It was a perfect winter day. Cold, but not cold enough to pinch your toes and nose, but bright and sunny.
The kind of day that asks you to step away from the fireplace and get some fresh air.
Just before the recent holiday season, we decided to take the car for a run in the countryside and combine it with a walk and a nice place for lunch.
Loch Ness Clansman Hotel
The Loch Ness Clansman Hotel – known locally as The Clansman – in the hamlet of Brackla, between Inverness and Drumnadrochit, fitted the bill perfectly as it is a short but scenic drive from Inverness, and the road offers beautiful views of the iconic loch.
The Clansman website has highlighted a menu of Christmas specialties ranging from mulled wines to mini afternoon tea.
It sounded good so we called to reserve a table as the last time we had passed without a reservation and we couldn’t get in as the parking lot, also used by those who like boat tours, was full.
No parking meant no lunch as there was nowhere else to park, but it’s off season now so this time there was plenty of space.
The entrance to the hotel is nicely decorated and features beautiful landscape photography. As you ascend to the first floor, which houses the Cobb Restaurant, you can admire a selection of framed clan crests.
In recent years the restaurant, which offers panoramic views of the loch and surrounding area, has been given a facelift.
Decorated in soothing shades of grey, cream and blue, it pays homage to Scottish style through subtle tweeds and tartan. There are a number of areas in the restaurant including a stylish bar, lounge with sofas, booths and plenty of window tables with loch views.
We were two of the few other diners, all being treated superbly by the waitress, Conny.
Not only did she greet us warmly, but she also checked to see if it was warm enough for us and if the level of background music was right for us.
She then presented us with fairly short lunch menus rather than the festive one I had seen online.
It turned out that this menu was related to a previously held event and was no longer available.
However, the lunch menu had something to tempt us.
I know a lot of the produce used here is sourced and locally made, but surprisingly little was made of it on the menu, which is a shame as it should be praised.
To start, I chose the ham hock terrine while my other half chose the shrimp cocktail with Bloody Mary sauce and wholemeal bread.
My terrine was stuffed with thick pieces of ham and had lots of flavor.
It came with a vibrant green arugula salad, sweet but earthy beetroot mash and two generous pieces of warm and delicious bread. A tasty combination of flavors.
The shrimp cocktail was equally appealing, with a generous portion of shrimp served on a bed of crispy lettuce, accompanied by four pieces of thick wholemeal bread.
The sauce was similar to a classic Marie Rose sauce but with a spicier kick. A little more of that sauce wouldn’t have hurt.
Main course options included a variety of burgers, mac and cheese, vegan chili, fish and chips and a Nessie steak pie.
He himself can’t resist fish, so it was Fraserburgh’s breaded haddock with big fries, peas and tartar sauce that caught his eye.
I laughed when it was served because it looked like that famous picture of Nessie’s fin!
The batter was on point. Light and crispy, it made that nice crunch when the knife cut into it.
When opened, a pure white, thick and firm fresh haddock fillet is revealed; really tasty eaten with the thick, non greasy crispy fries.
My main course was a Nessie steak pie which sparked a little debate between us titled: when is a pie not a pie?
To me, the pie should have a dough base, sides, and top — the kind of thing you can scoop up in your hand and munch on while cheering on your football team.
Although called a pie on the menu, it was stated below to be Scotch beef casserole topped with a pastry lid.
This is your challenge for next week. Find a word that describes a food with a pastry filling.
But I digress and I can tell you that the “pie” was delicious.
Served in a deep dish garnished with buttered puff pastry including a small model of Nessie.
The beef was deliciously tender, while the sauce was rich with hints of thyme and other herbs. Scattered amongst the beef were tiny whole onions and delicate chunks of carrot.
It came with large fries, buttered carrots and garden peas, all of which hit the spot.
I asked for a spoon so I could scoop up all the delicious sauce, and while the fries were delicious, I think the mashed tatties would have helped soak up the sauce better.
Surprisingly, they don’t offer a dessert menu at lunchtime, but instead there’s a great selection of cakes, muffins, cookies and sweets made by Cobbs Bakery in nearby Drumnadrochit.
We shared a slice of millionaire’s shortbread, washed it down with coffee, enjoyed the last view of the loch and pondered how far we now had to go to burn off the calories we loved consuming.
A tourist trap in the summer months, it’s well worth visiting out of season as it’s much quieter and gives you a better chance of taking in the ever-changing views of the loch.
The food is good and I would like to see them take more advantage of using the Highland Pantry for their produce.
Don’t be shy, tell the world!
Address: Loch Ness Clansman Hotel, Brackla, Ness Side, Inverness IV3 8AU
P: 01456 450326
Two starters, two main courses, two soft drinks, two coffees, a tray
- Food: 4/5
- Performance: 5/5
- Surroundings: 4/5