Craig Millar at 16 West End

If you have seen my recent cupcake blog, you will know that it is my Mum’s birthday and part two of the food-related birthday celebrations is the birthday dinner. This year we went to Craig Millar @ 16 West End in St Monans, Fife.

This is the ex-sister restaurant of The Seafood Restaurant in St Andrews. Last time we were at The Seafood Restauant, the food was great, the wine was great, the service was great and the view (well what we could see of it on a dark November night) was great. Despite the messy break-up, I have high hopes for a repeat of the great night we previously had in St Andrews. Perhaps it is unfair to draw this comparison but it is difficult to tear them apart given the previous close connection. Nevertheless, this is a dangerous game.

Tonight it is a family affair so there are four of us. We soon realised we were a close family when we all seemed to be swaying towards the same dishes. For starter, two of us had beetroot cured salmon with radish, beetroot and potato and the other two had pig cheek, puy lentil, carrot, ginger and honey puree.

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I will start with the pig cheek since that was what I had. I love lentils and will generally always pick a lentil dish on any menu. I was expecting to get a little pile of lentils coated in a rich jus but instead they were mixed in with the pig cheek in a chilled terrine. The puree added a sweetness to the salty pork and the carrot chutney added some crunch. It was delicious as was evidenced by the fact that I was first finished (not an easy task when you are at the table with the speediest eater I know, my sister).

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My Dad was kind enough to let me taste the salmon but the first comment has to be about the beauty of the plate. Some people might find this type of presentation too pretentious. I certainly do not agree with that. When you are served a beautiful plate of food, it just tells you in its own elegant way that the dish has been well thought through and that someone has taken care to place each element on the plate all to enhance the diner’s experience. No one can deny that it just makes you want to get stuck right in. The dish was all about the textures and it was as good as it looks.

We soon learned we were an even closer family when we all choose the same main meal. I tried my hardest to make myself choose something different but the thought of being a martyr only to end up with food envy meant that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I even tried to get my poor Dad to pick something different. In the end we all had hand-dived scallops, spiced Israeli couscous and satay sauce and I’m glad that no one was able to change their mind.

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The scallops were as you would expect from a coastal town and perfectly cooked. The couscous was moist and was scattered with toasted pine nuts, plump sweet sultanas and crisp green spring onions. The satay sauce was a rich flavourful glaze (quite the opposite to the thick heavy sauce you normally get from the Chinese takeaway). It was a delicate dish that still gave the warmth demanded of a cold November evening by the sea.

Dessert was the highlight for me. Again two of us chose the selection of cheeses and the other two opted for a mint infused chocolate creameux with chocolate soil, grapefruit jelly and vanilla ice cream.

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The creameux was a dream. The flavours were subtle, the colours delightful and it was so beautifully presented that it has justified 3 pictures on the blog. The mint flavour came from a thick stroke of vibrant green brushed across the bottom of the plate. The chocolate was rich, the grapefruit sharp and the ice cream smooth. The soil was littered with honeycomb pieces and crystallised rose and violets for extra flavour and crunch and the scattering of small mint leaves provided a real punch.

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The cheeses were delicious too, all locally sourced from around Scotland.

The whole meal was a delight and it certainly ended on a high. The food was something you would expect from a fine dining restaurant in the city while the restaurant had the charm and informality you would expect from a restaurant found in a seaside town. It is well worth a visit despite being a little further outside St Andrews.

As for the dangerous game my expectations began playing with the restaurant, you will be pleased to know, Craig Millar @ 16 West End has won.

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