An absolute treasure in the heart of Scotland. The Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart.

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Travel writers go into paroxysms of joy when they stumble upon places that are unexpected because of their settings.  Open the Sunday Times every week and you’ll read about the top 20 hidden gems in food, hotels, spas, towns etc.

This is one of them.

Grandtully is a one horse town situated five miles from the A9 on the main road north from Perth to Inverness.  Previously its nearby fame came from the awesome Motogrill (Scotland’s greatest greasy spoon and a true competitor to Westmoreland for best service station).  But this is an altogether different proposition.

The hotel, with only eight rooms, has been transformed from a shabby hostel into a boutique residence that usually only the big cities offer, and even then this level of quality is not the norm.

This is a beautifully designed residence with many, many delightful designer touches and a dining room to match.

We ate today, in mid-November so somewhat off-season, and the dining was partaken in the superbly cool bar.  When I say cool I mean the decor because it was anything but cool with its glowing log fire set in the centre.  Cosy indeed.

First impressions are of the bar which offers very good choices of craft beers. (Specifically Pilot brewery from Leith who have effected what almost amounts to a tap takeover.  If you like good beer you will like the Grandtully.)

The food comes in three forms.  Little bites like the gorgeous beetroot cured smoked salmon at £1 a portion and the orgasmic Black pudding and pork croquettes – we had three but wished we had had 30.  And a Highland Charcuterie plate for only £4.  Lovely.

We then tried their signature small plate of salt and spicy squid with a tangy fish sauce dip.  Magnificent.

Our mains were to die for.  My belly of lamb (a first for me) was both juicy and crispy, the monkfish with fennel and salsa verde was excellent and Amy’s Monkfish and cod curry was utterly delicious (£10!).

Desserts did not disappoint.  A lovely raspberry doughnut ( a wee bit heavy) with a superb raspberry sorbet, a superb chocolate Torte and a delicious walnut Choux pastry all hit the spot.

They have wine on tap – a Cotes du Rhone and an unfiltered Corsican white were both interesting and good value.

This is the real deal.  I expect to see Grandtully picking up awards galore in the years to come for both the hotel AND the restaurant.

And it’s affordable.

Get there before it gets unbookable.