Autumn 2012
Andrew Fairlie in the Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire
Dr Jenny
Finally, dinner at Andrew Fairlie. The only multi-Michelin-starred restaurant in Scotland. I've been trying to persuade people to go with me for ever but no one was up for it. Finally Dr Jenny treated me for my birthday (though a month late - we're busy people after all) so I made a weekend of visiting her new place in Dundee and we drove up from there.
Actually finding Gleneagles hotel in the poorly sign-posted dark vastness of Gleneagles estate is something of a challenge, particularly as Google Maps doesn't know where it is yet, though once you have decided which is the right building (it's the one with all the lights on) you shouldn't have a problem finding a car park, since there appear to be hundreds of them. Finding one less than a train-ride distant from the hotel is another matter.

Once safely inside, however, the hotel is as opulent as anyone could hope, and although the restaurant dining room is a little airless it is grand and comfortable enough for most diners.
The service is a little disappointing for the quality of the food - the waiters slightly less knowledgeable than one might hope, slightly less unobtrusive than might have been nice, their accents slightly more impenetrable than is comfortable, but they are definitely eager to help, and there are diamonds amongst the rough. Our whisky waiter was a real gem.
Yes, a whisky waiter!
After dinner he wheeled over the Single Cask Malt Whisky Experience trolley and introduced us to its collection of unchill-filtered cask whiskies bottled by the deceptively named Adelphi Distillery, which is not actually a distillery but an independent Glaswegian bottler.

Doctor Jenny and I chose the Degustation menu, which offers an excellent selection of Andrew Fairlie's dishes and completely satisfied my cravings for foies gras (no sign of sweetbreads on the menu unfortunately).
It also came with an optional bespoke wine flight that I was happy to take up for a test, though to be honest the courses came so quickly it was quite hard to keep up with the drinking too. I've noted the selected wines against each course below.

The verdict? Two stars!
Thanks Dr Jenny Best. Birthday. Present. Ever!

Mixed Amuse-Bouches:
So we kick off with the most amazing, but simple amuse-gueules: Beautifully tender gougères, individual potato gratins, and a mound of ceviche was it Sea Bass? with grapefruit served on a single oyster leaf
The gratins were really quite magnificent - the centres of each cooked half-potato had been scooped out, puréed with truffles, cheese and probably cream, then returned to the potato and lightly grilled.

Mushroom Soup Amuse-Bouche:
A delightfully rich and truffly mushroom soup with a parsley coulis. Though the soup was lovely, I found the coulis a little flat, and lacking in parsley flavour.

Crab and Salmon Mi-Cuit:
Cured and semi-cooked (mi-cuit) salmon and flaked crab-meat with a ribbon of gelatined seaweed, hints of soy, and small pops of something like caviar. Also served with a lime coulis.
The crab and its mysterious soy ribbon is fascinating, the salmon not so much and there doesn't seem to be an awful lot of balance between the two. But you can't fault the production values!
Verdicchio Dei Castelli Di Jesi, Sartarelli, Italy 2010
A Verdicchio grape wine from the Sartarelli estate in Marche.

Ballotine of Duck Foie Gras:
The rolled duck with confit apple and toasted brioche is in fact the least of this course. Its star is the truly awesome melt-in-the-mouth Foies Gras Cromesqui. Apparently the centre of this croquette is a chilled mix of Madeira, Port, cognac, Gouda and foies gras the salpicon, which would usually be wrapped in caul fat all rolled in Panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
OMG To die for!
Jurançon Moelleux, Clos Guirouilh, France 2009
An unusual sweet wine from the Pyrenean foothills. This was the only wine that struck me as particularly well-matched to its course.

Roast Hand Dived Scallop:
Served with the most fantastic giant couscous risotto topped with a beautifully complementary samphire and other succulent sea vegetables possibly Sea Purslane or Sea Aster?, and an intriguing Sea-buckthorn dressing. On the side an excellent scallop cracker, topped with squid ceviche in the flavours of the East.
According to the waitress the perfectly cooked scallop was just griddled, rather than as I thought possibly cooked sous-vide, or as the title suggests, roasted.
Despite the result being an astonishingly sweet and succulent scallop its outside was just a tiny bit leathery. The risotto-samphire combination however, is another tour-de-force.
Fiano di Avellino, Feudi San Gregorio, Campania, Italy 2011
A Fiano grape wine from the spectacular Feudi di San Gregorio wine estate, southern Italy

Cep and Truffle Gratin:
Beautifully autumn. Pasta tubes stuffed with a mushroom duxelles slightly gritty at first, though you get used to it, decorated with crisped wild mushrooms and a truffle coulis. Served with a Jerusalem Artichoke purée.
Verdejo, Naiades, Rueda, Spain 2009
An unusual oak-matured white wine from (mostly) the Verdejo grapes of the Bodegas Naia estate in Rueda.

