Whilst Callendar is further afield than the location of most of our reviews, it’s well worth a visit. The lovely wee town, known to foodies for the marvellous Mhor Tearoom and Mhor Fish restaurant, is around an hour from Edinburgh by car. It’s also a great place for gift shopping, or to explore the Bracklin Falls on a short walk. And however you spend your time, Roman Camp Hotel is a fine place to head for sustenance.
Housed in an old hunting lodge off the main road, Roman Camp Hotel is a bright pink, turreted building with a 3AA Rosette-awarded restaurant and a cafe bistro. Inside, the hotel retains a traditional feel. The high-ceilinged rooms are cosy, with wood-panelled walls, open fires, dark furnishings, mounted stag heads, nooks and crannies.
When we arrived, several groups were having afternoon tea. We chose to join them in the library, overlooking the frosty lawn and the river. As we sat down across from the fire, my dining companion Elsbeth mused, would the tea itself be plentiful? Fortunately it was, with several large pots supplied throughout the course of the afternoon and more hot water to top them up.
With the first pot of tea came an amuse bouche of arancini and homemade tomato compote. The crispy fried breadcrumb coating gave way to a creamy interior, which was well complemented by the tangy, herby sauce. We’d opted for a vegetarian afternoon tea and felt that this was a highly satisfactory alternative to a haggis bonbon.
The rest of the grand afternoon tea was a two course, three-tiered affair. We began the first round by tucking into a collection of ‘warm savouries.’ Occupying the bottom tier, there was a sweet potato bite, a falafel, and a rather anaemic sausage roll each. Whilst all were pleasant, they lacked a ‘wow’ factor and perhaps some sort of dip, like the arancini had had. The standout piece was a tiny cheese and chive quiche, its robust pastry crust giving way to an excellent savoury ooze.
The middle layer was decidedly underwhelming, consisting of two uninspiring crustless sandwiches. The egg mayo needed a generous grind of pepper or some watercress, whilst the grated cheddar and Branston pickle was more ‘school packed lunch’ than afternoon tea.
Fortunately, confidence was restored on the top layer. The cheese choux bun was a very satisfying goats’ cheese-filled morsel (albeit in need of chutney), and the minute brioche roll with carrot hummus and cucumber was a delightful bridge between savoury and sweet.
Following a short break, and the arrival of another pot of tea, we kicked off round two: the sweet selection. Overall, this put on a better show. We started with a macaroon each; Elsbeth’s was coffee and mine vanilla. They both had plenty of chew and a lot of almond flavour coming through.
The passion fruit slice, a soft yellow cube of cake, was Elsbeth’s favourite, packing a really flavourful zing. My pick-of-the-bunch was the dark chocolate cookie. It was the only chocolate treat and baked in my favourite way: dense yet flexible, like the centre of a big cookie.
The middle tier’s wee freshly baked scones, one plain and one fruit, were by far the best items of our afternoon tea experience. Still warm, they were crumbly without being dry; soft without being stodgy – perfect. Served with butter, clotted cream and homemade raspberry jam, they were utterly delicious.
As the embers of the fire were stoked once again, we turned to the last tier. A mini lemon drizzle cake topped with crunchy sugar, a delicate disc of shortbread, and a piece of tiffin. More than just sweet, the tiffin was packed with biscuit and cherries, giving it a fruity twist and providing an ideal final complement to the tea.
Elsbeth and I agreed that our afternoon tea was icing on the cake to a very contented few hours surrounded by crackling fires, sumptuous soft furnishings, and the peace of the countryside. We left vowing to return in the spring for a stroll in the grounds, pre-dinner G&Ts and a fabulous dinner.
Off the main street, Callendar
Stirlingshire, FK17 8BG
Amy dined at the invitation of Roman Camp Hotel