Nestled in the heart of Highland Perthshire today lies one of Scotland’s most cutting-edge foodie havens.
Its white exterior is hidden by rows of greenery and it is ideally located in a picturesque gorge that keeps its identity hidden from the eyes of visitors.
While the bedrooms are stylishly decorated and minimalist, the real reason diners flock to Killiecrankie House near Pitlochry is for what goes on in the kitchen.
Before dinner, which is served at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, diners are invited to enjoy the quaint bar which features intricate and fun artwork from some of the best in the business.
You’ll find quirky drinks on the cocktail list, and the bar is stocked with Scottish spirits and local craft beers.
The team then calls diner and shows you to your table.
Dinner time at Killiecrankie is an experience in itself.
The first thing you will notice is the openness of space. None of the diners, of which there are only six to eight seats, have their backs to the kitchen and everyone is positioned to see the theater unfold.
My boyfriend and I were seated at the chef’s counter, which allowed us to see into the heart of the kitchen and get a closer look at the culinary skills of co-owner Tom Tsappis.
I had brought my Made From Girders cocktail with marmalade gin and Irn-Bru to enjoy while the guests settled in.
A parchment on the table reveals the evening menu which features 13 courses, with 18 dishes included in total. Without giving away the game, we found ourselves guessing what each course was, which made for an exhilarating start.
Matilda, sommelier, co-owner and wife of Tom, has extensive knowledge of beverages. Throughout the meal, she recited each pairing as if she were making the product herself, and it was the first French champagne number she presented that really set the tone.
Light, sweet, crunchy but so bubbly, it was luxury in a glass.
First on the food front was an edible whiskey and bar snacks. The highlight for me had to be the seaweed and malt vinegar crisps which were served in an edible transparent packet. Tom encouraged us to put this fancy version of a packet of salt and vinegar crisps in our mouths. The packet disintegrated on my tongue and the crunch came alive like a popping candy.
The scurvy grass wasabi peas and langoustine were delicious, with the shellfish hidden in the bottom of the pie. The peas, too, popped in my mouth and were as sweet as little candies.
Course two was a trio of small Highland bites. The gouda donut made with Corra Linn cheese with a picked apple reminded me of a former US president in appearance, however, it was soft in the middle and very polished on the palate. The lightly fried donut was easy to put in my mouth in one and the burst of flavor was one that I certainly enjoyed.
The venison, bramble and wild garlic snack was made with last year’s garlic and the taco was made with bramble. The meat was incredibly soft, rich and succulent and went very well with the champagne.
Flowers of Scotland, featured sunflower emulsion and flowers from the venue’s garden. It was beautiful and full of colors and flavors.
Passing from land to sea, the drunken oyster (course three) was served in Glenmorangie Hollandaise sauce, barbecued and finished with a blowtorch.
The sauce was to die for and should grace more breakfast menus. The champagne has also added to the luxury feel of the meal so far, with gorgeous plates and unique craftsmanship already on display.
A Japanese sake was next.
Its recipe dates back to 1703 and it takes on its burnt orange color because it is made with natural yeast and in barrels. It’s heavy on the umami taste, so it goes perfectly with the Food From The Forest dish of stuffed mushroom chawanmushi (savory steamed egg custard).
Four different types of local mushrooms from around the hotel were showcased, with the custard also made from mushrooms and the larger grilled oyster mushroom in the centre.
Watching the chefs in action was fascinating.
Under Tom’s supervision, the 21- and 22-year-old chefs carry out the operation throughout the night. Tom continually encouraged them, letting them control the kitchen while providing support and stability when uncertain eyes glared at him on occasion.
The kitchen was lively but nothing was rushed. There was a purpose in every move.
Course five saw daikon radish served two ways and a special dry hopped lager from Wasted Degrees was served with courses six and seven.
The little pieces of chopped squid cooked in his own ink were darker than a winter night. The blackness of the squid dish and tuile was interrupted by bright green dollops of garlic emulsion.
The five pound fish was North Sea mackerel served two ways. The first, dashi (broth), was fish bones made into a smoked mackerel miso soup. It was incredibly flavorful with a hint of sweetness. The fish shaped homemade tofu melted in my mouth and the bubbles were created using oil.
The torched mackerel was dried and marinated and the slightly crispy skin on the succulent fish made this dish one of my favorites of the night.
It was also one of the more creative dishes, with a variety of dishes used throughout the night in each dish to add to the experience.
Course eight was Gigha skink and was served with a white wine from France.
The haddock, which is from the west coast, was utterly delicious and umami. It was served with a sauce with caviar potato and cucumber and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) on top that “rippled”.
One of the highlights of the night was the fried porridge. Wagyu dripping porridge with Isle of Mull cheddar on top, that crispy yet incredibly sweet and nostalgic.
Nodding to the Scottish tradition of a porridge drawer, it reminded me of a classy brown sauce meets hash browns and a take on Lorne’s sausage.
Matilda said it and the oysters will always remain a staple on the menu because they were the most loved and so unique.
Scottish lamb broth came with a red from a Chinese vineyard. Calf sweetbreads, pressed potatoes, breast and shoulder of lamb make up this dish. The meat was cooked to perfection and the potato was soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.
The sorbet course was a pink palate cleanser that included beetroot, rhubarb and crystallized rose.
The first drink leading to the desserts was a white dessert wine from Cyprus. North Ronaldsay’s mutton act had ice cream, dulce de leche sauce and sheep’s milk meringue with sheep’s milk.
I loved the playfulness of this dish and its creative element in the shape of a sheep.
To close this monumental meal, we were treated to a trio of sweets; Irn-Bru pastille, miso fudge bar and Edradour ice cream sandwich.
While the black pudding madeleines might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they were definitely mine. Dusted with cinnamon sugar, they were baked beautifully and had held their shape. Sweet and savory flavors danced across my tongue and if there had been more, I would have laughed the lot off.
We ended the evening with an after dinner drink. Baileys for me and whiskey for him.
The sounds of Abba, Michael Jackson and Queen playing in the background ended around 11pm when we all finished and headed back to the bar.
Although it was an extravagant meal filled with the best food and delicious drinks, I felt comfortable and satisfied.
It’s Michelin-level cuisine and service all rolled into one. Although Killiecrankie House may not have a star at the time of writing this review, I’m confident it won’t be long.
Tom and Matilda clearly love what they have built. Their place continues to take shape and their vegetable garden is finally starting to support them.
This passion for supporting and showcasing not only local producers, but also local ingredients, is further enhanced by the way they train and nurture staff, and take pride in their unique offering.
Designing and preparing these dishes is no small feat, and there is real craftsmanship here that is certainly worth applauding, both in the way the service is handled and the talent in the kitchen.
Address: Killiecrankie House, Pitlochry PH16 5LG
P: 01796 473213
Price: The tasting menu is priced at £85 per person. The alcoholic beverage combination is £65 and the non-alcoholic beverage combination is £45.
- Food: 5/5
- Performance: 5/5
- Surroundings: 5/5
For more restaurant reviews…
Already subscribed? Login
[Fall in love with fine dining at Killiecrankie House]