I LIKE TO keep a mental league table of Michelin-starred restaurants, and despite it being a few years since my last visit to The Peat Inn, that particular meal sees the restaurant installed near the summit. This visit had a lot to live up to...
It was my birthday and The Peat Inn offers a restaurant with rooms, so Sarah treated us both to a night in my beloved East Neuk. The suite was homely, well equipped and spotlessly clean, with calming views of a well-kept garden and the rolling Fife countryside. On the lower level, the large, rather comfortable bed seemed ideal for retiring to, while the top floor offered a chilled out living space to relax beforehand.
We are warmly welcomed by manager Ian MacRae, who recently collected a gong at the AA awards for his outstanding wine list. As Ian settles us in by the open hearth, you feel this is the ideal place to spend an autumn evening, and we begin deliberating over a menu that offers a real smörgåsbord of seasonal delights.
Opting for the a la carte menu (tasting menu and a very favourably priced daily menu are also available), my first course was crisp basil langoustines with marinated scallops, black sesame, avocado wasabi puree and coriander (£17). The langos were fried in what seemed like a stain glass-style pasta casing: wonderfully crisp outside, with a visible and pleasant herby note complimenting the meaty, soft langoustine. I didn’t get much heat from the wasabi in the avocado puree, but the scallops were to die for, and the mango served a fruity note to this light starter.
Sarah began with St. Andrew’s bay lobster with seaweed butter sauce (£19) and what a triumph it was. The seaweed component brought a saltiness that enhanced the rich, tender crustacean. The real beauty in this dish lies with its simplicity, and that requires a cook with equal measures of confidence and ability.
Our next course comprised of young calamari stuffed with spiced pork with smoked aubergine puree, fennel and crisp pancetta (£16 as a starter). Every now and again, you encounter dishes that you toy with ordering, but succumb to the options featuring the more Rolls Royce-type ingredients. Yet, if you were to try them, you always end up upset that you didn’t have the bollocks to go with that initial instinct; this was one of those. Beautifully presented, the tender calamari housed flavoursome pig with an aniseed layer from the fennel that elevated it to heavenly status. Smoked aubergine brought another layer of flavour and texture, but the real star was the zing of apple from the marinated kohlrabi.
I don’t recall a time where I had to ask for “a few more minutes” to make my choice, but when you’re tasked with choosing from (and this was my shortlist) roast loin and confit shoulder of mutton, creamed Swiss chard, truffled potato beignets and bay leaf jus (£25), wild Cairngorm venison with savoyarde potato, brassicas, savoury granola, venison haggis and juniper jus (£25) and wild halibut, glazed Jerusalem artichokes, trompette mushroom, creamed onion and lobster croquette with champagne veloute (£26), what the hell are you meant to do?
Anyhow, I went for the mutton, which was simply sublime. Both meat elements burst with flavour and were cooked with the respect the contrasting cuts deserved. I loved the little pomme dauphine-like potato beignets. However, the star was the creamy, cheesy (I suspect local Anster cheese) garnish with the chard. Delicious.
Sarah ordered Scottish grouse, cocotte potatoes, Savoy cabbage and bacon, with damson jam and madeira jus, which was the most expensive dish on the menu at £30. It was well worth it. Struggling to polish off the rather butch portion, I was more than happy to tuck in. The breasts were supple, and boasted a rich gaminess that reminds me why I love this season. I particularly enjoyed the black pudding that came with this dish, especially with the tartness from the damson jam. Made from the hearts of the birds, this was a fine demonstration in how to utilise the whole of the animal.
For the third and final course, I chose iced honey parfait, Bunnahabhain ice cream, damson mousse and toasted oats (£9.50). Very Scottish-themed dessert this, and a decent one too. Technically faultless, but the nuttiness from the oats on the outside overpowered the subtle hint of honey in the parfait. The whisky ice cream had a bit more of a robust flavour to it, and worked superbly with the rest of the dish. The little tuille biscuits were most notable. I ate this in about three minutes, as obviously I had to have my share of Sarah’s hot banana and passion fruit soufflé with Pina Colada sorbet and rum and raisin madeleines (£9.50).
The behemoth of a soufflé was light, and executed in the fashion you’d expect from a Michelin-starred kitchen. The sorbet was perfect and offered a cold contrast to the soufflé, with the delicious little cakes almost acting as an impromptu petit four. Fun dish that.
Staying at The Peat Inn brought a sense of ceremony to the meal that you just wouldn’t get from a 'normal' visit. While the relaxed country atmosphere will always provide me with fond memories, it’s also very competitively priced for a Michelin restaurant. Smeddle’s expertise at fusing modern cooking with classic influences and fine seasonal produce leaves me in no doubt a visit will finish highly on your league tables too.
*The restaurant is undergoing a renovation In January, and will be shut for the entire month. Owner Geoffrey Smeddle took the time to talk me through his plans: “The restaurant will gain a more spacious bar area, a few more tables, and overall an increased sense of luxury, elegance and comfort, while still reflecting the heritage of the building and the rural setting.”
Phone: 01334 840 306
Opening hours: Tues-Sat
Lunch 12:30 -13:30
Dinner 19:00 - 21:00