Trump Turnberry

Trump Turnberry, Ayrshire, Scotland  

I was anticipating a chic and tasty experience as I drove through the lush green Ayrshire countryside under a cloudless blue sky towards the recently refurbished Trump Turnberry Hotel. If you’ve never been, I suggest you add this to your bucket list, if for no other reason than the appreciation of the sight of the majestic whitewashed palace sitting regally at the top of the winding driveway. On a summer’s afternoon, like the day I visited, this is a truly special location. Looking out over the sea towards Paddy’s Milestone and Arran, it’s a braw view and quite unique.

I often came here with my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles as a child. I remember my grandfather Johnny, John Curley the Glasgow grocer, ordering  pudding wine, Château d’Yquem; I had no idea way back then what a special wine this was nor do I have a clue why this lodged in my memory. We would come here, Gleneagles or The Glenburn on Bute for special family occasions or just a wee lunch. Two out of three are pish now.  I loved Turnberry as a child.

Several years on, I stayed at Turnberry for about six or seven weeks whilst working on a film, The Match, being shot in Ayrshire. The night before I checked out I was told the manager wished to present me with a gift in the morning to celebrate the fact that I had the longest stay of any guest at the hotel. I was tingling in anticipation of the gratis weekend, or at least a slap up dinner, I was about to receive. OOFT. A book on the history of golf. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but bejaysus.

There is no escaping the fact that the new proprietor is the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, ruler of the free world and apparently unusually fond of stroking cats?! His name is everywhere, Lord I thought I was bad….. It’s a wonder his face isn’t on the toilet paper, might wipe the smug look off it….

It’s a wonder his face isn’t on the toilet paper, might wipe the smug look off it

He has spent a fortune recreating Liberace’s boudoir on a grand scale, it’s chandelier city. Despite the obvious huge financial investment, the result is not the sophisticated and understated elegance it would have been reasonable to expect; he should have checked out the recently refurbished Gleneagles Hotel first. It’s all so bright and glitzy here I almost went back to my car for the shades.

I hear from those who are knowledgeable in golfing matters that the course has benefitted greatly from the regeneration implemented by the great man with the dodgy hair. Even with my tome on golf’s history I don’t get golf to be honest; not enough blood to call it a proper sporting activity, I’m much more at ease watching ladies’ hockey where there’s always a chance of a broken leg or knockout. Beach volleyball catches my imagination, perhaps DT and I may have that in common?

He has spent a fortune recreating Liberace’s boudoir on a grand scale

I’m here for the Sunday lunch buffet which is accompanied by a small jazz band playing intermittently in the background. The setting is grand and relaxed, the views over the sparkling still sea sublime. The staff were very courteous. These are all the good points.

The food is shocking, start to finish. If this had been a motorway service station in the eighties I would have asked “ well, what else were you expecting?” In fact, with the cost of developing film these days, i didn't want to waste any more money than necessary on pictures of the stuff.

pate that looked like skitters

The starters were poor, inferior quality Italian meats; Milano salami, mortadella and Parma ham, which was blacker than a lump of coal. I didn’t take any oysters, not too keen on shellfish which have been sitting out in a warm room, even if on ice. There were mini martini glasses with mini prawn cocktails, plates of smoked salmon, ramekins with what I think was a pork rillette; this had mysterious crunchy bits throughout. More martini glasses with tomato and mozzarella salad, pate that looked like skitters, pickled herring fillets and a green salad with a blue cheese dressing completed the offerings. This is a very special place, kitchen brigades from the glory years would not know whether to laugh or to cry. They should, could and must do a lot better than this. I urge DT to have a word up Perthshire way.

The Carvery was grim; roast topside of beef was tasty enough but lasted longer in the mouth than than good bubblegum and was served with horseradish sauce from a jar. Pork served with applesauce manufactured from tinned apples and a ramekin of chicken and leek in a floury white sauce topped with mash. I finished my plate off with some nice baby potatoes. There were vegetable curry and fish options but they did not light my fire at all.

My dessert was bought in, must have been - surely they didn’t make it????; fruit cheesecake. I’ve no idea what flavour it was masquerading as but it simply tasted of sugar and looked like gloop. I had some pleasant, but boring, fruit salad comprised mostly of apple, melon and pineapple, not a summer berry to be seen. There were other ‘things’ in glasses and an impressively shiny chocolate torte but not for me. They had the least tempting cheeseboard, dive bombed by a squadron of kamikaze flies, I’ve seen in years.  Not nearly good enough for this grand palace.

I asked for a cup of tea and jokingly added “please put the teabag in the pot” as I ordered. I was speechless, it was served with the teabag on the side. OK, If I was in foreign parts I would have expected that because they drink coffee but in Scotland? Boiling water into a pre warmed teapot containing the tea!!

I think they charge £32 per guest for this summertime jazz lunch, not an excessive price given the surroundings but I can think of many places providing vastly superior chow for little more that half the price.

I don’t dine out looking for faults but, if they find me, I struggle to ignore them.

Despite the lame lunch, the glorious afternoon was spent in very cultivated company at a splendid locus which handsomely compensated for the culinary discord, sitting outside in the summer sun with a mild sea breeze almost had me in merciful mode.

So go on, pay a visit but take a picnic and enjoy the view.

p.s. Donald, “make Turnberry Great Again”