I will start with an admission: I am the worst at giving gifts. I have never been able to just know the absolutely perfect present to buy someone.
So when a loved one is celebrating a special occasion, I will treat them to a nice meal because you can’t really go wrong with that.
Which is how my other half and I ended up at Henderson’s Bistro in Auchterarder’s High Street. It was his 40th and he really wanted a decent steak. And he definitely got one!
Henderson’s Bistro has long been an eatery on the High Street, albeit under different names and owners. The layout and exterior haven’t really changed in the past 20 years, with two seating areas semi-partitioned in the middle, but it’s undergone a major decor makeover.
The vibe seems to be traditional Scottish with a modern twist. Above a decorative stone fireplace is a metal stag’s head and throughout there’s a lot of dark wood and metallics. At times it can seem a bit muddled, as though it doesn’t know what it wants to be and it doesn’t always flow, but it works.
We went on a Wednesday evening and the restaurant was full, including two large tables of around 10 people each. Because of this, it was quite loud but not in a way that was detrimental to the meal.
The young wait staff were friendly and welcoming (full transparency, they did make a couple of mistakes with our order during the meal) and showed us to a good table with a decent view of the restaurant, where I could see that the clientele was everyone from golfers just off the course to tourists to locals who obviously have Henderson’s on their regular eating out rotation.
The food at Henderson’s Bistro
For my starter, I chose the panko crumbed haggis balls (£6.50). The three balls came atop piped mashed potato and there was a honey carrot puree and whisky sauce also on the plate.
I can honestly say they were the best haggis balls I’ve ever had, moist without being greasy, and the puree and whisky sauce were just the right touches to add to the haggis without becoming overwhelming.
Meanwhile, my partner opted for the crispy halloumi chips (£6.25), which were more like wedges (in a good way). It was a decent-sized portion for a starter and by far the standout was the mysterious “house sauce” it came with, which seemed to have a slightly Indian twist, only without heat. I’m still trying to figure out what was in it!
And of course for his main, my other half went for a fillet steak (£33.95), cooked medium with a blue cheese sauce. I chose the butterfly chicken breast (£15.95) and a bearnaise sauce, and we shared side orders of cheesy garlic bread and grilled prawns.
The chicken was done simply but that was ideal for me. You could taste a bit of the char from the grill and it was nice and moist (butterflied meat can easily dry out) and the accompanying grilled mushroom and chips were perfectly done.
The steak was a good cut and perfectly cooked. The blue cheese and bearnaise sauces were both tasty, but we probably could have done without the strong-tasting garlic bread which kind of fought against the other flavours, or the prawns which were a bit too done and verging on overcooked (definitely overcharred).
We had both asked for no grilled tomatoes with our mains, but both came with, a minor inconvenience but still a bit irksome.
Because it was a birthday celebration we had to have dessert.
I chose the caramelised pecan and fudge-topped cheesecake (£5.95) which didn’t really taste of much. The actual cheesecake was quite lemony but the pecan and fudge topping (and the toffee sauce) didn’t keep up with that and got a bit lost. The base was also rock solid which made it hard to eat.
My other half went for the sticky toffee pudding (£5.95) with ice cream and that came with plenty of sauce. It was well balanced – sweet but not cloying, hearty without being dense
Overall we enjoyed our meal at Henderson’s Bistro. Yes there are some tweaks that could be made to turn a good meal into a great one but at its heart it is a varied and interesting menu cooked well and served in an interesting location.
As someone who recently moved back to the Auchterarder area after 15 years away, it’s good to find somewhere that does a great steak and would suit anything from a casual catch-up with friends to more of a celebration.
Henderson’s Bistro information
Address: 149 High Street, Auchterarder, PH3 1AD
Tel: 01764 664092
Price: £100.40 for two starters, two mains, sauces and sides, two puddings and two soft drinks
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