As I took in the breathtaking scenery en route to Gleneagles last week, and imagined what lay in store for me over the next 24 hours, I had one of those ‘I love my job’ moments. During my very short stay in this gigantic 5 star hotel (I arrived at 4pm on Thursday and left at 8am on Friday), I was lucky enough to enjoy a dram of whisky in the snow, eat my body weight in mouth watering food, sleep in a room fit for a king and go swimming in a luxurious spa.
After checking into my room, I headed to the newly opened Blue Bar for a pre-dinner whisky tasting – a bar with a difference as it has enough indoor qualities to stop you feeling cold (heated leather sofas, a roaring fire, a small roof and blankets), whilst being outdoors enough that you can legally smoke a Cuban cigar if it took your fancy.
On this occasion, I stuck to the creme de la creme of blended whisky, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which slipped down my throat like syrup, warming my body as the snow fell around us. So we didn’t get too hungry (or, I presume, too drunk), we were also offered delicious canapés, such as Comrie shitake and squash ‘spring rolls’ and Assam smoked queen scallops & fennel pollen spoons. The canapés were tasty, but in my opinion couldn’t rival the moreish truffle popcorn, which popped into my mouth far too easily.
Next stop was Deseo, a Mediterranean food market restaurant that, in translation, means ‘desire’. Before sitting down at our table, we had a quick look at the ‘market’, which had the feel of a mini Selfridges Food Hall with its delicatessen, meat and dessert counters.
Our meal started with tapas that ranged from undeniably good ‘Mountain Cured’ Jamon Serrano, and melt in the mouth Esparagos y Verde flavoured with truffle oil…
…to juicy Gambas al Pil Pil with chilli oil and a squeeze of lime (they were eaten pretty quickly, hence the lone prawn in my picture)…
…homemade meat balls with Olorosso sherry, tomato and toasted almonds…
and the only slight let down, tuna filled Empanadas, which could have done with a sauce to avoid dryness.
After eating my fair share of canapés at the whisky tasting, plus numerous portions of tapas, you might have thought I’d slow down when it came to the ‘main’ course. Sadly, that’s just not in my nature, so when the smell of Pollo Riojana wafted towards me, I greedily tucked in.
The dish brought back memories of my mum’s chicken casserole, which often graced my plate as a child. Served with rice seasoned with rucola, roquette and pecorino, the overall effect was hearty and satisfying, with tender chicken and juicy peppers covered in a simple white wine sauce.
Despite feeling stuffed, I couldn’t turn down dessert when in front of me sat everything from cheese and crackers, Flan de Naranja and Panna Cotta, to what was quite possibly the tastiest Tiramisu I’ve ever eaten.
I slept well/passed out in my bed that night, but had to get up early to catch the train back to London. Feeling a little guilty about how much food I’d eaten, I managed to squeeze in a quick pre-breakfast swim, before heading to the best buffet in the world – yes, they actually had poached eggs, hand carved smoked salmon and proper mushrooms that hadn’t turned insipid, despite sitting in a heated tray.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Perthshire, and have more than a few pounds to spare, I would highly recommend a visit to Gleneagles. I wish I’d been able to stay longer, but as I seem to suffer from ‘eyes too big for my stomach’ syndrome, it’s probably best I left when I did.
The Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF Scotland