Since this review was written, the Carlton Hotel has changed ownership, with the result that what is said here may no longer be current. We hope to be able to update the review in the near future. There are two main options available for anyone wanting to dine at The Carlton, and these relate to the hotel's two main dining areas. On the one hand you have the Bridge Restaurant, open for dinner and for breakfast. On the other you have the The Bridge Bar and Lounge. When we stayed we had dinner in the restaurant and found it to be excellent, but both options are described in a little more detail below. It is worth adding that 24 hour room service is also available, and dining can form part of conference, event or wedding packages at the hotel. You can read our hotel review for The Carlton here.
The Bridge Bar and Lounge is open for drinks, snacks, afternoon teas and cakes from 8am to 1am every day, and it serves an all day dining menu from 10am to 10pm. The menu is varied and extensive. It includes breakfast rolls available in the morning; traditional sandwiches; speciality sandwiches including the Carlton Club (chicken and bacon) sandwich; and salads. "Light Bites" cover everything from baked beans to a Carlton burger with fries; and it is possible to have soup with your sandwich. The all day dining menu includes a range of full meals, from haggis, neeps and tatties to a sirloin steak. Add in a selection of desserts, afternoon teas, hot and cold drinks, and there really is something for just about any occasion available in the lounge and bar.
Dinner is served in the Bridge Restaurant, which includes a partitioned off area of the lounge that leads through into a large separate room at busy times or for breakfast. At the time we visited the hotel's website simply noted that the restaurant offered a brasserie style menu, and we weren't really sure what to expect. What we found was excellent dining and outstanding service that added up to a dining experience we would certainly want to repeat. The breads, pastries and desserts were particularly good, and included one of the very best desserts we have ever eaten (a white chocolate and brownie cheesecake with black cherry compote). It is so nice to be able to comment on a kitchen where this side of the operation seems to be taken so seriously.
Not that any other part of the operation was neglected. At the time we stayed at the Carlton, the dinner menu comprised six starters plus soup; nine mains including two vegetarian options, plus sides; and five desserts plus a cheese selection. The aim is to introduce more flexible dining options with more in the way of sharing platters, but while this may overtake the details of our own dining experience, it seems unlikely to change the fundamentals of the way the kitchen and restaurant operate: which is a good thing, because both operate very well indeed, with beautifully prepared and nicely presented food delivered by a very friendly and extremely effective waiting staff.
Breakfast is also served in the Bridge Restaurant. Both hot and cold courses are self served from a buffet. We arrived 2½ hours into the unusually long 3½ hour breakfast service, and found both the hot and the cold sides of the buffet were still very well presented, with a full choice of items still available and, especially on the hot side, still very freshly prepared. We used to have a theory that it was not possible to get a perfect fried egg or black pudding from a self service breakfast buffet. The Carlton proved us wrong, and every other element was likewise just right. If you are staying at the hotel for leisure rather than business, it is worth taking heed of the notices suggesting that breakfast can be very busy early in the service, and more relaxed later on. You can read our hotel review for The Carlton here.