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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Angler's Inn (Perth): a bit of a wasted journey

(Visited: 18/12/2011)

 This Inn just North of Perth has recently changed its website address, but hasn't seen it fit to change the links in other sites such as Viamichelin or even in their business card. All the links sent to an error page, so that it was impossible for us to see the menu online. Moreover, the owner equally did not see fit to inform us, when we booked on the phone, that on Sundays they do not serve their proper menu. They serve what they call 'High tea' instead, a stripped down selection of simple fare, admittedly at bargain prices. Since we had driven almost one and a half hours expressly to try this inn, it was frustrating (had we known, we would rather have driven an equal distance to our beloved Gordon's. for their simple but exceptional lunch menu).

Anyway, let's set frustrations aside and see what's on offer. The table are formally laid, with white clothes, which is a surprise as we were expecting something rustic. Maybe we're in for some refinement instead? Or is it nice punchy pub fare? Whatever, as long as flavours shine!

The starters, while simple, showed promise. The chicken liver parfait with Cumberland sauce and Melba toast

while minimalistically presented was pleasantly intense and rich without being overpowering, with a good smooth texture, though we would have welcomed even more of the nice sauce, or some other component to cut through the one-dimensionality of the dish.

And a Prawn and crevette cocktail with Bloody Mary jelly

pleased with good quality crustaceans (note, in two varieties), dressed in a balanced way and well complemented by the jelly. Only problem for the dish: the spoon for the jelly didn't fit the narrow part of the glass...It's a small deal, of course, but it set us wondering what on earth the staff was thinking, if at all, when deciding how to present this dish. Worrying.

Then this came. 

The Chef's roast of the day (turkey) 
If we were the Chef we wouldn't have wanted to associate our title with this dish. Although nothing tasted positively bad  - in fact the turkey had good flavour - it was a catalog of culinary mishaps. The meat was quite tough and dry (even by turkey standards), the gravy that could have partly compensated for this just a pool of bland starchy water, the croquette chewy, the fondant potato not buttery and soft as it should be. The stuffing tasted exactly of nothing. The vegetables were too few. The jellies had a vague flavour of cranberries, but it was so evanescent we could not tell.

The other main, a Cumberland sausage served in lieu of the lamb shank listed on the men

showed that they source good produce here at the Angler's Inn (both sausage and potato), but the sauce once again was deeply depressing, not bad but lacking any depth whatsoever. The puree was good if a bit salty. And come on, in such a basic preparation, give us at least a proper vegetable accompaniment! A lazy dish indeed.

For the desserts you are invited to walk to the trolley and help yourself. These are our two selections:

You see a chocolate praline, a carrot cake, a lemon posset (which we thought was a creme brulee, it looks like it, but it tasted of lemon posset) and a gingerbread. You know, they must have a good chef de patisserie or a good granny in the kitchen...while simple stuff, this is exactly the quality that a pub or an inn should aim for: nice moisture and lightness in the cakes, nice balance and lemon flavour coming through brilliantly in the posset brulee, and  nice crumbliness in the praline.

The service was ever so sweet but also a little awkward and ineffective. Also because of Man's own ineffectiveness (not admitting to his myopia he just nodded when the wine label was showed to him instead of checking properly that it was what he had ordered), a New Zealand Pinot noir was served instead of a Burgundy. Anyway it was reasonable and the good news is that it also saved us £20.... The carafe of water was frustratingly kept away from our table but there was no proper topping up. And there were those Fawlty Tower scenes, 'Do you want a sauce with the sausage?'.'What sauces do you have?'. Hesitates. 'Ehm, horseradish, ehm...mustard, ehm...'.'OK I'll have the horseradish'. Comes back one minute later: 'Sorry we don't have any horseradish'. Nobody enquired whether we liked the food. Long time to get our coats, and so on.

The cost was £66 with a £26 (very well-priced) wine, so on this front, full marks.

It's clear that they have some ambition at the Angler's Inn, but on the basis of what we've seen on our visit they have some way to go to attain the level of proper pub fare, lacking the punch of the best examples, and the setting is anyway too refined for a pub. So they probably aim at some higher level of cooking on non-Sunday days, though again on this day's performance we struggle to see how they manage.  We assume and hope that the Head Chef wasn't in the kitchen that day. For what we've seen, Graeme Palliser at 63 Tay Street 10 minutes away in Perth is streets ahead in terms of culinary ability. Our modest impression is that the Angler's Inn should really be an Inn, forgetting about formalities and fine dining (the type of menu they seem to have on non-Sunday days), and focusing on serious, gutsy, properly made rustic fare.


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