As a lifelong subscriber to the theory that the best thing to have ever come out of Dundee is the road to Fife, it is always gratifying to find new evidence to reaffirm this notion.
It has been mentioned before in this column that if Fife lacks anything – and that’s a controversial suggestion in itself – the Kingdom is not overburdened with destination restaurants.
But the landscape of this beggar’s mantle fringed with gold has been altered, with the addition of a jewel on the north fringe. At Newport-on-Tay, to be precise, at the more civilised south end of the Tay Road Bridge.
"It was a delight to find that he appeared at our table, and all the other tables, to serve a starter, talking us through the provenance of the ingredients"
Fans of the BBC’s MasterChef take note: you should mark up The Newport as a must-visit,because you will adore it. Since being crowned champion of MasterChef: The Professionals, Jamie Scott has set up his own restaurant which puts into practice the skills he demonstrated on TV.
In the final, Scott impressed the judges with flavours from the area where he worked, Fife, and from his home town, Arbroath. It was his ambition to have
his own place to showcase the best of local produce, and although The Newport has been open for only three months, he has already delivered a resounding success. The menu namechecks St Monans, St Andrews, Anstruther, Newburgh and Brechin, with herbs from Guardbridge and asparagus from Eassie. From further afield, there is beef from Muir of Ord and fish from Scrabster.
Scott’s eye for an opportunity is also reflected in his choice of premises. The Newport sits in a grand old building where diners can gaze across the Silvery Tay to the City of Discovery and its iconic Hilltown tower blocks, a combination so heady that it recently brought a friend to bended knee, ending what had appeared to be a lifetime of perpetual courtship. On this basis alone, Scott has much to be thanked for.
As MasterChef viewers will know, it is easy to warm to Scott, a likeable and modest individual. It was a delight to find on our visit that the chef appeared at our table, and all the other tables, to serve a starter, talking us through the provenance of the ingredients without word or demeanour of “I’m Jamie Scott”.
It would be a mistake to visit The Newport in search of meat and two veg, or indeed for a traditional three-course structure. The experience is quite different, and diners face a significant choice from the outset: the main menu, or the tasting menu.
The main menu offers four sections: snacks and nibbles (£2.50-£4.50), followed by three broad but self-explanatory categories: From The Land (£9-£11), From the Ground & Garden
(£6-£8), and From The Sea (£7-£11).
Main dishes are smaller than the average serving and are fit for sharing, several at a time, in tapas style. Alternatively, the tasting menu offers two options – five courses (£45) or eight courses (£65). For the purposes of our visit, it made sense for one of us to go main and the other to go taster, but this option was not available. If one opts for the tasting menu, the other must as well, to ensure both people are served at the same time. Oh well, if you insist…
Our five courses began with five snacks: buckwheat crisp and curds, herbs with salad cream, artichoke with ash and pea, celeriac taco and salt & vinegar squid. After just the first two snacks, it is obvious you are experiencing something special. The snacks are small but packed with originality and flavour.
Next up (course two) was asparagus with buttermilk, peas and egg yolk, followed by (course three) red mullet with courgette, red pepper and basil. For course four, we deviated, with beef for the carnivore and Foinaven BBQ monkfish for the pescatarian, who was pleased to find that such a menu for this specific dietary requirement was immediately available.
The beef’s flavour stood out: how was it achieved, we asked? Not by chance, responded the chef, who had spent all day preparing it. On the hoof, it was not.
The sweet was an artistic layer of strawberry with goat’s milk, pineberries and a Douglas Fir granita, which stole the show.
And to round the night off perfectly, five cheeses with toasted fruit bread, crackers, chutney and honeycomb (for a supplement of £12) were delivered by the chef, who talked us through the selections.
If all of this appeals, plan ahead. Word is spreading fast, and advance booking is going to be essential.
It was just over an hour’s drive home to Edinburgh, but next time, to enjoy a bottle of wine with our meal, we’ll dare to catch the train to Dundee and take a short taxi trip over the bridge. Passports at the ready.