Wills and Kate were in here recently. They sat RIGHT THERE,” says somebody with a very loud voice, pointing at the table opposite us.
Indeed, even if he’s wrong about the royals, this historic pub serves a very well-heeled clientele. On our visit, there seemed to be a secret wardrobe code of cords, chinos, polo shirts and cashmere sweaters slung round shoulders.
“Look at the Scottish people!” laughed the same diner, pointing at the hardy types having picnics on a very sunny, but still quite chilly day.
Hmm, yes, you could say he’s more socks orf (preferably with deck shoes on) than taps aff.
This place was refurbished last year, so now its 19th-century shell features Farrow & Ball-esque sage green walls, toilets with basins that resemble Falcon Enamelware tins, copper fishing lights and walls hung with paintings (for sale).
Plans are afoot for an extension, The Ship’s Cabin, opening this summer, so business must be booming for the TBC Pub Company, who are also behind the very good Bridge Inn in Ratho, and The 19th Hole at Earlsferry, just nearby.
Sea air, and patting lots of cute and sandy dogs makes one hungry, so I was pretty excited by their new Spring menu, especially a starter of East Neuk lobster taco (£9.50, also available as a main, £18.25).
It turned out to be…..fine, with two hunks of sweet claw meat per soft corn taco. My main criticism, excellent local seafood aside, is that there was too much of a discrepancy between what I was presented with and what was listed on the menu.
They said: “East Neuk lobster taco, caramelised pineapple, tomato and green chilli salsa, guacamole, sour cream, gem lettuce”.
I got: “East Neuk lobster taco, pineapple, halved cherry tomatoes, avocado bits, sour cream, gem lettuce”.
Hmm, I’d call that fake news, since those fruits must undergo a transformative process to become guacamole and salsa. Also, where was my caramelisation?
Our other starter of duck ragout, pea, mint and mushroom risotto with mustard fruit (£9.75) was pleasant, though the shredded duck was a little dry. The rice had a good firm texture, a creamy, mushroomy flavour and there were some gummy bits of sweet mustard fruit preserve to balance things out. (We couldn’t taste any mint, which was maybe a good thing).
I’m afraid the main course didn’t blow one’s wellybobs off either.
The piece of fish – east coast cod aux paupiette (£17.95) – was decanted by the waiter from its paper, with a belly-flop onto my plate. It was a fine fillet, if a bit dry, and was supposed to come with buzz-wordy accompaniments of “preserved lemon, red peppers, zucchini, date and quinoa”.
Sadly, this turned out to be ratatouille with a bowl of boringly plain and unseasoned quinoa on the side. I felt underwhelmed and slightly up-sold, especially since somebody forgot to sprinkle any cheese on the potentially consoling side of truffle and Parmesan fries (£3.50).
In contrast, our other main course of Elie Estate loin of venison (£18.95) was beautiful, with hunks of soft pink meat, a bank of velvety celeriac purée, wilted baby spinach and wild mushrooms, plus a rich and salty sweet chocolate game jus that was as glossy as a labrador’s coat. Gorgeous, the best dish all meal.
Onto pudding, and I do love a meringue, but preferably the crispy crunchy gooey-centred ones, not the soft Italian versions (they’re nice too, but not my fave).Thus, we weren’t that thrilled to find the “slow-baked meringue” (£6.50) was actually a squishy and frothy variety filled with “bitter sweet chocolate” custard, with a little crème anglaise on the side and some blobs of intense raspberry jus.
They were out of the billed rum and raisin ice-cream, so I had some decent vanilla with my banana tarte tatin (£6.50) – a thick disc of puff pastry topped with stubs of banana and a bit of gluey toffee sauce.
It was fine, so it’s just a shame the menu promises what the kitchen can’t quite provide.
I bet Wills and Kate got proper guacamole.
The Toft, Elie
(01333 330246, www.shipinn.scot)