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Address: Glen Clova / Nr. Kirriemuir / Angus / DD8 4QS

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      04.10.2012 16:27
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      a gorgeous hotel set in the scottish countryside

      ---When I was just a little boy...---  

      When I was younger I used to go camping a lot with my family. Normally it was all the way out past Glen Clova to Glen Doll for a couple of days of living in a tent in the middle of a farmer's field. It was all very nice, if not surrounded by midgies. On the way up to Glen Doll was a small pub for hill climbers that we would sometimes stop at. Occasionally they'd have highland games and I'd sing my heart out, or eat a bowl of plain spaghetti faster than everyone else and puke my guts up afterwards (The dinky little medals they gave out for winning made it totally worth it). There were treasure hunts through abandoned barns and old outhouses that would have had health and safety zealots of today chilled to their very soul and log throwing contests that all the hairy men in kilts loved. It was definitely one of the nicer recollections of my childhood.  

      ---Present day at the Clova Hotel---

      Flash forward about 17 years (last weekend to be exact) and I find myself being cajoled into going out for a meal by my Dad. Me, my partner (Allan) and my little brother (Kyle) were going to be treated to a meal at The Clova Hotel. My Dad phoned to book a table (apparently you need to book if you are wanting a meal so they know you are coming, forgivable considering where they are situated). I was excited to see what the place looked like. I was a little less excited about getting there. My travel sickness has always been terrible. Yet more vomitous memories came dancing to the front of my mind. The Clova Hotel is situated right out in the arse-end-of-nowhere-arder. You will get absolutely no mobile phone signal and no sat-nav will be able to help you get there.  

      To get there you pretty much just need to rely on your keen sense of direction and road signs. Follow the road signs to Kirriemuir. Stop for ice-cream then keep going right out the other side of it. you'll be another 20 ish minutes in the car from this point. Follow the signs for The Glens and Glen Clova till you come across the Clova Hotel. If you aren't confident when lost, possibly consider taking a map.  

      Personally, I'd not want to drive there myself. The roads are almost one lane and if you are concerned about little fluffy bunnies, pheasants and deer, you may wish to take it very slow as you will come across whole flocks and herds of them in the middle of the road. Allan is quite squeamish when it comes to animals so he was constantly letting out small cries of fear when a collective of animals scurried lackadaisically from the path of my father's tyres.  

      ---Arriving---

      Once you have navigated your way there, you will be greeted with a lovely hotel in the middle of nothingness. There is a river very close by so you'll hear the water flowing peacefully under the small bridge next to the hotel and possibly a dog barking if any hill walkers have brought their companions along with them. It's lovely. I could instantly smell wood burning so I assume that the fire in the climbers bar is still the giant open fireplace.  

      All around the climbers bar has been built an extension that now houses the restaurant and hotel rooms. The derelict barns have been transformed to liveable spaces and they have added a few massive luxury wooden cabins off in the distance that you can hire for around £600 for four nights (peak) and house up to six people in. Throw in some Clova spa treatments and you could really make this a very special get away.The place is absolutely beautiful. The hills roll up the back of the hotel and the fields roll out the front for maybe a mile before being reclaimed by hills. It really is secluded; perfect for a little get away. All of the information on getting there, lodgings, menus and other activities throughout the area (mostly aimed at out doors-ey types) can be found on their website, www.clova.com  

      If you are disabled you can enter to the rear of the hotel (through the climbers bar) without having to navigate any stairs and the toilets are all on the same level as the restaurants. Yay!  

      ---The Bar---  

      Hello, my name is Ryan and I am not an alcoholic. The only alcohol problem I have is a poorly stocked bar. It is my firm belief that every bar in the country should have a decent range to choose from. Thankfully the bar at the Clova Hotel seems to cover most of the bases. Beer, Lagers, Wines, Vodka, Rum (including Malibu for classier/ girlier ones among us) and even Blue WKDs and Smirnoff Ices. As I suspected from a bar in the middle of the Scottish-nowhere, their range of whiskey was the widest with about five different types. Either way, there was something that mostly anyone could be happy with (including me and I'm hard to please in manly bars.)  

