31 October 2014

Review: The Peat Inn, Fife

I LIKE TO keep a mental league table of Michelin-starred restaurants, and despite it being a few years since my last visit to The Peat Inn, that particular meal sees the restaurant installed near the summit.  This visit had a lot to live up to...

It was my birthday and The Peat Inn offers a restaurant with rooms, so Sarah treated us both to a night in my beloved East Neuk. The suite was homely, well equipped and spotlessly clean, with calming views of a well-kept garden and the rolling Fife countryside.  On the lower level, the large, rather comfortable bed seemed ideal for retiring to, while the top floor offered a chilled out living space to relax beforehand.

We are warmly welcomed by manager Ian MacRae, who recently collected a gong at the AA awards for his outstanding wine list.  As Ian settles us in by the open hearth, you feel this is the ideal place to spend an autumn evening, and we begin deliberating over a menu that offers a real smörgåsbord of seasonal delights.
 
Opting for the a la carte menu (tasting menu and a very favourably priced daily menu are also available), my first course was crisp basil langoustines with marinated scallops, black sesame, avocado wasabi puree and coriander (£17). The langos were fried in what seemed like a stain glass-style pasta casing: wonderfully crisp outside, with a visible and pleasant herby note complimenting the meaty, soft langoustine. I didn’t get much heat from the wasabi in the avocado puree, but the scallops were to die for, and the mango served a fruity note to this light starter.

Sarah began with St. Andrew’s bay lobster with seaweed butter sauce (£19) and what a triumph it was.  The seaweed component brought a saltiness that enhanced the rich, tender crustacean.  The real beauty in this dish lies with its simplicity, and that requires a cook with equal measures of confidence and ability.

Our next course comprised of young calamari stuffed with spiced pork with smoked aubergine puree, fennel and crisp pancetta (£16 as a starter). Every now and again, you encounter dishes that you toy with ordering, but succumb to the options featuring the more Rolls Royce-type ingredients. Yet, if you were to try them, you always end up upset that you didn’t have the bollocks to go with that initial instinct; this was one of those.  Beautifully presented, the tender calamari housed flavoursome pig with an aniseed layer from the fennel that elevated it to heavenly status.  Smoked aubergine brought another layer of flavour and texture, but the real star was the zing of apple from the marinated kohlrabi.
 
I don’t recall a time where I had to ask for “a few more minutes” to make my choice, but when you’re tasked with choosing from (and this was my shortlist) roast loin and confit shoulder of mutton, creamed Swiss chard, truffled potato beignets and bay leaf jus (£25), wild Cairngorm venison with savoyarde potato, brassicas, savoury granola, venison haggis and juniper jus (£25) and wild halibut, glazed Jerusalem artichokes, trompette mushroom, creamed onion and lobster croquette with champagne veloute (£26), what the hell are you meant to do?

Anyhow, I went for the mutton, which was simply sublime.  Both meat elements burst with flavour and were cooked with the respect the contrasting cuts deserved.  I loved the little pomme dauphine-like potato beignets. However, the star was the creamy, cheesy (I suspect local Anster cheese) garnish with the chard.  Delicious.

Sarah ordered Scottish grouse, cocotte potatoes, Savoy cabbage and bacon, with damson jam and madeira jus, which was the most expensive dish on the menu at £30. It was well worth it.  Struggling to polish off the rather butch portion, I was more than happy to tuck in.  The breasts were supple, and boasted a rich gaminess that reminds me why I love this season.  I particularly enjoyed the black pudding that came with this dish, especially with the tartness from the damson jam.  Made from the hearts of the birds, this was a fine demonstration in how to utilise the whole of the animal.

For the third and final course, I chose iced honey parfait, Bunnahabhain ice cream, damson mousse and toasted oats (£9.50). Very Scottish-themed dessert this, and a decent one too. Technically faultless, but the nuttiness from the oats on the outside overpowered the subtle hint of honey in the parfait. The whisky ice cream had a bit more of a robust flavour to it, and worked superbly with the rest of the dish. The little tuille biscuits were most notable. I ate this in about three minutes, as obviously I had to have my share of Sarah’s hot banana and passion fruit soufflé with Pina Colada sorbet and rum and raisin madeleines (£9.50).

