One of my favourite things about food in Perthshire is the huge number of wee hidden gems that are dotted about our small villages and towns.
One such gem is The Apron Stage which was taken over by Graham Dewar in 2015. Building on the exceptional quality and reputation that that restaurant was already renowned for, Graham and his team were quick to make it their own with an abundance of fresh ideas and exciting new dishes.
I’ve been dying to try it out so when Nicki was looking a volunteer to do this month’s restaurant review I was first in line. I went for girlfriend brownie points and invited Ally and his Mum, Jane, to join me for a Saturday night dinner.
We arrived just after a large table of ten ladies had departed and took our seats in the immaculate little restaurant. After a really warm welcome and being shown to our table, we were given a run-down of the fabulous drinks boards and wine selection.
The cocktail menu is fantastic and they have a great selection of local craft beers. I went for the highly recommended ‘Bramble’ cocktail and I’m really glad I did; it was a delightful mix of sugar syrup, gin, cassis and lemon and was deliciously sweet and refreshing without being too sickly. Ally had a sip and was instantly gutted that he had to drive!
I love booking somewhere new and spending the days in the lead up looking at the menu and deciding what to have (although I almost always change my mind once I get there!). Graham changes the menu weekly (do follow him on Facebook to keep up to date) and this keeps it really fresh and seasonal.
We kicked off proceedings with an amazing basket of sundried tomato, sourdough and olive flavoured home baked breads and I had to stop myself ripping and dipping the whole basket! The same couldn’t be said for Ally who munched through all three flavours whilst ‘mmmmmning’ and nodding his head in appreciation.
When the starters arrived we were all blown away with the presentation. As expected we stopped nattering and silence slipped over the table as we eagerly dived in. Ally had ordered the carrot and fresh ginger soup, Jane had the king prawn and chorizo bruschetta and I had the wood pigeon with tomato and kale risotto.
The risotto with the pigeon was heavenly; creamy without being too heavy with the bird cooked to perfection and packed full of meaty, gamey flavour. Reviewer that I am (Ahem!), I had to try some of Jane’s prawn and chorizo bruschetta and it didn’t disappoint. The tomato chutney was sweet and spicy and the chorizo added a real depth of flavour with hints of paprika enveloping everything in a smoky spiciness. The soup disappeared before I could grab a spoon and Ally thoroughly enjoyed mopping up every last drop with the remains of the bread basket!
I ordered another Bramble cocktail whilst I soaked up the atmosphere. With the lights enclosed in quirky little metal lanterns and the bright patterned tablecloths it has a real ‘taverna’ feel and reminded me of some lovely little eateries we have been to whilst holidaying in Greece. You can see Graham hard at work in the kitchen at the back of the restaurant and can just hear the slight hissing of pots and pans as he rustles up our main courses.
The main dish portions were generous and my eyes lit up as a tower of tasty pork belly, potato and black pudding was headed for the table. The pork belly had a delicious crispy crackling on the outside and flavoursome, slow roasted flesh on the inside pulled apart easily. The black pudding was a delicious balance of oats and peppery flavour adding a real heartiness to the dish which was complemented perfectly with the sweet stickiness of the shallot puree and redcurrant reduction.
Ally boasted that his steak was the best he had ever eaten and keen to find out what might warrant such a bold statement, I went in with my fork! The meat cut like butter and melted in your mouth and again, that meaty flavour that comes from a quality cut of beef sung out from the dish.
We were all feeling full after our mains but with the standard of food being so high I just couldn’t pass on dessert. Ally and I both went for the vanilla panna cotta which was creamy, light and had just the right amount of wobble to it. Served with a red berry coulis - which gave it a wonderfully sharp edge - and golden shards of honeycomb for crunch and texture this was a decadent delight of a dessert!
As you'd expect from a restaurant which has the enviable boast of catering to just eighteen covers, it is the team’s sole aim to provide great service and bring exacting detail to every last dish. We all agreed they excelled at both on every level.
Passionate about local, seasonal produce, the ingredients we enjoyed come from local suppliers right here in Perthshire. The meat and black was butchered just round the corner at TH Stevensons of Stanley and was reared on their farm also right there in the village. The king prawns came from George Campbell and Sons in Perth as did the tasty chorizo which surprisingly, the team at the fishmonger’s sell alongside their fishy delights.
We will most definitely be back to show off this foodie gem to friends and family; I’ve already tried to make my own ‘Bramble’ cocktail at home - it really was that good!
Just a short drive 20 minute drive from Perth City Centre, if you've never been to Apron Stage you will love the intimate, personal style of this fabulous wee restaurant. From the impeccable service to the scrumptious food, Graham and his team offer tasty seasonal delights at an affordable price.