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Dog friendly Burnett Arms Hotel offers bar snacks with a difference in Banchory

View of the table with halloumi fries, mains and drinks
It's a thumbs up from us for Burnett Arms Hotel.

A few weeks ago, we found ourselves in the rare position of having a free Sunday. No kids’ football, no tennis, no important sport to watch on TV and no play dates organised.

How would we spend this precious family time? Well, our dog would need a walk, and after that, we would need fed and watered. So the decision was made to make a day of it in Banchory.

The sun was shining, and the journey from Aberdeen was a pleasant one as the countryside was beginning to show signs of a much-needed spring.

Before we set off I’d had a quick look at some dining options for what was originally supposed to be lunch, but by the time we got ourselves organised and had our walk ended up being closer to an evening meal.

The venue had to be dog-friendly which ruled out some, but we settled on the Burnett Arms Hotel which seemed to offer what we were looking for.

The venue

Having worked up an appetite on a lovely countryside walk, we drove to the High Street and easily found the Burnett Arms, painted in brilliant white and commanding a prominent position in the town.

Burnett Arms is easy to find.

We had a quick look at the menu out on the street before going in, where we were met by a waiter who showed us through to the Pepper & Fogg’s bar area.

The trendy Burnett Arms Hotel.

I was quite taken aback by how stylish this room was, with its modern industrial design. Cog light fittings hung from the ceiling, and interesting mechanical pictures peppered the walls.

Clean, metal structures formed the bar shelves offering a range of spirts, and there was a good selection of lagers, ales, cider and IPAs.

We loved the well-stocked bar.

Cut glass spirit bottles hung in the windows while whisky casks adorned the walls. There was much to soak in and I hadn’t expected this from the traditional exterior.

We settled into a spacious booth with halved spirit bottles as candle holders, and our dog was able to lie on the floor beside us, closely observing another two well-behaved pooches at the booth next to us.

Burnett Arms is also dog friendly.

There was quite a wide range of customers on this late Sunday afternoon, from locals catching up with each other’s news at the bar, to families, couples and tourists.

We also spotted a more formal-looking dining room on the other side of the hotel and guessed that was for residents or evening meals, but we were happy where we were.

The food

Having taken in the surroundings it was time to study the menu.

I found the main menu rather uninspiring with standard offerings of fish and chips, burgers and macaroni cheese. However, where things became really interesting was on the bar snacks menu.

Forget any notion of crisps and nuts on this, it was full of fascinating offerings including cheesy jalapeno poppers with sweet chilli sauce as well as the intriguing-sounding cauliflower kuku bites.

This was a game changer and my interest was piqued.

We enjoyed a hearty meal thanks to the bar snacks menu.

My son and I agreed to share the salt and pepper squid, served with lime and lemon mayo. And we also ordered some halloumi fries for the table as these are a family favourite.

From the main menu I also chose tagliatelle with homemade meatballs and tomato sauce, while my wife spotted a wild mushroom risotto on the specials menu.

The meatballs went down a treat.

My growing 12-year-old boy selected Whitby scampi and chips from the adult menu, and my nine-year-old daughter took the chicken fillets and chips from the kids’ menu.

My tagliatelle turned out to be a really nice dish. The meatballs had strong flavours, full of herbs, which were balanced nicely by the sweet tomato sauce. The pasta was also perfectly cooked.

The salt and pepper squid was cooked beautifully.

Alongside this I was really enjoying the salt and pepper squid. The batter had a lovely seasoning on it and the squid itself – which can be so tricky to cook correctly – had a good texture. My only complaint was they forgot to serve it with the lime and lemon mayo promised on the menu.

A generous portion of scampi.

The mushroom risotto was completely cleared by my wife, who doesn’t normally finish a main course. I was surprised, especially as risotto can sometimes be a bit sickly. But she was impressed and really enjoyed it.

My son’s portion of scampi was huge and served with chips, peas, lemon and tartare sauce, and my sometimes-fussy daughter made a good job of her chicken fillets.

Why hello there, halloumi fries.

The halloumi fries, meanwhile, did not last long as we all tucked into those. Again the texture was just right. Halloumi can often feel “squeaky” against your teeth but these fries didn’t have that problem.

We were all pleasantly stuffed by the end of this feast. However, children have a second stomach reserved especially for puddings, but we didn’t see any desserts on the menu and weren’t offered any by the waiting staff, so we decided to get them an ice cream from the shop down the road instead.

The verdict

After my initial reservations about the menu, I was pleasantly surprised by our meal at the Burnett Arms.

The prices are reasonable and the portions generous, especially the bar snacks. The quality of the food could not be faulted either.

If we go back I’d be tempted to order a few of the bar snacks as tapas as there were some exciting-sounding dishes. Two or three would be ample as the portions really were impressive for the price.

A stylish, relaxed setting with some interesting, well-cooked food was a winning formula for me.

Burnett Arms Hotel

25 High St, Banchory AB31 5TD

Tel: 01330 538725


Cost: £58.35

Four main courses, two bar snacks and two soft drinks.

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