From aged dairy cow, to slow cooked duck eggs, there are some intriguing dishes and ingredients being whipped up at Douneside House.
Matt Price, 33, is the new chef at this four-star country hotel’s restaurant - already on the culinary map as North East Scotland’s only AA triple rosette awarded venue, an accolade it’s held for the last five years.
“Food is my work, passion and hobby”, says the chef, who will be heading a team of seven.
“On my days off, I’ll be visiting other restaurants, thinking about new menu ideas, reading about other venues and what they’re doing. I just want to cook food that people enjoy and maybe haven’t tried before.
"My hope is that Douneside is a destination restaurant”.
Price has worked at various venues, including Airds Hotel in Appin, but also New York restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, back in 2017, while it was Number 1 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. (It announced this week that it was going fully vegan).
“Daniel Humm is such an acclaimed chef, and it was amazing to see the way he worked,” says Price, originally from West Sussex.
“The level of organisation was unreal – and it really showed me the importance of getting the ingredients right, which comes down to your supplier relationships.
"I was working in the kitchen when they were filming 7 Days Out - a Netflix series. NYC was amazing, but I love country life at heart, so Royal Deeside feels like home already”.
Price is bringing some cosmopolitan ideas with him.
There won’t be stacks of butter or cream as, having also spent time in Asia, he’s a fan of a “lighter touch”.
Dishes include the Scottish retired dairy cow sirloin served with glazed brisket, onion and Madeira tart and garden greens.
As well as Atlantic salmon from John Ross in Aberdeen, which is cured and marinated for five days in soy sauce and treacle, then served with a five-spice-braised beetroot and stem ginger filo tartlet, with avocado and wasabi gelato on the side.
There are also local duck eggs cooked at 64 degrees celsius with morels, board beans and mushroom tea.
“The eggs are cooked in their shell for 1 hr 45 mins at that temperature,” Price says.
“We think it gives perfect, consistent results – with no parts over or under cooked. They’re from Katy’s Free Range Eggs just along the road”.
The food definitely sounds a bit more interesting than your average country hotel, as does their ethos.
It’s owned and managed by the not-for-profit MacRobert Trust, which donates around £1 million to charity each year and supports a range of programmes to encourage young talent. Douneside House also has a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Partner Garden, which is an RHS Approved Learning Centre. Price will be taking full advantage.
“I’ve created an enormous spreadsheet of what we’ll be growing in the garden to tailor our menus around,” he says.
“Production slowed a little last year due to the pandemic, but when the garden is up and running, we’re talking about over 80 different fruits and vegetables.”