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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Drovers (near Forfar, Angus): a little gem

 (visited January 2012)

A walk in beautiful Angus...

Looking for a second home...


Tempted to shoot our lunch ourselves...


Those pheasants only saved by our spotting a proper Inn...

 (by the way, the weather is always like this in Scotland). The interior is warm, metaphorically and literally with a live fireplace. 

The bread felt homemade and was fresh, but there is only so much you can get out of this type of bread, and as you know these two hardened Italians are tough to impress on the bread front... 

But a starter of Seared Orkney scallops, sauce vierge and crispy punchetta (i.e. the punchy pancetta we love), as well as a Crab, smoked salmon, prawn salad with rosemary crostini immediately win us over with the absolute excellence of the produce. 

Oh dear oh dear, we wonder why so often we find ourselves in stiff, expensive restaurants eating mediocre, not really fresh, produce, when there exist simple, inexpensive places like this where true flavours so gallantly assault your senses. The scallops and the crab especially, really bursting with the sea, but also the chunky salmon which, while not wild, impressed for the quality both of the meat and of the smoking. The scallops were cooked well even if not uniformly on the outside, and rested on the lovely, tangy sauce, perfectly seasoned. The crostini accompanying the crab did not really taste of rosemary (yet again those evanescent herb flavours that chefs find so difficult to capture in the finished dish), yet served a meaningful textural function.

Only a madman would expect to eat bad beef in Angus, but this sirloin, once again, was superior

The cooking was very good even if not superlative, and the seasoning was also very good though you need to like pepper, and anyway there's no arguing with such a deeply flavoured piece of beef (the supplier deserves to be named: Kennedy butchers of Forfar) - one almost feels like saying: who cares about the rest! But no, we appreciated a certain lightness of hand in preparing this dish, nicely displayed in the clear flavours of the wine jus and the potato rosti and the vegetables coming from their garden and the farm up the road.

Similar feelings for a Roast rump of lamb

where, while the lamb was perhaps  not so quite so spectacular as the beef (still, very good), it was cooked well (pink) and the creamy mash was again classily light. Quite lovely also the herb crusting of the lamb, the savoy cabbage with bacon very assertive. And just look at the sauce. Good stuff.

We had a cheese dish

A French Brie, an Isle of Mull cheddar, and the favourite of the chef (so the charming waitress says), and ours too, a Blue Monday Very well made chutney and oatcakes, and an interesting touch: frozen grapes which eventually defeated our initial skepticism. The only blemish was that the cheeses were a touch too cold (oh yes, the grapes were frozen, for added texture we were told).

The other dessert, Valrhona chocolate torte with raspberry sorbet

summarises the style of cooking here: great produce prepared simply, well within the comfort zone of the chef, but with great care (nice sponge under the chocolate) and effectiveness. This may not be haute cuisine but it is very far beyond your standard inn cooking, and when you get such beautiful, pure, explosive chocolate and raspberry flavours, it is great eating indeed! 

Oh, and two truffles to finish:

Everything about this inn is charming. The building was redeveloped a couple of years ago with obvious intelligence and care. The restaurant section where we were (there is also a pub section) has as we said a live fireplace, beautiful views on the countryside, and is furnished and decorated in a sleekly rustic style. 


The young waitress was competent and pleasant. In its genre (i.e. simple but refined rustic) Drovers elevates itself high, contemplating from far above the sea of mediocrity of pubs and inns (we'll soon see a London example), to reach the peaks of that category. It is also very sweet value for money. With a £33 Cote du Rhone (the cellar is very interesting and very, very well priced, with markups below 100% on retail and sometimes well below) and two coffees, the cost of our three course meal exceeded £100 just because we had some of the most expensive items on the menu. It is possible to eat, and probably as well as we did, for much less. You have to drive a bit to reach it, but on the other hand  stretching your limbs in the lovely countryside around, before or after, or both, is one the most pleasant activities imaginable.


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