The Ephinstone Hotel and Restaurant is a popular family run former coaching inn located right in the centre of Biggar in Lanarkshire. Biggar is a thriving small town located under an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Elphinstone has been run by Robert and Janette Allan for over 25 years along with their son, Michael. Speaking to Robert, it is clear that he is passionate about the business and very customer focused.
The Elph has a thriving bar which has recently been refurbished to a high standard with a new terrace leading from the function suite at the rear of the hotel. The hotel has a traditional inn frontage on the high street, although it has been added to over the years, and the dining rooms are a series of small rooms leading one from each other. A new wing of bedrooms was added a few years ago and the hotel has been fully booked during the Commonwealth Games. They also expect heavy demand for the Edinburgh Festival.
The service in the restaurant was excellent, the waiting staff checked frequently, without intruding, to see if customers needed anything and removed finished plates promptly. It struck me just how wide a range of customers there were. Our fellow diners included older couples, families with young children, families with teenagers, young couples and those like ourselves – somewhere in between! I asked Robert about this and he agreed that The Elphinstone is not aiming for a niche market, part of their success is having something for everyone.
The menu at The Elphinstone reflects this eclectic customer base and includes traditional pub restaurant classics such as Prawn Cocktail, Steak and Ale Pie, Lasagne, and Grilled Bacon Steak with double egg. There is an extensive range of world dishes such as Chicken Pakora, Red Hot Jalapenos, Beef Chow Mein, Chicken or Vegetable Curry and the fish dishes include Smoked Haddock and Puy Lentil Tart, Grilled Fillet of Salmon in Parma Ham and Grilled Fillet of Sea Bass. Steaks are also available with various toppings and sauces.
I’ve probably been watching too much of the Restaurant Man on TV, but it did occur to me that it would have been helpful to have the menu divided into these different categories to help find your way around it.
Anyway, let’s get on to what we ate. To start I ordered the Cullen Skink, a traditional Scottish Smoked Haddock, Potato, Leek and Cream Chowder. It was full of pieces of fish, creamy and well seasoned, although I would have preferred it to be a little bit thickened.
Brian chose the Chilli and Mango King Prawns: King Prawns coated in Chilli and Mango Jam in a Crispy Breadcrumb. He really enjoyed them and I had a little taste, they had a nice level of spice and biting through the crispy coating to the sweet mango and chlli jam coated prawn was a good combination of textures and flavours.
For the main course Brian chose the Dunsyre Blue Chicken: grilled breast of chicken smothered in a leek, mushroom and blue cheese sauce. Being a big fan of blue cheese, he really enjoyed this dish, the chicken was well cooked and the the sauce well seasoned.
I went for one of the Dishes of the Day, a Venison Stroganoff: pan-fried venison steak with a paprika, mushroom and brandy cream sauce. The venison was beautifully cooked, still pink in the middle and very tender, although I did feel that the flavour was a little overwhelmed by the rich and delicious sauce.
You will have noticed that the vegetable accompaniments to both our meals were the same. The sugar snap peas and the carrots were cooked well, not over done, and the new potatoes were also very good. However, I think I would have preferred the option of rice with the stroganoff and the mashed turnip really didn’t work with either of the dishes. A more formal presentation of the dishes and perhaps serving the vegetables separately would also have added to the overall appeal. However, as I have already said, the food tasted very good and was cooked perfectly.
Biggar is famous for Taylor’s ice cream and the dessert menu at The Elphinstone makes a feature of the range of ice cream and ice cream desserts as well as offering family favourites.
We were pretty full, but thought we should try the ice cream. I had two scoops, one of White Chocolate Chip and the other of Ginger, both were really good. I loved the ginger which had pieces of preserved ginger through it, delicious. Brian managed three scoops, Chocolate, Ginger and Coconut and he had no complaints, the chocolate and the ginger getting rave reviews.
Many thanks to the Allan family for their hospitality at ‘The Elph‘. I would definitely return and if you are in the area, passing through Biggar or looking to stay over for a Scottish market town experience, then I would certainly recommend you make a stop at the Elphinstone Hotel and Restaurant.
I was not paid to write this review although we were not required to pay for the meal. . There was no request to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. Apologies for the quality of the photographs.