Intimate dining that brilliantly pairs the best seasonal produce, with some of Scotland’s finest whiskies. And, spoiler alert, it’s five-star FABULOUS!
We are at least six, maybe seven whiskies in, when we decree that Colin Hinds – our host, chef, and purveyor of drinks – should now be forever known as the Saucy Chef.
Not, you understand, for any raucous behaviour or colourful humour on his part, though we’re pretty sure that works too.
We are instead referring to the Social Bitches’ mantra: that the cornerstone of every great dish, is a great sauce. And Colin, much to our delight, is a man who really does whip up a fabulous sauce!
He’s also cheffed the world over, from France to Indonesia. But the journey has only affirmed his love for Scotland, and of course its wonderful national drink.
Colin’s enviable collection boasts 500 amazing whiskies. Some worth as much as three thousand quid a bottle. Ooosch!
Which is why, after thirteen years of collecting, he’s now combining his love of both food and the water of life. The results are spectacular. Five gorgeous, highly original courses, each with a sublime dram.
Keen for feedback, the Saucy Chef has invited fellow foodies, the odd whisky ambassador, and a few impeccably dressed reviewers to test-drive the menu.
Keen on fine dining, and top shelf liquor, we rsvp’ed with a resounding: YES PLEASE!
So, ding ding, time for round one …
Duck Leg Confit with a pineappple & star anise glaze, rosemary & sweet potato scone / Paired with Ardberg An Oa Highball
The first sip of whisky hits us like a truck – in a good way – delivering an impressive blend of heather, vanilla, and charred earthiness. With each “sip” that follows, this cheeky mix of whisky, ginger ale and mint only tastes more divine.
Casting our eye over the other four whiskies that await us, we’re like wohh! We imagine, given the potency, we’ll soon be hearing an internal soundtrack of the Nolans’ I’m in the Mood for Dancing, and responding accordingly. Anyhoo, we digress.
This wonderful drink is paired with an equally wonderful duck leg confit. Not only is it beautifully tender, but the sweetness delivered by the pineapple and star anise makes our tastebuds tingle.
Even something as simple as the lettuce and tomato that accompany it are somehow transformed into intense bursts of flavour. Three cheers for the Saucy Chef, we are off to exceptional start.
Beetroot cured Scottish smoked salmon with beetroot aioli & pickled cucumber / Paired with Talisker Distillery Edition Double Matured
As well as being one of our absolute favourite things in life, the salmon is full of drama. Lift the lid, and there’s an instant, almost magical puff of smoke. It smells heavenly, and our mouths water.
The smoke clears, revealing a dish beautifully and delicately presented. Edible petals offer a wonderful splash of colour, and we are in awe. This more than lives up to Whisky Forager’s promise of a feast for both the eyes, and the palette.
It’s also utterly delicious. The salmon is a perfect shade of pink, super fresh, and full of flavour. Although cured by beetroot, it’s ever so subtly done, allowing the natural taste of this great fish to remain at the forefront.
Meanwhile the slither of pickled cucumber, with just a hint of crunch, and the heavenly, oh so creamy beetroot aioli make this dish an absolute winner.
And let’s not forget the Taslisker. Matured in a sherry cask, it brings a lovely sweetness to the mix, and matches the smokiness of the salmon. Nolan Sisters here we come …
Fillet of beef, tiger nut crumb, girolle ragu, organic pearl barley with a red wine syrup / Paired with Glenfiddich Age of Discovery 19yo Red Wine Cask
But it’s the arrival of the third course that really confirms Colin’s newfound – and perhaps unwanted – status as the Saucy Chef.
The intense, rich red wine syrup is out of this world. It also pairs superbly with the legendary Glenfiddich which has been matured in a red wine cask.
But these are just two of the many joys this beast delivers. The beef is gorgeous, as you’d expect, but it’s the variety of tastes and textures that make it so special.
The crunch of the nut, the chew of the pearl barley, and those wonderful, slightly crisp girolle mushrooms, wowsers!
And then there’s the amazing ragu! Cue the melodic strum of a harp, to fully communicate the joy we’re now feeling. We are practically licking it off the plate, and it also means we’re effectively being treated to not just one great sauce, but two.
Raspberry cranachan creme brûlée / Paired with the Glenturret The Hosh
Come dessert, it turns out the whisky has its very own brand ambassador. For at the next socially distant table, is Jamie from Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest working distillery.
Passionately he talks us through the experience. Woodland fruit and ginger on the nose, boom! This soon gives way to a much subtler taste, with hints of cinnamon and vanilla, and of course the sweetness offered by maturing it in an Oloroso sherry cask.
This perfect, sticky whisky is paired with the perfect dessert. Cranachan deconstructed, and rebuilt into something even more delicious. While we adore the original, the addition of creme brûlée is absolute genius.
And as for those oats soaked in honey, they’re incredible just on their own. But combine with the wonderfully tart raspberries, the caramelised shell of the creme brûlée, and the gorgeous creamy custard below, and you have a recipe for sheer joy.
A smart, sophisticated reinvention of a Scottish classic – we can’t praise it enough!
Whipped blue murder with iced grapes, oatcake & honey / Paired with Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve
While all good things must sadly come to an end, the finale of this five course meal does not disappoint. The whipped blue cheese is just gorgeous.
Now truth be told, Isaac is really not a blue cheese guy, but the simple twist of the honey is a total game-changer. The creamy blue murder still boasts a sharp intense taste, but its edge is rounded off to a lovely, sweet finish. Once again, we are impressed.
Especially when paired with the Dalmore whisky. It’s an incredibly robust whisky that conjures up all the satisfaction of sitting in a leather armchair, enjoying a roaring fire, and a rich cigar.
Even more exciting, we don’t have to return the table after two hours. With only one sitting for dinner, there’s absolutely no rush. Instead you’re encouraged to unwind, and further explore the wonderful world of rare, and limited edition whisky.
Our verdict: We loved every sip, every bite, and we we are most definitely in the mood for dancing.
Our compliments to the Saucy Chef!
In a nutshell:
Dinner, Wednesday – Sunday, 7pm
5 courses paired with 5 drams £69 per person
112 St Stephen Street
0131 220 6677