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Epic Sunday roasts, international flare and a kitchen love story: Meet the owners of the Grant Arms Hotel in Monymusk

Enjoy some seriously good food at The Grant Arms Hotel. All photos supplied by Frédéric Vasquez.
Enjoy some seriously good food at The Grant Arms Hotel. All photos supplied by Frédéric Vasquez.

For Fiona and Frederic Vasquez, taking on jobs in a kitchen seemed like the most obvious way to turn their love of food into a career.

Little did they know a different kind of love would blossom there.

French-Spanish Frederic had moved to the UK in 2000 and Fiona had called the north-east home all her life.

Their shared passion for food and cooking brought them together when they met while working at Babylon in 2001.

The pair welcomed their daughter Manon into the world in 2003 and were married a year later.

Fast forward nearly two decades, Manon was headed for university and the couple were outgrowing the kitchen at Castle Fraser Restaurant where they worked together.

The Grant Arms Hotel in Monymusk needed new owners, Fiona and Frederic needed a new project, it was another perfect match.

The Sunday roast is a work of culinary art at The Grant Arms. Image: Frederic Vasquez

Grasping an opportunity

“We opened September 5 2021,” said Fiona, speaking while making bread in the hotel kitchen.

“We saw it as an opportunity, something to spread our wings with and do something different. We’re at a point in our lives we should maybe be going the other way but we like a challenge so why not?”

The couple refurbished the space and have continued to gradually put their own mark on it since reopening.

Fiona added: “We’re taking the bones of the building and slowly changing it so that it fits more with what we are and what we do.”

Their shared vision for the hotel was a relaxed place people could come to simply enjoy food.

“We wanted it to be relaxed, laid back, welcoming to everybody,” said Fiona.

Fiona and Frederic Vasquez haven’t looked back since taking on The Grant Arms Hotel. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson


Frederic has been working in a kitchen since he was 14 and his style is influenced by his French upbringing.

Fiona only started working in a kitchen at the age of 30, but a joy surrounding cooking was instilled in her long before.

She explained: “My mum was a brilliant cook, she was always cooking, always entertaining so a lot of it came from that.

“I grew up in a time when the British food scene was starting to grow, there was a definite change in how people were eating.”

Those with a sweet tooth are in for a treat at The Grant Arms Hotel. Image: Frederic Vasquez

‘We bounce off one another’

Though they were raised on very different cuisines, Fiona said the couple’s different backgrounds compliment each other.

“Combined we have created a balance,” she explained.

“Now, he enjoys working with customers more while I prefer being in the kitchen. We bounce off one another.”

She added: “I can’t imagine not working together, we pick up each other’s slack and the things one of us can’t do, that’s how we make it work.”

This beautiful dish is almost too pretty to eat. Image: Frederic Vasquez

Tatties and tapas

The Grant Arms Hotel presents itself as a cosy spot for coffee and cake by day, and a more intimate but relaxed dining experience by night.

Everything “from the bread upwards” is made from scratch and by taking advantage of local produce.

On a Sunday, Fiona and Frederic’s roast dinners have people flocking to the town square.

The cakes are simply sensational. Image: Frederic Vasquez

Platters are piled high with aged beef or garlic and thyme roast chicken with all the trimmings including huge Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and more vegetable options that you can imagine.

“Sundays are all about family, but we have been noticing we’re getting more students in too,” said Fiona.

“We are more than fortunate that we have people we know will come in for certain things, we know who will want well done beef, who will want rare beef.”

‘It would be fun’

Monthly tapas nights are also a big hit, possibly due to the time Frederic spent in Spain when he was younger.

“He thought it would be fun so we took it from there,” said Fiona.

“It’s an informal night, just groups of people getting together, sharing food, having a beer or wine, it’s probably the most fun thing we do.”

Enjoy an al fresco cake and coffee at the Grant Arms Hotel. Photo by Frédéric Vasquez.

Loyal customers

Living in rural Aberdeenshire means the Grant Arms Hotel has built up a loyal customer base.

Fiona said: “It’s lovely, you do feel very much part of a community. Everything is miles apart, but you’re all linked, the Shire has its own little ecosystem almost.”

Gaining this trust has enabled the couple to experiment with the menu at the hotel, changing it every couple of months based on both customer preferences and their own.

“Firstly we look at what is in season then, this sounds bonkers, but we look at the weather,” said Fiona.

Foodies are sure to fall in love with The Grant Arms Hotel. Image: Frederic Vasquez

“There are certain things we always put on the menu at certain times of year, like French onion soup in the middle of winter. At this time of year we always have a soup on because it’s hot and people want to be hot. In summer, we have a gazpacho because it’s – hopefully – warm enough for it.”

No matter when you visit, you can rest assured there will be some sort of beef option, as that’s always a crowd pleaser.

Knowing your strengths

From roast dinners and tapas to homemade bread and bakes, Fiona said she and Frédéric have found the key to running a successful kitchen.

“It’s about sticking to what you’re good at,” she said.

“There are things we don’t do because we’re not necessarily going to be good at them, it’s about knowing your limits and strengths.”

Even after more than 20 years working together, the buzz of running their own kitchen still hums through daily life.

Fiona said: “We’re always learning and changing what we do, it’s like constant problem solving and that keeps it interesting, it doesn’t get dull.”

Desserts like this will leave you wanting more. Image: Frederic Vasquez

Everything Fiona and Frederic do at the Grant Arms ultimately comes back to their love of food.

“We’re just two people who are mad about food and cooking,” said Fiona.

“It’s hard to articulate, but the whole experience of eating, that’s what we’re about.”

A round of questions with Fiona of Grant Arms Hotel…

Favourite food?

That is a really hard question. If I go to a restaurant and see French onion soup on a menu then I will always have that because I am obsessed. I probably get too animated and enthusiastic about it.

Favourite drink?

I can’t live without tea, Earl Grey tea. In summer I just make it iced.

If you could serve anyone in the hotel, who would you choose?

For my daughter I’ll say the people from The Last of Us, I don’t know their names, but she adores it.

Favourite place to eat?

In Aberdeen, Moonfish is always amazing. Outside Aberdeen, I have been quite spoiled and have been to some amazing places, but The Kitchin in Edinburgh is incredible.

Favourite thing about the north-east?

I just like being out in the countryside. I love the fact that you are very close to the city but you’re also quite remote. There’s nothing like being out in the country, it’s just beautiful, you watch the seasons pass, the light changing, birds singing, just feeling nature around you.

Strangest food you have tried?

In France they eat gizzards, that’s quite strange but they taste really good. Any form of glands are also disgusting, I’ve eaten some of those.

Favourite memory from the Grant Arms?

Every year in Monymusk we have a boules tournament which happens on a Saturday in May. It’s completely barmy, everyone comes dressed up, the square basically becomes a sandpit and we all play boules.

For more information about The Grant Arms Hotel check out their Facebook page @grantarmshotel or website