Le Roi Fou, 1 Forth St, EH1 3JX. Phone 0131 557 9346
Apparently it was during a long weekend sight-seeing visit to Edinburgh that Swiss chef Jérôme Henry, previously Head Chef for Mosimann’s Dining Club in Belgravia & Les Trois Garçons in Shoreditch, fell in love with the city and spotted a bijoux vacant premises just moments from Princes Street. I’m not sure of the timeline between that and Le Roi Fou opening in 2017, but several meals there have been outstanding. It’s a small, casual space, with a bar at its centre and the possibility of private dining for up to 20 downstairs. A choice of pre-theatre, a la carte and tasting menus is offered ranging from £25 to £50 per person, and a cheaper lunch is served Thursday – Saturday. The cooking is all about bold, seemingly uncomplicated flavours with each dish centred on a wonderful piece of seasonal, local produce: grouse from Hope Estate, Loch Fyne oysters, Isle of Ghiga Halibut, though there are clearly no limitations on sourcing the best produce, as Galician octopus will attest. Recently, wild Highland venison was arguably the star of five terrific courses, with a deeply-flavoured wild mushroom sauce and side of spätzle in a nod to chef Jérôme’s roots, though a poached pear Belle Hélène was superb, enriched by a dramatically dark Valrhona dark chocolate sauce. The wine list is mostly European and includes many nicely matured bottles, a significant proportion coming from the cellars of the excellent Raeburn Fine Wines. (2020). Open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner, Thursday to Saturday for lunch.
Number One, The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street. Phone 0131 222 8888
Number one is the Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant which occupies the basement of the Balmoral, Edinburgh’s iconic hotel on Princes Street. The clubby restaurant has dark panelled walls, with many of the tables at cosy banquettes and natural light through below-street-level windows. The staff are extremely attentive (more of the excellent breads, water and topped up drinks come fast, and bordering on the furious, on my most recent visit). The set dinner menu costs £90 per person. My mille-fuielle of east coast crab was beautifully fresh, with white meat crammed into a delicate top and tail of thin pastry, surmounted by three perfect little quenelles of avocado mousse, and the accompanied by dainty but flavourful asparagus and softly boiled quail’s eggs. My main course was triumphant: confit fillet of beef came on an onion purée, and was topped with a Rossini-style chunk of seared foie gras. The minimalist support act was three delicate little cocotte potatoes, and a wonderfully deep Madeira reduction. A truly exemplary meal finished with a passion fruit soufflé that was fluffy yet dense, sweet yet sharp, and came with beautiful little slice of lime and coconut pie. Excellent chocolates and petit-fours were served with coffee. The wine list is expensive but really impressive, and by the glass choices starting under £12, leading onto the whole Oenotheque collection of vintage Dom Perignons topping out well into five figures. But it also includes good value wines in the £20s from all over the world. A terrific meal in one of Edinburghs very best restaurants. (2020). Lunch Wednesday to Friday, dinner all week. Around £250 for two if drinking modestly.
Martin Wishart, 54 The Shore. Phone 0131 553 3557
Martin Wishart’s Port of Leith restaurant has established itself in the capital’s dining firmament. With a Michelin star and “Best Restaurant in Scotland” award from the AA, the original small dining room has been expanded by knocking through to occupy the adjoining property. The large picture windows overlook the waterfront, and inside it is cool and chic, with starched white linen and well-polished silverware, creating a “proper”, yet casual atmosphere. The cooking here is refined and imaginative, blending classic modern French and European influences, often using fine local produce. My Périgord winter truffle risotto was topped with layers of aged Parmesan and came with a succulent roulade of pork cheek which was crusted with spiced breadcrumbs. Creamy, with quite earthy flavours, the risotto was perfect. My main course was a beautifully-roasted loin of venison, sliced over a bed of creamed Brussel sprouts and salsify, served with gnocchi and a rich sauce Grand Veneur. Three nicely conditioned cheeses served with home-made biscuits preceded dessert; a little tower of white chocolate and passion fruit mousses, served with an orange salad. Martin Wishart is serving food that’s as good as anything I’ve tasted in Edinburgh, whilst maintaining an enjoyably relaxed atmosphere. Highly recommended (2016). £90 for lunch, £180 for dinner.
