Inverlochy Castle, Torlundy, Fort William
- Dining at Inverlochy Castle
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Dining at Inverlochy Castle
Apart from the unique setting another reason for such attention by the rich and royalty, the great and the good, is the consistently high standard of the gourmet cuisine. The chef today is Matthew Gray, just 31 years old but who has been there for five years. He is one of the few chefs in Scotland who can claim to hold a Degree in Hospitality studies, following which he decided to train as a chef. He is only the fifth chef since the hotel opened over 30 years ago.
The accolades and awards for both the hotel and restaurant would take a few pages to describe. Suffice to say the restaurant has a Michelin star, three AA red rosettes for high standard of food and is recommended in numerous Good Food guides. The menu is based on fresh local produce, with a speciality in fish, and vegetables and herbs from the hotel kitchen garden. After a day out walking, tennis on the hotel courts, a round of golf, or perhaps taking a Gondala ride to the top of Ben Nevis, [ highly recommended] the fresh Highland air will give you a superb appetite.
Dinner at Inverlochy is a very special and dramatic occasion with the count down beginning in the late afternoon. Menus are left in your room and after perusal - which can take quite some time - the chef and his team are keen to receive your order beforehand to ensure that each course is prepared freshly, the selected wine chilled or decanted, all to the time of your choice. Having had a sneak preview of the menu, the taste buds are ripened and appetites sharpened. Now it`s time to bathe and change into something suitably elegant for the grand performance - dinner itself.
Guests are invited to come to the drawing room or Great Hall for a cocktail or aperitif half an hour or so before dinner. We select a very traditional glass of champagne and two ice cold glasses of bubbly are brought to us, along with a tier of savoury canapes. So exotic and special are they that the waitress explains what each of them are. A miniature spinach quiche with quails egg, delicate sushi wrapped in vine leaves, baby bruschetta, and a tiny kebab of warmed monkfish and roasted peppers.
Outside the sun was slowly sinking behind the snow topped hills, the sky a rosy glow indicating a warm day tomorrow. We sip our cocktails, the canapes quickly consumed. And then the curtain rises and we are invited through to the dining room. There are in fact three separate dining rooms - two separate rooms each seating around 20 people; the elaborate period furniture was a gift from the King of Norway. Hidden behind a secret door off the Hall is an delightful intimate room for a small dinner party.
I began with a lightly roasted red mullet fillet resting on a mozzarella, basil and tomato salad. Unusual and delicious. My partner Ken selected a tomato and asparagus tart with rocket salad, beautifully presented on a round, blue glass plate. Then a cappuccino style soup of blended white beans with a truffle oil which gave a most subtle flavour.
We both selected panfried Turbot, on a bed of mussels, leeks and saffron sauce. After two substantial `appetisers`, the white flaky fish was perfect and melt-in-the-mouth light. Other choices for the main course included lamb, oxtail and duck, all imaginatively served. One is never rushed through dinner at Inverlochy. The waiters unobtrusively fill water and wine glasses, bring and remove plates, allowing a reasonable pause before the next course.
To finish I was tempted by the intriguing sound of ginger and advocat ice cream with a medley of fresh berries. Ken could not resist the iced rhubarb crumble. We then strolled back through the Great hall to the drawing room for coffee and chocolates. A single gentleman reading on the other side of the room noted our arrival and said "Good Evening". He then added " Wasn`t that dinner absolutely superb". We both entirely agreed and he continued to wax lyrical for quite some time.
The next morning we could not resist experiencing breakfast, despite our gourmet meal, but decided to relax and have it served in our bedroom. At 10am precisely two waiters, dressed immaculately in the smart house uniform of dark green jackets and black trousers, arrived with a trolley which they proceeded to transform into a table, complete with crisp white linen, fresh garden flowers and silver teapot. Sitting in bathrobes, looking out over the garden with an abundance of rhododendron bushes and tall redwood trees, and the forested mountains beyond, we enjoyed our leisurely breakfast: really fresh orange juice, porridge (just like Mum used to make), soft poached eggs, croissants, toast and giant pots of tea and coffee.
In order to achieve and maintain excellence in a hotel, from the standard of cuisine to the personal service by every member of staff, a diligent, enthusiastic and caring manager - a captain of the ship - is vital. Michael Leonard has been Managing Director at Inverlochy Castle since 1976, when he was personally selected by the co-owner, Grete Hobbs, who had managed the hotel herself since its opening. If Grete can be seen to have been the driving force in creating the hotel, then Michael Leonard is recognised as playing an integral part in the development and success of Inverlochy Castle over the past 25 years.
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