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Restaurant review: Fall in love with fine dining like you’ve never seen before at Killiecrankie House

The squid in its own ink dish.
The squid in its own ink dish.

Nestled in the heart of Highland Perthshire now lies one of Scotland’s most forward-thinking foodie havens.

Its white exterior is hidden by rows of greenery and it is idyllically located in a picturesque gorge that keeps its identity hidden for visiting eyes only.

While the rooms are elegantly decorated and minimalist, the real reason diners flock to Killiecrankie House near Pitlochry is for what happens in the kitchen.

Before dinner, which is served at 7.30pm Wednesday to Saturday diners are invited to enjoy the quaint bar area that boasts intricate and amusing art from some of the best in the industry.

You’ll find quirky drinks on the cocktail list and the bar is fully stocked with Scottish spirits and local craft beers.

The team then call dinner and show you to your table.

Dinnertime at Killiecrankie is an experience in itself.

The first thing you’ll notice is how open the space is. No diner, of which there is only space for six to eight, has their back to the kitchen and everyone is positioned so they can watch the theatre unfold.

Made From Girders cocktail.

My boyfriend and I were seated at the chef’s counter which allowed us to see right into the heart of the kitchen and admire co-owner Tom Tsappis’ culinary skill from a closer viewpoint.

I’d brought my Made From Girders cocktail featuring marmalade gin and Irn-Bru with me to savour as guests settled themselves.

A scroll set on the table unveils the menu for the night which outlined 13 courses, with 18 dishes included in total. Not giving away the game, we were left guessing what each course was which made for an exhilarating start.


The food

Matilda, who is the sommelier, co-owner and also Tom’s wife, has extensive knowledge on drinks. Throughout the meal she would recite each pairing as if she made the product herself, and it was the first French Champagne number she presented that really set the tone.

Light, sweet, crisp but oh-so bubbly, this was luxury in a glass.

First on the food front was an edible whisky sour and bar snacks. The highlight for me had to be the seaweed and malt vinegar crisps which was served in a edible transparent packet. Tom encouraged us to pop this fine dining take on a packet of salt and vinegar crisps into our mouths all at once. The packet disintegrated on my tongue and the crisp came alive like popping candy.

The bar snacks.

The scurvy grass wasabi peas and langoustine was delightful, with the shellfish hiding at the bottom of the tart. The peas, too, popped in my mouth and were like sweet like little candies.

Course two was a trio of small bites from the Highlands. The gouda doughnut made with Corra Linn cheese with picked apple reminded me of a former US president in look, however, this was soft in the middle and very polite on the palate. The lightly fried doughnut was easy to pop into my mouth in one and the explosion of flavour was one I most certainly enjoyed.

The small bites, and the cheese doughnut that resembled a former US president.

The venison, bramble and wild garlic snack was made with garlic from last year and the taco was made from bramble. The meat was incredibly sweet, rich and succulent and paired very well with the Champagne.

Flowers of Scotland, featured a sunflower emulsion and flowers from the venue’s garden. It was beautiful and popped with colour and flavour.

Moving from land to the sea, the drunken oyster (course three) was served in a Glenmorangie hollandaise sauce, barbecued and finished with a blow torch.

Drunken oyster.

The sauce was to die for and is one that should grace more breakfast menus. The Champagne, too, added to the luxurious feel of the meal so far, with gorgeous plates and unique skill already on show.

A Japanese sake was next.

The sake.

The recipe for it dates back to 1703 and it gets its burnt orange colour as it is made with natural yeast and in barrels. It is heavy on the umami taste so paired excellently with the Food From The Forest dish made with foraged mushroom chawanmushi (steamed savoury egg custard).

Four different types of local mushrooms from around the hotel were showcased, with the custard also made from mushroom and the a larger oyster mushroom barbecued in the centre.

Local mushrooms.

Watching the chefs in action was mesmerising.

