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Restaurant review: A cosy welcome makes Clachan Grill in Ballater the perfect lunch pitstop

The Schoolhil Burger and the beetroot risotto from Clachan Grill in Ballater. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
The Schoolhil Burger and the beetroot risotto from Clachan Grill in Ballater. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

There’s something quite magical about Scotland having its own pyramid.

Given said landmark is in fact a monument built by the late Queen Victoria in honour of her husband, some could argue Prince Albert’s Cairn does have a romantic beauty to it.

But no matter what your views of the Royals are, the pyramid that forms part of the Balmoral Cairns, of which there are 11 in total, is a sight to behold.

While you can spot it from the main road leading to Balmoral Castle, it is best enjoyed up close.

After a Saturday morning of hiking around the cairns on Balmoral Estate and my partner capturing some stunning drone footage of the monument, we had both built up an appetite. Knowing Ballater was just a short drive, we packed our dirty walking boots away and headed into the Royal Deeside village.

Clachan Grill

We drove past Clachan Grill at Bridge Square first and I immediately asked Calum to park up. We’d never visited and the fact a couple had just walked out the door made me hopeful they were still open at 2pm.

When we walked in we were the only ones in the restaurant.

The front exterior of the Clachan Grill, Ballater. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Luckily a member of staff made himself known and confirmed they were indeed open. Relief filled my face as he reassured us the log fire was still cosy. We were both pretty frozen from the cold, so this was a welcome treat.

We followed the man wearing smart tartan troos which went perfectly with the hints of tartan throughout the interior.

The restaurant is built over two areas with the one nearer the windows slightly elevated. This is where we were seated with a view of the outside courtyard and hills as the backdrop.

Tunes were softly teasing our eardrums creating a relaxed ambiance. All that was missing was a few more bodies.

Inside the Clachan Grill where pockets of tartan add a Scottish touch. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

The food

We’d been informed of the soup of the day and ordered soft drinks when we were first seated. Our order had home comforts at its heart. The soup (£6.95) – which was carrot and coriander that day – chicken liver parfait (£9.95), a burger (£13.50) and beetroot risotto (£10.95).

As our starters were served more guests filtered in. At first it was a table of four, then two, then another four.

The soup was served with a thick slice of malted bread cut in half and a bit of butter. Puréed, but still lovely, and thick a handful of fried croutons topped it.

Steaming hot, the homemade soup was exactly what Calum needed to warm himself up.

It was a good portion, too, and a little sweetness from the roasted carrot and parsnip was apparent. It was perfectly seasoned and didn’t need additional salt or pepper.

The chicken liver parfait with brioche bread and chutney. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

A piece of soft, golden brioche bread stood upright on my plate and was lodged between a thick slice of parfait and a dollop of chutney. A mustard seed vinaigrette drizzled was drizzled in a zig zag over the plate with a small handful of crisp lettuce leaves on the side adding texture to the offering.

The parfait itself had a strong taste to it and there were plenty of spices in the chutney from nutmeg to cinnamon with some tomato and onion in it, too.

We polished them off as the staff member worked the rest of the room with ease.

Unsurprisingly, shortly after our dishes were cleared mains appeared.

Calum had picked the Schoolhill burger, a nod to the Clachan Grill’s sister venue, Angus and Ale, which once operated from a venue on Schoolhill in Aberdeen.

It is now a pop-up at the Clachan Grill and experienced great success last summer. The hope is it will return this summer, however for now fans can get their burger fix at the Clachan.

Schoolhill burger is a nod to Angus and Ale. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Rosemary salted fries were served on the side and I eagerly grabbed one before Calum could refuse me.

His towering beef burger itself had Highland cheddar, bacon, burger sauce, mustard mayonnaise, lettuce, onion and tomato within, and a couple of, big, crispy onion rings on top.

The beef was succulent and every component did its job. The tomato was juicy, lettuce and onion crisp, and the bun held everything together.

I’d added a breast of chicken to my beetroot risotto for an extra £9 which I thought was very expensive, given I could get a starter for much less in many restaurants in the north-east. The risotto came with large chunks of blue cheese, roasted beetroot pieces and savoury granola sprinkled over.

I added a breast of chicken to the beetroot risotto. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

It was a gorgeous purple hue and the portion was more than substantial. I tucked the blue cheese underneath the rice to try and melt it, which did eventually work.

An array of seeds formed the savoury granola and they proved both chewy and crunchy.

As for the chicken, it was moist and cooked to perfection with the crispy skin still on.

We were both pretty stuffed but Calum wanted something sweet to seal the deal.

The peach melba sundae caught his eye and although I don’t really like tinned fruit, I reluctantly accepted. It was almost a knickerbocker glory with the fruit, vanilla ice cream, raspberry sauce and whipped cream, it just needed meringue.

The peach melba sundae. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

I enjoyed the soft ice cream and sweet raspberry sauce. Calum devoured most of the cream and peaches which I was more than happy with.

How we managed to polish it off is beyond me, but I quickly asked for the bill before any more requests could be made.

The verdict

The service and food at Clachan Grill was very enjoyable and although the restaurant was quiet, we really couldn’t fault it.

The menu is a little more limited as it is small, but we didn’t struggle to find something we liked.

Like the pyramid, there’s plenty of beauty to be found in Ballater. And while this was my first trip to Clachan Grill, it won’t be my last.


Address: 5 Bridge Square, Ballater AB35 5QP

T: 01339 755999


Price: £68.03 (including 10% service charge) for two soft drinks, two starters, two mains and a dessert


  • Food: 4/5
  • Service: 4/5
  • Surroundings: 4/5