A pre-Christmas trip to Wildlings is much more fulfilling than shopping, discovers Jennifer Harper

At this time of year I have no desire to encounter frenzied shoppers tearing off their Santa hats in frustration as they scramble to find last minute gifts, Indeed my policy is to complete the Christmas shopping by the end of November.

So now that I’m fully prepared for the festive madness ahead I can treat Mother, Mini-Me and myself to a civilised midweek supper away from the carnage in town. Having heard good things about Wildings in Maidens, we opt to take a little jaunt down the Ayrshire coast to give it a try.

“Just the right cut of each fish to make this a seafaring adventure”

Maidens is a quaint village sandwiched between the mighty Culzean Castle and Turnberry. Wildings is a family-run hotel and restaurant renowned for its seafood, much of which is landed a little further up the coast. Visiting on a Tuesday evening in December I am pleasantly surprised by how busy the restaurant is – a healthy mix of couples, business people and families.

Mother chooses soup of the day, which is country vegetable, and I am assured it is a lovely, warm and flavourful bowl of goodness, just what the doctor ordered on this chilly evening.

My breaded goat’s cheese comes served on a delicious sun-dried tomato and balsamic salad – the perfect accompaniment to the slightly melted, yet still chalky, goat’s cheese, which is encased within a crispy coating of breadcrumbs.

Mini-Me requests meatballs with tomato sauce and pasta from the specials starter list – what arrives is the biggest, juiciest meatballs I have ever seen, on a bed of pasta topped with just the right amount of tomato sauce. She is hungry and devours the lot.

Having heard so much about Wildings’ seafood offerings, I have to try the main course, which happily lands five fish on the one plate – salmon, hake, monkfish, cod and sea bass.

Beautifully arranged, with a tomato and basil vinaigrette adding colour and texture to the dish, this is a culinary feast indeed. Chef has cleverly served just the right cut of each fish to make this a seafaring adventure – the distinct pink of the salmon, the delicate cod, firmer hake, meatier monkfish and buttery sea bass.

Mother’s roast breast of duck is served on a bed of mash, circled with a pink peppercorn and brandy cream sauce. A surprising addition – and a move away from the traditional plum sauce or redcurrant jelly – the peppercorn sauce works, while the duck is tender. Mini-Me chooses sea bass, but decides to forego the pesto crushed potatoes and fresh tomato sauce. She receives two large fillets which again don’t last long on the plate. Each main is served with a small bucket of fries, a bowl of vegetables and boiled potatoes for the table to share.

Mother has a latte to finish, though can’t help grabbing a spoon to try my crêpe filled with bananas and covered with lashings of maple syrup. This is a pudding! Mini-Me takes a while to decide between the raspberry ripple, chocolate brownie or Crunchie ice cream, in the end opting for raspberry ripple – it is delicious, with sharp fruit pieces really enhancing the flavour.

Our adventure into Wildings’ world has been lovely – the staff are very pleasant, the restaurant is big, with tables arranged to afford each privacy, and the food is of a high calibre that is usually reserved for the cities. I can see Wildings becoming a regular favourite of ours, planned into day trips to the seaside and Culzean. This pre-Christmas experience has been much more fulfilling than shopping. Try it. Happy Christmas.

ALSO ON THE MENU

There is an extensive choice of starters and mains, with chicken, duck and trout with a raspberry vinaigrette, and smoked haddock and bacon gratin with braised rice being next on my “to try” list.

Intriguing mains include hearty lambs liver and bacon or roast rack of lamb with pan juices and a compote of minted peas. There is also a dedicated vegetarian menu, with offerings such as spinach and onion gnocchi with cream and cheese to start, and mushroom and asparagus stroganoff, vegetable tempura or curried vegetables with braised rice as mains.

Wildings’ selection of sweets is fairly traditional, but seems to go down well with their clientele – bread and butter pudding, rice pudding, pavlova, and chocolate and orange liqueur pot to name but a few. There’s certainly something for every palate.

HOW MUCH?
Lunch menu 2 courses, £13.50;
3 courses, £16.50
Dinner menu 2 courses, £20.50;
3 courses, £24.50

Like this? See also:

8 of the best seafood hotels in Scotland

Wildings, Maidens, Ayrshire, restaurant review
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