Delectable Dining at Knockendarroch Hotel

by Keith Savage

Pre-dinner canapes and wine at Knockendarroch Hotel, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland

Last autumn I had the opportunity to stay in Pitlochry at Knockendarroch Hotel, a place that had long been on my radar. Struan Lothian, the man behind Knockendarroch, managed the Kylesku Hotel and Torrdarach House once upon a time, and my stay at the latter five years ago was a highlight of the trip. My stay at Knockendarroch was similarly excellent, and as part of it I had a chance to experience dinner at the small hotel.

Dinner at Knockendarroch Hotel worked out perfectly as it was my first day of the trip and I usually don’t like having to seek out restaurants when I’m jet-lagged and grumpy. Whatever grumpiness I had that night was soon to be dispelled as the dining experience began in Knockendarroch’s cozy lounge by a crackling wood fire. I ordered a glass of red wine and perused the menu, which Struan mentioned changes daily. Of note, guests can choose their dishes from among the first courses, second courses, and desserts, a small detail but one that is relatively unique among hotel restaurants.

At first glance, the menu is refined and enticing — perhaps what you’d expect from an AA double rosette restaurant — but also showed flashes of creativity that excited me for the meal to come.

After placing my order I was treated to the wine and a pair of canapés that included salmon mousse with dill on a thin tart and duck liver paté with cinnamon apple. Both were perfect bites, and the duck liver paté in particular was rich and delicious — a perfect amuse bouche while relaxing in the lounge.

When my table was ready, a server led me into Knockendarroch’s cozy dining room. The ambience here was intimate with dim light, quiet guests, and a nice view into the purpling evening. Though I was dining alone I easily saw how this could be one of Pitlochry’s premiere romantic dinner spots.

A server quickly stopped by and offered me some house-baked bread — no baskets full of dry bread here — and delicately placed it on my plate. This pesto-pumpkin seed bread was warm, chewy, and lightly sweet with a buttery flakiness. The pesto was balanced with the mild, buttery pumpkin flavor and served to whet my appetite for the first course.

I’d selected the beetroot salmon gravadlax with capers, dill, cilantro, cucumber, and beurre blanc for my first course. The presentation of the dish was clean and modern and visually appealing. The salmon was refreshing and light even though it was a healthy portion. The rich beurre blanc, fat strips of salmon, and herbal accoutrements made for a balanced, unctuous starter that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I decided to follow up the salmon with guinea fowl served with chorizo, peas, broccoli rabe, and potato dauphinois in jus. This main course was perfectly cooked and emphasized the dish’s various textures from crispy fat to al dente vegetables to juicy, tender meat. This was a hearty dish without being heavy, and again the chef managed to create a balanced flavor spectrum with the right portion size.

I reserve ordering dessert for only the finest establishments, and I’m a sucker for anything lemon. So you understand that the lemon meringue “pie” had to be mine. It appeared as a deconstructed version of the mind’s preconception, a detached collection of lemon curd, meringue puff, lemon mango sorbet, and crust crumble. It was fruity, sweet, tart, and composed of a variety of wonderful textures and temperatures that, when mixed, became a delicious version of lemon meringue pie.

I expected a great meal at Knockendarroch Hotel, but I admit to being pleasantly surprised at just how excellent these dishes were. Struan and his team have mastered not only flavor composition but also texture and presentation. In my experience, when those three factors come together I know I’m in for a meal to remember. With the menu changing every day you’re in for an unexpected treat no matter when you make the wise decision to eat at Knockendarroch Hotel.

Disclosure: Knockendarroch Hotel provided me with a complimentary dinner. All thoughts and opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.

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