The North Port


TO PERTH again, that most Scottish of cities; dining round a corner, parallel to the river, in a hunkered down, completely wood panelled, tight and very low ceilinged room that even Sir Walter Scott wouldn’t wrinkle his tights at.

Warm and just-baked bread, lemon balm butter, pea and hazelnut for dipping, the hubba bubba of the douce Saturday lunchtime set-menu set bouncing soothingly, occasionally rather noisily, off the walls. This is the North Port. A restaurant I tried to get into last week and was almost shooed out the door for not having a booking. I can now see why.

It’s small, it’s almost elbow-bumping busy and without giving too much away it’s very, very good. Not that we’ll realise just how good until these main courses arrive.

On my plate then two plump, rose gold fillets of that ugly fish the gurnard; made beautiful by being gently cooked until the skin crisps, the white flesh firms (without drying), and all seasoned so completely perfectly that it is simply delicious. Slow-roasted potato, carrots and a splash of parsley oil turning this all into a fabulous thing.

Black Isle beef cheeks for Debs, maybe cooked sous vide they’re so darkly moist; kale, rosemary, mushroom and turnip alongside. Both dishes an easy 10/10. Both dishes I’d have again tomorrow.

Strange, then, that the starters weren’t nearly so good. A Scrabster plaice terrine with lemon puree and toast, pure white again, firm, skilfully made, assembled on the plate like a collection of jewels, but underseasoned.

The haggis, neeps and potatoes? A dish I ordered in a moment of madness when the waitress startled me by saying it is made here freshly every morning – maybe it’s a Perth thing. But slightly dry, to me wholly unspiced, completely dominated by the super sweetness of the neeps and like the terrine utterly devoid of seasoning.

Weird. I actually can’t eat it. It’s like two entirely different chefs, with completely opposing views on salt, made the starters and main courses at stations at completely opposite ends of the kitchen. Weird again.

Fortunately I got nervous about ordering that haggis and at the last minute spot there’s a daily specials menu with Ardoch hogget belly, hazelnut, pickled chanterelles and apple. So I have that too. When it arrives the preparation skills in the kitchen are again obvious, it’s neatly and tightly rolled, crisped even burnished, painted with those dark juices that I remember from childhood roasts that were cooked in an enamelled self-baster and, of course, it’s sweetly caramelised. Flavoured so richly that the acidic tang of the apple and the tingle of those tiny chanterelles are definitely needed to bring the tastebuds bursting back to the surface.

And the portion? Two large slices on two plates? £5.95. For a moment we’re baffled by this double plate thang, but the waitress says the kitchen have split a portion and served it this way so we can both have a taste.

The Corinthian, Glasgow. Restaurant review by Joanna Blythman

And before you ask, the table was booked under a false name, no warning given to the restaurant it’s going to be reviewed, or is being reviewed or even has been reviewed.

Seasoning issues aside what a bargain this set menu meal will turn out to be. We’re eating from the three-course for £17.95 lunch and pre theatre (until 10pm Tuesday to Thursday) version but there’s an a la carte too.

Loch Etive trout, Portmahomack pork, Falkland farm chard, roast white turnip and Perthshire pigeon. It looks so unusually and completely Scottish, so enticing, that I’m momentarily tempted to order from it until I remember the culinary suicide that usually results from tossing an a la carte order grenade into a kitchen that’s dancing full tilt to the tune of a set-menu service.

Something to come back for, then.

Desserts of poached rhubarb, Knockraich yoghurt and candied fennel (sweet and crunchy) and a gooey bramble ganache follow. Good stuff. Very good stuff.

The North Port

8 North Port


01738 580867

Menu: That rarest of things: a properly Scottish yet still appetising menu which manages to avoid going anywhere near the usual lazy suspects. 5/5

Service: Pleasant, efficient, friendly and yet very busy without looking it. 4/5

Atmosphere: Low ceiling, wood panelled, small but atmospheric dining room, they’ve even got a spiral stair. Can get noisy though. 4/5

Price: Full fat prices on the a la carte but the set menu's excellent value at £18 for three courses for lunch and £20 for dinner. 5/5

Food: That delicious gurnard is one of the best dishes I’ve eaten all year, the beef up there too. Still Scotland’s best non-Michelin-starred restaurant. 8/10