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Cally Palace (Gatehouse of Fleet)

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HOTEL & RESTAURANT. Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway DG7 2DL
Tel: 01557 814 341 Fax: 01557 814 522.
Email: enquiries@callypalace.co.uk

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      21.03.2001 00:40
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      The AA Rosette for the restaurant food is well deserved and the ambience is relaxed. To get to the Cally Palace Hotel you turn right off the A75 towards Gatehouse of Fleet, a village with Georgian buildings (and a huge second hand bookshop), not far from mountains, sea, forests and lochs. Make another turn and enter the hotel's 150 acres of parkland containing Douglas fir, monkey puzzle, tulip tree and an 18 hole golf course (golf packages available). The central part of the mansion, dating back to 1763, looks relatively old. But the overall appearance of the exterior of the building, sadly, is reminiscent of a 20th Century power station; it's the large areas of rough grey stone that worry me. And then there's the oak entrance door that seems to fit the back of a factory rather than a four star hotel. The bar is unremarkable; no different from that in a one star hotel. Some of the furnishings, such as a gilt clock, look phoney. The conservatory could be something from a cheap garden-centre; no posh curtains. All a bit utilitarian. The lounge has a spectacular gilt cupola ceiling and the paintings, from a distance, look old and impressive. Closer inspection leads me to believe that the bulk of the paintings are 20th Century works, painted to look as if they are from an earlier century. There is something just not right about some of the decor. The large, slightly dimly lit restaurant has walls, carpets and chairs of a light lilac hue. Again, something is not quite right. this could perhaps be a room in a hotel in Blackpool or Margate. We had been the only people in the bar. We were the only people in the restaurant. We had ordered white wine, but what arrived on the dining room table was an expensive red (We got our white wine after pointing out the error). The bar staff were, shall we say, a little confused. The service was friendly. The food was good. Smoked salmon wrapped round m
      ild soft cheese, and served with what seemed to be an eastern pickled cucumber, was moist and zinged with flavour. Mediterranean vegetables with mozzarella with a truffle dressing was fresh and tasty. Monk fish on a risotto was a success. The monk fish tasted fresh and the creamy, vanilla rice was a suitable accompaniment. Also good was a hearty helping of venison with turnip fondant, black pudding and something called grand veneur sauce. Tender and succulent. The chef is obviously very well trained and chooses the best ingredients. St Emilion au Chocolat with creme fraiche and crushed honeycomb was the work of an expert. The biscuits and cheese were unremarkable, as was the restaurant bread and the coffee. How does the Cally Palace compare with that other top restaurant in the area, the Plumed horse? The Cally Palace is a relaxed sort of place; you can sit for hours in the lounge reading your Guardian or staring at these mysterious paintings; you could combine your lunch with a walk in the grounds or a round of golf. But, if you want decor, service, drinks and food to be 'just right' then you may prefer the Plumed Horse which deservedly has a Michelin star. The folks at the plumed Horse are perfectionists. (Now, if you are in Gatehouse of Fleet, be sure to visit the second hand bookshop run by poet Robin Munro. This is heaven for book lovers.) My meal was paid for me by my companions. Tonight it's back to beans on toast.

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