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The only two star Michelin food in Scotland

Saturday, July 16th , 2011

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After days of rain on my trip to the Napa valley a few weeks ago I looked at the BBC weather forecast for Glasgow and saw unremitting rain cloud symbols as far as the eye could see (or at least as far as the cursor would scroll). In reality we had excellent weather there, sitting in a friend’s garden to have tea and snacks each day, fitting in a trip to a couple of restaurants.   Andrew Fairlie is in the Gleneagles Hotel (pictured) and is the only two Michelin star restaurant in the UK that I had not been to.  The meal there was pleasant, but for me fell rather short of truly two star standards; it was interesting to compare this with Tom Kitchin and Martin Wishart’s restaurants in Edinburgh, both of which seem to me very strong one star places indeed; of the three places, I would personally say that Andrew Fairlie was the least memorable meal of the three based on my experiences.  That said, the food was capable enough, and a chocolate dessert was impressive.

This was more than could be said for MacCallums Oyster Bar at Troon (or “Oyster Ar” as the sign on the wall outside would have it). I gather this once had a good reputation under chef Douglas Smith, but although the seafood itself was fresh the cooking of it at my meal was quite disappointing except for a competently cooked slab of halibut. It is a pity to see good quality produce not shown off to proper advantage.   If the owners can’t even be bothered to fix the sign on the wall of their restaurant, how much attention are they paying to the kitchen?  Not much based on this meal.

Cay Tre is a pleasant, simple Vietnamese café in Old Street that I visited many years ago, but was not inspired enough to want to return to. The owners have now launched a supposedly up-market version of Cay Tre in Soho, but based on the meal I had this week the formula has got lost in translation.  The décor is indeed smarter than the Old Street branch, but that is not setting the bar real high, and despite the best efforts of the capable manager, the staff seemed to me to feel uncomfortable in the slightly more formal setting.  Most importantly, the food is no better, and despite a pleasant pho there were also some quite poor dishes, which is a lot less forgivable at the higher prices charged in the Soho setting.

Esarn Kheaw was another leg in my quest to find decent Thai food in London outside Patara, and despite a nice tom yum soup and good noodles was another flop. A dish of minced pork salad was utterly inedible, fish cakes disappointing as they so often are in lesser Thai restaurants. At least the bill here was reasonable.

I also had time for a quick lunch at The English Pig, Johnny Mountain’s shrine to pork. I only had the chance to try a couple of dishes, such as pork scratching salad, but the dishes were both well made, and if you like pork then this City oddity is worth a visit.

Next week I will review a really exciting new London restaurant; it was so good on the first visit that I am going back this week to make sure I wasn’t imagining it or was overly inebriated. All will be revealed next week.

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