Some of you will already know that I’m always on the look out for an in-law friendly dining experience in our local area, and so I was delighted when we spotted the Larder Bistro on Alva Street, where once stood Howies. I’d never been a fan of Howies (sorry!) so it was great to see something on that plot with more potential. I hadn’t seen any reviews of it at that point, but subsequent reading confirmed that we should definitely give it a go.
I’m not too familiar with the Larder brand, as the deli/café isn’t located in a usual haunt. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the Bistro’s menu packed full of locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, which I now know is the cornerstone of their business model.
To start, a couple of perfectly pert Mackerel fillets were accompanied by one of my favourite things of all time - a fresh cucumber pickle. There was absolutely nothing to grumble about here; a simple but well executed dish where the freshness of the ingredients were allowed to shine.
The Arran mustard cured salmon benefited from similar treatment and was thoroughly enjoyed. But if anything it was the homemade oatcakes that got us talking; they were stunning. Even the more seasoned oatcake eaters amongst us agreed they were probably the best oatcakes ever had (anyone know if you can buy them in the deli?).
I can be a bit funny about fruit in savoury dishes but pigeon and damsons worked fantastically well, with braised red cabbage rounding off the earthy trio.
Poached trout with buttermilk and chive mash, chive butter sauce and sea vegetables was never going to move the earth, but that’s not a bad thing (see criteria below). Importantly it was tasty and comforting and well cooked. Mind you, that crispy skin was something pretty special.
On to desserts, and while my other half declared he wouldn’t order it in a million years (seems he’s got a thing against pears) I’m glad I took the plunge with the pear & hazelnut cake with poached pear and yoghurt sorbet. Not only did I get to eat it all to myself, but the pear and hazelnut cake was a masterful light and fluffy bake with great flavours that were complemented well by the slightly zingy sorbet.
We were told that the dark chocolate slice with crystallised seeds and stout ice cream used to come in an even heftier slab size, but they found that people couldn’t finish it. Our diners certainly had no problem, although they did affirm it packed a seriously dense chocolate hit.
I don’t think I’ve set it out on paper before, but just so you know, our general criteria for pleasing the in-laws when dining out is that the food should be keenly priced, tasty, satisfying and not overly adventurous or complex. The restaurant should be comfortable and simple but stylish. The service should be relaxed and attentive but not overbearing. Whether or not that’s what Larder Bistro is aiming for, it ticked all of those boxes. Oh, and we rather liked it too. Win.