Perfectly located, this must-visit destination for foodies is just 90 minutes away for 90 per cent of us, points out Sean Murphy

Highland Perthshire is not only the heart of Scotland geographically, it is also central to the country’s burgeoning food and drink sector. Just over an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow, the Fair City of Perth is an ideal destination for weekenders keen to sample what the locals are lucky enough to take for granted.

Strawberries and raspberries from farms across Perthshire make our summers sing, while organic beef, lamb, pork and poultry are plentiful. Game is also big business at this time of year.

Chefs and foodies who live and work in the area are proud of what the rolling hills have to offer.  Alan Gibb, executive chef at Gleneagles, says: “The people here are hugely passionate about what they do and always try to create the highest- quality produce. Whenever we deal with local producers, we feel comfortable coming to the table and asking for something new or different, and they will strive to create an innovative product to match, which gives us the confidence to create some of the wonderful dishes that we offer at the hotel’s three restaurants.”

This is reflected in the fact that the resort’s famous Restaurant Andrew Fairlie is the country’s only two-Michelin Star restaurant, an award which was won in part by head chef Andrew Fairlie’s access to some of the best local and seasonal produce in the country, be that from the hotel’s partners or Fairlie’s own secret garden, where three full-time gardner’s work all year round to provide the best vegetables and the herbs for the restaurant.

Ian Campbell, of seafood specialists George Campbell and Sons, credits the accessibility of the city as the key to its success: “Perth is such a central location; 90 per cent of the population of Scotland can get to Perth in 90 minutes. From a supply point of view for us, it’s great, as most of the fish coming down the east coast from Scrabster, Peterhead and Shetland, via Aberdeen, all comes down by road through Perth, so we get to it first, before it heads to the transport hubs in Glasgow and beyond.”

Perth’s close ties to local producers also led to the introduction of a farmers’ market in the mid-90s.

The first of its kind in Scotland, the event now runs once a month and has grown to be one of the largest and most popular in the country, offering everything from delicious home-made breads and jams to artisan meats and bespoke beers.

According to a senior official from the national tourism organisation, Perthshire has also been key to the success of Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink.

Jim Clarkson of VisitScotland stated that the strength and heritage of the food and drink sector in the region proved crucial in attracting key conferences to Scotland throughout the year, including the UK’s first national conference for craft distillers and the largest industry meet-the-buyer event in the Scottish Calendar.

Mr Clarkson, the Regional Partnerships Director at VisitScotland, said: “Perthshire more than played its part in making the Year of Food and Drink one of the most successful themed years ever by offering various opportunities to celebrate the area’s incredible natural larder.

“Some of the biggest events of this deliciously themed year took place in the region, including the first UK Craft Distillers Conference at Atholl Palace, The Mix-In at The Byre on the Inchyra Estate and Showcasing Scotland at Gleneagles.

“The Year of Food and Drink has been a huge success in raising the profile of the unique and diverse dining experiences which can be enjoyed across Perthshire.”

Suzanne Cumiskey, Business Development Officer at Invest in Perth, said that the UK Craft Distillers’ Conference – a two day event run by the Scottish Craft Distillers Association at Atholl Palace in Pitlochry – and The influential ‘Showcasing Scotland’ conference, which took place at Gleneagles Hotel in October, highlights just how important Perth is becoming.

She said: “We’re delighted to see the support the industry is getting through truly innovative initiatives and projects.

“The events which have taken place in Perthshire this year have showcased what it has to offer in terms of food and drink spectacularly. It has been a great way of celebrating the rich produce we have on our doorstep and an opportunity to market it to the rest of the country.”

This commitment to food and drink and passion for quality ingredients doesn’t just stop at producers. It is also reflected in the city’s excellent restaurant scene.

Deans @ Let’s Eat, run by former Scottish Chef of the Year Willie Deans, has been providing fine dining on a budget over the past decade. North Port is another popular restaurant tucked away behind the Museum and Art Gallery, and below are three more establishments that have put Perth firmly on the culinary map.

Restaurant Andrew Fairlie

(Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder PH3 1NF, tel: 01764 694267)

Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder. Picture: TSPL

Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder. Picture: TSPL

The jewel in the crown of Perthshire’s dining scene is also one of the best restaurants in Scotland, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie remains the country’s only two-Michelin Star winning restaurant and deservedly so.

Andrew Fairlie’s commitment to locally sourced, seasonal produce extends not only to partnerships with Gleneagle’s local producers but also to the creation of his very own ‘Secret Garden’; a project that saw him sourcing a Victorian walled garden and three full-time gardners to produce the freshest herbs, fruits and vegetables all year round. The Garden not only a regular supply of seasonal ingredients but also inspires both the chef and his team to create unique dishes based on what’s available from the garden at any given time creating an ever evolving menu that is as varied as it is wonderful.

The restaurant’s signature dish sees succulent Scottish lobster, smoked over whisky barrels and is Andrew Fairlie at his best.

63 Tay Street

(63 Tay Street PH2 8NN, tel: 01738 441451)

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The leading light in Perth’s restaurant scene is undoubtedly 63 Tay Street. Having cut his teeth in Jersey and Sussex before returning home to Scotland to refine his skills under Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, local boy Graeme Pallister has become one of the country’s best chefs. His dishes perfectly showcase his personal culinary philosophy of ‘local, honest, simple’. A sample lunch menu includes plates like salad of Perthshire grouse, celeriac slaw, raisin and roast hazelnuts, and roast Scottish quail, pickled carrot, corn bread and honey.

 

The Post Box

(80 George Street, PH1 5LB tel: 01738 248971)

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Located on the site of the city’s first post office, dating from 1861, the Post Box restaurant and bar has been producing excellent food since opening in 2013. With a two-course pre-theatre menu competitively priced at £14.95, as well as live music in the cellar bar on Fridays, owners David and Katriona Will have worked hard to attract different custom through the week. Head chef Wesley Watts’ mouth-watering creations include dishes such as seared pigeon breast and Crowdie, braised ox cheek, confit of rabbit and roasted sole.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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