At Gleneagles’ Century Bar, the beautiful gold and green-clad menu – dubbed The Great Adventure Book – might just awaken your inner kleptomaniac.
It’s the sort of thick, enticing tome – with fold-out quick-pick matrices, Inverted Jenny-style Scottish stamps, and Bruegelesque sketches of adventurers rambling under cerulean skies – that could beckon the most morally upright of citizens to size up their satchel and consider committing petty theft.
And let’s face it – the Century Bar, with its unassuming air and refreshing candour, likely wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Here, unlike at the more avant-garde 1920s-style American Bar a few steps down the corridor, flamboyance is forsaken for forthrightness.
A persistent and sweet MacAllan Double Cask, one of 120 malt whiskies on offer, is infused with ginger and lemongrass and unpretentiously christened Gingery.
The Courvoisier, muddled with peanut butter and advocaat, glides down with such smoothness it earns the moniker Silky.
No prizes for guessing the name of the seedlip spice with plum – it is, of course, Plummy.
Then comes the Comforting – a warm hug of 18-year MacAllan Sherry cask, peach, and Demerara in a tumbler. Less consoling is the keen £65 price tag, yet the worries quickly melt away after the first sip.
The drinks completely surpass the simple descriptions. It’s like calling the Mona Lisa a ‘Smiley Lady’ – technically accurate, but a criminal understatement. Yet you quickly realise, with a sip, that there is perhaps a method to this seeming madness.
Gleneagles is, after all, the grand dame of deception – in the best possible way. From the outside, looking down the long driveway, it presents as a traditional Scottish country house, all tartan and tweeds.
But step into the self-styled Glorious Playground and you’re whisked into a world that’s less about preserving the past and more about celebrating the eclectic present.
This is a hotel that wears its history like a true Scotsman wears a kilt – with a bit of cheek. It’s a buzzing hive of personalities, where every nook is a potential plot twist, each cranny a subplot waiting to happen.
The bar manager, a Northern Italian chap with more character than a Fellini film, eschews the typical offer of champagne for what he fondly dubs ‘shampoo’.
As he sets down a trio of cakes – a steal at 12 pounds, and do make a beeline for the lemon drizzle – he animates the scene with the choo-choo of a train.
This dash of eccentricity feels not just fitting, but essential in a plush space that could easily risk falling on the wrong side of stuffiness.
And crucially, it’s a prime example of the Gleneagles juxtaposition – an alluring mix of idiosyncrasies wrapped in rich red velvet, deafeningly heavy carpets and oak-panelled walls.
Yet while the gorgeous menu at Century Bar might have you wishing you’d brought along a bigger bag, it’s the cocktails, enigmatic yet enticing in their simplicity, named with just a single, evocative word, that reign supreme.