As my son gets older, I’m finding that the world is opening up again in terms of evening dining.
That makes motherhood sound like a prison sentence, but when you’ve got soaked at bath time before spending the best part of the evening trying to find the favourite blanket – you don’t really feel like going out.
But with both our children now four, myself and my friend Kristin are making a slow foray into the world of fancy dinners.
The stars aligned when we booked a table, but we didn’t have our sights set on a colourful cafe, with wipe clean highchairs and hot dogs on the menu.
I love a hotdog as much as the next person, but no demand for the ipad or another drink called for fine dining.
We settled on Meldrum House, how can you not love a 13th century manor house set in the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside?
Although the popular wedding venue is well signposted, I was a little dismayed to find a good part of the track leading up to it was not well lit.
I was worried I would go plunging off onto the golf course, which happens to be ranked in Scotland’s top 100.
Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Course
Having arrived at the car park safely, I made my way to one of Meldrum House’s many options for dining out.
Titan Sky Bar, Brunch at 1236, I had already spent quite some time debating before booking dinner at Pineapple – Grill & Seafood.
The award winning restaurant is thus named because Pineapple historically symbolises welcome, friendship and great hospitality.
I was also very taken with the ethos, ‘from gate to plate’, with food miles kept as short as possible.
Fresh seafood from Peterhead and meat from two butchers in Aberdeenshire, what’s not to like?
Kristin arrived shortly after me, and we found the staff to be very attentive.
We loved the grand interior and the tables were well spaced out.
A quick browse of the wine menu, and Kristin settled on a glass of red, while I opted for a none alcoholic version of white wine.
Big thumbs up from us both, I would say that it’s the best booze free tipple I’ve tried to date.
To start, we selected two fish dishes. I chose bisque with langoustine and poached lobster, while Kristin ordered smoked halibut, served with lemon, capers and shallots.
A note on the menu indicated that our food had been caught in Peterhead, a detail which we really appreciated.
The dishes arrived promptly, complete with a selection of herby bread. Ideal for dunking.
A soup based on a strained broth of crustaceans might not sound delicious, but I promise you this was a fabulous dish.
I was taken aback by how creamy it was, and the portion was also very generous.
It was incredibly smooth despite the heavy cream, complete with a very slight tang of white wine.
I finished the bowl, and Kristin had similar praise for the smoked halibut.
The soft delicate fish was not too overpowering, and the lemon provided a nice sharp contrast which balanced the dish nicely.
The fish was soft and delicate and the accouterments went well with the fish.
It was at this point that we felt the music was getting a little loud, and we would have prefered a more refined track to match the surroundings. You can’t please everyone however, and our fellow diners seemed more than happy.
Onto the mains, and I was sorely tempted by venison from Glendye Estate.
But at £25, I wanted to be sure I would love the dish, and played it safe with the cheaper option of Peterhead hake served with Shetland mussel and chorizo broth.
Kristin was slightly more bold in her choice of pheasant, which made the journey to her plate from Deeside, alongside smoked pancetta and blue cheese barley.
I think to truly appreciate the menu, you need to be a foodie and have a reasonable knowledge of local produce.
Luckily Kristin is an incredible cook herself, and enlightened me as to what rumble-de-thump potato was when we spotted it on another dish.
Mashed tattle, swede and kale in case you’re wondering.
There was just the right amount of time between our courses, and we both noted that the mains were beautifully presented.
Kristin was concerned that she might find the dish too strong, but was pleasantly surprised.
The pheasant was soft and perfectly cooked, and the blue cheese barley added a nice difference in texture.
Nuggets of blue cheese was also much appreciated by Kristin, who is something of a strong cheese devotee.
The addition of kale also went down well, with just one gripe as to the whole dish.
It was served in a particularly high sided deep bowl, meaning Kristin resembled a T-rex attempting to maneuver cutlery around.
We agreed that a more simple plate would have done the job.
I was slightly disappointed in my dish, in that whilst the fish was beautifully cooked, the accompanying mussels were far and far between.
The chorizo however, chef’s kiss, although I would say it was more of an accompaniment as opposed to the broth stated on the menu
We felt suitably full, but our wonderful served persuaded us to take a quick look at the dessert menu.
Baileys chocolate fondant sounded very enticing for my sweet tooth, but we settled on a more curious dish.
The only information given was in the name, temperatures and textures of banana.
The second most expensive item on the dessert menu, it sounded like a science experiment.
Banana arrived in varying forms, from a type of puree to ice cream and cake.
Both Kristin and I were left disappointed however, because both the temperatures and textures were not markedly different.
Cold soft ice cream, room temperature soft purees, room temperature soft bananas in caramel and cake which tasted like it had been in the fridge – which made it quite firm and dry.
There were some crispy crumbs on the plate but not enough of them to sense a different texture.
Ever the cook, Kristin suggested serving the cake warm from the oven with the cold ice cream, room temperature purees, and maybe banana fritters for some added crunch, alongside freeze dried banana for a texture contrast.
Overall we really enjoyed our evening, and agreed that a great deal of thought had been put into the menu.
Some of the dishes could do with a little fine tuning, and Meldrum House is certainly not cheap.
It’s not just the food you’re paying for though, it’s the whole experience.
Who doesn’t want to escape to a country bolthole for one night, fancy frock and lippy galore?
Address: Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Course, Inverurie, AB51 0AE
T: 01651 872294
Price: £92 for two starters, two mains, one dessert, soft drinks and wine