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Interview with Colin Smith Owner of Balmoral Restaurant in Campton Hills

Colin chef’d at hotels and restaurants for many years in Scotland and England before focusing his attention on acquiring underachieving restaurants and pubs, which he then turned around.  He did this many times, most recently at The Cherry Tree Bromeswell in Suffolk, on the eastern coast of England.  In 2005, Colin came to St. Charles, Illinois.  Here, he worked for about 10 years at one of the largest flavor houses in the United States.  But he never lost his passion for Scottish fare, or for hosting dinners with great food and drink.

Cairn-na-Cuimhne in Aberdeenshire, eastern Scotland, is home to the royal residence of Balmoral Castle, a grand estate of the royal family of Great Britain built in 1856 by Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert.  It is a beautiful, 50,000-acre venue, still used by the royal family today, with constant care given to forestry, farming, and the management of various collections of animals.

In 2013, on a trip to Scotland, Colin visited Balmoral Castle.  In its dining hall, he saw tables laid out with golden cutlery, fine crystal, and banded dinnerware depicting scenes of Scottish flora and landscapes.  “Everyone should dine like this,” he thought.  After all, if it’s good enough for the queen, it’s good enough for us all.  Three years later, he found the spot that would be his Balmoral, in Campton Hills, Illinois, located 40 miles west of Chicago in the Fox Valley. A year later he began building his Stateside version of that royal estate — or at least it’s dining room — right down to the place settings.  Balmoral Restaurant was born.

The castle that is Balmoral’s namesake derives from earlier estates and manors dating back to the early 1400s.  The name “Balmoral” is thought to have its origins in the old Gaelic phrase “Both Mhoir-ail,” or “hut of the big hill.”  From the original hill to Campton Hills, the newest setting for a longstanding name with great tradition.

There is much more history and tradition to enjoy at Balmoral Restaurant. Plan your evening out with us, and experience a taste of the true Scottish Balmoral!

Shay Clarke:  Why did you pick Campton Hills as the location for Balmoral restaurant?

Colin Smith: I was looking for a site that had never been a restaurant before and the old liquor store was perfect in size and location.

Shay Clarke:  Why is your restaurant the only true Scottish restaurant in the United States?

Colin Smith: We only focus on traditional Scottish food, no burgers, pizzas or chicken wings here. We create dishes that you would find in great Scottish restaurants.

Shay Clarke:  What are some of the biggest differences between American diners versus Scottish or European diners?

Colin Smith: In America they like to dine between 5 pm and 7pm, Scottish and all Europeans like to dine after 8pm.

Shay Clarke:  What are some of the most popular dishes on your menu?

Colin Smith: So many are great sellers, fish chips, haggis, pies galore, salmon, steaks by Ream’s and so much more.

Shay Clarke:   Please tell us about your afternoon tea.

Colin Smith: Every week the afternoon tea continues to grow, we are serving over 200 a week now. All served on Royal Albert roses and a great selection of scones, cookies, desserts, sandwiches and of course Scottish tea.

Shay Clarke:  You said you are bringing back luxury dining, how so?

Colin Smith: Over 40 years ago we used to treat our customers with fine place setting, this has been lost in the UK and America to feed you fast and get the next table in. We don’t do that at Balmoral, your table is yours until you want to leave. It’s a dining experience we want you to have not just feed you fast to get more people in. we want you to relax and enjoy the atmosphere and be treated like you are a special guest in our home.

Shay Clarke:  When did you launch your Scottish Brunch and how has it been received?

Colin Smith: We have not started our Scottish Sunday brunch yet, but hopefully by the end of January it will go live.

Shay Clarke:  You stock 153 Scotch whisky’s, you have an impressive wine list, and the beer is served in cut crystal tankards.  How is the bar experience at Balmoral unlike any other?

Colin Smith: Yes, all our glassware is cut crystal, I think it just tastes better.
We focus on whisky as its Scotland national drink. The range keeps changing as 40% of our whiskies are one off bottles and do not come on to the market place often, when its gone its gone. The bar is like a Scottish snug room, comfortable, warm and an inviting fire place.

Shay Clarke:  Will you be opening for Lunch?

Colin Smith: We still need to build a customer demand for lunch as we are not on the beaten path.

Shay Clarke:  Any plans for expansion?

Colin Smith: at the end of this year we should have found site number 2. Still looking.

 

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