It must be a sign of getting old when you choose to go for a walk then lunch rather than go out in the evening now.
With the nights getting darker much earlier, I hate to admit it but this will be my ideal Sunday for the next few months.
Scotland has fantastic walks for everyone, forests to rivers, beaches to hills, exploring countryside or towns, there is nothing better than fresh air and a bit of exercise.
Castle Fraser is only about half an hour’s drive from Aberdeen and has fantastic grounds to explore around the majestic landmark.
It also boasts a traditional walled garden as well as woodland trails, so it is popular with families and those with four-legged friends.
After our latest trip to the castle we stopped off at the nearby Bennachie Lodge in Kemnay for a bite to eat; exercise undoubtedly works up an appetite.
The hotel is just off the main road and has a fabulous beer garden with parasols and picnic benches.
The weather wasn’t quite warm enough for alfresco dining so my two friends
and I were shown to a table in the dining room.
The room appeared quite dark with wooden beams, exposed brick and small windows, while the thick tartan curtains and chandeliers gave it a relaxed,
A striking mural of a majestic stag covers one wall while other walls are adorned with pictures and even a well-stocked wine rack.
After ordering soft drinks we took our time going over the extensive menu making sure we went for the best options.
A quick choice was nigh impossible as we salivated over some of the dishes on offer – Jack Daniels sesame boneless chicken wings, the ’70s classic Maryland chicken or a macaroni cheese topped with beef chilli and jalapenos.
My friend, who is a regular at the lodge, ordered the Manhattan king prawns to start and insisted we choose the triple-cooked hand-cut fries to accompany our mains.
The sizzling king prawns were the fattest I have ever seen and were steeped in garlic, chillies and red onion and served with toasted ciabatta to mop up the juices.
I could smell the garlic from the other end of the table so she should have no problem with vampires for some time!
Our main courses arrived with a number of oohs and aahs as we gazed at the delicious dishes put in front of us.
My friend chose a warm Caesar salad but requested half halloumi and half chicken; not a problem, said the young waiting staff.
The salad arrived in a large bowl full of salad leaves, chargrilled strips of halloumi and chicken and drizzled with a generous amount of dressing and parmesan.
Crunchy croutons and crispy bacon gave the dish some texture and she savoured every mouthful.
My other friend tucked into the traditional pub favourite scampi, presented in a neat wire serving basket and accompanied by her favourite mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce.
The triple-cooked hand-cut fries arrived and I can declare we have found the perfect chip!
They were dark golden in colour with a crisp exterior and fluffy middle – we were in chip heaven.
My mains option, after much debate I may add, was the novel-sounding monkfish goujons fondue; local monkfish dipped in crispy batter and served with a gruyere cheese dipping pot.
Monkfish is known for its tight, meaty white flesh and is often compared to lobster meat as it has a mild, sweet flavour.
Fish and cheese isn’t a typical pairing as some say cheese can overpower the subtle flavours of fish, but this dish was a triumph.
I just got stuck in with my fingers, dipping the goujons into the cheese pot, and also managed to dip some of those awesome chips in too.
We sat back relaxing as our table was cleared.
The restaurant was fairly busy by now with lots of families enjoying spending time together over Sunday lunch.
As we had entered the hotel earlier I spied a large round dessert fridge showcasing some enticing sweet treats so was keen to sample what delights they had on offer.
Desserts are homemade fresh in-house and not listed on a menu as they change daily, and there was ample to choose from.
I went for the calorific honeycomb cheesecake – gorgeous creamy cheesecake, crunchy biscuit base and topped with honeycomb and chocolate pieces, sheer delight.
My friend ordered the apple and cinnamon crumble served with cream on the side.
However the crumble arrived cold to the table so a swift return to the kitchen and it was warmed up nicely, her only complaint being she was too full to eat it all.
Lovely, fresh, home-cooked food in a charming country lodge. Generous portions with some innovative ideas at reasonable prices.
Looks like I will be doing a lot more walks around Castle Fraser.
Address: Bennachie Lodge, Victoria Terrace, Kemnay AB51 5RL
T: 01467 642789
Price: £61.64 – two courses for three people plus bottle of sparkling water
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 4/5
- Surroundings: 4/5