Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Peat Inn

St Andrews
Visited 11/5/12

The famed Peat Inn has been around for a long time, but I’ve never found anyone willing to drive there and forgo a drink (or, needless to say, contemplated this myself). But using the birthday-justification-clause, a small group of us went up and stayed the night. This is much the best way of arrange things as the accommodation is so lovely. Suites on two levels that really do pay attention to details in the way most hotels promise but don’t supply. On arriving we had good coffee and brownies of a lightness and chocolaty intensity rarely to be found. Breakfast—also great—is brought to and laid out in your room—simple but perfect ingredients, with wonderful homemade bread and the best boiled eggs I’ve ever had.

The dining room has thick walls and low ceiling and a number of different rooms so is very hushed. The food is quite subdued too—not at all showy, but with complex and subtle flavours very well brought together. The menu is seasonal and pretty much local. I started with langoustines, wrapped in a very fine pastry with a wonderful hit of basil, set off with a light marinated cucumber. The food in general is something to take slowly and seriously, allowing the flavours to emerge in sequence. Next a piece of (nicely pink and with clear signs of having gambolled outdoors) veal with a wonderful kind of flurry of tiny beans, onions and mushrooms, a bean puree and a wild garlic veloute, that could have been overwhelming but in fact added a delicate, fresh flavour,. I also stole a fair amount from my companions’ dishes, memorable among which was a daube of pork (one of three ways of that meat), and best of all a duck breast of fabulous tenderness and flavour.

The portions aren’t particularly small, yet we found room for pudding, in most of our cases a rhubarb clafoutis (rhubarb is one of my favourite flavours) which was very accurate and surprisingly light. If you don’t have space, the petit fours are exceptionally inventive and delicious. My only (tiny) reservation was that the wine didn’t keep very good pace with the food, leaving too much red when the puddings arrived. (The service is otherwise knowledgeable, friendly and unobtrusive).

The wine list is interesting and extraordinarily unmarked-up for a restaurant of this quality, so there is plenty to choose from. We had a really interesting Alsace blend of pinots gris, blanc and noir—a fabulous and complex wine which I would love to have again. It was harder to choose a red to go from fish to duck but a Dolcetto d’Alba was light but flavourful and went well with everything. This a great (and very well set-out) list.

This is food that has quite a lot of complex flavours very subtly combined, so it's worth lingering over and paying it serious attention, but the general atmosphere is relaxed and informal.  The whole experience has been very carefully thought out, but  the mechanisms are beneath a very unobtrusive surface.

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