Braidwoods is run by husband and wife team Keith and Nicola Braidwood, who opened it in 1994. The restaurant is in an isolated cottage near a small town called Dalry. As if to emphasise the rural location, you have to cross a cattle grid to get to the building. The dining area is split into small areas, each with a low ceiling, a mix of painted and exposed stone walls and fairly well-spaced tables. There were white linen tablecloths and the room was carpeted, keeping noise levels reasonable.
As we looked at the menu a plate of bacon and mushroom vol-au-vents appeared. These rather old-fashioned nibbles were very enjoyable, the bacon flavour coming through well, the pastry pleasant (14/20). Brown bread rolls were made from scratch and were fine, though to me they were a bit doughy and lacked a little salt (14/20). The menu was quite short but had appealing classical dishes, with four courses priced at £48. There was a three course lunch available for £26.
The wine list had fewer than 100 selections, ranging from £22.95 to £145 in price, with a median price of just £35. Wines included Zephyr Riesling 2009 at £29.95 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £12, Eden Road Hilltops Shiraz 2010 at £48.95 for a wine that retails at around £36, and Billecart Salmon Brut Rose NV at £99.95 for a wine that will set you you back £62 in the shops. This is the kind of wine list designed to delight anyone used to fierce London restaurant mark-ups. We drank Hamilton Russell Chardonnay and the excellent Chateau Musar.
Quail was served with a warm beetroot and toasted pine-nut salad. The latter was fine but the quail was distinctly overcooked, almost grey in colour. I asked the waitress whether this was as the kitchen intended, and having examined the plate it was returned with the troubling assurance that it was just as intended, but that the bird could be cooked for longer if I wished. I skipped the option of reducing the meat to a charred cinder, and ate what was presented, but it was a waste of a nice bird (11/20). Diver-caught scallops had quite good flavour and some inherent sweetness, but were also a little overcooked, though by no means as much as the quail. The shellfish were served with sautéed leeks, a little mustard and chive butter sauce, which was fine (13/20). Salmon was served with crushed Jersey Royals, green olives, plum tomatoes and basil. The Jersey Royals were seasonal and enjoyable, but in what was becoming a recurrent theme the salmon was distinctly overcooked and dried out (12/20).
An intermediate course was a choice of either Parmesan tart or asparagus soup and wild garlic with a blob of creme fraiche. The soup was fine, with plenty of asparagus flavour, and properly seasoned (14/20). The tart was also good, though the accompanying red pepper coulis had that slightly metallic flavour that this ingredient can bring, and did not really add anything to the otherwise nicely made tart (14/20).
The best dish of the meal was loin of roe deer, this cooked medium-rare as I had requested and served on a bed of carefully cooked Savoy cabbage, with smooth celeriac purée and a mini duck cottage pie. The deer had very good flavour, as did the celeriac, and the cottage pie added another pleasant element to the dish (15/20). It is unusual to mix two different fish in the same main dish, but both halibut and John Dory were properly cooked and were nicely seasoned, served with braised fennel and a shellfish reduction that had quite good intensity of flavour (14/20). Roast rabbit loin stuffed with mushrooms and wrapped in Parma ham suffered from being a touch dry and overly salty even to my taste, served with properly cooked spinach, carrots and a thyme essence (13/20).
Chocolate truffle cake was made with Valrhona chocolate and was served with caramel and sea salt ice cream, a logical pairing and with ice cream that had smooth texture. However the cake itself lacked chocolate intensity and the texture was a little too gloopy (13/20). Vanilla panna cotta was served with poached rhubarb and hazelnut crumble. The panna cotta was too soft and had partially collapsed, though its flavour was fine, the rhubarb was not too sharp and the crumble added a nice extra texture (14/20).
The bill came to £95 a head, but that was with plenty of wine, and it would be possible to eat here for around £70 a head with modest wine. Service was basic but friendly enough, wine left on the table for guests to top up, which for me is preferable to half-hearted topping up by waiters. This was a slightly frustrating meal, as the best dishes were very pleasant indeed, and the menu was appealing and seasonal, whilst prices were modest. However there were just too many slips in the meal, with a recurring tendency towards overcooking in the savoury dishes. The cooking averaged between 13/20 and 14/20 level, which was fair enough for a simple local restaurant. However it is well below the level of the Michelin star that it held at the time of my visit, first awarded in 2000.