One aspect of my business is to provide consultancy for food related businesses and whilst this often is about looking at a small business from the staffing point of view or the positioning of the business in the market place and of course the financials, which are all core to a successful hospitality business, I also like to talk about two things, the story and the place. I recall at college being lectured to on the three most important elements of a hospitality business which were “Location Location and Location” but I think these themes today are no longer as important, as the world will beat a path to your door if you create a product that people want.
On the face of it the Newport is not a great location, it’s in a sleepy little Tayside town off the beaten track. But let us look at the positives, one such is of course the owner Jamie Scott, one time winner of Masterchef, which in itself is not necessarily a blank cheque, then there is the great setting, once you actually make the effort to get to The Newport in Newport ( one immediately thinks of the other great restaurant which has the same name as its location, also in Fife –The Peat Inn) the views over the “silvery Tay” really can be silvery and stunning, and Scott has created a focus on the outside in conjunction with his architect and designer. It’s a great place to be. Then look at his skills in the social media world, and his understanding of “putting himself about” He appears at food festivals and shows throughout the year talking about his passion and his food, spreading the word like an evangelist.
Ok, so as to the product, well here is the thing, which no amount of consulting can bring, only experience and skill. Jamie Scott has all the attributes of a great chef, he can cook, he can source good materials, he has a complete understanding of seasonality, how wonderful to see salsify on a menu, ( how many chefs know what it is let alone put this wonderful crunchy vegetable on a menu) there was pigeon and cauliflower and blood oranges! In season yes, maybe not grown here but this is when we get them. And then he has that rare skill of marrying flavours in a bold but successful way.
On paper “Peasemeal gnocchi, mussels, caramelised sprouts and chestnuts” is intriguing, but as a whole it works brilliantly. Bright green just cooked sprout leaves interspersed with comfortingly solid gnocchis and the odd splash of fresh mussel all bound up with that sweet tasting, reassuring chestnut. It is a brilliant dish and so cleverly conceived but simple in construction. Another successful dish was “Coley marinated in tequilla, avocado and blood orange” His use of Coley for a start is courageous, it is not a well known fish but available in Scottish waters year round and a perfect texture for eating raw. I am always fearful of raw fish in restaurants because I am afraid there will be that tell tale ammonia smell of the fish just past its best. This smelled simply of the sea and the marinade of tequila balanced nicely with the blood orange and the texture of avocado, another thoughtful but simple and delicious dish.
The Newports “small plates” way of serving is modern and works well you can have a simple “light lunch” or a full blown feast as and when you want! Go there! Jamie Scott has created a truly remarkable destination eaterie. Finally you cannot run a successful restaurant without good service and we were so well looked after by Leanne whose skill was her gently shared knowledge and obvious pride in what she represented,
Oh and the consultancy tip ? Tell a story and look after your people, and customers will beat a path to your door
The Newport by Jamie Scott
West Fife Eatery.
As Fife food ambassador I enjoy the fact that that Fife is a microcosm of Scotland as a whole, it’s an amazing region, just look at what we produce; There is the magnificent shore line with its 130 plus miles of world class coastal path taking in the pretty East Neuk fishing villages where lobster, crab, razor clams, langoustines and mackerel are all landed. There are all the accompanying fish processors from frozen fish to award winning fish smoke houses. There the hinterlands of the east of fife with the cereals such as oats and barley for the distilleries, further inland we have great vegetables even peppers! There are all categories of livestock from grass fed cattle and sheep to pigs and poultry with a few small producers of rare breed pigs such as Gloucester Old spot and Soay sheep. Then of course there are fruit farms and our famous and only artisan cheese maker, and not to forget our wild harvest, from roe deer, partridge, pheasant in the hills to mushrooms such as chanterelle and ceps in the woods and all manner of herbs and plants from wild garlic, made use of by Trotter’s Independent Condiments with his Wild garlic pesto, to rowan and elderberries. I plan to look more closely at these as the year progresses. But this has become a long introduction to my main subject! Which is west Fife, as Food ambassador I try to cover the whole region and talk about the whole area, but in general when I do my food tours people want to visit the East Neuk so I take them to Ardross farm shop and the East Pier smoke house and the wonderful chocolate maker the Cocoa tree in Pittenweem and then we often cook together using the produce we have seen and tasted.
