Easter in the West Highlands.
Holly Tree Hotel and Swimming Pool
Kentallen, Glencoe, Argyll PA38 4BY
We checked into the Holly Tree Hotel, about a 10 minute drive from Glencoe village on the Oban Road.  Check in was very efficient and our room was amazing.  A “captain’s room” with loch views (all rooms have loch views) and a balcony complete with tables and chairs.
Here’s our view:
The room was extremely clean and modern with massive bath and lots and lots of Scottish Toiletries.  The view was hypnotic and we absolutely loved to sit by the balcony and watch the sunsets.  Each of the 6 balcony rooms have tables and chairs out on the balcony, but also a second set inside the room overlooking the balcony and view for the chillier and rainier days.
After relaxing with some fizz and Hotel Chocolat Mini Eggs, it was time for dinner.  I had previously sent an enquiry on the hotels website to book a table for 8pm, but it seems that this had gone astray.   When we checked in we were asked if we wanted to book a table for dinner that evening so we said 8pm would be great.  They were expecting a large table of diners at 8pm so the receptionist suggested 7.30pm.  This was no problem at all as we had all night.
We made our way down to dinner and the restaurant was busy with everyone enjoying the amazing views from the floor to ceiling windows.   When we arrived downstairs two waitresses were folding napkins with their back to us as we walked past.  One eventually  turned round and said “Do you want something to eat!”  I explained that we had a reservation and we were promptly taken to our table.  The frost did seem to thaw quite quickly and she actually turned out to be very pleasant.  I think it might just have been a translation issue.
The menu is comprehensive and doesn’t seem to have changed much since I last dined there about 3 years ago.  The website sells the restaurant as Seafood and Grill and we heard from a friend that the seafood platters were wonderful but didn’t try one on this occasion.
We ordered wine from quite a comprehensive wine list and this came quickly.  Our order was then taken and we settled down to enjoy the view and the wine.
Sadly we didn’t get much time to relax and enjoy as the starter arrived within about 2 minutes of ordering.  Efficient service is good but this was far far too quick.  The hotel is situated a good 10 minute drive from other restaurants and bars so guests dining in the hotel will be looking to make a night of it.  At this rate we would be done and dusted in about 50 minutes!
I ordered Chicken Liver Pate served with Oatcakes, Mixed Leaves and Redcurrant Jelly.  Bizarrely this also came on a bed of sun dried tomatoes, which wasn’t mentioned on the menu.  As regular followers will know, I have a nightshade intolerance and sun dried tomatoes aren’t good!
I managed to rescue the pate to my side plate and it was very enjoyable.  The portion was massive and as always I ran out of oatcakes halfway through.

Raymond had the Soup of the Day which was Ham Hock.  It tasted OK but was a bit watery and lacked depth of flavour.

Some other starters on the menu were:

Smoked Haddock Chowder Our Own Delicious recipe of Creamy Leek, Potato and Smoked Haddock Soup with Chives

Moules Mariniere Local Mussels Steamed with Garlic and White Wine, finished with Cream

Fresh Hebridean Oysters
6 Hebridean Oysters served with Tabasco and Lemon

Whole Loch Linnhe Langoustines
Local Creel Caught Cold Langoustines in their Shells served with Marie Rose Sauce and Lemon

Chargrilled Scallops
Local Plump Scallops served with Coriander Crème Fraiche and Mixed Leaves

Feta Cheese, Red Pesto and Black Olive
Flavoured with Herbs and Served with Mixed Leaves

Scottish Salmon Cake
Homemade Salmon Cake served on a Pool of Thermidor Sauce with Lemon Wedge

Plates were cleared and then the mains arrived.  I think the main focus was getting all the orders out quickly to take the pressure off the kitchen for the big table arriving at 8pm.  This is all very well but we were paying guests too and a relaxing well paced meal shouldn’t be too much to ask at the prices charged.

For main course I had Chargrilled Venison Prime Cut of Scottish Venison Lightly Chargrilled and served with a Rich Red Wine Jus (with a side of fries!)

All main courses are served with a chef’s selection of seasonal vegetables and potatoes.  This comprised off green beans, broccoli, carrots, courgette (!!) and boiled potatoes.  This really didn’t work as the selected vegetables didn’t necessarily  go with all dishes.  It’s a very old fashioned way of doing things and is now outdated.  The meal would have been so much better if each dish had been served with vegetables selected to compliment.

The venison should have been a Highland WOW dish but sadly it wasn’t.  The plate was swimmimg in sauce and the Vension could have done with a bit more chargrilling, this would have avoided the slimy texture.

Raymond opted for the Chargrilled Ribeye Beef   Prime Ribeye of Beef Cooked to your liking and Accompanied by Garlic butter.
The plate arrived swimming in Garlic Butter with lots of additional garlic under the steak. The steak was tasty but fries would have worked so much better the boiled potatoes.


A selection of other main courses available were :

Baked Fillet of Sea Bass
Served with Spinach and a Coriander, Chilli and Lemon Butter

Holly Tree Rendezvous of Seafood
A decadent display of Salmon, Mussels, Langoustine, Scallops and Oyster, all served hot with Various Sauces

Cold Seafood Platter
Langoustines, Smoked Salmon and Oysters presented with Marie Rose Sauce and a Fresh Herb Crème Fraiche

Chicken and Haggis
Chargrilled Breast of Chicken Resting on a Bed of MacSweens Haggis Served with a Rich Pepper Sauce

Barbary Duck Breast
Chargrilled Duck breast Cooked Rare Served with Stornoway Black Pudding, Red Cabbage and a Rich Spicy Fruit Glaze

We skipped desert and went straight to coffee, but here’s what we could have had!

Warm Apple and Cinnamon Crepe
With Maple Syrup and Vanilla Ice Cream

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Warm Date Sponge Topped with a Delicious Butterscotch Sauce and Ice Cream

Warm Chocolate Brownie
Served with Vanilla Ice Cream

White Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake
Served with Pouring Cream

Homemade Pecan Nut Pie
Our own Special Recipe served with Pouring Cream

Luxury Vanilla Ice Cream 
Cheese Plate
Orkney Cheddar, Dunsyre Blue and Brie served with Biscuits, Celery and Grapes

You get the impression that the kitchen is a very well oiled machine, but perhaps the chefs don’t have the opportunity to put their own stamp on the menu.  It feels like the menu has been created in the past and time, tastes and fashions have moved on.  The hotel rooms, views and facilities are very special – we absolutely loved staying here, and we will certainly stay again but the food offering let it down.  This place almost has it all and an improved food offering would make it very special indeed.

In summary: Revise the menu and make it special
Slow down the service and make it a night to remember
Add £5 to the room rate but increase the range and quality of the breakfast ingredients – porridge with Glayva and Cream was lovely, but the thin toast, reheated scrambles eggs, insipid juices and budget tomato sauce and brown sauce left us cold.

For accommodation – you must try this hotel.  For food – we will try the bar menu next time and if we are staying for 2 nights will be sure to try other restaurants in the area.

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