The behemoth of a soufflé was light, and executed in the fashion you’d expect from a Michelin-starred kitchen. The sorbet was perfect and offered a cold contrast to the soufflé, with the delicious little cakes almost acting as an impromptu petit four. Fun dish that.

Staying at The Peat Inn brought a sense of ceremony to the meal that you just wouldn’t get from a 'normal' visit.  While the relaxed country atmosphere will always provide me with fond memories, it’s also very competitively priced for a Michelin restaurant.  Smeddle’s expertise at fusing modern cooking with classic influences and fine seasonal produce leaves me in no doubt a visit will finish highly on your league tables too.


*The restaurant is undergoing a renovation In January, and will be shut for the entire month.  Owner Geoffrey Smeddle took the time to talk me through his plans: “The restaurant will gain a more spacious bar area, a few more tables, and overall an increased sense of luxury, elegance and comfort, while still reflecting the heritage of the building and the rural setting.”

Phone: 01334 840 306
Peat Inn on UrbanspoonEmail: Stay@thepeatinn.co.uk

Opening hours: Tues-Sat 
Lunch 12:30 -13:30
Dinner 19:00 - 21:00

17 October 2014

Review: Burger Meats Bun, Edinburgh

FOLLOWING A RECOMMENDATION from a Michelin-starred chef, there was considerable expectation burdened on the shoulders of Edinburgh’s latest burger joint, Burger Meats Bun. As a graduate of Hamburger University (yes, go on, laugh) I reckon I’m suitably qualified to assess their credentials.

We had actually visited BMB a few of weeks earlier, and were impressed by their sincere customer service following a slight mix up with Sarah’s order. I firmly believe a mistake should only be judged by the manner in which it is rectified, and the apologetic team more than atoned for that error.
Anyway, that was a different visit, long before the sky began getting dark at 7:30 p.m.

Co-owner Ben would escort us through the BMB experience this evening, and he welcomed us in. The restaurant sits on Forth Street, just off Broughton Street, with the original branch located in Glasgow city centre. Besides the fact that the restaurant is at full seating capacity on a mid-month Wednesday night, the first thing I pick up on is the attention to detail in the BMB menu: provenance of produce, top suppliers (Gartmore Farm and George Mewes Cheeses), seasonal specials, quirky cocktails, and a rotating range of craft beers. I also rather like their branding and menu format.

So, how would the food measure up? First off, I delved into a tub of honey and chipotle chicken wings (£5.50), the evening’s special, and special they were. The tender bites of chicken, oozing with a sweet and slightly spicy glaze were rather moreish, and they tempted you to try the other menu offerings too.

I opted for the seasonal burger, which came in the form of a venison patty, haggis, pickled beetroot, Bonnet goats’ cheese, bramble jam with kohlrabi and remoulade, priced at £9.50. Now, I have two main gripes when it comes to burgers: 1) I hate it when the patty doesn’t sit proportionately on the bun and 2) when the bun disintegrates half way through eating.  Don’t expect any of those issues at BMB; the robust, yet soft, brioche bun was a perfect foil for the venison patty, which was a healthy size in itself.

The beautiful scent of the deer tantalised my taste buds Ainsley Harriott-style as it found its way into my mouth.  The beetroot and kohlrabi illustrates that this is a chef aware of seasonal produce, and the earthy, zingy notes married with the venison as if nature intended. I particularly enjoyed the tang from the Bonnet, and the way it acted as an impromptu cheesy sauce in the process.