But what of the west, I think because of the proximity to Edinburgh and the motorway, visitors tend to be less inclined to explore. St Andrews and its environs are a draw, but there is much to see and do, and perhaps also the locals are less aware of their natural heritage in the region. I was involved in he Bruce festival a few years back and it was noticeable that local visitors were not interested in produce from their region, the fact that Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline Farmers markets are never as well attended as St Andrews shows this, all credit then to number 29 in Dunfermline a quirky eatery in the attractive Bruce street in the old town, which interestingly is just up from the Glen gates where the farmers market used to be, but due to the poor attendance there the market has now moved out east to the Fife Leisure park where admittedly the parking is much better. Anyway back to Bruce street and dine at 29, Restaurant Manager Neil Gardner tells me that the new menu is aimed at a young Dunfermline market and judging by the night we were there its working, but he is also determined to introduce local produce. It’s a fun place to be, which feels like a cellar or basement, with large pillars down the middle and a brick wall at one end. There is an eclectic mix of pictures, framed tartan and mirrors on the walls, all adding to the eclectic feel. Loud music is mainly Scottish contemporary with the Proclaimers and Texas featuring heavily. The menu is aimed at a young market with families and covers most bases. But do try the “hot rocks” steaks, as although it’s a bit of theatre you can cook your steak yourself at the table exactly as you want it! Neil wants to use local producer Puddledub for his meat and that will develop in time. John Bonner the executive chef has worked hard to create dishes which appeal to his market and are well presented and colourful. One hopes that the good people of Dunfermline will support such an admirable enterprise.
Dine at 29
29 Bruce Street Dunfermline
I was helping my wife the photographer Caroline Trotter to do a “shoot” she had over on the west coast at what was the Taynuilt hotel. Now in my memory of having run a hotel over in that neck of the woods, the Taynuilt hotel was, well let’s be frank a bit of a dump. But I reckoned they wouldn’t be spending their hard earned cash on employing my wife to take food shots if there wasn’t something worth looking at (and eating) and happily I was right.
Chef proprietor John McNulty and his Maitre D. and sommelier David Lapsley are remarkably candid about what they are doing and their relaxed approach belies the hard work which obviously goes on, and still needs to go on. Yes the place still needs some TLC especially the bed rooms although surely it’s not beyond the wit of man to put empty beer barrels somewhere other than the front of the hotel!!) But it’s the food these guys are on about and that is why they call it a restaurant with rooms. There is word on the wire that they have “upset the locals” but I am afraid that is par for the course, when making good changes to a business. Years of neglect from pandering to the locals has stopped and money is being spent in attracting visitors.
How to be different? Well the new Etive restaurant has got a few surprises up its sleeve (gimmicks some might say) but in an area where the main business comes from visitors to the many B and B’s in Taynuilt – there is no other eatery in the village! You have to be a bit different to bring folk in and stop them doing fish and chips in Oban. First is the smoke, you are brought a tray with dried moss and your canapés, there is also a tea pot with no lid, once the waiter has explained what the canapé is he pops a little pot of what turns out to be dry ice into the tea pot and hey presto the tray is engulfed in atmospheric clouds of dry ice! Fun yes but it doesn’t add to the quality of the food.
The second interesting element (note I haven’t used the word gimmick any more) is the fish soup. Before you have sight of the fish the waiter brings a “percolator” to the table, in the base is a lovely cloudy looking fish stock and in the top are a few slices of fennel and a sprig of fresh thyme. The burner is lit and within a few moments the liquid is forced up the tube into the container with the herbs, the burner is extinguished and the liquid makes its acquaintance with said herb and drops back to the lower bowl, all very entertaining, but the proof as they say, is in the eating and out comes a bowl of a beautiful dice of fish; prawns, scallops, mussels etc in a round moulded shape in the centre of the bowl.
