I’m in a bit of a huff with California at the moment.
My other half has been a loyal fan of the American football team, the San Francisco 49ers, since he was about 10 years old.
At the moment, it’s NFL season, and I see him a lot less.
He has become a distant figure, hunkered down in the spare room, shouting at the telly and eating nachos, with salsa all down his team top. Occasionally, he’ll emerge, looking ebullient or dejected and telling me about some horrible injury or victory.
Our visit to this two-year-old restaurant, bar and wine shop, gave us an opportunity to spend some quality time together, away from sports.
It’s owned by a couple - Roseanna, who has a background working with luxury brands including Hamilton & Inches, and Morgwn Preston-Jones, originally from Oakland, California, and with experience in the kitchen in London’s Moro, Bedale Wines, Borough Market and elsewhere. The pair met back in 2006, when they worked in a Brooklyn coffee shop together.
Their Dunkeld premises is in a former post office, and is a lovely space: simple with bar tops made of solid oak, a cheese plant, pottery for sale, and bright orange gerberas on the tables.
There is jazz playing in the background and it’s hip, but low key, like being in a bohemian friend’s flat. The couple at the table beside us were on a date, and I thought, yes, good choice, I’d come here if I was hooking up with a potential beau. I’d just leave the husband in front of the football. He wouldn’t even notice I’d gone.
You could have a snifter of wine from their curated list of vino by the glass or bottle, or go for beer or a digestif. I went for a small frothy helping of Unico Zelo “Sea Foam” Petillant Naturel Vermentino/Adelaide Hills, Australia (£11) and he chose the Schneider Weisse Non-Alcoholic (£5) number.
For lunch, there are nibbly bits, like boquerones (£6), pork and fennel salami (£8) or duck liver mousse (£8), but also a few more substantial assemblages.
We had three of these, and they all went down as easy as a Joe Montana touchdown.
The heirloom tomatoes (£14) was a beauty of a dish, served on vintage crockery, and this was a super generous portion. There were loads of room temperature tomato chunks, crouton cubes, Pecorino shavings, soft avocado, and daubs of the balmy, cheesy and salty dressing.
Our other salad-y tombola was the Dunkeld smoked salmon (£15) version, and there was at least a whole packet’s worth of this high quality stuff. We’d actually spotted this product in the shop across the road earlier, and ran away, because we’re too poor. They’d sloshed this with a herby and garlicky green goddess dressing, pink pickled onions, and sliced radish. When we scraped up the last of this offering, the centre of the plate featured a picture of two of these fish. Peekaboo, we just ate you!
Their roast chicken (£15) was a sturdy lunch-time bap of dreams. It featured a golden sea-salted slab of homemade focaccia, with a couple of whole chopped cold chicken breasts in there, along with fermented chilli mayo and sliced avocado.
We had to take away half of it, and mentioned its door-stopping size to Morgwn, who was doing all the front-of-house, shop keeping and food assemblage.
“Well. you should see the roast beef sandwich,” he said, and we put it on the list for our next visit.
Despite being too full for the remaining savoury stuff, I still managed an excellent affogato, with a super creamy and lush double scoop of vanilla-flecked ice-cream (£7), before we paid up. While we were getting organised, I popped to the cludgie and, on my return, they were talking about football, since it turns out that Morgwn played as an outside linebacker when he was at school. Damnation, there’s no escaping it.
Then my husband blew the budget on wines in the shop. He couldn’t resist, and has now sneaked a few into the cellar (ie. in a cupboard) for when the 9ers win the Super Bowl. They may be in storage for some time.