The Newport Restaurant by Jamie Scott

Newport On Tay

THERE’S an exhibition of some sort finishing in the Newport Hotel as we drive up. The bar inside the glowing hotel heaving with adults and children and maybe locals as we walk in.

It’s hard to tell who is who as every so often the door at the end magically swings open and drinkers are sucked through to their tables on the other side.

We sup on pints and cokes and wait and try to work out from the menu, with the world’s tiniest point size, just what we’ll be eating when our time eventually comes.

If I tell you that we’ll sit down at 8.30pm and leave after midnight and eat pretty much constantly you’ll see what a futile exercise that was. Especially as there’s lots of those cheffy whirls and whorls cutely and quaintly and completely not-describing the dishes.

Tomorrow, after the football, as we dine on haddock suppers in the car outside Valente’s in Kirkcaldy we’ll actually try and work out how many courses we had tonight. Phew. Twelve? Fourteen?

That amazing truffle cauliflower tart was a light, crisp, sweet and juicy amuse bouche; the ridiculous Newport croque madame thing that I ordered half way through the meal for a tenner supplement and that was weirdly, breadily good with its home-cured ham, oozing local Anster cheese and quails egg but what on earth was it doing there? Lurking innocently after that surprisingly low key main of Clash Farm pork, braised carrot, beer mustard – like an elephant trap for greedy guts.

They don’t tell you to your face that the chef won Masterchef. They don’t need to. Everyone else does. This week alone, two people have claimed this is Scotland’s best restaurant and yet as we eat from the tasting menu it’s hard to get a moment to work out how good it is. If good at all.

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There’s a long waiting list to get the golden ticket for a table, a tasting-menu only at weekends, a bit of very breathless excitement from the staff as if you’re about to enter the sea of swirly twirly gumdrops, and then it’s into a high Calvinist dining room with views across the Tay.

It’s in the brief moment of quietness here that the kitchen is clearly, quietly stuffing its Gatling gun with hand-foraged, winsomely-fermented and cheekily-custarded flavours before someone swings that handle and it starts boom-boom-booming straight into our faces. For hours. And hours.

The winter salad, locally sourced and supplied (of course) says our excellent Canadian waitress, served with pine nut custard and fermented mushroom jam. No, seriously.

Pure white artichoke, celeriac, carrot, green stuff, beetroot. Honestly? Crikey. We love it.

The David Chan-inspired bao bun thing? Pulled goat, shake and squirt bottles, salty fermented plum sauce, coriander too, grey, slabby and squat bao buns to ram it all in. The chef’s having fun. We are too. Though more bun, please, and it wasn’t very goaty.

That bowl of so-called kedgeree which is nothing like one, yet with its creamy, custardy, curried Arbroath Smokie theme, golden raisins and crispy, crunchy toasted puffed rice texture it becomes instantly memorable.

There’s more. My goodness there’s more.

Little munchkiny things made from yellow beet to look like dim-sum – pop, pop, pop we eat them all. Super juicy, juicy olives; that mouthful of Scrabster Plaice with Cavallo Nero, even more custard; the whole loaf of just-fired bread with made-on-premises butter.

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“Just one more dessert to go,” our waitress will say, somewhere about the witching hour and right after we’ve finished beautiful, gossamer thin, butterscotch and poppyseed meringues on a semi-freddo.

“No,” we will laugh like pantomime dames while secretly looking forward to tagh mi suas, a squishy, oozy, and very pretty chocolately desert that ends up being a Tay bridge too far for my exhausted palate.

Hey? Is it all a bit Willy Wonka? Yes, it is but do we still really enjoy it? Yes, we certainly do.

The Newport Restaurant by Jamie Scott

1 High Street

Newport On Tay

01382 541449

Menu: Croque madames, Scrabster plaice, build your own goat bao – it’s the highest end of Scottish-interesting meets Masterchef and kind of fun fine dining. 4/5

Atmosphere: Pretty Hotel beside the water with a good bar, decent views and a bit of excitement about itself. Pleasant. 4/5

Price: We paid £55 for the million-course tasting menu which kept us occupied and occasionally thrilled for hours. Tenner toastie aside? Bargain. 5/5

Service: Hard gig for the waiting staff as they have to do what the menu doesn’t – explain what you’re eating – but overall they were very good. 5/5

Food: Is this Scotland’s best? Impossible to tell from the Willy Wonka taster menu, but some great cooking and fabulous flavours make it a must try. 8/10