Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • 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
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
Ambiance
7/10
Food
6/10
Total
0%
March 31, 2024

The Oak Tree Inn, Balmaha, review - Sunday lunch in one of Billy Connolly’s favourite spots

During what felt like the start of spring, Rosalind Erskine visited this long-standing, family run restaurant and bar for Sunday lunch.

During the easing of the first lockdown restrictions, I - along with my boyfriend, dog and about half of Glasgow - decided to take a drive to nearby countryside and go for a Big Walk.

This ended up being an attempt to climb Conic Hill, known for its sweeping views across Loch Lomond. We weren’t quite prepared for the ice that was still clinging to some of the hillside, the sheep that Archie (my dog) was very interested in, having spent the last few months walking the streets near my flat, or the sheer number of other people trying to traverse the hill.

We made it about halfway, before slightly skiting back down to the car park. I spotted a coffee shop across the road and popped in for what was probably the first professionally made drink since the ‘normal’ days.

It was only on my return to this same car park, two lockdowns and four years later, that I realised that the coffee shop was attached to the well known, and much loved, Oak Tree Inn.

This family business was established in 1997, has twice been named Scotland’s best pub and is located towards the start of the West Highland Way.

Oak Tree Inn Balmaha review

Opened by the Fraser family, the restaurant and bar has grown to include B&B, cafe, coffee roastery and village shop. It’s also one of Billy Connolly’s favourite places to visit, with the Big Yin spotted tucking into mince and tatties there last year on a rare visit back home. 

When we return, this time to walk the busy but less scary Millennium Forest Path, the sun is shining and it really feels like the start of spring.

We’ve also booked a table at the Oak Tree Inn, for a Sunday lunch, which is a good thing as the place was heaving - both in the restaurant, bar and the beer garden - with many people waiting for a table. We were seated promptly, and given menus and while our order was taken quite quickly this is where the speed of service ended. 

Our starters - veggie pakora for me (£8.50) and smoked haddock, chorizo and cheddar cheese croquettes for my boyfriend (£8.95) arrived relatively quickly, as did our drinks - a virgin mary and a non alcoholic peroni.

The pakora, seven bite sized pieces - on the dark side of golden - were served with a scattering of red chillies and raw red onion as well as a flavoursome tomato and chilli dip.

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Crispy and well seasoned with herbs and spices, these were just the thing to whet the appetite. Across the table, the croquettes were oozing with a balanced mix of potato, cheese and meat, and had a delicate smoky taste.

It was after this that the wheels fell off a bit and we waited around 45 minutes for our main courses of the Oak Tree house salad (£12.50) and crispy battered haddock and chips (£16.95). Feeling the first flush of warm sunshine, I’d eschewed the pub classics and chosen the salad, in a fit of feeling healthy.

When it did arrive, the mixed leaves, chopped sunblush tomatoes, toasted walnuts, sunflower seeds and warm, slightly roasted, potatoes were all liberally doused in a mayo, lemon and chilli dressing. Whilst fresh and with crunch from the nuts and seeds, the only real taste here was of the sundried tomatoes. Though the potatoes were a nice addition.

All in all this was not a dish I’d choose again. The fish and chips - a mammoth portion - was fresh, piping hot and just exactly what you’d expect.

The side of puree peas were welcome and the chips, crispy and moreish. We also ordered a side of coleslaw which was surprisingly delicious and tasted freshly made. The sides here were the stars of the show. While we understood that the venue was very busy, no communication was given on our wait for the rest of our meal.

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Having spent over an hour and a half in the restaurant, we decided to get some takeaway ice cream from the village shop to enjoy in the last of the sun. The vanilla ice cream cone and mint choc chip cone were a sweet end to the day (sadly for Archie the doggy ice cream had sold out).

It’s easy to see why The Oak Tree Inn is so popular, with its lochside setting and menu of classics. Next time we attempt Conic Hill we may well pop in again, and this time I’ll order a burger.

Tags:
Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • 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
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
Ambiance
7/10
Drinks
7/10
Food
6/10
Service
6/10
Value
7/10
Total
0%
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