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Issue 48 - Cream of the barley

Scotland Magazine Issue 48
December 2009


This article is 8 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Cream of the barley

The Editor finds a gem of an establishment deep in the Perthshire countryside.

The phrase ‘restaurant with rooms’ can often strike fear into the heart of the seasoned traveller.

This collection of words has been so over used in the past few years that is has come to mean anything from a restaurant with a few substandard rooms or a hotel with a restaurant serving less than exciting food. It can mean mediocre at best, horrible at worst.

Thankfully it is great to see a couple take this moniker by the scruff of the neck and beat it back into something that actually stands for high standards, elegance, impressive rooms and heavenly food.

I found the Barley Bree in Muthill, Perthshire, while looking for accommodation for the Journey’s Blend trip. There was one small problem when booking in the fact they weren’t usually open on the Monday, however the management went above and beyond to accommodate us when they could have just said no.

The place itself is an old coaching inn dating back to the early 18th century, and the interiors emulate this theme, while retaining a stylish and modern feel.

Barley Bree is owned & run by Fabrice and Alison Bouteloup who both have long experience in the catering trade.

Fabrice trained to become a chef in France before moving to the UK 15 years ago. He has worked in various restaurants around the country including the Michelin-starred Putney Bridge Restaurant in London and Atrium in Edinburgh where he was head chef, before setting out on his own at Barley Bree.

Alison comes from a family background in catering, and spent six years working in the wine trade in Edinburgh and London.

So given this is it not an understatement to say that the welcome is warm and the food excellent, served in the stone-walled restaurant. The restaurant has a central fireplace with a woodburning stove, and there is a little lounge area where we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink.

One thing this place is known for, and I think it floored all of us, is its bread.

Fabrice’s multigrain homemade bread, either with the main meal or served at breakfast, is frankly mindblowing. It has become hugely popular with regular customers to such an extent that it is now made for people to take home.

Food wise you will not be disappointed.

Given that seasonality and the sourcing of good local produce is the current trend, Fabrice changes the menus every week to reflect the changing seasons.

The menus reflect the wonderful culinary delights that Perthshire has to offer – wild garlic and chanterelles in season, delicious soft fruits through the summer, root vegetables, beef, lamb, freshwater fish….the list goes on.

The shooting season also brings an abundance of game: venison, pheasant, wood pigeon and partridge all feature on the menus at various times of the year.

If you are looking at the menus online, they do not include vegetarian dishes, but just ask and you shall receive.

The rooms in question are more than adequate. Recently refurbished and decked out in simple colour, they are restful and tasteful. They are also ensuite which is a bonus.

The Barley Bree’s position, not that far from Crieff, makes it a perfect base camp for exploring parts of the Grampians and the surrounding countryside.

Being surrounded by thousands of acres of prime shooting estates, Muthill hosts a very active shooting season which kicks off on the “Glorious Twelfth”.

Fabrice and Alison can help put interested parties in touch with local guides. The local estate also offers simulated shoots which are very popular.

On the doorstep of the Barley Bree is the ancient church of Muthill, which is well worth a look round.

Further afield local attractions include the magnificent Drummond Castle Gardens which is one mile from the village, Stirling Castle is approximately 30 minutes drive to the south and the city of Perth is about 16 miles to the north.

Also if you are staying in Edinburgh of Glasgow and fancy a weekend in the country this would make the perfect destination and you would not be disappointed.

Just in case you were wondering Barley Bree is a Scots word meaning liquor, mainly malt liquor such as whisky.