Since taking over Scotland's famed Peat Inn two years ago, Geoff and Katherine Smeddle have put their own stylish mark on the remote site. Tom Vaughan reports
Tucked away a few miles from the windswept Fife shore at St Andrews, the Peat Inn became something of an institution under former owner David Wilson. So when he sold to Geoffrey and Katherine Smeddle two years ago, their first instinct was to not alienate the loyal clientele who would trek along the spidery, stone-walled roads for Wilson's food.
Despite a full revamp inside - where cream walls, sofas and modish chairs put a 21st-century stamp on the long-serving site - the couple wanted a slow transition to their more polished style of hospitality and the technical cooking that Geoffrey brought from his previous position as head chef at Glasgow's Etain restaurant.
Two years on, Smeddle's food has proved just as popular as his predecessor's, with his modern British style referencing a range of cuisines, using the area's superior Scottish produce.
There's the gutsy French cooking of Chris Galvin - under whom Smeddle worked for two years at London's Orrery - in starter dishes such as seared scallops, gratin of clams and mussels and salad of marinated carrots and radishes (£12), and the Italian touches of two former head chefs, worked under during his time with Four Seasons Hotels, to be found in dishes such as tomato consommé with tortellini of ricotta, ham hock and lovage (£9.50), and wild halibut, calamari provençale and globe artichokes (£19.50).
Smeddle's cooking is unpretentious, honest and prepared with technical nous. Fittingly, given the area's fishing heritage, lobster, scallops and langoustines rarely leave the menu. "You'd really have to be a moron not to use them fully," he says. As examples, a warm salad of Anstruther lobster comes with a coriander and lobster dressing (£14) while langoustines come with spiced pork belly, cauliflower panna cotta, peas and morels (£10).
Other starters include a warm salad of local farm-shot wood pigeon, with slices of local beetroot and a home-made vinaigrette using Scottish raspberries (£8).
Among the mains, slow-braised daube of Scotch beef, marjoram crushed potatoes, pancetta, green beans and red wine sauce is a dish in which Smeddle takes particular pride, introducing it to replace the purportedly irremovable beef fillet of former years when he took the restaurant over. The cut is marinated in red wine for 24 hours, drained and marinated again with a roasted mirepoix and red wine and veal stock mix for another 24 hours, then cooked and cooled in clingfilm to shape the meat. The result is a sticky, rich centrepiece, lightened with seasonal vegetables for the summer months.
Elsewhere, there's an Italian touch in his roast monkfish, lemon thyme gnocchi, broccoli, poached cucumber and chorizo velouté (£18), and an increasingly popular roast rump of Peelham Farm field-reared veal with potato galette, confit peppers and oregano jus (£19). "Veal's had such a mixed image that guests were reluctant to touch it at first," Smeddle says, "but it's really taking off now."
Desserts also pay homage to the seasons and surroundings. Scottish strawberries and raspberries come scattered around an elderflower jelly with a classic lemonade sorbet (£8), while a pavé of Amedei chocolate comes with a dark chocolate brownie, raspberry mousse and raspberry sorbet, creating a solid and popular take on an indulgent summer classic.
Two years after the change of hands, the 45-seat restaurant is doing 25-30 at lunch and is fully booked most nights, with the tasting menu proving particularly popular on weekend evenings. "We didn't feel daunted at the start," says Smeddle. "We knew we had the knowledge to put our mark on things, and slowly we've done that."
What's on the menu
- Velouté of fresh peas with seared scallop, £7
- Salad of Glamis asparagus, soft-poached egg and lemon confit, £7
- Rillette of smoked mackerel with salad of cucumber, marinated carrot, radishes and mustard dressing, £6.50
- Gressingham duck breast, sweet and sour lentils, pak choi, poached cherries and black pepper jus, £18
- Roast supreme of guinea fowl, herb crushed potatoes and peas à la Française, £12.50
- Risotto of sweet corn and spring onion with summer vegetables and aged Parmesan, £11
- Poached apricots, almond sorbet and Sauternes sabayon, £8
- Strawberry parfait, strawberry sorbet, hot white chocolate mousse and balsamic compote, £8
- Hot peach soufflé with vanilla ice-cream, £8
The Peat Inn, near St Andrews, Fife KY15 5LH. Tel: 01334 840206. Website: www.thepeatinn.co.uk