The lodge itself, presumably once a single house, now accommodates 10 guest rooms, boasts drawing rooms with real log fires, a bar with 120 different whiskies and some fabulous local walks that take you up the side of the cliff and along the coast line to Portpatrick, delivering spectacular views for miles in every direction (best attempted before dinner rather than after). It also has a restaurant with a Michelin star.
Being a small hotel, menus are set and presumably change each day to accommodate guests staying for longer periods at the hotel as they explore the region. We're settling into the routine now, a drink and canapés in the bar before hand, and a chance to look over the menu for the meal to come. We abandon gin and tonics at this stage for a drop of Bladnoch, Scotland's most Southerly distillery and Knockinaam's local: lowland malts make excellent pre dinner drinks.
The dining room is an intimate affair with simply enough tables to accommodate the hotel guests, the restaurant (I think) is not open to non residents. Staff, who number only two, double up and triple up in roles around the hotel, and they are friendly and enthusiastic throughout, making this a very informal dinner also.
The wine list is interesting, reasonably priced and sometimes fortuitously uneven. A Mouton 1982, a 100 pointer from one of the greatest vintages of the last century is on the list at £995, broadly the retail price. And no, we didn't buy it. Whisky in the bar after is also reasonably priced.
The soup is presumably prepared nicely in advance and the beef as noted is slow cooked. The turbot is cooked a la minute, but after that, there's simply the addition of the hollandaise. Choose cheese over the soufflé, and nothing need be done at all by the kitchen. So it doesn't feel to me that this approach is being undertaken as a food philosophy, but more as clever work flow management by the kitchen. For sure, Michelin doesn't have to be, and shouldn't be, blood, sweat and tears 24/7, but this seems completely at the other end of the spectrum and there's a part of me that wants to see at least some blood, sweat and tears, if only so I feel that I got my money's worth.
I really enjoyed the food because it was nicely done, the turbot especially and the chef here can clearly cook. What's more, the 'economies' can be explained, set menu: too few guests, fuss free dishes: letting the ingredients speak for themselves. But I can't get away from another explanation in my less generous moments, and that is, as delicious as my meal was, the kitchen is however being just a little bit lazy.
Visit Knockinaam Lodge website
Previously I visited: Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor
Next stop: Glenapp Castle
Location map for Knockinaam Lodge