The company’s Christmas dinner was held the other day at the Culloden Estate and Spa.
It was my first time there, and upon arrival we went through the cosy lobby area down towards where our dinner would be held.
At the Cumberland Suite, we were greeted with a flute of what tasted suspiciously like rosé West Coast Cooler. I didn’t mind it, as West Coast Cooler is my go-to drink when I want something light on a night out, but some of the boys were left wanting something thing that didn’t taste “like a soft drink”.
That notion seemed to be shared by a good many, and soon there was a crowd around the bar. The bar accepts card payments for values above £10 – a perfect opportunity to do rounds.
Soon, the doors opened and we settled in our seats. We took a peek at the menu, only to realise that Culloden had misspelled our company’s name. I was less than impressed – to get a paying customer’s name wrong is bad enough, much less a corporate customer who could bring repeat business if things go well!
The Christmas crackers that were laid out on our tables were underwhelming too. My mystery gift was a single die (which was combined with my colleague’s die to play a drinking game); others included a small pad of plain paper (what an ace gift) and a foldable fan (very useful for winter), while some others didn’t even have a gift inside them.
My expectations for the meal weren’t too high after the disappointing first impressions, but the farmhouse broth proved me wrong. Unlike the weak soup that usually accompanies such large group dinners, the broth had a slight creamy texture and warmed my insides. The wheaten muffin that accompanied it was delicious – and was devoured before the soup even arrived.
Unfortunately, the main course was a reversion to form. The slow cooked daube of beef was slightly dry, rather tough and quite tasteless, and the roast potatoes tasted like mashed cardboard (no exaggeration here). While the beef was salvaged only by the flavourful red wine and herb jus, there wasn’t enough jus on the plate to lift the dish beyond being barely passable.
Thankfully, dessert in the form of a velvet chocolate torte was a delight. The chocolate was rich, thick and slightly bitter – just the way I like it – while the light, fresh orange mousse served as a beautiful contrast. That said, some found the chocolate too bitter, with a colleague describing it as “eating cocoa powder”, so perhaps the enjoyment of the dessert depended a lot on personal tastes!
The Culloden seems to provide a very inconsistent quality of food and service. Two dishes were good, one was bad, they got our company name wrong and the Christmas crackers were probably sourced from the cheapest available supplier. The DJ also played songs that were about 40 years out of date – and didn’t change the tunes even though there was NO ONE on the dance floor until at least an hour later.
I’m not even sure if the overall experience that night is acceptable for a less renowned hotel, but for a five-star hotel with the reputation that it has, the Culloden needs to take a good look at itself and up its game. In the meantime, I’m afraid I won’t be recommending the Culloden to anyone looking for a venue for events or weddings – and a colleague who sampled their wedding meal menu would agree.