Where’s the beef?
The answer has to be Champany Inn. It is a restaurant that, while dedicated to beef, has the presence of mind to offer a wide choice of alternative and supporting dishes, accompanied by a most eclectic selection of world-class wines.
It is, in short, an experience. The experience starts, as indeed it should, in the bar. Here you may either sit at the bar or relax in the supreme comfort of easy chairs while you make those all important decisions about what you are going to eat and drink. Your eye will surely be taken to the rock pond that forms an integral part of the bars décor. This is no mere decorative roadhouse “wishing well”, but a keep for glorious Loch Gruinart oysters and lobsters fresh from the Western Isles that will be fished out and prepared for those who appreciate the cunning combination of “surf and turf.”
There is no shortage of what the menu succinctly calls Starters. These include a most delicate Highland Black Pudding, home smoked beef dressed with single vineyard olive oil and fresh oregano, and fillet of salmon hot smoked to order. In winter the kitchens are proud of their soups which include a traditional Highland favourite with the name of Cullen Skink. This is a soup made from smoked haddock. However the Stilton soup, made from award winning Colston Basset truckles of stilton, is a sure haven for the less adventurous diner.
As you walk from the bar to the restaurant you will pass a chilled counter filled with the finest selection of beef that you will ever encounter. It is from these that the chefs will select your choice of Sirloin, Rib Eye, Porterhouse, Prime Rib or Chateaubriand and cut it for cooking on their specially designed charcoal grill. Clive Davidson is proud of his meat. He selects his beef from herds of prime cattle grazing off acres of lush Aberdeenshire countryside. The carcasses are hung for a full three weeks during which all the succulent flavours that have made Scottish beef such an internationally renowned delicacy, are held and matured.
In order to grill his beef to the exact degree of perfection that he wants Clive Davidson actually designed his own range. This was hand-built to his precise specification and reproduces the exact levels of heat that are required by Clive to seal and cook prime Aberdeen Angus beef. It also incorporates the smoke pot for preparing the hot smoked salmon.
Although Scotch beef holds centre-stage at Champany Inn, the menu does offer a number of alternative dishes. These include the most succulent and sweet roast breast of chicken—or, for fish eaters, a choice of grilled salmon, langoustine, or deep fried cod and chips.
Before indulging in one of the restaurants special desserts it is well-worth sampling a wedge of their stilton. A few years ago this accidentally won an award, when the judges for a national Stilton competition were dining together at Champany Inn. Even though the Davidsons had not entered their cheese, the judges were so impressed that they awarded it first prize!
When it comes to puddings—a fine old Gallo-Roman word that describes them perfectly—then Champany is once more full of sweet surprises. While the main restaurant menu is changed seasonally, the list of desserts is changed almost every week. This enables the fresh fruits, for which Scotland is famed, to be included in one guise or another.
When dinner is over you should return to the bar for your coffee and a snifter of one of the Early Landed Hine Cognacs that fill a handsome shelf behind the bar. There can be no better conclusion to the Champany experience than lingering over freshly brewed coffee while sipping a digestif.