A meal can be made all the more special by its surroundings. This doesn't necessarily need to be somewhere grand and imposing, it can just as easily be a BBQ on a remote beach or a picnic beside a loch. The National Trust for Scotland's Fyvie Castle does however definitely fall into the grand and imposing category. Its amazing 800 year old exterior protects a lavish Edwardian interior which is home to a superb collection of arms, armour and paintings, including works by Raeburn and Gainsborough. The castle's exquisite Gallery and interconnecting Drawing Room were recently the venue for "An Evening with Nick Nairn" a private dinner which I attended as Foodie Loon's plus one.
I had insider knowledge about the presence of a celebrity chef and fine dining experience however the rest of the diners were somewhat bemused by the copious amounts of cutlery and glasses, the absence of menus and an extra place setting at each table. All was revealed when Master of Ceremonies Robert Lovie introduced the special guest and host for the evening Mr Nick Nairn. During the evening Nick introduced each dish sharing its components and their provenance and moved around the tables after each course.
A fantastic eight course dinner with matched wines was prepared and served by GH Event Catering. No mean feat at any occassion but with the limitations of a tiny kitchen three floors down in an 800 year old castle with sensitive smoke alarms it was some achievement to produce 50 perfect meals. We dined on an exquisite menu of:
Chilled Heirloom Tomato Consomme
Pan Roasted Sea Loch King Scallops
Guinea Fowl, Pineapple Sage & Prosciutto Balotine
Elderflower Water Ice
Highland Estates Venison Carpaccio
Roasted Sea Reared Trout Fillet
Lemon & Vanilla Pannacotta Egg Cup
Artisan Scottish Cheeses
For me the stand out dishes were the Tomato Consomme with warm cumin sable biscuit and the Venison Carpaccio with a medley of leaves from the secret herb garden, roasted parmesan and onion seed crackers and a rape seed oil vinaigrette. The presentation of all the dishes was impeccable and with a room full of engineers the hot topic of conversation was how were the fifty egg shells that the pannacotta desert was served in cut so perfectly?!
The following weekend we were again dining a la Nick Nairn. This time for a Father's Day Lunch in his Native by Nick Nairn Restaurant at the Hilton Garden Inn on Aberdeen's St Andrew Street. The restaurant opened in November 2013 specialising in locally sourced steak and seafood using the best of what is available in the area. All of the menus are written by Nick and his executive chef Colin Halliday, with input from the chefs at the hotel. The atmosphere in restaurant and adjoining bar is informal and relaxed however it still very much has the feel of a hotel restaurant. The toilets are somewhat out of the way on a lower floor and best accessed via a lift, we ended up in the hotel car park trying to find them.
The Father's Day Menu at Native offered a choice of two courses for £19.95 or three for £23.95. This seemed good value for money and there was also a free pint for Dad. Although my children are now past the stage of requiring a kids menu I was very impressed by the choices on it. Proper food with the same freshness and provenance as the main menu. No indication of the price point for it though.
I started with the slow braised pork belly. This was absolutely melt in the mouth although I would have liked to have seen more crackling given that it was mentioned on the description. Round the table we also had Cullen Skink and Chicken Liver Parfait both of which were declared delicious and a request for additional toasted brioche was quickly met. The service throughout our meal was impeccable and the staff were friendly, knowledgeable and attentive.
For main I couldn't see past the Roast Rib of Inverurie Beef. Local provenance abounded with the beef in the restaurant coming from Davidsons Butchers of Inverurie and the Pork from Mossies. The beef was absolutely delicious as were the accompanying sides. It was however very pink which is exactly how I like it but I can appreciate that not everyone would and it was certainly an issue I overheard at another table. The whole plate of food could have done with being a wee bit warmer, it wasn't cold enough for me to consider sending it back but when I had a taste of my son's piping hot Gnocchi I realised just how cool my main was. His Wild Mushroom Gnocchi with Tarragon Cream and Aged Parmesan was absolutely outstanding. I am definitely going to try and recreate this at home. I dipped a forkful of my beef into the sauce at every opportunity. Girl had roast chicken which is her favourite meal so she was very happy. In general the presentation of all the starters and mains was good but not quite sure why they were all sprinkled with chopped parsley. I thought that practice had been left behind in the 80's.
Time for desert and despite girl saying she was stuffed full from her soup and chicken she managed to devour a White Chocolate & Raspberry Creme Brulee, as did boy. Foodie Loon opted for the Warm Marmalade Sponge with Drambuie Marmalade of Three Chimneys Fame. Very tasty but not very photogenic. I went for a delicious Pear Tarte Tatin with Cinnamon Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce. Cuppachio and Fudge rounded off the meal perfectly. Guests staying at the Hilton Garden Inn are in for a real treat when dining at Native by Nick Nairn, definately a cut above run of the mill hotel resturants. Locals would do well to check out this hidden gem of the granite city. It's located just off George Street where the old Bowling Alley used to be. Bet you know exactly where I mean now! Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for menu updates, special offers and events with Mr Nairn himself.
Disclosure - We dined at Fyvie Castle as guests of Subsea 7. Native by Nick Nairn invited us to review a complementary meal. All views expressed are my own. This is not a paid post.