mushrooms. And the thin breaded coating didn't overwhelm the mushrooms either. So as far as the starters were concerned, our expectations had indeed been exceeded!

I had anticipated that my "Uplawmoor chicken and leek pie" might be a wee bit special - and I was right! Instead of being in a pie dish, the chef had managed to get the base, leek and chicken and the pastry to balance on top of one another without any visible means of support. That pastry was as light and fluffy as it looks and it didn't take long before I was mopping up that creamy white wine sauce with those minted new potatoes. The roasted vegetables were not your usual carrots and peas, but a selection of roasted root vegetables, mange tout (snow pea in North America) and courgettes (zucchini). The plentiful chicken and leak was succulent and tasty with that white wine sauce. A most satisfying dish!

You would think it would be hard to present a three-egg omelette in an attractive fashion, but the chef at Uplawmoor Hotel managed that too. Obviously made in a large omelette pan, the light and thin omelette was then folded over three times, with a leaf of parsley on top, good chunky chips and a fresh herb salad to set it all off elegantly.

As I write this afterwards, I am looking over the extensive bar lunch menu and trying to decide what to have the next time I am Uplawmoor. Will it be the chef's chicken liver paté, prawn cocktail or that melon and fruit coulis to start? Fisherman's pie sounds good for a main course - but if the steak pie is as good as the chicken and leek (I'm sure it is), that will be hard to resist too. And for a lighter lunch, the baked macaroni and cheese (with some of those chunky chips!) will no doubt be of the same high standard.

I have to confess that after the starter and main course, I hesitated about having a dessert. But then the attentive waitress produced a large, hand-written board with the "afters" available that day. The on-line menu which I had consulted before the visit to Uplawmoor had just mentioned "Choice of Homemade Desserts" and I had not expected a list of eleven mouth-watering items. They ranged through raspberry crème brulée, sherry trifle, pear and toffee crumble to mixed berry meringue. Who could resist - certainly not us - and eventually I went for the lemon tart and blackcurrant coulis. As you can see, this was another feast for the eye - and was full of zest and flavour. The strawberry and kumquat on the whipped cream added their own piquancy too.

My wife went for the apple and walnut sponge - full of apple and walnut, covered in rich toffee sauce and accompanied by toffee ice cream.

The Bill
Contact Uplawmoor Hotel web site for current menu and prices.

Further Information
For more information or to book a table or reserve a room at the hotel, see the Uplawmoor Hotel web site. This also gives helpful guidance on how to get to Uplawmoor from various directions and about golf and other activities in the area. You can also phone 01505-850-565 to make a reservation for a table in the restaurant or a room in the hotel.

So, did Uplawmoor Hotel live up to its aim of exceeding customer expectations? The answer to that has to be a resounding "yes". The quality of the food, using local produce whenever possible, the eye-catching presentation that is a delight and constant surprise, the mouth-watering flavours in many of the dishes and the friendly attentive staff all combined to make this an excellent place to eat. I am already looking forward to another visit - need I say more?

Although I only sampled the bar lunch menu, I am sure that the same high standard and attention to detail will apply also to the food in the restaurant in the evening. Those AA rosettes confirm that is the case.

October 2008

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