There are some buildings which are iconic in the heart of their communities and The Royal Hotel in Bridge of Allan is one.
Situated in Henderson Street, the large cream building is a well-known landmark for locals and visitors alike.
But something has happened in recent months ... this grand old lady has had a makeover. And she’s looking very well on it.
The Victorian dowager has become a trendy 21st century Royal princess with an impressive decking area on the one side overlooking the street, and another elevated outside space to the rear.
Bearing in mind the vagaries of the Scottish climate, there are canopies to shield clients from the sun (or rain) and patio heaters for when temperature drop.
However, we were here to sample the delights of The Fifty Five, the newly refurbished restaurant.
First impressions were that as well as looking good, the food they serve must be hitting the mark given the number of diners on a Thursday evening.
The stylish and opulent interior gave a feeling of space with clever use of mirrors, plants and tables placed in such a way as to give diners the privacy they may desire, while the giant windows overlooking the street add to the feeling of space.
But down to business and the reason we were here: the menu.
It’s large enough to offer something for even the most discerning diner but small enough to give you the reassurance that dishes will be freshly prepared. We were helped by our server Quinn who was able to talk us through the dishes and answer any of our queries.
I decided to start with a prawn cocktail, a throwback to the 1970s but this wasn’t anything like I remember. Served on a plate with the prawns heaped on a bed of leaves, it had a chilli gin gel and blush tomato garnish.
The soft shell crab pakora with warm tomato fondue was unusual and very tasty with just the right hint of spice.
This left us in anticipation of the mains, although I was a bit concerned that the chef might have been overcome and had to lie down after my request for my lamb rump not to be ‘too’ pink!
But despite any reservations he may have had it was perfectly cooked. Served on a bed of pea and squash quinoa with scorched peppers, the damson and sloe gin sauce was a delightful accompaniment.
The tempura monkfish cheeks were another unusual take on an old favourite and certainly didn’t disappoint. Golden light batter perfectly complemented the lightness of the fish, while peas and broad beans, along with tartare sauce and chunky chips were the ideal sides.
The menu then encouraged us to ‘skip to the good bit’ and the desserts did sound wonderful.
We both decided to go for the chai pudding – in the hope that it might be healthy. Well the raspberries certainly were, and the gin and limoncello all started out as fruit...
It proved a fitting end to a very regal meal.