There are some days you never want to end and Sunday was one of them. It seemed like an age since my little family had left the confines of Fife for an adventure, so armed with wellies and waterproofs, B took us on a magical mystery tour. He promised a great lunch, stunning scenery and a beautiful walk – my idea of a perfect day which goes to show that the boy knows me well.
We pulled up a few miles north of Callander outside the Venachar Lakeside Harbour Cafe & Restaurant. From the roadside this wooden restaurant is a little underwhelming, but step inside and it takes your breath away. Sitting on prime position right on the loch, the entire length of the dining area is glass, looking straight out onto stunning Loch Venachar and the Trossachs. The sun was interspersed with rain and mist on Sunday and the effect on the scenery was amazing.
The restaurant itself is relatively compact, however the light and the view makes it feel much bigger than it is.
The menu is local and seasonal featuring favourites such as burgers, the ever popular Cullen Skink, Venachar Trout and beautiful steamed West Coast Mussels.
In addition there are meat, cheese and smoked fish selection boards featuring the best of Scottish produce and a range of daily specials.
I selected Spanish Style Mussels with Chorizo, B went for the burger and we ordered a seasonal vegetable risotto for mini grumbling tummy (well you have to try don’t you). I spent my time waiting for my meal salivating and staring goggle-eyed at the selection of dishes coming out of the kitchen. It was getting embarrassing but by god did that food look good. The duck dish on the specials board looked like it had jumped straight from the pages of a food magazine and smelt glorious. I also suspect that Neptune himself may have had a hand in the preparation of the smoked fish selection board.
Finally our food arrived and it was well worth waiting for. Not that we had to wait too long, I am just greedy and impatient.
Bs Burger was majestic and arrived in the company of a lovely soft bun and ever so crispy home-made chips. It tasted superb and I am champing at the bit to get me some more of that burger on a return trip. My Spanish mussels were huge and perfect with that oh so fresh seaside taste mingled with onion and chorizo. It was a treat which was washed down with a glass of chilled white wine and hunk of bread thick with butter – ah heaven. One of the nicest dishes on the table was the child’s portion of risotto. To be honest the portion was perfectly adequate for a a fully formed adult and wee one was a bit overwhelmed by the size. Luckily for me she was underwhelmed by the taste and it took the bribe of a mint aero to persuade her to take a few mouthfuls. Her loss was our gain. This delicate risotto was flavoured with parmesan, roast butternut squash, peas and I would have put a guess on a touch of wine but I could be wrong.
As it was still raining by the time we had guzzled lunch, we felt obliged to stay indoors and sup on coffees served up with an Anzac biscuit roughly the size of my face and an Oreo cake roughly the size of my daughters head. She is pretty small but still… It was greed and it was good!
If you do go to the Venachar Lochside Harbour Cafe and restaurant, and I strongly advise that you do. Pop outside for a bit of stone skimming then head to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park where there are fantastic marked walks peppered with waterfalls, squirrel hides and other marvellous things.
Unsurprisingly this restaurant is a hugely popular wedding venue and you need to keep an eye on their website to find out which weekends they will close to the public. If you want to bag a window seat you will need to book but even if you don’t sit right at the window you still get the most marvellous view.
It was my perfect day! What would your perfect day involve?