The Peat Inn, Fife
The Linksland team head for the Heart of Fife to sample one of Scotland's premier foodie heavens. Is this the best place to eat in the Kingdom? Or indeed in all of Scotland?
Only 20 minutes from St Andrews, The Peat Inn was The Home of Golf's first Michelin star restaurant, a 'starter' you might say to Scotland's much-need food revolution. This was very nearly not the case! And it was my fault! Almost!
Back in the early 90's before the dawn of cell phones, Trip Advisor and the like when Scotland was actually the worst place to eat on the planet, I'd heard how good this restaurant was and stopped in to take a look and maybe book.
It was a Monday and the place was dead, dark; eerily empty. Then a shuffling came from behind a basement door and owner/chef David Wilson appeared clutching bags of provisions. Not wishing to startle him I stood still but he sensed there was someone or 'some thing' in the room and instantly turned a similar shade to his whites. I've never seen anyone so close to actually having a heart attack. I suppose the Inn has been around for 250 years and might be prone to ghosts. I decided this was maybe not the right time to make a booking and left David to make himself a cup of tea and/or something stronger.
Wilson clearly survived the ordeal and continued to evolve The Peat Inn as Scotland's premier, Michelin-star establishment adding in the course of his duties two Egon Ronay stars, three AA rosettes, the Master Chef of Great Britain title as well as being named one of Britain's three Chefs Laureate. I reckon the 'start' must have done him some good!
In 2006, David sold up this foremost foodie establishment and went off to the South of France to let someone else do the cooking. Geoffrey and Katherine Smeddle took over and as we discover today, The Peat Inn continues in exceptionally good hands.
Is this the best place to eat close to St Andrews and Fife's charming East Neuk? Let me start by saying, I was slightly apprehensive at the thought of taking 'the team', all three of us to such a prestigious, potentially-pricey place. But low and behold, the set lunch menu is a mere £22 which included three courses with hors d'oeuvres and chocolates to finish. That has to be one of the best deals ever!
Jacquelina and I opted for the £22 set menu, a soft poached egg with celeriac tagliatelle, parmesan crisps and pancetta chips, Roast hake, roast pepper and smoked almond puree, pak choi and lobster coconut bisque followed by a Crème fraiche and vanilla parfait, raspberry sorbet and fresh Fife raspberries. Utterly delicious!
Allan, our fabulous foodie critic from New York City went the whole hog with the Chef's Taster Menu. The 4 courses with matched wines came in at £80.00. Here's Allan to give us his thoughts...
"I'd heard about The Peat Inn as being one of the best fine dining experiences near Scotland's East Coast so was keen to give it a go. The building's nothing fancy but it's done out well and I notice they offer bedrooms also. They gave us a warm welcome with a start of tasty canapés as well as a choice of aperitif. I chose a glass of champagne, naturally! The menu was flexible allowing the table to choose a different combination of courses. David and Jac ordered the three-course lunch prie-fixe and I opted for the four-course chef's tasting menu with the addition of a wine pairing. They provided a complimentary amuse bouche before moving on to starters and mains.
I liked it! I really did. It's a pretty simple setup - easy-going servers creating a nice, relaxed atmosphere. They're not trying to do anything overly pretentious here so everyone seems chilled and happy at their work. I've noticed in some of the better Scottish establishments, it can get a bit stiff-shirty. The Inn's not like that at all. It was a busy lunchtime (as I'm sure it always is at £22 for the set menu). I'd eat here on a regular basis for this standard of food at that price! That is a steal when you sample how utterly tasty and perfectly presented everything is. Additionally, the servers were spot-on at accommodating a gluten sensitivity at the table (Uncle Dave) which showed their respect for allergies and dietary restrictions.
The service and food kept coming as did the superb service of the lady sommelier. If she doesn't mind saying so, we 'clicked' or maybe it was me being so impressed and enjoying her pairings, so to speak. She was a genuine font of wine knowledge and I enjoyed out little tête-à-tête surrounding the various wines she presented.
After our meal, they provided beautiful and tasty petit fours. I've got to say, this is as fine an experience as you'll get; in New York, Paris or just about anywhere. The produce they're working with here at the Peat Inn is sublimely fresh and the way they put it together is delectable! The Peat Inn! Yeah, gotta be one of the best in Scotland, for sure..."
The Peat Inn, Cupar, Fife, tel: 01334 840 206 or visit www. thepeatinn.co.uk