I first visited the Newport not long after it opened and I can remember how I felt when I tasted the warm bread dipped in the decadent salt cod brandade. I recall how excited I was by the menu and how much I ordered as I just couldn’t decide between the tasting plates.
This week I returned to this special place to see whether, amid Dundee’s foodie regeneration, it still retains its sparkle.
My mum is a pescatarian and I often feel sorry for her when we go for special meals as she scans the menu looking for things she can eat rather than having pick of the bunch. The stand-out dishes for me, on my first visit to The Newport, had been the veggie ones and so I decided it would be a great place to take Mum. The snow wasn’t going to hold us back and we set off, very early, for a girlie dinner for two.
Even in the dark, the view from the dining room was fabulous. Gazing out at the rail bridge and the changing Dundee skyline beyond the stormy water was a lovely way to spend an evening. On the inside however, the intimate dining room was aglow with the powerful wood burner and heavenly aromas billowed out of the cosiness as soon as the door was opened.
Despite her cheery disposition, our waitress was efficient without being overly formal and clearly knew the menu inside out. The choice between the tasting menu and the small plates was explained to us and we were left with our drinks to make up our minds.
I was delighted to see that the menu still offered an abundance of vegetarian fare and could see Mum’s eyes light up also. We chose to go for the small plates so that we could tailor our experience to our tastes and once again, I was about to seriously over-order.
There are a few dishes which are suggested as “snacks and nibbles” before the main small plates but even these were fairly substantial portions. Our first was a new take on the salt cod brandade; this time with a confit egg yolk which was a lovely addition. I admit that I didn’t get the same wave of heavenly tranquillity when I tasted it this time but then feelings like that are rarely replicated.
Jamie’s food is not just about flavour – so much effort and creativity is used in developing textures too. The roasted Jerusalem artichokes were served with toasted milk skins which were translucent in their delicateness and were a welcome addition to the earthy artichoke and fermented mushrooms, which were delightfully pokey and sharp.
The tempura squid was good with a texture that sliced like butter. The batter was fairly hefty which was a shame but the light lemongrass dressing lifted it back up. Mum’s favourite dish was the tequila cured coley which was chilled and raw but incredibly light and was complimented tremendously by the blood orange segments. It’s not something I would generally order as I was very ill after eating ceviche in Peru. It wasn’t necessarily the fault of the fish or the chef and probably more to do with the pisco sours but still – The Newport’s dish made me see the light again.
The salt baked carrots held their bite despite being cooked enough to release their caramel-like sweetness and the baba ganoush presented with it combated the sweet with its smooth, savoury splendour.
My favourite dish by far was the slow cooked quince with blue cheese. The red chicory had a familiar crunchy bitterness and the mere dusting of Lanark blue cheese was so intense it cleared my nostrils much like a good horseradish. The sweetness came from the soft quince and some incredible spiced pecans whose flavour had many levels. Although at first glance this dish seemed simple, the time spent on each individual element must have been lengthy but oh so worth it.
There was no way we were going to turn down dessert and the dessert chef soon appeared to present and explain his creations. This was a really nice touch as we felt as though we were being allowed a glimpse into the magic of the kitchen.
My mother was in heaven with her hot, lighter than air passion fruit soufflé and once this pillow of loveliness was gone, she poured the remains of the white chocolate custard on to her spoon, determined not to leave a drop.
My 70% chocolate creation was similarly divine. The hard dome of chocolate over the mousse was so shiny and perfect it seemed a shame to crack through it – but crack through it I did and devoured the remainder of the dainty yet rich dessert which had just the right amount of orange sorbet to stop it being too sickly.
When the Newport opened, it was fresh and new and different and unique in Tayside and Fife. Now that the new car smell has faded, Jamie and his team clearly have no intention of easing up on the gas pedal. The menu is still eclectic and inventive, created with flair and delivered with passion. The setting is quirky yet unfussy and considering the work, time and talent taken to create the menu and subsequent dishes, the price tag is really rather good too.
Price: Tasting menu £55 per person; small plates: £3.40 – £14; desserts: £6 – £15
Info: The Newport
Address: 1 High Street, Newport on Tay, Fife, DD6 8AB
Tel: 01382 541449