Restaurant review

Haar in St Andrews serves up gourmet delights

Just before Christmas last year, chef Dean Banks returned to St Andrews to open the doors to this second incarnation of Haar, now beautifully moored in its brand new location at 1 Golf Place.

It’s a pretty illustrious address, even for those of us who don’t know our birdie from our bogey.

Located minutes from the harbor that provides the superlative lobster on offer here, 1 Golf Place is a place that requires serious cooking, a drive that could easily hit the Old Course, and a stellar, ambitious vision.

After only a few months here, Dean Banks has managed to deliver all three of these attributes in spades, and if I were to continue with my rather forced golf terminology,

I would try to show off by saying that he has hit the fairway before and is consistently bringing his “A” game to this wonderful spot.

Haar in St Andrews.

(Enough about golf I think – mainly because I’m embarrassed to say that the only time I played the game of Kings was with Kylie Minogue and she even had to show me how to hold the club. I think that was the day she doubted I was really Scottish, gently ignoring my incompetence as she strode the course like a colossus).

Back in St Andrews, this journey home must have felt somewhat Sisyphean for Banks, as he was marred by the twists of fate, fortune and a global pandemic – all while preparing to return to the city he loves so much.


Haar St Andrews

I was a big fan of the original Haar and was also impressed with the Haarbour chip shop (now closed) and various Haar at Home businesses started by Banks in response to the lockdown. I loved his passion, his dynamism and his determination – and of course I adored his cuisine, both assertive and subtle, sensual and sensory.

Eating Dean Banks’ food is an often theatrical experience that can be transformative — and I’m all for more of that in life, especially right now as we try to remember how to feel good.

When the original Haar was forced to close due to an unresolved lease issue, many might have thought that Banks’ move to Edinburgh to run the highly prestigious Pompadour restaurant within the five-star Waldorf Astoria hotel – The Caledonian Hotel could have been his demise. from Tayside.

Certainly his success in the capital might have led anyone less attached to Tayside to stay within the confines of a grand hotel in Princes Street. Along with rave reviews, Dean Banks at Pompadour won three coveted AA Rosettes at this year’s AA Hospitality Awards, the only restaurant in the capital to achieve this recognition in the
22-23 Awards.

Dean Banks cooks food.

This success in Edinburgh makes it all the more exciting that Dean Banks has returned to his roots (or at least close to them – he was born in Arbroath) and brings us his wonderful cooking back to Courier Country.

In addition to being a great chef, Dean Banks is resourceful, approachable and savvy. He knows how to tell a story, both in his food and in the way he presents it. This has been evident in all of his businesses since the original Haar – even the interior of Haarbour, his revamped fish and chips shop, has been described online as “highly Instagrammable”.

A smart business brain is at work here that understands the concept that restaurant food often needs to be contextualized and have some
meaning of the story.

Inside Haar.

So the anticipation for this new version of Haar to reopen was driven by a brilliant social media campaign that both encouraged participation via an inspired crowdfunding initiative, and also heightened anticipation for the return. of Banks.

After all, it was the stuff of dreams – the chef returning home to continue his story in a career that took him from his first job at The Old Brewhouse in Arbroath, to working with Rick Stein in Cornwall, the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh and then travel the world as a private chef – all before opening Haar shortly after his success on
Masterchef in 2018.

And while it must have felt pretty good for him to be returning to Edinburgh, especially to such a celebratory place, I imagine someone whose food is so rooted in produce from that region (you should hear it to praise the Arbroath smokie, for example) would be relishing the opportunity to put his mark on a restaurant where he could design everything as part of his overall aesthetic.

Haar is back at St Andrews.

He’s a showman, albeit rather self-effacing, who really knows how to make an experience work.

The original Haar won a resolute following, not least because the quality of the food was excellent and the prices very reasonable (I described the three-course lunch menu as “a bargain” in 2019).

Our recent visit to the new Haar was on a sunny Friday lunchtime and I honestly didn’t expect to see Banks in the kitchen – just because I assumed he would be cooking in Edinburgh.

But he was there, visible as soon as you entered, because the original concept of this restaurant is that you eat at home and, like that, the man himself is behind a chef’s table-counter and you sits down and he chats to tell you what you are going to eat. I have to say that I loved it.

Dean Banks is passionate about showcasing the best of local.

I am a person who is opposed to anything that seems forced or mannered. I would run for the hills rather than sit at a common table with strangers, for example. But it’s not like that because it’s just you and Dean chatting while he prepares a selection of snacks for you to eat.

