I SPOT Tony Singh in West Linton before I even get to his new restaurant. In the window of Linton Books, on the cover of a copy of Tasty, there’s Chef, in a red turban and paisley shirt combo, proudly holding something that looks strangely like a burger in a mug.
The Old Bakehouse
Main Street, West Linton
Dinner for two, excluding drinks - £55.50
When we find The Old Bakehouse, there are more copies propped up in the window, alongside his other cook book, The Incredible Spice Men (it was released alongside last year’s BBC 2 series, which Singh presented alongside chef Cyrus Todiwala) and a handwritten sign advertising “Coffee & Croissants”.
He’s a proper celebrity now. Not that anyone seems to care on a Wednesday night in West Linton. We’re the only diners at 6:45pm. He’s been on the Great British Menu people, where are you?
We’re seated, but I still haven’t clocked Singh. I can hear him, joshing and admiring the handicraft of one of the staff, who has re-painted a window frame since it was such a quiet day in the restaurant.
I hope I don’t see him. We’ve met before, and, as I do the reviews incognito, I dread the potential, “Are you here to do a review then?” conversation, which invariably ends in me saying, “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you” and nobody laughing.
The food is pretty different from that served at Singh’s former Edinburgh fine-dining restaurant, Oloroso, which closed a couple of years ago. Their Facebook page sums it up best: “American (New), Asian Fusion, British, Brunch, Burgers, French, Hot Dogs, Indian/Pakistani, Seafood, Soul Food, Steakhouses, Vegetarian”.
For starters, I choose summer rolls (£7.50), which were burlier than the delicate creations I’ve had before.
Rolled into transparent rice paper wrappers, these didn’t feature the usual vermicelli noodle content. Instead, one of the Yorkie bar-sized packages was stuffed with duck hunks, thin strips of pepper, bean-sprouts and mint, with a sweet chilli dip and a carrot and daikon slaw on the side. Great. The other roll was less successful, thanks to a couple of rather dried-out prawns in the mix.
The asparagus tart (£7.50) was rather lovely, with a crisp and neat pastry shell. Its yellow savoury filling featured a layer of beetroot relish, a cumin tinge, soft struts of asparagii and some sneaky goat’s cheese, which hadn’t been billed. Oh dear. At least my nanny-fromage-aphobe partner could cheer himself up with a main of Bhangra burger (£11), while I went for breast of duck (£16).
His option = utter filth. The pink and cumin spiced lamb burger came on a squishy disc of aloo tikka, and was topped by four scrumpets (fingers of garlicky breadcrumbed lamb), all piled high into a sweet and charred brioche bun. The sugary-ness of this meaty option was tempered by pickled red onions, and a pile of good and chunky chips.
While he shovelled this into his gaping maw, with meat juice trickling up his fingers, I delicately supped my Asian broth. This was beautiful – a rich and salty dashi that featured snippings of pak choi, green beans, mange tout, oyster mushrooms, pearl onions and a halved breast of crispy burnish-skinned duck. It was the haiku to the burger’s punk anthem.
Puds are fun. The praline pancake gateau (£6.50) was relatively sophisticated, with leaves of chewy crêpe plastered together with a vat’s worth of warm and sticky marmalade. The Sweetie Shop (£7) option involves a trolley with revolving levels and around six ice-cream toppings on each. Choose from hundreds and thousands, crumbs of fudge and butterscotch, hazelnut scratchings, crystallized ginger and chocolate-covered coffee beans, whole gypsy creams, chocolate beans and more. Then you’re presented with three squirty bottles of sauce – strawberry, raspberry and chocolate – plus a sundae glass of plain old Mr Whippy.
We made a spectacle of ourselves, while the other two tables of two, all of whom had arrived at about 8pm, looked on.
Singh came out to see if we’d enjoyed our meal.
He didn’t recognise me, but, giddy on sugar, I came over a bit giggly and star-struck. He’s FAMOUS now, people, why aren’t you all here?
• The Old Bakehouse, Main Street, West Linton (01968 660830, www.theoldbakehouserestaurant.com)