Thistly Cross Roundabout
Dunbar, East Lothian EH42 1ST
01368 860573 www.belhavenfruitfarm.co.uk
5 courses: £40.00
Cooking 8/10 | Service 4/5 | Flavour 4/5 | Value 4/5
I thought long and hard about continuing to publish reviews, given present circumstances. I have decided to press ahead with what I had in the can (this and next week's) for a couple of reasons. Firstly the work has already been done, and I hate waste in any form. Secondly, a decent review should be something which is an enjoyable read in its own right. And finally, I hope you will remember these places, check whether they have a takeaway service, and go to visit when this is all over - Tom.
The Strawberry Barn on the outskirts of Dunbar is under new ownership and has revived the supper club. Supper clubs have again become more popular, usually allowing aspiring chefs to deliver top notch meals, at home for a small number of diners. They are usually keenly priced.
The cafe at the Strawberry Barn is decorated in a sea breeze blue and light green with the available meals on a large, wall mounted blackboard. The food is consistently good, all freshly made to order and delightful, attentive staff. There’s a large and varied menu including all-day breakfasts, soups, steak sandwich, and a variety of vegetarian and vegan options including the much loved beetroot burger. The steak sandwich and croque monsieur are both delicious and generously portioned. All meat is locally sourced.
Knowing the quality of food served up in the cafe, we were intrigued by the five course supper club menu which at £40 a head offered two fixed menus: one vegetarian, the other fish and meat.
The room had been transformed with white linen tablecloths, candles, a natural leafy centrepiece and napkins tied with ribbon to which a sprig of rosemary was added.
A gin and tonic or Prosecco were included and, as we mingled with our fellow diners, our first course arrived. A generous amuse bouche of pickled beetroot, cream cheese and candied kumquat served on a ceramic spoon. Utterly delightful and a sign of the many good things to come from the kitchen. Chefs Lisa Vance and Brenda Pryde prepared and cooked the menu, which had been devised by Brenda. Both deserve the highest praise.
For chefs who can produce food of this standard and quality, events like this must be Utopian in contrast to the day job.
Once seated we were served with a Roquefort broth garnished with steamed mussels or a beetroot terrine with horseradish cream. The flavour of the cheese was delicate in a velvety smooth cream soup.
Next up was ceviche of halibut with grapefruit, heritage radishes and jalapeño. The halibut was outstanding - fresh, with a zing of lime. A featherlight dish with a hit of heat from the pepper. The vegetarian option of miso king oyster mushrooms were innovative having an intensity of flavour that was wholly unexpected from that part of the vegetable. Pea purée, a delicate hit of truffle and crisped jackfruit brought the whole dish together.
Lamb, or the vegetarian alternative of pan fried, herb encrusted smoked tofu followed, each accompanied by cauliflower three ways (purée, charred and shaved, Jerusalem artichoke hearts with a couple of cubes of chocolate jelly. The lamb rump was beautifully pink, if a little sinewy. The star however was the tofu. As with the mushroom stalks this was another revelation. The tofu had been smoked and had the appearance of a decent piece of herb crusted beef. The flavour was deep with a real umami hit. When a forkful of the vegetables, tofu and cubed jelly were eaten, the true talent of the chefs was displayed. One would not anticipate chocolate jelly bringing these ingredients to a glorious whole but it truly did.
Finally, a jar filled with sorrel buttermilk panna cotta topped with a shortbread crumb and a stalk or two of lightly poached forced rhubarb was historic. The tablespoon of rhubarb gin granita was exceptional and, like the panna cotta and the poached rhubarb refreshing and not overly sweet. A fine way to end a simply terrific meal. This is inventive and carefully conceived cooking of the first order.