Eating an octopus hot dog in a renowned chef’s restaurant wasn’t on my bucket list, but perhaps it should have been.
MasterChef: The Professionals chef Dean Banks has just opened up a new cocktail bar and restaurant in St Andrews named Dune.
The new venue offers crafted cocktails and small plates, but it’s the latter which caught my attention.
The dishes on the menu at Dune are beyond quirky, including caviar on waffles and an octopus hot dog.
But are these dishes simply attention-grabbing or are they any good? I wanted to find out for myself.
So, braving the chilly temperatures last Friday, I headed to Dune for a first taste of the intriguing menu.
There is absolutely no faulting the stunning venue.
With St Andrews doused in darkness at that time in the evening, the neon signage out front caught our attention from halfway down North Street.
The entrance had bright white walls and the wooden roof made it look like a beach shack.
It was as though we were stepping beyond the sand dunes and inside the sea itself – for once we were inside things got a whole lot darker.
With dark wood, bare brickwork and a rich blue colour on the walls, the space was cosy, cool and classy.
The décor was stunning, with something interesting to look at everywhere you looked, including a very realistic glowing full moon on the wall.
From my side of our table for two, I could see unique wood panelling which to me resembled an organ.
Behind me, was a trio of windows which looked out onto St Salvator’s Chapel. It looked very gothic and added to the ethereal energy in the place.
‘Fun and complex cocktails’ – slightly disappointing
We were served quickly, ordering our drinks first.
My cocktail was sadly not all that fun, despite coming under the “smoke and mirrors” section. There’s a warning at the front of the menu which says “all the cocktails are served with theatre” and some with dry ice.
I must have blinked and missed the theatre that came with my cocktail, as it seemed pretty standard to me.
My cocktail was the Lustration Club (£18), a suggestion from the waitress who I asked for a recommendation.
With Lunun Gin (Dean Banks’ own premium gin brand), raspberry espuma, lemon and sugar, it was very tasty and refreshing. There were more citrus notes than sweetness, but it was delicious.
I also liked that there wasn’t a tiny amount in the glass, and the drink lasted throughout my meal.
My first taste of caviar was on a waffle
At Dune, there are 11 small plates to choose from, and the waiter recommended we have two dishes each.
My boyfriend Michael and I followed their advice and had four savoury dishes between us to start with.
The first: caviar on a waffle.
Like something out of Star Wars, the caviar waffle (£25) was strange to even look at. We watched, excited and nervous, as the waiter poured a syrupy sauce over the dish.
The Oscietra caviar (from “sustainable caviar farms around the world”) was served on a waffle with a neat dollop of crème fraiche.
With the syrup drizzled over the top, it did not seem like a flavour combination that would be edible, never mind enjoyable.
But I loved it.
Yes, it’s a bizarre combination, but somehow the sweetness of the crème fraiche and the syrup paired excellently with the salty flavour from the caviar. The waffle was perfect too, doughy and crisp at the same time.
My fussy child self would never believe this, but it appears that I like caviar now?
And what about the octopus hot dog?
The next small plate was equally as nerve-wracking. It was time for the octopus hot dog (£14).
I felt a little like I was gearing up for a Bushtucker Trial as I eyed the tentacle on the plate in front of me. Surely I couldn’t be expected to eat that.
I was sat there staring down the kraken.
But in the name of journalism, I proceeded.
This time round, the quirky flavours were not doing it for me.
Although I am a seafood fan, I didn’t like this dish one bit.
The sweetness of the bun didn’t work with the sauces nor the octopus, for me at least.
The chopped tomato beneath the tentacle didn’t taste right for me either. I couldn’t have more than a few bites of the hot dog.
But Michael loved it, praising the texture of the tentacle. So perhaps an octopus hot dog is simply an acquired taste?
The two other small plates we opted for were the pig cheek Croquet (£9) and the vegetable tempura (£9).
The pig cheek was absolutely perfect. The meat was succulent and tender, falling apart with every forkful.
The rich, salty meat paired deliciously with the sweetness of the pear puree and we were sad when it was finished.
The vegetable tempura was surprisingly amazing. I wasn’t expecting much from what is essentially battered veg, but the flavours were mouth-watering.
The batter was thin and crispy and there was a range of veg on the plate, including cauliflower, carrot and leek. Each had its own texture that was equally delicious.
The carrot had a nice bite to it, while the leek was juicy. It was the most flavourful cauliflower I had ever had.
The acidity of the spicy sauce cut through the salty veg. The lime, not usually my favourite, worked really well too.
After sharing our four small plates, we still had room for dessert.
The dark chocolate cremeux with vanilla ice cream (£9) was a delicious end to the meal.
The creamy ice cream cut through the rich chocolate flavour to save it from any threat of becoming sickly. And the crumbled biscuit on top and a caramel-like drizzle around the plate added depth of flavour.
The verdict on Dune, St Andrews
Although I was slightly disappointed with the lack of showbiz of my cocktail and the taste of the octopus hot dog, this only lost Dune half a mark because everything else about our visit there was perfect.
The venue was stunning, the dishes were cooked to perfection and the service was impeccable throughout our visit.
I would definitely recommend Dune and will be visiting again – next time, without an octopus hot dog.
Dune, St Andrews: Information
Address: 80 North St, St Andrews KY16 9AH
Price: £89.50 for one cocktail, one non-alcoholic beer and five small plates
- Food: 4.5/5
- Service: 5/5
- Surroundings: 5/5