Everyone who visits Andy and Kim Murray’s hotel, Cromlix, must hope they catch a glimpse of the tennis star.
If not, then Judy or Jamie would be a more-than-decent booby prize.
On my recent trip there, I didn’t spot anyone from Scotland’s royal sporting family, though there was an arguably better sighting, for someone who prefers twitching to tennis.
As we pulled into the car park, a bald eagle, with its white plumed head and sharply hooked beak, landed in a pine tree opposite.
“What the HECK is that?” said my husband, as the US native, glared at us.
Well, that trumps an Easter chick. What a welcome. I shall name him Eagle Knievel. We could hear the comparatively pocket-sized garden birds freaking out in this venue’s manicured hedges. If we could’ve Google Translated their tweets, they would’ve been saying ‘help’ and ‘hide’.
It turned out that this appearance wasn’t a sign of environmental warming, but part of their birds of prey session for residents of the hotel.
This five-star destination has just had a major refurbishment, but this is my first time here, so I can’t comment on how the new decor compares.
However, the downstairs public area, including the plush lounge and the reception, looks fab. There’s a judicious bit of statement wallpaper and a few modern floral prints. The overall effect is contemporary yet comfortable.
As someone who hates artificial plants, I even concede that The Glasshouse Restaurant looks swish, with its cupola, lined by realistic-looking ivy. The conservatory windows make it perfect for people watching, and we saw various wedding outfits drifting past, as we listened to a distant piper.
Now that this is no longer a Chez Roux restaurant, as that contract came to an end, the menu has had a makeover, courtesy of long term head chef, Darin Campbell. We tried their lunchtime market menu, which is £29.50 for two courses and £35.50 for three.
After we’d ordered, they brought a shared amuse bouche of trail mix, which was a savoury granola of sorts, served with roasted butterbeans and crispy kale. It was tricky to eat, without dropping puffed rice over the table, but worth it.
My starter may as well have been served along with a placard featuring the words ‘hooray, winter is over’. There was a nest of pastel colours, with hot smoked salmon, smoked salmon, tracing paper thin pieces of kohlrabi, fennel salad, melba toast, edible flowers, and tarragon.
I felt reborn after having this with a spritz-y Cucumber Fennel Collins (£12), which contained Hendrick’s gin, fennel sugar and lemon, soda and salt and pepper cucumber.
We also tried the Vietnamese broth, which wasn’t a fine-dining deconstructed take on the genre, but a humble and life affirming pho. The rich red stock had a hit of chilli and lemongrass, and frond-like vermicelli noodles in its depths. This came with what they’d described as three “sweetcorn fritters”, which slightly undersold the neat baby corns in tight tempura corsets.
My other half went for the veggie course as a main, which is slightly out of character. I thought he might be disappointed, but there was nothing to be sad about. He had four charred pieces of asparagus, and crispy borlotti beans, with their red jackets swooning off, as well as spicy muhammara and a perfect fried egg that was sprinkled with za’atar. There was also a side portion of buttered Jersey royals.
I’d gone for the glazed Iberian pork cheek, which featured this dark meat in a tarry black and treacle-y sweet but acidic varnish. There was also broccoli, nibs of roasted octopus, a green butterbean puree and salchichon cubes.
We shared a pudding. I could tell my plus one was tempted by the macerated rhubarb and strawberries with orange granita and burnt meringue, but I exerted subtle mind control, by talking about Easter eggs, to steer him round to the idea of the 70 per cent Valrhona chocolate and caramel tart.
I’m happy I did. There was an isosceles of smooth chocolatey joy on a single-millimetre-thick shortcrust base, with a sticky lattice of caramel on top. Most of the sugary-ness was courtesy of the accompanying scoop of hazelnut ice-cream, which was dotted by chocolate chips.
We may not have seen Andy, but there was consolation.
Mainly the excellent lunch but also the ultimate Easter chick.
(01786 822125, www.cromlix.com)