Rhubarb, Prestonfield House, Priestfield Rd. Phone 0131 225 1333
Prestonfield House was a rather crumbling old pile, set in magnificent parkland just 10 minutes from the city centre. Now, hotelier James Thomson of the Witchery and Tower restaurants has spent millions refurbishing the hotel into a decadent, moody, lovers tryst-type hideaway with sumptuous rooms and fine dining restaurant called Rhubarb. The dining room is opulently furnished with fabric-covered walls, deep crimson and black colours and beautiful plasterwork picked out subtley in gold. The kitchen uses very good local ingredients, like my seared scallops which came on a grainy mustard sauce with a slick of olive-oily potato mash beneath. Main course fillet steak was one of the best I’ve had in a while: a superb piece of beef (Highland cattle roam the grounds, but surely not…). Dessert was also an absolute triumph I have to say: a crottin cheescake, which was a thickly-textured, creamy, baked cheescake tower with a real bite of goat’s cheese, served with a ring of just-poached plums that retained all their acidic bite to act as a counterfoil to the cheese, and drizzled with a sweetening sabayon. The wine list is already good, with reasonable mark-ups, but is being improved as cellars are refurbished. Whether you will dig Prestonfield House’s rather eccentric vision of romantic – so much velvet, brocade and tartan – is a personal thing, but the kitchen keeps things simple and very good (2018). Around £160 for dinner for two. Open every day for lunch and dinner.
Café St-Honoré, 34 North west Thistle St Lane. Phone 0131 226 2211
Though it is two minutes from Princes Street, finding this little restaurant in its quaint cobbled lane was a challenge: Thistle Street runs parallel to Princes St, and the lane lies between Frederick and Hanover Streets. From the lacy curtains and hanging baskets outside, to the cosy atmosphere and polished wood interior, this is every inch the fin de siècle Paris brasserie transported to auld reekie. The service is efficient, and the food is fancy, yet solid and well done: lots of fish and seafood (I had a salad of scallops with chorizo and smoked haddock), as well as salads and pâtés too, and heart-warming main dishes like succulent braised lamb shanks, breast of Barbary duck, or saddle of venison on a bed of red cabbage, all served with good sauces and potatoes dauphinois. Cheeses are good and prices are moderate. Not truly haute cuisine perhaps, but that’s not the point in chef Neil Forbes’ homage to fine, unpretentious good eating (2019). Closed Sundays except August. £110 for dinner.
A Room in Leith, 1a Dock Place, Leith EH6 6LU. Phone 0131 554 7427
The dockland of Leith has become home to a whole clutch of Michelin-starred restaurants run by big name chefs, but there are plenty of less exalted eating choices too. With a terrace right on the waterfront, A Room in Leith is part of a small chain of pubs and casual dining restaurants in Scotland’s capital, with a reputation for good, honest food. On a sunny evening we were offered a table in the conservatory-style dining room overlooking the water. I quickly settled on herb potato scones with slow cooked tomato, butterbean and roasted aubergine stew. This was a really delicious and soulful first course, the slow cooking of the stew giving a wonderfully mellow, rich sauce where the beans and gently smoky aubergine still had a little bite, extra layers of flavour coming from crispy brioche croutons and torn chunks of goat’s cheese from the island of Gigha. A fillet of North Sea haddock and four plump Shetland king scallops came battered with a crunchy tempura batter made from Black Isle Blonde Lager and served with outstandingly good chips, peas and home-made tartare sauce. As fish and chips and Sauvignon go well, a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon at £24.95 from a short but really nicely put-together list slipped down a treat before a dessert of seasonal strawberries and raspberries from Fife’s Blacketyside farm, served with clotted cream ice cream. (2013). Open seven days, lunch and dinner. Around £80 for two for dinner.
