It seems that luxury hotels are upping their game, when it comes to their restaurants.
The latest, proving that there’s more to Auchterarder than just Gleneagles, is the four-star Cairn Lodge.
This 14-bedroom hotel has just appointed head chef, Paul Tyrrell, 31, to oversee their two-year-old Garden Room restaurant, which won DRAM Magazine’s 2020 Scottish Bar & Pub ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at a virtual ceremony during lockdown.
This relaxed space features plush and comfortable cushion-laden seating, rather than the usual wooden chairs, plus a feature tree and potted plants. However, they’ve also just added a new covered outdoor terrace, with yet more greenery, to give it a continental feel (though, sadly, due to Perthshire weather, they do need heaters).
Their new young chef is originally from Dublin, and his experience includes a spell at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London, as well as time at some of Scotland’s top hotels, including Rufflets in St Andrews, Pitlochry’s Fonab Castle Hotel, Trump Turnberry in Ayrshire and The Grandtully Hotel, among others.
Tyrrell’s newly revamped Dinner menu includes main courses of Atholl Estate venison loin, with potato and thyme galette, salt baked celeriac and bramble jus, or sea bass, orzo, courgette, basil, red pepper and confit tomato. While, puddings include lavender panna cotta with strawberries from Perth’s Leadketty Farm and thyme shortbread, or a rather rich sounding Valrhona chocolate tart, passionfruit and clotted cream ice-cream.
As well as Afternoon Tea, which at £28 features whisky-soaked scones and plenty of savoury options, a Set Lunch and Sunday Lunch, there’s also a Brasserie menu. It provides that relaxed Auld Alliance vibe, with dishes including lemon sole, braised baby gem, asparagus and Jersey royals or The Cairn Lodge Burger, which is upgraded by maple-cured bacon, Comte cheese and fries.
Their new chef has quickly applied his crowd-pleasing signature style to the hotel’s food offering. There won’t be many guests who’d reject a burger and chocolate tart.
“We’re delighted to be welcoming Paul to lead our talented kitchen team here at Cairn Lodge. His pedigree is without question and I’m very excited about the ideas that he has had for our menus”, says this hotel’s managing director, Jonathan Gilbanks. “We pride ourselves on making sure there is nothing ordinary about our guests’ stay, and with Paul leading the kitchen, guests can expect the full experience when looking to treat themselves to the perfect getaway.”
We asked Tyrell a few questions about his role, see below.
How do you feel about the new job?
“I’m really happy and excited to have joined Cairn Lodge and can’t wait to see what the future holds. They’ve invested in their kitchen, with state-of-the-art equipment and a large well ventilated space. Overall I love the contemporary style of the hotel and what it is trying to achieve”.
What was it like working at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal?
“That was one of my first roles when I moved to London aged 19, and I look back on it as an amazing experience”.
What’s your workplace ethos?
“I would summarise my kitchen as a friendly but focused environment. Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard to change that stereotypical head chef mentality in my own kitchen and I think it is important to nurture young talent through their careers. However, the standard of food that we are looking to cook is a high one, so we have got to be serious about what we are doing and ensure that our work reflects the quality of food that we’re aspiring to”.
Tell us about the changes you’ve brought to Cairn Lodge’s menu
“I already love the direction that Cairn Lodge has taken in The Garden Room restaurant, with the focus on using local, seasonal and fresh produce. I’ll be looking to continue with that. However I will also bring my own personal style to the menu. For example, I have got a lot of experience in cooking French cuisine, so some of the dishes will be French-inspired but using local Scottish produce.
We have a new starter of Orkney scallops garnished with venison chorizo and served with a beurre blanc butter sauce. This dish is a perfect example of the Cairn Lodge twist and my signature style, as it blends classic culinary elements with local Scottish products. The scallops are sourced straight from Orkney, and we buy the venison chorizo from Great Glen, who are a Scottish charcuterie company.
Another new dish we have is a sticky toffee soufflé - inspired by the classic sticky toffee pudding, but again we’re putting a modern twist on it and creating something a bit different”.
Who are your favourite local producers?
“As well as Great Glen, we’re working with a variety of other local producers including Strathearn Cheese Co in Crieff, Simpson Game in Newtonmore and George Campbell Fishmonger in Perth. I enjoy working with local producers as you get to build a good relationship with them – for example George Campbell always informs me what is in season so that I can adapt the menu accordingly”.
Do you prefer working in hotel restaurants?
“Working in a hotel tends to provide a lot more variety – you could be cooking breakfast and lunch, preparing an afternoon tea or cooking for a private function before then needing to move onto dinner service. It keeps your mind active and also provides more scope for the menus to constantly be evolving”.