Adamo Hotel, Bridge of Allan
Bridge of Allan. 'Why would anyone go to Bridge of Allan?', you might well wonder. But when you actually get there, you'll likely be surprised to find this small town, just north of Stirling, has been something of a tourist centre for generations: hotels and B&Bs line the main street, and there's a even small well-kept Victorian park (I'm not actually suggesting you go all the way to Stirlingshire for a small park, but it's a sign of some level of civic pride, you know?). In all, it's a perfectly viable place for a pleasant night away from the Central Belt. It's well placed for other sights too: the scenic Trossachs are just to your left (assuming you're looking at a map, the right way up, here); and we chose to spend the day after our stay driving along the southern slopes of the beautiful Ochils, and visiting Castle Campbell for a mooch in the woods.
Easily found on the town's main street, with convenient parking. Some noise from the downstairs bar later in the evening, but that the hotel (and its bar) has a certain weekend busy-ness to it is actually refreshing and fun. Local amenities, including cafés, aren't so much at walking distance as falling out of bed distance.
Well-judged wood panelling fits with the general trend of the 'boutique' revamp: to remain true to the original architecture and 'Scottishness', but create a stylish and interesting new look. Black thistle wallpaper in the corridor is less successful in this regard.
Thought has obviously gone into the arrangement of the dining room: it's spacious but manages to remain intimate so that plans for romance aren't compromised by chatter from surrounding diners. At £15 for a 2 course set dinner and £19.50 for 3 courses, the (currently on special offer) gastro-gourmet fare that's served up is a steal. The frothy watermelon gazpacho which came with compliments of the chef was a clever take on the usual cold soup, though would have been even better had it followed the first course as a sort of palate cleanser. The scallops we had as a starter were fresh and crisp, the natural sweetness was balanced with a honeyed raisin tapenade. The one confusing element was the bacon and cabbage it was served with, the slightly bitter aftertaste of the cabbage and the richness of the bacon overshadowed what would have been otherwise a very well thought out dish. We had venison in a chocolate and raspberry sauce as well as pan seared seabass in a vierge sauce, both were excellent. The proof however, was in the pudding. Dessert was a lovely treat, the iced apple parfait had just the right amount of zingy tartness and the chocolate fondant oozed rich, warm and creamy dark chocolate that was wonderfully complimented by a lavender sorbet that added a lightness to the density of the dessert. The food at the Adamo could in itself be worth the drive up.
The service is bright, authentic, and chatty. There's no Hotel International sheen, but there's a genuine friendliness along with a highly professional commitment to getting the job done. Arran Aromatics toiletries are also top notch and nice touch.
The music in the restaurant veered from Sinatra to breakbeat to ambient twaddle in as many tracks, which was pretty distracting, and did give a sense of of some level of identity crisis. This problem is easily fixed though. Sticking on one album at a time would be an improvement. Calling in the services of the rather excellent Open Ear music curation business (www.openearmusic.com) would really nail it.
The Adamo is not a destination hotel, but well placed and with a very good meal close to guaranteed, it is worth considering for a night or weekend away. The 'weekend special' tariff, which includes bed and breakfast for what would otherwise be the normal price of the room, is worth a look at around £80 per person.