REVIEW: Christmas Menu at The Seafood Ristorante in St Andrews
8 months AGOIain Fenwick
by Iain Fenwick
St Andrews is not just about Golf. The food and drink scene is phenomenally good too. In fact, I would go as far to say, per capita, you might struggle to find as much quality anywhere else in Scotland. There are a couple of new(ish) restaurants that are causing a buzz right now, one of which is The Seafood Ristorante. Bought over by the Pieraccini family, and with renown chef Davey Aspin at the helm, ably supported by one of the up and coming superstars of the catering world, Jamie MacKinnon, this is a restaurant with all the foundations of something very special. So, to say we were looking forward to our visit, would be a huge understatement!
This review is all about the food, however, I have to mention a little about the location… stunning! The restaurant is basically a glass cube hanging over the edges of the rocks, with a view out to sea on one side, and the St Andrews Old Course on the other. It really is idyllic, and I would challenge anybody to think of anywhere better. The interior is warm and welcoming, with an open plan kitchen, so you can see the team of chefs hard at work.
This may be the first time I had eaten at The Seafood Ristorante, however, I have eaten Davey Aspin’s food before, and I am a huge fan. So, I was kind of adding pressure to myself, as I was so sure I was going to love it. As is the norm when I review, I go with the guidance of the house. I was with Natalie, who unlike me, had no idea what to expect, but was equally happy to roll with it. So, we sat back, enjoyed our cocktails and waited for the feast to commence.
To kick off, we were given a selection of Oysters Rockefeller and natural Oysters to get us into the seafood mood. The restaurant takes 2 deliveries of fresh seafood every day, so we knew the product could not be any fresher. I know some people have an issue with cooked oysters, however, take it from me, the Rockefellers were delicious. A beautiful taste of the sea, with a lovely salty pancetta, and herb crust.
Our first starter was the ‘Shellfish Bisque Langoustine Tortellini, Prawns, Cognac’. I want to be careful here, as I don’t want to over sell it. However, this was genuinely one of the most incredible plates of food I have eaten. The bisque was deliciously salty, with a strong seafood taste, the tortellini was lovely and soft, the prawns delicate, but meaty, and the cognac added a punchy strength to the dish that brought it all together. An absolute triumph, I want to try and recreate the dish at home, and if I can make it even 10% as good, I will be more than happy!
Next up was the ‘Seafood Risotto Squid Ink, Bottarga Winter Greens’. I love a good risotto, and this was a great one! In many restaurants, you might be lucky to get 2 maybe 3 different bits of seafood, in small quantities, not at The Seafood Ristorante, here we had a medley of seafood including mussels, clams, octopus, squid, king prawns, shrimps and more! The risotto was both rich and creamy, but again, there was an unmistakeable taste of the sea. The seafood was untainted, not saturated in a sauce, so that the quality and freshness shone through. The greens were beautifully cooked too. What I loved about this dish was its simplicity of flavours. Quality ingredients, cooked exceptionally well.
Our risotto was followed by ‘Cured Sea Trout, Pomegranate, Chestnuts, Chicory’. A beautiful dish of complex flavours and textures, very beautifully presented. Almost a pâté base with a subtly cured sea trout. Light, refreshing and creamy with a bite of sweet pomegranate to pop in your mouth and add a new dimension to the dish. Most satisfying and a wonderful dish to enjoy the home-made bread with.
Our first main course was ‘Cod, Jerusalem Artichoke, Sea Kale Roast Potato Gnocchi’. I do like Cod, it has a very subtle flavour, so it is always interesting to see it on a menu without batter! I eat Gnocchi at home regularly, I love it, and Girolle mushrooms, well who doesn’t like them! All the ingredients of this dish are on most people’s lists of favourites, so to get them all in one dish is a dream! The reality is that what they did, was to help showcase a fantastically meaty and fresh piece of cod, and give it a flavour that was both unique and delicious. I loved this dish, and for me, ran the bisque close.
Our second main was ‘Smoked Haddock Rarebit, Braised Leeks, Arran Mustard, Crushed Potatos’. Now this was the one dish I was unsure of when I saw it on the menu. Haddock Rarebit? I have never had cheese melted over fresh fish. However, I am nothing if not open minded, and when it arrived, it looked and smelled fantastic. The grilled cheese, the Arran mustard, the rich cream, all combined to draw me in. I am not sure that the elements of this dish worked individually, but as a complete dish, this was a beautifully tasty plate. It was quite heavy, there was no hiding, it was full on from the first mouthful to the last. The wine served with this dish came into its own, as it was that, that really balanced it. Hats off to Daniel, the sommelier, for a fantastic choice.
Our first dessert was the ‘Apple Tart Tatin, Vanilla Ice Cream, Butterscotch Sauce’. Freshly made to order (there is a 20-minute wait), and never was there a wait more worthwhile. So naughty and so indulgent! The pastry was flaky on the top and caramelised on the base, the apple was sweet and syrupy, the ice cream was well balanced between the creaminess and the vanilla, and the butterscotch sauce was the perfect addition to take the tatin from being great, to being ridiculous! Every mouthful was a joy, and even though it was filling, it was so easy to finish!
The finale was the ‘Vanilla Panna Cotta, Poached Pear, Crostolini, Grappa.’ I honestly thought I was going to struggle to eat anything more after the tatin, however, the panna cotta was light and refreshing. Set beautifully and so easy on the palate. The pear was a first for me with panna cotta, but worked very well. The crostolini added the texture and the grappa the bite the dish needed to round it off. It was a panna cotta of the finest quality, and the perfect way to finish a perfect meal.
To sum it up, I have enjoyed over 200 dinners in the last 2 years, and this was easily one of the best I have had. Natalie went a step further and claimed it was the best meal she had ever had. I do not make these comments lightly, you need to go to try it for yourself. If you do not agree, then drop me an email and we can discuss it? Everything about the Seafood Ristorante experience, from the atmosphere, surroundings, staff, service and of course food, was exemplary. I will be a regular from here on!
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