Read food reviews for Loch Kinord Hotel Royal Deeside

Press and Journal

Perfect !

Published: 31/07/2010

I KNEW our jaunt from Aberdeen into Royal Deeside for dinner was going to be a longer than normal journey, but when we saw a sign saying “You are in the Highlands”, I wondered if we had bitten off more than we could chew.

 

Luckily, Loch Kinord Hotel came into view almost immediately and our journey was over. We were ravenous by now.

 

I was pleased to see that the hotel’s “guardian” was back on sentry duty outside the front door. The figure of a Gordon Highlander had stood there for years. The Duke of Rothesay has fond memories of seeing it as a child as he passed by on his way to Balmoral. Unfortunately, the soldier was “captured” by unknown abductors and disappeared from view.

 

A replacement appeared a few weeks ago, thanks to Prince Charles, only for it to be removed again. Now back in place, I noted that it was pretty much anchored down – secured by a cable, which is attached to a heavy floodlight which, in turn, is attached to the hotel. It would take some shifting now.

 

The hotel is an attractive, traditional granite building partly covered by climbing plants to give it that classic country look. Nest boxes for birds are dotted all about and holiday cabins are available in the grounds. It sits beside the road to Ballater at Dinnet, just after Aboyne.

 

In the entrance, I was fascinated to see closely typed salmon reports from the River Dee for fishing party guests to peruse. The A4 sheets were reporting “good sport” and the wise words of local gillies were recorded in great detail.

 

This was like stumbling into a country-house play set in the 1930s, I thought. Our fellow “cast members” were a curious mixture – a hale and hearty group of cheerful silver-haired visitors from the Home Counties, by the sound of it, along with two separate tables of German-speakers.

 

Such is the tourist pull of Deeside, but with my mind racing, it was like the opening of a vintage spy drama, especially when one of the guests from down south breezed in and announced, quite loudly, something to effect of, “Henry, I think we’ve lost your wife somewhere”. The Germans didn’t bat an eyelid, which seemed suspicious to me (apologies to John Buchan and The Thirty Nine Steps at this point).

 

We noted a pair of “dead” sheep on the lounge floor as we passed through a hallway on our way to the dining-room, but of the fluffy, soft-furnishings variety, I hasten to add. I wasn’t sure if guests were supposed to sit on them or put their feet up.

 

The gents’ toilet boasted a display of photographs of Emmerdale cast members, if my memory serves me well, for some intriguing reason.

 

The dining-room had an elegant, yet cosy, feel to it. And, throughout our stay, the service and local produce were excellent, while the food presentation was more akin to a swanky city restaurant.

 

For starters, I went for tartellete of peppers and crowdie cheese on filo pastry, topped with a soft-poached duck egg – poached carefully by hand in a pan of water, by the look of it, and not in a poacher, I was glad to see. My wife chose Coquille St Jacques – seared scallops placed in a shell, with a rich cheese sauce and generous mashed potato covering.

 

What a picture they were: my crumbly filo, peppers and glorious soft yoke were a wonderful combination, and my wife adored the dreamily rich scallops. They were an excellent pair of dishes.

 

For mains, we chose the meats. Their impeccable credentials and pedigree could be traced back to their respective local farms, shown on the menu. Both were full of quality and intense tastes.

 

The Cairnton farm Aberdeen-Angus rib-eye steak (matured for 28 days) with Dauphinoise potatoes and caramelised shallots, in a peppercorn sauce, went in my wife’s direction.

 

I chose Wark Farm organic lamb done two ways – roast saddle and braised shoulder in a fricassee of peas and broad beans, served with mashed potatoes.

 

My dish had finely chopped lamb made into a tower on top of the mash, with contrasting slices of lamb resting alongside. The thick, creamy mashed potato was superb. And the Dauphinoise complemented the rich, deep taste of matured steak for my wife.

 

To finish, it was a quintet of cheeses on a lovely slate cheeseboard for me. The cheeses were lined up on one side with oatcakes on the other and a spoon of sweet chutney in the middle. Strathdon Blue, Gruth Dhu, Morangie Brie, Lochnagar and Cambus o’ May were on display, crafted by those artisans at Cambus o’ May, in Aberdeenshire, and Highland Fine Cheeses at Tain. All were very good, but the Strathdon Blue was the star for me.

 

My wife’s sweet tooth was more than satisfied by a trio of Scottish whisky and liqueur desserts – Royal Lochnagar mousse, Cock o’ the North brulee and iced Drambuie parfait made a striking line-up. Our bill was a reasonable £74.

 

I read somewhere that the hotel proprietors had offered to reimburse guests in the past if a white Christmas failed to materialise. Mid-July was probably too early for me to strike a wager, but two things you can bank on are quality food and friendly service here – they were faultless.

 

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