A kitchen has to be doing something rather special to be awarded 3 AA Rosettes, and the knowledge that at the time of our visit Cringletie House Hotel's Sutherland Restaurant was the only holder of this accolade in the Scottish Borders led us to expect great things of them. We were certainly not disappointed. We visited a few weeks after the hotel had reopened following a major refurbishment, and a few weeks after a new chef had been recruited to build upon his predecessor's achievement in placing the hotel on the culinary map of Scotland. This must be a nervous moment for proprietors of any hotel, but from what we saw - and ate - the question is not whether the previous standards can be maintained: rather it is what new heights the current chef might be able to take them to. You can read our hotel review for Cringletie House here.
Cringletie House Hotel serves lunch and dinner in the Sutherland Restaurant, as well as afternoon tea in the lounge. We will focus on dinner as that is what we enjoyed. The house style can be characterised as high-end fine dining, though without any excess of pretension. Presentation certainly matches the very high standard of the ingredients and the sublime cooking, but the three are in balance in a very pleasing way. What arrives on your tables are meals intended to be eaten and enjoyed, as well as meals that look superb.
You dinner experience will probably start in the bar or lounge, with a drink and the menus. The choices are well set out. A guest staying on a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast basis has included in their tariff the daily changing four (plus) course "Temptation Menu", which is in effect a set menu. However, it is possible to mix and match items from the accompanying "Indulgence Menu" which offers an additional four starters, mains and sweets: for a small supplement per course. The end result is a choice between five dishes for each course, albeit without the supplements if you stick to the fixed menu. This is a nice way of balancing out and presenting a choice which can sometimes appear unclear in restaurants and hotels.
Your first taste of the food, literally, is in the form of canapés, and here you begin to get a sense of the care and attention that will be a consistent element of the entire dinner. Ours included hot haggis bon-bons that were wonderful. Once seated at the table we were given an amuse bouche of belly pork. An interesting choice as this is a dish that some diners love and some do not: and it came over as a mark of a supremely confident chef, effectively saying "whatever you think of belly pork, try MY belly pork." We did. It was outstanding.
Our starters were "tuna and veloute of wild greens" from the fixed menu, and "Borders cold cut beef fillet, smoked crème fraîche and picked vegetables". Both were delicious. As were our mains, "corn fed chicken, chorizo and sautéed potatoes" from the fixed menu and "loin of venison, roast root vegetables, and black pepper crust". For sweets we went for the beautifully rich "chocolate tart and vanilla ice cream" from the fixed menu and "spiced pineapple donuts with minted-caramel ice cream" which promised much, and fully delivered on its promises. Remember that the menu will be different when you dine: we only describe the dishes to provide some illumination of the style and of the types of dishes on offer. Sweet was followed by very nice coffee and petits fours served back in the bar. It was the latter which provoked the telling comment: "whoever prepared this meal really cared about every single detail, all the way through".
Breakfast at Cringletie House is every bit as good as you hope it will be. The cold starter course is self-served from a well stocked and maintained buffet, and offered everything from fruit through cornflakes to yoghurt. The main course is table served and again had a full list of options, including Tobermory Mull cheddar omelette; oak-smoked salmon; peat-smoked haddock; blueberry pancakes with crème fraîche; porridge and, of course, the full breakfast. You can read our hotel review for Cringletie House here.