It was a perfect winter’s day. Cold, but not cold enough to make your toes and nose nip, yet bright and sunny.
The sort of day that demands you drag yourself away from the fireside and get some fresh air.
Just prior to the recent festive season, we decided to take the car for a run in the countryside, and combine it with a walk and somewhere nice to have lunch.
Loch Ness Clansman Hotel
The Loch Ness Clansman Hotel – known locally as The Clansman – in the hamlet of Brackla, between Inverness and Drumnadrochit, fitted the bill nicely as it’s a short but picturesque drive from Inverness, and the road offers lovely views of the iconic loch.
The Clansman’s website highlighted a Christmas specials menu which ranged from mulled wines to a mini afternoon tea.
It sounded good, so we called to book a table as last time we’d swung by without booking and we couldn’t get in as the car park, also used by those enjoying boat trips, was full.
No parking space meant no lunch, as there’s nowhere else nearby to park, but it’s off-season now so this time there were plenty of spaces.
The hotel entrance is nicely decorated and features lovely landscape photography, and, as you move up to the first floor, home to Cobb’s Restaurant, there’s a selection of framed clan crests to admire.
In recent years, the restaurant, which has panoramic views overlooking the loch and surrounding area, has had a glamorous makeover.
Decorated in calming tones of grey, cream and blue, it pays homage to Scottish style via subtle tweeds and tartan. There are a number of areas within the restaurant including an elegant bar, lounge with sofas, booths and lots of window tables offering loch views.
We were two of only a handful of other diners, all being looked after superbly well by waitress, Conny.
She not only warmly welcomed us, but checked whether it was warm enough for us and if the background music level suited us.
She then presented us with fairly short lunch menus rather than the festive one I’d seen online.
It turned out that menu was related to a previously held event and was no longer available.
However, the lunch menu had plenty to tempt us.
I know much of the produce used here is locally sourced and made, but surprisingly, little was made of this on the menu, which is a shame as it should be praised.
To start, I chose ham hock terrine while my other half chose prawn cocktail with a Bloody Mary sauce and wholemeal bread.
My terrine was jam-packed with chunks of thick ham and was big on flavour.
It came with vibrant green rocket salad, a sweet but earthy beetroot puree and two generous pieces of lovely, warm bread. A tasty combination of flavours.
The prawn cocktail was equally appealing, with a generous portion of prawns served atop a crisp bed of lettuce, accompanied by four pieces of thick, wholemeal bread.
The sauce was similar to a classic Marie Rose sauce but with a spicier kick. A little more of this sauce wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Main course options included a variety of burgers, mac and cheese, vegan chilli, fish and chips and a Nessie steak pie.
Himself finds it hard to resist fish so it was the battered Fraserburgh haddock with chunky chips, garden peas and tartare sauce that caught his eye.
I laughed when it was served because it resembled that famous photograph of Nessie’s flipper!
The batter was spot on. Light and crispy, it made that lovely cracking sound as the knife sliced into it.
Once open, a pure white, thick and firm fillet of fresh haddock was revealed; really tasty eaten with the thick, non-greasy crisp chips.
My main dish was a Nessie steak pie which sparked a wee debate between us entitled: when is a pie not a pie?
For me, pie should have a pastry base, sides and top – the sort of thing you can pick up in your hand and munch while cheering on your football team.
Although called a pie on the menu, it did say below that it was casseroled Scotch beef topped with a pastry lid.
There’s your challenge for next week. Find a word which describes food with a pastry topping.
But I digress and can tell you the “pie” was delicious.
Served in a deep dish topped with buttery puff pastry including a wee pastry model of Nessie.
The beef was deliciously tender, while the gravy was rich with hints of thyme and other herbs. Dotted among the beef were teeny whole onions and dainty pieces of carrot.
It came with chunky chips, buttered carrots and garden peas, all of which hit the spot nicely.
I asked for a spoon so I could scoop up all the yummy gravy, and while the chips were delicious, I think mashed tatties would have helped soak up the gravy better.
Surprisingly, they don’t offer a dessert menu at lunchtime, but instead there’s a great selection of cakes, muffins, biscuits and treats made by Cobbs Bakery in nearby Drumnadrochit.
We split a slab of millionaire’s shortbread between us, washed it down with coffee, enjoyed the last of the loch-side views and thought about how far we’d have to walk now to burn off the calories we’d enjoyed consuming.
A tourist trap in the summer months, it’s worth visiting off-season as it’s much quieter and gives you a better chance to enjoy the ever-changing views of the loch.
The food is good and I’d like to see them make more of the fact that they use the Highland larder for their produce.
Don’t be shy people, tell the world!
Address: Loch Ness Clansman Hotel, Brackla, Ness-side, Inverness IV3 8AU
T: 01456 450326
Two starters, two main courses, two soft drinks, two coffees, one traybake
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 5/5
- Surroundings: 4/5