Aviemore is geared towards more well-off travelers and there are not too many spots around for a quick bite. At the same time, we wished to have a more traditional dinner after a day of Scotch tastings and hiking. Cairngorm Hotel restaurant stood up to the task here, plus, it was recommended by our AirBnB host.
A well-lit building is hard to miss on a quiet, narrow main street of Aviemore. With a full parking lot, we knew it is a bit of a local attraction in its own right. Upon entering, we were greeted by the hotel’s receptionist and promptly directed to the dining room area themed as a hunting lodge.
The hostess welcome desk was strangely located and only seemed to only make sense logistically if entering from the lounge area, as it faced that way, but yet one had to cross the dining area to get to it. Entering the restaurant from the hotel area, we got to see the mess behind this desk and the kitchen line in full action - a lot to take in. Decor-wise, we couldn't help but notice the upholstery - plaid dark purple carpet, and red and light green plaid walls. It was plaid galore, really. Wooden tables and chairs were setting the tone accompanied by heavy-framed local landscape paintings and kitchenware hanging from the ceiling in the dining room.
We paused to study the menu for a few moments. There was a faded, but wonderfully detailed map of the area on the back as well as a two-food section: the dishes popular in Cairngorms and a list of specials. We asked for a Tower of Pudding and Hand-Reared Haggis - two very worthwhile options.
It was surprisingly fast for our food to arrive, only about ten minutes or so. The Tower of Pudding turned out to be tiny and artisanal, actually: a tall island of three layers with sour mustard dressing all around. It was a beautiful colour combination for the island too - traditional haggis (grey) up on top, a cold and sturdy oat layer in the middle (light beige), and a stornoway black pudding at the bottom.
Our Hand-Reared Haggis came divided in three sections as well: haggis, mashed tatties, neeps (mashed turnips), and a side of gravy. We should note that the gravy was more like a reduced beef stock - a thin liquid with a slight hint of blood. It turned out to be an enjoyable, hearty, and mushy meal. We both consumed these delicious dishes with some cider.
Our waitress, Laura, seemed busy. She was polite, but perhaps not used to seeing a younger couple here for a light snack meal. Some older couples and family tables were around us. People seemed to be having two dishes each…, so our waitress was probably surprised by our food choices. The staff did not check up on us, but we tried to blend in a bit. This hotel restaurant was recommended by a local and we did notice that there did not seem to be many tourists there. It was refreshing to see everyone enjoy some fine Scottish traditional food once in awhile.