How a Scottish microchain is reinventing some of the country’s best small hotels
There were plenty of other good things inside, including fabulously fatty, twice-cooked, skin-on crisps and oysters caught earlier in the day – huge, plump and creamy. The Pierhouse goes back to basics in its own way, but what a way: lobster, mussels, langoustines and oysters are listed on the menu with the names of their fishermen. Everything is sourced here, cooked and served in a simple way. A few tweaks would make it perfect: the only fizzy by the glass is prosecco, and the breakfast latte is served in one of those tall glasses with a small handle near the base. Both are on my Won’t Do This list, as well as standing at concerts, licorice, and Ryanair flights. But after what we’ve been through for the past 14 months, cheap Italian bubbly and anachronistic coffee containers aren’t going to kill anyone.
Unlike, for example, Schrager and its deployment of Edition hotels in partnership with Marriott, there is no corporate blueprint here. Gordon bought both The Three Chimneys and The House Over-By (as its rooms are called) and The Pierhouse on a whim. Then, of course, had to close them again for Lockdown 3.0. Their reopening this week comes with the usual restrictions dictated by sturgeons: no indoor meals after 8 p.m. for non-hotel guests and alcohol only served on outdoor tables. All signs point to normalcy resuming on May 17th.
Celebrity chef Shirley Spear sold The Three Chimneys to his friend Campbell Gray in 2019, and when he learned that the family who owned The Pierhouse were considering selling and moving south, he stepped up his efforts. He has a house overlooking Loch Etive 20 minutes away, and had been a regular for years. Everything was at his doorstep.
Although The Pierhouse is new to me, I have loved the Three Fireplaces for years. Since my last visit, the interior of the restaurant has been brightened up. I preferred it a bit austere – better matched to the temperamental weather outside. But I will always have a lot of love for it. The character of the original croft house shines through, with the same rough whitewashed exterior as The Pierhouse. The six rooms and the menu here are significantly more expensive than at his brother’s; I would go to Appin for lunch any day of the week, but four courses at The Three Chimneys arrive north of Â£ 70 before wine. It is for birthdays and anniversaries.