23 July 2012

Review: The Orangery, Balbirnie House Hotel, Fife.


There was a real sense of anticipation surrounding this meal as we rolled up though the leafy gardens towards the stunning 18th century Balbirnie House building.  I have often visited this stunning country house hotel but had not dined in its Orangery restaurant, and the  grand surroundings only added to the intrigue.

We sipped cocktails in the rather exquisite (and busy) Library bar, where we perused the menu whilst munching on canap├ęs of smoked salmon mousse on oatcakes, which were a little bit soggy but tasted fine along with a cluster of beautiful  plump olives from the bar.

The young waiter chatted away as I flicked through a very substantial and reasonably priced wine list, selecting my favoured Rioja to accompany my chosen dishes.  The menu itself had a great range of dishes, especially for vegetarians, although I perhaps felt it maybe lacked fireworks.  Then again, and I mean this with great respect, it probably caters for the majority of Fifers’ food tastes these days.

We were ushered through by our bubbly waitress and took our seat in the spacious dining room under the grand chandeliers. 

 I really wanted to order the delicious home-smoked mackerel dish but having had it at the Bistro the previous week, thought I’d be different and order the ham hough terrine with pickled vegetables.
The terrine itself tasted fine. However, it looked a bit dry and I suspect pre-sliced. The lovely pickled vegetables went well with the terrine, cutting through it nicely and still with a good crunch to them. I’ll have the mackerel next time, one thinks!

Our intermediate of wild mushroom soup came and although it was delicious, I was a little wary of polishing off the extremely generous portion knowing I had another two courses to go… better unbuckle the belt.  I never really favour intermediate courses as so many places charge through the nose for it and you end up with basically an amuse bouche sized portion, so well done Balbirnie.

On to the main event… given The Orangery has a great reputation for its steaks; I thought I would indulge with a lovely Rib-Eye from the chargrill and I was not disappointed.  The 28 day aged beef came wonderfully rare, as requested, and was accompanied by nice crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside hand cut chips.  Well worth the £3.50 supplement for beef of that quality.

Unfortunately, the kitchen had run out of my first choice of dessert – vanilla panna cotta with Blacketyside strawberries. Fair enough, it was a busy evening and we had a late booking so I opted for the trusty old cheese board.  A fine selection came well presented along with my favourite quince jelly and some Scottish oatcakes, which I just about managed to polish off along with the remaining mouthfuls of my delightful Rioja.

I know Executive chef Mark Lyndsey is trying to shift from fine dining to a more brasserie-style menu to cater for the areas food tastes and I think this transition has been very successful.  The menu has a great variety to it and is put together with thought whilst using fresh ingredients and top execution.

I like the layout of The Orangery too; they could easily cram a few more tables in but afford you the space and privacy to enjoy your meal in the comfort of the beautiful dining space.

Special praise must be reserved for the Front of House staff for their professional nature and consistency in the quality of the service, whether it is the Bistro or The Orangery.  The restaurant was extremely busy but the staff all looked like they enjoyed their jobs and were not flustered by the volume of diners on that particular Friday evening.

The quality of the service and the value for money are what impressed me most here.  The most important things for me when dining out are value, service, and atmosphere.  So many places charge similar prices but fall well short in some or even all of these factors–this is not the case with The Orangery. 

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