Harvey Nichols, St Andrew’s Square. Phone 0131 524 8388
The punnily-named “Forth Floor” restaurant is indeed on the fourth floor, and does indeed enjoy a spectacular panorama over Edinburgh, as far as the Forth estuary. Walk through the excellent food market, and into the pristine, bright and modern space for pristine, bright and modern food. I chose two starters rather than a conventional starter and main course, and no one batted an eyelid. A gazpacho with grilled goat’s cheese was fine: the gazpacho quite rough-textured and rustic, a disc of still chalky fresh cheese in the middle. I followed this with seared scallops on a bed of buttery polenta, served with a bitter endive and mixed leaf salad. Excellent espresso and chocolates rounded-off a very nice summer lunch, which had been washed down with Spice Route’s excellent Chenin Blanc from a globe-covering wine list (2016). Open for lunch every day, dinner Tue-Sat. £80 for lunch.
Valvona & Crolla, 19 Elm Row. Phone: 0131 556 6066
This is a must on the gourmet trail for any food and/or wine lover. V&C is a real Edinburgh institution and one Britain’s finest Italian delicatessens and wine merchants. Walk through the gorgeous aromas and visual feast of the delicatessen, cheese, bread and coffee sections to the wine shop. The light and airy, conservatory-style Café Bar is open from early morning for breakfast, and serves delicious and appetising dishes from an ever-changing menu throughout the day. The choice is succinct, but the emphasis is on fresh and vividly flavoured Italian classics made quality ingredients. Start with a selection of speciality breads served with little bowls of fine olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. My dish of an aubergine, mozzarella and herb escalope dipped in breadcrumbs and fried in olive oil was served with a selection of unusual salad leaves and salsa. Regular favourites include speciality omelettes and a range of wood-fired pizzas. There are some luxury dishes too like fresh truffle pasta or grilled seafood plates. Desserts are delicious – the bitter chocolate tart was light and packed with flavour. The wine features a dozen or so bottles, but a great bonus is that you may also purchase any bottle from the shop and have it served for a token corkage charge (could you be tempted by a double magnum of 1982 Gaja Barbaresco at £2,000?). Excellent casual dining (2016). £50 for lunch, Open Monday-Saturday 8.00am until 5.00pm
Champany Inn, Linlithgow, nr Edinburgh. Phone 01506 834532
This restaurant with rooms is just 20 minutes from Edinburgh, and is something of an institution amongst seafood and, especially, steak-lovers. The very comfortable bedooms include a substantial breakfast. Champany’s dining room is beautiful, if very traditional in character. The drama normally begins in the bar, where a saltwater pool contains live oysters and Lobster straight from the Western Isles, however a problem with the system meant this showpiece was empty on my visit, though there was still plenty of fresh seafood and shellfish on the menu. But it is steak that is Champany’s glory. Bring your wallet, as it will run to around £40 with vegetables being charged extra, so Champany is not going to be a cheap night out. But on my most recent visit it was exceptionally good, tender and juicy, with the in-house butchery dry-curing the meat for extra time and marinading in a secret blend of herbs and spices. Staff remain excellent, the wine list and service superb, and the occasion still feels special in one of Scotland’s genuine institutions (2017). Closed Sunday, dinner only Saturday. £150 for dinner. Note, Champany also offers the more casual “Chop and Ale House” with considerably lower prices, and has a fine on-site wine shop too.
