> TASTE TEST
The Scottish Café and Restaurant All dishes taken from the menu of the Scottish Café and Restaurant at the National Gallery
SIDE DISHES News to nibble on
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Porridge with berries and heather honey Porridge needn’t be wallpaper paste served as punishment. Salt should be included judiciously when cooking (as with bread), but John Knox doesn’t birl in his grave if you put sugar on it – though berries and honey are probably nicer. The SCR uses jersey milk from Bridge of Allan-based Graham’s Dairy, the largest and most successful family dairy in Scotland, and the porridge is nutty, creamy and warming.
Aberdeen butterie with preserve and butter Croissants and pastries are the ubiquitous offering of the once sophisticated but now discredited ‘continental’ breakfast. At SCR the only pastry on offer is a butterie, made on the premises but not to a strictly traditional recipe in that butter rather than lard is used. A butterie has a thicker, tougher, golden crust, and isn’t as light as a croissant, but it is chewy, rich and dunkable. Butterie bruschetta with pan- fried spinach, crowdie, Lanark Blue and a watercress, pear and walnut salad The butterie takes on the role of bruschetta topped with spinach and melted cheese. It’s certainly not traditional, but the essential ingredients form a fairly classic combination with tangy greens, sweet pear and piquant cheese. The harshest accusation you can make is that the dish is just a little more decadent than it needs to be.
Heritage potato dumplings, smoked streaky bacon, Savoy cabbage and roast almonds After the bruschetta, the menu studiously avoids Italian terms. Potato dumplings are, of course, gnocchi, but they’re made with local potatoes so it’s hardly devious. The dish is actually a local version of one served at Centotre with pancetta and olive oil: bacon and rapeseed oil substitute in easily and it’s a good advertisement for the fresh, simple food advocated by the restaurant.
Apple and quince crumble with hot toddy sauce Served in one of Anta’s oak-leaf patterned bowls with a whisky cream sauce, though even the word ‘whisky’ is avoided on the menu lest it seem too predictable. The apple is slightly more saucy than chunky, and the crumble is, a little disappointingly, simply broken up shortbread. It is shortbread made in house, and it’s a handy shortcut at home, but not so redolent of the care and attention given to other dishes. Dundee cake Gallery cafés are obliged to offer coffee and cake to foot-sore culture vultures. While our expectations have been battered into submission by years of dried-out cellophane-wrapped versions, Dundee cake is a doughty standard in the Scottish baking oeuvre, dark from muscovado sugar and flavoured with ground almonds and sultanas. Moist and rich but not too heavy, you could manage another dozen Raeburns on this.
Pete Irvine Author of Scotland the Best
My whole food regime is changing having spent the summer eating my way around the bakers, fish and chip shops, bistros and fine dining restaurants of Scotland. A lot of people think this must be fantastic, but there’s something unnatural about it, there are so many places to cover. Breakfasts are tricky. The great Scottish breakfast is not what I want at all
because I’ve got a day of snacking ahead. What I want is a really good, homemade muesli or granola. You don’t get it that often.
My usual thing during the day when I do the book is that I sample things . . . I don’t finish things and I know that’s really wasteful but I’d rather waste food than waste myself. At least I get a lot of exercise while I'm researching.
I tend to keep continental hours so I never eat before 8.30pm which means that I’m often last orders in the kitchen, but I’ve had to cover three dozen places before I get there. There are occasions when I eat two dinners – there are about eight great restaurants in Fife and I ate in all of them in about three days. ■ The 10th edition of Pete Irvine’s guide book Scotland The Best is published on St Andrew’s Day, Mon 30 Nov 2009, priced £14.99.
P H O T O S :
S H A N N O N T O F T S
■ THE MASSIVE renovation of the former Royal Scottish Automobile Club on Blythswood Square in Glasgow is reaching completion with the opening of the first batch of rooms and the hotel’s 120-seater restaurant and cocktail bar. Executive head chef Daniel Hall has come from the Pool House Hotel in Wester Ross, and promises up-scale food with ‘one foot in the past and one foot in the future’. 0141 208 2458, www.blythswoodsquare.com ■ L’ESCARGOT BLEU, List Newcomer of the Year in this year’s Eating & Drinking Guide Awards, has opened an epicerie in the basement beneath the restaurant, selling French cheese, wine, terrines and cookware, along with fresh Au Gourmand bread and take-home- and-heat ready meals cooked in on- site kitchens. L’Escargot Bleu is at 56a Broughton Street, 0131 556 1680.
■ OTHER NEW arrivals around Edinburgh include Moo Cafeteria on Brandon Terrace at Canonmills, the Westroom on Melville Place, a new bar from the team behind sygn and Monteiths, and new evening opening hours (til 10pm Tue–Fri) at the Globe Deli on Henderson Row. Through in Glasgow there’s a new branch of Tinderbox on the top floor of Princes Square and a big new Italian, Mediterraneo, on Ingram Street.
■ EDINBURGH restaurant 21212, opened by Paul Kitching (pictured) and Katie O’Brien in May this year in a townhouse on Royal Terrace, has picked up the UK’s Best New Restaurant Award at the National Restaurant Awards 2009 run by Restaurant Magazine. The Kitchin in Leith ranked eighth in the overall list of the UK’s top 100 restaurants published as part of the Awards. www.top100restaurants.co.uk www.21212restaurant.co.uk 5–19 Nov 2009 THE LIST 11