I’m a city girl at heart. I know this because I’m always on the hunt for new things – restaurants, shops, stuff, a mobile phone reception.
There isn’t that kind of stimulus on the Isle of Arran. Things change, but at the sort of pace you might take when trudging up Goat Fell with a rucksack full of pebbles.
As we drive along the coastal road, we check off the reassuringly familiar places – Brodick, Whiting Bay, Blackwaterfoot and Corrie – all of which have remained virtually unchanged over 30 years of holidays.
That makes a town mouse’s job of finding a restaurant to review rather tricky.
However, I suppose the Glenisle Hotel Bistro could count as newsworthy (if you’re living on island time and are on a lack-of-signal enforced digital detox, so can’t Google “new restaurants Arran”). It’s been around for 170 years or so, but was refurbished in 2008, and has had a big-up in the Michelin Guide for the last three years.
Its walls are painted in shades of pale grey, white and sage green, which serve to make the light in the room, streaming in from Lamlash Bay, seem diffused and luminous (sort of like a dream sequence in a perfume ad).
From the lunch and dinner à la carte menu, the best of our three starters was the trio of pan-seared scallops (£8.45), each as uniformly round as coat buttons. These came alongside two equally neat cubes of burnished, honey-glazed pork belly and a smudge of turmeric yellow curried parsnip purée.
We also loved the veggie option of fried wild mushrooms (£5.75), as these hearty fungi came on a dense doorstop of Marmite-coloured rye toast, with a drizzle of subtly feral blue cheesy cream.
As the flavours of the two main ingredients weren’t quite punchy enough, the smoked duck and poached plum salad (£5.85) was probably the feeblest dish, with asparagus cuttings, pine nuts, a tumbleweed of salad leaves and a lemony dressing, but I appreciate that they smoke their own quacker on site.
Our main of pork tenderloin medallions (£12.95) was an earthy and elemental tower that consisted of piggy discs, a wheel of black pudding, a perma-tanned onion and thyme tattie scone and oodles of port jus, with trimmings of caramelised apple wedges and mange-tout. A chicken, spinach and sundried tomato roulade (£11.95) featured soft pieces of red-hearted poultry, plus a pearlescent white wine-infused risotto of pearl barley, chopped shallots and sage.
We weren’t exactly drooling at the thought of roast butternut squash and chickpea curry (£11.45), but it pleasantly surprised us. The squash wasn’t too squishy, and its sauce was aromatic and mildly chilli spiced. It could have been a healthy option, but for the glistening accompaniment of fried Basmati rice. Still, we were on the no diet holiday diet.
Any dessert that requires the cook to bash bagged-up biscuits with a rolling pin could hardly be deemed sophisticated, but the chocolate and gingersnap cheesecake (£5.95) defied that notion.
When I eat a pudding, I like to ask myself, would I rather be eating my favourite chocolate bar? Often, the answer is yes. Not this time, as this offering’s topping of milky mousse and orange confit was dreamy.
We couldn’t detect any of the billed ingredients in the rosewater and lemon crème brûlée (£5.45), but that’s OK, as it was thick and vanilla-dotted, with two tiny shortbreads on the side, which were as powdery as Marie Antoinette’s wig.
This place is great, and feels very grown-up and civilised, with its Arran landscapes on the wall.
As long as they let me use their wi-fi, I could almost be persuaded to slow down and become a country mouse.
Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £67.80
Shore Road, Lamlash, Isle of Arran
(01770 600559, www.glenislehotel.com)