Dinner at The Etive Restaurant
Blue skies and sunshine were promised for Valentine’s weekend so we did some last minute planning for a road trip West. We enjoyed an overnight stay at The Ranald Hotel in bustling Oban on Friday night and a hearty dinner at Coast restaurant. The next day we set sail on Calmac’s morning ferry for a flying visit to beautiful Mull and peaceful Iona. Back on dry land, the nearby Taynuilt Hotel was our Saturday night home from home. We were very much looking forward to experiencing chef/proprietor John McNulty’s cooking and sommelier David Lapsley’s wine choices in their Etive restaurant.
Taynuilt Hotel is an old coaching inn, situated in the Highland village of Taynuilt between Tyndrum and Oban and has been providing bed and board to travellers for centuries. It was social media rather than the old post coach that informed us things were changing at The Taynuilt and we wanted to go along to experience some of the tempting dishes we had seen on Facebook.
After a chill out in our four poster bedroom, our evening started beside the woodburning stove in the smartly refurbished restaurant. A welcome glass of 100% Pinot Noir Sparkling Cornish wine from Camel Valley was served with a choice of raw or crisp Loch Fyne Oysters. The English sparkling wine went down a treat and was the perfect apéritif while we chose from their special tasting menu.
We were very amused by our Amuse
We took our seats at the window table and the theatre began. With an elaborate moss filled tray complete with a teapot (we were confused), our amuse-bouche had arrived. David explained the elements of the dish and then left us with the Highland mists sweeping across our plates. As the mist cleared, we were treated to a delicious home cured Highland Beef bresaola and a rich, truffled mushroom veloute. It was a lovely combination that worked so well with their homemade Cotswold Crunch and Hebridean seaweed sourdough bread.
Quite a lot of eating and drinking had already occurred but the menu declared the next course to be the “beginning.” – we liked their style! I chose the hand dived Isle of Skye king scallops with cauliflower pakora and apple caramel. Three huge tender scallops perfectly caramelised on the outside and cooked to perfection were served with crisp florets of cauliflower. Turmeric, coriander and cumin pakora spices were balanced by the smooth cauliflower puree and the crisp shards of apple scattered throughout the dish provided a sharp zingy contrast. I thought that the dish was a triumph and really enjoyed the different take on textures and flavours with the more traditional scallops.
Raymond chose the smoked cheddar tart with duck egg, caramelised red onion and Arran smoked cheddar and it was also a big hit. The pastry was crisp, flaky and buttery – the perfect home for the rich and moreish duck egg, smoked cheese and caramelised onion filling. The dish could have been heavy and sickly but a light touch from chef created a really enjoyable starter.
5 miles south of Taynuilt in Kilchrenan is Ballimore Farm Estate so my main of Slow Braised Jacobs Ladder and Fillet of Ballimore Highland Beef couldn’t have been more local or had fewer food miles if it had tried! The meat was served with Foie gras, parsley root and truffled mashed potato. David explained how the Jacobs Ladder is the rib cage part of the beast and it’s cooked long and slow overnight to give it the most amazing succulence. The dish was rich, indulgent and showcased some of the finest produce from Argyll and proved to be fantastic value for money.
Raymond’s main course, breast of duck with sweet red onions pressed potato, crisp bon bons and celeriac looked very tempting. The duck was a wee bit overdone for his taste but the confit bon bons were an addictive savoury treat.
To have dessert was never in question and our belts loosened a wee notch to make space. I always think if souffle appears in the menu it would be rude not to try it! The Etive had a choice of 4 desserts; passion fruit soufflé, white chocolate créme brûlèe, tea or coffee and homemade sweets or a cheeseboard. I had insider knowledge about the extravagant homemade sweets as my chair faced the restaurant while Raymond’s looked away from our fellow diners so we decided to share these and the soufflé.
The passion fruit soufflé stood proudly on arrival and was so light and fluffy on the inside with a golden sugary crust on the exterior. The passion fruit and clotted cream ice cream sitting on some crumbled shortbread intensified the flavour of the souffle.
If the full on sugar of the soufflé wasn’t enough to take us a step closer to insulin dependence, we still had the homemade sweets to share. I think they might have looked nicer on shorter skewers (and have been easier to photograph!) but each table gasped as their treats arrived so the presentation definitely wowed. The chunks of rhubarb frangipane, white chocolate and welsh whisky truffle, milk chocolate tablet and white chocolate cranberry and raisin fudge were more than enough for us to share with the whisky truffle stealing the show.
After two and a half hours of relaxed eating and drinking beside the roaring log fire, it was time to head for bed. Following in the footsteps of travellers from the last 460 years, we went up the shoogly staircase to our cosy room. We could sleep soundly safe in the knowledge that new culinary passion had been injected into another of Scotland’s traditional Highland Inns.
We are looking forward to a return visit to The Taynuilt in the future and can’t wait to see the next stage of the Inn’s redevelopment. The team have started with the restaurant and if that’s anything to go by exciting times lie ahead.
How to book a room or table at The Etive Restaurant with rooms.
Etive Restaurant with Rooms
Set Menu costs £35 for two courses and £45 for three courses. We stayed on a set price Dinner Bed and Breakfast Deal.