Thursday, 18 November 2010

Fairlie excellent

Sharon and I enjoy our food. Surprisingly, neither of us has ever eaten at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Last Friday night we corrected that oversight by dining at Andrew Fairlie's 2-starred establishment at Gleneagles Hotel. We've both wanted to go there for some time, Sharon having come closest when she enjoyed a night of luxury at Gleneagles some time ago as part of a Dow Carter Christmas night out. With our tenth wedding anniversary imminent, we decided to treat ourselves.

The restaurant is extremely welcoming and not at all stuffy. The service was simply excellent, with all waiting staff courteous, engaging and well-informed about the dishes they were serving and the ingredients they contained. It's fair to say it is the best I have ever been catered for, as someone with coeliac disease. This, in part, is down to the fact that the best ingredients in the right hands do not need the "padding" of wheat-based pastries, pastas, breads or floury sauces. This is not to denigrate baking or saucier skills, merely to highlight that there are thousands of ingredients other than wheat that are available to complement and elevate each other. But now to the food.

The curried cashew nuts, parmesan twists, olives and violet crisps (possibly Bartletts purple potatoes) were just the briefest nod of an introduction to the culinary delights beyond, to be sampled while we surveyed the menu. Deciding to throw caution (and a few pennies) to the wind, we selected the Menu Du Marché, a "ten course menu of seasonal market produce." The challenge now, is trying to recount everything we had over the course of the evening. Fortunately we had booked a 7pm reservation and so had plenty of time to anticipate, enjoy and savour each course as it arrived, with just the right gap in between.

We reckon this is what we had:

  • Amuse bouche: Beetroot sorbet with mushroom on an apple and mint jelly with chopped hazelnuts; mackerel tartare with some sort of pickle; mussel in a rice flour tempura batter with a spicy mussel veloute
  • 1. Cannelloni of Mallard: confit of leg and breast meat, stuffed in a meat radish and served with a beetroot "leaf" that fizzed on the tongue
  • 2. Pan-fried hand-dived scallop with wilted seagreens and a miso broth
  • 3. Roasted langoustine, wild mushroom sauce and langoustine cream sauce
  • 4. Assiette of artichoke: raw, pureed, pan fried, roasted, panacotta and so on. There were about 8 different textures on the plate.
  • 5. Grey mullet with a toasted hazelnut duxelle, sauted mushrooms and raspberry scented dressing
  • 6. Veal sweetbreads with pink grapefruit and tea jelly, black garlic puree and parsley essence
  • 7. Seared loin of lamb with crushed pumpkin and croquante pumpkin seed, parmesan espumé, caper puree and sultana jelly
  • 8. Brown hare with chestnut puree
  • 9. Creamy cheese and potato thing (we didn't like this one: it was a strongish cows' milk cheese, very rich and creamy with pan fried bready things on the side)
  • Dessert amuse bouche: "MacDonalds" - a macaroon burger bun with chocolate burger and mango cheese, raspberry ketchup and passion fruit mustard served with a little banana milkshake.
  • 10. Chocolate ganache, conserve of quince, chocolate disc and hazelnut mousse
  • Petit fours: pistachio and white choc truffle, choc truffles, hazelnuts in a cocoa caramel shell, chocolate macaroons.

The petit fours were a wee bit sickly, probably because I ate too many of them while Sharon sensibly held back.

Our least favourite course was No. 9. My top two were probably the scallop and the hare although the lamb, veal sweetbreads and the artichoke weren't far behind. Sharon would probably concur with that top five, but in a different order. The hare had a wonderful texture: a cube of meat, slightly yielding to the touch but rebounding to its original shape; just perfectly cooked. The sweetbreads were deliciously creamy on the inside and crisp on the outside and perfectly matched by their accompaniments. We eked out a bottle of [Sharon to remind me!] over the evening as our budget would have been blown even further had we gone for champagne or digestifs!

We left around 11pm, certain in the knowledge that we had never had a better dining experience. From the ambience to the service to the textures, smells and flavours, it was worth every penny. We need to start putting money aside for next year's anniversary dinner!

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