I’m always on the lookout for new places to eat and love asking friends and family where they would recommend in and around Perthshire. One of the suggestions that came up time and time again was Barley Bree in Muthill. Described as a hidden gem and adorned with many awards and accolades - including best restaurant experience at the prestigious Thistle awards - I had to get booked in and try it out. My boyfriend Ally and I headed out late on a dark and dreary Friday evening, hungry and full of excitement for a night of good food and drink.
Rushing in from the rain, we were greeted with a warm and cosy restaurant full of laughter and chatter. With dark wooden beams on the ceilings, a cosy log-burner in the middle of the room and dark mahogany tables with flickering candles that subtly lit up the exposed stone walls, the atmosphere was one of a tavern from way-back-when and I half expected to see a posse from Game of Thrones arrive to eat, drink and have a good time.
After a warm introduction from Alma, our waitress for the night, we got our order in. We tucked into the crusty slices of warm bread from the oven, slathered in creamy handmade butter, and were delighted when, mid-munch, an amuse bouche of broccoli and fennel soup with a small parmesan and sage tartlet arrived.
One sip of this creamy soup instantly got the taste buds going and with such a vibrant variety of flavours served in such a small dish, we were given a glimpse into the chef’s approach; when such big ideas are expressed in wee small bites, expectations rise even higher for the main event! The tartlet was crisp and smoky and created a perfect balance to the savoury soup.
this gave us a glimpse into the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine and expressed big ideas in small bites that set our expectations even higher for the main event!
Our starters arrived well presented and smelling delicious. With west coast hand-dived scallops and mussels, soba noodles and bok choi served in a sweet and sour wasabi broth, suffice to say that it was the stuff my foodie dreams are made of. The unusual combo of the fresh, crunchy bok choi, warm kick of chilli and Asian style broth was a perfect accompaniment to the plump Scottish seafood.
Ally went for one of his all-time favourites; spinach and ricotta tortellini served with toasted pine nuts, walnut pesto, parmesan and salad. Needless to say, I didn’t even get a taste of his; by the time I had lifted my head up from my mussels he had eaten every last bite – says it all really!
Ally ordered a large glass of full-bodied Bordeaux in anticipation for his Aberdeen Angus feather blade of beef - how much did I wish at that point that I'd booked us a room instead of bringing the car? Served with sweet carrot, stem of broccoli and gratin dauphinoise, this beautifully soft and tender hunk of beef pulled away easily when sliced and had great depth of flavour. Lesson learned, I dived right in before he had the chance to hoover it up!
My choice of main was the saddle of venison with tarragon succotash, baby artichoke and vine cherry tomato. The beans and babycorn in the succotash combined with the sweetness of the tomatoes to bring the venison to life, and that contented silence of happy diners slipped over our table.
With food as good as this, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finish things off with a sweet - or in my case savoury - treat. As a huge lover of cheese (literally if I only had to eat one food for the rest of my life it would be cheese) I struggled to come up with anything when the waitress asked if there was any I didn’t like. There's been many an argument over the smell in our kitchen when I’m enjoying a nice stinking bishop! The selection served was a fantatsic mix of Scotland's best and from the crumbly Anster cheddar, to the strong Strathdon blue I was in my element!
Ally is dessert all the way but went for the 'light' choice of Elderflower jelly with mint cream and blood orange sorbet. Contemporary though it was, it brought a wave of nostalgic fondness as he recalled his granny's wild experiments with mint! Her garden was awash with it and she was always looking for innovative ways to get it into her food. Maybe it was that, maybe it was the wine, but we as we finished, we were chatting about happy memories of good food and precious family time and it was a warm and giddy Holly & Ally that headed back out into that dark and dreary night.
If you’re looking for somewhere for a good meal or a weekend away (they also have a range of gorgeous rooms that you can stay in - next time!) Barley Bree should be at the top of your list of places to go. Head chef Fabrice Bouteloup creates dishes with such flair and artistry, that every element on the plate has meaning. Paired with impeccable service and the relaxed ambient surroundings, it's a must visit for any foodie.
As a side note, there was a large table next to us with a lively family including two young children who were laughing, joking and enjoying a good catch up so this is certainly kid friendly.
Find out more on Barley Bree by checking out their website here >>>
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