It may be a response to the social isolation of the pandemic and the recent easing of restrictions, but I loved sitting there talking to this man who was going to cook some of our lunch for us. It was all rather emotional actually, in that we suddenly felt like we could once again embrace the pure pleasure of communication.


The food

While chatting, Dean produced six snacks (three for me and three vegetarian for David) of such subtle innovation that all we could do was marvel – and enjoy.

My first was an Arbroath smoked pancake pie inspired by Peggy, the original owner of But ‘n’ Ben in Auchmithie, and inventor of their legendary smoked pancake.

I was curious how Dean’s rarefied version—a smoked pie with dulse seaweed and Cullen skink espuma—would capture the essence of the double cream-filled original, still served at Auchmithie today.

What he did with balanced precision that was almost forensic was something to behold – here’s the taste of Arbroath in its most essential form. I just smiled as this ambrosial creation slid down my throat, as if the smoke itself had been condensed into an intense bite. Wonderful!

My second entree was a plump Cumbrae oyster served with a sea buckthorn and jalapeno vinaigrette, topped with tiny pieces of raw rhubarb from Dean’s garden.

Oysters.

As someone who normally only eats oysters with a squeeze of lemon or reseda sauce, this flavor combination was a new experience for me – and one that I loved. I remember Dean extolling the virtues of sea buckthorn as a Scottish tropical fruit, and he’s right – here the acidity was like a mango or pineapple hit, and just perfect with the sharp hit of the pepper. A joy, and intensified by the dry ice rising from the oyster, suddenly visible, perched on beautiful pebbles.

My final snack was trout belly, which Dean says was a product of his desire for sustainability in his menus – trout belly is a by-product of the trout served as one of the main dishes. Cured with soy, the fish is served with a cream of coconut and sorrel and some puffed potatoes with furikake, a Japanese seasoning made mainly of toasted sesame seeds, nori, salt and sugar.

Loch etive trout, brown crab and galangal curry,

All of these snacks were intensely delicious flavor explosions. I could rave about specific elements of these wonderful dishes – the furikake puffed potato could be approved as a medicine, so comforting it is – but you really have to taste them to fully appreciate their purity and rigor.

After this lovely experience we were shown to our table and the ‘real’ lunch began (it’s five courses for £69 and six courses for £84, with an additional course of lobster available at market price and caviar Exmoor for £10 per serving).

An excellent spring lunch menu is also available for £35 for four courses.

I can’t claim these prices are cheap because they obviously aren’t – although the special lunch menu is excellent value and specials are sometimes available. But it is food as a celebration of all that is good in nature’s pantry, created, cooked and served with exquisite attention to detail and craftsmanship. As such, if your budget can stretch, it’s definitely worth it.

Yukhoe grass-fed beef.

That’s all I ate, everything is exemplary – yukhoe tartare, Thai basil and kimchi; hand-dipped scallop, kosho (a condiment made from chilli, salt and yuzu), pumpkin and lemongrass; Trout from Loch Etive, brown crab, galangal curry; smoked lobster from St Andrews Bay, mirin and dulse butter; Duck from Beech Ridge Farm, royal miso oyster, black garlic and, finally, rhubarb and cardamom.

What was special? All. But if I had to take a “Desert Island” plate from here it would undoubtedly be this wonderful lobster with mirin and dulse butter, the richness of the dish sharpened by the mirin and intensified by the butter. Incredibly good.

It’s worth pointing out that David’s vegetarian four-course lunch menu (£35) showed as much flair and a sense of exploration as my regular menu, so vegetarians won’t feel cheated here at all. A superlative lunch ended with a selection of petit fours, including Haar’s classic riff, Nanna’s Banoffee.

Petits fours – Nanas chocolate banoffee, dulse shortbread, chocolate yuzu and miso fudge.

The verdict

The service was charming, professional and perfectly judged. The interior is charming – relaxed seaside luxury flecked with elements of an oriental aesthetic and personal artifacts from Dean’s own life. He feels relaxed and confident, as he should with food of this caliber. Serving platters and plates are particularly coveted.

It’s great to have Haar back in St Andrews and I loved the whole experience here. It’s food as celebration, exploration, innovation and joy. It highlights where we live and how we live and the bounty of nature, and it brings it all together in one experience to cherish.

I can not wait to return to.


Information

Address: Haar, 1 Golf Place, St Andrews, KY16 9JA

P: 01334 479281
W: www.haarrestaurant.com

Prices: Spring Lunch Menu £35; 5-course tasting menu £69; 6-course tasting menu £84

Scoring:

  • Food: 5/5
  • Performance: 5/5
  • Surroundings: 5/5

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve been to Haar in St Andrews and what you thought of your experience.


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