When you are thinking of a destination for a gourmet break, Perth probably is not the first place which springs to mind.
But the compact city in central Scotland is ideal for a foodie break with an increasing number of fine dining options.
Like Perth itself, The Parklands Hotel is small but perfectly formed.
A four-star hotel, its rooms are comfortable and luxurious with names instead of numbers to give them the personal touch.
Last year, it picked up no less than three accolades in the Scottish Hotel Awards – boutique hotel of the year for the Central and Fife region, Bistro of the Year and Perth Hotel of the Year.
The jewels in The Parklands’ crown are its eating establishments. Executive chef Graeme Pallister is the mastermind behind both the hotel’s restaurant 63@Parklands as well as its more informal bistro – No. 1 the Bank Bistro.
He is also the chef-proprietor of nearby 63 Tay Street, which prides itself on offering local, honest and simple food and is a sister restaurant to the one based at the hotel.
On our trip to Perth, we took a leisurely journey up to Scotland, choosing to relax on an East Coast train rather than driving up under our own steam, with a simple change of trains in Edinburgh. The Parklands Hotel is ideal for travelling by train as it is just yards from the station but as it overlooks a park, it still manages to maintain a calm, quiet setting.
Perth is an ideal-sized city for walking around. It has a wealth of shops you won’t find in every other British high street – including the impressive independent family-run department store, McEwens.
The highlight of our own stay though was most definitely the food. On our first night we ate at 63 Tay Street, a short stroll from the hotel.
The restaurant is small and relaxed with a short set menu of five courses, but while there aren’t many choices, you won’t go far wrong with any of them. The food is the stuff of daydreams and thoroughly deserves its two AA rosettes.
I still go misty-eyed when I recall my delicious Jerusalem artichoke and scallop soup but the meal kept up its high standards right to the end with a duck course to die for and a stunning chocolate fondant.
The attentive waiting staff encourage diners to take their time and savour every morsel, while the intimate atmosphere really gets the conversation flowing.
While more informal than 63 Tay Street, The hotel’s No 1 the Bank bistro definitely does not let the side down. It has a more extensive menu, full of locally-sourced produce and the fillet steak I ate there was without doubt the best I have ever tasted. The bistro overlooks the hotel’s garden and is also the setting each morning for the impressive hotel breakfast.
But once your appetite is sated, there are plenty of other things to do in Perth. The Black Watch Castle and Museum, based in the historic Balhousie Castle a short walk from the centre of Perth, tells the story of Scotland’s oldest Highland regiment, The Black Watch. Other nearby attractions include the spectacular Scone Palace, which was the coronation site of a large number of Scottish kings including Robert the Bruce, Macbeth and Charles II.