Venachar Lochside, Nr. Callander

Every autumn OH and I visit The Trossachs just so we can see the amazing colour palette that adorns the trees before winter hits. The oranges, reds and yellows are an amazing sight and offer some wonderful photograph taking opportunities. Unfortunately today the weather decided to put a halt to any photo taking as I refused to get out the car in the rain to snap some landscapes. However, I did leave the warmth of the car to run into Venachar Lochside, a favourite restaurant of ours and one which I have written about many times before. Previously, my reviews have all been about the amazing food and IMAG0372abysmal service but today I had no complaints about the service but this could be because we were the first ones to arrive for lunch. Considering Venachar Lochside is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and there were no prior lunch bookings the place filled up quickly with hungry diners who had obviously heard of the restaurants good reputation.

We received water for the table and menus and I immediately noticed there was an increase in prices from our last visit. Cullen skink was now £10 and the main dishes were priced between £13 and £16. Soup of the day was Celeriac and thyme.

For my main I had difficulty trying to choose between the Ayrshire pork belly, butternut fondant, summer greens, black pudding and apple sauce or the Cod loin with cockles, summer greens, potatoes and pea puree. I eventually plumped for the Cod.

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Before

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After

The dish arrived in a bowl and then the waited poured over the pea puree.

The fish was beautiful and the cockles delightful. The potatoes were a little charred at the edges but this added a needed crunch as the vegetables were a little soggy. Overall the meal was gorgeous but I would have much rather have had it on a flat plate as it was difficult using a fork and knife in a bowl.

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OH had the Gressingham duck with bacon, baby gem, peas, potato rosti, red onion and cherry reduction. He loved his meal and although he said it was a little chewy he liked it and thought the bacon, peas and greens were excellent. The cherry reduction was not strong and there was not enough to really add to the dish.

After our dishes had been cleared I asked for the dessert menu and was told there wasn’t one but I could choose from the range of cakes on offer. There was berry and pistachio, chocolate porter, mocha cake, carrot cake, victoria sponge and coffee and walnut cake. I decided on the berry and pistachio and OH had another pint. IMAG0381The homemade cake was thick, heavy and yum. Of course OH helped me with the huge slice.

2 mains, 2 pints, a slice of cake = £44.85 (yes it was expensive)

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The Oak Tree Inn, Loch Lomond

Last week OH went paddling in Loch Lomond and put in at Balmaha (btw ‘paddling’ and ‘putting in’ are both kayaking terms – just so you know he wasn’t up there bare footed with his trousers rolled up) Anyhow, he loved the area so much he wanted to take me back to see the scenery – particularly in autumn. Therefore, first thing Sunday morning, we set off and headed towards Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. He wasn’t wrong. The scenery was stunning.img_20161023_175218

After a scenic walk along the shoreline just after Balmaha, we travelled back and parked across from the Oak Tree Inn. When we entered we could see straight away how busy it was. There was a large bar, restaurant and conservatory that were all bustling. However, the staff were keen to help and found us a table for two in the conservatory.

Annoyingly, we had a couple of false starts where we had to ask for menus and then find someone to take our order but as it was so busy we made allowances. Looking around though, I realised that the place would always be like this at lunch time and the initial poor service was not the norm as the staff were plentiful and pretty attentive and, with hindsight,  I couldn’t really fault them – it actually was just a false start.

What I could fault though, was that the specials were written on a board in the restaurant and I had to stand up and walk through to see them, which was annoying. Particularly becimag5191ause the blackboard was positioned above a table and I had to stand in front of a couple and squint at the hard to see options.

Turns out, I was glad I made the effort as I went for the special of Sea Bass with creamy white wine sauce served with asparagus and a savoy cabbage and onion mash. It was amazing. The construction of the dish, the way the ingredients complimented one another and the presentation were all spot on. The Sea Bass had large meaty flakes and a crispy skin, the mash had just the right amount of cabbage and spring onion mixed through it and the asparagus had a lovely fresh bite. Overall, it was a dish I’d order time and time again.

