Restaurants: Room for afters

Round off your meal with a good night's sleep at a smart new breed of inn, says Simon O'Hagan
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The Independent Culture
Devotees of the Michelin Guide to France will be familiar with the notation "avec ch", which appears in some of the restaurant entries. Accommodation, though usually perfectly comfortable, is not the point of these not-quite-hotels; the food is. And it's with this emphasis in mind that restaurants with rooms are springing up all over Britain's more remote areas, where, if you couldn't be put up after dining, you might hesitate to make the journey.

A fine example can be found in the shadow of Ben Nevis, in the Scottish Highlands. Old Pines, at Spean Bridge, 10 miles east of Fort William, is a Scandinavian-style single-storey house surrounded by Scots pines. Here, English proprietors Bill and Sukie Barber have hit upon a winning formula that combines a warm welcome and child-friendliness with beautiful surroundings and culinary distinction. Think Woolley Grange minus the decorative grandeur.

Old Pines has been rightly praised for what it offers to families - not least the system whereby your children get to eat with the Barbers at around 6pm, giving adults the chance of a civilised dinner later on. There's one sitting, with shared tables for residents, chalet party-style, and a set menu. But it is as a restaurant that Old Pines would really like to be judged, and there's no doubt that Sukie Barber, her skills forged on the directors' lunches circuit of the Home Counties and in Glasgow, is a seriously talented cook.

As pioneering members of the "Taste of Scotland" scheme, which seeks to promote good food and local produce across the country, Old Pines' heart is in the right place. It has its own smokehouse, and bakes its own bread. Poached trout, haunch of venison and roast leg of Scotch lamb are typical (and spot-on) main courses, while Sukie does wonders with her chocolate desserts.

And for Southerners who might rule out Old Pines on grounds of remoteness, this is the really clever bit. Spean Bridge is the penultimate stop on the sleeper from Euston to Fort William, and the Barbers are happy to pick you up at the station and/or arrange car hire.

Old Pines, Spean Bridge, by Fort William, Scotland (01397 712324); dinner, B&B from pounds 60

BEDSIDE MANNA

Martin's

11 Mostyn Ave, Craig-Y-Don, Llandudno, Wales (01492 870070); B&B from pounds 25, a la carte dinner around pounds 25

The Peat Inn

by Cupar, Fife, Scotland (01334 840206); B&B from pounds 135 for two, set dinner pounds 28

The Albannach

Lochinver, Sutherland, Scotland (01571 844407); dinner & B&B from pounds 67

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