Review: Cromlix House

Cromlix House is a building that I used to know well but haven’t visited for several years, so it was great to find my way back there recently.

Ten years after the Murrays opened it, the most obvious thing is how completely yet sympathetically it’s been updated. Significant amounts of tennis winnings have conspicuously been lavished on new décor, with Andy’s wife Kim leading the renovations. Darker colours for the woodwork and on trend busy wallpaper are just the start but the end result is that the whole place exudes an informal yet classy ambience.

As we arrive, it’s a sunny evening, so there’s a row of tables outside on the pristine lawn. Champagne and wine bottles poke out of ice buckets, a puppy gambols around on the grass, a peacock calls noisily; it’s a dreamily bucolic scene. We warm up for our meal with two cocktails in the bar – a margarita and an old-fashioned, both of them strangely underpowered, but the atmosphere is sufficiently enchanting that we’re not unduly bothered.

Besides, we’re here to cast an eye over their new menu, not their bar. Once part of the Roux empire which encompasses half a dozen of Scotland’s finest hotels, they have gone solo with Executive Head chef Darin Campbell now producing a bespoke menu from the open kitchen that serves The Glasshouse, the large heavily glazed extension which serves as their fine dining restaurant.

As we run our eyes over a menu that has enormous breadth, the first thing we notice is that the bread is superb. It’s a good omen.

We start with a sushi roll of miso taramasalata, kimchi mayonnaise and crispy octopus (£15.50) which is small but excellent. The other starter sets my pulses racing: mackerel is a criminally underrated ingredient, so we await the grilled mackerel fillet with coconut and toasted peanut chilli salad, avocado and pickled ginger (£13.50) with interest. The fish is fresh and the flavour of its dark meat beautifully understated, while the fusion of such diverse ingredients provides a compelling backdrop.


Our mains were also a mix of traditional country house fare and Asian fusion. A nicely produced Aberdeenshire lamb rack and shank with garlic potato with broccoli puree, asparagus and carrots (£36.50) provided the former, while a colourful ramen of salmon with grilled tiger prawns, spring vegetable, noodles and a poached hens egg (£37.50) catered for those with culinary wanderlust.

We ended with two beautifully presented puddings which rounded off the meal perfectly. The Valrhona dulcey chocolate with green apple, miso, palmier and a dollop of ice cream (£12.50) was a crescent-shaped, intricately crafted work of art that nevertheless disappeared with undue haste, while the light, fresh sheep’s milk parfait (£12.50) with Perthshire rhubarb – think of a pretty pink éclair-sized dessert – was spot-on for such a warm summer’s evening.

It was, it has to be said, a massive departure from the heavy French flavours of the Roux playbook, and more like a return to the sort of menus Campbell would have helped prepare when working under Andrew Fairlie, or as head chef at Ballachulish House Hotel and One Devonshire Gardens. But sitting looking out at a picture perfect lawn bathed in summer sun, it was just what was needed.

CROMLIX: Cromlix, Kinbuck, Stirling FK15 9JT; 01786 820310;

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