By Andy Hayler
Scran and Scallie (food and scallywag, it would seem, but why choose this for a name?) opened in 2013, the casual sister to Kitchin. The rather bizarre tourist brochure language continues into the menu, with “yer mains” and “sit ye doon yer welcome” just some of the linguistic crimes being committed. Despite this “Scotland for unusually slow-witted tourists” nonsense wording on the menu, the food clearly has a serious culinary heritage, and the place packs in a reported 70,000 diners a year; 192 covers a day on average suggests that the culinary offer is better than the folksy menu descriptions.
The menu is actually very appealing, with pub staples like fish and chips, pies and burgers, but also dishes involving local seafood. The head chef is James Chapman, who was having a night off, which is fair enough in a seven day a week operation like this. As you sit down you are brought a bowl of assorted crisps (parsnip, carrot and potato) as well as pork scratchings and fried pigs ears.
The wine list ranged in price from £19.50 to £110, with growers from Argentina to South Africa. Sample labels were Seabrook Chenin Blanc 2015 at £22.50 for a bottle that you can find on the high street for around £10, Insight Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2015 at £39.50 compared to its retail price of £13, and Seven Springs Pinot Noir 2013 at £45 for a wine that will set you back £14 in a shop.
The first indication that things were of a superior standard here was the excellent home-cured salmon with good rye bread and a dressing involving capers and cucumber (15/20). Even better was a trio of large hand-dived Orkney scallops served with celeriac puree, chestnut and sticks of apple, which provided acidity to balance the earthiness of the celeriac root and the inherent sweetness of the scallops. The shellfish were large and precisely cooked, with gorgeous flavor. If I had encountered this dish in a two Michelin starred restaurant I would have been pleased (17/20).
Langoustines were caught off the Isle of Mull and were simply roasted with garlic and parsley, served in their shells. It is tricky to score such a simple dish, but the shellfish themselves were superb, sweet and accurately timed, with lovely texture and flavor (16/20). I was also very impressed with haddock and chips here, the fish having crisp batter and excellent flavor, served with excellent golden chips and served with top class tartare sauce with chunks of pickled cucumber and capers. I enjoyed the fish and chips at Quayside in Whitby, the top rated fish and chip shop in the UK, but these were actually better. I have to cast my mind back to Simon Hopkinson cooking at Bibendum in the old days to recall fish and chips of this quality (easily 15/20). On the side, cabbage with bacon had good texture, the smokiness of the bacon working nicely with the cabbage (15/20).
To finish, we had plum tart tatin. I have eaten many tart tatins in my life, and the standard varies wildly, even in high-end restaurants. Here the puff pastry was made from scratch in the kitchen and was carefully cooked, the fruit filling having just the right level of acidity, topped with excellent ice cream. This was another classy dish (16/20). Coffee was from a supplier called Espresso Adesso in Glasgow and was very good, rich and deeply flavored.
The bill came to £61 per head before service, so £70 all in with plenty of wine to drink. Service was genuinely good, with drinks carefully topped up and no difficulty getting the attention of staff, despite a packed dining room with tables being turned all around us. I was genuinely impressed with the standard of food at Scran and Scallie, which makes the most of the excellent Scottish ingredients available and delivers enjoyable and expertly cooked food. If this was somehow magically transported to London I would just move in next door. This meal was a revelation, with top class ingredients, precise cooking and very appealing dishes, all at a modest price.