(01387 740250, www.auldgirthinn.co.uk)
How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £75
I’m training my appetite for Christmas.
It’s not so far away now, so I’m slowly expanding my stomach capacity.
The kids better hide their selection boxes, though they can keep the Curly-Wurlies.
I may as well go wild, as I’m an utter Grinch when it comes to everything else festive.
My coaching sessions include a Sunday lunch at this place, on a day that feels like the very last of autumn, since the leaves were suddenly in a hurry to abandon their branches in preparation for transforming into slippery winter mulch.
We enjoyed our last hours of not having to walk like penguins, before booking an impromptu table at this white-washed inn, where all their award stickers - most recently one for three AA Rosettes - are jostling in the window.
They claim that Robert Burns used to be a regular and, indeed, it looks like his type of hang-out.
Well, from the outside anyway.
I’m sure he’d love the antlers indoors and the inglenook in the pub area, but I’m not sure what he’d make of the restaurant’s glass tables, set on amorphous chunks of wood, and the trendy bare lightbulbs that are strung around a beam.
Of course, the chieftain of the pudding race had to make a cameo on the menu, with a starter of haggis Scotch egg,
However, I didn’t want to peak too soon, especially since, as part of the two courses for £30, three for £37.50 lunchtime menu, they’d already presented us with two huge wads of warmed focaccia, with frothy and sea salted Marmite butter. Thus, we started on something a little more petite.
I go for the chicken liver parfait. It consists of a beige quenelle that’s still a bit fridge cold, but is nicely feral tasting, with a smudge of tart and sticky blood orange chutney underneath, a few decorative mustard seeds, and a single slice of toasted brioche on the side.
My dining partner has the gin-cured salmon, with neatly layered stamps of lightly booze-y fish that are decorated with pin-prick dots of bright green leek emulsion, dill sprigs and crunchy barley crackers that remind me of leaf skeletons.
There are four main courses to choose from. As well as the sirloin option that I had my eye on from the start, you can have turkey; fish and chips, or the vegetarian dish.
I felt a bit bad that I made my other half go for the aged Parmesan and sweetcorn risotto with sage, since the other options were a bit dull.
It’s didn’t really go with our sharing plates of roast potatoes, broccoli in mustard sauce with crispy onions, cauliflower cheese, and a booze-y and vinegary red cabbage and chunky carrots.
Still, he enjoyed the creamy risotto, with a poached egg in the middle, even though he did think that the corn ingredient overwhelmed every other flavour.
I did better. My beef is pink, soft and free of sinewy seams. It’s served with a billowing-ly huge and conker-coloured Yorkshire pudding, a jug of gravy, and a large dollop of mellow horseradish. Winter doesn’t seem quite so rotten, when you have a course like this.
The desserts are equally comforting. It seems that they go fancier in the evening at this place, but in the afternoon, they err on the side of coddling favourites, like sticky toffee and rice pudding.
However, my stomach capacity still has its stabilisers on, so we barely manage to get through the lightest choice - a selection of sorbets. They’re rather lovely, especially the passionfruit, which is so zingy that it makes my eyeballs tingle. There’s also a comparatively subtle scoop of pear flavour and another of white chocolate, all melting onto a bank of sandy shortbread crumbs.
We take away a slice of their extremely buttery salted caramel tart, and have it the next day with a cup of tea.
I know, it's a failure on my part, but it’s still only November and there’s still room for improvement. In a month’s time, when it comes to Gaby Vs Food, I’ll be winning.
If you’re going to start practising your festive feasting skills, this isn’t a bad place to start.