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
9/10
Food
9/10
Total
0%
October 9, 2023

The Strathearn, Gleneagles, restaurant review - elegant fine dining with a touch of theatre in luxury surroundings

The grand Gleneagles dining room offers old school glamour along with theatrical dining, finds Rosalind Erskine.

I’m quite late to the latest streaming craze as I have only just recently started watching The Bear, the Disney+ word-of-mouth smash hit about a talented chef working in one of the world’s best restaurants, who returns home to Chicago to run and try to save his late brother’s sandwich shop. There’s one episode in season two where Richie (known as cousin, despite him not being a relation) is sent to stage at a prestigious restaurant, where he goes from incredulously cleaning forks to falling in love with, and understanding top level service.

This restaurant researches guests before arrival, offering a complimentary meal to a couple they know have saved up for their anniversary, to creating a dish specially for a table who wants to try Chicago deep dish pizza.

It’s a magical look at how good hospitality can be but did leave me wondering if places like that actually exist. My experience of high end and Michelin Star restaurants isn’t extensive, and having never been behind the scenes, it’s hard to know what’s fact and fiction.

I was recently given a glimpse into this kind of service when we visited Gleneagles for dinner at The Strathearn. The luxury five star hotel, opened in 1924 and once known as the Riviera in the Highlands. It has been owned by Ennismore since 2015 when it was bought from drinks giant Diageo.

It has been extensively updated since, and walks the fine line between modern amenities and old school glamour. There’s heavy carpet, polished wood and tweed uniforms but you can also join a conference, stream to your TV and relax in a state of the art spa. From a gastronomy point of view, it’s best known for being home to Scotland’s only two Michelin Star restaurant, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie.

Strathearn Gleneagles review

But you can also have dinner (and breakfast) in its grand dining room, The Strathearn. Although the same room at night as in the day, it’s an almost cosy space once it’s dark outside, despite its size, due to low lighting from the fantastic art deco pendants and lamps.

There’s live music from a singer and baby grand piano and the staff are all smartly turned out in 1920s style uniforms. It feels like we’ve walked into the past. From the get-go the staff are excellent, explaining the menu and offering wine suggestions that didn’t leave us wondering how you’d pay this month’s bills.

You can choose three courses for £100, though there are supplement charges for dishes such as Dover sole, smoked salmon royale and the beef wellington, served table-side on a trolley. Pre starters include the seafood tower - Scottish lobster, Marrbury cured salmon, West Coast crab, scallop tartare, surf clam and Oscietra caviar plus there’s a selection of caviar.

Not feeling that fancy, we went straight in for the starters and chose the cheese souffle, and the lobster raviolo. The souffle had a pleasingly golden top that hid its creamy custard-hued insides and was topped with crunchy, toasted walnut pieces.

It was made with connage gouda, so it was light and not overpowering. The accompanying Waldorf salad of gem lettuce leaves and purple chicory - which were standing to attention in a small bowl - were sprinkled with more toasted walnuts and added some bite and a touch of bitterness to this rich dish.

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Over the table, the lobster raviolo was a sat adrift within a bubbly saffron-coloured bisque. The saltiness of the bisque balanced well with the sweetness of the lobster, and the raviolo was nicely al dente. For main we’d ordered the beef wellington to share, with sides of baby potatoes, creamed mushrooms and hispi cabbage.

Before it arrived, we were sent another starter (one which I had been torn over before deciding on the souffle), a crab dish served which ended up being a favourite addition to the meal. Delicate, sweet crab meat enlivened by lime, with texture added from bright orange jewel like roe in the centre of the crab.

It wasn’t long before the trolley was wheeled over and the spectacle of serving the beef wellington began. Carved table-side (with optional truffle shavings) by a white-gloved waiter, the hearty portion was plated up, gravy added, and served with a flourish.

It was at this point I realised we’d massively over ordered on the sides, but were glad to try the crisp potatoes, creamy and umami mushrooms with slivers of crispy parmesan and crisp but soft hispi cabbage, served with pancetta.

The beef was butter-soft and the party crust flecked with either fennel or black sesame to give a slight kick of unexpected flavour. Served with a small half of a roasted onion and a small dot of bright green sauce, it was perfectly cooked.

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All of this was all washed down with a fruity and subtly spicy super Tuscan red wine. Finally to dessert, and while our waiter seemed disappointed we hadn’t chosen the at-table, flaming crepe suzette, neither one of us could face any more than to share the (highly recommended) apple, caramel and spiced crumble souffle.

Not before a pre-dessert of fruit with a zesty side of crème fraiche . The soufflé, expertly rising out of its ramekin, was dusted with a light crumble topping. Inside was light as a feather and punctuated with apple and a rich sweetness from the caramel.

While TV has its added drama, this type of experience is a real life reflection of the joy that a good meal and excellent service can bring to an evening. Everything from the ambience to the effortless way the staff interacted and moved about the room created something really special.

I doubt anyone is scrolling guests’ social media but The Strathearn is no worse off for that, no matter what Richie may think.

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Gleneagles, Auchterarder, UK
Gleneagles, Auchterarder, UK, PH3 1PL
01764 449041
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.
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