Consider the gift of a magical evening
The Peat Inn
By Cupar, Fife
THE BILL: Dinner for two, 74, excluding drinks
Sleigh bells weren't ringing but the evening taxi ride from St Andrews certainly cut through a winter wonderland. Having booked well in advance, we knew there was room at The Peat Inn. Oil lamps twinkled in the lead-paned windows, and as soon as we settled by the fireside we felt that we'd left the trials of Christmas shopping behind us. Glasses of Tio Diego materialised in our hands, and one sip imbued us with festive cheer absent from the consumer-frenzy of the day. I'm so glad sherry has morphed from the favoured tipple of elderly female alcoholics into a chic aperitif.
On the menu prices are listed without pound signs, a charming technique which allows guests to pretend their starter doesn't cost the same as a passable pre-theatre meal, albeit in a far less luxurious establishment. Not that one has starters here. It's "first dishes", which sounds much nicer. "Starter" suggests something swift and stressful: the starter's pistol, your starter for ten. Nothing is swift or stressful at The Peat Inn. Being off the beaten track, they're not going to send you packing at half nine so they can cram in another few covers.
After canaps we were ushered through to one of the smaller dining rooms where our Chateau la Mission (a characterful Lalande de Pomerol selected from the Victorian novel of a wine list) had been decanted and a choice of delightful little bread rolls awaited. Our amuse bouche followed soon after: thimble-sized winter warmers of voluptuous cream of celeriac soup drizzled with hazelnut oil.
As well as striving for seasonality, The Peat Inn uses small suppliers wherever possible. A first dish of warm salad of Anstruther lobster, winter vegetables "a la grecque" and black olive dressing (14) was an innovative combination of flavours and featured succulent meat from a crustacean caught just up the road. We'd seen lobsters landed there that very day, their gleaming black claws waving from boxes on the quayside.
Wild mushroom consomm, tarragon and goats cheese tortellini and extra virgin olive oil (9) was a popular choice that evening, and no wonder. It was consomm to melt the heart of the most diehard Scrooge: perfectly al dente pasta with a tender explosion of filling, arranged on top of tiny diamonds of crisp vegetable which gently dispersed as the most vibrantly mushroomy consomm you can imagine was poured from a copper pan into the plate.
For her first meal of Christmas, my true love followed the lobster with a main course of roast partridge, Jerusalem artichoke fricassee, pancetta and white port jus (18), complete with elegant wedges of pear. Not just a Noel jape, but an incredibly stylish Christmas dinner, the pear working in sweet contrast to the gamey lushness of the perfectly pink partridge. My risotto of roast pumpkin with sage and aged Parmesan (16) read as a rather standard veggie option, but what arrived was very good indeed. Sage can overwhelm, but here a sprinkle of buttery leaves added subtle accents, while the pumpkin retained a fresh fruitiness that cut through the Parmesan-infused rice.
For dessert – not pudding, which is apparently a deplorable word to The Peat Inn's pastry chef – I chose the pav of Amedei chocolate, caramelised hazelnuts and salted caramel ice-cream (8), mainly because I wanted to try the salted caramel ice-cream, which is the height of current foodie fashion. It was a flawed masterpiece. The pav was phenomenally rich. Along with all that caramel, it was hospitalisation rich. The ice-cream was fabulous, but dissolved in seconds, prompting our server to offer a vanilla replacement. I have no doubt they'll make it work in future, though perhaps not paired with death by Amadei chocolate.
The service is perfect, the slightest slip smoothed over in an instant. Despite saying I was veggie, I was given chorizo canaps: to compensate for my wait for more appropriate morsels our sherry glasses were refilled on the house. Our wonderful German server earned a round of applause and an offer of an after-dinner speaking gig from a neighbouring table after taking us on an enthusiastic and expert tour of the amazing selection of farmhouse cheeses (9), all of them from artisan British producers and the vast majority from Scotland. Wheys like us, indeed.
By the time we were presented with an exquisite selection of petit fours they were in danger of acting like a wafer thin mint. The pistachio macaroons gave Ladure a run for their money, and I'll wager a few guests decided to throw caution to the wind and consign their Spanx to their handbags. I forced myself to nibble a madeleine, more in the hope of a Proustian reverie of the meal we'd just had than from gluttony. Honest.
The Peat Inn is expensive, but furtive eavesdropping assured me that nobody felt they'd been swindled, especially those who'd plumped for the 48 tasting menu (80 with wines). The unpretentious atmosphere suggests that new chef-proprietor Geoffrey Smeddle and his wife Katherine are delighted to have swapped Glasgow's Etain for the East Neuk. Maybe it was that nightcap of heavenly Sauternes, but I'm sure I heard the tinkle of sleigh bells as the door closed behind us. Buy nothing this Christmas, and then treat yourself to dinner at The Peat Inn in the New Year.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west