Pennan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK.

In an enchanted glen

The pinnacle of Scottish cuisine and French design are served at Glenturret

Scotland boasts many splendours. Wherever one looks there is something at which to wonder. Look down upon Lochs Lomond, Lubnaig or Maree at the majesty and the mystery of their deep waters. Look up from Sauchiehall Street, or from Union Street and the Citadel at the glory that is the granite face of Glasgow and Aberdeen. Look in awe upon the twilight glowering that is Glencoe and its fearful history.

Scotland is a kingdom ancient and beautiful, adamant and grey. Its story runs deep in the skirling waters of its rivers wherein its salmon spawn and from which its whisky is born. Alongside one such stream lies Glenturret near Crieff. Its local distillery has forged a new interpretation of the Auld Alliance.

There the summit of Scottish cuisine has been married to the pinnacle of French design to produce a bloodline which I think may be peerless. Lalique, synonymous with luxury crystal and glass sculpture, has in recent times extended its repertoire to encompass perfume, jewellery and boutique hotels and restaurants.

The latest in its small chain of chateaux hotels is to open in Zurich next year. Lalique’s only such foray onto British soil (so far) is to Glenturret, about whose wonderful whisky I have waxed before. But there is much more to these lovely, low whitewashed buildings than their mash tuns and spirit still. Step beyond the shop and the museum next door and head up the stairs to the Glenturret restaurant and into a culinary heaven.

There you will find executive sommelier Julien Beltzung, the acme of Alsatian politesse, and his team waiting to greet you. The tables are large and comfortable. The gleaming onyx bar is back-lit in shimmering silver. The ambience is spacious but certainly not stilled. And the menu? Well you really need to see the menu.

I was last there in September for lunch with a party of old friends. The Orkney oysters, served with a kipper vinaigrette, were some of the finest I have ever tasted. Scrabster monkfish accompanied by black pudding, two discordant flavours in isolation, harmonised perfectly. The Lamb girolles and Wagyu beef exploded with flavour yet melted in the mouth as though made of creamed butter.

The choice of wines is also exceptional and worth an entire column to itself, but both limited space here and limited desire to poach on the preserves of the excellent Henry Jeffreys next door, preclude amplification.

The Hosh affords a peaceful and pleasant vista through the blue curling vapours of a good cigar

So let me return to the bill of fare and particularly to a course that set our lunch, and Glenturret, apart from any meal I have enjoyed in many a year.

It will already be clear that the menu is made up from the best local ingredients. Some are readily available, others hard to get. And local blue fin tuna is very hard to get. Indeed, a blue fin from the West coast of Scotland has not been got in 60 years. When at last one unlucky piscine specimen was hooked, London’s most select suppliers beat a hasty path to City airport to claim the catch. But Julien and his colleagues beat them to it, much to the chagrin of the metropolitan men. And so a beautiful blue fin tuna, Scottish caught, Glenturret bought, was griddled, garnished and served to me and my friends Alistair Snowie, Ian MacMillan and Jonny Allmark. It was marvellous.

I should say a little word about the terrace leading directly from the dining room on which one can sit and, if one wishes, smoke whilst listening to the gentle laughter of the river running directly below.

The Hosh, set deep in Perthshire’s countryside, affords a peaceful and pleasant vista through the blue curling vapours of a good cigar. Glenturret is not a place where dreams are dreamed for it is a real enough, if enchanted, spot. It is, however, a place where memories may be made, and happy, magical memories at that.

This article is taken from the December-January 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

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