Under Tom’s supervision the 21 and 22-year-old chefs lead the operation throughout the night. Tom continuously encouraged them, letting them control the kitchen while providing support and stability when unsettled eyes glanced across to him on the odd occasion.

The kitchen was alive but nothing was rushed. There was purpose in every movement.

The team working away.

Course five saw daikon radish be served two ways and a special dry-hopped lager from Wasted Degrees was served with course six and seven.

The small pieces of chopped squid cooked in its own ink was darker than a winter’s night. The black of the dish and the squid tuile was interrupted by bright green dollops of garlic emulsion.

Squid cooked in its own ink.

Five pound fish was North Sea mackerel served two ways. The first, dashi (broth) was the bones of the fish made into a smoked mackerel miso soup. It was incredibly savoury with a hint of sweetness. The homemade tofu in the shape of a fish melted in my mouth and the bubbles were created using oil.

The blow torched mackerel was cured and pickled and the slightly crisp skin over the succulent fish made this dish one of my favourites of the night.

The mackerel was a stand out dish.

It was also one the most creatively presented dishes, with a variety of crockery used throughout the night across every course to add to the experience.

Course eight was Gigha skink and was served with a white wine from France.

The haddock, which is sourced from the west coast, was utterly delicious and umami. It was served with a sauce with caviar potato and cucumber in it and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) on top that were ‘waving’.

The haddock.9

One of the stand-outs of the night was the deep fried porridge. Wagyu dripping porridge with Isle of Mull cheddar on top, this crisp yet incredibly soft and nostagic.

Nodding to the Scottish tradition of a porridge drawer, it reminded me of a posh brown sauce meets hash browns and Lorne sausage rendition.

Matilda said it and the oysters will always remain a staple on the menu because they enjoyed most and so unique.

Deep fried porridge.

The lamb Scotch broth came with a red from a Chinese vineyard. Sweetbreads, pressed potato, lamb breast and shoulder all made up this dish. The meat was cooked to perfection and the potato was soft inside and crisp on the out.

The sherbet course was a pink palate cleanser that comprised beetroot, rhubarb and crystalised rose.

The first drink leading into the desserts was a white dessert wine from Cyprus. The North Ronaldsay sheep number had ice cream, a dulce de leche sauce and sheep cheer meringue with sheep’s milk.

The first dessert.

I loved the playfulness of this dish and the creative element of it in the shape of a sheep.

To bring this monumental meal to an end we were treated to a trio of sweeties; Irn-Bru pastille, miso fudge tablet and an Edradour ice cream sandwich.

The sweeties.

While black pudding madeleines may not be everyone’s cup of tea they certainly were mine. Dusted with cinnamon sugar, they were beautifully baked and had held their shape. Sweet and savoury flavours danced on my tongue and had there been more, I’d have scoffed the lot.

We finished the night off with an after dinner drink. Baileys for me and whisky for him.

The sounds of Abba, Michael Jackson and Queen that had been playing in the background came to an end around 11pm when we all finished up and headed back to the bar.

While this had been an extravagant meal filled with the finest food and delectable drinks, I felt comfortable and satisfied.


The verdict

This is Michelin level cooking and service all wrapped into one. While Killiecrankie House may not have a star at the time of writing this review, I have no doubt that it won’t be long until they do.

Tom and Matilda clearly adore what they have built. Their venue is continuously taking shape and their kitchen garden has finally started to provide for them.

This passion to support and showcase not just local producers but local ingredients is just further cemented in the way they train and nurture staff, and take pride in their unique offering.

Crafting and preparing these dishes is no mean feat, and there is real skill here that certainly needs applauded, both in the way service is run and the talent in the kitchen.

Chef’s kiss.


Information

Address: Killiecrankie House, Pitlochry PH16 5LG

T: 01796 473213

W: killiecrankiehouse.com

Price: The tasting menu is priced at £85 per person. The alcoholic drinks pairing is £65 and the non-alcoholic drinks pairing is £45.

Scores: 

  • Food: 5/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Surroundings: 5/5

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