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The Four Seasons Hotel: Perthshire

St. Fillans, Perthshire, PH6 2NF
01764 685 333
Cuisine: British
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THERE is a wonderful scene in The Beatles' movie Help where the Fabs return to their homes, all of which happen to be right next to each other - simultaneously walking up to their front doors, just as you hoped they would in real life, though it was never the case.
 
Unless of course, you happen to be visiting the Four Seasons in 1964, when John Paul, Ringo and George took identical chalets at the Perthshire hotel during their tour of Scotland.
 
Even without the lure of resident rock talent, the hotel's setting and charms are obvious. Set out on the edge of picture postcard village of St Fillans, near Crieff, in the southern Highlands, overlooking the shining snake of Loch Earn, it's easy to picture Sir Walter Scott tramping the loch shore, gathering inspiration for his romantic novel A Montrose Legend.
 
Having gone through several changes of identity over its 200 year existence, including the home of a local schoolmaster, the Four Seasons retains a cosy, intimate feel. Just off the staircase are little bolt holes stocked with board games and magazines, while the public room walls are lined with the modern art collected by the owner. The bedrooms have a more eastern feel to them, though the broad windows offer living landscape portraits for residents.
 
There's an informal, friendly atmosphere: staff are chatty and friendly, with a special welcome for pet owners: masters will find shortbread in the room for them, and a dog biscuit for Rover.
 
Surroundings and settings aside, the Four Seasons' two AA Rosette Meall Reamhar Restaurant is a major draw for the questing foodie
Wisely it eschews working that Beatles connection too much, although we had fantasised of Sgt Peppered Low Fat Club Sandwich, Here Comes the Sundae or Happiness is a Warm Bun.
 
Instead head chef Peter Woods does a contemporary and inventive take on Scottish cuisine with locally-sourced ingredients.
 
For starters I had a lemon and whisky cured salmon with a cucumber pannacotta and a honey mustard dressing, a dram come true of sweet smokiness, rounded out by the pannacotta?s creaminess. S went for one of the restaurant's signature dishes: pan-seared Scrabster king scallops paired with earthy Indian spiced lentils and spinach cauliflower veloute, and judged it ?delicious?.
 
For our main course, I plumped for the gateau of Scotch Angus/Limousin beef fillet with comrie haggis, foie gras, red confiture and glayva, a sweet honey-based liqueur, jus. A full-bore carnivore experience, it was a dish of dark, dense and salty flavours with a sweet top note riding over it from the red onion and glayva - the contrasting mouth feel of the beef, haggis and smooth foie gras giving it further interest, though if I was being picky I would have preferred my fillet a touch pinker.
 
S triumphed however with a meltingly-tender loin fillet of Balquhidder venison with saffron poached pear, woodland mushroom and bean cassoulet, with a ruby chard and caraway, game jus. We raised a quzizical eyebrow at the pear beforehand, but it proved to be an ingenious alternative to game?s traditional red berry accompaniment, while the caraway lent a nice aniseed note to the whole dish.
 
With hearty portions for both of our meals, dessert was not a foregone conclusion, but S?s trilogy of summer fruits was a smart, light trio of seasonal green and berry flavours. I opted for a more calorific blowout, the ?Bread of Heaven?, with brioche bread and butter pudding, Belgian chocolate, butterscotch sauce, spiced run creme anglais. This is the restaurant staff?s favourite, and deservedly so: about as intimidating as a dessert could sound, the pudding was perfectly sweet and creamy, with just a hint of spice.
 
After a bracing hillwalk, we managed to stay awake thanks to good nutty coffee served in the lounge, and found room following morning for a hearty Scottish breakfast of porridge, followed by bacon, scrambled egg and sausage.
 
And the damage? Bed and breakfast plus a four-course dinner in the Meall Reamhar Restaurant is from £83 in a chalet or £111 in a four-poster room, while two courses at the Meall Reamhar Restaurant by itself comes in at £28, or £38 for the full menu, plus £16 for a bottle of red. represents a pretty keen tab for a very high standard of fare. What else is there to say? Fab.
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22 September 2011
By: Craig Brown
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