OH decided on the Traditional Steak and Mushroom Pie made with locally reared beef, topped with crunchy puff pastry served with fresh market vegetables served with chips or parsley buttered potatoes (he went for chips). imag5188His pie came in one of those tin enamel, white and blue dishes, which people in the 70s   used when camping. (probably earlier and in the war but I just remember camping with the Guides in the 70s and having to get a blue and white enamel tin mug and plate before I’d pass muster). He got rid of the dish as soon as possible as he hates steak pie being in a separate dish (I don’t think he’s alone with that). The stew part of his pie looked rich to me, the gravy was really dark brown and glossy. The vegetables were a great mix of peas, turnip, courgette, cabbage and carrots and his chips, were, well, chips.  OH says he really enjoyed his pie – he said it was rich and there were good chunks of meat that threaded up when he cut into them and the mushrooms weren’t soggy.  The added on pastry lid however, was just ok. Personally, if I ask for a pie I want a pie and not stew with a bit of pastry on top so I can see his point.img_20161023_174409

Happily, we were both sated after our main courses and we didn’t even ask to see the dessert menu – even though I’m sure they’d have been just as good as our mains.

…and just in case you read my last blog – the toilets this week were on point and I had no complaints there either 😉

2 mains, a coke, a white wine, a coffee – £37.30 (the amazing scenery was free)

 

Venachar Lochside

On Sunday morning I woke up to a beautiful Autumn day, which just begged me to go for a drive around The Trossachs to make sure the oak trees had turned auburn. OH didn’t need asking twice so off we headed north. DSCN3855.JPG

The scenery is never disappointing and the views over the different Lochs were amazing.

Often when we are in The Trossachs we will pop into Venachar Lochside. If you’re a regular reader you may remember the last time we were here I raved about the food and criticized the service. We were hoping this would have changed since our last visit as we stopped in for Sunday lunch.

When we went in, the dining area was busy so when I asked for a table for 2 I wasn’t surprised to hear that we could either have the couches or sit upstairs. I hate bending over a low table to eat so we opted for up the stairs. We went up on our own and realised that the table with the best view needed clearing, which we did ourselves. We also wiped the table and helped ourselves to cutlery. Eventually, the waitress appeared with menus and asked us what we would like to drink. I went for a large glass of white wine and OH had a coke.  As ever the views were fantastic  – I mean this was our view for lunch —> 2015-11-22 13.52.19-1.jpgWhat’s not to like??

After another wait the waitress appeared to take our order. I decided on the Sunday Roast, which was beef done 3 ways with parsnip puree, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, winter greens, carrots and gravy. OH went for the Venison burger with Blue Murder Cheese and hand cut chips.

As we waited we admired the view.

As we waited, Mini-him phoned and OH went outside to speak to him as he couldn’t get a signal inside. He also went to the toilet.

As we continued to wait I realised the light was fading and queried if I would be able to go out and take some photos before it got dark. OH said go for it. I did. I took a number of photos and the food still hadn’t arrived by the time I got back.

2015-11-22 14.30.13When it did arrive I have to admit it was worth waiting for. My Sunday roast was amazing. The oxtail fell to bits and melted in my mouth. The textures, flavours and variety were so good. Honestly I couldn’t compliment it more.

Well, in saying that I did say to OH. “I’ve only got one complaint.”

He said, “it’s too much?”

Piggy me replied, “Nope, not enough gravy.” Oink, oink.

OH’s burger was good – nice and juicy but in contrast to me, he said it was far 2015-11-22 14.30.22too much for him. The added extra of strong blue cheese went well with the gamey taste and the generous sized chips were indeed, hand cut.
He said it was too much for him but he still managed to clear his plate.

Sitting back content after our filling lunch we stared at our empty plates and waited.

I had enjoyed my wine and often when OH is having a dessert I will plump for another glass of wine so I had already decided this was happening. When I put this to OH he said he’d just have a coffee as he (really) was full and would just like to sit and enjoy the view. So we waited.

and waited, thankful for the view.

Eventually, I went downstairs and, after waiting to speak to a waitress, ordered a coffee and another glass of wine. “House?” “Yes please.”

I went back up the stairs and we waited.

and waited…

and waited.

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Pic whilst we waited

After some time we decided to give up on ever receiving our drinks and  I went back downstairs to pay the bill. I cancelled the previous drinks order and did receive an apology, although I don’t think she appreciated the abysmal service we had received as they were still run off their feet. This isn’t totally their fault as being understaffed is just bad management.

Then I looked at the bill. “Excuse me, £8.95 for a glass of wine?” She looked at the bill and then at her till. “Er yes. I’ve never noticed the price before I just press the button.” When I got back up the stairs I checked the menu – she had given me the most expensive wine on the wine list so that was a lesson learnt the hard way.

