A fabulous weekend at Loch Melfort Hotel on the West coast of Scotland
After a busy couple of weeks at work, we were looking forward to recharging our batteries at Loch Melfort Hotel near Oban. We had a few important decisions to make before arriving – should we go via the Rest and be Thankful or Take the High Road to Tyndrum and pay a visit to Oban? We decided on the latter and when we arrived, the sun was shining and we joined the tourists in bustling Oban Bay eating their fish and chips while watching the Calmac ferry steaming out of the harbour towards Mull.
After whiling away an hour or so and leaving a few cares behind in Oban, we headed the short distance south towards the Arduaine peninsula and our home for the next couple of nights. Loch Melfort Hotel was originally built as a family home in the late nineteenth century by the Campbell family then sold in the late sixties when it was converted into a hotel. The Cedar wing was added around this time adding a further twenty rooms to the original three rooms and two suites – all with a stunning view across the sea to the Sound of Jura.
Our check in was effortless and we were shown upstairs to our room in the main house – spacious with a big comfy bed, large bathroom and a balcony with that panoramic view. You feel instantly relaxed here as you are surrounded by familiar books on the shelves and lots of thoughtful touches including cosy bath-robes, a coffee maker with choice of coffee pods, homemade shortbread and luxury Sea Kelp toiletries from Scottish Fine Soaps Company.
After a quick change, we meandered downstairs for some pre-dinner gin and tonics, admiring the family photos and paintings that peek out at you in the hallways and landings.
The evening was warm and still with only a few rogue midges around to bat away. Our host for the evening was the charming James who always seemed to appear at just the right time. The bar was well stocked in the gin department and I went for my favourite Harris gin and Donnie went for one he hadn’t tried before, Gordon Castle. Sitting in the sunshine, sipping a Harris gin while gazing out across the amazing sea–scape was just bliss.
Our table was booked for 8 o’clock but we were in no rush and James soon arrived with our menus. We were dining in the hotel’s 2 AA Rosettes Asknish Bay Restaurant with a choice of the 4 course table d’hôte menu or the à la carte menu. The table d’hôte menu changes daily to reflect the amazing choice of local ingredients and is good value at £42 for four courses. Every dish sounded really tempting so we decided to go with this option.
After we’d relayed our order to James, we enjoyed another G&T outside while a couple of little canapés arrived to keep our taste buds happy. We would have quite happily dined outside if it weren’t for the midges but our window table inside more than made up for it.
We were treated to some delicious homemade bread – treacle and cayenne pepper served with sea-salt or black olive butter. For starter I ordered the warm braised crispy pork belly, spiced apricots, Hyslop’s fruit pudding crumb, tattie scone and apricot jus while Donnie chose home-cured local sea trout gravlax, red cabbage gel, pickled lemon, beetroot crisp and cucumber salad.
The pork belly was succulent with a decent crunch and the spicy apricots and scattering of fruit pudding crumbs added a nostalgic flavour and texture to the dish. The mini tattie scone was a light and fluffy bonus and the sweet stickiness of the apricot jus made it a real plate of tasty comfort food.
Donnie’s starter was refreshingly simple with the delicious smoky cured trout resting on thinly sliced pickled lemons. The dots of red cabbage gel were tart and enhanced the flavours of the gravlax. The thin ribbons of cucumber provided some crunch and although the beetroot crisp was missing in action Donnie thoroughly enjoyed the freshness of the dish.
Next on our set menu was a teacup sized portion of roast celeriac soup that was hot, flavoursome, well seasoned and a perfect sized interlude before our mains.
I chose pan fried fillet of sea bass, potato dauphinoise, pickled beetroot, beetroot puree, micro cress and salsa verde. After my hearty starter, this was a really fresh and colourful dish that packed in a lot of flavour. The earthy beetroot worked surprisingly well with the delicate sea bass and the herby zinginess of the salsa verde – it was an uplifting summery plateful.
Donnie had roast guinea fowl supreme, wild Arduaine garlic risotto, roast salsify and burnt shallot puree. The guinea fowl was nicely cooked with crispy skin and hidden underneath was the delicious creamy risotto that held a gentle flavour of wild garlic and had a nice bite to it. The burnt shallot puree combined with the rich jus made the dish very moreish while the roast salsify and broccoli gave the dish some crunch.
For dessert I chose Scottish raspberry mousse, dark chocolate crisps, raspberries, raspberry coulis, mint crisp and dark chocolate sorbet. Donnie chose Lunga organic strawberry and pink champagne jelly, fennel and almond cake, aniseed ice cream, strawberry coulis, meringues & rhubarb sorbet. They were both new dessert combinations for Loch Melfort and we were very willing guinea pigs!
My dessert arrived with fat, fresh raspberries and mousse sandwiched between deliciously crisp chocolate discs and crowned with some crunchy mint. A pool of raspberry coulis and scoop of rich dark chocolate sorbet made this dish very indulgent and extremely delicious.
Donnie’s local strawberry pud was also a great hit with the rhubarb sorbet being the star of the show. The robust rhubarb flavour of the sorbet held its own against the astringent fennel and aniseed flavours in the dish. The thickness of the fennel and almond cake was a bit out of proportion to the rest of the dish and slightly dominated the dessert but overall both desserts offered an unusual and delicious take on summer berries.
After dinner we retired for a relaxing coffee and petit fours in the binocular lounge before being tempted outside for an after-dinner stroll down to the boathouse. This is a short walk past the henhouse and Highland Cows, across the field and down to the shore where you are rewarded with complete tranquility and stunning loch-side views. The fresh air made us both very sleepy and so we headed back to our comfortable room.
After a very restful nights sleep with the warm west coast breeze blowing in through the open balcony windows (you can’t say that very often in the West Coast) it was time for breakfast. Breakfast is served in the dining room and is a combination of buffet selection and a wide range of freshly cooked options from the menu. After some fresh fruit we both opted for a full Scottish breakfast to set us up for the day exploring Argyll.
The full Scottish was delicious with perfectly crisp black pudding, haggis, home-made tattie scone, runny poached Loch Melfort hens egg, mushrooms, bacon, sausages, beans and lots and lots of toast.
Our never ending toast rack kept being replenished allowing us to try each of Loch Melfort’s homemade preserves. The marmalade is to die for and luckily they sell it at reception so that you can take some home with you.
We fell in love with Loch Melfort Hotel and it offers not only the perfect retreat but also a great base to explore Argyll and some of Scotland’s most important historical sites. You can also indulge in your favourite outdoor pursuit or just simply enjoy the stunning Scottish scenery. The sense of relaxation that comes over you in this hotel is overwhelming. The calm atmosphere, comfortable rooms, excellent food and tremendous views from every window combine to make this the perfect break away from all the stress and strains of modern life.
Loch Melfort Hotel
Tel: 01852 200233
We stayed 2 nights at Loch Melfort and paid for dinner bed and breakfast on the second night along with all wine and drinks throughout the weekend.