THE braes of Balquhidder are alive to the sound of celebration now that the old Kings House Hotel, on the A84, is under new management.

TripAdvisor reviews of the former establishment's swan song make colourful reading. The first reads: "Don't even bother! The customer service is appalling. Terrible taste in your mouth experience." The next customer review is headed: "A very terrible Sunday!" Another ends with: "All in all, we will not be visiting this hell hole again." You get the drift.

We can safely say that the new owners won't have to do much to beat that record. And seeing as they are the energetic Lewis family, the powerhouse behind the Monachyle Mhor hotel and a posse of other Mhor-themed enterprises (Mhor Fish, Mhor Bread, Mhor Tea, Mhor to your door), it will come as no surprise to learn that they already have. On its first weekend open, their new venture was mobbed. Customers (me included) were charmed, as if they couldn't believe their eyes. The "before" and "after" must make the locals positively giddy.

The numbers in the name come from the A84. The hotel was pretty much a roadhouse to it, highly visible to the road and passing trade. The back of the building might be historic, and even lay claim to some haunting connection with the fabled Rob Roy MacGregor, but is lost behind a modern frontage which isn't instantly bonny.

In a wise strategic decision, the Lewises haven't tried to reclaim it as a "boutique" hotel. Who needs another of those in a recession? Instead, it's a reinvented motel (£65-£75 per night), but one that suits its setting in a way the classic US model wouldn't.

If you have visited Mhor Tea, you'll be aware that the Lewis family know how to work the retro/vintage riff to their advantage, and Mhor 84 is more in that vein, an establishment done up on a shoestring, but with sackloads of style. Dipped in white paint throughout, the decor is otherwise delightfully quirky. You walk in to be met by a table groaning with rough-hewn scones, super-sized meringues and temptress cakes. Behind the lobby lies a snug, conspiratorial bar. A well-used refectory table, flanked by school benches, forms a central point in a dining room lit mainly by candles. The gents' urinal resembles a galvanised cattle trough. The whole place throbs with the heat from stoves fuelled by wood from the Mhor farm. Even the smokers get a flaming brazier to huddle around outside. An eclectic selection of acquisitions from auction rooms and salvage yards add points of curiosity. Homes And Gardens it isn't, and all the more thrillingly subversive for it.

There are light dishes to gladden the heart of the frozen hillwalker, towering, nicely filled toast hewn from Mhor's excellent bread and filled, bubbling macaroni cheese, Scotch rarebit ... all affordable, all using ingredients that don't compromise on quality. A more serious, but still well-priced menu runs alongside.

You can order oysters (from the Kyle of Tongue) individually – how civilised – so two made a lip-smacking preamble to starters proper. The first, rings of lightly seared squid with chilli and parsley, accompanied by a luxurious aioli flecked with saffron; the second, warm smoked ham hock in a mustardy broth with fresh spring greens. Both sound, simple, pleasing dishes.

Unlike the New Zealand lamb supermarkets are currently promoting, the Mhor sheep graze nearby slopes and are killed at an age when their meat has developed real flavour – and tenderness, too, if our melting slice of shoulder is anything to go by. A black olive crust suited it well, as did its sweetly charred carrot halves and yielding, roasted shallots. You only had to taste the impeccable megrim sole, served on the bone with caper butter and lemon, to appreciate that Mhor's fish-sourcing contacts really do come up trumps.

Desserts tasted like an afterthought. A griddled ginger pudding deserved better ice cream. Caramelised pineapple wasn't extending the kitchen's skills any. More refinement in this department will doubtless follow.

But in the meantime, Mhor 84 Motel is off to a flyer. It will be impossible to drive by.