Sunday, 10 February 2008

The Atholl Hotel

By Nev.

The Atholl Hotel, Kings Gate, 9th February

Strangely, though the food is merely fine, the venue distant from my home, and the clientele all sixty years older than me, the Atholl Hotel is perhaps my most frequented restaurant. The reason for this isn't that I fancy one of the waitresses (though I'm sure they have lovely personalities) but that it is close to my grandfather's house and one of his approved destinations. My grandfather, a pretty spritely 88 years old, can be occasionally awkward when dining out. Not one for wild experimentation, even "safe" venues I've tried to go with him in the past have incurred his ire for their bloated, maniac prices (how can a starter be £5?). However, the choice fully given to him, I'll be dragged to some godawful old folks' favourite, with dry mince and tatties for £2.50. So, for a peaceful life, the Atholl usually suffices.

That's not to say that it's a compromise I feel aggrieved at. Hearty and traditional, the Atholl never disappoints and the service is always prompt and friendly. Almost always, I feel stuffed as hell after eating there. There is a choice of eating in the bar or restaurant section, though perhaps obviously, the service in the restaurant section always seems a little speedier. For some reason, the restaurant section sometimes has a slightly younger crowd (i.e 50 - 60) than the improbably old people that fill the bar tables. In both areas, blinding, thundering techno blasts from all corners. Oh, hang on, no.

Anyway, this lunch-time I found myself at the Atholl with my sister, my mother and my mother's hot new manfriend. I was fully prepared to make life extremely uncomfortable for this gentleman, asking him his intentions and failing to crack a smile at any of his jokes, but he actually seemed like quite a nice guy and so all was well. All, except for my grandfather alas, who had hurt his back so on this occasion didn't join us. This was a shame, but also a relief, as it meant he couldn't continue his conversation with the manfriend discussing every single Aberdeen local since 1943.

So, food, as I suppose this is what this is about. Well, I went for some kind of fish risotto, and Holy Lord if it wasn't filling. If not for being a foul glutton, I doubt I could have finished it. It was massive. Tasty enough, if expectantly unspectacular, it followed a pretty bland salmon pate starter. My sister's main was best though, a chilli beef salad. While I think this is something you can't go too far wrong with, it nonetheless mixed tender slices of beef, sweet chilli sauce and a bunch of green things well, for what seemed like a delicious meal that didn't triple the size of her stomach.

Coffee followed, accompanied by the standard mint, but also a lovely block of fudgy tablet, then I retired home, clambering up my thousand steps to collapse on a chair for a thoroughly deserved nap. Then, I took my pipe and slippers, and made myself a nice cup of tea while turning the heating up to full... hmm, I think these many visits to Atholl are having an effect on me.

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