Andy Murray’s five-star hotel offers a new barbecue concept to enjoy a gourmet meal al fresco
The record-breaking summer 2022 heat wave was remarkable for many reasons. However, for Darin Campbell, executive chef of Cromlix, Andy Murray’s five-star fine-dining hotel near Dunblane, it marked a new chapter in his long career.
For the first time since the tennis star acquired the country hotel in 2014, Cromlix has launched an exclusive private barbecue near the Loch Menu within the hotel grounds. It is unique in that bookings are for private parties that have their own chef at the grill for the duration of the event, and each bespoke menu uses local produce and fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs from the kitchen garden. and the polytunnel from the hotel.
Not your usual burger and sausage fayre, although there is a choice of premium Wagyu burgers, Cumberland sausages and Bockwurst. Guests at BBQ by the Loch can choose other chef-designed dishes for their party from a wide range, including honey sesame chicken, miso-glazed duck breast, whole sea bream with fennel, roasted peppers, charred radicchio with balsamic vinegar, chilli potato skins with hot Cheddar and fresh fruit tarts. A drinks package is included in the price.
“This is something we’ve never done before and we’re picking up on what we’re seeing from our hotel guests, who are increasingly choosing to eat and drink out,” says Chef Darin as we stroll through the beautiful hotel grounds to secluded lochan, the new barbecue site where mallards and moorhens splash around in the water.
Darin took a short break serving hotel lunch guests en route to the St Andrews Open and is bracing for an influx of those attending the Gleneagles British Open. There was also a private business group of 30 for lunch. Andy Murray and his family, along with his mother Judy, are regular diners.
“Judy is a fantastic ambassador for Cromlix,” says Darin. “When she’s here, she’s always chatting with the guests. The whole family is very down to earth and a pleasure to work with.
Darin oversees five different hotel menus each day and the Lochside BBQ is a new addition.
“More people ate outdoors during lockdown and bought their own barbecues and pizza ovens to use at home because they couldn’t eat outdoors. We want to seize it and develop it. »
He says some ingredients cook better on the barbecue grill than on a conventional stove.
“The Morello cherry onions become sweet when the lightly charred and marinated zucchini cook well, and it’s interesting to cook sea bream en papillotte marinated in fennel, read onion, chilli and white wine. It steams in a bag on the grill and is quite delicious cooked that way. I like hitting fresh herbs too. A bunch of rosemary soaked in olive oil can be used to brush a lamb chop and give it a delicious flavor.
“As a barbecue chef, you can be more creative, have fun using the same skills in a different way.”
The barbecue also allows for a different style of presentation.
“People get closer to food, eat with their hands, take off their shoes, relax. It’s not contrived or pressured. I find that some hosts choose to be totally involved in the chef and the kitchen, while others prefer to leave it to us to chat with their guests.
The social aspect is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a chef, Darin says. “You’re constantly talking with customers and suppliers, and barbecuing matches my enjoyment of being social.
“I am constantly inspired by the changing seasons, new ingredients and different trends. Every year is something new. Now it’s the Persian flavors.
Labneh with dates, harissa with rose and ras el hanout spices made their debut in the main menus.
In the vegetable garden next to the tennis courts, where Judy Murray coaches local schoolchildren, there are heritage beans and peas, a range of lettuces, purple snappers, kale, apples and figs, a chicken coop and beehives. In the polytunnel there are three varieties of heirloom tomatoes, an array of herbs, sweet marjoram, purple basil, carrots and more.
“We keep the bees for pollination,” Darin explains. “Our products doubled in volume the first year the hives were installed. Red fruits and beans were particularly abundant.
“We’ve always been Scottish with a French twist, but we’re moving away from classic heavy French cooking, making it lighter, using less butter and cream,” he says. “It’s good to modernize and embrace new trends, but always using classic French techniques and Scottish products, and using the animal or the fish or the whole plant. Increasingly, we are adding vegetables and herbs to the mix.
He noticed a huge increase in Scottish producers over the course of his career, which began at a hotel in his home town of Largs and expanded early on to the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh. He became sous-chef to the late Andrew Fairlie at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, continued in London under Marcus Wareing and Eric Chavot, and returned to Scotland as head chef at the two Michelin-starred Andrew Fairlie restaurant, at the Gleneagles Hotel. He was a finalist for the prestigious Roux scholarship before becoming chef at the Chez Roux restaurant in Cromlix. He is enthusiastic about Scottish cheeses coming to market and loves the Minger from Highland Fine Cheese, which he compares to a French Munster.
The fish market has also evolved, he says, citing arctic char from deep freshwater Scottish lochs. “They have amazing livers. And Norwegian red snapper comes from Scottish waters as a by-product of squid fishing. They are like red mullet.
Cromlix Hotel is part of the luxury hotel group ICMI and the restaurant Chez Roux was founded by the late chef Albert Roux. He is now supervised by his son, Michel Roux Jr.
“Chef Michel is a lovely guy and he never dictates what I do,” says Darin. Chef Albert was always on the lookout for new Scottish producers and asked for Chef Darin’s recommendations. “He was like a grandfather to me and he was just a genius.”
Darin by BBQ by the Loch is so enthusiastic that it will continue throughout the winter, with a range of different seasonal menus.
“Sometimes the most memorable meal isn’t just about the food,” he says. “The atmosphere, the company and the setting also play a huge role. My favorite meal was on my honeymoon in Tuscany where we ate at a Michelin starred restaurant in a 12th century hilltop monastery. The food was good but I remember the occasion because of who I was with and the setting. The whole atmosphere was fantastic.
“I hope BBQ by the Loch will provide a similar memorable experience for our customers – even when the sun eventually sets.”