THE LOVAT

It was Mr TGE’s birthday week and as is traditional we flew off on holiday to help him escape the grinding panic that grips every year as he realises with startling clarity that second by second, precious life is ticking by in an unstoppable march towards the grave…

Personally, I’m a big fan of birthdays. I like cake, I like balloons and I bloomin’ love presents – hurrah for lovely birthdays! Mr TGE, not so much… unless we’ve discovered, he’s on holiday! Due to the continuation of the baby growing (and me looking more and more weeble-esque) we decided this year to keep things a little closer to home, so jetted off to exotic Inverness to spend a week in the Scottish Highlands.

It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, mainly because I’ve seen Outlander and I’ve been led to believe that this a fairly typical example of a Scotsman…

Outlander 2014

And of course another birthday tradition in the TGE household is to be treated to a fabulous meal –  there’s pretty much no problem, even facing your own mortality, which can’t be fixed with a good meal. After hearing rave reviews we decided to try The Brasseries at The Lovat in Fort Augustus,  a 4 star hotel close to Loch Ness with a history that stretches back to the Jacobites. It is also home to Station Road Restaurant which receives equally glowing reviews, offering a tasting menu and matching wine flight. Once the baby growing is done it’s something we would definitely want to head back to try…

If you ignore the rather wink-wink nudge-nudge welcome sign which made me want to punch myself in the face a bit (“Loving it at the Lovat!” in Ann Summers hues of black, pink and white with a scattering of love hearts. It does look just a little like a swingers hotel from the outside…)  then the Lovat is a welcoming site. With shabby chic décor, a tempting food menu and an even more tempting cocktail menu, it’s clear to see why The Brasseries is so popular, pre-booking is advised.  Less formal than Station Road Restaurant, the Brasserie puts a strong emphasis on quality service which was evident from the moment you arrive – staff wait until the minute before you’re due for your booking to finish setting up with your table with a large decanter of cold water and pre pouring your first glass.

After being warmly welcomed we settle in to peruse the menu and order a couple of drinks. I opt for a Shirley Temple from the mocktail list while Mr TGE starts strong with a Zombie which I’m told was a delight. Just to be on the safe side he pre-orders a glass of cabernet sauvignon to have with his main course at this point – always best to know that by the time you finish one drink you’ve got another of the way!  We kick things off with a couple of starters, I opt for the Shetland mussels steamed in white wine, garlic and cream and Mr TGE chooses venison bresaola with swede remoulade and roasted hazlenuts. The waitress assures me that the mussels will be thoroughly cooked to make sure they’re bump friendly, which was nice of her. Fresh warm bread arrives with salted butter and pesto to get our appetites going.

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Shortly after a huge steaming cauldron of mussels arrive, they’re fresh and plump with a generous pool of creamy, garlicky sauce. The smell is divine and I happily slurp my way through as many as I can manage. The portion is huge but I do my best and use the bread to mop up some of the delicious sauce, it was too good to waste! Mr TGE is equally pleased with his choice of venison (sadly not picture as it was devoured) which proves a lovely blend of salty, sweet and nutty flavours.

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The main courses looked equally good (the wine arrived right on time too)  – I had chosen the pot roast shoulder and leg of lamb with creamed barley, carrots and mustard. I’m a sucker for lamb and this was cooked beautifully, achingly soft and full of flavour. The barley was sweet and nutty which worked well with the rich indulgent mustard sauce. My only complaint (and not enough to say something) was that it was slightly cold – especially the lamb. Delicious, but would have preferred everything just a little bit warmer.

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Mr TGE was happily tucking into his main which was the special of the day – pork belly with black pudding and bacon and cabbage.  Well, why not? The black pudding was layered in strips throughout the pork which meant everything was moist and delicious with deep salty pork flavour. It was an incredibly rich and tasty dish which really packed a meaty punch and was declared an absolute winner.

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Because it’s the law that you must have pudding on your birthday we decided to opt for something light  – then quickly changed our minds because ‘trio of dark chocolate’ is available and what kind of monster says no to that? Because we’re not total animals, we agree to share one. To see the night off properly Mr TGE orders a lovely dessert wine which unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of. However, ordering a zombie, red wine followed by a dessert wine is sufficiently weird enough to draw the bartender over to meet whoever is ordering this concoction. The chaps bond over a passion for rum and cocktails – had we been staying in the area longer we would have definitely headed back to the bar on another night try out a few of the suggestions!

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The trio of dark chocolate arrived  – ice cream, fondant and mousse – and was beautifully presented, as the rest of the meal had been. However, unlike the rest of the meal I felt this was the only course which just didn’t have that flavour punch. The mousse was smooth and creamy, my favourite of the trio. Although the ice cream and the fondant were pleasant there just wasn’t the depth of flavour I had been expecting. It was rather nice when you had a bit of each of the trio at the same time and that definitely helped the flavour, but overall not enough chocolate for me…

We left very happy and very full – the staff were wonderful throughout the night, attentive without being overbearing with fantastic attention to detail. With a menu that good, it’s somewhere I’m absolutely sure we’ll return to.

 

P.S – Perhaps you fancy some music while you read food reviews? Of course you do! And what better to listen to than The Fathership’s band, The Bled, White and Blues! Yes that’s right, we don’t just write food reviews in this family, we’re also musical! I mean, not me, obviously, that’s why I write this and don’t have an album available on sound cloud, but he’s very good! You can check them out here https://soundcloud.com/user-105154741. Try listening and them not spending the rest of the day humming Thunder Road, I dare you.

 

 

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