As the title of this blog suggests, my favourite type of restaurant is a bistro where you get reasonable portions of well-cooked food without too many fripperies and smears of this and that. So-called ‘fine dining’ is a style of cooking that I admire but it’s often a bit pretentious. I enjoy it now and again but always feel that it is a bit overpriced.
So why am I writing about Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Scotland’s only 2 star Michelin restaurant. Well, our daughter’s very kindly gave us a present of a night at Gleneagles Hotel and, as I’ve never eaten in a 2* restaurant before, we really had to try it. And, to sum up, the food and service was fabulous – every course was a delight. It was a great experience but, given the cost, probably not one we will repeat for a while.
The restaurant has a choice of menu’s – an a la carte menu and two tasting menus. Our previous experiences with tasting menus has been that there’s just too much to eat but sometimes not enough of what your really like. Therefore, we went for the a la carte menu – 3 courses for £95.
We started with canapés – chicken pate on a crispy chicken skin, a savoury macaroon and what I call a cheese puff. This probably has a French name but I’ve forgotten what it was. The chicken skin was the best I thought, especially as my wife Anne doesn’t like the idea of eating skin so I had two of them.
Then, as seems obligatory in ‘fine dining’, we had an amuse-bouche, which was a feta mousse on a pea soup. This was just stupendous – I don’t know how it’s done but the flavours of the peas were like eating freshly picked peas from the pod. I suspect these were not from Birds-Eye. It also looked absolutely beautiful and our bouches were indeed very amused.
My starter was smoked lobster – something I’d never heard of or tried before. It was served very simply – half a small lobster with some herb butter. It was accompanied by the smallest salad that I have ever seen – but perhaps also the tastiest.
I haven’t eaten a lot of lobster but I’m in no doubt that this was the best I’ve had – it was only lightly smoked so the smoke added an accent to the rich flavour of the lobster meat. Anne had scallops which she also thought were the best she’d had.
When it came to main course, I had food jealousy. Anne chose oxtail with foie gras which was simply wonderful – deep, intense flavours. I had fillet of turbot with mushrooms and braised lettuce, which was really very good but not significantly better than dishes I’ve had in good fish restaurants elsewhere, with lesser ratings.
There was the usual, in my view unnecessary, pre-dessert then superb desserts – I had orange and cointreau mousse with mandarin sorbet and Anne had pear mousse with pear sorbet. Again, we marvelled at how expert professional chefs can tease such intense flavours from ingredients. Neither were too sweet and both had a slight sharpness that accentuated their flavours.
We finished with coffee and petits fours, which I didn’t photograph. To be honest, we were pretty full by then but there always seems to be room for another morsel of deliciousness.
This was I think the best meal that I’ve ever had – there were simply no weak points to it. The presentation was elegant but unpretentious with no smears of this and dots of that on the plate and the service was understated. Nothing was disappointing and some courses were simply out of this world. The restaurant lighting was ‘atmospheric’ – rather too dim for good quality photographs unfortunately.
Was it worth the money – always an impossible question when you consider anything that’s inessential? You can ask the same question about holidays, malt whisky or attending premier league football matches. We are fortunate that we have enough money for some luxuries and we chose to spend this on food rather than exotic holidays or concerts to see the ageing rock stars of our youth.
This was a wonderful experience which would lose it’s magic if we did it often but I’m really glad that we did have the opportunity to try it. I’d recommend this to anyone interested in an unforgettable eating experience.