Let’s get the (only serious) negative out of the way first.
From the moment we ordered the Orecchiette pasta with broccoli, roasted fennel, chilli flakes, parmesan shavings we knew that it was for research purposes only, not for our enjoyment…
The waitress/maitre d’/co-owner probably knew it herself and asked us perplexed if we really wanted this dish. Yes we do, we replied stoically.
We shall be honest: from the point of view of an Italian, it was the stuff nightmares are made of: tragically overcooked orecchiette swimming in bucketloads of murderous cream. But we are open minded and understand that this is a recipe aimed at the local taste; and who are we to say that their tastes are wrong and ours are right? Anyway, research done, got the t-shirt, let’s stay friends, cream + overcooking for you Scots and al dente + fresh olive oil + chilly + garlic for us :)
Apart from that, it was a nice lunch at this lovely little restaurant, with an old-modern, rustic-elegant feel,
husband behind the stoves doing Scottish cooking with an Italian influence after a stint at a Valvona and Crolla restaurant, wife charmingly in charge of the front room (one day we shall talk about V&C, by the way, and not to their pleasure). Dishes at lunch are simpler, while at dinner (which we want to try) there’s more fireworks going on, or so we are told.
The two starters were simple but very accomplished and such a contrast with the similar fare we recently had at Morgan Arms in London.
The one above is Perthshire hare rillettes with pickled vegetables and crostini. The rillettes (similar to pate’) had just the right texture, the seasoning was spot on, the salad fresh and delicious and full of little touches showing a light, clever hand. The one below is Potted freshwater crayfish with toasted home-made granary bread, and the commentss are just the same really, very pleasant, clear flavours, the tarragon in the tightly packed crayfish very well judged. The quality here nears that of Drover’s Inn.
You’ve already seen one of our mains (the research orecchiette), the other came as a liberation:
It was a Perthshire venison casserole with thyme roasted potatoes, satisfyingly gamey, a touch dry but rescued by an abundant and very well made gastrique sauce.
We are definitely going for desserts:
A Nougatine semifreddo with poached pear, hot chocolate sauce
But a Rhubarb and custard crumble pie with caramel ice-cream
while certainly not disappointing in taste had a very tame rhubarb and the crumble was soft rather than crumbly. The ice cream was good but it showed great restraint with sugar levels: good for our diet we suppose.
The coffees can improve. Still, better than at the 1* Petrus…
In summary, there were enough good things in this lunch to make us want to return for dinner. This looks like one of those places where you cannot just choose at random and be happy: you have to pick the right dishes to build a great meal. And we as Italians have to tread particularly carefully given the Italian influence of this cuisine… Service was smiling, informative, super really, also by the helping waitress, and prices were kind: £90 for three courses plus coffee for two people, including a £38 critically much appreciated New World Pinot Noir at about 100% mark up (nice but very sweetly spiced, very ripe, we thought: but what do we know) [CORRECTION added 11/03/12: we meant 'about 100%' as a praise since we are used to the 200%-300% Edinburgh/London mark ups, but the restaurateur advises us that we have grossly overestimated].