Scotsman Review
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July 18, 2018

The Tinto Hotel, Symington, restaurant review

The Tinto Hotel's unpredictable entertainment doesn’t detract from fine fare in a perfect setting, writes Catriona Thomson.

There is nothing better than a food adventure, discovering a venue you haven’t been to before. We are on the trail of a hot social media post which tipped us off about The Tinto Hotel near Biggar.

Their chef, Kenny Leary, was praised earlier in the year as the winner in the vegan category of The Scottish Food and Academy awards.

Under the aegis of patron Lady Claire Macdonald OBE, these awards highlight people, products and businesses doing outstanding work in the industry, so we thought the Tinto might be worth an investigative jaunt.

Although there were no vegans in our party this time, the hotel does host a regular four-course vegan tasting night (£25), which is quite a thing for a wee rural hotel in South Lanarkshire. (The next event will be held on 25 July).

En route we were blessed by nature overload, monochrome oyster catchers flapping along contentedly and cute calves gambolling in green fields.

The highlight was the stunning view of Tinto Hill, bathed in the warm golden glow of a summer eve.

I was reliably informed by the fella that from the top on a clear day you can see the Lake District, Northern Ireland, Ailsa Craig and Arran, the Arrochar Alps and as far north as Lochnagar in the Cairngorms.

Sadly we didn’t have the necessary two to three hours to hand to scamper up to the summit and get back down.

The hotel hosts weddings, but they also have a lucrative sideline in tribute bands and murder mystery weekends.

I confess to being slightly apprehensive that we might be walking into a David Lynch production, however I hoped that a Tuesday night would be safe enough.

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When we arrived the staff were busy catering for a sizeable bus party, although we were happy to wait in the bar, soaking up the atmosphere and perusing the menu.

Peeking into the dining room I was surprised by the tasteful décor; the open, airy interior was all muted hues and crisp linens.

As we were waiting, we were entertained by a pensioner who was carrying his pudding through the foyer, on his way to watch the footie, he explained cheerfully.

When seated, we nibbled on fluffy, soft poppy-seeded rolls before diving into our starters.

The fella had opted for a tart ronde of goat’s cheese (£5.25) which was encased in crisp jacket of breadcrumbs and served with a sweet mess of onion and red pepper chutney and a charred baby leek.

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Mumbles of delight were soon to be heard from across the table, while I was delighted by my selection of pan-fried garlic bruschetta (£4.95).

This arrived topped with sizeable chunks of griddled courgettes and enormous crumbled cubes of salty feta and flavoursome mint leaves, with a serving of crisp lettuce on the side.

There was universal high praise for the starters which would not have been out of place at an establishment in town.

Although it was not the vegan tasting night, it seemed appropriate to road test one of the two vegan choices on the day-to-day menu.

I was tempted by the butternut squash, courgette and aubergine tagine, but the thought of preserved lemon in the couscous was slightly off-putting, so instead I ordered the garlic roasted sweet potato, red onion and spinach pithivier. (£9.95)

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The Duomo-shaped pastry arrived stuffed with vegetables and was accompanied by a graceful cone hill of mashed potato.

Very much like the local topography. Surrounding the puffed parcel was a vegan pea and leek fricassée which was cleared in no time.

The fella dithered between steak and lamb chump, before he eventually opted for the pan-fried duck breast supreme (£14.95) which was served with a celeriac and potato dauphinoise.

The moist meat was declared perfection, with the flavoursome cherry reduction providing the right amount of sweetness to counteract the chicory.

Our only gripe was both dishes lacked seasoning, but that was easily rectified.

We also enviously spied a very attractive looking Scotch beef and Broughton ale pie heading to the next table, with a salmon fillet with mussel fennel tomato olive broth following close behind.

For dessert I opted for dark Belgian chocolate brownie with Chantilly cream and berry compote (£5.25), and although it was a tad overcooked in one corner, it vanished pronto.

The fella could not resist the sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and ice cream (£4.95).

As we were contemplating licking our plates clean, there was a bit of a commotion coming from the bar.

We enquired what event was on? None organised was the answer, but the bus tour driver was also in charge of entertainment.

We made our excuses as the bingo and quiz began, wisely deciding to make our escape before Blue Velvet by Bobby Vinton could be played.

The Tinto Hotel

44 Biggar Road, Symington, Biggar ML12 6FT
(01899 308454,


Catriona is a freelance writer based in the Scottish Borders, and a nominee for Food and Drink writer at this year's Scottish Press Awards.
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