On this particular occasion I was playing tour guide, heading up Stirling way to see the Wallace Monument, the castle and take in some of the Trossachs scenery. Unfortunately for us the Scottish weather decided to present us with the dreichest and wettest day this Summer by providing sheets of non-stop rain and thick mist.
Alas our stop for lunch was soon to cheer up our day. We were lunching at The Fifty Five Bar & Grill, Royal Hotel Stirling in the Bridge of Allan. Situated in the heart of this picturesque town (which was confirmed on our departure, the mist cleared later on in the afternoon) this hotel has just recently undergone a major refurbishment and although I didn’t see it prior to the refurb, all I can say is it looks very grand and quite lush. (Photo above was not taken on the day I’m sad to say).
On entering, the bar is to your left and the restaurant to your right. The seating is luxurious, velvet and very tastefully decorated. It is very open and airy with lots of light streaming in through the large windows. The restaurant has mixed seating and large booths for lazy relaxed eating to tempt you in.
We arrived a little early so enjoyed teas and coffees in the bar area. I would of liked to have tasted their cocktails as their Libations booklet is extensive but alas I was the designated driver. Coffee and ginger beer for me!
They also have a two wonderful terraces, one to the back of the hotel and one just off the bar; and have a large selection of very tempting food and drink offers from Afternoon Teas to Early Eats to Nibbles and Sharers as well as event offers for Christmas, New Year, Weddings etc all taking place in their gorgeous ballroom. (Photo above was not taken on the day – if only – but what a brilliant suntrap).
On this occasion, besides the two of us, I had my mum dine with us too. She’s recovering from a fall so only just getting back on her feet and she is a ‘proper coeliac’ having been gluten free for over 50 years! No fads here which also means she is very particular on what she eats and how it is cooked. This is where I have nothing but praise for the staff at the Royal Hotel Stirling, they were absolutely tremendous in helping her and providing a first class service and gluten free meal for her.
Their menu is quite seafood focussed and you’ll find mouth watering dishes on the menu such as Fritto Misto for Two – Crispy Calamari, Garlic King Prawns, Crab & Corn Pakora, Monkfish Scampi and Wasabi Tartare & Chilli Jam; or Gin & Tonic Scottish Steamed Mussels or Crispy Pork Scratching Calamari.
For starters we ordered the Antipasto Misto for Two. A selection of cured meats, artisan bread, Mediterranean olives, Sicilian tomatoes and balsamic reduction (£13).
This very colourful board of delights arrived at the table. Artichokes, salami, prosciutto ham and lovely triangles of slightly char-grilled bread. Definitely a platter to share. Loved the freshness the pea shoots added, balancing out the tang and saltiness of the olives and the meats.
I went for the Stornoway Black Pudding and Slow Cooked Pork Bon Bons with BBQ apple ketchup, hens egg and summer leaf salad (£6.75)
Visually this dish is stunning and what I would class as a Summer dish! With this dish you had to build the perfect bite each time. Each component screamed out to be assembled and accompanied by another ingredient. The crispy bon bon with the soft give of the egg, the earthy sweetness from the pea shoots, the crunch from the julienne of apple and the sharp BBQ sauce all made for a perfect bite each and every time.
Onto main and it was a tough call with vegetarian dishes like Wild Mushroom, Spinach and Truffle Linguini with truffle oil and parmesan cream (£11); or the Tikka Roasted Monkfish Tail with a monkfish cheek pakora on a shellfish & corn risotto (£17.95) or the Land and Sea Board with Flat Iron Chateau Steak, Garlic King Prawn, Lobster Mac and Gin Béarnaise Sauce (£60), all begging to be ordered.
We ordered the : Mac n Cheese Frites. Macaroni with artisan cheese and a Gruyere Crust served with Barbari Garlic Bread, Fries and a House Salad (£9.95)
The macaroni was well cooked, the cheese stringy and the Gruyere crust was quite delicious but is somehow lacked a full on cheese hit! Perhaps if you are cheese fiends like us, ask for extra cheese.
I ate the Slow Cooked Pork Cheek with French Onion Risotto with sage, roasted butternut squash and red chard (£14).
Each element here was cooked wonderfully but for me it lacked another texture profile. The pork cheek was soft and succulent and fell apart. The risotto was al dente/slightly soft and the roasted butternut too. I wanted something crunchy or crispy, with a bite to really lift the dish. The cheeks and the sauce where lovely and rich with a deep meaty flavour though which made for a very filling and satisfying meal.
Now this is slightly off menu. My mum ordered Fish n Chips but asked if it could be fried rather than grilled. After several attempts by the Chef, a wee tip from my mum to coat the fish in corn flour and a very patient and utterly charming waiter, this beautiful dish of fish and peas arrived with a steaming bowl of hot crispy gluten free chips. Mum was delighted and I was very happy indeed as it’s very seldom that I get to take my mum out for a meal that she truly enjoys! The fish was cooked to perfection. Lightly seasoned, fried and served peas with a pea puree. Joy!
Our waiter coaxed us into trying dessert (a really hard arm twist – NOT!) and these desserts are one of the very few places where I would return for dessert alone. Hats off to their pastry chef!
For mum a simple request of vanilla ice-cream (checking that it was gluten free – yes often ice-cream comes with added flour). How to raise the vanilla ice-cream stakes?? Serve it in a beautiful bowl, topped with sweet Scottish berries and served with a smile.
Up next was the Passion Fruit Key Lime Pie with Coconut Sorbet and Meringue Shards with Sorrel (£5.95)
This was a tropical island delivered on a plate. The pie packed a passion fruit punch with sweet tart flavours, the crust was short, easily broken apart and was buttery. The coconut ice-cream was genius. The dessert delivers it all – soft, sweet, salty, tangy, crunchy, silky and smooth. Day dreaming whilst eating this is optional though.
I ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding with sea salt toffee sauce and buttermilk ice cream (£5.95). I’m not sure this was even on my plate – scoffed in 60 seconds. The large piece of toffee cake was soft, sweet and light. The sea salt toffee sauce was the best thing ever and I could easily have ordered a jug to take home. Check out my Sticky Toffee Pudding video here.
This is a lovely hotel. Far enough away from Edinburgh for an overnight stay, to eat some great food, drink some wonderful cocktails and explore the area. It’s also not that far a drive from the Kelpies and a definite lunch or dinner spot should you be heading that way.
The Fifty Five Bar & Grill, The Royal Hotel, 55 Henderson St, Bridge of Allan, FK9 4HG Tel: 01786 832 284 www.royalhotelstirling.com/
My Spoon Award : Gold 9/10