St Andrews is one of these places that people enjoy visiting. I love the town, so an opportunity to pop over to 18 Restaurant at The Rusacks recently was just the ticket.
It was rather blustery as myself and my wife, Karen, made our way from the car to the elegant Rusacks Hotel.
A short lift ride and we were at the entrance to the stylish restaurant that offers a fantastic view over the Old Course’s iconic 18th fairway.
18 at The Rusacks
The restaurant is on the rooftop of the hotel close to the entrance to the town.
There was plenty of parking available within easy walking distance.
18 aims to serve the best seasonal, locally-sourced beef, seafood and game – and I was very much looking forward to ticking the restaurant off my bucket list.
We were a little early for our reservation, but that was no problem as we were ushered through to the One Under Bar for a pre-dinner drink.
I took the opportunity to try one of the local brews, a St Andrews Brewing Company Yippie IPA, while Karen had a tonic water with hibiscus. My beer was lovely, cold and refreshing, while Karen said the tonic was something a wee bit different that she enjoyed immensely.
As I gazed out into the night, with the light shining on the famous links, my mind wandered to golf as I surveyed the many famous faces around the walls.
Soon, our table was ready and we were accompanied to a lovely booth which offered privacy for us to enjoy dinner.
Food at 18 at The Rusacks was ‘melt in the mouth’
The menu in 18 is fairly concise, which I liked as I do not enjoy having too much choice.
It appears they are definitely aiming for quality over quantity with only five starters, six mains, five steaks, four desserts and a cheese selection.
You can start with oysters if you wish, but I opted for robata grilled scallop with a white bean and smoked bacon cassoulet (£18).
I marvelled as my knife slid through the scallop to reveal its lovely creamy texture.
It really was a melt-in-the-mouth moment with the cassoulet being the perfect foil.
This was a charming combination of flavours to begin the evening and I mopped up the remaining cassoulet with home-baked sourdough.
Karen was seduced by the St Andrews Farmhouse Cheddar soufflé (£12).
Beautifully presented, the tangy and salty cheese came through, but was not overpowering in a delicate dish that was another delightful entrée.
Tender venison ‘a real wow moment’
I had been eating venison at home on a few occasions in the weeks leading up to our visit, so when I saw Highland venison with Jerusalem artichoke and brambles (£32) I simply had to try it for my main.
The venison was pink and so tender, I could probably have cut it with a spoon.
The meat was lovely on the palate with the mild flavour made to sing by the Jerusalem artichoke, brambles and jus. A real wow moment for me on the night.
The salt-aged duck with celeriac, confit carrot and braised leg croquette (£34) caught Karen’s eye. Looking most appetising on the plate, the taste didn’t disappoint.
The salt had done its job, but had not taken over the flavour of the duck which was also cooked perfectly.
The confit carrot and croquette added different elements to what was a beautifully constructed dish.
You order your sides separately, so we went for crisp confit potato, skin-on chips and mixed green leaf salad.
The confit potato was the star of the sides for me, being crispy on the outside and having a delightful creamy centre. Karen loved the chips, while we both thought the salad was perfect as a palate cleanser.
Desserts a ‘fitting finale’
For dessert, I chose the passion fruit cheesecake, mango pomegranate compote and ginger ice cream (£10). Karen was sold by the sticky toffee souffle (£11) which sounded amazing.
We then gave the waiting staff a giggle when the desserts arrived by choosing to swap.
Karen liked the look of cheesecake and, knowing I would be delighted with the souffle, we happily exchanged plates with the deal being that we sampled both.
The desserts were a fitting finale to a lovely evening.
The cheesecake provided a taste explosion as all of the elements of the dish combined to create a creamy, sweet and tart delight.
I happily drenched the souffle in sticky toffee sauce and tucked in. The souffle had risen perfectly and was fluffy and moreish. The combination of the sauce and the roast banana ice cream was nothing short of incredible, with the banana really coming through.
Hotel restaurants can often get a bad rap, but not 18 at The Rusacks which is an absolute delight. The quality of the food is, without question, amazing.
I savoured every bite of what I chose on the night with some top-class food craftsmanship on show. This is a restaurant where the chef and his fellow kitchen staff are on absolutely top form.
The service is some of the best I have ever experienced and I eat out a lot.
The servers could not do enough for us and the manager, Lucas, is an absolute credit to the restaurant. He made us feel so welcome and offered recommendations for the food and paired wines for each course.
If there is one point I could mark them down on is having to choose your sides separately as they don’t come with your main dish.
But I know this is becoming more the norm, particularly in high-end establishments.
However, that did not tarnish my experience and I cannot wait to return, whether to 18 or the Italian restaurant, The Bridge.
18 Restaurant at The Rusacks
A: Pilmour Links, St Andrews, KY16 9JQ
T: 01334 466899
Price: £117 for two starters, two mains and two desserts.