Sarah ordered the “Hot Chic” chicken burger (£8.50), which consisted of a crispy breast, Toma Ranschera cheese, and chipotle sauce (she omitted the mayo).  The chef nailed the cooking of the crispy breast, ensuring it was impressively moist inside.  While she enjoyed the chipotle sauce, she would have liked a bit more of a kick from it.  We shared some cheesy fries (£2.50) and the house salad, priced at £3. The chips were crisp with a fluffy interior and covered with what I suspected was Barwhey’s cheddar.  The salad was a fresh and crunchy offering, coated in a superb lemon dressing that was a complete triumph.

We chatted with Ben throughout, and were surprised to learn that the aforementioned Michelin-star chef (Geoffrey Smeddle from The Peat Inn) was a previous employer of both him and chef/business partner James. I had actually just mentioned to Sarah that the little touches like her butternut squash cocktail and quality ingredients could separate BMB from being just a burger house – learning of the owners’ background explained a lot.

For dessert we split the donuts with dipping sauce (£4.50), with today’s offering being strawberry and black pepper.  The donuts were good, but the sauce was so delicious (and I was so full) I ended up just sticking my finger in and licking it. Enough said.

We were very impressed with the BMB experience.  Great burgers might sound like a simple concept, but is it really that simple given how many places do it so badly? You could easily come here, spend £16-18 on a meal with a drink, and leave just as satisfied as if you had visited a high-end eatery and paid double that. James and Ben clearly know what they’re doing, and I’m sure (and look forward) to be hearing of further success for the pair.  A+.

 Web: http://www.burger-meats-bun.co.uk/
 Phone: (0131) 556 7023
 Twitter: @BMBEdinburgh

1 Forth Street, Edinburgh, EH13JX

Opening times:
Tues- Sun 12-9:30pm
 Closed Monday


Burger Meats Bun on Urbanspoon

6 October 2014

Harissa lamb burgers with homemade guacamole and sweet potato wedges

HARISSA IS AN aromatic, hot paste made from chillies, garlic, oil, coriander and spices. It's commonly used in North African cooking, and, for me, is a real store cupboard essential.  You can't beat handmade burgers, so give this easy recipe a bash.

I make a quick, no fuss guacamole to accompany the spicy lamb, as I love the cool contrast it brings to the burger.  As with most burger recipes, this can easily be turned into a meatball mix for a cracking lamb tagine.

Ingredients (serves 2):

350g lamb mince
1 small tin (142ml), harissa (available in most supermarkets)
1 tsp ground cumin
Good pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
For the guacamole:

1 ready to eat avocado
Juice of one lime
Half a red onion, diced very finely
Bunch of coriander, chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Sea salt

For the sweet potato wedges:

1x large sweet potato
1 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt
Rapeseed oil

Natural yogurt
Bunch of mint, roughly chopped
Lettuce (I used gem lettuce)
Tomato, sliced 
2x burger buns


Method:

1) Turn oven on to 200C (Mark 7), and the grill to a semi-high heat.  Mix all the burger ingredients together in a bowl, shape into desired patties and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.  If you have time, make the night before to really allow those flavours to develop.

2) Slice up the sweet potato into even sized wedges, place in a large bowl.  Mix the smoked paprika, salt and oil together, and then coat the wedges.  Place on the top shelf for 18-20 mins, until soft inside and crispy outside. 

3) Meanwhile, get the burgers under the grill for 12-15 mins, turning half way through.  Tip: to check if they are cooked, insert a small knife or metal skewer into the middle of the burgers for a few seconds, then place on your top lip.  If it's hot, the burgers are cooked.

4) Scoop out the avocado flesh and place in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients.  Pulse until all ingredients come together.  I kept mine deliberately chunky, but feel free to blitz to a smoother texture.

5) Once the burgers are ready, allow a few minutes resting time.  Toast your burger buns under the grill.  Mix the chopped mint with the yoghurt, and add a pinch of salt. Remove wedges from the oven.

6) To plate, place a couple of lettuce leaves and slices of tomato on the bun, then spoon on some of the guacamole.  Stack the wedges on the plate and place a good dollop of the minty yogurt