These are dishes that would grace the tables of the UK's finest restaurants, yet the menu they come from is not in London's West End or the increasingly trendy Shore area of Leith. Graeme Pallister has created a haven for fine dining on the banks of the Tay in Perth.
The hallmark of 63 Tay Street is that the finest Scottish ingredients are shown off to their best advantage at a surprisingly affordable price.
The chef has worked with Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles and has twice been highly commended in the Scottish Chef Awards. This year, he won Executive Chef of the Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards for his work at the Parklands Hotel – run by the same team a short walk from 63 Tay Street and ideal for a weekend away.
But Pallister's focus is his signature restaurant and his passion and talent are evident in every dish that leaves the kitchen. My special someone, Jenni, and I went one Saturday evening and found a room full of contented diners.
We ate very well and it was all so delicious I must document it here. I began with an amuse bouche of carrot and star of anise soup in a dinky pot with home-baked bread (sour dough and granary). This was followed by chicken liver parfait with date chutney and warmed gingerbread, blood orange, mint and date salad, thyme and marjoram roast Shetland lamb rump with crisp sweetbreads and polenta, Earl Grey tea sorbet (sounds weird, tastes incredible) and hot mocha and rum souffl with chocolate sauce and banana ice cream. We ended with coffee and petit fours – sublime balls of chocolate goo. I couldn't find fault with anything, least of all the price at 33.95 a head. With more than 150 wines, we picked an excellent Spanish pinot grigio (16.95).
It's worth going to Perth just for a meal at 63 Tay Street, and the best place to stay is round the corner at the four-star Parklands Hotel. It overlooks South Inch Park and is just across the road from both the railway and bus stations. Since taking on the business six years ago, Scott and Penny Edwards have built a reputation for comfort and style. The rooms are large, and comfortable, with flat-screen TVs and DVD and CD players in every room.
Pallister is executive chef for the hotel's two restaurants, Acanthus and No 1 The Bank Bistro. There are flashes of his flair, but the novelty bread (black pudding) didn't quite live up to the sour dough and granary, and the fudgy tablet-type confection served with coffee was a poor substitute for the chocolate goo. In fairness, few hotel restaurants would live up to the standard set by 63 Tay Street and, on the whole, dinner at the hotel was excellent.
The obvious attraction of Perth is its situation as a base to explore central Scotland and if you don't already own a flash sports car Andrew Still, of Open Road Hire, will sort you out some great wheels. We opted for a Porsche Boxster, which turned a few heads in Crieff, but for the true no-frills motoring enthusiast (and Still is one himself) there are several Caterhams to choose from. Perthshire and the Trossachs have some of the best roads to drive in Scotland, and Still has drawn up a set of suggested routes.
The dining experience of 63 Tay Street, the comfort of the Parklands Hotel and the use of a snazzy motor are all great ingredients for a weekend away. Just make sure you prepare yourself for the emotional trauma of handing back the car keys.
The Parklands Hotel is at 2 St Leonard's Bank, Perth. Bed and breakfast starts at 49.50 per person per night for a double. Call 01738 622451 or see www.theparklandshotel.com; 63 Tay Street is open for lunch (noon-2pm) and dinner (6:30-9pm) from Tuesday to Saturday. Call 01738 441451, www.63taystreet.com For details about Open Road Hire, visit www.openroadhire.co.uk
This article was first published in The Scotsman on 19 June.