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Restaurant review: Tuck into so much more than ‘a wee plate of scran’ at Dunfermline’s Christie’s Scottish Tapas

Christie’s Scottish Tapas Restaurant. Pictured is the heritage tomato and vegan feta salad.
Christie’s Scottish Tapas Restaurant. Pictured is the heritage tomato and vegan feta salad.

I have to be honest and say I was somewhat ready to dislike Christie’s Scottish Tapas Restaurant even before I’d walked through the door – something I’m ashamed to admit now, having visited the place and
enjoyed it.

This is a very unusual situation because I try to judge every establishment featured on these pages as fairly and as equably as possible. I certainly never let myself pre-judge anywhere before eating there, because the proof of even the most modest place is always in the eating, the service and the ambiance.

Thankfully, the many happy customers we saw when we visited on a Saturday lunchtime seemed to be enjoying this new venture, which had only opened on June 3, three weeks before our visit. Having launched the concept with a restaurant in Falkirk in April 2021, it seems like the owners might be on to something.

My issue certainly wasn’t that Christie’s offers what they define as Scottish tapas because the use of that word to denote a scale and style of presentation has become something which charged like a bull from its true birthplace in Spain a long time ago.

Inside Christie’s Scottish Tapas Restaurant.

Tapas has now come to mean something very different to what started as free snacks in Andalucia, given either to boost business (salty snacks make you drink more) or to sustain drinkers through a boozy night. The word tapa itself means a top or a cover, reflecting that the original dishes were served on small plates, often balanced on the top of a drinks glass. This had the bonus effect of keeping fruit flies out of drinks, a problem probably more acute in the hot, dry climate of Andalucia than here in Dunfermline on a bracingly crisp day of a Scottish summer.

It also wasn’t a concern for me that Christie’s is situated in a massive leisure park – “East Scotland’s premier leisure location”, no less – on the outskirts of Dunfermline (strangely, the restaurant isn’t yet featured on the official website of the leisure park, presumably because it’s quite new).

On the contrary, I’m the man who recently spent what felt like an age in the St James Quarter in Edinburgh, determined to find and experience the fantastic fusion restaurant Ka Pao, tucked away in a high corner of the behemoth like a jewel in the crown – if indeed you do see 1.7 million square feet of a “retail- led, lifestyle district” as something
to celebrate.

What had got me in such a radge then?

Well, Christie’s website is full of the kind of marketing piffle that normally drives me up the wall, even though I admit we live in times when we’re all permanently vexed about something, however trite or innocent it might be.

In the case of Christie’s – a place which I should reiterate I largely enjoyed – it’s the story they’ve built around it and the language they use to describe it.

What is this new fashion for dropping Scottish words and idioms into text almost arbitrarily? Surely there must be a name for it but until someone enlightens me I’ll have to stick with adjectives like “gratuitous”, “inconsistent”, “mannered” and, for me, “completely maddening”.

No one is saying our language and culture shouldn’t be represented in our daily lives, and, as a proud Scot myself, I’m all for preserving language and tradition for future generations. But to use Scottish words as marketing tools which can’t fail but denote a laboured notion of authenticity really, em, gets my dander up.

Firstly, we’re told we can “experience a unique taste of Scotland with a braw wee plate of scran”. Further on, we’re told again that “a tapa is simply a braw wee plate of scran”, a statement both repetitive and patronising, as if no one had ever visited a tapas bar before.

The restaurant’s exterior.

Much is made of the fact that “Christie’s Restaurant was founded by two mates who enjoy dining out with their family and friends. One has very simple tastes and prefers staple favourites and the other is more of a foodie. So, they decided to open a restaurant that offers an experience of hospitality that anyone could enjoy”.

So far, so seemingly solid as a business plan-manifesto.

The website then goes on to explain the meaning of hospitality and, just in case you still haven’t got the point, claims that “the dictionary even goes as far as to explain that Scotland is renowned for its hospitality”, lest you didn’t realise you were in a restaurant where strangers might bring you food and you might enjoy it.

Look, I don’t begrudge anyone a concept in this world of branding and focus groups – especially a new business launching in a pandemic. As long as the food is good and the experience is agreeable then why should we care how it’s dressed up?

The difference between Christie’s and somewhere like the aforementioned Ka Pao in Edinburgh – which also serves small plates, this time influenced by the cooking of South East Asia – is that the concept hasn’t been allowed to overshadow the food, just for the sake of a business model.

The food

So, what’s the food like here? As they say online, “let’s take a look at oor menus” and see.

From a reasonably extensive menu we chose seven savoury dishes and shared a dessert. This feels about right for lunch but the excellent staff here will guide you through the menu and let you know if you’ve over or under ordered.

