On a recent trip to North Speyside my boyfriend and I found ourselves in the difficult situation of finding a cool, yet laid back, place for lunch.
It had been a flying night tour after visiting the Macallan Distillery the day before.
A quick Google pointed out that the Craigellachie Hotel was a short drive from the Dowans Hotel where we were staying, so I called ahead to check if they had tables around noon, which they did. did.
Although hidden in an ocean of greenery, the hotel, a mustard yellow, is clearly visible from the main road despite being surrounded by trees.
Coming off the road, we had reservations to eat at the hotel’s Copper Dog bar in the basement. It serves a casual food offering from what I remembered, although I still wasn’t surprised with some of the dishes they had.
When we arrived we checked in via Track and Trace and were shown to our table in the corner by the window.
It’s an ancient world with a picturesque appeal. The long bar was lined with bottles galore and there were fishing rods, wooden furniture, and a plethora of artwork that all contributed to the overall setting.
The waiters took our drink order and let us study the choices on the paper menu.
From oysters to hand-dipped scallops, not to mention salmon sashimi and more, I didn’t remember the offer was as elaborate as this – or that it featured so much seafood, either. Although the pub’s classic beef burger stuck, so did the beer-battered haddock and steak.
I was impressed with the menu, although some of the entrees were more expensive than I remembered when I last visited a few years ago.
Drinks in hand, we decided to split our entrees and ordered one main course each.
To start, we opted for the Orkney hand-seared scallops in garlic and chili butter (£ 14) and the lobster mac and cheese (£ 6).
And to follow, the BBQ Spiced Chicken with Coleslaw and Copper Dog Sauce (£ 14.95) and the Seared Cod Fillet with Padron Peppers, Octopus and Red Pepper Hummus (£ 18). My other half ordered a portion of fries (£ 3.25) on the side, as their dish did not contain any.
It wasn’t too crowded when we arrived which gave us plenty of time to admire the space. There was a mix of seating and plenty of artwork to check out – many focused on man’s best friend, with sketches of dogs along the back wall.
Others who were staying in the neighborhood arrived, hoping to have a table for the evening. When told that the restaurant was full, many decided to sit on a table and have lunch instead. A woman from America promised she would eat here before returning from her vacation – and she did.
When our entrees arrived, I could see my boyfriend’s face light up with jealousy. The scallops in front of me looked exquisite, while his mac and cheese looked rather comfortable on the rustic table it was placed on.
Three huge grilled scallops covered in fresh garlic and chopped green and red peppers looked incredibly appealing in their shells. My knife slipped through them and the pieces melted like butter in my mouth. The sharp garlic with the slightly hot chili was just the ticket.
Not only did it sound like the game, but it had tasted too.
His mac and cheese was incredibly creamy and while not heavy on the cheese, the thick chunks of pink and red lobster shone through. There were about seven large pieces of lobster all over the place and the pasta was soft and light.
The top was in a crust of herbs and added a bit of crunch.
Our main courses arrived about 15 minutes later and looked equally appealing.
My pan-fried cod fillet was huge. The piece of fish was very thick and nicely cooked on the inside, although it was slightly overcooked on the outside. It chipped off easily, big thick flakes tearing off as I worked with my fork.
The red pepper hummus was very sweet and there was plenty of it. I used the hummus to froth the cod and the handful of vibrant padron peppers, which had been fried in oil, added a new flavor to the mix.
The octopus tentacles were very meaty, full of flavor, and surprisingly sweet and juicy. While they were slightly crispy on the outside, the grilled octopus was delicious and the overall dish was very filling.
The barbecue chicken was a single large sliced chicken breast. It was succulent with the toasted outer skin. The Copper Dog sauce tasted like Korean barbecue sauce and went amazingly well with the crisp, fresh coleslaw.
An unnecessary addition, the side of the fries was filling and they were nice and crispy throughout the bowl.
I was absolutely drunk and couldn’t polish the last of my cod. But never the type to turn down a treat, my boyfriend ordered the Copper Dog panna cotta for dessert.
Again, the wait time on this was minimal.
The panna cotta was light and punchy. The Copper Dog whiskey they used to make it was quick to identify on the palate and was more potent than expected. It was served with edible flowers and seasonal sliced strawberries. A homemade shortbread stick coated in granulated sugar was a welcome addition, bringing a crunchy texture to the mix and balancing out the sharper whiskey note.
I let him polish the rest after a spoonful or two.
While the meal was a bit more expensive than a stop at the usual pub food stall, the food at Copper Dog was second to none.
The talent in the kitchen to bring the simplest dishes and presentation to life was inspiring to see, and it’s clear that the talent in the kitchen enjoys showing customers what they can produce.
With the high quality of standards set by those who came before them, the new team members have just as much to give and certainly have plenty of ideas to come up with with unique and quirky pub food making their way onto the menu. .
If you’re in the area and fancy a bite of something different, be sure to put the Copper Dog on your list of places to try.
Address: rue Victoria, Craigellachie, Aberlour, AB38 9SR
Phone. : 01340 881204
Price: £ 78.42 (including a 12.5% service charge of £ 8.72)
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 4/5
- Surroundings: 4/5