Great Places to Stay
- Adamo Hotel, Stirling

Adamo Hotel

Stirling is the ideal central base for touring the Lowlands, a day trip to Glasgow and exploring the stunningly beautiful landscape, lochs and mountains around the Trossachs. The town and surrounding countryside is steeped in history and heritage, Scottish Kings, Queens, blood thirsty battles and the heroic adventures of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. With its iconic castle high on the hill, the imposing Wallace Monument, Safari Park, the old Jailhouse, heritage museums, shopping, arts and culture, there's plenty to see and do for the whole family and all ages.

Finding Adamo
I travelled from Edinburgh by train having checked with the Adamo hotel that it was just a short walk from the station. Not quite sure which way to set off on arrival, I asked a young woman at the Ticket desk for directions. "Adamo hotel?" she repeated, rather uncertainly. She thought for a moment, then added "Oh, yes, you mean the Bank." She explained the route just along the road, around by the snooker hall and opposite the Dreams Bedshop. I arrived easily in less than 10 minutes. There's also a large car park at the hotel for those who drive here.

Restaurant with Rooms
The old Bank with its elegant Georgian façade is indeed a landmark building and while locals still refer to it as such, it's now one of the Adamo boutique collection of small hotels, one in Bridge of Allan, and one in Stirling. Adamo Stirling, formerly Osta, was snapped up in October 2008 just three weeks after going on the market with a £2 million price tag and rebranded during the summer of 2009.

Contemporary in style complemented by classic original features, the hotel has a smart open plan brasserie and bar, and caters for the modern traveller whether for business or leisure and local Stirling residents. It's all very casual and welcoming. I walked up the steps to the front door with its pillared entrance to find myself in the cocktail bar which doubles as reception. I was taken personally upstairs to my bedroom (number III) on the first floor; there are only seven bedrooms, with I, II and III being the largest. All are decorated rather glamorously with fashionable plush fabrics in rich colours of plum, burgundy and chocolate brown, contrasting with dark polished wood.

The bathroom is pleasingly spacious rather than the usual cupboard with a shower. I had a bathtub with shower, a pile of soft towels, bathrobes and quality H2K toiletries. Guest facilities are well thought out: the long dressing table serves as a work desk with the addition of wireless internet access. For relaxation you can enjoy scanning the channels of the plasma TVs or watch a DVD.

I liked the neat chunky armchair and high coffee table, ideal for a drink, breakfast or room service. Homely comforts include a tray with kettle, tea and coffee, iron and ironing board. Don't expect a scenic view being located beside a busy roundabout in the city centre. My room looked across to the Dreams Bedshop - so presumably I shall sleep well!

Wining and Dining
The Adamo's bistro and bar is called The Bank referring to its financial heritage. The design is functional and inviting with various chill-out lounges near the bar with sofas and low tables for daytime coffee or evening drinks with friends. The dining area has a row of small, private booths, as well as separate tables suitable for couples or family party groups. This is certainly an attractive venue for eating and drinking, day or night.

The Head Chef Ross Wallace (a good Stirling name), specialises in the freshest locally sourced meat and west coast seafood, either traditionally prepared or with a unique Continental or fusion twist. The menu cleverly mixes restaurant and brasserie food such as "pub" specials (home-made Adamo burger, steak pie), everyday Italian favourites (pasta, pizza), and an impressive range of fine dining dishes, (Rack of Lamb with barley broth, Seared sea bass with butternut squash, roasted tomatoes and red pepper coulis), thus targeting all ages, tastes, budgets and occasions.

It was not until after our meal I was informed there is a separate Vegetarian menu so do ask as it may not be readily offered. Also for lunch and early diners, check out the Express menu served 12pm to 7pm. (6pm Saturday).

My dining companion was Iona Crawford, a local "celebrity" as a young successful fashion designer and regarded as an Ambassador for Stirling. Before our meal, she was well aware of the Bank already having a high reputation for good food and lively atmosphere. We enjoyed a glass of bubbly, sitting in one of the small nooks and the place was beginning to fill up on a Monday night. The champagne and cocktail list is very enticing, good prices too, such as a bottle of Prosecco (£ 17.50) and Taittinger Brut (£ 6.95/ £ 38), Cosmopolitan or Martini, (£ 6.25). After ordering our meal, we moved to a comfortable table for tea with banquette seating.

Iona started with a bowl of Scottish Mussels which we were informed were from Loch Fyne. This comes in a blue cheese cream sauce but after enquiring for a special request, it was possible to ask for a classic light white wine sauce instead. My appetizer was a large platter of Calamari, lightly fried in crispy batter and served avocado, rocket leaves and red pepper pesto. This was the best Calamari I have ever tasted (Iona agreed when she sampled a few). Soft succulent seafood dipped in the pesto sauce, ripe avocado, delicious salad. Simply outstanding as a combination of flavour and texture.

For main course I selected the Seafood platter, which could certainly have been shared between two diners. This was a huge square slate covered with king prawns, tuna, scallops, salmon, and a side portion of new potatoes. (French fries or chunky chips would perhaps have been more appropriate than boiled tatties). My friend selected Seared Scallop salad, again a huge fishy feast enough for two calorie counting ladies. We sipped a bottle of a soft fruity Pinotage which I was delighted to see is Organic. Healthy wine, that's good news!

The selection of desserts are rich and chocolatey, such as Banoffee pavlova, meringue topped with banana and toffee sauce, home made Adamo cheese cake and Equis Ice cream, the famous ice-cream made down the road from the hotel since 1922.

(There is a further review of The Bank at Adamo by Scottie the editor of Rampant Scotland at Great Places to Eat - Bank Restaurant).

Breakfast is served in The Bank bistro and unusually, there is no buffet table for juice, cereals, fresh fruit and pastries etc. You order everything from the menu. Be warned this is not so easy to follow with two sections: First, "Light start to the day", including cereals, fruit salad, porridge, mini pastries, a bacon or fried egg roll. The second section is named, "Indulge a little", including full Scottish breakfast (egg, sausage, bacon, black pudding), choice of Omelettes and Eggs Benedict. I selected Smoked Salmon and scrambled egg.

The waiter took my order but and disappeared and only then did I realise I had not ordered any fruit or cereal to start as I am so used to visiting the buffet to help myself to orange juice and plate of fruit. The divided menu is confusing as it looks as if you can only order one item from each section, so ensure you study it carefully. I do think a buffet table would make it easier for guests and waiting staff.

My creamy eggs and salmon was freshly cooked, on top of a toasted muffin but served in a deep soup bowl so very tricky to cut with a knife and fork. My order for coffee was just one cup of coffee, not a cafetiere or gleaming silver pot of coffee (which is usual for breakfast). No top up offered either which lacked attention to detail. I wonder if those ordering tea are given a tea pot or just one cup?

The Bill
Double room with breakfast - £ 140 per night.

Dinner: Starter, £4.50; Main £ .50 - £22.50; Dessert £5.25. House wine £ 3.45/£ 13.50.
Express menu - 2 courses £8.95; 3 courses £12.50.

So successful is the Adamo hotel, with its seven rooms often booked up that the company already has plans to create a second hotel in Stirling and build an extension to this Adamo on Upper Craigs to provide more bedrooms, leisure and business facilities. The Bank Restaurant is proving very popular to guests and non residents alike. This is a smart, informal yet sophisticated place to stay, and its boutique size makes it so convenient and practical. I experienced a very comfortable stay and loved my large, comfortable, glamorous bedroom. The staff is so welcoming, friendly and could not be more helpful, working across different roles for the hotel and Bank bistro.

More Information
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 833268.

Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers
November 2009

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