A Michelin starry night

A recent ‘staycation’ on the west coast of Scotland served as a magnificent reminder of the wonders of Scottish food.

It was a week that emphasised the sea, including prawns and crab in Troon and langoustine and scallops at Loch Fyne.

A short trip to Arran offered a taste of something different – delicious home-baked ham, egg and chips at the Lagg Hotel, Kilmory.

But the highlight of the week was a visit to Ayrshire’s only Michelin-starred restaurant.

For 21 years husband and wife team Keith and Nicola Braidwood have run their eponymous restaurant in the Ayrshire hinterland, near Dalry, 15 of those years with that coveted star.

It’s a tiny place, welcoming and comfortable. The staff are knowledgeable and not shy about offering suggestions. Indeed, it was thanks to our waitress that we kicked off our lunch with a kir royal each, to be followed by a summery, beautifully chilled rosé, from an extensive wine list.

But it was the food we were there for with our expectations high, and we weren’t disappointed.

A generous lunch menu– four options for each course – had our mouths watering and we could have happily (though not easily) eaten our way through the menu.

The terrine of potted light cured and oak smoked salmon came with Jersey royal potato salad and a herb mustard dressing.

A silky smooth mousse was wrapped in thinly sliced smoked salmon; alongside, the potato salad comprised servings of tiny potato pieces in a light, fresh dressing; while the blobs of mustard dressing had a hint of wasabi, bringing a hint of heat.

Quail is always a surprising dish and the Braidwoods’ packed in powerful flavours with none of the gaminess of their larger cousins. In this beautifully constructed and presented dish, the breast provided something to get your teeth into, while the confit legs simply melted in the mouth.

The accompanying black pudding, finely shredded cabbage, a quenelle of pureed celeriac, boulangere potato and caper jus provided an accompaniment that pulled together to make the dish a memorable whole, rather than the sum of its parts.

Dessert was the hardest choice, but the vanilla panna cotta with strawberry soup was a major success.

It avoided the ‘slimy’ tag I so often find myself attaching to these puddings. Generously speckled with vanilla, it disappeared in the mouth – and off the plate – all too quickly, while the soup had the slightest hint of acidity to counter the sweetness.

Deliciously light and creamy, home made, white and dark chocolates with good coffee rounded off a meal that more than demonstrated why Braidwoods has a Michelin star. Only one question – how soon can I visit again?