It is easy to think you may have fallen into a time warp, when you visit the Portcullis, up at Stirling Castle. But you may end up thinking that you’ve not gone back as far as you thought you would…
The imposing stone walls and thick doors hark back to days of olde (the extra ‘e’ further emphasising the oldness). The castle location and even the name conjure up visions of jousting, wild boar rotating slowly over an open fire as lute players entertain mead drinking diner’s. The traditional nature of furniture and decoration inside the bar helps maintain this illusion and makes you think that many generations will have drunk and eaten in this pub before you.
The Portcullis, on all of my visits has been busy, so booking is a good idea. The greeting has also always been friendly and this visit was no different. We were shown to our table and menus were handed out and drink orders taken.
It will come as a bit of a surprise, in the ancient surroundings, that the menu seems to have been written in 1984. Before anyone attempts to decapitate me with a broadsword, let me quickly state that I like the Portcullis and this is a positive review!
The Portcullis chef clearly worked out, I guess about 30 years ago, exactly what food their clientèle wants to eat and have then stuck with this. The result is simple traditional Scottish meals presented and prepared well. There are no twists, no ‘fusion’, just good solid cooking.
All of the classics are on the menu Egg Mayo, Prawn Cocktail, Baked Camembert. The Main Course follows a similar theme, Steaks, Gammon and Pineapple, Chilli Con Carne, if there was a Scampi it would have been a clean sweep, oh wait, there is...
When the friendly waitress returned with our drinks I ordered the Beefburger (shocker I know) with Pepper Sauce, the lads ordered Gammon and Scampi. We waited for our food just long enough to know it was cooked fresh, but not long enough to be upset.
When the meals arrived the first thing you notice is the accompaniments, much of the plate is full with salad, coleslaw, sweetcorn, grated cheese (the photo doesn't do it justice as I forgot myself and tucked in before snapping this photo, sorry chef)
The burger was a decent size and had good flavour and meatiness too it, it's irregular shape and texture suggesting it was made on the premises rather than some bought in frozen rubbish. It was nicely griddled and served in a soft sesame bun that was big enough to just about keep everything in. The pepper sauce though was the touch of genius that promoted this above good and into the really good category. It was a rich creamy sauce with a big jolt of pepper on the tongue that lingered around in the mouth for so long , I think Godot would have turned up before the taste went away.
Service remained friendly and efficient throughout, our waitress ensured our glasses were refilled and tried to persuade us into trying the desserts. I passed up the opportunity, settling on a Hot Chocolate instead, which refreshingly was actually hot when it arrived.
The burger, drinks and a Hot Chocolate and a tip set me back just over £20, which is pricey, for a burger compared with the likes of the Handmade Burger Company, but not for a proper meal when compared with Stirling compatriot Meadowpark. So reasonable value for money, for dinner, in Stirling, yeah I would say so.
Well I have to say the Portcullis remains on my list for Stirling destinations. There are negatives, the toilets look like they were last renovated about the time the menu was written, is it too much to ask for a lockable cubicle? But I like the surroundings, I like the service, above all I like the food. Everything about it is comfortable, familiar, homely even, like a soothing duvet, or Olivia Coleman. It isn't going to get any Stars or feature any liquid nitrogen frozen molecular gastronomy, but what it will do is fill you up. Which after all is why you go to eat isn't it? If good honest cooking is your thing, give it a go.