Happy Christmas to all our Readers
It’s time for even journalists to take a break. I am off to Edinburgh for a few days – but I’ll be back to protect my ‘The man they couldn’t gag’ reputation here in West Dunbartonshire before you can say ‘I’ll have another one of those mince pies’. Remember, Christmas isn’t just about presents and families, it’s about whole communities like ours. We need to look after each other. We have to be good citizens and that involves participating in local democracy by voting in elections and taking a real interest in what is being done in our name. West Dunbartonshire Council doesn’t want you to know, which is possibly why they have banned me from asking questions through their Communications Department. They also refuse to make proper provision for journalists taking notes during meetings at the new £15 million Burgh Hall in Dumbarton. There will be plenty of toasts over the next week or so. Let’s hear it then for democracy, for a free press and no local government censorship. Let’s hear it for human rights and open and transparent government. Maybe we’ll see these precious things in West Dunbartonshire in 2019? Maybe the councillors will get off their backsides and do something about it. I certainly hope so. Let’s rally round and work together to make these things happen. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Bill Heaney, Editor, The Dumbarton Democrat
Get out of the Kitchin and try Tom’s favourite restaurants
When one of Scotland’s most prolific chefs offers you some recommendations on where to eat in Scotland, it’s time to sit up and pay attention!
Edinburgh-born Tom Kitchin, and his wife Michaela, opened The Kitchin in Leith’s waterfront in 2006. A year later, at the tender age of just 29, the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star and Tom became the youngest Michelin star recipient in Scotland. There are currently nine Michelin-star restaurants in Scotland.
Tom’s ‘from nature to plate’ philosophy also underpins the values and the culinary flair at two further restaurants in the capital. The award-winning Dominic Jack Castle Terrace Restaurant sitting below the historic castle, is renowned for its fine dining experience. The Scran & Scallie, Edinburgh’s leading gastropub, offers relaxed dining with amazing Scottish ‘scran’ and a range of traditional and artisan beers, in a cosy setting that’s perfect for the whole family.
Tom has become a distinctive face on popular TV programmes such as BBC TV’s Saturday Kitchen, MasterChef and Great British Menu and he has written four excellent books, showcasing some fantastic recipes for home cooking.
So, where does one of Scotland’s top chefs choose to eat, when he’s not creating culinary masterpieces? Here’s what Tom had to say when we caught up with him recently:
Loch Bay Restaurant, Isle of Skye
My gastronomic odyssey starts over in the west Highlands, in the historic village of Stein, which is the stunning setting for Loch Bay Restaurant. The team here are passionate about sourcing ingredients locally and sustainably. After a Michelin-star triumph only 18 months after opening in 2016, kitchen maestro Michael Smith (also no stranger to BBC TV’s Great British Menu) works wonders with Scottish produce. The relationship between chef and supplier is so important – Michael goes straight to the boats to visit the fishermen in the morning and chooses the restaurant’s fresh fish himself.
The Bay Fish and Chips, Aberdeenshire
Over on the east coast, this popular fish and chip shop on Stonehaven’s seafront is run by Calum Richardson and has won multiple awards for its locally sourced, sustainable fish. Everything here is cooked fresh and taken straight from local fishing boats. The shop looks right over the sea so it’s the perfect setting to sit and relax while you tuck into your fish and chips. They serve anything that’s been caught that day, including langoustine, haddock, crab and their famous fishcakes.
Monachyle Mhor Hotel, Balquhidder
If I wanted to arrange a trip for a really special occasion, I would go straight to Monachyle Mhor. It’s a beautiful house set in the wilderness, and not too long a drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow. The setting is astonishing – tucked away in the mountains of Balquhidder Glen, overlooking lochs Voil and Doine, it provides a great sense of escapism. The restaurant there, headed up by Executive Chef Marysia Paszkowska, really makes the most of the land around it. The ingredients are exceptional, with venison sourced from the surrounding hills and all vegetables, fruit and herbs grown in the kitchen garden. The best part is that after a fantastic dinner, you can go straight upstairs to your room for a contemporary, stylish stay, which still feels like a home away from home.
Inver Restaurant, near Strachur
A little further west from Monachyle Mhor and nestling gently on the quiet eastern shore of fjord-like Loch Fyne, you will find Inver. Cooking with the area’s best wild and farmed ingredients, you can sit on the banks of the loch and enjoy a set four-course menu that changes with the seasons. You really get the sense that chefs, Pam Brunton and Rob Latimer, have learned a lot through their travels and they use their culinary mastery to showcase the best in Scottish produce and cuisine. Inver may be a tiny site in the wilds of Argyll, but it’s definitely worth making the trip for.
Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Auchterarder
Andrew Fairlie is one of the UK’s most celebrated chefs, and his Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles restaurant at The Gleneagles Hotel is the only in Scotland to have two Michelin stars. This grand hotel, south-west of Perth, holds many great memories for me having worked there in my early career. I am a huge admirer of Andrew Fairlie’s work. Sadly, Andrew had to retire through ill health recently, but the Gleneagles will enjoy the reputation he built for many years to come.
The Gannet in Glasgow
This is a cool little place in Finnieston, Glasgow – an area that’s becoming a real hotspot for great food. Co-owners Peter McKenna and Ivan Stein and their team at The Gannet really embrace Scotland’s natural larder with the menu changing continually with the seasons. It always has a buzzing atmosphere and the service is fantastic. It really puts Glasgow on the food map of Scotland. The most memorable dish I’ve eaten there? Definitely some amazing scallops – they were packed with flavour!
Not far from The Gannet in Finnieston, Crabshakk is a restaurant serving incredible seafood. It’s starting to become an institution and is very popular, and for good reason! They focus on no-frills, honest cooking, which is full of flavour, so it’s a great place to go with family or friends and crack into a few of their whole brown crabs.
L’Escargot Bleu, Edinburgh
One of my favourite restaurants in Edinburgh is L’Escargot Bleu. Founded by Fred Berkmiller, a Frenchman who has lived and worked in Scotland for many years, this restaurant symbolises everything that’s great about the ‘Auld Alliance’. When you enter, it’s as if you’ve walked into a bistro in the backstreets of Paris. All of the food is cooked with classic French techniques, using Scottish ingredients. They serve a fantastic cassoulet with Scottish meat, as well as a perfect Pâté de Campagne.
Staying in my hometown, Ondine in Edinburgh’s city centre is a fantastic seafood restaurant, sourcing seafood and shellfish from Scotland’s east coast. Head Chef Roy Brett has managed to find the rare balance of serving exquisite, elevated food in a really relaxed environment. Recently winning the Best Restaurant in Scotland 2018 award at the National Restaurant Awards, Ondine is a great spot for a grown-up night out. I love sitting at the bar counter with my wife, Michaela, for some oysters and their hot shellfish platter, washed down with a crisp glass of champagne.
Lobster Shack, East Lothian
About 40 minutes’ drive outside of Edinburgh, Lobster Shack is located right on North Berwick’s fishing harbour – so you know that the fish they use is of a really high standard. It’s a tiny shack, cooking freshly-caught fish just as you like it, right before your eyes. It’s developed quite a reputation over the years, which is well deserved. It’s mainly open during the spring and summer months, so don’t miss out on this wee gem if you’re in the area.
Cook up a storm yourself with our Scottish Recipe Collection eBook where you can find out more about Scotland’s passionate chefs and try making some delicious traditional and contemporary Scottish dishes for your family and friends.