The stock is poured gently round and away you go. The fish is superb and the stock rich and delicately flavoured with guess what? Fennel and thyme. It works, it is good. To summarise the food is very good the rest of our meal was simply presented but with well sourced materials. All the beef is local the hogget (an older lamb to you and me) comes from Iona, one of the islands off the west coast, and thus local to Taynuilt. The wine list is interesting and David know his stuff choosing for me over two nights four excellent wines which matched my dishes superbly, Argyll has a new star on the horizon. They are currently doing remarkable deal, up to March, of Dinner bed and breakfast for two for £99 when dinner is £45 per person for three courses you are getting a room for two for a 9 quid!! Go there and tell people.
As the Summer kicks in there is loads to see and do in Fife and so with an eye on our Innovation Architecture and Design theme I have pulled together some ideas of what to see and do whilst enjoying the great outdoors in Fife. Every one of these ideas offers the opportunity to see some great buildings experience amazing history and art and join in with celebrating art music food and culture right across the region. Get out, look up and down!
Fife coastal path
Take a walk along this superb foot path which takes you round the entire coastline of Fife see lots of fascination buildings and take time to visit the villages along the way, not to mention cafes and restaurants. For information about the path go to their website https://fifecoastalpath.co.uk/ or for some idea of the amazing scenery on route head over to their Facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/FifeCoastalCyclePath/
“The great British Dog walk” Hill of Tarvit Mansion House grounds 5th june
Walk your dog in the garden of this Edwardian house, in aid of deaf awareness
Balgove Night market 8th june
Balgove has created a fun buzzy atmosphere for the night markets on the 8th June they are celebrating Myxology and street food
Crail food festival 11th – 12th June
A wonderful celebration of Fife food and cooking skills in this picturesque former fishing village. The Sunday event by the pier has become renowned
Visit a Fruit farm
Time to either to pick your own or buy superb fruit from one of the many in Fife, always innovating, Fife fruit farmers are the envy of the world
Beach Highland games Kirkcaldy 11th June
Kirkcaldy 4 all organise this fun beach event, a unique highland games!
Cupar arts festival 18th – 25th June
An eclectic mix of all genres of art from the grounded to the distinctly abstract. This year street food is celebrated – yours truly will be there on Saturday 18th to cook with local produce
Barbeque at Tentsmuir beach
perhaps a party for the longest day on this stunning beach!
Enjoy an ice-cream from one of Fifes many artisan parlours;
East Neuk festival 22nd June– 3rd July
The East Neuk festival has grown over 10 years to be recognised as one of the great rural music festivals in the world with venues ranging from ancient churches to old barns and the famous sand sculpture every year in front of the honeypot cafe in Crail
Well this was one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had to do:
Take a bunch of guys around Scotland on a ……….. Whisky tour!
It’s great how my website brings in all sort of enquiries from cooking with children, men, women and family groups to after dinner speaking at Tourism or business events, talking at Book festivals and organising food demonstrations all over Scotland – Ballantrae? Watch this space.
So it was, I got an email from Dubai – bunch of guys on a stag do with the “bachelor” passionate about Malt whisky. After much deliberation and to-ing and fro-ing I created a whisky tour for them which not only they will never forget but neither will I!
The stag stuff was sorted very quickly with a nightclub in Glasgow; I had nothing to do with that!! But earlier in the day my friend Brenda from Tasting Scotland https://www.tastingscotland.com/ took the guys on a wonderful walking tour around Glasgow showing all aspects of the Glasgow food culture from Indian through to Chinese and Italian. They loved it. It’s good to have friends in the right places!
We set of on the Sunday of that amazing week of sunshine driven by the characterfull Gordon from William Sleigh https://sleigh.co.uk/ transport to our first Distillery – Auchentoshan https://www.auchentoshan.com/ which happily was a perfect first stop. Their “Ultimate Experience” tour was just that, with an excellent in depth explanation and tasting from the cask we were on our way. Two more distilleries Deanston and Gleggoyne and then to an excellent lunch at the Old Mill at Killearn https://www.theoldmillkillearn.co.uk/ Then onto Balquidder where I put my trust in my old friend Tom Lewis at his superb Monachyle Mhor https://mhor.net/monachyle-mhor-hotel/ who produced the most amazing dinner with each course matched to a whisky. Tom of course came into our private room between courses to explain what it was next, and why he matched the whisky. The boys loved it.
