Smiddy House in Spean Bridge
Smiddy House and Russell’s Restaurant situated in the heart of Spean Bridge comes highly recommended, and we had been planning a visit for ages. Our trip on the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig provided the perfect opportunity to stay. We booked Dinner, Bed, and Breakfast, packed our bags and headed West.
Robert was on hand to check us in and provide all the details we needed for a fantastic stay. He looks after the front of house, and his partner Glen is responsible for creating the incredible food that comes from the kitchen – lots more about that later!
It’s immediately apparent that standards are high at five bedroom Smiddy House – with immaculately decorated public spaces and tasteful quality furnishings. Visit Scotland, and the AA has awarded it 4-star gold. Michelin Guide and “Scotland the Best” also recommend it highly. The restaurant and lounge take up most of the ground floor, and we were immediately struck by how big a part of the business food is. Glen’s cooking is consistently highly rated five out of five on review sites, and the AA has awarded him 2 AA Rosettes for the past 13 years. Add to this a loyal local following, and we couldn’t wait to experience dinner!
Robert showed us upstairs to our bedroom with dual aspect windows, extremely comfortable bed and spotless bathroom. The sun was streaming through the windows and Robert suggested a lovely walk close to the hotel that would take about an hour and a half – perfect before our early evening G&T!
The trail starts a short distance from Smiddy House and winds its way along the River Spean and up past the very atmospheric High Bridge where you can almost feel the Jacobite soldiers marching along side you. Further on we arrived at the famous Commando Memorial overlooking the glen. The views across the fields towards Aonach Mhor and Ben Nevis are fabulous in the late summer sunshine.
We took slightly longer on the walk than planned as the weather was fantastic and we wanted to enjoy the fresh air and great views. There was no time for a wee snooze before dinner, so it was straight into the shower. Robert and Glen provide a brilliant range of Scottish soaps, shampoos, and moisturisers for guests to use. Which ones to choose? We were definitely going to be late for dinner!
Dinner guests gather in the Garden Room for pre-dinner drinks and to peruse the menu. We like this way of working as you can relax and enjoy your drinks in lovely surroundings and then be taken to the table when your meal is ready. It’s also a great way to meet your fellow diners.
On this occasion, we were in for a complete surprise. My cousin Bill and his wife Isobel are regulars at Smiddy House and have raved about the food for years, telling us we should visit. They secretly decided to book in for dinner the same night as us, and we were delighted to see them both. What better way to catch up than over an enjoyable meal in the Highlands.
Russell’s creamy chicken liver, port and prune paté with boozy prunes, red onion marmalade, and crisp Hebridean oatcakes was my starter of choice. I always like the ceremony of paté – break a wee bit of oatcake making sure that your ratio of pate to oatcake can be maintained. Then stack the marmalade on top and try to balance some prune on that! Open wide and enjoy the rich, sweet flavours….bliss!
Raymond chose breast of new season grouse served with a beetroot and parmesan risotto. The vibrant earthy risotto, perfectly cooked to a creamy texture while retaining some bite was the ideal accompaniment to the tender grouse.
A refreshing citrus sorbet was served between starter and main courses.
It was the Loin of Ardgay Venison with braised red cabbage, celeriac and bramble jus that jumped out of the menu for me. The dish was rich with autumnal flavours, and the celeriac cubes added texture while the local brambles provided some acidic zing. This dish was my star dish of the evening, and I savoured every mouthful.
Raymond opted for wild sea bass fillet served with prawns, cauliflower as couscous and a tomato and herb dressing. The thick piece of fish was nicely cooked, and along with the succulent prawns, the dish had a light Mediterranean flavour with a scattering of dill.
Whisky and lemon syllabub with Perthshire strawberries and ginger shortbread was an indulgent end to the evening. Raymond went for the warm pineapple and ginger pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream which was delicious and part of the reason we are now on WeightWatchers (one stone down). From start to finish, service, atmosphere and food were perfect – it’s easy to see why the walls are full of accolades and the tables full of happy diners.
We were on a dinner bed, and breakfast rate but non-residents or guests on a B&B rate can choose two courses for £32.50 and three courses for £38.50 which is excellent value.
After a few more drinks in the Garden Room with Bill and Isobel, it was time to say “night night” and head to bed. We have local restaurant envy – the folks of Spean Bridge are lucky to have Smiddy House on their doorstep.
Our bed was extremely comfortable with high-quality bedding, plenty of comfy pillows and peace all night long. We had an excellent nights sleep and woke refreshed and ready for breakfast. Smiddy house has an AA Breakfast Award so we knew we would be in for a treat.
Breakfast is served
The dining room is also the home of breakfast. Initially, we were surprised that we didn’t have to forage from a continental breakfast buffet table. Instead, all menu items are freshly prepared in the kitchen and delivered to your table. How refreshing and relaxing not having to battle for the toast machine or disappointingly find that there are only a few squidgy chunks of melon left!
To start with I chose cornflakes with fresh grapefruit segments all neatly trimmed – none of your usual tinned fruit here.
Raymond chose homemade pancakes with bacon and maple syrup. I will let the picture do all the talking as they tasted as good as they looked. Look how fluffy these pancakes are!
Throughout breakfast, Robert would pop past and hand out their homemade croissants. They were so light, crisp and buttery we just couldn’t say no!
I chose local smoked salmon with light, fluffy scrambled eggs and served with white, brown or mixed toast. You can tell that lots of thought go into each item on Glen’s menu – it must be as local as possible, and it must be of the highest quality. All too often smoked salmon can be waxy, rubbery and unappealing whereas this had the perfect texture. The smoking style also let the delicate salmon flavours shine through without being overpowered.
Would we go back?
With full tums, it was time to say goodbye to Smiddy House and head back to Edinburgh.
Smiddy House is an absolute hidden gem in the West Highlands and provides everything you need for a relaxing break under one roof. We didn’t have the time to sample their fantastic afternoon tea (24 hrs notice required and available during the main season only), but it gives us the perfect excuse to stop off in the future. We highly recommend a visit if you are looking for a place to stay near Fort William or are heading North and want to treat yourself en route.
Smiddy House is also offering Festive Breaks and Christmas Dinner. Full details are available on the website.
Dinner Bed and Breakfast was around the £200 mark for the two of us.
How to book.
TEL: 01397 712 335