Hi folks, sorry for the radio silence last week, sometimes life gets in the way. This has been another hectic week, with a 650 mile round trip to visit my granny in Thurso, and The Boy turning one today! As a result, I haven’t had time to write a full blog post. Instead, I am sharing a restaurant review I did for Bite Magazine (published here), of an incredible occasional pop up by the ingenious duo behind Buck and Birch. I’ll try to get something together for Thursday to make up for my recent lack of output! Until then:
Ushered into the darkened back room of a pub and sat round a single large table, laid with woodland ephemera, you could be forgiven for imagining that you were being inducted into an elite order – and in a sense, you’d be right. Buck and Birch’s occasional popup series is a hot ticket. Anyone quick enough to snap up a seat for one of the upcoming eight dates at Portobello’s Dalriada Bar, will become part of a small group of discerning diners to experience this incredible culinary treat. But there is nothing intimidating about this convivial feast – made fun and accessible by the wonderfully knowledgable chef and wine waiter, who introduce each course. Each playful introduction is part story, part informal lesson – and always sincere, never preaching.
It has become increasingly common to consider provenance in the kitchen – and with good reason, as food miles balloon. Alongside this turn, chefs up and down the country are adding foraged elements to their dishes, in an effort to showcase their seasonal and locally-sourced credentials. Whilst in some cases this can seem pretentious or gimmicky, there is no such undertone with Buck and Birch – whose whole ethos is built upon the astounding quality of ingredients which can be plucked from woodlands, hedgerows, and shorelines within walking distance of the table they are eaten on.
The menu is a masterclass in seasonality, resourcefulness, and damn fine cooking. Standout dishes include: the rather macabre sounding ‘wood pigeon and what it likes to eat, which is why it was shot’ – perfectly cooked rare pigeon breast with sprout tops and a rich game-stock pearl barley orzotto, cut through with a tart korean raspberry and bramble sauce; a ‘coastal consommé’ poured by the diner over succulent razor clams, mussels, seaweeds, and scurvey grass (a posh pot noodle – as the chef delights in pointing out); and braised hare leg & seared loin with buttery jerusalem artichoke cream, wild mushrooms, and wild garlic. A well-thought-out vegetarian menu expands the pair’s offering. Alongside the food, we drink pinot gris, Beaujolais, and three simple serves using Buck and Birch’s sweet and complex Aelder Elixer (royale, negroni, and neat), made with foraged elderberries and botanicals.
Our dining companions are charming, and the conversation flows freely. As our hosts extol at the end: ‘part of the joy of a meal like this, is seeing strangers bonding over shared experiences, and good food,’ and an evening this imaginative and exciting, gives us plenty to bond over.