November 13 2009
Anyone who has lived in St Andrews will tell you that the top question they are asked by golfers is: “What restaurant do you recommend?” I’d say that I answer that question more than 50 times a year. And for years I’ve been churning out the same response because, unlike cosmopolitan London, St Andrews is a charming but fusty haven for all things ancient, and that includes the eateries. So, I’ll usually suggest the established, award-winning Seafood Restaurant – a glass box perched on the bay’s cliffs and home to some of the most creative seafood dishes in Scotland; or the famous Doll’s House (especially for dessert) – it’s Sean Connery’s favourite haunt; the Oak Rooms for sophisticated pub grub; or the Peat Inn, a worthwhile 10-minute drive south of St Andrews. Not surprisingly, the golfers usually look disappointed. After all, you can easily sample everything in St Andrews in a long weekend. And most of them already have.
But I have finally discovered something new: the Ardeonaig hotel restaurant on the edge of Loch Tay. It’s been around for a while, but it’s a two-hour drive from St Andrews (inland, through perilous Scottish wilderness), so I didn’t consider it an appealing option. But if you travel the four miles to neighbouring Leuchars, you can now charter a Loch Lomond Seaplane, which will get you to the Ardeonaig in about 20 minutes. And owner Pete Gottgens – the revered chef of choice for Nelson Mandela when he visits the UK – has recently refurbished the fantastic restaurant in the hotel’s wine cellar.
There you can sample the extensive South African wine list and dine on Gottgens’ gourmet menu (from delicious wild mushroom duxcelle and noisette of Ardeonaig-reared lamb to Orkney scallops and Scrabster-landed cod fillet), finish off with the Ardeonaig’s famous Granny Smith sorbet, and then hop back on the seaplane in time for a nightcap at the R&A clubhouse. Three courses with wine costs £77 per person.