Whenever reference is made to Cowdenbeath being the “Chicago of Fife”, some cretins have the cheek to laugh.
They just can’t see the connection between the international hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology and telecommunications in the United States, population 2.7 million, and the former mining town in the wild west of Fife, population 14,000.
Admittedly, the comparison was made 120 years ago when employment available in the pits saw Cowdenbeath’s population double in ten years, but every town needs a history.
And if Fifers are looking to bring their special relationship with the US up to date, they need only point to St Andrews, a magnet for the Yankee dollar (with apologies to Kingdom legend, Mr Jobson).
Or, they could turn to Dakota. Pedants might argue that the boutique hotel near the Forth Road Bridge is not actually in Fife, situated as it is on the wrong side of the Firth of Forth, but this criticism can be overlooked.
For many crossing the bridge, Dakota has become a beacon, its black exterior with blue neon lighting saying good things to those who have ever visited, usually along the lines of: “Wish I was in there and not behind the wheel… I’ll call in the next time.”
And so many of those making the crossing are from Fife.
Or just imagine, for instance, your Edinburgh-based reviewer was trying to persuade a friend to accompany him to a less than attractive football fixture in Lower Methil. “I’d love to, Donald, but…”
Lunch at Dakota en route? “Ok, let’s go!”
It’s a classy establishment. Walk through the doors, and the cold blast of a March morning is forgotten; the outside world is banished and the visitor can relax in a feast of comfort and style.
A stop off can be as simple as a rendezvous point for a coffee in the lounge, but lunch in the grill is a pleasure worth finding the time to experience.
We were greeted with warmth that suggested we had entered somewhere a bit special. We knew that already, but were happy to be reminded.
Our starters were preceded by an appetiser of pomadoro sauce with goat’s cheese and warm bread, which set us up nicely. My choice of potato and leek soup perhaps suggested that you can take the boy out of Fife etc etc, but come on, it was bitterly cold out there.
The thick purée was ungarnished simplicity and warmed the insides as desired. Even so, it was difficult not to be envious of the salt & pepper squid on the other side of the table, which came with a Vietnamese dipping sauce and lime. Delicate and skilfully prepared, and served in a steamer, this light and crisp offering was outstanding.
“One of the best starters I’ve ever had,” was the feedback.
Compliments were sent to the chef.
For a main course, steamed lemon sole came rolled around a scallop and chive sauce, sitting on samphire and with beurre blanc, accompanied by a side portion of creamy mash.
The sole was cooked to perfection, moist and tender, and the dish had such a rich texture that I found myself wondering if a third course would be necessary. It was only a passing thought, soon banished.
Presentation is faultless at the grill, in keeping with Dakota’s stylish image, and the confit pork belly was another work of art, dressed immaculately with bubble & squeak, apple purée and red wine jus.
This was just about the only occasion when we found reason to quibble, because the jus had been used sparingly, which worked aesthetically, but the pork required more than had been spotted around the plate.
However, the chef rose to the occasion when more was requested, and a tiny saucepan with as much jus as anyone would ever require arrived before long. Most satisfactory.
Desserts may well have been unnecessary by this stage, but we had a duty to try them.
Few places can go wrong with Auld Lochnagar cheddar with oatcakes, quince jelly and grapes, and Dakota was never going to stumble here.
The iced honeycomb parfait with chocolate sauce was more of a challenge, and the honeycomb was stickier than my dentist would have recommended. It was a pity that the care needed when chewing detracted from the glorious parfait.
Two coffees later, and sadly it was time to face the real world again. The wind chilled our bones as we stepped outside.
Lower Methil anyone? Thought not.