Reviewed by Debbie Douglas
The Blackaddie Country House Hotel is situated just off the A76 outside the village of Sanquar in Scotland at the end of 15 miles of the most stunning scenery with only the sheep crossing the road looking at you indignantly for company. It is on both the Southern Upland Way and the John O’Groats to Lands’ End route. We had never visited this part of the country before but our night away has left us wanting to go back and explore further. The drive there really does set the scene for a get away from it all break. The hotel is nestled on the banks of the River Nith and this beautiful former rectory has some original parts dating back to as far as 1540. It is being lovingly restored by Ian and Jane McAndrew who are part way through a plan to refurbish each of the 6 bedrooms, 1 suite and some parts of the hotel. We were greeted by Jane herself who was friendly and efficient and showed us to our room which was the Partridge room. This room has been refurbished to the highest standard with a large bed, couch, dressing table and writing table, plenty of room to relax. The room also had tea and coffee making facilities, TV and a lovely touch of a bottle of still and sparkling water with tablet and shortbread. I particularly loved the window seat which looked over to the village of Sanquhar. There is free wireless broadband available on the ground floor for anyone who cannot live without Facebook and a good selection of books in the library.
The bathroom had also been refurbished to a high standard with a walk in power rain shower and Jacuzzi bath. I can confirm that both were amazing! Complimentary toiletries from Arran Aromatics are included.
We hadn’t really thought much about our meal so imagine our delight when we read in the information that the owner was a former Michelin star chef! We were looking forward to our meal immensely and were not to be disappointed.
We were met at the cosy downstairs bar by a roaring fire and our very friendly hostess Sharon. The bar is very well stocked and we had a glass of wine and a pint of lager. My husband did say that the lager was not great probably as the pump is not used that often but it was a minor complaint. Sharon was really chatty and helpful and brought us our canapés of Gazpacho and aubergine caviar both were delicious and set us up nicely for the meal. Sharon showed us the menu which had a choice of two starters, mains and desserts. This was perfect for us as it meant we could try everything on the menu. The wine list was extensive and it included the old stalwarts together with the new world wines. We went for a Chilean Chardonnay which was superb.
Sharon carried our drinks through to the dining room for us which was a lovely touch then brought us some homemade bread which was fantastic, Walnut, Parmesan and sesame were the choices. The parmesan bread was particularly amazing. The bread was quickly followed by an aperitif of spinach and parsley risotto which was absolutely delicious. Next was the starter course, I had a salad of White and Brown Crab with Pink Grapefruit and a Shot of Bisque and my husband had Salad of Cured Duck with Rhubarb and Pickled Shimeji.
The flavour of the duck was excellent, I sometimes find it can be a bit overpowering in a cold starter but it was very light indeed. The little shimeji mushrooms were wonderful but perhaps the biggest surprise was the rhubarb. I must admit I am not a rhubarb fan; I instantly get flashbacks of the most bitter rhubarb crumble at school dinners whenever it is mentioned. I expected that I may have pushed it to the side of the plate but I have to say it complimented the duck beautifully.
Next up was Tarragon, Olive Oil and Smoked Sea Salt Ice Cream with Beetroot and Goats cheese. I thought this was going to be awful but if you put all of these together at once it was a taste sensation in the mouth, like fireworks. I wasn’t keen on the ice cream on its own but in the combination it worked really well. Ian is obviously not afraid of pushing the taste boundaries.
I had for the main course Steamed Fillet of Cod with Baby Leeks, Celeriac Puree and Herb Jus whilst my husband had Taste of seriously aged scotch beef, Sautéed Fillet, Sticky Ragout and Beef Terrine with Greens. The cod was the best piece of fish I had ever tasted it was flaky and white and so fresh. You could tell all the ingredients had been selected carefully and everything on the plate felt like it belonged. The beef was beautifully soft and tender and the depth of flavour in the terrine was amazing. It was the sticky ragout that was the best on the plate and words just can’t do it justice.
For my dessert I had warm cinnamon Doughnuts with banana millefeuille, Banana Milkshake, Toffee sauce and Coconut Sorbet. The cinnamon doughnuts were light and fluffy and a total delight they and the banana millefeuille was equally delicious. This was heaven on a plate for me.
My husband had the selection of Scottish cheeses with homemade oatcakes. As much as I like a cheeseboard it can sometimes be the easy way out for a chef and can be very basic but not here.
There were 5 different cheeses on the board and the quality of them all was excellent. Any cheese board that has Dunsyre blue on the plate is a winner in my book. Perhaps the best touch were the three different types of homemade oatcakes, one of which was beautifully spiced, the homemade apple cheese was a special addition to, made from apples from the garden.
There was tea and coffee on the menu but we didn’t want to spoil the enjoyment of the meal.
Ian came out to see how we were enjoying our meal and was chatty and friendly and made us feel very welcome.
We retired back to the roaring fire to finish our wine and had a lovely chat with Sharon who was just like an old friend. Sharon also advised us on some walks for the next day. After a thoroughly enjoyable evening we went to bed well fed, well watered and very very content.
We slept really well as there was no noise and the bed was extremely comfortable. It was a quick shower then down for breakfast. We didn’t think we were going to have any breakfast as we were still quite full from the night before but once we set eyes on the menu we soon changed our mind. The menu had something for everyone from porridge to homemade bread to the traditional Scottish breakfast. Kipper and smoked fillet of haddock were also included on there. Ian’s passion for good ingredients comes through on the breakfast menu too from the free range eggs to Christie of Mallyford Farms pure bred Galloway beef sausage. You can tell each ingredient is specially selected and this shows on the plate. It was by far the best Scottish breakfast I have ever had.
We reluctantly packed our bags and said our goodbyes. This was one of the best meals we have ever had and a fantastic overnight stay. We are already thinking up excuses to make our way back to this hidden gem.
Room rates start from £95 to £310 per night.
For more information or to make a booking visit www.blackaddiehotel.co.uk.
Blackaddie Country House Hotel, Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway, DG4 6JJ | 01659 50270