To encourage sharing, everything arrives at once in an operation which seemed to rely on a staff member standing at the pass checking every order with military precision.

Dishes are served on tiered stands on attractive stoneware and the first thing to say is that my Perthshire beef stew (£6.95) was wonderful.

When I was young, one of my favourite things to eat was my mum’s beef stew with doughballs. Every rustle of the Atora suet packet (amazingly, still available and looking retro fabulous at a mere £1.90) would engender huge excitement that mum’s legendary doughballs would soon top a stew of such rich, unctuous glory that it truly seemed like the food of the Gods.

Perthshire beef stew.

This stew at Christie’s was just like that – a small bowl of the richest, most tender meat with a massive dumpling plonked on top. So, so good, and all the better because I didn’t have to share it due to David being vegetarian.

My other dishes were pretty good too.

I’d only ordered the haggis bonbons (£5.50) because our server had been so effusive about them, saying she always chose them for her own lunch. These were so delicious I even forgot my aversion to the ubiquity of bonbons on Scottish menus right now.

My cod fish fingers (£7.95) were probably the least successful of my dishes, although the lemon and garlic crumb, and tomato and herb sauce were pleasant enough. Fish dishes on the menu are presented as “wee fishy yins” while meat offerings are “wee meaty yins”. Vegetarian dishes are “wee veggie yins” while larger dishes are – you guessed it – “big yins”.

Haggis bon bons.

Marked dishes are available as three for £12 all day Monday-Wednesday, which seems like a good deal to me.

David’s garlic roasted cauliflower (£5) was good, the large florets nicely crisped and served with a curry dip. His heritage tomato and vegan feta salad was pretty good too, the salad nicely presented with some gordal olives, pickled shallots and micro herbs, although the feta itself didn’t have that throat-raspingly sharp tang of an authentic Greek non-vegan version.

Some “hoose chips” (£3.50) were good, as was a plate of clapshot (£4) from a section labelled “a wee bit extra”.

It’s funny because all this talk of wee this and wee that made me realise that these mannered menu categories actually disguise a lot of good, gutsy big flavours. I didn’t order them, but I’m sure the meat “baws” with tomato sauce (£5.50) and the haggis, neeps and tapas (OK, enough already) for £4.95 would have been assertively flavoured and taste good.

Garlic roasted cauliflower with curry dip.

It’s also in Christie’s favour that there’s a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options including baked Camembert with caramelised red onion jam and toasted sourdough (£8.50) and a beetroot burger with avocado, vegan cheese, vegan burger bun, salad – and, of course, hoose-pickled shallots and hoose chips (£10.50).

We shared a delicious cranachan (£5.95) although we might have gone for the Glayva sticky “taffie puddin” with Arran ice cream (£6.25) or the distinctly non- Scottish crème brûlée had we been more of a mind to celebrate our internationalism and toast the
Auld Alliance.

Service was slick and totally charming and the surroundings were really pleasant.

Tables are well spaced, there’s an expansive open bar and the whole place feels bright and modern. Unless you really want to, you’d never remember you were at the back of a huge retail park.

The verdict

It’s interesting that Christie’s decided to open here at a time when many retailers have moved away from their high street locations in favour of these retail park sites.

Certainly, the pandemic saw retail parks able to offer a more consumer-friendly retail experience while data produced by shows that the most common type of retail park in Britain (making up 44.4% of all parks) is centred around a
food offering.

But this particular retail park doesn’t feel especially food-orientated. It took us a few minutes to find Christie’s but also that’s because it looks surprisingly unobtrusive, like something that could just as easily be in the Beverly Centre in LA as in Dunfermline.

Would I drive out here again just to eat at Christie’s? Probably not, although I might if I lived in Dunfermline. Would I go back there if it was in the middle of town? Yes, I definitely would. But also, if I was shopping in this giant retail park, or going to the cinema there, I’d much, much rather go somewhere like this – with its good food and excellent service – than to one of the massive chain restaurants or fast-food outlets close by.

Christie’s cranachan.

We spent £53.73 here on a very acceptable lunch (service is included on the bill) and I’d say that was good value for food of this (surprisingly good) quality and presentation.
If Christie’s isn’t entirely for me, I have to say I did really enjoy it and it’s always nice to have your preconceptions overturned.

It hasn’t changed my opinion about how marketing ideas and concepts can somehow swamp an experience, but this place is serving good food in a very pleasant environment and, as such, was one of the nicer surprises of this year.


Address: Christie’s Scottish Tapas, 7a Whimbrel Place, Fife Leisure Park, Dunfermline, KY11 8EX

T: 01383 668888


Price: Dishes from around £4


  • Food: 4/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Surroundings: 4/5

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