Eating Out - Special occasions
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I UNDERSTAND it was quite an opening party.
JAMES Thomson’s Witchery - Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, tel: 0131-225 5613 - must be the best place in Scotland to share air with the rich and famous. Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson, Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan have all enjoyed his hospitality.
AND then there was one... Not chimneys, you understand. The full trio still dominate the low-pitched roof of Shirley and Eddie Spear’s lochside restaurant in Skye, and everything else in this unique eating place is famously present and correct.
IF YOU are going to push the boat out, then it may as well be a luxury cruiser rather than an old trawler, so set sail for Rogano - 11 Exchange Place, Glasgow, tel: 0141-248 4055. One of Glasgow’s longest serving and certainly most opulent restaurants, it wears its Art Deco style on its sleeve. Since 1935, it has been serving chilled oysters on the half shell and they will be delighted to put a bottle of bubbly on ice for you.
I HAVE a secret. At least I have what has become a secret, because every time I have given it some air, it has been greeted with shrieks of outrage. Osama bin Laden is my uncle? No. Not quite. But if you and your brother Salvatore could leave your violin cases at the door, I will admit I have long been convinced there is not one really good Italian restaurant in Edinburgh.
THE pleasures of Braidwoods begin with the phonecall to book, though this is almost certain not to be the case should you phone at 4pm on a Friday looking for a table that same night, or indeed the next weekend. I was already well schooled on that count. Indeed, I had been plucking plaudits about Braidwoods from my over-crammed lugholes for so long, I had begun to hallucinate that I had already eaten there.
IF YOU have always suspected that the grand manner is really how you deserve to live, and the grand manor is where, then a night or two at Inverlochy Castle could scarcely fail to allure. Even the journey is majestic. And that’s irrespective of your chosen approach to Fort William, though, for me, the scowling drama of Glencoe is unbeatable for pure menace.
A LITTLE oasis of elegant calm has emerged in the capital. It is poised high above Castle Street in a stunning development devised by the Prince of organic architecture, Richard Murphy.
ROMANCE comes in all shapes and sizes but many people seem to like it with a splash of Latin passion. Old-fashioned charm and a classic Italian menu are the dish of the day at Cosmo - 58 North Castle Street, Edinburgh, tel: 0131-226 6743. Popular with Edinburgh’s establishment and couples celebrating anniversaries.
THE BRAEVAL OLD MILL TEA ROOM
WHILE liquor is still quicker at these things, the ambience of the Cellar could reduce blood pressure almost instantly - it is calm, with a dark, leafy, courtyard feel: lots of "Jacobean" oak, and dining tables made from old sewing machines.
THE dining room at the Roxburghe House Hotel - Heiton near Kelso, tel: 01573 450331 - is hung with paintings of the Duke Of Roxburghe’s race horses. Quietly contemplating them over breakfast may not give any clues as to likely future winners at the nearby Kelso races, but the breakfasts will certainly help punters go the distance. The secret is in the eggs, which a local woman provides from free-range chickens. The yolks are a thick, rich, yellow colour and taste like nostalgia.
IT MAY not be dusk, but it is time for a drawing down of blinds. A respectful acknowledgement of those who fall in the battle for our money. Catering has the highest bankruptcy rate of any economic sector. Dreams turn to ashes almost as often as those hot dinners are served.
WHOEVER suggested that to travel hopefully is better than to arrive, plainly never drove from Edinburgh to Glasgow to Ayr and then on to the darkest shores of Wigtownshire on a rainswept Friday night. Because I can assure you that the moment of arrival at Knockinaam Lodge Hotel was the closest berth to bliss that I have drawn alongside this year.
IT WAS worthy of Hieronymus Bosch: a mad tangle of human life and assorted vices all crammed into the canvas space of a single evening. It started on the train - that little toytown train which slices between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and is packed to its paintwork at rush hour.
I HAVE finally got the hang of booking tables in restaurants. That is to say, I now do it, as opposed to driving 80 miles to find the emporium in question is closed on Tuesdays or entertaining a party of 60 retired palaeontologists. Yet, however admirably organised this seems, it does rob one’s regime of a certain joie de vivre, that careless impulse of glancing out of the window, tossing the bills in the bin and deciding to go out to eat.