Tim Findlay-Coulson chooses Fife’s best produce for his eatery in Pittenweem, as Rebecca Shearer finds out.
Tim Findlay-Coulson is helping to put Fife’s bounty of fresh, local produce on the map. Since buying Pittenweem’s West End Bar at Christmas in 2017, Tim and his team have built a reputation for fine fare in a cosy village pub setting.
For Tim, it’s been a long road to get to where he is now, with his journey starting in Edinburgh, where he was born, Tim grew up on his mum’s famous soup and watching Delia Smith cook.
He says: “It’s been a long and winding road! Born in Edinburgh, my mum brought me and my brother up on her own.
“Mum’s lentil soup is a family legend! The book, Cooking with Mother and Delia Smith got me on the culinary path early (it’s Delia’s gratin dauphinois all the way!). After studying law at Edinburgh, I headed down to London, trained as a chartered accountant at the National Audit Office, met my wife Oonagh and then spent most of my career at Diageo.
“Oonagh and I always loved dining out; we can chart our life together by the restaurants we’ve loved – Richard Corrigan’s Lindsay House being our all-time favourite.
“In 2006 I left Diageo to take the professional diploma at Leiths School of Food and Wine in London. What a privilege that was! I then moved to New York and lived as an Upper East Sider for four years, then in 2015 we returned to Edinburgh.
“We were looking for a house with a garden (we’d just got ourselves Maxwell the mischievous cockapoo) and stopped for a pint at the West End Bar in Pittenweem. Local Captain Willie regaled us about his cucumbers and planted the seed about buying the place. Then during Christmas week in 2017, we did.”
Having made extraordinary efforts to put local food and drink on the menu and working to particularly increase the amount of organic produce they source, Tim and his team at the West End Bar find say their love for local is one of the best things about their job.
“I was in our battered old Honda the other day, collecting more fabulous veg from the East Neuk Market Garden, and stopped for a chat with Tom, then it was onto Butchery at Bowhouse to collect organic meat from Sophie, and I just paused for a moment in the car, thinking I was living some kind of idyll,” continues Tom.
“Locally-sourced food from people who really care – I love that.
“Fife is an embarrassment of riches. Between the Market Garden, the East Neuk Kilnhouse, the incredible quality meat from Balcaskie and Ardross, the fish sheds in St Monans, the strawberries from Easter Grangemuir… the list goes on and on. And we can’t forget Nick Fleming’s glorious beers at Ovenstone 109 – we are a pub after all.”
With such a focus on buying local produce, a lot of it obviously appears on Tim’s menu. But what else does he offer up?
“Our menu is short for a pub,” adds Tim.
“From the rosemary focaccia to the pastry for the smoked trout tart, to hand-shaping the organic burgers, to the mayonnaise for the tartare sauce, to the 8-stage process for my delicious fishcakes, to the lemon posset, to the toffee sauce… it’s all home-made from the best ingredients (disclaimer: I buy in the burger buns).
“That’s how I want it. I update the menu weekly, maybe a new dish here, a more seasonal veg garnish there, nothing radical, but it keeps me on my toes. And then there’ll be bigger changes as the seasons change.”
Seasonality is key
Seasonality is at the forefront of Tim’s cooking, and with that he has some ingredients he does and doesn’t like to work with when whipping up his creations.
He says: “I love fresh herbs and lemons. I use tonnes of herbs on the menu and lemons crop up everywhere – if I’m not chopping herbs, I’ll be zesting a lemon! They just lift dishes every time. And when you use them, use them in abundance.
“I like most ingredients. What I don’t like are the catering products that are sorry imitations of the real thing. Take sticky toffee pudding (STP) – we sourced this once from a foodservice firm. It was a passable syrup sponge but bore no resemblance to STP. I now make it 100% homemade – it’s a corker! And the toffee sauce made with dark muscovado sugar, loads of butter and double cream is awesome.
“In terms of the seasons, my favourite time of year for its ingredients is the summer, due to its sheer abundance of food. As autumn approaches I’m going to start using more broad beans, tomatoes, aubergines, and also ingredients I’m unfamiliar with. The East Neuk Market Garden are always introducing me to new things.”
Since reopening after lockdown, Tim and his team have been bringing good food to the people of Pittenweem with lots of positive reviews pouring in.
Tim adds: “Since we reopened in April, we’ve had a lot of nice reviews – it’s reassuring to know we’re doing something right. Some folks are suspicious of items like focaccia or koftas but it’s just simple, tasty food made with love and care.
“The things we look for in a restaurant, beyond a good meal, are lovely warm service, conviviality, and a certain generosity of spirit permeating the place. If we’re doing something close to that, then Oonagh and I will be very happy.”
The West End Bar, 30-32 South Loan, Pittenweem Ky10 2QB. Phone: 01333 311 587 or visit westendbarpittenweem.co.uk to find out more.