      ---The Restaurant---  

      The restaurant itself is by no means huge. It would probably sit about 50 people at a push. To be honest, I don't think they expect a huge crowd most days anyway. Needless to say the place is gorgeous. There is a seating area with a coffee table and some very comfy-but-posh looking leather sofas to rest your bum on while you wait to be seated (if you need to wait at all). The main seating area is in a wide conservatory area with huge windows looking out upon the picturesque surroundings. It's very modern and clean looking (hard to do when the eating area is carpeted) but not unwelcoming. The chairs are also quite comfortable and the tables are large enough that you aren't bumping elbows with your fellow diners. There's nothing cluttering the tables other than your cutlery and your cloth napkin. A real napkin!! Always a good sign. Overall my first impressions were that it was simple but well thought out and well kept.  

      ===The Food.===  

      The menus had a very good selection on them, covering venison, beef, fish, and vegetarian. Most of it was more traditional food however there was a specials board that contained a couple of different dishes (such as duck in plum sauce with noodles) so I'm fairly certain that whenever you go there will be something for everyone. Now on to the meal!  

      ---Start your engines---  

      To start my Dad and I went with the Chef's homemade Paté, (£5.75) which came with oatcakes and sweet onion chutney. The healthy serving of Paté sat upon some mild salad leaves (rocket I think) and had a few bits of cherry tomato, red onion and balsamic vinegar drizzled round the plate with the bowl chutney and two large oatcakes on opposite sides of the plate. The Paté was lovely and smooth, spreading well on the oatcakes, the chutney adding a nice tangy but sweet flavour. The oatcakes were just right, not too dry or brittle and a gorgeous mild flavour to compliment the stronger flavours of the dish. Portion size was pretty much perfect too, with just enough to take the edge off of my hunger but not enough to spoil my dinner. Both myself and my Dad scoffed the dish and gave it a big thumbs up.  

      Allan's starter was the Home made soup of the day and crusty roll and butter (£3.50). There were actually two soups of the day; Leek and potato and Chicken and sweet corn. Allan rather excitedly chose the latter and thoroughly enjoyed it. Apparently it was some of the best soup he's had. Bar mine, obviously. So that was another thumbs up on the starters. Kyle decided to skip the starter so he just twiddled his thumbs and drank his coke while we munched away.  

      ---Hooked up to the Main---  

      Having thoroughly enjoyed the first course I couldn't wait to get my teeth into my main: Home made venison casserole, slow cooked with red wine and redcurrant jelly with herb dumplings, seasonal vegetables and a choice of chips, potatoes or mash. I went with chips. My eyes went wide when I saw the plate; it was piled high with venison in a very dark thick sauce. There was only one dumpling hiding in there but it was a big one and it was perfectly cooked. The vegetables and chips were there, but they were by no means the main part of the dish as I suspected they might be. This was a very good thing and certainly made the £11.95 price tag worth it considering the amount of venison that came out. The casserole didn't have a very strong flavour but it was delicious none the less. The subtle hints of herbs and wine poked through occasionally and the meat fell apart in my mouth. The vegetables were cooked perfectly being in that place just between too crunchy and over-cooked. I'd have happily have had a few more veg on my plate but there really was no room for it thanks to the casserole taking up most of the plate. I ended up leaving my chips as I wanted some room for desert, but this dish was brilliant.  

      Allan, as he isn't allowed to stink the house out with fishy dishes, made a b-line for the Golden breaded Scampi (£8.95) which came with chips, salad and coleslaw, a side dish of tartar sauce and a big chunk of lemon to squeeze on it all. He said it was absolutely delicious and cleared his whole plate.  

      Dad went for the home made steak and Guinness pie (£9.75) which looked and smelled delicious, with a big puff of pastry sat on top of a good serving of steak in a mouth watering gravy. Vegetables and chips also adorned his plate, which was also cleared with no complaint.  

      Kyle decided to have the meat lasagne (£8.50) mainly so he could have garlic bread as a side rather than chips or veg. He scoffed down his lasagne but was a little upset as his garlic bread had been placed on top of a serving of coleslaw that came with it. He's a fussy eater so the bread was left behind. He did, however, clear his lasagne so despite the garlic bread disappointment, he still really enjoyed this course.  

