Published: January 2014
It has taken Reynard and I a while to get around to re-visiting The Rowan Tree Country Hotel next to picturesque Loch Alvie, just south of Aviemore, but it was well worth the wait.
As we entered this charming country hotel we were warmly welcomed and invited to take a seat in the snug in front of a fantastic roaring fire and sank into a big comfy sofa.
There we enjoying a pre-dinner drink warmed by the ambience as well as the fire as we perused the menu. The whole atmosphere was relaxed with tasteful surroundings.
This all continued into the bar area and into the dining room where, although there were plenty of table covers, we didn't feel crammed in and we were able to chat freely.
Waiting on our table was a jug of iced water, a nice touch, and a basket of scrumptious warm homemade bread.
The menu has a good choice of dishes, about eight for each course, so there is something for everyone which is not always the case at these country hotel-type restaurants. There were even two or three options for vegetarians.
It was a hard decision to decide between the tempting entrees but my love of black pudding and goats cheese together won the day.
My locally-sourced Gow's black pudding was served with poached spiced apple topped with grilled goats cheese and served on mixed leaves with a mustard cream dressing (£6.50).
It was delicious, although I would have preferred a chutney or caramelised onions instead of the mustard cream dressing which for me didn't give the dish enough umpf and quite cut the mustard!
Reynard had a real quandary on his hands, scallops or souffle, two of his firm favourites? In the end he plumped for the three cheese souffle served on mixed dressed leaves and a cheese sauce (£6.50). It was the right choice – the souffle was well cooked and the cheese did not overpower the dish.
As Reynard was driving we didn't have a bottle of wine but I can recommend the house Malbec as I had a glass with my main course.
It complemented my honey roasted duck breast with Savoy cabbage, Dauphinoise potatoes and caramelized apples finished with a red wine sauce (£16.95).
The duck was cooked to my liking, medium to well, and was succulent and tasty along with the divine Dauphinoise potatoes.
Plenty of vegetables accompanied the dish leaving me too full to fit in one of the wonderful sounding puds or the cheese board heaving with a great selection judging by the arrival at a neighbouring table.
I didn't get much more conversation out of Reynard – not a bad thing – during his main course other than the odd "mmmm", and "delicious".
He was a very happy chap indeed having opted for the trio of pork: caramelized pork tenderloin on crispy black pudding with creamy leeks and smoked bacon, slow roasted pork belly on roasted root vegetable – the two joint stars of the show – and pork sausage on apple and sage mash finished with apple sauce, all served with a pork jus (£15.95).
The Rowan Tree Hotel is a little off the Aviemore beaten track but clearly the superb quality of the food and excellent surroundings speak for themselves.
We bumped into a host of locals and the restaurant had a real buzz despite it being the January tourism hang-over time of year. It's well worth the trip for that special treat to yourself and your other half but probably best to leave the kids at home with nana and granddad.
* Note: The hotel is closed to non-residents all day Monday and table reservations are recommended prior to arrival.
Quality of food: 9
Menu choice: 9
Value for money: 8
The Rowan Tree Country Hotel
Aviemore PH22 1QB
Tel: 01479 810207