Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
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January 7, 2020

Aran, Dunkeld, restaurant review

Everyone wants to be a regular at Flora Shedden's lovely cafe, Aran, says Gaby Soutar

Call emergency book rescue, as the copy of Aran in its namesake cafe is worse than dog-eared.

The hardback spine is cracked, the edges of its well-thumbed pages, once virginal white, are crumpled and grubby. Poor thing, at just under two months old (it came out at the end of October). A book is for life, not just Twixmas.

Still, I can understand why this read, by Great British Bake Off 2015 semi finalist, 23-year-old Flora Shedden, is so well loved.

It’s more than just a recipe book, but an homage to the regulars in the two-year-old cafe, with profiles on their favourite people. I’m sure I recognise a couple of them on our visit.

There’s a sense, in this white painted space, with its vast and impressive swags of flowers above the door, of a middle class community hub. Although they also have a production kitchen nearby, the tiny cafe kitchen is open-plan, so is almost like a stage. Flora has nowhere to hide.

I don’t know how she, or her mum, who works here too, have the energy to be so friendly and welcoming.

As a misanthrope and introvert, I would have to shut myself in a dark room after each shift.

We feel conspicuous, as non-regulars and unsociable city kids, but also because, up at the counter, we’re ordering a ridiculous amount of stuff for two people. There isn’t even a spare table, but we find a couple of stray oddly sized (one high, one low) stools, so one of us looks like a ventriloquist’s puppet, and pull them up along the bread display.

Our plates are squeezed against a shelf of focaccia, and arms reach past us to grab the granary loaves.

No matter, as we’re concentrating on a bowlful of thick leek and potato soup (£4), which comes with two slabs of tangy sourdough, and is thick and herbal, thanks to rosemary and thyme, with crème fraîche and a drizzle of olive oil on top. Soul food, and the drive up here falls away like a potter’s mould.

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Same goes for the haggis sausage roll (£5), which comes with a ramekin of lipstick red fruity plum ketchup.

This pastry is the size of a rolled up magazine, with a peppery and sausagey filling and a thick flaky cladding that’s bejewelled by poppyseeds. Another customer is having one. His usual, apparently.

Bring me more, Flora! I feel like Paul Hollywood, on a chaise-longue, with crumbs in my manicured beard.

I see the eyes of the regulars upon us as our sage fried egg (£6) arrives. “I wish I’d ordered that,” says the young guy beside me, “Next time.”

It’s a simple brunchy dish of a frilly rimmed fried egg on toasted sourdough, with sage leaves and a few sprigs of tenderstem broccoli, all scattered in sesame seeds.

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Since this is turning into an eating competition, we also go for the sausage sandwich (£5), which contains sagey chunks of sausage meat, blobs of ricotta, roasted red onions and salad leaves.

We are almost tapping out and are quite glad that they’ve forgotten to bring us one of the pastry twists that we pointed at.

“You deserve a medal,” says Flora’s mum. We do, though a selection of cakes, to take-away, would also work.

There’s a gooseberry brioche (£2.50) – bready, pillowy and sugar dusted, with a dimple in the top – a tarn for the syrupy, gummy and tart berries to settle in.

We also have a rich hazelnut and pumpkin seed-laden brownie (£2.25), and a lightly spiced apple and olive oil loaf (£2.50), dotted with raisins and topped with a pale salmon pink icing. Also, the coffee is great here – we had two flat whites (£2.50 each).

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Lovely place.

Sadly, geography means we’ll never be regulars and feature in the next book, though I’m still hoping for a cameo – perhaps as the mysterious puppeteer and his very hungry puppet, both of whom ate more than any customer ever.

Aran Dunkeld

2 Atholl Street, Dunkeld

(01350 727 029,

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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