Eating out in Stirling
Across Scotland, eating out has gone through something of a renaissance, but these changes are not restricted to the major cities. Across the Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire areas, the choice has grown enormously in recent years to suit every palate and pocket.
Much of the produce used is locally sourced from farms on the rich lands of the Forth Valley, or from its rivers. Not surprisingly, given the proximity of Stirling’s internationally-renowned university and its diverse population, there is a wide choice of restaurants and bistros offering an impressive range of excellent world cuisines.
Where once Chinese and Indian food were all that could be found, the variety is now much wider and there is sure to be something for everyone. Stirling’s city centre offers the greatest choice, with excellent Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Turkish, Thai, Greek, Spanish, Australian and even Austrian. Among the best and most popular pasta places are Italia Nostra in Baker Street and La Ciociara in Friars Street. Both have the fresh tastes of the Mediterranean, in a typically stylish but welcoming atmosphere.
However, beyond the city centre, Corrierri’s Italian Café and Pizzeria at Causewayhead, now into its third generation of family management, is well worth visiting, as is Vecchia Bologna, hidden away but well worth finding in nearby Bridge of Allan. Advanced reservations are recommended for both, especially at weekends.
Among Stirling’s many curry houses Spice Garden serves delicious food made from traditional Punjabi family recipes, while the Indian Cottage in Dumbarton Road and Mr Singh’s Indian Brasserie in Barnton Street have developed into local favourites thanks to their traditional dishes and informal atmospheres.
Not surprisingly, given the proximity of Stirling’s internationally-renowned university and its diverse population, there is a wide choice of restaurants and bistros offering an impressive range of excellent world cuisines
Home-made pub grub
Other well-established local favourites include Hermann’s in Broad Street (with Austrian food including schnitzels), Smiling Jack’s Mexican restaurant in Barnton Street (great fajitas but popular, so booking advised) and Kilted Kangaroo in Upper Craigs (kangaroo burgers). Recommended Chinese restaurants include the Regent in Upper Bridge Street and the Imperial in King Street. Among more recently opened restaurants, Mediterranea in Viewfield Place offers excellent Spanish tapas and Greek mezze.
Beyond Stirling the long-established India Gate in Dunblane, La Cucina Italian restaurant in Bridge of Allan, Mr Singh’s Indian restaurant in Alloa, Bar Aldo’s Italian restaurant, also in Alloa and La Banca tapas grill in Falkirk are all recommended. In fact, Falkirk offers an excellent choice of world cuisine restaurants including the Sumo Noodle Bar, the Lanna Thai restaurant, the Sanam Tandoori and the Teng Huang Palace.
A stroll round Stirling quickly reveals a wide variety of interesting pubs and bars, ranging from the trendy like The Cape, to the traditional howff such as No 2 Baker Street, and nearby Nicky-Tam’s Bar and Bothy, reputedly also one of the most haunted bars in Scotland. However, beyond Stirling lies a host of colourful villages, each with local pubs serving delicious and filling meals, often made with ingredients sourced from nearby farms.
Heading toward Loch Lomond lie the villages of Gargunnock, Kippen and Buchlyvie, all with excellent hostelries serving hearty, home-made pub grub. Gargunnock Inn regularly rates highly in the CAMRA Forth Valley Pub of the Year and features guest cask ales, home-made soups and special menus for children. The 18th-century Cross Keys at Kippen is another favourite, where the food is ‘traditional modern’ and on Sundays includes at least two delicious roasts. A few miles further on, the Buchlyvie Inn offers another friendly environment and great home-cooked food.
Beyond Stirling lies a host of colourful villages, each with local pubs serving delicious and filling meals, often made with ingredients sourced from nearby farms
While in the area west of Stirling, other village pubs with tasty food well worth discovering include the Westerton Arms in Bridge of Allan, the Lion and Unicorn at Thornhill, the Inn at Kippen, the Clachan Inn at Drymen (reputedly first licensed in 1734) and the Dunblane Hotel.
On the outskirts of Stirling itself nestles the multi award-winning Birds and Bees pub at Causewayhead. Converted from an old farm steading, this gem has been a favourite with locals in the know for many years and even offers petanque for those who fancy an outdoor game of boules.