Moonfish Café, Aberdeen. 9 Correction Wynd, AB10 1HP. Phone: 01224 644166
Moonfish is immediately reassuring, packed with regulars enjoying good food in a casual and relaxed environment, where chatty staff balanced terrific attention to detail with a friendly lack of pretention. The dining room seats around 30 at simple wooden tables, with a seasonally changing display of paintings from local artists around the walls. One unusual feature is the 20-strong gin list. After a really nice amuse bouche of spiced smoked haddock with a herby salad, I kicked off with beef shoulder with carrot, gherkin and coriander. What arrived was a pavé, or a sort of squared-off croquette, of melting slow-braised beef inside a thin breadcrumb case, ringed by fascinating textures of caramelised slices of carrot, strips of pungently sweet and pickled gherkin and plenty of aromatic herbs. My main course was, like the starter, utterly inventive: a lovely plump piece of roasted halibut sat on a mound of earthy mushroom duxelles, the only other thing on the plate a mound of the most delicious cooked wild mushroom, fresh peas, and heaps of tarragon and dill. This was a truly original dish, not formulaic in the way of so much ‘fine dining’, and crammed with flavour. Pudding was perhaps the highlight of the entire meal: billed as ‘Pear, rosemary, peanut, cream cheese’, it was essentially a deconsructed cheescake, miniature pears poached and served with luscious little piped peaks of the creamy cheese and smooth peanut caramel, swirled with a rosemary-infused sauce. The wine list is short and I feel a little dumbed down since my first visit, but still a very good meal. (2020). £36 per person for three courses. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Café Bohème, 23 Windmill Brae, Aberdeen AB11 6HU. Phone: 01224 210677
A fairly large bar and restuarant in a tradtional, welcoming and rustic style with plenty of candles and an open fire adding to the atmosphere. It’s French bistro food and on the evidence of my visit, a refined version and extremely well done. A classics like French onion soup was thick and delicious, with brioche toast and Comté, an unexpected little tranche of braised ox cheek a surprise and delight. Boeuf Bourguignon was also really well done, falling apart under the threat of a fork, the sauce thick and unctuous and the accompanying mash creamy and silky. It’s comfort food with an haute-cuisine twist, and the wine list is pretty good too – mostly French, but spanning Savois, Corsica and Beaujolais (2019). Open 7 days for lunch and dinner, from £20 for a two-course lunch to around £50 per head a la carte for dinner.
The Black-Faced Sheep, Aboyne, Deeside. Phone: 01339 887311
Tucked just off the main road, this is a combined high quality gift and craft shop, delicatessen and wonderful coffee-shop. Large pots of various teas and cafétieres of freshly brewed, really great coffee accompany magnificent home baked breads and cakes (the old fashioned lemon sponge cake!), local smoked chicken, salmon, venison and cheeses, hearty soups, etc., etc. Lovely touches like home made potato crisps with the salad are a delight. Recently overheard when a customer came in for one of their special walnut loaves: “oh sorry, they’re sold out. Canyou come back in a couple of hours? I’ll bake one for you”…… (2019). £15 for lunch. Open every day until 5.00 p.m. No alcohol served.
St Andrews: The Adamson, 127 South Street. Phone: 01334 479191
The Adamson wouldn’t look out of place in a smart quarter of Edinburgh, London or any other major city. Chic and contemporary, a bustling open kitchen at one end and cocktail bar at the other anchor a long, narrow space, with exposed brick, mirrors and large-scale art works. The considerable big brand experience of co-proprietor Julie Lewis shows: her management career was founded in chains like TGI Fridays. We settled in with glasses of the stylish Brut 1er Cru Champagne from Forget-Brimont, nibbling on slices of a mini loaf served with deliciously salty and briney olive tapenade. Crispy calamari was very good, the tempura batter feather-light, and the serving simplicity itself with pomegranate seeds, segments of satsuma and a sprinkling of watercress. My main course was a blip: roasted cod with creamed potatoes, pancetta, mushroom and a red wine sauce. The plate that arrived was mountainous, the very loose potato purée and red wine sauce forming a gloopy pool, and the piece of well-cooked cod entirely swamped. After the light touch of my starter, this dish was clumsy and perplexing. Thankfully dessert – the simple sounding ‘apple trifle’ – transpired to be a wonderful play of flavours, textures and, crucially, temperatures, warm apple compote over an icy vanilla sorbet, topped with silky vanilla custard and a buttery-rich nut crumble. Note: this review dates from 2014. Late in 2015 chef Scott Davies left to take over the reins at The Three Chimneys. An unplanned return for a casual lunch in 2018 was OK, but not of the same standard. £100 for dinner. Open seven days for lunch and dinner.
