On a recent weekend, we planned to visit Loch Lomond with some friends for a quintessentially Scottish weekend. We rented a log cabin, went clay-pigeon shooting and treated ourselves to a stunning lunch at Martin Wishart’s Loch Lomond restaurant at the Cameron House Hotel. Following are the halal snippets from our meal.
The Halal: Finding a halal European restaurant in Scotland is quite a difficult challenge and one that I am still working on! Unfortunately, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond is not halal, I suppose they don’t really have the clientele to pre-order. Alcohol and pork are both served at this hotel.
The Place: A feeling of grandeur comes upon you when you enter the threshold of the Cameron House hotel. An impressive stone building stands against a backdrop of golden and crimson autumnal leaves. As we walked through the hotel lobby, we were struck by the warm highland feel: a crackling log fire, mounted stag head on the wall and tartan throws over cushioned armchairs. Although it initially appears very rustic, a closer inspection reveals that this has been achieved in a very modern way – the animal heads on the wall are actually carved from wood!
Towards the back of the hotel is restaurant Martin Wishart. There are 16 Michelin starred restaurants in Scotland. The majority of those are in Edinburgh and chef Wishart has two restaurants which are both starred. So I knew I was in for a special experience…
The Food: There were a selection of menus to choose from at MW Loch Lomond. An excellent value 3-course lunch menu, a full a la carte menu and a tasting menu. What ensued during the course of this meal could only be described as pure gluttony…
There were four amuse bouches prior to starters arriving! The first of which was a mini beetroot macaroon with a horseradish cream filling. The fiery mustard packed a real punch against the sweet undertone of purple beet.
Round two of the amuse bouche parade were a trio of savoury canapes: a delicate hake and potato cake, an intensely flavoured cheese choux ball and a mini haggis ball which wasn’t halal so I can’t comment on that one.
The next ‘pre-starter’ was smoked salmon served with an avacado puree, micro-basil and tomato jam. These were served on a black squid cracker and presented on top of a clay pot. There was a sophistication in the cooking and balance of flavours which were inversely proportional to its size!
Finally, my starter arrived which was a salad of artichoke, lettuce and a smoked egg yolk which was perfectly runny. The starter was tasty but a bit disappointing after the exciting build up from the preceding amuse bouche courses.
The North Berwick lobster swam within a creamy bisque and was served in its shell. The tangy, zesty accents to the bisque really complemented the natural sweetness of the lobster without overpowering it. This was a real showpiece of a dish – high quality ingredients, cooked delicately, and uplifted into something very special indeed.
For mains I had the North Sea monkfish with celeriac puree, sprouting broccoli, caper dressing and verjus. I find that monkfish can often be quite tough but this time I was pleasantly suprised. The fish was creamy and soft and basically melted in your mouth. The sauce was meaty and the nuts added a delighful crunch to each mouthful.
We were served a pre-dessert following the indulgent savouries. A mango and passion fruit cannelloni with mint granita was thoroughly refreshing and cleansed the palate, preparing us for desserts!
For dessert, I had a strong dark chocolate tart served with a contrastingly light and creamy basil ice cream.
The chocolate souffle was a triumph (one that many masterchef contestants have failed to accomplish!). The souffle itself was airy but managed to hold its impressive shape. The pistachio ice cream that accompanied was earthy and mellow.
The cheese trolley had an impressive selection of fine fromages. Our waitress selected a combination of five from different regions of France and Italy.
After what seemed like a marathon of a meal, we reached the finale of petit fours. A board checkered with vanilla macaroons, tangy raspberry jellies and hollow chocolates cubes filled with rich runny caramel. Maybe it was all the food or perhaps it was the highland air but we left Martin Wishart giddy with happiness and with bellies full of love.
The Price: For the quality and taste of the meal, I would have been happy to pay in excess of what was charged. A ridiculously good value three course set menu for lunch was priced at an unbelievable £30. Three courses from the a la carte menu (more high-end dishes like the lobster) was £75. and the 6 course tasting menu was the same. A nine course dinner tasting menu is priced at £95. When you consider all the extras we received, I felt like we all actually had 9 courses not three!
The Verdict: Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond holds one Michelin star. If you consider the historical meaning of that one star I feel the restaurant has been short-changed. I would say a second star should be added based purely on the fact that this restaurant deserves at least a detour on your journey to sample a little taste of Scotland.