      Overall, four sets of thumbs way up for the main! A rare occasion with a bunch of fussy people.  

      ---Going through the dessert---  

      Dessert is always my favourite part of any meal and cheesecake is always my favourite dessert. For £4.75I decided to put my face into a plate of White chocolate and lemon cheesecake. I am assuming this isn't always on the menu as the waitress told us what flavours were available when she came with the menus which simply say "cheesecake". You get the choice to have it with cream or ice cream, so I went with cream. The plate arrived and it had been dusted with coco powder with a pattern of a fork and spoon in it. It looked delightful. The slice I received was massive. I was impressed as usually you get a tiny portion when you order cheesecake. Well... you get a smaller portion than I would serve/scoff.

      Flavour wise I was a little disappointed, however. While the cheesecake was edible, there wasn't really enough white chocolate in there to balance the tart flavour of the lemon. It was a touch on the bitter side which I didn't really like too much. The base was nice and had the cheesecake been a bit sweeter it would have been perfect, but as it was a little bitter the base was too thin to compensate. I still finished it but I think I'd try something else if I went back. Allan also had cheesecake, however he had a raspberry one. He enjoyed his a lot more than I did. His was a little smaller than mine but seemed to be much more satisfying.  

      Dad went with the apple crumble (£4.75 and again the menu simply states Crumble and the waitress advised what kind it was, there was only an apple crumble available on this occasion but I assume they change that if they have to specify at the table). It was a good size and looked great. The crumble on top was nice and golden, the filling was steaming hot when he broke through the crust. He enjoyed every bite of it, so another set of thumbs going up.  

      Kyle went with the sticky toffee pudding (£4.75) and practically inhaled it. Needless to say he enjoyed it. It certainly smelled delicious. In fact it was the only dessert I could smell when it came to the table. Definitely a winner on this one. All the desserts came in at just over a fiver and the portions were a perfect size. All four of us were impressed even in spite of my slight cheesecake disappointment.  

      ===The Service===  

      The night before my Dad took us all out, I had been to a celebration meal in my city centre. They ended up having to give us free rounds and money off due to the meal taking nearly three hours to serve two courses. It follows that I wasn't particularly looking forward to another meal out. In fact most places I have been in the last few months have left a fairly sour taste in my mouth when it came to slow service. Thankfully the Clova Hotel came in at the complete opposite end of that spectrum. It wasn't incredibly busy but it wasn't dead either. There was a table of about 20 people (either doctors or politicians, either way I couldn't help want to punch them) next to us and a couple other tables of two or three people. The staff sat us promptly and politely, and the meal took just over an hour from start to end, giving us plenty time to relax but not leaving us to feel like we weren't being waited on. The meals came quick, hot and all at the same time. The drinks were kept an eye on and the table was cleared a few minutes after we were all finished. The staff were friendly and polite and made the meal go without a hitch. I'd happily come back just for that.  

      ===The Loo===  

      Maybe I'm just weird but I like the toilets in a restaurant to match the rest of the restaurant. Clean, tidy, presentable and not full of flies and reeking of extract-of-previous-customers. The Clova kept their high standards right through to the loos so I was very impressed. Everything was clean and bright, no bad smells and no drips or drops floating about the floor. Everything was in working order, the water was hot and the soap dispenser was full. Fantastic! As mentioned before the toilets are all on the same level as the restaurant too so there should be no issues for anyone!  

      ===The Verdict?===  

      The Clova is set in beautiful surroundings and serves delicious food. The staff are friendly and helpful and the service is spot on. Throw in the fact that if you want, you can book yourself in to a luxury log cabin or for spa treatments if you really wanted to this would be a gorgeous weekend away. For our meal we came to £90 for four people. That included three starters, four mains, four desserts, two beers, a blue wkd and a shandy. Personally I think that's fantastic value. While being a bit of a difficulty to get to, it's definitely worth it. Both myself and Allan would happily go back there.

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