Taste test: The Scottish Café and Restaurant
All dishes taken from the menu of the Scottish Café and Restaurant at the National Gallery
Porridge with berries and heather honey
Porridge needn’t be grey wallpaper paste served as punishment. Salt should be included judiciously when cooking (as with bread), but John Knox doesn’t birl in his grave if you put sugar on it – though berries and honey are probably nicer. The SCR uses jersey milk from Bridge of Allan based Graham’s Dairy, the largest and most successful family dairy in Scotland, and the porridge is nutty, creamy and warming, but certainly not claggy.
Aberdeen Butterie with preserve and butter
Croissants and pastries are the ubiquitous offering of the once sophisticated but now discredited ‘continental’ breakfast. At SCR the only pastry on offer is a butterie, made on the premises but not to a strictly traditional recipe in that butter rather than lard is used. Compared to a croissant a butterie has a thicker, tougher, golden crust, and isn’t as light, but it is chewy, rich, and holds up well to being dunked in milky coffee.
Butterie bruschettta with pan-fried spinach, crowdie, Lanark Blue and a watercress, pear and walnut salad
The butterie turns up again on the restaurant menu taking on the role of bruschetta in a dish that sees it topped with spinach and melted cheese. It’s certainly not traditional, but the essential ingredients form a fairly classic combination with tangy greens, sweet pear and piquant cheese. The butterie is perhaps the least convincing part, but the harshest accusation you can make is that it makes the dish just a little more decadent than it needs to be.
Heritage potato dumplings, smoked streaky bacon, Savoy cabbage and roast almonds
After the bruschetta, the menu studiously avoids Italian terms. Potato dumplings are, of course, gnocchi, but they’re make with local potatoes so it’s hardly devious. The dish is actually a local version of one served at Centotre with pancetta and olive oil: bacon and rapeseed oil substitute in easily and it’s a good advertisement for the fresh, simple food advocated by the restaurant.
Apple and quince crumble with hot toddy sauce
Served in one of Anta’s oak-leaf patterned bowls with a whisky cream sauce, though even the word ‘whisky’ is avoided on the menu lest it seem too predictable. The apple is slightly more saucy than chunky, and the crumble is, a little disappointingly, simply broken up shortbread. It is shortbread made in house, and it’s a handy shortcut at home, but not so redolent of the care and attention given to other dishes.
Sourdough bread, ham boiled in the kitchen therefore moist and dull not flappy and shiny, rocket from Tayside, mustard from Moffat, coleslaw with a restrained portion of mayo. Not earth shattering but damned respectable for less than £5.