Hotel Colessio is one of those landmark buildings that neighbouring Stirling seems to have in abundance.
Initially the city’s Royal Infirmary, its latter use by the NHS was as the headquarters for Forth Valley Health Board.
Anyone who worked in or visited it would have struggled to find anything aesthetically pleasing about its interior – wooden panelling was in abundance and some strange choices in paint colour.
But under the ownership of Aurora Hotels it has been transformed into a luxury venue for functions, overnight stays, dining and entertaining.
Three years ago I enjoyed a sneak preview of the stylish interior: black, white and silver is the main colour palate throughout and it gives a dramatic look.
However, until recently I had never dined in Colessio’s Grill Room. But after my initial visit it’s definitely somewhere that I want to return to ... and soon.
We were seated in one of the comfortable booths which allowed us to view the spacious dining room.
The young staff were courteous and attentive, offering to answer any questions we had on the menu.
Making a selection was difficult with so many tempting dishes on offer – everything from burgers to pasta, fish to steaks. But all with interesting twists to ingredients to challenge the chef and delight the diner.
Eventually we made our choices and as we waited enjoyed the freshly baked bread selection with sea salt butter and a dip of balsamic reduction and olive oil.
A tempting amuse bouche of seared scallop with apple and artichoke purée whet our appetites for what was to follow – and we weren’t disappointed.
The Thai prawn salad with rice noodle, spaghetti vegetables and a sesame, soy, lime and chilli dressing was a delightful, light starter. The shredded duck bon bons with chilli hoisin sauce and mango and cucumber salsa were more filling and, if I’m honest, with a few slices of that beautiful bread would have satisfied me as a main course.
You can’t go to the Grill Room and not try one of their Scottish beef steaks, cooked at 600°C on their Josper charcoal grill.
I always believe the rib eye to be the tastiest cut and this one certainly proved that to be true. Served with rustic cut chips, tomato, mushroom and onion rings, it had a small dish of piquant gravy on the side.
These days I don’t eat a lot of red meat, but when I do, I want it to be good and this had to rate as the best steak I’ve ever eaten. I was happy to pass on my compliments to chef Craig from Denny when he came out later to meet us.
I even resisted trying the lobster mac’n’cheese which was getting rave reviews from the other side of the table, as I wanted to do the steak justice.
Craig suggested for a light dessert we try the espresso godfather affogato – whisky, amaretto, coffee served with vanilla ice cream. It made a perfect ending to a memorable meal.