When you end up in a strange city, finding somewhere good to eat can be tricky. If you don’t know the place at all, you obviously don’t know where’s good – and, more importantly, where to avoid at all costs.
"The pistachio cake with blood oranges – served
with white chocolate and pistachio ice cream – was
so light and airy, you’d have been forgiven for
thinking that you weren’t eating anything at all"
Taking recommendations from locals can be tricky. (Mr Turner and I were once urged to eat at “by far the best place in town”. Worst. Meal. Ever.)
Perth doesn’t have that problem, because Perth has 63 Tay Street, whose reputation has spread far and wide. Established in 2007, nothing has yet come close to knocking it off its top perch.
Chef/patron Graeme Pallister, works to a simple ethos – “Local. Honest. Simple.” – and given that he has the bounty of Perthshire to pick from, the amazing thing is that any restaurateur would think of doing anything else.
So our menu, reflecting this, was small and perfectly formed. No lengthy list of standards which are actually in suspended animation awaiting the welcoming “ping” of the microwave. These dishes are all fresh.
That spelt trouble. I wanted everything there. This would normally entail a return visit for lunch and dinner the next day – possibly even breakfast if such an option was open to us. Thankfully we were with suggestible friends and so we were able to order every single thing to be shared freely between us all.
The starters (all £10) – or wee taster courses, as they are described on the menu – featured hand-dived scallops with curried lentils and ginger flan. The beautiful, just-cooked scallops were perfectly paired with the spices of the curry and ginger.
A white onion risotto with locally smoked haddock, Clava Brie and Shetland mussels was divine. The Arborio rice retained its bite, while the haddock gave the dish real heft and the Clava Brie added delightful piquancy.
TL and I both opted for the Jersey royal and leek soup with corned highland venison and a crispy carey hen’s egg which was the most un-soup-like soup I’ve ever encountered. Cubes of roasted waxy Jersey royals sat round a pile of corned venison and leeks – atop which was a soft boiled egg in a crispy shell.
I could eat this dish every day for the rest of my life and still be surprised by it.
The four main courses (all £23.50 with a £4.50 supplement for the fillet) included Orkney pig cheek with hock schnitzel, braised cabbage and white beans. Pig cheek is one of Mr Turner’s favourites and this most certainly came up to snuff, with meat that literally melted in your mouth.
I went for the roast Perthshire pigeon “pastrami” with couscous, leg pastilla and macadamia nut. For something with such a strong Scottish provenance, there was an almost Thai flavour to the dish which was far from unpleasant, but most unexpected. It was only later that we learned of Graeme’s family connections to Thailand which explained so much.
TL opted for the baked Scrabster pollock, cheek ’n’ tail pie with Falkland farm lettuces and asparagus and declared it the best fish pie he had ever tasted. Which prompted a raised eyebrow from his wife opposite – until she sampled it and enthusiastically agreed.
LL had chosen the traditionally garnished char-grill with hand-cut chips and sauce Béarnaise. The choices of Scotch limousin beef fillet steak, rib eye steak or rack of Scotch hogget lamb almost proved too much for her, but she went for the hogget – meat from a two or three-year-old sheep which has a darker colour and a slightly richer flavour than lamb.
That richness of flavour served it well as even though LL likes her meat well done – and I absolutely do not – we both thought the dish amazing.
You would think that after eating our starters and main courses (and tasting everyone else’s) we wouldn’t have any room left for desserts (all £8.50 with a £2 supplement for cheese). You’d be wrong.
The pistachio cake with blood oranges – served with white chocolate and pistachio ice cream – was so light and airy, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that you weren’t eating anything at all – were it not for the perfectly matched flavours. The second dessert was a baked treacle “tart” with honey and oatmeal granola.
The tart was a beautifully deconstructed version of an old Scottish favourite – as was the salted pineapple curd it was served with. There was also an excellent selection of artisan Scottish and French cheeses with local honey and grapes which came with extra biscuits to facilitate our tasting.
It’s not often that you can say that you have sampled every dish on a restaurant’s menu. And even rarer that you would happily go back and do it all again. If every town had somewhere like this, there would never be a bad recommendation given to unwary visitors ever again.
63 Tay Street Restaurant
63 Tay Street, Perth
Tel: 01738 441451