The food is fantastic, the views unbeatable – if they could just sort out their service this would be the place to go every time you wanted to eat out.

However, considering how busy it was (and considering it was the same the last time we visited) I guess they are getting away with it so won’t think to change the staffing levels.

One ridiculously priced glass of wine, 1 coke, 2 main meals – £36.72.

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On the drive home I couldn’t resist another quick pic in Doune.

 

Venachar Lochside, Callander

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OH and I have been to the lovely restaurant on the banks of Loch Venachar before so on Sunday, when we decided to take a road trip around The Trossachs, we knew we wanted to revisit Venachar Lochside for some good food and amazing loch views.

Although it looked busy, we were seated without problem and the smiley young waitress quickly gave us 2 menus – the regular and the specials one. It also wasn’t long before our drinks order was taken. One large red wine and a coke. Yes – I wasn’t oncall or driving!

Unfortunately the loch looked a bit lacking and where there used to be water lapping at the shores now there was just shores. OH asked the smiley waitress if there was a hole in the loch and laughingly she replied that the fish were thirsty this year. The reality was that there is a damn at the bottom of the loch, which keeps the river flowing at the cost of the depth of loch.

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Last year November

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This year October

The specials menu listed the soup of the day as butternut squash with chilli and Parmesan, which sounded so heartwarming we both ordered it. Then OH decided on the pan roasted Scottish salmon fillet, walnut pesto, sun blushed tomato, fennel slaw, pea shoots, Arran mustard and honey dressing, and I went for the whole baked Venachar trout, sauteed new potatoes, dressed salad leaves, their tartar sauce and lemon wedge.

As we sat I noticed a sharing board going back behind the counter. The sharing boards look really impressive. Large quantities of cheese, meats or smoked fish are on offer. I’m not sure why the board was going back – maybe it was fish and should have been cheese – anyway, it was quickly swapped without fuss.

At out last visit we shared the Lochside board and it had everything from ham, cheese and oatcakes to pate, bread and onion marmalade – it did not disappoint.

When our drinks arrived I pointed out to the young waiter that my glass had a chip in it. He looked mortified and thanked me for spotting it. The glass was quickly swapped without fuss.

It wasn’t long before 2 plates of steaming creamy coloured soup arrived with large chunks of fresh granary bread. OH and I looked at one another with the same thought. Isn’t butternut squash soup orange? OH pointed out that we just ordered soup and maybe there was potato and leek soup on the regular menu. We tucked in regardless. A couple of minutes later the smiley waitress appeared and asked if we had spotted anything wrong with the soup. We admitted we had and she apologised and explained they had ran out of the butternut squash soup and had forgotten to tell us. No swap, no fuss. The soup was good and there was loads of it. Probably too much. The bread was amazing and I really didn’t want to finish it but I did. Stupid woman!

When the mains arrived I wasn’t sure if the plate was big enough for my whole trout – thankfully there was no head or it would have had to rest on my lap.  Unfortunately I completely forgot to take photos – blame the wine. The trout was cooked perfectly and I managed to pluck the whole backbone from it. My side plate then looked like a cartoon cat had pulled the bones from it’s mouth.

As we ate a guy who had been sitting outside with his family came in and asked where their scones were as they were nearly finished their drinks. The scones were quickly arranged and taken out without fuss.

OH’s salmon was excellent – really moist and the skin was nice and crispy. He managed to finish everything however I struggled with mine and for no other reason than I was too greedy with the soup and bread. I decided to take a break and rested my knife and fork on the plate (not together) but a new waitress suddenly appeared and lifted my plate. I was too stuffed to argue or make a fuss.

No-one appeared to see if we wanted one of the fabulous looking desserts, probably because it was a new waitress that had cleared our table and not the nice smiley one so OH flagged down the waiter and asked for a black coffee.

The nice smiley waitress brought the coffee over and said, “One cappuccino.” My face was a picture until I realised she was joking and it was a black coffee she had brought. Nice one.

The table next to ours were having the fish and chips and I couldn’t help but overhear the waiter asking if they could get them anything. The reply, “some cutlery would be good.” The cutlery quickly appeared without fuss.

We really enjoyed our meal but OH was spot on when he pointed out, “The chef is out back knocking his pan in to make fantastic food but he is being let down by the young ones.”

This restaurant is well worth a visit – the food and views are amazing and hopefully when you do visit the young ones will have got their act together.

2 soups, 2 mains, 1 large wine, 1 coke, 1 coffee = £37.05