â€œThe best way to guarantee a tasty product is to respect the season of every ingredient,â€ so says Derek Johnstone, head chef at The Golf Inn in upmarket East Lothian village, Gullane.
He should know, having won the inaugural BBC Masterchef: The Professionals, way back in 2008. Johnstone has worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants around, including Le Gavroche and closer to home, Greywalls for Albert Roux.
So, it was with a high levels of anticipation that my partner and I arrived at The Golf Inn late one spring afternoon with a brisk wind at our tails.Â A pleasantly decorated room with a simplistic style, it added to our growing senses of relaxation. Occasionally the entertainment through in the bar is audible to diners, and the sound system is something that The Golf Inn admit theyâ€™d like to improve, however one the night we visited, the chatter of other diners and soft music was just right.
The menu was tantalising, and surprisingly good value for money. Somehow, the Masterchef label equals expensive, so it was pleasing to see starters around the Â£6.50 mark, and mains around Â£12.
My partner chose the light goats cheese mousse and pickled beetroot black olive crumb, while I decided haggis and beef short rib fritter with horseradish crÃ¨me fraiche and pickles would hit the spot after our pre-dinner amble. I always know when my partner has enjoyed a meal as he asks the waiter about the food heâ€™s just demolished â€“ in this case more information required about black olive crumb and were the lumps of fleshy beetroot treated in different pickles to gain their various flavours? Yes, was the simple answer.
My meaty fritter looked like an inflated version of the kind of croquette children relish, however the content was well balanced and not as heavy as it might have been under less expert handling.
Whenever scallops appear on a menu my partner and I both hone in on them, and then one will decide on an alternative. My luck was in at The Golf Inn when the pan fried scallops, chorizo, peas and black pudding croquette could be mine, while my partner had the ox cheek, slow cooked in red wine, with smoked bacon and mushrooms.
Both dishes were delicious and shared, and the freshness of the ingredients was apparent.
Until this point in the meal, I had been perfectly content with my choices; it was all very pleasant, but I didnâ€™t feel Iâ€™d had a showstopper, as they say on TV baking programmes…until we had our desserts.
Vanilla crÃ¨me brulee with dark chocolate mousse and pistachios was my showstopper; not only did it look good, but the intense chocolate hit literally stopped my conversation in its tracks. I had to talk about the desert and nothing else. Even my partnerâ€™s Yorkshire rhubarb, white chocolate ice cream doughnut, and lemon curd, did little to take my attention away from the dish of delight I was spooning my way through. So thrilled was I with my desert that I will make the return journey to sample more…
In my mind, Gullane was a bit of a hike away, but from the west side of Edinburgh on the City Bypass, it only took just 33 minutes to drive there â€“ thatâ€™s quicker than getting into town by public transport. And you donâ€™t get to work up an appetite by walking on a near perfect beach beforehand if you head to the city.
Want to stay over after dinner? See Lothian Lifeâ€™s review of The Golf Innâ€™s accommodation.
Prices: starters Â£5-7.50; mains Â£9-23; desserts Â£5.95-7.95.
The Golf Inn, Main Street, Gullane, East Lothian, EH31 2AB. Tel. 01620 843259.