Returning to an old favourite where there has been some changes leaves most of us wondering if it will live up to our expectations.
But we had nothing to fear at Juniper. Walking in the door of this warm and inviting restaurant, it was encouraging to see how many tables were already filled by 7pm on a Friday evening. Very quickly the remainder had diners ensconced and enjoying the dishes on offer from the enticing menu.
The restaurant, along with its small bar area, is situated upstairs in Old Churches House, a hotel which overlooks the imposing Dunblane Cathedral.
The hotel is run by the Denny-based Fusion Group and managing director Alex McKie was delighted to go into partnership with chef Kenny Wilson earlier this year which saw the opening of Juniper in Dunblane. The chef and his wife Marie Claire already successfully run a restaurant of the same name in Tillicoultry.
A light and airy room, staff are pleasant and attentive with carafes of tap water brought to the table – and full marks for no attempt made to upsell to bottled water.
Slices of tasty gluten free bread and butter are also complimentary.
The menu certainly has something to suit all tastes, from home-made steak pie to venison and steaks.
Chef Kenny prides himself on using produce sourced from across Central Scotland, perfectly illustrated in the flavours of Scotland platter.
This impressive starter features a shot glass of cullen skink, a Linlithgow haggis bon bon, kiln roasted oak smoked salmon roulade, a quail scotch egg and a beetroot meringue with goats cheese. But the star of the plate was the smoked duck which was served under a glass dome which when lifted off, filled the room with the enticing smell.
Given the success of the starters we were looking forward to our mains. My pig on a plate may not have been the most enticing sounding dish but the food more than made up for it.
The twice roasted Scottish pork belly and pork fillet wrapped in pancetta, came with a Stornoway black pudding and pork daube fritter, bubble and squeak mash, apple puree and red wine jus.
It was beautifully presented and tasted as good as it looked.
However, although the chicken breast marinated in garlic and rosemary tasted great it was let down slightly on presentation. This was because they had run out of the chorizo and sweet potato cakes and instead we had a pile of mashed potato with chunks of chorizo, along with smoked carrot puree and broccoli. A nice dish to eat but not quite as eye-catching as others being served.
Portions are generous and even after a rest, all we could manage from the dessert menu was sharing a summer fruit terrine served with lemon sorbet. Once again this looked (almost) too good to eat but we managed.
This return visit to Juniper is sure to be the first of many more.
Juniper, Kirk Street, Dunblane
Telephone: 01786 825142