Scotsman Review
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September 23, 2023

Nairn's, Bridge of Allan - chef Nick Nairn's reopened restaurant is making locals very happy

Life is easier when it’s split up into manageable chunks.

When it comes to writing, I’ve decided to try the Pomodoro Technique. It involves working in 25 minute segments, taking a five-minute break between each. After four of those, you can take a longer hiatus and repeat.

The same goes for driving. Nobody wants to binge a whole journey. We usually schedule in a few pit stops, so our glutes never go entirely numb and we don't run out of podcasts.

On the weekend, we were coming home from Pitlochry, and considered our trip to this place as our main auto pomodoro break.

Our visit has been a long time coming.

Chef Nick Nairn’s Bridge of Allan restaurant originally opened in 2019, but there was lockdown, then a fire gutted the place and the team managed to speedily evacuate a full venue. There have been other setbacks, including vandals recently smashing up the planters that surround the outdoor terrace. Let’s just say that they’ve not had the best of luck.

However, at last, they’re back in the game, and you can tell that locals are stoked.

There was a jubilant feel in the huge and relaxed space on a Sunday lunchtime. The booze, roast beef and Yorkies, and burger options were going down a storm.

Since, to quote Iggy Pop, I am the passenger and I ride and I ride, I kicked off with a syrupy and lightly smokey cocktail, The Foxx (£10.50), which contained Ojo de Tigre Mezcal, Creme de Cassis, lime, gomme, grapefruit soda. The driver had water. Eau de tap, because he’s a fancy boy.

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The menu features a good selection of seven classic-with-a-twist starters, including monkfish scampi, tartare sauce (£9), chicken liver parfait, Cumberland sauce, toasted sourdough (£8.50) and Caesar salad (£8) with all the trimmings.

We ended up sharing the burrata (£11.50), which was the size of a morning bap, and was topped by a ladleful of nduja, with its juices leaving red and white humbug stripes along the sides of the cheese. Underneath, there was a mellow and olive-studded aubergine caponata. Both accompaniments were efficient foils to the Italian dairy balloon.

I’d also gone for a special seared Lake of Menteith trout (£11). It consisted of a parallelogram of crispy-skinned fish, along with a blob of celeriac, apple and horseradish slaw, which was topped with a few bright tobiko and dill. There was also some salty and slick taramasalata with pickled cucumber. Lovely, but the billed ‘nam jim’ was missing. I checked under the fish. Nope, Mr Jim wasn’t hiding there. That’s a shame, as I wanted it to cut through the general creamy-ness.

There was a second special for my main course. The roast rack of lamb (£30) consisted of four double cut chops that came with a few bits of chard, and smudges of a lovely and intensely smoky aubergine puree. That gets a thumbs-up and eggplant emoji from me. This also came with some of those knobbly and nutty confit pink fir potatoes, and a rich jus that was the colour of Cuprinol.

My plus one had chosen the baked cod (£21), but he found this dish a bit too salty overall.

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Everything, from the fish to the peas à la Francaise and its bacon, and the buttery sauce, was saline-heavy overkill. At least the side of chive-scattered crushed new potatoes had a tang to them that lifted the slightly over-enthusiastic seasoning.

The puddings sound amazing, but the savoury portions are hefty so we had to throw in the towel, or we’d have to roll the seats back and have a power nap before finishing our journey.

Still, I regretted that, on the way out of the door, when I saw someone taking delivery of a raspberry souffle with white chocolate ice cream (£11). They also do a choux bun with whisky chocolate sauce (£8.50) that has my name on it. Next time, I will submit.

I’d imagine there probably will be another visit, though I’d prefer to take a detour to this chef’s other venue, Nick’s at Port of Menteith, which is still my favourite overall.

Oh look, it’s only about 25 minutes away from this place.

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Perfect timing for our second auto pomodoro break.

Nairn's, Henderson Street, Bridge of Allan, Stirling, UK
Nairn's, Henderson Street, Bridge of Allan, Stirling, UK, FK9 4HR
01786 831 616
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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