Sundays in Scotland arenâ€™t always beautifully sunny and even when they are, I rarely have access to a car. The last time these planets aligned, we celebrated with lunch out.
The Elphinstone Hotel and Restaurant on Biggar High Street, is a coaching inn, boasting a 400 year old history. You can eat, drink, and sleep here in comfort, all under the care of Robert and Janette Allen, and their son, Michael, who have steered the business for the last twenty years.
Iâ€™m always lukewarm about Sunday lunch menus â€“ too many 1970â€™s memories of soggy meat-and-two veg school dinners, or (sorry, mum) two false-looking lumps of mash, produced by an ice-cream scoop â€“ and the fact that it is, often, literally lukewarm.Â Preparing all the individual elements to be ready simultaneously and keeping it hot either from kitchen to a busy dining-room, or under carvery lights, seems a step too far for many restaurants.
Not, Iâ€™m pleased to say, a problem at The Elphâ€™, which might just have converted meâ€¦
There were three of having lunch: me, the seven year old, and my mum (who, thankfully, hung up her ice-cream scoop in the eighties). It was something of an early Motherâ€™s Day outing, so we pushed the boat out and ordered two courses: chicken liver pate, and salmon, dill and spring onion fishcakes. The 7 year old didnâ€™t want to be left out, so the lovely waiting staff brought him garlic bread, which pleased him no end.
My mother really enjoyed the pate, rich and smooth, with its red onion marmalade, and my fishcakes were generous with the salmon; the honey mustard dressing was there, to be fair, and it was absolutely delicious, but it was a fine drizzle rather than the promised topping, and a bit more would have been ideal.
As youâ€™d expect, the main dishes were Sunday lunch-esque: lamb, beef and turkey, with the addition of pan-roasted plaice, and chicken with linguine â€“ a nice touch for those less in love with tradition but who wanted to enter into the spirit. (The full a la carte is available, too)
The turkey breast (mine) and the fish (mumâ€™s) came with the same selection of accompaniments, which looked very slightly production-line, but I suppose there is a limit to creativity here, and it was all â€“ hurrah â€“ hot, even my gravy. And nicely-cooked, not a dry morsel in sight.
The small one was offered the ubiquitous kidâ€™s menu or a small portion of anything from the main menus. â€˜Have something different,â€™ I begged him. â€˜Something you wouldnâ€™t have at home.â€™ So he chose hotdog and chips. Plain. No ketchup, no salad, no vegetables. â€˜What?â€™ he asked, â€˜Iâ€™d never get this at home.â€™ TouchÃ©. The Malteser and ice cream concoction that followed pleased him equally.
Mum and I shared a dessert in the form of a passionfruit and white chocolate cheesecake. This was something of a gamble (easy to buy-in and slice up and tastes cardboard-y) but Michael â€“ who was the perfect host â€“ assured it was a from-scratch Chefâ€™s Special. And it was. Our respective tastebuds perked up again, and we could have eaten more â€“ despite the very generous portion. Only decorum prevented me for asking to sample the chocolate and pecan brownie (also homemade) but Iâ€™d go back again to give it a go. On the bus if I need to.
The dining room was full of couples and larger groups enjoying family-friendly, unfussy, tasty lunch. The service was friendly and efficient. The dÃ©cor comfortable. All in all, a lovely Sunday experience.
2 courses: Â£11.95; 3 courses: Â£14.95
The Elphinstone Hotel and Restaurant, 145 High Street, Biggar, ML12 6DL. Tel: 01899 220044