Sunshine would have been disappointing.
On our visit to MasterChef: The Professionals 2019 finalist Dean Banks’ new place, Haar, which is part of five-star hotel Kinettles, the weather perfectly matched the restaurant’s name.
Think of a Stephen King film, like The Mist or the dry-ice pumped graveyard scene in Pet Sematary, with a cold veil to freeze our bone marrow.
It seems odd naming an eatery after a negative weather event – they may as well have called it Dreich, Acid Rain or Storm Eric.
However, I suppose it’s kind of romantic, as is the interior, with tactile velvety chairs, antiqued tiles and a suitably misty colour palette. Our only bugbear was the automatic door, which kept whisking open and closed, each time pumping a fresh batch of authentic haar into an already chilly room.
Make sure that you’re feeling flush, as it’s quite pricey, though there is also a set menu with two courses for £24.95, or three for £29.95.
The a la carte menu is split into four sections, unlabelled, but they could be classified as nibbles, smaller plates, bigger plates and side dishes.
Everything is for sharing, so if you were the sort of child who locked yourself in a cupboard to eat your sweets in peace, this may not suit you.
“Dean wants to eliminate food envy,” explained our waiter. Good luck with that. It was tricky to work out how much to order, though we winged it with three smaller plates and two big ones.
We asked for the dinkier portions to come first, and the best of these was the spiced octopus (£15). It was dusted with a kind of brick-coloured powder that made it look like a rusty horseshoe, and there was barley – one of my least favourite things, but made lovely with lemon and threaded with pistachio – and some chilli-spiced burnt tomato puree.
Served on a black plate for drama, the coarse-grained chunk of Scottish grass-fed beef (£14) was good too. It was coated in more dust, this time a concentrated and bright green wild garlic version, and came with a black garlic puree that was as rich and sweet as treacle.
We were a little less enthused by the “smoking Arbroath Smokie” (£14). This creamy and foam topped course was presented under a glass cloche, which was removed to allow a plume of haar (I mean smoke) to drift off like an exhaust fume.
Always a nice theatrical touch. However, with feet like glaciers, we were disappointed that this dish was chilled, sort of like a take on vichyssoise, except with seaweed.
Our two bigger dishes included North Sea cod (£28) – a soft block of fish flanked by two chunky potato scallops, and loads of tangy burnt fennel ketchup in the brown hue of a Seventies geography teacher’s sweater.
The final savoury course was the BBQ duck (£21) – a crisp and salty-skinned breast, with a tongue-numbing Szechuan spiced hot sauce underneath, plus a dollop of carrot puree topped with discs of this veg and sesame seeds. Lovely.
There are just two puddings – banoffee (£9) and rhubarb trifle (£8.50). If you think they sound simple, and you’ll dodge a powder, foam or puree, you’d be wrong. Both looked beautiful, but I’m not sure I was crazy about either.
The trifle had nice elements – sweet rhubarb, sherbet-y pink dust – but the solid layers of sponge, vanilla-flecked custard and jelly were a bit too gelatine-y, and lacking in the velvety textures one might expect.
Our banoffee was a deconstructed affair, with a bundt-shaped semifreddo that had toffee sauce in its central reservoir, plus blobs of cream topped by cocoa nibs, two chocolate spheres filled with banana liqueur, and a pile of biscuit-y crumbs.
Clever, though I think the essence of banoffee had been exorcised. We saw its spirit drifting, to join the haar.
Anyway, this place is mainly great, though Dean has NOT managed to eliminate food envy.
For instance, I really wanted what the table beside us had ordered.
If only I could have taken it to eat in my locked cupboard (yes, it was me with the sweets), then I’d never have to share with anyone.