REVIEW: A taste of the Highlands at The Lovat by Loch Ness

Morag Bootland visits the Station Road restaurant at The Lovat hotel in Fort Augustus.

A SHORT break in Sutherland behind us, we decide to cushion the blow of returning home to the daily grind with a rather indulgent stop off at Station Road restaurant at The Lovat hotel in Fort Augustus.

The restaurant is currently serving a couple of tasting menu options – Beag (little) or Mór (big). We plump for the smaller six course menu at £70 per person. The larger is a hefty £90. There’s a drinks flight available, but at £65 we decide it might be a treat too far.

Station Road restaurant

We’re warmly welcomed and enjoy a quick mocktail in the stunning lounge before we head through to the restaurant. Chef Sean Kelly has based his tasting menus on foraged and local ingredients to showcase the Highland larder that surrounds Fort Augustus, as well as some produce grown in the hotel’s kitchen garden.

We kick off with a plate of beautifully presented little treats. My favourite was the Arbroath smokie, Highland gouda and curry; almost dumplingesque, it was rich, smoky and salty. Then there was the Loch Etive sea trout, black pudding and apple; presented in a crisp case the black pudding and apple gel were a great combination, and the trout was rich and delicious, but whether they should have been bedfellows is debatable. The cheese twiglet had a hint of marmite, which was just a little too much for me. It is marmite after all!

Suitably impressed, we chat to the friendly staff about the next course, which is a feast of bread and butter. For me, it doesn’t get much better than this. The sourdough was divinely chewy and the treacle bannock warm and comforting. These were served up with two types of butter. The first was unsalted, until it was adorned with a generous dusting of Isle of Skye Sea Salt. Divine. The tomato butter looked for all the world like a shiny red tomato and was almost too pretty to spread on bread.

Next came the only blip in what was otherwise a fabulous meal. The mushroom, truffle and chicken liver sounded promising, but the wee pot of mushrooms was lukewarm, lacked texture and was overly salty, meaning I couldn’t detect a hint of mushroom in there. For a lover of all things fungi this was a disappointment. The crispy chicken skin with chicken liver on the other hand was incredibly moreish.

But onwards and undoubtedly upwards as the next course provides diners with a choice. I decided to have the Fassfern red deer, celeriac and garlic, while Ester went for the Gigha halibut, Shetland mussels and garden courgettes. The venison was perfectly pink and the little venison pie was full of rich minced meat with thin, crisp pastry. Ester’s halibut was moist and meaty, wrapped in thin strips of courgette. Served with a battered courgette flower it was pretty as a picture too.

Chef saved the best for last with a really stand out dessert. Using the hotel’s own honey, we discovered cubes of sweet honey cake with fresh strawberries, buttermilk rennet and wood sorrel hidden beneath a crisp, biscuity honeycomb style dome. A fitting end to our dinner and our trip.

The Station Road restaurant tasting menus aren’t cheap, but then, there’s usually a good excuse to treat yourself if you look hard enough. And if you’re looking for top quality waiting staff then I’d say those at Station Road are worth the money alone. Friendly, helpful and genuinely lovely, they are the epitome of great Highland hospitality.
The Lovat, Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire PH32 4DU Tel: 01456 490000

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