Gordon’s Restaurant, Inverkeilor, Scotland

xThe main A92 road heading north from Dundee towards Stonehaven is beautiful, framed by rolling farmland, much of it hugs the east coast of Scotland, with views to the vast horizon of the North Sea. You will pass through busy seaside holiday towns like Arbroath and Montrose, but tucked just north of Arbroath is the tiny village of Inverkeilor, and Gordon’s Restaurant.

An institution for over 20 years, this is a strictly family affair. Sadly Gordon Watson passed away in 2016, but the business today is run by his wife Maria and son Garry: like his dad, a Masterchef of Great Britain, under whose hand the kitchen has gone on to earn 3 AA rosettes as well as being awarded AA Restaurant of the Year. A recent programme of refurbishment has added lots of chic detail to both dining room and bedrooms, to give Gordon’s a contemporary, ’boutique’ feel.

There are only five bedrooms. We stayed in the Courtyard Suite, a few steps from the restaurant, but a spacious light-filled room with free-standing bath, dining and seating areas and a king-size bed. All the 5-star guesthouse trapping were in place with robes, bottled water and real coffee, though wifi did not work (it does in the main building) and my phone signal was more or less non-existent, so business travelers beware. We all love to get away form it all, but a range extender for wifi would be a worthwhile investment.

Gordon's dining room

The dining room (above) is a very nice space. With a small sitting room at one end and the bar to one side, it seats 28 and has an upmarket feel with lavish wallpapers from Glasgow’s cutting edge ‘Timorous Beasties’ interior designers, polished wooden floors and contemporary chandeliers, lamps and artworks. The menu is based around local produce, much of it from Angus, Perthshire or Fife, and quality of ingredients is clearly an obsession: Arbroath smokies appear of course (in this case in the guise of a puffy, creamy and delicious soufflé), but also Angus roe deer, Skye scallops and Scrabster turbot for example.

The menu is limited it is true: only a set tasting menu is offered, though there are two choices at each course. I’d suggest vegetarians or those with other dietary requirements let the restaurant know in advance. We kicked off nibbling lovely little Parmesan and sesame seed tarts, light flaky and delicious, with the very good, nicely developed Champagne from Poilvert-Jacques (£39) which also drank very well with the soufflé. Next up, a fabulous intermediate course of a plump, perfectly seared Skye scallop, which sat in a velouté of pea and mint, rich from its chicken stock base, but so fragrant and summery, the fish yielding under the threat of a fork.

gordon's restaurant dessertBy this time we’d moved on to the Alsace Riesling from Gustave Lorentz, which was perfect at £30 per bottle: enough weight, citrus tang and dryness to match well with my dining companion’s choice of turbot with a Shetland mussel fricassee, but also my choice of main course: guinea fowl from Gartmorn Farm in Alloa. This was a very clever dish, the breast of the bird sliced not quite through, and stuffed into each alternate cut a pillowy, light disc of a chicken mousseline, and a ravioli filled with what I think was a herb and a pea mousse. In terms of flavour it was a real winner.

After a pre-dessert, the choice of French and Scottish cheeses or pistachio crème brûlée (left) was a tough one, but my sweet tooth won out on the day. It was very good, served with some bitter dark chocolate sauce and perfectly in-season local strawberries, and a glossy quenelle of sharp and tangy raspberry sorbet. With a half bottle of Lenz-Moser Beerenauslese from Austria at £20, there was no doubt that this had been an excellent and satisfying meal, and the melt-in-the-mouth chocolate brownie squares served with coffee afterwards sealed that particular deal.

Garry WatsonAfter a super-comfortable night’s sleep in our excellent bed, and the rural silence of Inverkeilor, breakfast didn’t let us down. Garry, right, was back in the kitchen and produced a fine Scottish breakfast of great quality, either the full works or smoked Scottish salmon and scrambled eggs, seriously good fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee strong enough to waken me up and send me happily on my way.

This is very much a restaurant with rooms, with no facilities outside of your very well equipped bedroom other than the dining room, so do not expect the full services of a hotel, but the welcome is warm, the comfort excellent and it is, of course, the food that’s the real reason to come here.

Gordon’s Restaurant with Rooms
Main Street
by Arbroath
DD11 5RN
Phone: (01241) 830364
Dinner Tuesday to Sunday (Saturday in winter)
Lunch Sunday only
£65 per person for dinner
Double rooms from £110