DINNER then at probably – certainly currently said to be – the best restaurant in the whole of the damn UK. And what have we been talking about for the last 20 minutes? Erm. Is that Alec Baldwin sitting over there? Mr Google has been consulted. Photos called up.

Discreetly, compared with the magnificently large American sitting in this splendid dining room wearing – ooft, his dressing gown and slippers. Though it may just be an out-there smoking jacket and sockless loafers. 

Andrew Fairlie himself looks down on all this from his portrait by the door; a genteel lady, shawl and all, dines mysteriously alone at a be-linened table while outside on grounds still fragrant from the baking day, globe lights glow, international guests linger and an immaculate vintage Rolls Royce sits abandoned in front of the No Parking sign.   Gleneagles then.

On this balmy midsummer evening, fairy dust is adrift. Even in this dining room, reached through a curtain, down a step, round a corner. Hidden, windowless, yet pillared and upholstered so airily, so fabulously, it has Brideshead in its pomp running right through it. “Our lobster, sir,” the maitre d’, a chirpy Scot in a blue herringbone jacket, insists “will always be on the menu.”  

And so our eyes are drawn from the maybe-Baldwin table, from the sommelier – himself Hollywood handsome and sporting the world’s most precisely tailored jacket – into the here and now.  

A flourish, a waft of steam, a sea breeze ... and is that smouldering driftwood?  An almond-shaped and burnished lid has been removed from what must be a bespoke Le Creuset. We peer inside.  

I may not agree that we are in the best restaurant in the UK, though it is magnificent, but this is definitely the best lobster dish in the world.  The craftsmanship that goes into it.

READ MORE: The food’s here. Did I forget to mention out loud that it’s vegan?

A Scots crustacean whisked from the deep, poached, halved, all ghastly bits removed from the shell, which is then smoked; craws cracked, their creamy meat extracted, every plump, delicious piece of white meat put back in that shell, for the smokiness to drift through it then lime butter a-splashed over. 

A fork is all that’s needed. We pause. We eat. We salute.

Now, before I get any more letters about the shocking price of fine dining in a recession, consider this: kitchen gardeners, kitchen brigades, local suppliers, fishermen, farmers are all supported directly by places like this.  

Yes, it’s £165 per head for the Menu Degustation. But the way I see it? Let the Americans spend all the dough they want. Anyway, we’re paying for the world’s best lobster dish while they’ve thrown in about another dozen magnificent courses for free.  And what courses.

Wild halibut: plump, creamy, perfectly cooked of course, but perfectly seasoned (that means salted) too in its lemon verbena sauce. Borders roe deer, seared, sweetly caramelised, dripping juices inside, a cheeky little breadcrumbed game bon-bon on the side, port jus for dragging all that through. 

They do a spectacular thing with Perthshire strawberries – white chocolate, brambles and pistachio resulting in a little oofy-floofy mini wedding cakey thang packed with summery punch.  Of course there’s more. Beetroot tuiles with truffle (think of the work making this), broad bean espuma with marigold petals (from the garden), a crab thing with Japanese yuzu that tangs freshly then has the faintest seductive curry aftertaste. 

There are probably hundreds of ingredients. Waiters tell us what they are, pointlessly really, as the minute they turn away we’re saying: whassinthat? Does it matter that we can’t work out exactly what is in everything? No.

Does it matter that actually I thought the gratin of ziti pasta was a bit of a dud; the pasta strangely flavourless and a tad gluey under the melted cheese, superb local girolles on the same plate certainly. But why were they there? And it was nice to have a tiny hand-grown, er, turnip,  as your first flavour. But can you take local sourcing too far? 

It doesn’t matter because overall? It’s been some experience.


Gleneagles Hotel

Auchterarder PH3 1NF

Tel: 01764-694267 

Menu: Frankly? They serve the best lobster dish in the world and throw in an extra dozen or so magnificent courses using hand-knitted Scottish ingredients from their own kitchen gardens, or local suppliers. 5/5   

Service: Surprisingly more formal than I remember it yet still supremely professional and super-attentive. 5/5

Atmosphere: Could we be in an Agatha Christie novel or on a Hollywood movie set? The place drips and buzzes with characters, and yes money, ding-dong. It’s worth at least one go. 5/5

Price: It’s £165 for the full tasting menu: uh-uh. Before rolling eyes consider how much work, goes into preparing the food, and how many local jobs are supported by the endeavour. Yeah. 5/5

Food: The lobster? Still clever, still fabulous. The other dishes - sensation after sensation. I didn't like the pasta much, or the turnip,  I can think of at least one UK restaurant that I think is better but still really fabulous food. 9/10

Total: 29/30