Just outside St Andrews, a short drive south on the A915, is a jewel in the crown of independent eateries in Scotland. Behind the unassuming facade of the Inn at Lathones lies a restaurant that is, at best, deserving of its two AA Rosettes, but at the very least, worthy of much more. Focusing on fresh produce, and advocates of the ‘slow food movement’, the Inn showcases the very best of seasonal Scottish food with fresh locally-caught seafood high on the menu.
The Inn’s owner, Nick White, began his early career in hospitality as a chef, and although he’s turned his hand to other areas of wining and dining, his knowledge and understanding of food is clearly the driving force behind the success that his restaurant enjoys. That, and the skill and vision of his chef as well, he’s quick to inform us.
Dining at the Inn is an absolute pleasure. They’ve deliberately taken a step away from aiming for the dizzy heights of Michelin acclaim to focus instead on producing a delightful bistro-style menu. But that doesn’t mean that their food is presented with less flair. In fact, the stylish plates of well-cooked, gratifying food that arrive before diners in this relaxed dining room, have been plated with all the mastery and expertise you’d expect to find in restaurants at the top of the food chain. Pardon the pun. And that’s undoubtedly one of the reasons why they enjoy such popularity, not only with the locals who call this place home, but also with golfers from nearby St Andrews who clearly recognise the Inn as a veritable competitor to their usual 19th tee haunts.
And it’s not just the food that’s enjoyable here. There’s a clear understanding of how a good wine should taste as well, like the £35 bottle of Albarino we were encouraged to try. This 2009 Casal Caeivo white was refreshing and fruity, with a hint of blackcurrants, although maybe that’s just my palate. It worked every bit as well with red meats, and wasn’t lost by the robust flavour of the lamb.
When we visited, we found their summer menu to be frustratingly tempting. The pan roasted cod with a side of crispy anchovies was tantalising, as was the thought of cannelloni of local langoustine with parmesan crisp and a seafood bisque. We finally settled on seafood chowder, made with seafood caught locally at nearby Pittenweem, and a terrine of chicken and ham confit, dressed with housemade apple jelly to start. We followed that up with a heavenly braised shoulder of local spring lamb, served with a pan fried chump and perfectly cooked vegetables, a and local corn fed chicken breast main with artichokes.
Desert was equally as difficult to narrow down, but a soft and refreshing vanilla mousse and raspberry sorbet, along with a well chosen cheese board won. It’s the first time I’ve tasted pickled celery – I have to say, I may now be a celery convert.
It’s the care that goes into the food here, that makes dining at the Inn special. They take care of their produce from the very beginning, using meats that are tracked by the Scottish Beef Club from field to table. Everything is locally butchered just a few miles away from the Inn, giving a certain degree of comfort in knowing how fresh and well-sourced the food you’re eating is. And when the Inn finds something special, something to show off about, that’s exactly what they do. Catering for larger groups, particularly with the famous golf courses of St Andrews just up the road, is something this outstanding restaurant is perfectly used to doing, and it’s a chance for them to get creative. Take their seafood nights, for example. We narrowly missed one such occasion, and how we rued that fact. The thought of long slabs of wood, laden high with fresh lobsters, a variety of other saltwater crustacions, and an outsized champagne bucket filled to the brim with fresh mussels in a white wine and cream sauce, sounded like seafood heaven. No starters, no need for deserts, just seafood. And lots of it.
The menu we dined from is the Inn at Lathones’ summer menu for 2012, but they’re working on their winter menu already. Anticipate plenty of fresh local estate game, with pheasant and partridge likely to feature on it. And the seafood will undoubtedly be making an appearance again too.
Click here to visit the website for the Inn at Lathones: http://www.innatlathones.com/