If travelling instead through Clackmannanshire towards St Andrews, do not miss the Inn at Muckhart, a short distance beyond the small town of Dollar. Good beers, log fires and excellent home-made fare draw people from far and wide to this secluded corner.
What happens if everyone going out to eat fancies something a little bit different? You’ll find wide menu choices in Stirling at Ferentino’s and at the stylish Adamo at Bridge of Allan as well as Jam Jar. In Falkirk, Behind the Wall is recommended.
Converted from an old farm steading, this gem has been a favourite with locals in the know for many years and even offers petanque for those who fancy a game of boules
For light meals, the Old Bank with its welcoming log fire in Callander is a favourite. The menu, prepared from locally-sourced ingredients, includes delicious home-made soups and a good choice of gluten-free dishes. Another not to be missed, is the Coffee Bothy at Blairlogie, run by local farming family the Logans. Kenny Logan won 70 rugby caps for Scotland and a set of practice rugby posts still stands in the garden next door. It sounds like a simple coffee shop but it’s actually a thriving restaurant which serves delicious locally-grown, home-made dishes. Indeed, you’ll probably have to wait your turn for a table, but there’s plenty to browse around in the farm shop while you wait.
For one of the best fish and chip shops in Scotland, look no further than the Allanwater Cafe in Bridge of Allan. The area boasts a mixture of fine hotels ranging from the cosy and homely to the seriously upmarket, but which also welcomes non-residents to its dining rooms. Scotland’s tennis superstar Andy Murray recently refurbished and reopened the much-loved Cromlix House, near his hometown Dunblane, as a five-star, luxury, country-house hotel. Its Chez Roux restaurant is overseen by the legendary French chef Albert Roux.
Another hidden gem is the Roman Camp Hotel in Callander. Although set in 20 acres of gardens beside the River Teith, this secluded three-rosette hideaway is right in the centre of town. With a quiet ambience of antique furnishings and log fires, it offers excellent meals prepared with locally-grown ingredients served at tables set with fine white linen, silverware and crystal. Visitors can also enjoy afternoon tea in the drawing room and library.
Another option is the Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro (known simply as the Dunblane Hydro) located near the centre of the town, but on rising ground from where there are lovely views towards the Trossachs. Set in ten acres, it features the Kailyard by Nick Nairn Restaurant.
With a quiet ambience of antique furnishings and log fires, it offers excellent meals prepared with locally-grown ingredients served at tables set with fine white linen, silverware and crystal
Little tea rooms
Other hotels recommended for their meals include the 19th-century Royal Hotel in Bridge of Allan. And for those who enjoy delicious home-made soup and bakeries, there is the fun of seeking out the area’s hidden tea shops.
Even in Stirling there are several well worth sampling, including the Old Town Coffee House in Spittal Street, the Bluebell Tearoom in Pitt Terrace where baked goodies complement tea served in delicate vintage cups, the Burgh Coffeehouse in King Street and the Darnley Coffee House at the bottom of Broad Street – located in a 16th-century barrel vaulted building reputed to have been where Mary Queen of Scots’ husband, Lord Darnley, lived.
Beyond Stirling there are more tantalising little tea rooms. Try perhaps the Beech Tree cafe in central Dunblane or the excellent Hideaway off Fountain Road in Bridge of Allan. In historic Doune, the Buttercup Cafe offers delicious food, great coffee or tea, and an extensive cake selection, while on the A811 the Woodhouse Coffee Shop near Kippen uses locally grown produce – there’s a farm shop next door. Further on in picturesque Buchlyvie is the Coffee Kiln Café.
In Falkirk, Tea Jenny’s, hidden away in King’s Court, is another little gem, where cute tea cosies and cakes to die for will leave a lasting memory. Finally, in Clackmannanshire, a visit to the Tilly Tearoom in Tillicoultry is a must, if only for the stove, the lentil soup and the delicious home-made bakeries. In short, Stirling and Clackmannanshire offer something for every palate – so get out there, enjoy and forget the waistline for a while.
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