St Andrews: The Grange Inn, Grange Road, KY16 8LJ. Phone: 01334 472670
Right on the on the edge of the town, but with a rural feel and fabulous views to the coast, this old farmhouse inn is one of my local favourite spots. Chef/proprietor John Kelly serves really very modern, beautifully presented and always tasty food, with great attention to detail including deliciously moreish home made bread and always a little amuse bouche even on their value lunch menu. Food is nodding towards ‘fine dining’ for sure, while also aiming for a certain simplicity – the main ingredient, perhaps slow-braised blade of beef, or pan-seared hake, always takes centre stage, though everything else makes for a very carefully-chosen chorus line. Recently, a roulade of guinea fowl was wrapped in Parma ham, stuffed with pistachio and apricot, was served with tasteful amounts of crushed turnip, butternut squash, smoked apple puree and skirlie potatoes (mixed with oatmeal and onion). Desserts are always delicious, like a bittersweet dark chocolate torte, infused with Talisker and served with winter fruits. The wine list is modest, and a personal gripe, glassware could be finer, but for warmth, hospitality and terrific food it is a winner every time (2020). Closed Sunday and Monday, open lunch and dinner Tuesday – Saturday. Lunch £25 for three courses, £50 at dinner.
Anstruther: The Cellar, 24 East Green KY10 3AA. Phone: 01333 310378
I’ve eaten in this small restaurant several times since it opened in 2016, chef/proprietor Billy Boyter coming from the Michelin-starred Number One in Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel. It took Boyter less than a year to gain his own star for The Cellar, which is quite an achievement. Tucked away behind the shore-front parade of shops and fish and chip restaurants in the harbour town of Anstruther, it’s an atmospheric space in dark hues, an old cooperage from the days of the Herring fishing industry, with fewer than a dozen tables. Cuisine is modern Scottish/British, but reflects the heritage of the town with local fish and seafood, and foraged seaweeds and edible plants, part of many dishes. A fine example is a recent starter dish of local crab, peppered dulce (a seaweed) and squid, sharpened by slivers of Granny Smith, and a lovely playground of texture and flavour, from salty umami to sweet. Pigeon was served with a lovely celeriac purée/mash, nibs of roasted hazelnut and an intriguing yeast emulsion, deeply flavoured and enhancing the sweet flesh of the bird. Dinner is a tasting menu with a couple of options at each course for £70, and lunch follows a similar format over five courses for £40. The wine list is improving all the time, and food gets better and better (2019). Open Wednesday to Sunday for dinner, Thursday to Sunday for lunch (Friday to Sunday in winter).
