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Issue 97 - Service, Please!

Whisky Magazine Issue 97
July 2011


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Service, Please!

What is going on in the hotels and bars in Scotland, Dave Broom finds out

As I rounded the head of Loch Fyne there were marquees set up next to the oyster bar - a food fair in full swing, featuring not just the best of Argyll but producers from the rest of Scotland: whisky-soaked cheese, venison, artisan chocolate, cold pressed rape-seed oil and an ocean's worth of seafood. There were gallons of prawns being necked, native oysters being swallowed by the score, thirsts being quenched with tangy local ales.

Scotland, I enthused, is learning how to celebrate its produce. What these stallholders were all saying was ‘this land is alive; these are our colours, our flavours and aromas; this splash of brine, this fleshy mound of pink flesh, the deep gameiness, all of this is us.'

Why then was this enthusiasm so lacking when I went from pub to pub, restaurant to restaurant during the next three weeks?

Don't get me wrong. There are some magnificent restaurants in Scotland, some superb whisky pubs and bars. They know who they are. The fact is that they remain the exception, not the rule. It's less the menus, though after three weeks on the road you wonder just how much more haddock or steak pie you can eat, it's the service. For example, a group of us had dinner in a Speyside hotel which had just received its fourth AA star. The food was either burnt or undercooked and in one case both, which does show a certain amount of creativity from the chef. The waiter only recommended the dishes which carried a supplement and talked down the others, he poured a ...

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