Kinneuchar Inn, Kilconquhar, Fife: restaurant review
Does a regular diner reach the same conclusions about a restaurant as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* Critic Lucy Gillmore and olive reader Hilary Mackay compare notes on this revamped gastropub
About Kinneuchar Inn, Fife
Fife’s latest opening has already proved a great hit with the critics – Marina O’Loughlin called it “spellbinding” in her Sunday Times column – and it’s easy to see why. Opens fires, cosy nooks and furniture crafted from local wood occupy the whitewashed village inn, and from the kitchen there’s a daily changing menu that’s in tune with its abundant local larder. Wild and farmed foods come from the nearby Balcaskie Estate, fish and shellfish from the county’s coastline, there are native breed meats and game, which are butchered on site, and organic and foraged fruit and veg.
Chef James Ferguson has been in the industry all his life, growing up in the kitchen of his parents’ Yorkshire restaurant before making his mark alongside Angela Hartnett in The Connaught and Margot Henderson at Rochelle Canteen; while partner Alethea Palmer has been GM at Arnold & Henderson in London for the past eight years, and here runs front of house.
Expect British food at its best: belted Galloway sirloin to share with chips, horseradish and pickled walnuts; Texel lamb faggots and split peas; devilled hare kidneys on toast; and chicken, smoked bacon and trotter pie.
Arrive for lunch Thursday to Saturday, dinner Wednesday to Saturday, or just for drinks (local, British and European beers, or from the wine list) Tuesday evening through to Sunday.
The pro restaurant reviewer
Lucy Gillmore lives near Inverness and was deputy travel editor for The Independent. She writes for olive and The Guardian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @lucygillmore.
The punter restaurant reviewer
Hilary Mackay lives in Lochgelly, Fife, and eats out twice a month. Her favourite food is Italian, and her best dining experience was white asparagus soup at The Honours in Edinburgh.
Our pro’s Kinneuchar Inn, Fife restaurant review…
On a dark winter’s night, the old inn looks warm and welcoming. We push open the door. It is. It’s softly lit. There’s a gentle hum of contented chatter. Jazz is playing. *I wasn’t recognised.
There’s been a buzz in Kilconquhar village since the inn reopened in September. The emphasis is on local produce, and there’s a kitchen garden and on-site butchery; inside (dark tongue and groove, a soaring ceiling, handcrated wooden chairs and grey tweed benches) has a Scandi meets Shaker vibe, while the small bar is all nooks and crannies.
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The menu’s not huge, just four mains: one vegetarian, one fish, one meat and one dish for two (a venison, smoked bacon and trotter pie), many changing daily. But it’s interesting. Specials included grilled flatbreads with lamb’s tongue, aubergine and chilli, and a hare loin for two. It’s modern British cooking rather than gastropub fare, with a nod to outside influences such as Scandinavian pickles and Middle Eastern spices.
We start with deep-fried pig’s head and damson ketchup, crunchy croquettes with a tart fruit dip that dissolve into a finger-licking, molten meaty mess. My starter, roast jerusalem artichokes, bitter radicchio and creamy goat’s curd, is a punchy powerhouse of earthy flavours. The deep-fried Shetland squid, however, is a little anaemic.
For mains I choose hake on the bone, sprinkled with salty capers and grilled young leeks – plate-scrapingly good. My partner’s grilled onglet with turnip tops and green sauce, however, lacked flavour.
For dessert we shared a quince, pear and brown butter tart, another star turn, the deep, dark pastry crunch, sweet cakey filling and dollop of crème fraiche causing a greedy clash of spoons.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It more than lives up to the hype. I loved the design, the cosy feel and the intriguing menu. I’ll definitely be back.
Total for two, excluding service: £100.30
Our punter’s Kinneuchar Inn, Fife restaurant review…
On a dark, drizzly night in the East Neuk of Fife we received a warm welcome from the Kinneuchar Inn waiter. The décor is mellow and warm, as is the background jazz playing. The inn features a very lovely pub across a shared hallway, a small snug with open fire, and a private dining room, too.
The staff are vibrant, knowledgeable and most helpful. Our waitress for the evening took time to explain the day’s specials.
The menu isn’t huge – it changes every day, dependent on what’s locally available. For starters, I had the skate knobs (the cheeks – as explained by our waitress): moist meaty fish with the lightest, crunchiest batter and a smooth tartare sauce with small chunks of capers. My husband had smoked sea trout with shavings of tender, fermented beetroot and horseradish – the earthy beetroot and horseradish complemented the smokiness of the trout nicely.
For mains we shared a Texel lamb and potato pie, officially for two but which looked enough for four. I was worried the suet pastry might be a bit heavy but it was light and crisp, and a perfect covering for the soft root vegetables and melt-in-the-mouth chunks of lamb beneath, along with the buttery greens and creamy, cheesy dauphinoise potato on the side. The pie was a wee bit light on the lamb but the veg packed it out.
When it came to puds, marmalade in the treacle tart brought down the sweetness a touch, with a dollop of crème fraîche adding a cooling note; while chocolate and caramel ice cream was rich and dark with little crunchy biscuit nuggets dotted throughout.
THE BOTTOM LINE
We felt the inn offered value for money and an exciting menu, and we will certainly be back.
Total for two, excluding service: £94.50
Kinneuchar Inn Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) rating: 6.5
With close connections to Margot and Fergus Henderson it’s no surprise that this new Scottish restaurant majors on big flavours from meticulously sourced produce. The skate knobs eaten by the punter, tick one sustainability box, but unfortunately fail a much bigger one. The small win is that knobs, like cod cheeks, are a great example of tail to fin cooking, the fishy version of nose to tail. The serious downside is that skate is rated ‘5’ by the Marine Conservation Society and is a fish that should absolutely be avoided. The accompanying sea trout, if wild, would also ring serious alarm bells as numbers are perilously lows, but this is sourced from a well managed farm on Scotland’s west coast. The lamb, while a climate intensive menu choice, is farmed on the neighbouring estate where its reared using the mob-grazing technique which is good for the soil, and the restaurant buys in whole carcasses and uses the entire animal, prepping it in its own custom-made butchery. The menu is indeed a love letter to the local larder that’s in danger of breaking hearts, without small but significant tweaks to the seafood.
Photographs by Norman-Prahm, Johnny Barrington