Masterchef Professionals 2018 finalist Dean Banks' intricate cooking certainly made a big impression on me. In fact, I was utterly convinced he'd won the competition until Google told me otherwise.
Hailing from Arbroath, the former private chef has a wealth of top level kitchen experience across the globe and opened his first restaurant Haar in the five star Kinnettles Hotel in St Andrews in April 2019.
With a focus on Scottish seafood, globally-influenced flavour combinations and dainty presentation, Haar serves a both a non-vegan (£65) and vegan (£60) five course tasting menu with the option of a couple of supplementary courses.
A generous, warm and crusty corn loaf was soft of crumb and well-studded and fragranced with the sweet grain. A quenelle of addictively complex savoury miso butter was a Heaney’s marmite butter rival; it was the absolute shizz.
A trio of snacks were a low key introduction to the meal proper - a lobster wonton containing a morsel of sweet flesh was slightly thick of casing; a plump and briny oyster was very delicately fragranced with tom yum seasoning; and a chilli-fragranced olive was filled with a gel which I think was flavoured with basil.
A finely diced nicely beefy tartare was topped with a luxuriously silky confit egg yolk and intense sweet and savoury black garlic puree which slightly dominated.
Uber thin and crisp crackers seasoned with the warmth of urfa pepper were a lovely shovel for the tartare.
Things moved up a gear with the next course. A beautifully flaky piece of cod was bathed in a fragrant coconut broth and topped with a crunchy potato leaf and an intensely aromatic green curry crumb. A dinky fishtail of sweet carrot was pretty as a picture but so small in size that it was a little bit lost.
A whopper of a golden crusted Hebridean hand-dived scallop (£15 supplement) was served rare. Tender and sweet, it was bathed in a buttery and savoury dulse broth studded with finely diced vegetables, including tomatoes and romanesco, and topped with a crisp tuile big on smoky paprika.
Smoked lobster (£25 supplement), Dean's signature dish, was probably the best lobster I've ever eaten. Compellingly sweet, tender and smokey, it was bathed in a beurre blanc flecked with seaweed and elevated by the sweet acidity of mirin. It was absolutely epic and I wish we’d ordered more than one plate to share.
Duck breast, supremely tender, crisp-skinned, well-rendered of fat and seasoned with sesame and enoki, was another belter of a dish. It was joined by a light and fruity elderberry sauce, meaty king oyster mushroom, smoky cep tuile, pickled carrot and kohlrabi and smooth cauliflower puree.
Dessert was a lovely strawberry showcase. A light, creamy parfait was well-flavoured with strawberry and tonka bean and joined by fresh strawbs, delicately acidic fermented strawberries, airy strawberry foam, a buttery white chocolate crumb flecked with popping candy, and a white chocolate orb filled with boozy white chocolate liqueur.
We had a really good dinner at Haar and it's well worth a visit if you’re looking for a special meal in St Andrews.
However, if you want to experience Dean's cooking without leaving the comfort of your own home then he's currently offering a range of Haar at Home kits - one of them features lobster with that magical mirin butter sauce...
Address - Haar, 127 North St, St Andrews KY16 9AG
Telephone - 01334 845750