After a great night at the hotel and superb breakfast we set off for Speyside by way of Edradour and Dalwhinnie, the day time high light was lunch at the Auld alliance in Kingussie where Lydie Bocquillon https://www.auld-alliance.com/ the chef owner cooked a great lunch and we were beautifully looked after by her lovely daughter Sky.
The evening highlight was a visit to Glenfarclass, https://www.glenfarclas.co.uk/ which is one of the favourite whiskies of our “bachelor” so we arrived and I introduced him to John Grant as the owner! He was overwhelmed, more was to come on this memorable visit, Calum the distillery manager took us on a tour where we were actually able to put our hands into the spirit stream in the “safe”. Now for those in the know the spirit safe is where the excise man usually steps in and has everything padlocked but here Calum opened it up and plunged his hands into the stream and encouraged us to do the same and rub our hands together to smell the barley!
And so to dinner with John Grant himself the highlight of highlights here as each person was invited to pick a bottle from the shelf from his birthday year and pour himself a dram! There was even one for my year!! Again I had a friend locally who put me in touch with John Grant who now has many more Glenfarclass Ambassadors!
Next day brought two more distilleries – Glenglassaugh and Strathisla and so onto my next surprise for the group. I had hired Glentruim https://www.glentruimestate.co.uk/ castle for the night where I cooked dinner of local venison and a simple cranachan, which they helped prepare in the kitchen. On the journey up we had a discussion about Cullen Skink as they has had some in Glasgow, so I was able to get the ingredients and make that with them as well, a real Scottish food experience. I had also managed to source a few whiskies they had not yet tasted, so the evening developed into a good session around a roaring log fire long into the night.
A slightly delayed departure next morning! took us onto the glorious road to Fort William, and after Gordon showed us Neptune’s staircase at the end of the Caledonian canal, we had a quick tasting at the Ben Nevis distillery before we headed for Oban and lunch at Coast https://www.coastoban.co.uk/ – local shellfish and Halibut from Gigha were excellent. On down to Carradale where we spent our last two nights with some excellent local food at Dunvalanree https://www.dunvalanree.com/ owned and run by Alan and Alison Milstead who cooks brilliantly, and we made a dent in Alan’s excellent whisky collection too.. Final full day was a tour by Frank McHardy of Springbank distillery which was thoroughly enjoyed.
What a great trip it was – Scotland looking fantastic and I provided an experience which could not be bought off the shelf aided by great friends and acquaintances – old and new, along the way!
Can’t wait for the next one now – who’s interested – get in touch!
Last week I had the great pleasure of hosting a group from Dubai – guiding them around a few distilleries to show them just a flavour of what we can offer here in Scotland for the food and drink connoisseur.
Find the full story in my next blog – but here’s a glimpse for now!
Day 1 – www.auchentoshan.com followed by Deanston & Gleggoyne then great food at www.theoldmillpitlochry.co.uk, Balquidder and an evening at Monachyle Mhor Hotel.
Day 2 – Edradour & Dalwhinnie, lunch at www.auld-alliance.com in Kingussie, then Glenfarclass and dinner with John Grant the owner.
Day 3 – Glenglassaugh & Strathisla, with a surprise overnight stay at Glentruim and my own culinary delights.
Day 4 – Fort William to see Neptune’s Steps, Ben Nevis Distillery then on to Oban for lunch at Coast; www.coastoban.co.uk
Day 5 – Full day tour at Springbank
Our final evening – tired but happy!
About a month ago I was asked to put together a unique list for the website “Welcome to Fife” that encompasses many of the elements of my project with Fife Council linking Fife food with the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, for places to visit at this time of year.
This post was far from difficult to compose – a list of those places that I love to visit; businesses built by friends, through hard work and determination; and communities who appreciate the architectural development of their surroundings influenced by food and lifestyles. Admittedly, the hardest part was what to leave out, so have a read and then let me know what you would put on your list, and why.
Continuing the theme of food connected to Innovation Architecture and Design, here are some interesting places to visit in Fife and most of which you’ll also be able to eat at! Enjoy this blog by Fife Ambassador Christopher Trotter.
1 Falkland Pillars of Hercules – fantastic organic cafe and farm shop, but also worth a visit is the toilet block! Designed by a local architect in conjunction with Bruce Bennet, Pillars’ owner, using local timber and composting toilets and fused glass windows by a local artist.
