Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
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May 14, 2022

Lagg Distillery, Arran, review - we find out what's cooking at the island's new distillery cafe

This new destination has two food offerings – a bistro and a cafe

I made it to the beautiful new Lagg Distillery, with a building that echoes the contours of its Isle of Arran location.

Sadly, there was no way I could do one of their regular tours, which run four times a day.

I would have been very keen, but on my visit, I had three niblings. That’s the collective term for nephews and nieces.

Can you imagine the damage that these adorable urchins might do?

The toddler would get himself stuck in the still, or drop a snotter in there or something. The whole batch would be contaminated and they’d have to pour it down the sink.

The eldest two might create a barrel avalanche or leave Chupa Chup fingerprints or Hello Kitty glittery lip-gloss stains all over the beautiful polished copper.

Whatever. It would end in me opening my wallet and having to reimburse Isle of Arran Distillers.

Even if they behaved themselves, it would be pretty boring for them. They did like this distillery’s new shop though.

There are toys, souvenirs and sweets to buy, as well as Isle of Arran Scotch Whiskies from their older sister, Lochranza Distillery, though not the newest place’s first peated single malt, which won’t be available until summer. I did get to sample the Lagg New Make Peated Spirit though, in one of those little cups that you used to get mouthwash in at school, back in the Eighties. This transparent shot was heady stuff. I wanted to marinade in it, and preserve myself like a bog man.

But I’m not here for the booze.

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We were trying the ground floor Kilmory Cafe, though there’s also a slightly smarter Sheiling Bistro upstairs, which didn’t seem to be operational on our visit.

The online menu had looked a bit more exciting than the one that we received, but I think they might have had to pare back their ambition. It was very quiet.

Probably the most exciting offering on the food list is their bratwurst-style hotdogs.

We tried the French onion dip (£9.50) version, which was, I suppose, a take on a US-style beef dip sandwich.

It featured the traditional long toasted roll, which was filled with a russet-coloured, robust, smoky and foot long dog. This was topped with mayo, Dijon, and long thin strips of Gruyere, and there was a ramekin of beefy gravy on the side, so you could give this dachshund a little meaty drinkie. Not bad, and same goes for the Mexican version (£9.50) which was the chihuahua of the menu, as it was accessorised with a kidney-bean-heavy pulled chipotle chilli beef, jalapenos, peppers, cheese and sour cream, though you probably couldn’t fit it all in your handbag.

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Their Lagg cheeseburger (£9.50) went down okay, though was pretty unseasoned mince-y and workaday, with a standard burger patty, lettuce, sliced tomato and mustard, though they’d housed that lot in the more unusual choice of a smooth-topped pretzel bun.

We were a bit sad that there were no chips available that day, or we might have had them alongside all three of these options, which each had a pile of coleslaw on the side.

The less said about the frittata (£8) course, the better. I had not got the angel’s share of the menu. It resembled a wedge of attic insulation, and was pretty fibrous, heavy and bland, even if I basted it with the balsamic Arran Chutney. There was a salad too - cherry toms, cucumber, peppers, the usual, meh. I wish I’d gone for a hotdog too.

In contrast, the strawberry and chocolate milkshakes (£3.50 each) went down well with the small people, thanks to loads of squirty cream, syrup and various tooth-shrivelling toppings, all served by ebullient and lovely staff who might as well have trained at the Singing Kettle University. The elder two had also tried, and enjoyed, a couple of their kids hotdogs (£4 each).

We all shared two cakes, with enthusiasm at first. The Victoria sponge (£3.75) wasn’t bad, with a centre that seemed to feature cream and dragon’s blood.

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While, the fridge cold vegan and gluten free banana and cinnamon cake (£4.95) had a granular texture that wasn’t really floating our boat.

Oh well. This is not exactly the hottest food destination on the island, but that’s not really its raison d’etre.

Instead, it’s the place to go for whisky and tours, especially when the summer comes and their first malt rolls off the production line.

Don’t worry, I will keep my niblings as far away as humanly possible.

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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