Driving in the autumn sunshine to Bridge of Allan took me down memory lane to my student days in Stirling 20 years ago. I loved this time of year when all the leaves on campus turned red and gold. However, this time I was having a lunch meeting in the newly refurbished 55 Bar & Grill at The Royal Hotel, which was easily going to be a far cry from the student grub I used to endure in the union!
The hotel has clearly invested a lot of money in the property recently, with a stunning terrace at the front, which would be perfect on a summer’s day with a glass of wine, but with the car on tow and an autumn air it wasn’t on the menu for us on this occasion.
The ground floor is pretty much dedicated to the bar and grill and is very spacious. I’m not sure if the design before the refurb was more traditional, however the new look is very modern and contemporary with stylised lighting and plush fabrics.
Escaping the desk and meeting people for lunch these days is a challenge, but the offer to get out of Edinburgh and catch up with a couple of colleagues in Bridge of Allan seemed a good excuse to break from the norm.
We were very well looked after by our waitress for the afternoon, Quinn, she was an absolute delight and was always there at the right time to take orders or help us out. The main menu was quite overwhelming with the selection of dishes available and the three of us seemed as a result to naturally gravitate to the Express Lunch menu, which focused our selection a lot faster.
With Jane being vegetarian, she was drawn to the cauliflower and mustard soup for starters, which was a thick, heart-warming and very filling bowl. On the other hand, Kate and I both opted for fish and chose the Salt n’ Pepper squid served with a lime, chilli, ginger and coriander syrup. The squid was fresh and lightly fried, but I felt the syrup was slightly too sweet for my liking and I would have preferred it to have a bit more bite from the chilli.
Despite being very petite Jane has an excellent appetite and embraced the full on Fifty Five Mac ‘n’ Cheese Frites. A very generous dish of golden crusted macaroni cheese arrived and looked delicious, but it was so hot Jane was unable to eat it for quite a while and eventually had to ask for a cold plate to allow it to cool down faster. Once it had cooled it was a very nice mac n’ cheese and the gruyere crust brought through some lovely nutty flavours. The only thing that let the dish down were the frites, they were more on a par with what you would get from a take-away and didn’t quite live up to the expectations of the stylish surroundings in which we were sat.
Kate and I continued with fish and had variations on a salmon theme. She opted for a healthy salmon salad, while I was drawn to something warm and chose the teriyaki salmon fillet served on a bed of vegetable noodles. Both dishes were light and the salmon was lovely, but our only comment was on the serving dishes. They used lovely bowls, which were a nice change from the more typical plates, however we both felt we struggled to have enough space within the bowl to mix our food. A minor detail and something that is easily rectified.
Although both the fish dishes were relatively light, we were struggling to find enough room for dessert, so it came down to a group effort. The three of us picked a lemon meringue crumble served with frozen blueberries and granola crumble. Presentation was very nice and my fellow guests quite liked it, but for me it was too sweet and didn’t have enough zing from the lemon.
All in all we had a very pleasant lunch and escape from the 9-5 day job to enjoy a relaxed lunch in a nice venue and enjoy a great value meal. The Express Lunch is priced at £10 for two courses. I could imagine the Bar & Grill being completely transformed in the evening and at weekends when the peace and calm we enjoyed is no doubt swapped for a more vibrant buzz.
Nicki was a guest at The 55 Bar & Grill at The Royal Hotel, 55 Henderson St, Bridge of Allan, FK9 4HG
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