St Monans: Craig Millar @ No 16 West End KY10 2BX. Phone: 01333 730 327
Craig Millar spent 13 years at the Seafood Restaurants in St Andrews and St Monans in Fife. Now, he has his own name above the door in this chic restaurant that befits both his modern cooking and its glorious shoreline setting. Sitting alongside the harbour of this romantic and unspoiled East Neuk fishing village, there are uninterrupted views across the Firth of Forth from both the outdoor terrace and dining room with its wall of windows. The emphasis is on simple, fresh but beautifully detailed fish and seafood. My starter of a hot-smoked trout salad was just delicious, with little cubes of beetroot and slivers of glazed citrus fruits adding lots of energy to the dish. My partner’s crab and pickled mackerel Caesar salad was fantastic too, and a fine, local spin on a classic dish. But my main course moved things on to another level: a beautiful, alabaster white tranche of North Sea halibut was so perfectly cooked, just crusting and golden on the outside, but losing none of its flaking, moist fleshy texture. A ‘bon bon’ of potato and spring onion was playful and delicious (a posh croquette) but it was the wonderfully flavourful sauce, a fresh pea cream, sweet carrot cream and little mound of Chantenay carrots and pea shoots that added a summery and delicious twist. With no space for dessert, instead we had excellent coffees with a plate of homemade pistachio biscotti and lemon fudge. The food is exemplary and the setting beautiful, and what’s more, Craig and Sommelier James have made a real effort to put a lovely wine list together too. Menus include an inexpensive set three-course lunch, with more extensive menus in the evening. (2019). Around £150 for two for dinner. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
St Monans: East Pier Smokehouse, East Shore KY10 2AR. Phone: 01333 405030
Lucky St Monans, for a stroll around the harbour from Craig Millar’s is this seasonal (roughly Easter to Septmeber) smokehouse and bustling restaurant of the highest quality, set right on the harbour walls. The day’s specials are chalked up, many using local fish and seafood of course, but staples included fabulous alder-smoked tempura prawns, served with an Asian dipping sauce and salad, and your choice of really good potato salad or excellent chips. In-house made crab cakes, fish curries or whole smoked seabass are other regulars, and there’s a fine selection of tempting whole cakes to be sliced as required and very good coffee. The wine list is pretty good too for such a place, we often enjoy a very good Albariño or ‘splash out’ on Chablis, all well under £30 a bottle. There are three dining spaces: interior upstairs from the kitchen and smokery, a terrace to the side, and a roof terrace. It’s a casual and usually crowded place where you take your chances on a table, but it’s worth the queue if needed (2019). Open seasonally into early evening closed Monday and Tuesday. Around £70 for two for a main course, cake and wine.
Pittenweem: The Dory Bistro, 15 East Shore KY10 2NH. Phone: 01333 311222
A couple of miles along the coast in another of the East Neuk of Fife’s lovely fishing villages, the Dory is a very welcome recent addition, with its art gallery but very fine bistro that is delivering terrific food at very moderate prices thanks to chef Forbes McIntosh. Bright and airy, it of course majors on fish and seafood as Pittenweem boasts one of the largest fishing fleets in the region. Lobster, langoustine and crab are regular features of the menu, landed about 40 metres from the restaurant’s front door, but a recent dish of roast pheasant was also a highlight, complete with a beautifully rich jus, game chips, and all the trimmings and unbeleivable value at £12.95. The wine list is short and efficient, the cakes and coffee are also very good, and the welcome warm (2019). Around £80 for lunch for two, including wine. Opening hours TBC
Newport: The Newport, 1 High Street DD6 8AB. Phone: 01382 541449
I had previously praised the obvious skills of chef Jamie Scott, Masterchef the Professionals winner, whilst bemoaning the stifling effect his win seemed to have on him and his offering at the Rocca restaurant in St Andrews. Well, less than a year later he had moved on and set up on his own in the waterside village of Newport in spring 2016. I’ve eaten here several times now and it is outstandingly good. The contrast with Rocca really could not be greater: classic cuisine, silver cloches and starched white linen have been replaced by a casual café ambiance and triumphant contemporary cooking. A tapas style menu of sharing plates glitters with amazing flavour, but there’s also more structured but no more formal tasting menus too. All guarantee a stunning array of inventive, surprising but above all delicious small plates, most celebrating the bounty of the Fife land and coastline, like a brilliantly fresh salad of St Monan’s crab, coriander, avocado and sea herbs, or Muir of Ord beef, seared and succulent, served with salsify, bone marrow and pickled spring onions. Other highlights included Scrabster red mullet, a most delicate fish surrounded by strong but sympathetic flavours including courgette, red pepper and basil. The first of two desserts was the best, a clever dome which layered goat’s milk panacotta and a strawberry jelly, with a fabulously tasty salad of pine berries and Douglas fir. Really, it was a procession of exquisite ingredients, cooking and, ultimately, flavours, created with inventive flair but consumate classical technique. Bravo, for a bold move away from the corporate and to something much more authentic, much more from the heart, and, in the end, much better. The wine list is good, carefully sourced including organic and natural wines, with modest mark-ups (2020). Two will dine at lunch, with a good bottle of wine, for £90 or so, a bit more in the evening.
