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Restaurant review: Dome dining at Aberdeenshire’s Meldrum House is truly a sparkling experience

Meldrum House.

They told me there was no room at the inn here in Meldrum House Hotel as conference mania had broken out and the place was swarming with delegates.

But it was wonderful to see the old atmosphere returning and the Aberdeenshire economy fighting back in the recovery from Covid-19.

The busy car park gave us an early sign that plenty of people were about as we approached. Motoring along the long driveway, it looked from afar that even a party of aliens had booked in for their own convention because a group of large illuminated plastic domes were lined up neatly like flying saucers on the lawns outside the magnificent old country manor house.

The domes.

What we were really looking at was a trendy eating-out innovation – the impressive dining domes outside Meldrum House.

The weather upon our arrival was low cloud and rainy, but we were quickly tucked up nice and cosy in one of four dining domes just yards from the house, and it just happened to be called Castor, named after the second brightest star in the universe – all of the domes (Sirius, Luna and Aurora) were given starry names to match a “dining under the stars” theme.

Each one caters for various booking sizes – from romantic couples and business dinners to hen parties and honeymoon staycations. There is also the Titan dome bar located nearby which offers cocktails.

Each dome caters for various booking sizes.

It’s not essential to see the stars at night – daytime dome dining has its attractions too with wonderful all-round scenic views.

I asked if it was possible to book a dome for a special private breakfast treat and was told it wouldn’t be a problem. The domes are available in two-hour slots and given different pricing options throughout the day.

You pay a hire fee – £35 for a midweek, half past five start time in our case – with food and drink charged on top, unless you have made other arrangements.

A member of the serving staff leads guests from the house to the domes where you can watch them deliver food in containers to keep it warm.

A selection of the dishes enjoyed.

Meanwhile, inside the domes, guests are also kept comfortable with thermostatically-controlled heaters, which pump out warm or cool air to suit conditions. Many visitors will have enjoyed upmarket bar meals in Meldrum House’s 1236 “cave bar” or fine dining in the Pineapple room. I was pleased to see that they were using the Pineapple menu on our night in a dome.

The domes offer a luxury feeling only private dining can bring, so we felt that the least we could do was start with a Bellini Prosecco from the cocktails list for my wife and a Mojito mocktail for me.

We appreciated that all the traditional trimmings of a luxury dining table were laid out, plus a Bluetooth speaker for our own music if the fancy took us. I had my favourite playlist of songs ready to plug in from my mobile phone, but for some reason my wife seemed reluctant to listen to Led Zeppelin and Tom Waits all night.

The food

We began with seafood chowder for me and curry-flavoured cauliflower bhaji for my wife. The chowder was so rich and delicious – crammed with chunks of fish and chopped vegetables – that I couldn’t get enough of it. The intricate layers of flavour were amazing. I would have quite happily had the same again for mains.

My wife loved her bhaji, but her only wish was that the delicate curry flavour came through the meal more strongly.

The starts: Seafood chowder and cauliflower baji.

For mains, it was fresh, fleshy white turbot for me, with spinach, Isle of Mull cheddar and potato rosti. I don’t see this dish on menus that often so it was quite a treat. I was reliably informed that it was landed at Peterhead just two days earlier.

My wife had something special too: “head-to-toe” cuts from Highland beef reared locally in Deeside. She enjoyed pieces of cheek, rump and tail laid out on her plate with a lovely red wine jus.

The varying textures and flavours were delicious. Our waiter confided that the kitchen had an exclusive deal with a local farmer to source these special cuts. We also had sides of truffle and parmesan fries, roasted vegetables and a dish of creamed savoy cabbage with bacon.

The mains: Highland reared beef and rock turbot.

Every time our waiter opened the tent-like zip to enter the dome, a blast of cold air jumped in with him, but the heater kept kicking in to compensate. The only thing we felt was missing were better comfy chairs to relax into; the ones offered in the dome felt and looked like standard patio chairs.

We smiled at the dessert list when our eyes came to rest on banana mille-feuille pastries with rum and raisin ice cream.

The reason being that while watching Masterchef on TV a few days ago we heard celebrity chef Marcus Wareing say mille-feuille was “my go-to dessert”. But that night, we also saw chefs struggling to make it properly during the show’s infamous skills-test section. So, on that note, we ordered one each.

Banana mille-feuille pastries with rum and raisin ice cream.

The verdict

I have to credit the chefs who got the delicate layers of fruit, cream and pastry spot on. In fact, in the race to deliver excellent service during our visit, the Michelin-trained chefs at Meldrum House romped home in style.


Information

Meldrum House Hotel
Oldmeldrum, Inverurie
AB51 0AE

T: 01651 872294
W: meldrumhouse.com

Price: £109 plus £35 for the dining pod. Three courses for two people plus sides and drinks.

Scores:

  • Food = 5/5
  • Atmosphere = 4/5
  • Service = 4/5

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