Sunday, 21 March 2010
Dear Malcolm Duck,
I understand you are away watching the rugby this weekend (great result wasn't it?) and so I thought I'd drop you a note to let you know how Ducks at Kilspindie runs when you're not around to supervise.
I suppose we should all expect people to take their eye off the ball slightly when the boss is away, but when one is a paying customer should we be the ones expected to compromise? Well at Kilspindie it seems the answer is yes.
The meal had an inauspicious start with the restaurant manager greeting us with the wrong name and then, when leading us to the table, stopping in the bar to chat to another party. Leaving us to stand in the middle of the bar waiting for their conversation to end.
When we finally got to our table the situation improved, a delightful waitress (Helen I believe) and an interesting menu which suggested ambition; the wine list was good, if a bit too biased to the pricier end of the spectrum, but it did hold a gem in the form of a Chinon of decent age for only £19 so we can forgive that.
So, decisions made and order taken we found our starters arriving quite quickly, before the wine in fact, with a couple of plates being passed over my head to the diners on the other side of the table. Service faux pas aside, the Gravadlax was pronounced very nice, the crab and shrimp tian fair and the quail bland and under seasoned.
Mains came, again with plates passed across the table as if serving to a chimps' tea party, and the slow-roast pork belly was promptly returned due to burnt crackling. Now, I know that most blogging, and most especially food blogging is an act of vanity on the bloggers' part and that the wide majority really don't care about our opinions but please, if I care enough about food enough to write about it as a hobby, perhaps I know a little. I certainly know the difference between cooked and burnt and so was more than a little offended when the same plate was brought back a minute later with the offending carbon scraped and trimmed from the crackling with an accompanying explanation that it wasn't over done and that was the way pork belly is cooked. I love pork belly, it's a luscious, meltingly tender piece of beauty when prepared properly; at Duck's it wasn't prepared properly. It may have been cooked slowly but not slowly enough and at too high a temperature, the fat hadn't rendered and the meat was tough and chewy; the accompanying braised shoulder was the best thing on the plate but too small, the dauphinoise potatoes underdone and the roasted shallot puree would have been a fitting sauce had the pork been edible.
The others all had the Duck (when in Ducks etc..) and found it uninspiring, not as tender as it could be and under seasoned.
Had dessert not been included in the carte (3 courses, £28) we'd probably have left at this point, but as it was paid for: the Ice-Cream was "acceptable", the apple tart was a semolina cake, the chocolate fondant underdone and burst before it hit the table and the cheese had been pre-cut and was beyond its best (with wrinkled, brown grapes accompanying it).
Funnily enough, we left on a positive note when our main waitress, Helen, embarrassed about the quality of the meal, asked for my card so the proprietor could contact me. I wonder if he will.
As we left, we noticed two chaps in chef's tunics sitting with a couple of pints at the bar; now I'm not certain they were the chefs from Ducks, but as the meal seemed prepared without love or pride, perhaps by someone who just wanted to get things done before starting their Saturday night, I have my suspicions. At £208 (plus tip) for four I'd rather not feel like an impediment to someone's drinking time.
So, will we be back? As Duck's at Kilspindie is the closest restaurant to me then I'm sure I will, probably when snow or storm have prevented me from making it into Edinburgh where I'll get better food and service for the same price.
The Itinerant Appetite