near Cupar: The Peat Inn, Peat Inn KY15 5LH. Phone: 01334 840206
Chef/proprietor of the Peat Inn is the vastly experienced Geoffrey Smeddle who took on the heavy mantle of following much-loved former owner David Wilson. Wilson had built the Peat Inn’s reputation to dizzying heights over decades. Smeddle has worked a minor miracle however, not only in retaining all the comfortable charm of the Peat Inn but in tastefully modernising the restaurant and rooms, whilst doing the same with the cuisine – to such an extent that Michelin awarded a star in 2010. Whilst Smeddle hasn’t done too much to scare the regulars, there’s an edge of precision and modernity to the food now that builds beautifully on David Wilson’s concept of local produce, sourced according to its season. After a lovely little cup of white onion soup as an amuse bouche, my starter of a Spring pea velouté with seared scallops was both delicious and extremely delicate. The scallops sat on a little mound of crushed peas given crunch, smokiness and depth with some fried pancetta, with the soup poured on top. For my main course, roast loin and daube of pork came with two crumbly little discs of black pudding, and a comfort-food bed of puy lentils and greens braised in Madeira. The loin of Pork was sliced into moist, moreish slivers, and the whole composition of the dish was beautifully balanced. Pudding was a little masterpiece too I must say, a pavé of Amedei chocolate with marinated cherries and almond ice cream. The glossy, unctuous pavée was as bittersweet as you like, and the cherries, full of flavour, were luxurious when taken with a mouthful of the ice cream. Coffee and home-made chocolates (fresh mint flavoured was my favourite) rounded off a brilliant meal. The wine list, always one of the best in Britain, may not be what it once was, but still has plenty to delight, with mature bottles of great crus at reasonable prices. David Wilson’s legacy is in very safe hands. The set lunch at £25 is an astonishing bargain full of quality ingredients, but settling in for an à la carte dinner or the Peat Inn’s tasting menu before retiring to one of their comfortable rooms is the ultimate treat. (2019). £80 for Lunch for two, £170 for dinner. Closed Sunday & Monday. Suites from £185 per night.
Kilconquhar: Kinneuchar Inn, Main Street KY9 1LF. Phone: 01333 340 377
Causing quite a stir when this 17th-century pub reopened with a fine dining option, thanks to chef James Ferguson, ex-Rochelle Canteen, the small 32-seat restaurant soon filled its bookings diary for months ahead. The first thing I have to say is that the space is slightly odd: we walked in to an ‘American Werewolf in London’ sudden silence from the mostly full dining room, forks hovering at mouths, the other diners in freeze frame with heads swiveled towards us. You can’t blame the place for that, but the square white room with a slightly clinical atmosphere didn’t help. Food, however, was excellent, service friendly, and the wine list interesting, much of it sourced from London restaurant St-John’s wine merchant arm. A blackboard has all the days specials, with some properly good ingredients, lots of fish from local East Coast waters, and a fair chunk of ‘nose to tail’ options including ox hear and hogget on my visit, but it’s a menu driven by local seasonal availability. The food was excellent, the wine list short but with lots of interest emphasising ‘artisan’ producers and organics, and I look forward to a return visit with perhaps a slightly warmer atmosphere (2020). Closed Monday and Tuesday, dinner only Wednesday, lunch and dinner Thu – Saturday, and lunch only Sunday. Around £150 for two a la carte.
