Dine like a king at the Rothesay Rooms in Royal Deeside and experience the finest of cooking with a focus on local says our restaurant reviewer.
While I love the city centre of Aberdeen and all the delights it holds, there’s something incredibly magical about Royal Deeside.
Thanks to my boyfriend, I have a real love for this corner of the world, with Braemar and Ballater becoming holiday favourites for us over the years.
His family own a small cottage in Inverey, which is a short 10-minute drive from Braemar, and although we usually submerge ourselves in the blissful isolation of no phone service or Wi-Fi, this time around our weekend of zen has a sprinkling of luxury.
It had been my birthday two days prior so I booked a trip to the new home of the Rothesay Rooms in advance, seeing as Ballater is less than a 30-minute drive from Inverey.
The restaurant, which was originally set up as an eating destination by Prince Charles to drive tourism to the area following the 2015 floods, has moved from its former home in the centre of Ballater to the Old Royal Station where its sister venue The Carriage had originated.
This new home has been decked in the restaurant’s signature royal green walls and boasts plenty of the Duke of Rothesay’s tartan, too.
The stag antlers, candelabras and paintings were all still present, as were the charming front of house staff and the fleet in the kitchen. The only difference was this time it felt like there was more seating and space.
We were warmly greeted on arrival, and within minutes two glasses of prosecco arrived. It was a special occasion and the restaurant had noted this on the booking. The attention to detail was very much appreciated.
Our server gave us time to settle in and study both the food and wine menu. Prosecco in hand, we asked for water for the table and an alcohol-free beer for him.
The veloute of the day was cream of French onion, but it was the Balnault rare breed pork terrine which tickled my fancy and the Invercauld estate rabbit my boyfriend’s. He opted for the Aberdeen Angus main while I decided on the Wark Farm lamb.
We placed our order and I slowly savoured the crisp yet sweet prosecco which bubbled away.
Like the other diners, we were treated to a canape of smoked chicken with a truffle aioli and pickled carrot in a tartlet. Plus some delicious homemade bread with Edinburgh butter.
The canape was sublime and while the tartlet was crisp, it was paper thin making it incredibly delicate. I could have eaten the hefty spoonful of truffle chicken a million times over it was that heavenly. Truffle is a favourite, and the aromas were sensational.
I recognised the flavour as I had experienced something similar at home when executive chef, Ross Cochrane, was running his dine-at-home concept, Rocca, during lockdown.
The granary bread was served warm and it was irresistibly fluffy. The butter was super soft and my knife glided over the bread without any real effort.
Following this we were treated to a complementary mini version of the cured mackerel starter. Served cold it was packed with flavour and every mouthful was just as good as the last.
The wasabi was hidden cleverly under the tartare and was a gorgeous bright green colour. The treacle-based sauce on top was delicious and the dill that was sprinkled on top ever so lightly, was incredibly pungent.
Our starters quickly followed and the pork terrine I had came served with a wedge of toasted brioche bread and knob of butter on top. There was a lot going on on the plate with flavours and textures popping up all over. There was apple, a crunchy piece of pork crackling, shallots and more, and it tasted equally as impressive as it looked.
I collated all of the ingredients onto the brioche bread, ensuing every element was sandwiched on, and devoured the lot as elegantly as I could.
Encased in my partners golden rabbit pie was shredded meat with tiny pieces of chopped carrot and celeriac. The pastry flaked away and had a lattice design on top. It was served with picked beetroot which was a lovely contrast to the sweeter pastry and lighter rabbit.
We decided to take a small breather between courses and replenished our drinks. I opted for a small glass of white wine, albeit red would have been the better choice with lamb.
My boyfriend had replaced the regular chips with truffle and parmesan ones with his medium-rare Aberdeen Angus fillet. Three strips of beef were cooked perfectly, and on top of the beef sat a round of cafe de Paris butter which our server told us had more than 50 ingredients in it.
The crisp shredded braised beef in the bon bon was delicious and the rich beef jus was in a separate jug.
The chips which were more like rostis with crushed potato inside, then fried and topped with parmesan and truffle. The steak was very juicy and the knife slid through it very easily. It was a dish that had everything.
My Wark Farm lamb was just as impressive. Five pieces of succulent lamb cooked medium-rare were beautifully pink in the middle. The jus, like my boyfriend’s, was incredibly rich and the sweet carrot was cooked to perfection
The tart, which housed braised lamb done another way, was topped with parmesan, peas and thin pieces of mushroom which looked like chocolate buttons. I loved every morsel and would have licked the clean plate had I not been dining out.
Completely stuffed and as good as they looked travelling to diners around the dining room, we declined desserts. Not before the staff presented me with a plate with ‘happy birthday’ written in chocolate with two pieces of white chocolate fudge and a raspberry petit fours.
After such a wonderful night of luxury we retreated back to Inverey into the wilderness and the land of no service.
If you are looking for top quality food served in an elegant setting which encompasses pure indulgence, the Rothesay Rooms is a must.
While it is a little more on the expensive side, it most certainly is justified with the high standards in the kitchen and the works of art you are graced with at the dinner table.
The Rothesay Rooms is an experience and should be treated as one. It is pure excellence and the perfect place to celebrate and raise a glass.
Address: Station Square, Ballater, AB35 5RB
- Food: 5/5
- Service: 5/5
- Surroundings: 5/5