GORDON Ramsay’s latest rant has been a demand that chefs should only cook with local, seasonal foodstuffs.
The words pot and kettle spring to mind as it’s been revealed his own restaurants serve food from thousands of miles away.
While I confess to liking Gordon’s idea of using fresh seasonal produce whenever possible – I refuse to eat strawberries in the middle of winter – I’m certainly not upset at the thought of eating food which comes from more than a stone’s throw away.
Which is perhaps just as well, because the fare on offer at The Anderson in Fortrose is truly global.
This lovely old black and white building sits on Cathedral Square, slap bang in the centre of the picturesque fishing village on the Black Isle.
From the outside, it looks like the sort of place where you’d expect a nice but safe menu, the sort of eatery where high teas and Sunday roasts are the norm.
Instead American hosts, Anne and Jim Anderson, have created an eclectic menu which brings together some of their favourite foods from across the world, creating in the process a wee international oasis where foodies come to quench their thirst.
But it wasn’t the menu which caught our eye as we walked into the hotel’s reception hall — it was the impressive array of whiskies which lined the picture-rail height shelving.
The Anderson, which also has a cosy whisky bar and firelit country pub, carries more than 200 single-malt whiskies, many difficult to find elsewhere, as well as cask ale and the largest collection of Belgian beers in Scotland — 90 at the last count.
As a result it was named CAMRA Pub of the Year last year. But that’s not the only accolade it’s picked up. This month executive chef Anne, an Italian-American and veteran of the New Orleans restaurant scene who moved to the Highlands five years ago, picked up a bronze award in the prestigious Scottish Chef Awards 2008.
The 50-seater restaurant has clearly been designed by someone with a sense of fun. There’s a real mixture of styles and object d’art, ranging from a collection of original radios piled high atop a display cabinet, to giant lampshades which look homemade.
Owner Jim welcomed us and showed us to our table, explaining that the menu was changed daily and he hoped we’d find something interesting on there.
I certainly did. From a selection of 10 starters, my eyes were immediately drawn to something called Tony Soprano’s flamin’ sausages and prawns. I love The Sopranos and anything that gets me closer to the mobster boss gets my vote.
After much debate about why French black pudding would be used instead of the Highland variety, my companion plumped for Gallic black pudding, served with a rich chickpea casserole and grilled flatbread.
With a cheery cry of: ‘Mind your eyebrows’ Jim set my starter alight as he brought it to the table. Very dramatic – apparently this is the way they serve it in Fort Lee.
It wasn’t huge, just one fennel sausage cut into chunks and four fat prawns. But it was mighty fine, especially the sausage which had a delicious pungency which rattled the tastebuds but slightly overwhelmed the delicate prawns which were a tad dry.
The Gallic-v-Gaelic black pudding debate was won by the French after it was declared the pudding had the nicest texture and richest flavour ever tasted. The chickpea casserole added a nuttiness to proceedings while the flatbread soaked up the juices.
For mains I plumped for tournedos of Scotch beef fillet, while the black pud convert requested a Greek-style Scotch lamb shank.
These came with a massive bowl containing a mixture of fresh vegetables including wee roast spuds, broccoli and carrots, all with that lovely hand-made look and al-dente crunch.
My beautifully cooked fillet, medium-rare as ordered, came with mushrooms and a decadent, rich blue cheese sauce that I’m sure Anne could make a fortune selling on its own. The meat was tender and while I wouldn’t normally eat blue cheese and red meat together, it was a knockout combination.
Across the table, conversation was replaced by whimpers of joy, as my guest reveled in the tenderness of the sweet lamb which was doing its best to fall off the bone. Served with a mild garlic mash and fruity red wine gravy, it was quite simply, pure pleasure on a plate.
After making a deal to have a walk around the village to work off the excesses of our dinner, we ordered dessert. White chocolate creme brulee for me and rhubarb crumble with Drambuie custard for her.
These went down a storm. I don’t know how she did it, but Anne managed to make the custard taste like a large, sweet but powerful dram of the variety that should be drunk slowly in front of a roaring fire. Much nicer than the custard my old school dinner lady served.
As for the brulee, it was so creamy and white I think Anne must have the Milky Bar kid working as a sous chef.
With a couple of Fair Trade coffees, a glass of robust house red wine and a bottle of sparking water, our bill came to a very reasonable £54.25.
The Anderson, Union Street, Fortrose, by Inverness. Phone 01381 620 236 or visit www.theanderson.co.uk