Auchterader: Andrew Fairlie, Gleneagles Hotel PH3 1NF. Phone: 01764 694 267
Sadly, Andrew Fairlie passed away in 2019, but the restaurant continues with its highly experienced team fron and back of house. I have not eaten there since, and this review dates from 2016. Over a decade ago I reviewed the renowned French Laundry in California for Wine Magazine. I titled my review “The Meal That Changed Everything,” the experience having been so profound in terms of flavour, inventiveness and brilliant execution that I wondered if anything would ever surpass it. Andrew May not have done so, but he’s run it damned close. Stepping through the door into the wonderfully indulgent but warm and inviting dining room, the smiling, welcoming staff showed us to our table in a room where the décor successfully marries plush and business-like with modern and intimate. Sipping on the excellent, rich and full Edouard Brun Champagne we quickly decided on the Tasting Menu, containing many of Fairlie’s ‘signature’ dishes. Highlights of the starters amongst the eight courses were a Ballotine of Foie Gras with Rhubarb Purée that was wonderfully delicate in its balance (rhubarb can be a touch too astringent) and played with texture as well as flavour with little croquettes of creamily melted Foie Gras in the mix. Next up, a sensational dish of Roasted Hand-dived Scallops, Seabass and Oyster parfait. As always with such quality fresh fish the secret and success was in the lightness of hand with the cooking, but then the subtle inventiveness of this dish propelled it skyward: not only were the beautiful flavours of the Scallops and Seabass distinct and clear, but again texture played its part, including a wafer-thin Squid ‘cracker’ and the warm, yielding oyster parfait. Smoked Scottish Lobster with a Warm Lime and Herb Butter was real soul food too: the meat beautifully succulent, presumably roasted, and piled into the shell with the fragrant and light emulsion of the sauce. The delights of this meal just kept on coming, with Roast Breast of Gartmorn Farm Duck, served with a sweetly caressing cauliflower cream, a clever cheese course of a creamy mousse of Grand Jura Suisse cheese with a mushroom ‘ketchup’ and, finally, a thankfully light end to the meal: a Peach and Elderflower soufflé, the elderflowers picked from the pastry chef’s garden, gossamer light with an apricot sorbet barely adding a micron of weight. Modern Scotland is blessed with some superbly talented chefs running great restaurants, but Andrew Fairlie and his team just ratchet up every aspect. I chose a bottle of Ken Forrester’s FMC Chenin and one of a Saumur Champigny from Château du Hureau for four of us to drink throughout the meal, but when asked, the young team of sommeliers suggested wines (Jurançon with Foie Gras and an Auslese Riesling from von Buhl in the Pfalz with dessert) that were outstandingly good. Andrew Fairlie has certainly changed the game north of the border and what’s more, has done it with a total lack of pretention. Just fabulous. (2016). Tasting menu £125, other menus from £95. Dinner only, Monday – Saturday. (2015)
Port of Menteith: The Lake Hotel FK8 3RA. Phone: 01877 385258
A long-time favourite of mine for its magnificent setting, the Lake Hotel is a much extended and modernised old Scottish house, that stands gloriously on the shore of the lake, spectacularly framed by the snow-capped hills and mountains of the Trossachs national park. It is less than an hour from Glasgow or Edinburgh, and not far from the historic town of Stirling. The large conservatory dining room that runs the full shore-side length of the building is one of the most enchanting in Britain. In truth, the hotel was beginning to look rather tired and shabby in some public areas over recent years, so the news that new management had taken it over was welcome. There is sign of investment in the fabric of the building, with a new bar area that has been given a ‘New England feel’, which for me sits slightly at odds with a Scottish Highland setting. The menus have been totally revamped, with a much simplified lunch menu of inexpensive favourites, but based on prime local ingredients. For lunch my herb gnocchi with local asparagus, fresh peas, spinach and a rich creamy marscapone sauce was just delicious – aand substantial. The evening menu is rather more haute-cuisine, though still with a traditional feel: rack of new season Shetland lamb with casserole of summer beans and rosemary, or French market Guinea fowl with lime for example. Service is polite and friendly, and prices reasonable with lunch at around £25 for three courses, dinner at £35 or so. (2016)