The American essayist Henry David Thoreau wrote that ‘Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind’.
I don’t know much about the personal life of Mr Thoreau but I imagine that he didn’t get many second invites to parties. One imagines that he would always be telling the host to water down the punch and tutting if anyone dared visit the snacks table twice.
I disagree with buzzkill Thoreau. Luxuries and the comforts of life are good things. They are to be celebrated. They may not be a necessity for living well but nor are they a hindrance to it. They help make life enjoyable and that is not to be knocked.
At the moment, 5pm Restaurants are celebrating the more luxurious restaurants which we have on site and they asked the blog to come up with my top five, luxury, Scottish restaurants. That’s not easy as there are a lot of excellent and luxurious restaurants dotted around the country. From the ones I have experience of, and in no particular order, my top five this week would be:
The recent winner of the Best Urban Restaurant category at the Scottish Restaurant Awards, the Pomp is part of the refurbishment of Edinburgh’s Caledonian, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Yes, it is grand but the splendour of the surroundings is less memorable than the warmth of the service and the quality of Craig Sandle’s cooking. Go wild on the a la carte and it won’t be a cheap night out. Go for the three course summer menu and it will cost £35 a head. However you approach it, the memory of eating here will last long after the memory of paying for it.
Located on a private island just outside of Oban, the Isle of Eriska Hotel is one of the hidden gems of west Scotland. It won the Best Hotel Restaurant at the Scottish Restaurant Awards back in 2011. I visited it a good few years ago and was blown away by the beautiful location; Scottish baronial surrounds and a kitchen which could do contemporary dishes as well as it could traditional. I think the chef has changed since my visit but the current four course table d’hote looks very appetising. I don’t know if it still happens but, when I visited, a highlight of the night was seeing the badgers which would visit the bar each night for snacks.
Another West Coast hideaway, Airds Hotel and Restaurant in Port Appin has a dining room with one of the best views in Scotland. Looking out over Loch Linnhe, it’s impossibly romantic, especially if you are dining as the sun sets. The hotel is fitted out in a comfortable country house style and the kitchen makes the most of Scottish produce and, in particular, seafood from the clear, blue waters of the west coast. As I write, the hotel is offering a complimentary after dinner drink up to the value of £12, if you book in through 5pm, for the daily changing, £53, five course dinner menu.
I’ve always liked the Hotel du Vin brand and, at Glasgow’s One Devonshire Gardens, they take the core values of welcoming hospitality; great wine and fantastic food and give them all a little polish. It’s Hotel du Vin with a little more swish. Executive Head Chef Darin Campbell has worked with many of the most high profile chefs in the UK and his menus show fun, intricate flourishes but, at heart, it’s food designed to be eaten rather than looked at and cooed over. Since we’re on the luxury theme, I love the fact that One Dev, like many a Hotel du Vin, has a cigar snug. I know it’s not for everyone but any place that provides cigar lovers with decent facilities gets my vote. You can browse their 5pm offers from here.
Skye’s Three Chimneys isn’t a 5pm member but deserves to be included because it is one of Scotland’s prize restaurants. The lochside setting is part of the magic. The last time I was there, we saw schools of dolphin jumping in the water as we drove to our reservation. Every restaurant in this list provides a taste of Scotland but, at the Three Chimneys, it really feels as though your dinner had just come from the loch outside or in off the hills at the back. Head chef Michael Smith has done a lot to raise the restaurant’s already high profile with his appearances on the Great British Menu