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‘Off Menu’: Winter Edition

Inspired by the popular podcast Off Menu hosted by Ed Gamble and James Acaster, I’ve chosen some dishes from restaurants all over Scotland to warm your bellies for the wintertime. As a big wine fan, I’ve also paired everything with drinks that I think would go well with the dishes. Bon appétit x 

Starter: Roasted Orkney Scallop from the Seafood Ristorante

Drink: Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne

With a lovely view looking out to the North Sea, the restaurant, made entirely out of glass, sits right next to West Sands Beach in St Andrews, offering a refreshing dining experience. It comes as no wonder that the restaurant was named Scottish Restaurant of the Year in 2019. Their seafood is supplied fresh daily, and there’s even a humorous video on their website about how their seafood is so fresh that it seems as if one of the waiters just went out onto the terrace to catch a fish straight from the sea after receiving an order from a customer.

The freshness speaks for itself as you cut into the scallop and it breaks off gently, and the piece melts in your mouth. To top everything off, it comes with an exquisite, creamy sauce made of poached Scrabster monkfish, white curry, kaffir lime, and caviar that pairs with the fresh scallops perfectly. Winner of the Decanter World Wine Awards 2020, the Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne and the roasted Orkney Scallops are a match made in heaven. The champagne is crisp, citrusy, with a hint of nuttiness. It has a long finish, which will go well with the creamy sauce.

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Main: Spelt Lobster Risotto from Les 110 de Taillevent London

Drink: 2014 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes 

Les 110 de Taillevent London is a sister restaurant to the one with the same name in Paris, led by head chef Ross Bryans, who is a native of Scotland. He spent his early 20’s working in Edinburgh and was part of the Restaurant Martin Wishart team, who earned the city’s first Michelin star. He demonstrates his fine understanding of British ingredients in this dish, where he pulls off locally sourced ingredients with a French twist. Covered with a beautiful lobster bisque that is creamy with a hint of pepper, the bisque is so good that it could work well on its own as a soup. The bubbles at the surface are a delight and are a testimony to the cooking skills of the chef. The grains of the risotto are a bit hard, but they complement the soft texture of the bisque and make the dish more interesting. 

Although often known solely as a dessert wine, I find that a good Sauternes works surprisingly well with a main. The deep, honey flavour with hints of orange blossom and almond of the 2014 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes will work with the creamy texture of the lobster bisque. The hint of acidity at the end of the glass helps add a kick to the palate, but what works best is the remarkable freshness of the crisp glass of this Sauternes, as well as the colour of the two. This vintage is deep in colour compared to others of its year, and the deep yellow goes well with the yellowish orange dish of the lobster bisque. 

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Side Dish: Plantain Chips from SUPERICO Bar & Lounge 

Drink: Pin Up Colada/Fit as a Fiddle from Sexy Fish

The plantain chips available all day at the SUPERICO Bar & Lounge on 99 Hanover Street is the perfect pick me up, served with whipped ricotta, pineapple, and the highlight: pomegranate salsa. The pomegranate seeds add a tinge of sweetness and tartness that complements the whipped ricotta. One top tip is to try to stay away from the seats near the door, as they keep their doors open and it can get very chilly!

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Sexy Fish is one of the most interesting restaurants I’ve ever been to in the sense that everything is truly fish themed – the interior décor is fascinating. While their food is a bit overpriced, their cocktails are an experience. Some cocktails that would go well with the SUPERICO plantain chips are fruity cocktails that remind us of the warm sunshine: Pin Up Colada which includes Havana Club 3-year-old and Seleccíon de Maestros, pineapple, strawberry and jasmine, coconut, yuzu, and cream, or if you’re the designated driver, Fit as a Fiddle which is an infusion of pineapple, grapefruit, yuzu, and coconut might work better. While many mocktails are glorified juices at best, Sexy Fish really knows how to make their mocktails, so much so that it’s almost better than their cocktails. And of course, all the cocktails remain true to the fish theme. 

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Dessert: Strawberry / cicely / crème frâiche from Fhior 

Drink: Espresso or Moët & Chandon Rosé

Finally, dessert is strawberry / cicely / crème frâiche, a creative take on strawberries and cream from Edinburgh based restaurant Fhior. The meringue is crisp, but not too sweet, while the fresh strawberries fill your mouth with its aroma. Cicely, an ingredient that I had not seen used anywhere else, works well with the dish overall. It is sweet and tastes a bit like anise, and makes the dish more interesting, but not noticeably.

The dessert would work well with a good “short black” espresso, or it would work well with a Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial which is both fruity and light on the palate. Its shade of pink also goes well with the strawberry theme of the dish overall and helps to deliver some crispness to the crème frâiche. 

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