CAMPTON HILLS – More than a wee bit of Scotland can be discovered at Balmoral Restaurant, an upscale venue launched in early June by native Scotsman Colin Smith near the corner of Route 64 and La Fox Road in Campton Hills.
He said he named it Balmoral after exploring the Scottish castle of the same name, one of the British royal family's residences. Its lavish dining table left an impression of beauty and elegance he said he wants his restaurant to impart, as it creates a leisurely dining experience that's out of the ordinary and celebrates being together with family and friends. An added feature will be afternoon teas from 2 to 5 p.m.
On the menu are imported Scottish salmon, venison, pheasant, wild boar pork chops, duck, braised rabbit, steak, lamb, seafood and a classic haggis. Other items may need translation for the uninitiated, such as neeps and tatties, colloquial for turnips and mashed potatoes.
Traditional dishes include a Scotch egg, Scottish fish and chips prepared with haddock, and savory pies made with rabbit, squab, chicken or ham.
"They are not like a pot pie, [but have] completely different pastry, texture, flavor," Smith said.
He came to the U.S. from Great Britain in 2005, eventually settling in Elburn and becoming a citizen in 2016. Before immigrating, Smith said he owned or managed about a dozen restaurants and hotels in the United Kingdom. He said he was known for turning around once successful properties on the decline and rebuilding the businesses.
For Balmoral's menu, he picked one or two of the best dishes from each place he ran during his almost 40 years' experience in the food and hospitality business. He said he wanted to duplicate the same flavors one would savor in a restaurant or home in Scotland, and it took some time to find the right suppliers for sourcing ingredients.
"Everything is fresh, nothing frozen or processed," Smith said. "[Meat is] deboned on the premises and sausages are [made] in-house."
He said the the fresh preparation lends itself to accommodating diners with dietary restrictions and noted there are ample vegetarian items
The executive chef is Ryan Kacenjar, who said he studied at The Culinary Institute of America and trained in French cuisine and Southern cooking. Most recently, he spent several years working in San Francisco.
He said he has been studying the rich history of Scottish cuisine and is excited about Balmoral.
"[The chef] has been making all the dishes and bringing them to my home to perfect," Smith said. "We must have made eight different types of sausages – or bangers – until we got the one."
Balmoral's pastry chef is Rebecca "Becky" Weaver, a familiar face in the TriCities culinary community.
Smith said her skills will be shown off in the desserts as well as the afternoon teas featuring scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, sandwiches, shortbread, fairy cakes and biscuits, aka cookies.
"She is a true gift to this restaurant," Smith said. "She bakes all the fresh bread every day, a true expert in her profession."
At the bar, one will find about 100 whisky selections.
"A lot of the whiskys are unique to the restaurant – small batch shipped over from Scotland – some expensive and some not expensive," Smith said.
Wines and specialty stouts also are offered as well as cocktails.
Helping set the visual mood the chef calls "transportive" are two beautifully executed murals of the Scottish countryside.
"For people who have been to Scotland, it looks like that," Smith said. "Mountains, rivers, hills, lots of sheep."
And fans of the television show "Outlander," set in Scotland, will find striking likenesses of Jamie and Claire on the lavatory doors.
The dining room sports rich wood and brick, and, on the walls, people will spy shields inspired by the Knights of the Round Table. There's a nod to tartan patterns throughout the space and servers' vests.
Tables are adorned with a lushly floral china pattern, a vintage Old Country Roses design by Royal Albert for a decidedly United Kingdom flourish. To ensure immediate attention, each table has a porcelain bell for diners to ring.
As an unusual perk, people are invited to fill out a card for the golden ticket drum, and at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. daily a drawing will be held. The winning card means all items ordered up to that point will be comped for that bill.
After a long build-out, the highly anticipated Balmoral just held its grand opening. Reservations are recommended, especially for the teas. The restaurant, which has patio seating, opens at 11 a.m. seven days a week and closes at 10 p.m. Smith said a family already inquired about the Christmas Day menu, which is still being shaped.
If you go
WHAT: Balmoral Restaurant
WHERE: 40W099 Route 64 at La Fox Road, in the Campton Square development of Campton Hills
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily