Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Restaurant review: A voyage to the East Neuk’s Shoregate uncovers a rare pearl

East Neuk Crab, bonito jelly and fennel. Pictures by Steve Brown.
East Neuk Crab, bonito jelly and fennel. Pictures by Steve Brown.

One of my biggest vertical pleasures as a fully-clad human is deciding which restaurant to go to – which you might think is just as well, given the subject matter of this column.

I can spend hours thinking about food and where to find it, especially if it involves somewhere that’s just opened, is difficult to find or pops up only on alternate Tuesdays in August.

The thrill of the chase for new life and fresh culinary experiences is one that empowers me still, even though I’ve been to the rodeo so many times I’m on first- name terms with many of the horses.

I’ve never understood people who say they don’t really care where they go to eat, just as I never understood my mother when she’d remark that the pot of tea I’d just meticulously made was fine because it was wet and warm.

Said with a tone of withering resignation, the sense of disingenuousness about things we all must do every day to survive is a thing I try to avoid.

To me, every meal is a chance for excitement, amusement, exploration, innovation or comfort. A boiled egg can bring me as much joy as an oyster.

Thus, it always thrills me that so much in life can be sorted over a good bowl of pasta, a fudge doughnut or a steak (incidentally, I was hugely amused to read that American author-social commentator Fran Lebowitz once named the steak as her favourite animal).

For that reason, I like spending a lot of time thinking about restaurants because so much of human life is there, even if it’s not always joyful.

Just who are those people who sit in restaurants and don’t speak to each other, studiously consuming three courses while seemingly twisting the knife into their tortured relationship with every laboured mouthful of food?

These, and the wellness types who see three macadamia nuts as a guilty pleasure, are the strange ones who view food as fuel and treat the aesthetics around eating out in the same way Queen Victoria treated lesbianism – she didn’t really know it existed therefore how could she possibly acknowledge it?

Disregarding obvious financial and logistical limitations, choosing where to spend your disposable income is one of life’s happiest pleasures, and restaurants are transformative spaces that can change you, if only for a few blessed hours.

That’s why I don’t like to waste a single meal by not eating as well as I possibly can. Life’s just too short to settle for less – of anything.

The East Neuk

The Shoregate opened in Crail in May and, if my recent visit is anything to go by, it’s already shaping up to be an integral part of the already bounteous East Neuk culinary scene.

The East Neuk is a part of Courier Country where the catering cup constantly runneth over, something I only wish could be said for Dundee
and its environs.

In food terms, there is nothing that beats a drive to this beautiful part of the world, with the promise of great cuisine at the end. I always tend to go on the
B roads, especially if the sun is shining, because there’s a certain point where you suddenly see that vast expanse of shimmering North Sea and your heart just skips a beat. This never fails to excite me.

I could actually fill this whole column with recommendations of where to eat or to buy amazing produce in this wonderful part of the country – and the best thing about it is that this isn’t a static picture.

There’s a dynamism about the East Neuk food scene right now that is truly thrilling.

New ventures seem to crop up more and more, no doubt encouraged by what seems like a genuine camaraderie among foodies.

If you want a quick illustration of this just go to the Bowhouse market weekend, happening there between 10am and 4pm today and tomorrow.

As a celebration of small producers and seasonality in food nothing much beats a visit to Bowhouse.

There are plenty of places to have lunch near the market, not least at the ace Baern cafe within the market hall itself.

For a more substantial lunch, a little inland lies the inestimable Kinneuchar Inn, while nearby St Monans has an embarrassment of riches including Craig Millar@ 16 West End, the East Pier Smokehouse and the Giddy Gannet cafe, whose amusing use of social media to promote their wares must be recognised (@giddygannet).

I love this part of the world so much that it’s almost impossible to have a favourite East Neuk village – they’re all so incredibly special, and even the drive between them is a delightful, scenic experience.

Crail, though, has a special place in my heart because there’s just something so poignant about that walk down the cobbled path of the Shoregate to the harbour, knowing that the Lobster Hut or a visit to the Crail Harbour Gallery tearoom is your culinary reward.

The Lobster Hut is just what the name implies – a ramshackle little stoop serving the freshest lobster and crab, which you can then eat at the harbour opposite.

It’s simple, raw and just wonderful.

Similarly special is the Crail Harbour Gallery and tearoom which is located in the cellars of a 17th Century fisherman’s cottage, half way down that road to the harbour. The biggest delight here is the terrace, perched over the water with stunning views towards the Isle of May.

I defy anyone not to believe in some higher power while sitting having tea in this magical spot.

However, it’s at the top of Shoregate that today’s pearl is found, and what a treasure it is.

The Shoregate

The Shoregate restaurant and rooms sits on Crail’s main road, proud and quite majestic, readied for its new incarnation as a true foodie destination.

I absolutely adored this place.

Formerly the East Neuk Hotel, the Shoregate feels fresh, vibrant and exciting after a renovation which took nearly three years, a time period extended by the pandemic. Major work to this 18th Century C-listed building included new plumbing and electrics, new floors and ceilings, a new roof, re-pointing and the application of traditional lime mortar to the walls.

The Shoregate.

Careful custodians are at work here because the building now gleams with a renewed yet quiet seaside glamour entirely in keeping with its past, but now with both eyes very much on the future.

The main restaurant space is Scandi-minimal but thankfully not dreary in the way spaces often can be when someone assumes pared back means an abundance of greige.

Here, accents of assertive colour are provided by orange banquettes, deep blue walls and 50s inspired lighting. The wooden tables are simple, as are the table settings, and the Hans Wegner-inspired chairs are things of beauty (I have two original Wegner chairs of this design and my builder comments on their aesthetic and financial worth every time he visits).

Inside the restaurant.



Here, accents of assertive colour are provided by orange banquettes, deep blue walls and 50s inspired lighting. The wooden tables are simple, as are the table settings, and the Hans Wegner-inspired chairs are things of beauty (I have two original Wegner chairs of this design and my builder comments on their aesthetic and financial worth every time he visits).

When I had lunch here (the restaurant is currently only open from Thursday to Sunday), I had the choice of any table and I chose one by the window, affording a charming view down Shoregate itself towards the sea. It was a quintessential East Neuk view, only enhanced by the fact the local bus pulls up right outside, where a few tables are placed for warmer days.

If that bus went from Newport-on-Tay to the door of the Shoregate I’d be on it at least once a week.

Murray took a trip to Crail for his latest review.

The food

The food here was just brilliant and I could have eaten everything on this menu which is concise, with five starters, four main courses and five desserts. There are three side dishes, all of them necessary and appealing.

Sourdough with whipped noisette butter and virgin rapeseed oil was £4 and now ubiquitous Gordal olives are marinated in smoked rosemary and lemon (£4).

Line caught Mackerel, potato salad and orange.

My starter of line-caught mackerel, potato salad and orange (£10) was wonderful, the ultra-fresh mackerel from David Lowrie sitting in its torched glory atop an excellent potato salad, the richness of the dish tempered by the sharp zest of the citrus. The presentation was immaculate.

My second starter (yes, I am a pig) was equally great – East Neuk crab, bonito jelly and fennel (£16) was a simple dish that relied on the freshness of the crab and the smoky, unami contrasting flavour of the bonito. Great stuff.

East Neuk Crab, bonito jelly and fennel.

My main course of lamb rump, anchovy gnocchi and sweetheart cabbage (£23) was a rich delight, as harmonious a plate of food as you could wish for.

Lamb rump is a great cut but one that’s often overlooked, which is odd as it has huge flavour, is relatively easy to cook and is still tender enough to eat pink.

Barbecue lamb rump with anchovy gnocci and sweetheart cabbage.

Served here with the most delicious anchovy gnocchi (lamb and anchovy is a classic pairing I first discovered in the 90s when cooking Simon Hopkinson’s brilliant, classic roast leg of lamb with anchovy, garlic and rosemary), this was simply great cooking.

I was pretty full by now but decided to have a dessert, purely in the line of duty, of course. In truth, of all the sections of the menu, the desserts were probably the least inspiring options for me, although I did enjoy my tablet parfait, walnut sponge and Tia Maria (£10).

Ordered partly for novelty value – tablet being part of my childhood DNA, and still something I find impossible to resist – this was a rich dessert which I think suffered texturally from the jelly on top, an element which also added little to the flavour.

Tablet parfait, walnut sponge and Tia Maria.

Service was completely charming, my only gripe being that I kept having to ask for more water. It would be better to either leave a jug of water on the table, rather than have to wait for the server to notice an empty glass.

But this is early days for this place and I could even hear informal staff training taking place as I had my lunch, so I’m sure little niggles like this will have been sorted quickly.

It’s worth noting that there is a bar at the back of the venue which is dog friendly and that four bedrooms will be available for guests later this year.

The dessert was a hit.

The verdict

I thought the Shoregate was brilliant. It’s somewhere that doesn’t pander to the cliches of seaside restaurants and instead offers a smart, knowing experience to anyone who appreciates great food served in attractive surroundings.

Chef Craig McAllister, formerly of Prestonfield House in Edinburgh,
is already cooking up a storm here after just over a month’s opening, and I have no reason to doubt that the Shoregate will swiftly become a destination restaurant and an essential part of any visit to the East Neuk.

There is nothing I didn’t admire about this place and I can’t wait to return, especially when they open on more days of the week (check their website for updates on this).

An absolute gem.


Address: The Shoregate, 67 High Street, Crail, KY10 3RA

T: 01333 451815


Price: Starters from £10, mains from £19, desserts from £9


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

For more restaurant reviews…