Monday, 25 September 2017

Hotel & Restaurant Review - Hotel Colessio & The Grill Room, Spittal Street, Stirling

Stirling is only 30 miles from Glasgow but I've only visited the medieval market town on a handful of occasions. Steeped in history, the town is home to Stirling Castle as well as the National Wallace Monument, which overlooks the site where William Wallace scored an important victory over the English at The Battle of Stirling Bridge. Plus with the site where the famous Battle of Bannockburn took place just a short drive away, there are plenty of reasons to visit the historic town but I've never seen it as a go-to destination, often heading to Edinburgh whenever we have a free day to fill.
That was to change recently though when we were asked if we would like to spend the night at Hotel Colessio, one of a number of hotel venues owned by The Aurora Collection. After a quick check of the diary, we arranged to stay on a Friday night at the start of July, ending what turned out to be a very busy week at work with a relaxing start to the weekend.
We both finished work at 5pm and less than a hour later, we were parked up in the hotel car park and looking forward to checking in.
The Aurora Collection own a small but growing portfolio of luxury hotels and lodges across the central belt of Scotland and pride themselves on offering their guests wonderful accommodation set within unique character buildings.
As Stirling's newest boutique hotel, Hotel Colessio is setting a new standard for hotels in the city. Housed within a converted Victorian landmark building, the hotel boasts 40 rooms and suites which have all been decorated to a high standard.
As soon as you walk through the door, you are welcomed with a huge open foyer with the bar area to the left and The Grill Room restaurant on the right. We were quickly checked in and shown to our room for the night which turned out to be The Bruce Suite, one of two suites at the hotel.
The Bruce Suite is huge with one half of the living area dominated by a huge king size bed and diamanté set headboard whilst the other half is filled with a separate seating area with 42" LCD TV, leather corner sofa and even a desk area for those that fancy doing a little work whilst they spend the night in Stirling. The decor might not be to everyone's taste but if you like the stylings of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen then you'll love the feel of Hotel Colessio. There's no shortage of bling scattered throughout the hotel which put a smile on Nicola's face.
The bathroom is massive and decorated to a high level with white marble tiles covering the floor and walls. I can't remember the last time I had a bath but the huge double bath was calling me but for some reason, Nicola seemed more interested in her gin than joining me in the tub?
The huge monsoon style shower is also big enough for two to share and the shower does pack enough pressure to blow the cobwebs away after a few cocktails in the bar from the night before.
After a quick freshen up we were ready for dinner and made our way downstairs to The Grill Room where we were shown to our booth for the evening. Again, the decor is opulent with plenty of mirrors, and black polished wooden tables filling the restaurant space while the black and white damask patterned carpet dominates the overall view.
No expense was spared when it came to table decoration with each tenable adorned with fresh Phylanopsis orchards. These delicate flowers don't come cheap - we should know as Nicola's wedding bouquet was made entirely from these beautiful orchids. I'm not complaining as they made a great background for some of my photos.
The wine list isn't the longest but there's enough choice to suite most tastes and budgets and we opted for a an easy drinking Trebbiano from Monte Di Cello which was light and crisp with plenty of citrus notes.
The Grill Room is open to hotel guests and locals alike although with a number of other restaurants all within walking distance, The Grill Room has done a good job of keeping its menu attractively priced and when we went downstairs for dinner, the restaurant was already very busy.
The menu is split into appetizers, salads, fish & seafood, meat, vegetarian and Josper Grill, so there is no reason why even the fussiest eater will struggle to find something that they enjoy.
To start, I was drawn to the tartare of Scottish smoked salmon, baby capers, lemon & dill creme fraiche, avocado and citrus salad which was for the most part, very good. Although this was a dish that was the classic example of a chef not knowing when to stop. The smoked salmon was diced finely and sat atop a bed of ripe mashed avocado that was lacking in seasoning - this wasn't a big deal as the smoked salmon was already very salty. The creme fraiche dressing was packed with lemon flavour but no dill that I could detect which was a shame as dill and salmon are best friends. The scattering of baby capers looked like more of an afterthought whilst the citrus salad was nothing more than two inedible chunks of lime and grapefruit. The dish was garnished with peashoots which added a fresh balance as well as a little elevation to the plate. Had the chef stopped at smoked salmon, avocado and lemon & dill dressing, this could have been a very good dish.
