Occupying a distinctive glass box on St Andrews’ Bruce Embankment, the Seafood Ristorante stands out proudly against the town’s more traditional beachfront properties.
A portion of the building is suspended above the sand; it looks dramatic enough from the outside, but once you’re actually in it, waves splashing the windows as the tide comes in, you feel as if you’re dining in the middle of the North Sea. Despite the presence of a thick East Coast haar as we arrived for a weekend lunch, it’s a spectacular effect.
Tim Butler’s Seafood Restaurant put this building on the map, but as the subtle name-change suggests, it has been taken over and given an Italian twist. At the helm is marketing and commercial management graduate Stefano Pieraccini under the guidance of his father Adrian, an industry stalwart formerly of the town’s Rocca restaurant and the five-star Rocpool hotel and restaurant in Inverness.
Pieraccini has spent £100,000 overhauling the restaurant, and every aspect of the refurbishment has been well considered. Continuing the family input, his mother Susan kitted out the interior in maritime blues (including Farrow & Ball’s sultry Stiffkey), iridescent tiles and notes of gold, to reflect the soft sand and expansive sea views. Comfortable low-backed chairs were selected specifically to avoid obstructing those views for anyone unable to secure a window seat.
The glass structure does offer an almost 360-degree panorama, the only impediment being the open kitchen. But, given that you can watch the chefs at work, I found this just as interesting as anything going on beyond the windows. The kitchen is led by former Michelin-star chef Davy Aspin, supported by head chef Ian Syme, and by Jamie MacKinnon, Scotland’s Young Chef of the Year. The food is served by friendly staff who are well informed about the produce. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, despite the high calibre of the cooking and the fine vantage point.
Fresh Scottish seafood still forms the basis of the menu, but now, like the restaurant’s new name, the food has a distinctly continental flavour. High-quality Italian ingredients, many sourced directly from the country, make a lot of the dishes sound as if they’ve been inspired by day at the Italian seaside. We got a first-hand experience of this straight away, being given a taste of delicious four-year-aged parmesan (scraped out of a vast 50kg wheel of cheese) as we sat down.
Next up we were served three large plump oysters with a variety of garnishes presented in little mason jars, before we tucked into our starters. I chose the East Neuk crab, lured by the fact that it had been caught just along the coast, which was accompanied by avocado, melon and gazpacho – a cool and delicious combination. My brother, back on a visit from his new home of New York City, is an avid foodie and was revelling in the Scottish produce. He selected the scallops with lardo, new-season peas and wild garlic. (The scallops, according to the menu, were hand-dived in Ardnamurchan by Andy Duncan, who dropped them off at the restaurant on his way home – you don’t get much fresher than that.) For a main course, he followed my lead with local shellfish, choosing Anstruther lobster pappardelle (broad, flat ribbons of pasta with roasted buttered lobster and a shellfish sauce). “Rich and satisfying” was the verdict.
I opted for the lemon sole grilled with a butter sauce and accompanied by brown shrimp, capers and roasted potato gnocchi. It did not disappoint. Despite the presence of both butter and gnocchi, which can often be quite dense and heavy, the meal was light and brimmed with intense flavour. All that remained on my plate at the end were the bones, and I still had the appetite for dessert.
We finished, just as the haar lifted, with a light and tangy crema catalana with blood orange, and a refreshing rhubarb sorbet – because what would a day at the beach be without an iced treat?
Words Caitlin Clements
Issue 114, p246 – 248