I woke early this morning, 05.11 to be precise; an hour later I’m still awake so what better time to do a bit of blogging and catch up on all the words I should have written earlier in the week.
Where I am at the moment is the rather lovely Fortingall Hotel not far from Aberfeldy. There is mist on the hills, rather fat pheasants in the field and a grandfather clock quietly ticking in the front hall of the hotel. It’s a peaceful place to write.
I know I’ve already written a review for Mark Greenaway’s restaurant at Hawke and Hunter for Edinburgh Spotlight, but I thought as I had another lunch there last week with a friend who is dairy and gluten intolerant, it is worthy of another review for Off the Eaten Track.
Frances was fashionably late, her excuse was something to do with some numpty taking forever at the Post Office; I didn’t mind it meant I could take in my surroundings. I love the bare stone wall, the rather large almost monochrome painting opposite, glaring down on me and the peace that the room exudes.
She always looks glam does Frances and it was great to catch up with her and her gossip, but we had far more important things to discuss – what to have for lunch? Rather than eat a la carte, we opted for the Market Menu, a bargain at £20 for three courses. Maitre d’ Nichola guided us through the menu as to what was suitable for Frances to eat, which was pretty much everything, because Mark would adapt any dish to suit, except the pasta. They even provided gluten-free bread and soya milk!
An amuse bouche arrived; for me it was a pale fawn mushroom spume, light as air, heavy on flavour tasting of the forest floor – earthy, rich and heady. For the gastronomically challenged, she got a scallop salad all fresh and succulently sweet and an apple wafer too! I was a tad jealous and not for the first time during this meal, I can tell you!
We didn’t have to wait long for our starters (I dislike the word starter, but the alternatives are just as naff). My hot smoked salmon raviolo (singular of ravioli) looked like a miniature sombrero dotted with black beads of caviar floating in a pool of deliciously seafoody broth. The smoked salmon inside seasoned the dish and I loved it!
The confit duck on hot orange jelly was a resounding hit with Frances. The tart, warm orange jelly complemented the rich meat, while the beetroot added layers of sweet tones The texture and flavours were perfect, from the beetroot mosaic tile to the moorish duck. Both dishes were well-balanced and not only tasted fantastic but looked fantastic.
We gossiped and bleathered while we waited for the next course, which was swift in arriving.
Frances had gone for the skate wing, a fish that I’m glad to say is making a come back. All the cartilage had been removed and it arrived rolled into a cigar. The plate was monochrome except from the purple flash of squidy tentacles and the beetroot. It was beautiful. It may have looked odd, but the olive mash was sublime working with the beetroot. The fish was a tad under seasoned (a minor glitch) but there was no mistaking the freshness. Mark made a thyme jus to replace the butter sauce and again worked with the components of the dish, accentuating rather than detracting.
I was more than happy with my chicken dish. The wing had been fashioned into a lollipop, the breast was moist and the meat from the leg had been prised from the bone but left in place making it easy to eat. I know I shouldn’t have but I ate the skin as it was so crispy and divine. The pied blue mushroom sauce was pungent and earthy, fondant was soft and the garlic cloves baked into sweet submission. We really couldn’t fault this food.
Now Frances normally forgoes dessert because the usual offerings which nine times out of ten is fruit salad. Here she was presented an extravaganza of chocolate! Mousse stuffed chocolate cylinder with banana and hazelnuts, banoffie cubes with toffee shards, orange pearls and dots of more mousse, all gluten and dairy free. The smile on her face said it all and I was seriously jealous for the second time.
Don’t get me wrong I loved every morsel put in front of me, but although my lemon dessert was like a piece of abstract art with intensity that was taste bud rippingly good, I felt her pud was better.
The fact that the kitchen went out of its way to take her dietary requirements to such a high standard is somewhere that really cares about its clientele. The good thing was, because she doesn’t have dessert, this much sweetness was a bit too much, but not for me. I polished off her plate lickety spit!
Lunch for the pair of us was £57 including a glass of wine each, coffee and petite fours, which you can drool over because the picture is below!
Addendum This post should have been out a week ago, but I’m still trying to get to grips with WordPress and as you can see from some of the page layout, I haven’t quite got there yet. I have spent hours trying to get it to look right and rather than spend more time trying to get it perfect and almost giving up blogging, I’ve posted it the way that it is.
(C) Lea Harris, Off the Eaten Track, 2011.