Nicola opted for the shredded duck bonbons with chilli hoisin dressing and mango & cucumber salsa. This was a generous serving of six crispy bonbons which were packed with well cooked duck and worked well with the spicy hoisin dressing. The mango and cucumber salsa was well seasoned although we both felt that the mango was too sweet for the salt & chilli flavours on the plate. Looking back, perhaps an Asian slaw or salad would have been a better balance? Once again, a garnish of peashoots sat atop Nicola's starter - in fact peashoots were used to garnish all of our dishes including breakfast the next morning.
I like peashoots but surely there's a time and a place?
In recent months, Nicola has developed a real love for fresh lobster so when she spotted lobster frites on the menu, her mai course was an easy choice.
This was a dish of simple pleasures - grilled lobster, garlic butter and chips. The lobster was deliciously sweet and had been cooked perfectly although the half lobster that Nicola was served was very small. We fed this back at the time as we felt that had we known how small the lobster was, we would not have ordered at the £20 cost.
That said, the balance of rich garlic butter and soft sweet lobster was very good whilst the hand cut chips were as good as we've had, crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside - great for dipping in the garlic butter! The dish was also served with a side salad of dressed mixed leaves and roasted vegetables that complemented the other big flavours.
Earlier that week I had been lucky enough to have eaten two very good steaks that had been cooked in the Josper Grill so decide to go for my third steak meal of the week. My previous cuts had been D-Rump and Bavette so decided to try the 8oz Sirloin which was served with grilled mushroom, tomato and fries and onion rings.
When my steak arrived it looked great, showing tell-tale signs of the hot Josper Grill and although it had been cooked medium as requested, I learned a valuable lesson in meat. The steak was charred on the outside and nice and pink on the inside but as the sirloin has much less fat content than other cuts of meat, I felt that the high temperatures of the Josper Grill were too fierce for The Sirloin resulting in a piece of meat that was much drier than I would have preferred. This might be done to personal taste but in future I will be sticking with fattier cuts of meat next time I see the mention of a Josper Grill on the menu.
I can't really fault the Kitchen on this, they cooked my steak as I had asked and the accompanying fries, mushroom and tomato were all as I would have expected. In fact, I didn't finish my streak as happy to tuck into the pile of fries on the side. I just wish I had went with my gut and ordered the 10oz rib-eye which I'm sure would have put up a better fight with the Josper.
As is often the case, we really didn't have room for dessert but our waitress was very persuasive and we decided to share the Baked Alaska with raspberry coulis. I've seen baked Alaska begin to reappear on quite a few menus in recent times and have actually had three different baked alaska puddings in the last few months. This retro pudding which consists of sponge and ice cream encased in Italian meringue is a favourite of me and Nicola and we actually served it up as the pudding at our own wedding.
The Grill Room 'Alaska' was very nice with Victoria Sponge and creamy vanilla ice cream working well with the meringue topping while the sharp raspberry coulis cut through the richness of the sweet meringue. This is a good sized dessert and perfect for sharing - we actually struggled to finish it between the two of us.
Over the few hours that we had dinner, the restaurant had filled and the adjoining cocktail bar was also getting pretty busy but we fancied a nightcap and were lucky enough to grab the last table in the bar.
Is there a better after-dinner cocktail than the espresso martini? If so, I've yet to find it. We both ordered an espresso martini although I opted to have mine with rum replacing the traditional vodka base. Both martini's were well made and they were the perfect end to an exhausting week before we made our way upstairs to bed.
I wouldn't hesitate on recommending Hotel Colessio to anyone looking for an overnight in Stirling. The staff were friendly, efficient and keen to deliver top quality service throughout our stay. I've mentioned a few negatives aspects to our dining experience in The Grill Room but there was nothing that would stop me from returning. All of these issues were fed back to the restaurant manager on the night and were taken as constructive feedback, not a personal attack on the kitchen.
Our stay plus dinner and breakfast was complimentary but my review above is an honest account of our experience on the night. I would like to thank the staff and management for their hospitality and generosity and wish them all the best for the future.
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High Style said...

It's an excellent location, right in the heart of the city near public transportation. The New York wedding venues have coat hangers right at the entrance where you can leave your coat, and a lobby where you can set up some cocktail tables.

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