The Secret Drinker reviews Beauly's The Lovat Arms
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After last week’s extraordinary adventure in cocktails I return this week to more familiar pub territory, and what could be more pub-like than a place with ‘Arms’ in the name?
To be honest, I was here slightly before my trip to Jimmy Badgers but for reasons that are difficult to fathom I wrote one before the other so it isn’t that much of a return – something for which I will make amends this Friday evening.
Beauly is known for a certain class and prestige, from Campbell’s of Beauly (with two ‘By Appointments’ to the Royal Family) and a smattering of charisma through the association with Frasers of Lovat.
So there is a certain gentrification and occasionally you meet someone from Beauly who thinks of themselves more as personage than person – pretentious could be another word for it.
Did this extend to the Lovat Arms Hotel?
I feared mock Highland-Jacobite-Outlander nonsense exemplified by those roasters in a féileadh-mór (copied and pasted from Google, sorry Gaelic fans) as though they just walked off the battlefield at Culloden rather than the number 9 bus.
To my delight there are two bars. I love pubs like this – one place with two essential venues, two tones, two lots of different but allied people.
So you have the public bar and the one that is more reserved for hotel guests so, as I am something of a ‘personage’ with a penchant for comfortable seating and elevated conversation I started in the hotel bar, to see if I would get booted.
Accessing the establishment from the proletarian servant's entrance at the side I asked to go into the other bar.
The staff had no problems with this. Perhaps wearing a Barbour jacket – having temporarily misjudged the weather for the next five minutes – helped, but there was no problem, particularly after the following.
Flaming sambuca horror
My friend and accomplice is local to Beauly and I hinted he came across as my ghillie, which he took immense umbrage to.
Because it was Beauly and the hell was in me I decided to stick to my guns and order my usual Stout and Whisky, while my drinking buddy who shares my surname (Drinker – it isn’t a pseudonym) ordered an aristocratic flaming sambuca.
To my chagrin I soon realised that I would have to dispense with the chip on my shoulder about the Lovat being pretentious because it really wasn’t snobby at all. The mood was relaxed and the surroundings charming.
The bar is a curved beauty that would make a very comfortable perch. Were I not so indolent and hate any pressure on the soles of the feet I would have stood there.
It wraps itself around a small area and seems to invite you to look at what you might choose next. And we chose to go through into the public bar.
Different atmosphere, different crowd, more earthy – and much more laughter.
It was welcoming. I have remarked before about how unpleasant it can be to turn up in a place and feel unwelcome for existing – the Lovat was not like that at all, not in either bar.
There is the usual pool table and the like but mostly people gather around the bar.
I had a very enjoyable time and for the first time since the Caley in Dingwall felt this was a place that was improved by the people rather than the place attracting the right folk.
That is a compliment to one but definitely not an insult to the establishment.
I am happy to report that the whisky tasted just as good in either bar. The pint was well poured and presented.
They have a fair mix of lagers and ciders on tap and an assortment of bottled options too. But I kept it simple and again the service was professional and friendly.
The bar was well stocked but they mostly are these days and nothing really jumps out at you from their sprinkling of malts and gins.
The prices are as much as you would find elsewhere though I have to say I did drop the ball on this one – horrified as I was by the presence of a flaming Sambuca at my table.
Certainly I did not worry about what I was paying for.
I will be back but I would not travel out of my way to get to it. If I was standing on Beauly Square and had the choice of one of the many lovely cafés and the like then I would make a bee-line for the Lovat.
You feel good in there whatever your mood, sometimes you may want a little upstairs in the front bar but I preferred the back bar and it is to there that I shall return.