The Mys­tery Diner heads to The Drovers Inn, a stylish coun­try­side inn and restau­rant near Glamis Cas­tle

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS -

The mys­tery diner finds the Drovers Inn is right up his street

I’ve been mean­ing to go to The Drovers Inn for so long that it has changed hands twice since I first stuck my head around the cor­ner when pass­ing eight years ago. Back then I was struck by its clean, crisp, con­tem­po­rary de­sign in­side which con­trasted nicely with the tra­di­tional, couthie ex­te­rior. When I started ask­ing around and heard re­lent­lessly ex­cel­lent re­ports – the owner at the time was a fa­nat­i­cal foodie – I made a men­tal note to re­turn to this sleepy cor­ner of An­gus as soon as pos­si­ble. That it took so long has turned out to be some­thing of a pity be­cause The Drover’s Inn is, as I sus­pected, right up my street. This Miche­lin Guide inn, which changed hands again in April this year, has been added to the de­press­ingly small (but thank­fully fast ex­pand­ing) list of re­laxed coun­try culi­nary des­ti­na­tions worth trav­el­ling to for a leisurely Sun­day lunch or quiet mid­week din­ner. The first tick is the lay­out of the place. A lot of thought, money and ef­fort has been spent on get­ting it just right: it is spa­cious but not cav­ernous; mod­ern but not clin­i­cal; up­scale but not daunt­ing. High­land cow horns adorn the walls and huge pic­ture win­dows give you a won­der­ful view out over the gar­dens. The whole thing just feels well­judged (ex­cept for the hor­ri­ble paint­ing of – we think – an ea­gle). But we were here for the food, and our first sight of the menu made us sit up and take no­tice. The first thing that struck me was that it was in­cred­i­bly good value, with all of the starters com­ing in at £6.50, with sev­eral main cour­ses – such as the curry, veni­son and stil­ton burger, or camem­bert, fig and ch­est­nut strudel – cost­ing less than a ten­ner. In­deed, with the ex­cep­tion of the steaks, all mains were un­der £20. To add even more cheer, a bot­tle of the (very quaf­fa­ble) house wine was just £16. The sec­ond thing was the sheer size of the menu, which by the time we fac­tored in the spe­cials and light-bites con­tained ten starters and fif­teen main cour­ses. This is often a bad sign, but we were will­ing to be per­suaded oth­er­wise. On the plus side, there seemed to be some­thing for ev­ery taste, even for the veg­e­tar­ian stu­dent who had stowed away on the back seat of my car hop­ing for a free meal. I could have hap­pily eaten vir­tu­ally ev­ery one of the starters, but plumped for the pan-seared par­tridge breast with Stornoway black pud­ding, beet­root, tar­ragon crème fraîche, roasted hazel­nuts and crispy pancetta, which com­bined

out­stand­ingly. So, too, did the in­gre­di­ents of an Ar­broath smokie tart­let which con­tained crème fraîche and leek, and which was topped with a soft-poached hen’s egg and whole­grain mus­tard sauce. Even the veg­gie lig­ger an­nounced her­self more than sat­is­fied with a glo­ri­ously gooey oven-baked camem­bert cooked with honey, wal­nuts and rose­mary. So far so tasty, and our main cour­ses were pretty damned good too. I chose the pan-roasted sad­dle of veni­son, which turned out to be four chunky disks of thick-cut meat that had spent longer in the pan than I’d nor­mally like, but which were suc­cu­lent enough. The truf­fled mash was a lit­tle overly smooth too, al­though like the veni­son that was a ques­tion of taste. One of my great bug­bears, how­ever, is when there is not enough sauce, and on this front the dish def­i­nitely fell well short. The other main course was liver, served with a beau­ti­fully thick onion gravy, mash and broc­coli. Liver done badly is a hor­ror show; this, on the other hand, was per­fect and drew ap­pre­cia­tive oohs and aahs from across the ta­ble. Stu­dent girl didn’t know quite what to make of her aubergine and cour­gette mous­saka, which was ad­ver­tised as com­ing with a quinoa and pome­gran­ate salad, ap­ple tzatziki and toasted pitta bread. The de­scrip­tion of the ac­com­pa­ni­ments turned out to be spot-on, but the mous­saka it­self was es­sen­tially a thick layer of cheese (‘I love cheese so much,’ de­clared the veg­gie sage, ‘be­cause it’s al­most like the savoury world’s an­swer to choco­late’) with some cour­gette and tomato, all of which sat on a thick layer of quinoa. In other words, there was far too much quinoa. Fol­low­ing three fault­less starters, then a main course scorecard that read ‘one fail, one good-but-could-do-bet­ter, one un­doubted suc­cess’, this meal was turn­ing out to be a qual­i­fied suc­cess. Pud­ding was a wel­come re­turn to form, with the big­gest is­sue prov­ing to be what to eat from a long list of pud­dings when I could hap­pily have eaten them all. For the first time ever, I sidesteppe­d my beloved clootie dumpling and in­stead plumped for the tof­fee pavlova with lightly poached slices of brae­burn ap­ple, all of which was lath­ered in tof­fee sauce. It was as sickly as it was good. Our other pud­ding was a rather swanky ver­sion of cranachan, which came in an out­sized cock­tail glass but which hit the spot beau­ti­fully. De­spite a cou­ple of mi­nor grum­bles over the mains, the cranachan was a fit­ting metaphor for our meal: it looked good, tasted won­der­ful, and had us want­ing to come back for more. This was qual­ity com­fort food in a re­laxed and sen­si­bly priced en­vi­ron­ment – few things are as­sured, but one is that it won’t be an­other eight years be­fore I’m back.

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