The heart of the dining experience at Macdonald Houstoun House is the Jeremy Wares at Houstoun House Restaurant, located on the first floor of the original tower house that remains the most striking feature of the hotel. After a career that saw him win a wide range of awards, Jeremy Wares arrived at Houstoun House Hotel in 2012. Anyone enjoying the cuisine at the hotel today will be unsurprised that it then took only a year for the restaurant to be awarded its second AA Rosette, or that it has retained that award since then. You can read our hotel review for Macdonald Houstoun House here.
The restaurant is open daily for dinner (and breakfast) and is discussed in more detail below. Dinner and breakfast from the restaurant menu may be served in the ground floor Vaulted Bar to aid accessibility, and the Vaulted Bar is also open through the day and evening to serve morning coffees, afternoon teas, snacks, sandwiches, light meals or full blown alternatives to the restaurant menu. Private dining is also an option, either in one of the function rooms or in one of the rooms forming the restaurant.
The Jeremy Wares at Houstoun House Restaurant occupies the whole of the first floor of the tower house. It comprises three rooms created in the 1700s when the castle became a mansion: the dining room (originally the great hall), the drawing room and the library. All offer considerable character very much in keeping with that of the building itself, and the availability of a range of spaces adds to the intimacy of the dining experience.
The dinner menu says much about the restaurant. A brief account of Jeremy Wares' background and achievements is included, as is information about the sourcing of ingredients. We learn that smoked fish comes from John Ross Jr. of Aberdeen, for example; while beef and lamb comes from fully accredited Scottish farms; and pork is "free range, outdoor reared and regionally sourced".
When we visited, diners could choose between two approaches. "Jeremy's Market Menu" offered a selection of two starters, three mains and three sweets. "Jeremy's Scottish Classics", the à la carte alternative, offered four starters, five mains and four sweets, including cheese. The mains selection comes with a choice of sides, raising the need to quiz the server on how big each main actually is, and whether a side would usefully complement what would be served anyway or lead to an inability to face dessert. Suffice it to say for the moment that the "hand cut fat chips" are utterly superb.
We enjoyed starters of a lovely smoked duck ham hock press, and seared Skye scallops with textures of cauliflower that were cooked to perfection. They were followed by mains of an outstanding plate of Scottish lamb, and a mixed grill of Scottish seafood, which on the day of our visit comprised langoustine, cod and plaice, and was simply delicious. By this point in the meal it was possible to start to define elements of "house style". These included beautiful ingredients, cooked perfectly and attractively presented. But if the food at Jeremy Wares at Houstoun House had to be described in a single word, that word would be "flavour". The intensity and definition of the flavours in everything we ate was exceptional, and this was just as true of the selection of sorbets we enjoyed for dessert. Meanwhile the selection of British cheeses also made a very nice end to the meal.
Your dinner will have given you high hopes for breakfast at Macdonald Houstoun House: and you will not be disappointed. Breakfast is served in the main restaurant and comprises a starter buffet course, which you choose from an outstanding, and outstandingly presented, selection of fruits, cereals, breads, cold meats and more. This is how a breakfast buffet should always look, and we saw it well into a very busy breakfast service. The cooked course is prepared to order and the available options include smoked haddock, kippers, porridge or boiled eggs as well as all the components you would expect of a traditional fried breakfast. Everything turns up freshly cooked and nicely hot, and the standard of service is exceptional. Breakfast is simply excellent, and amply justified the claim on the menu by the hotel that "we believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day". You can read our hotel review for Macdonald Houstoun House here.