The inclusion of the word "restaurant" in the Airds Hotel and Restaurant's full name tends to suggest that this is somewhere where food is taken very seriously, and the awarding by the AA of 3 Rosettes proves beyond doubt that this results in very high standards. But it is not until you have tried it for yourself that it is possible to appreciate just how superb the dining experience at the Airds Hotel and Restaurant really is. You can read our hotel review for The Airds Hotel here.
Food is served both to hotel guests and to anyone else looking for a fine dining experience. Light lunches are served in the lounges and the conservatory, and a fuller lunch menu is available in the restaurant itself. Afternoon teas, whether traditional, or "full" including sandwiches (and champagne if you wish), are then served in the lounges in the late afternoon. Meanwhile packed lunches are available for those spending the day away, and room service is on offer from early morning until fairly late at night.
But the focal point of the day's dining is of course dinner. The menu changes periodically, but when we last stayed the main menu offered a choice of six starters, seven mains and six sweets including cheese. Or you can go for the seven course tasting menu. Arriving guests will find a copy of the menu awaiting them in their rooms, and dinner begins with a phone call to take your order at about 6pm. Dinner itself commences with drinks and appetisers served in the lounges.
You then proceed through to the restaurant. This occupies the front of the northern half of the hotel and makes full use of the magnificent views out over Loch Linnhe and the Island of Shuna towards Kingairloch on the far shore. It also makes highly effective use of mirroring to help divide what initially seems a single open space into partitions. A fine example of the thought given to the customer experience is the hotel's approach to piped music. If there are likely to be eight or fewer people dining, then conversations could be overheard between tables and background music is played. Where more diners are expected, individual conversations get lost in the background hubbub so music is not necessary.
A periodically changing menu means that an account of a particular meal can only give a snapshot, but it is a snapshot that says much about the magnificent quality of the dining on offer. The appetisers included "blue murder cheese and pickled pear on a toasted scone", while the amuse bouche was a delicious carrot and cumin soup. For starters we chose a "confit duck rillette with a pickled vegetable salad" and "seared scallops with aubergine purée, cauliflower pakora, charred shallot, pickled cauliflower, yoghurt and mango". Both were delicious, as were the mains of "prime fillet of Scotch beef with pommes sauté, fine bean Lyonnaise and red wine jus", and "slow poached corn fed chicken with baby artichoke, pancetta crumb, pomme mousseline and truffle jus".
A simply sublime pre-dessert of "vanilla panna cotta with rhubarb espuma" was followed by outstanding desserts of "fudge ice cream with caramel sauce" and "calavados parfait, caramelised braeburn apple and walnut ice cream."
Two things especially stood out about dinner. The first was that every element was as near perfection as it is possible to imagine. It is very rare to sit through a dinner and not find some aspect you wish had been done differently or better: which makes the Airds Hotel and Restaurant very rare indeed. The second was the superb service, perfectly paced to match the speed of progress of different tables.
Your morning at the Airds Hotel starts with tea or coffee delivered to your room at a time agreed the previous evening. Breakfast is served in the restaurant, and both courses are expertly table served. Your fruit juice is, if you wish, topped up throughout the meal, and the wide choice of starter course includes a superbly refreshing "Airds fresh fruit salad". We can also report that the porridge was outstanding and the fried breakfast was one of the best we have ever enjoyed: hearty portions perfectly cooked to order. Add in excellent croissants and toast with home made preserves and this is truly a breakfast to remember. You can read our hotel review for The Airds Hotel here.