2 St Andrews – the Byre Theatre in Abbey street is on the site of an original cow Byre which was on the edge of town in days gone by. The current building is the third theatre on the site.
3 Dunfermline – The Bruery, home of De Brus Brewery named after the family of Robert the (De) Bruce. Admire the classic Georgian Building in the heart of the town just along from the Alhambra theatre and the Abbey.
4 Glenrothes. The town of Glenrothes was built on farm land after the war, and today several buildings have already been listed . St Columba’s Church is very near the town centre and is worth a visit.
5 St Monans – the East Pier Smokehouse. This building was an old smokehouse and fish processing plant and current owner James Robb has reinstated the smokehouse and converted the rest into a cafe, which is now open for the season.
6 North Queensferry – The Wee Restaurant, owners Craig and Vicki Wood have recently renovated their interior its worth a visit, quite apart from stunning view of all three of the Forth bridges from the door!
7 Cupar – the sugar beet factory. It’s not possible to get in just now, but this remarkable symbol of Scottish farming Innovation stands as a beacon on the way into the old market town of Cupar. The only one of its kind in Scotland!
8 Pittenweem – the Walled Garden Kellie Castle. The National Trust properties will all be open again for Easter but the walled garden is open all year round, designed in the tradition of Medieval houses to provide both fruit vegetables and medicinal plants for the household, Kellie is still run on organic principles and has one of the oldest collections of Scottish apple trees
9 Auchtermuchty – Archibald Findlay’s packing factory. With a plaque going up on the wall of this building to commemorate the great potato breeder, Auchtermuchty is worth a visit not just for its musical output!
10 Ladybank – Off the Rails exhibition.“People Eating” The former station master’s house at Ladybank Station now houses an arts space and this is worth a visit any time but the exhibition is fascinating!
Rocca February 16
Rocca is the Italian style restaurant within the Russacks hotel right on the edge of the golf links, in St Andrews, American visitors must love this place with views straight onto the old course not to mention golf paraphernalia everywhere, our view of the R and A golf club was about all you could see on a dreich February evening but as the days get longer we were in pole position for the 18th green. Rocca has been a separate entity within the hotel for a number of years and there is a distinct Tuscan/ Italian theme going on, they also have their outpost of a deli in Bell Street. My first impression was favourable with a warm welcome from the word go. They obviously look after their staff well as Liam (who welcomed us) the assistant Food and Beverage manager had been on a wine and food trip with the company and used his knowledge to perfection even though it was a Portuguese red he recommended to me, his skills and knowledge were stand out for me. He took a pride in what he did, his knowledge and how he communicated that to us. How lovely to be able to understand a description of a dish from someone whose first language is one’s own! I have often said that a meal can be made or broken by the service and Liam certainly made it.
At this time of year the menu is quite sensibly reduced in size, in busier times they offer a tasting menu with wines to compliment, However although choice is easier there was still enough variety, and you also know that the food is going to be fresh. Never trust a large menu! And in spite of the Italian connection it was still very locally and seasonally grounded with Scottish produce really to the fore, beetroot and kale are always good to see for those of you who know my books! But smoked salmon, game terrine, Orkney beef and Scrabster turbot all appeared on the short set price menu.
Little “snacks” of parmesan puffs and haggis balls reflected the Italo/Scottish marriage and very good they were too, and these are just while you look at the menu.
And the amuse bouche (the French do get everywhere) of a mushroom veloute with a “spumante” topping brought us an earthy mushroom soup with a delicate creamy topping. Liam was the consummate host helping with both food and wine choices answering questions and generally making you feel comfortable and looked after.
Quibbles? Well you know me, Liam was perfect in every way except when describing the herb on top of our little soup, he stated it was tarragon when it was actually thyme, pernickety? Me? Oh and one other thing, the duo of salmon pretty as a picture on the plate, even if the salmon wasn’t raw (it was smoked) it still should be spelt tartare not tatare. Otherwise Liam will wow the Americans. Petit Chablis “a hint of hazelnuts on the finish”? This description did make me raise my eyebrows. But he was absolutely right. Thank you Liam you made our evening.