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Restaurant review: Food that tastes as good as it looks at Nairn’s The Clubhouse Hotel

Smoked haddock starter.
Smoked haddock starter.

On a recent trip from the Highlands to Aberdeen, we decided to break up the journey with a spot of lunch in Nairn.

I was surprised to see how many different eateries there were in the seaside town, but then it is a bit of a tourist haven, and holidaymakers do love a good dining experience.

We were no different, so after a quick online search, we decided The Clubhouse Hotel on Seabank Road looked a good bet for a lovely meal.

The Clubhouse sits on a road full of B&Bs and hotels, at the end of which lies the beautiful Moray Firth. Perfect for a stroll to walk off the calories after lunch.

The Clubhouse Hotel

It was a glorious summer’s day when we visited and there were people sitting out in the beer garden, where there is also a large fire pit for the cooler days and nights we are experiencing now. A novel idea, and one I imagine is popular with locals. A sign on the wall suggests enjoying the alfresco experience with a single malt and Havana cigar, available at the bar. A large pine tree towers over the garden with its cones carpeting the ground. The distinct aroma of pine fills the air. It’s a lovely setting.

But we decided to escape the sun and head inside, where we found a striking, modern bar area featuring bold colours, statement wallpaper and impressive lighting. Not to mention several huge wall-mounted flatscreen TVs showing various sports.

The lunch menu was large and varied. There was a “light bites” menu offering sandwiches and paninis, but we were in need of something more substantial, and there was plenty to choose from.

I was caught between two starters so suggested we order three between the four of us to share.

The star of the show was undoubtedly the smoked haddock served on black pudding along with a soft poached egg and chive cream. This dish looked as good as it tasted and I was unhappy that I had to share it. The haddock had a strong smoked flavour to it, the black pudding was superb and the egg cooked to perfection. A delicious combination of flavours and textures.

The other choices of tomato and garlic bruschetta and Clubhouse salad were also met with approval. The Italian bread was served with fresh, zingy onions, garlic and tomatoes along with a balsamic glaze and parmesan. Very nice. While the salad looked both healthy and tasty, boasting mixed leaves, peppers, tomatoes, pine nuts, parmesan and a red onion marmalade.

I stuck with the fishy theme for my main course as well in choosing the baked fillet of haddock. I didn’t think my starter could be topped for flavour but I was wrong. The fish came in a separate dish topped with a rich, creamy mornay sauce and mature cheddar crumb. Every mouthful was simply fantastic. Big chunks of haddock, lots of sauce and the wonderful cheese crumb made this a winner. And special mention also goes to the accompanying wilted greens and caper and citrus potatoes. The greens and capers worked so well together and I devoured the lot.

My wife was pleased to see so many vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. And not just the standard, run-of-the mill options either. It was clear some thought had been put into the meat-free offerings. She initially chose the potato and spinach curry, but we were later informed this wasn’t available, so she went for the classic macaroni and cheese instead, over the spiced bean burger. I stole a forkful of the mac and cheese and it was lovely. Rich and creamy and full of melted cheese. She ordered a side of veg as well in a bid to offset the cheesy gluttony.

My daughter had ordered a burger from the children’s menu but again the waitress returned to tell us the burger was no longer available for kids. It had recently been removed from the menu but still appeared on the one that we had been handed. So she told us we could get a smaller version of the adult burger, which saved the day.

The burger was absolutely massive, too much for a child, so half was left. My son thoroughly enjoyed his homemade chicken nuggets though, which did look freshly made in a light, tempura-like batter. In fact, the menu states that all dishes are cooked to order and most are freshly prepared with local ingredients, which is always nice to see. What’s more, the children’s menu also says The Clubhouse prides itself on giving the same care and attention to its children’s menu as it does its main menu, with all dishes being homemade and free from additives. This is not always the case in restaurants and was good to know.

The adults were full to the gunnels so declined any dessert, but the kids both ordered the chocolate brownie and ice cream and had no problem polishing them off.

The staff were busy preparing for a wedding they were hosting the following day through in the restaurant area, so it was all hands to the pump. If the bride and groom enjoyed the same weather as the day we visited, I’m sure they had a memorable day, possibly even celebrating with a dram and a cigar by the fire pit.

We certainly enjoyed our lunchtime visit to The Clubhouse. Hats off to the chefs who tickled our tastebuds and fuelled us for our onward journey.

The restaurant

  • The Clubhouse Hotel
  • 45 Seabank Road, Nairn IV12 4EY
  • t: 01667 453321
  • w: www.clubhousehotels.co.uk

The bill

  • Smoked haddock £7.25
  • Clubhouse salad £5.95
  • Tomato and garlic bruschetta £6.25
  • Baked haddock £14.50
  • Macaroni £10.95
  • Burger £9
  • Chicken nuggets £5.95
  • Chocolate brownie x 2 £4
  • Soft drinks x 3 £6.40
  • Total: £70.25

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