Home Smoked Lobster:
Apparently this is Fairlie's signature dish. Although the lobster itself tasted smoked, the restaurant's irritatingly twee online collection of menu stories reports that these Scrabster ...lobster shells are smoked for five hours over oak shavings taken from Islay whisky casks. The meat is returned to the shell and lightly roasted, then finished with a warm lime butter sauce and soft green herbs, roughly snipped at the last minute.
Roughly eh? Whatever.
It tastes bloody fantastic!
Chablis, Les Clos, Benoit Droin, Burgundy 2007
A delightful Chardonnay from Benoit Droin's Grand Cru vineyard Les Clos. The Droin family is amongst the oldest in the Chablis district of Burgundy - producing wine there for nearly five centuries.

Loin and Slow Cooked Shoulder of Lamb:
A crépinette - a small sausage wrapped in caul fat, a fine slice of loin and a roll of meltingly cooked shoulder wrapped in crispy pastry, resembling filo. Served with squash purée, a herby dumpling and a delicate worm-like crosne root, like a tiny white Jerusalem artichoke.
Meat to die for.
Shiraz, Fromm Vineyards, Marlborough, New Zealand 2005
A firm, robust wine - the only red!

Grand Jura Suisse:
Thin slices of this Gruyère-style cheese, artfully placed atop a mushroom purée and decorated with pieces of macadamia nuts.
Although not the most exciting dish, the flavours and textures meld effectively and the figgy bread served with it was really exquisite. Rich, complex flavour and that brittle crunch of tiny fig seeds.
Ramos Pinto, Dry White Port, Adriano Reserva, Oporto NV
A dry port from house of Ramos Pinto, founded by Adriano in 1880 who largely dominated the Brazilian export market.

Mango Sorbet Amuse-Bouche:
A palette cleanser to transition us to the dessert course - the sorbet sits on a vanilla crème Diplomat (whipped cream folded into thick creme patissiere custard), and is topped with crumbs of toasted pistachio.
Nectarous. Is that a word?

Milk Chocolate Cremeux:
A delightful tiny chocolate hedgehog coated with cocoa powder and served with a spicy popcorn and quince sorbet.
I could appreciate the idea of the popcorn being there to provide a textural contrast to the other smooth elements, but I wasn't entirely impressed. Perhaps just that I don't like the little shards of corn skin.
Royal Tokaji, Oremus, Late Harvest, Hungary 2007
A typically fabulous Hungarian sweet dessert wine from the Oremus estate in Tokaj, Hungary. What late harvests may lack in depth, they make up for in freshness, and sadly a Chateau D'Yquem wasn't on offer :(

Coffee and Chocolates
Coffee and Chocolates:
Home-made marshmallows (with a red berry flavour), fig macaroon, granache and truffles.
Doctor Jenny wanted me to mention that the chocolates were lovely. Which they were.

Whiskies and the Strange Case of the Caol Ila:
When the whisky trolley rolled provocatively by we were easily seduced into sampling its cask strength, unchill-filtered, 28 year old Caol Ila. An absolutely fantastic whisky when sipped straight from the bottle, well via a glass, but which had the extraordinary feature of turning foul with the addition of even the merest drop of water.
Completely unique in my experience - the judicious addition of water usually improves the nose of a whisky, precipitating out harsh short-chain esters and promoting more pleasant volatile flavour compounds into solution.
Each trolley whisky seems to come with its own identity card, and the Coal Ila's description is so hilarious that when Doctor Jenny read it out I thought she was making it up: A rich and enchanting nose which combines lubricating oil and Swarfega hand wash, mineral rub and bath salts with a hint of up-market sauna bath.
Andrew Fairlie whiskies come with a bonus square of lovely Hebridean sea salt caramel tablet, well worth begging for even if you don't drink.
You freak.