Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Boathouse, Kilsyth, Scotland

If you opened a restaurant would you focus on a particular cuisine or style of cooking, then design your menus around that? If you intended to serve classic, well known dishes, would you take the time to research and understand those dishes? You might want to experiment with them, sometimes a novel take on a favourite can be a good thing, but hopefully you'd want to retain the essence of what made it a classic in the first place. A shepherd's pie isn't a shepherd's pie without the interplay between rich, gravy bound meat and smooth, buttery potato.

Or would you create a menu loosely based around every food fad and trend that's popped up over the last couple of years? Would you stick a load of renowned dishes on the menu, irrespective of whether you had any idea what made them so renowned in the first place? Sounds good, bung it on the list, they'll lap it up.

At the Boathouse you can start with cullen skink, haggis or Stornoway black pudding, but also tempura, buffalo wings or pork taquitos. There's also a list of tapas, and a specials menu where there are no starters or mains, only small and large plates.

For your main course you can choose Cajun, or Mexican, or Scottish, or American, or Indian, or French, or Italian. There's barbecue and burgers and pasta and curry. Intriguing. Could they possibly turn out such a hotchpotch of food successfully? In a word, no.

Buffalo wings for starters. Buffalo wing sauce, as two minutes research on the internet will tell you, has two ingredients. A vinegar based hot chilli sauce (Frank's being the favoured brand) and butter. At the Boathouse they forgot the butter, which is pretty slack given that it's one of only two ingredients.

Buffalo wings done right are highly addictive. Messy, crisp-skinned, hot, tangy, rich, buttery and utterly bloody delicious. If you coat your wings in something pappy, bready and tasteless, then fry them until they're not very crisp, then cover them in vinegary hot sauce but no butter, they are not utterly delicious. Far from it.

Things would improve with Toulouse sausage, chorizo and bean cassoulet wouldn't they? I was slightly concerned at the presence of chorizo, but why not I suppose. A mix and match approach to the meat content is normal with a cassoulet isn't it? It'll still be a big hearty pot of slow cooked meats and white beans.

No it won't. It'll be a watery tomato stew with a few kidney beans and chunks of cheap chorizo in it, with a sausage on top. I could have a fair guess at the cooking process and ingredients for this: chop an onion and some garlic, fry for a bit, chuck in a tin of tomatoes and a stock cube. Chuck in some bits of chorizo, some sliced mushrooms and peppers and some kidney beans. Cook for twenty minutes or so.

It wasn't unpleasant, it just was boring, half arsed and not a cassoulet. Still, at least I got some greasy toast and manky rocket as a garnish.

I had room for pudding, so thought I'd see whether the creme brulee was a creme brulee. Happily it was, and the addition of a few raspberries was a good touch. It didn't really need the accompanying ice cream but that was nice too.

Maybe I was unlucky, perhaps other things on the menu are better. Maybe their pulled pork and tandoori and tempura are the business. Sadly I doubt it very much. I just don't get places like this, various pub chains are the worst offenders, but the Boathouse is one of a group of just two.

It's probably very successful, people seem to like the cover all bases approach, there's 'plenty of choice' and 'something for everyone'.  But what's the point in having so many choices if they're not done properly or just plain rubbish?

Service was fine throughout and three courses with a glass of passable red was about £27. The hotel rooms are pleasant and good value.


Auchinstarry Marina
G65 9SG

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