The Rothesay Rooms


BALLATER then. Up over Glenshee as giant stags loom from the gloom, on down the main street as Union flags-a-flutter and round into the Rothesay Rooms where royalty may or may not ooze from the very tongue and groove panelling.

Tonight, Matthew, we’re fine-dining deep in the heart of the Windsors' Scottish playground. Antlers and wild green paintwork adorn those walls, chefs crack on in the open kitchen and possibly not quite enough waiters are on duty to instantly cope with the demands of this evening’s largely mature customer base.

It’s a slow start, then, a bit of thumb-twiddling, head-turning, first-drink action from my just-back-from the hills chums before orders are placed, wines are poured and things then swing smoothly into action. Well, fairly smoothly.

Nobody can detect any of the promised whiskyness from the opening salvo in the £55 fine dining menu: cured salmon, treacle, dill and lemon. But it is nonetheless perfectly pleasant. Crunchiness, unctuousness, firm duck meat and lush beetroot (pickled and plain) and a very clever addition of sweetly seductive dried carrot cake make up the next course.

We taste, we nod, we agree: that’s pretty nice. There’s a Highgrove Shop somewhere near here, a royal butcher, baker and probably candle-stick maker dotted around the extremely crisp town square and we’re told, during a lull in the action, that the royals were recently spotted in The Carriage – an expensively fitted out but to me, anyway, utterly soulless cafe-cum-chintzy restaurant just around the corner.

As for Prince Charles' connection to this place? The clue is apparently in the name. He’s also the Duke of Rothesay (news to me) and in fact the Rothesay Rooms are supported by a royal-backed charity of some sort.

Normally this would sound alarm bells given that charities and restaurants are rarely a successful mix, but this restaurant also has a Michelin recommendation. An entry in the guide under the curiously-hard-to-work-out-what-it-means section entitled The Michelin Plate. This sits in that no man's land somewhere below very reliable Bib Gourmand and safely above the usually hopelessly unreliable Michelin Recommends.

Fresh ingredients? Yes. Freshly Prepared? Yes. We’re now into a stone bass – a fashionably farmed fish – with its skin bubbled to a decent crisp, a crowd-pleasing rolled ham-hock alongside with mushroom and celeriac artfully placed around and beneath.

And before we know it the main of venison with another rolled and pastry-coated crowd pleaser, this time a sausage roll thing presumably of shoulder, onion, bramble and parsnip is being commented on and polished off.

Venison nowadays, even in the heart of stag-land, sadly, is always disappointingly bland. I say that being brought up in a house where the old man would hang the just-shot deer in the old shed until almost black and where deliciously aromatic flavours would rise up and punch you square on the nose the moment the kitchen door was opened.

We can’t really hold the fads and fashions of modern flavours against the Rothesay Rooms even though the chef could probably jump out the kitchen window and bag a full-flavoured passing deer with his rolling pin. The rest of the dish? Beautifully prepared and roasted to caramel, parsnip, fabulously sweet onion and proper winey jus. What’s not to like?

We’ll pay an extra tenner for a surprisingly good cheese plate, finish up with a gooey-chocolatey dessert that I’ll eat and moments later look down at the debris wishing I had first taken a photograph of it, because I will have already forgotten what exactly was in it.

We’ll somehow manage to be the very last to leave the place, lingering to chat to the waiter, a very pleasant chap who gives us tips on local colour.

Accordingly, ten minutes later we’ll be whooping it up in The Balmoral Bar where the locals let their hair down at the best karaoke in town. A good night all round.

The Rothesay Rooms

3 Netherly Place,



Menu: Most of the Scottish fine dining buttons are pressed. There’s Gressingham duck and stone bass. Some flair in the cooking even if it's all quite safe. 4/5

Service: They probably need one more waiter on as there was a slow start. The two that served the whole room had their work cut out but were pleasant and very good. 5/5

Atmosphere: Wild green paint, antlers-a-go-go. Trad Scottish vibe but warm, comfortable and pleasant. 4/5

Price: In the heart of Deeside, £55 for the six-course or so tasting menu was probably worth it, overall a la carte prices are similar. 3/5

Food: Not setting the heather on fire with any left-field innovations but the stone bass dish was excellent and the standard of preparation very high. 8/10