Restaurant review: The Roost Restaurant, Kintillo
IF YOU owned a restaurant and Tim Dover's CV landed on your desk, you'd pause for roughly a nanosecond then hire him.
On paper he has it all, right down to the fact that before the chef-patron opened up the Roost in Bridge of Earn two years ago, his most recent role was working for Craig Stevenson's Braehead Foods in Kilmarnock, where he briefly stepped off the cheffing treadmill to learn all he could about sourcing the best Scottish produce.
His wife Anna, who runs front of house at the Roost, puts it even more prosaically, saying he "just fancied a change; he wanted a break from the kitchen and to see the process from the other side".
It is not tricky to see why he wanted time off after slaving over some of the most distinguished hot stoves in the country for the best part of two decades. Since he landed his first job washing dishes as a 15-year-old in his home town of South Queensferry then quickly moved on to become commis chef at the Witchery, he has learned from some of the biggest names in the business. In fact, he has worked with four Michelin-starred chefs through stints with David Wilson at the Peat Inn, Nick Nairn in Glasgow, Martin Wishart in Edinburgh and Daniel Boulud of the renowned three-star Daniel's in New York.
It's difficult to imagine a more complete or impressive apprenticeship, right down to a second stint at the Witchery to work as a pastry chef, to perfect his mastery of puddings and bread.
What's perhaps a little more difficult to understand is why he chose a glorified bothy opposite the gates of Kilgraston girls' school as the site for his first solo venture, even if it is within five minutes of the M90.
Still, it's a measure of Dover's ability that the Roost Restaurant isn't just surviving but prospering in an out-of-the-way position that is also within an easy drive of a slew of decent restaurants in Perth and places such as Crieff, Comrie, Muthill and Auchterarder.
The reason for the Roost Restaurant's burgeoning reputation became clear as soon as the glorious home-made bread and the first dishes arrived. Had we known that Dover is an obsessive fisherman (perhaps explaining the location, within minutes of the Earn, the Tay and Loch Leven) we might have chosen his signature dish of escabeche of goldenloch trout with mesculum salad and tapenade toasts, but instead Jake opted for the Orkney crab and avocado salad with chilled tomato consomm while I went for the white onion velout with white truffle oil.
Neither were a disappointment, with my white onion velout a creamy, velvety joy that would have been the perfect antidote to a cold, wet Perthshire evening. Even on a mild, sunny summer's night it still hit the spot. Jake was equally happy with his classic combination of crab and avocado, shaped into two balls in the centre of his plate.
If the starters were enjoyable, they were not quite stunning enough to dismiss the jury, and we awaited our main courses with great interest. Given Dover's recent time as a game and poultry buyer, it was only right for me to opt for the roasted pigeon breasts with confit potatoes, puy lentils, pheasant back mushrooms and roast salsify with a port and orange jus, while Jake followed Anna's recommendation and chose the lamb with haricots blancs and spring root vegetables with baby spinach, shallot tarte tatin and a red wine sauce.
I always think pigeon is best when it's had a hot pan merely wafted in its general direction, but for roasted pigeon this was excellent: slabs of crimson meat that made up for what they lacked in tenderness (which wasn't, to be fair, much) with a deep, rich flavour. The puy lentils complemented the meat perfectly, but the real star of the show was a sauce that was somehow simultaneously full-bodied and with a real lightness of touch.
The lamb was perhaps the pick of the main courses, with the accompanying artisan tarte tatin a fantastic detail that was more than matched by faultlessly cooked lamb and a sauce every bit as impressive as my port and orange jus. Dover takes delivery of the lamb himself and uses the whole animal, so you never know what you're going to get: this time we got slices of the rump and a roll of the flank stuffed with kidney and suet farce, with Jake preferring the former while I gloried in the darker, slower-cooked and sumptuously succulent flank.
Dover's time perfecting his puddings at the Witchery meant the final course was not the disappointment it can be in some restaurants. My warm chocolate fondant with caramelised pear and honeycomb and lavender ice-cream (that last bit was filched from another dish on the menu but willingly done) was superb. Jake's decision to ransack the cheeseboard, choosing a sliver of all eight cheeses – three Scottish, one goat's cheese, all commendably punchy – yielded some real finds, none more so than the surprisingly nuanced Blue Monday from the Highland Fine Cheese Company in Tain, the name coming from Blur bass guitarist turned cheesemaker Alex James, who commissioned the cheese.
The Roost Restaurant is not a cheap night out, but all in all, this was superior fare from a man who knows what he is doing and a front of house that goes out of its way to please. After all those years working alongside the best Scotland has to offer, some of the stardust has clearly rubbed off.
The Roost Restaurant
Forgandenny Road, Kintillo, Bridge of Earn (01738 812 111, www.theroost restaurant.co.uk)
Main courses 19.95-14.95 Puddings 5.50-6 (cheeseboard 6.95)
• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday on 20 June.
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