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Flavour Profile Q&A: We asked top chef, Nick Nairn, a few foodie questions.

Julia and Nick Nairn have just opened a new restaurant, Nick’s, at Port of Menteith

Published: July 26, 2021
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What’s your favourite ingredient?

Scottish langoustines. I love them simply cooked with a little garlic butter and I use the shells to make a beautiful bisque. There is absolutely no waste when it comes to these beauties.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

I’m not sure I’ve revealed this before in an interview, but it has to be tinned cold custard with strawberry jam. It’s definitely a childhood thing. I’m very particular about how I eat it. I don’t stir it all together. It has to be the right ratio of custard to jam on the spoon.

Tell us about your first food memory?

Making soup with my mum when I was four. She made hers in a pot and she gave me a tin can to prepare mine.

However, my overriding food memory is from when I was 17. I served in the Navy and was lucky enough to travel around the world. In 1976, when I was in a Singapore market, they were cooking pots of chicken over coal and I was served this with a big bowl of peanut sauce, along with the most wonderful spices that I’d ever experienced in my life. That shaped my love for food and cooking.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?

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The ultimate is still Restaurant Andrew Fairlie. It’s not just about the food, although exceptional, it’s the whole experience. I went back recently and it was every bit as wonderful as ever. It’s a testament to the late Andrew Fairlie and his team to retain that standard.

What would be your last supper?

It would be either a classic surf and turf with langoustines and BBQ Highland steak with chips or the ultimate bacon and egg roll with a crispy Glaswegian roll, the finest eggs and Ayrshire bacon.

Starter or pudding?

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Starter every time. I rarely have a dessert in a restaurant, as cheese and a glass of red is my go-to. 

Do you have any food hates?

Yes, desiccated coconut. I hate everything about it.

What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?

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We’d start with all the fresh shellfish from scallops, lobster, crab and everything in between. Main course would be wonderfully aged BBQ beef. There is nothing finer than beef cooked over hot coals and, to finish, a tarte tatin served simply with vanilla ice cream.

Now who to invite? I think Ayrton Senna, Samuel L Jackson and Keith Richards would definitely be on that list. Also Rory Bremner, the Scottish painter Joan Eardley and Muriel Gray. Also you can’t not have Elvis, and I love crime books, so Ian Rankin and Val McDermid.

What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?

In Scotland, it would have to be Fife, as there are so many great restaurants, pubs and farm shops to buy the best produce. Around the world? Venice is stunning if you stay away from the tourist traps, Barcelona too and in Nice the old town is just wonderful.

For more information on Nick’s at Port of Menteith, see www.nicknairncookschool.com

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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