Mar Hall offers guests and visitors a number of formal and informal dining options, and the hotel recommends that a booking is made whatever option you choose. Light lunches, snacks and afternoon teas are served in the magnificent Grand Hall. We didn't partake ourselves, as we only arrived fairly late in the afternoon and didn't want to spoil dinner, but from what we saw on the plates being enjoyed by others, this side of the dining experience seems to work very well indeed. The hotel also offers an extensive room service menu from noon until 10pm each day, and a children's menu is available as part of this. You can read our hotel review for Mar Hall here.
Formal dining at Mar Hall takes place in the Cristal Restaurant between 7pm and 10pm each evening. We approached our dinner not really knowing what to expect. Yes, as a five star hotel, we took it for granted that the food would be good. But at the time of our visit, the hotel's website did not give great prominence to the food on offer or to the dining experience (we understand this may change). It therefore came as a real surprise, and a very pleasant one, to find that the food on offer was not just good, it was positively outstanding. When we visited, a three course dinner was precisely that. There were no flourishes or fripperies: no amuse bouches, canapés or pre-dessert courses. But three more perfectly judged and satisfying courses it would be very difficult to imagine. Mar Hall's style can be characterised as very high-end fine dining in terms of ingredients, cooking and presentation, combined with portion sizes that ensure you will not leave the table hungry.
Your dinner will probably start with nibbles and a pre-dinner drink in the bar while you order, and you then move through to the restaurant. When we visited there were two menus to choose from. The daily-changing fixed price Market Menu offered a choice of four starters, four mains and four sweets including a cheese dish. The à la carte menu changes every three months, and at the time of our visit offered a choice of eight starters, eight mains (plus steak and six side orders), and five sweets including a cheese dish.
We chose from the à la carte menu. "Cullen Skink" is open to many interpretations, but served with a free range soft poached egg and toasted oats it was simply delicious. As was the other starter we chose, a "twice baked Mull Cheddar cheese souffle, with a smoked plum tomato and a crisp root salad". For mains we went for "roasted breast of free range Perthshire chicken with roasted root vegetables, champit potatoes, smoked panacetta and tarragon jus" and "roast canon of Highland venison carved on rosti potato, red cabbage confiture, haggis bonbons and redcurrant sauce". Both were as near perfection as it is possible to imagine a chicken or venison dish to be. A dessert of "warm chocolate brownie with ginger ice cream and crushed pistachio nuts" was sublime, and the cheese selection was interesting and diverse, and like everything else, beautifully presented. The outstanding food was complemented by the efficient, friendly and extremely knowledgable waiting staff, and the overall experience was one you would most certainly want to repeat. Coffee followed in the Grand Hall.
Breakfast is served in the Cristal Restaurant and fully lived up to the high expectations generated by the dinner. A self service first course offered an unusually wide variety of choices, including a beautiful selection of fresh fruit: and orange juice that had obviously been inside an orange not long before. The main course choices ranged from Finnan haddock, Loch Fyne kippers or kedgeree through to pancakes, muffins and a full vegetarian breakfast. Plus, of course, the full Scottish breakfast. This, unusually, could be served freshly prepared from the kitchen or self service from a buffet. The freshly prepared full Scottish breakfast was one of the very best we have ever eaten. Beautiful ingredients, beautifully cooked, and with portion sizes that will keep you going through the day. A particularly nice touch was that if you ordered just a few of the elements, you still got a good sized portion. You can read our hotel review for Mar Hall here.