Livingston's Restaurant52 High Street,
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
Review published on 24/02/2003 © Sunday Herald
I've found the perfect place to take Dr Atkins out to dinner. The Dr Atkins, that is, of diet fame. I feel that he could do with a sympathetic hearing.
On Atkins' diet proper, you renounce carbohydrate and eat protein and more protein, with limitless amounts of non-starchy vegetables like green beans or salads and when you've got your weight down, you gradually reintroduce fruits and wholegrains as part of your ongoing eating plan.
Dr Atkins would find something to sink his teeth into at Livingstons, a meaty establishment if ever there was one, and a calorie-counter's nightmare. It does have a more than token vegetarian menu, sporting the usual veggie clichés; risotto, filo basket things, stir fry veg, etcetera. But you just need to look around the plates, crowned with huge tottering towers of animal protein, to see where the kitchen's allegiances lie.
Black pudding (a nutritionist's nightmare) seems to be in vogue in restaurants at the minute and here it was layered up with fried (shock horror) apple, crisp layers of pastry and fried leeks. Dr A would doubtless discard the pastry but I didn't, and in truth, although the dish was on the dry side, a dressing of reduced balsamic vinegar and a herby oil drizzle (more fat) with caramelised shallots cut the richness rather well.
Opposite me, some average, if not spectacular scallops had been tarted up immeasurably by a rasher of crisply rendered, clearly dry-cured smoked streaky bacon. Livingston's obviously has a very good butcher. The bacon fat did something for the scallops as did toasted pine kernels, a lively red pepper sauce and more herby oil trickles.
Next, the main courses; a gargantuan serving of tender pink venison, mildly gamey but with none of that shrill sourness of overhung flesh, and a huge cushion of Aberdeen Angus fillet. In technical terms, both meats were expertly timed and cooked and their sauces were equally accomplished. The venison came with a deeply winey gravy, complemented by the tartness of fresh brambles. The beef had another distinctively different wine-based sauce alongside a creamy green peppercorn one. This might sound like overkill, but the two merged surprisingly well. Vegetables were suitably seasonal, including fondant braised red cabbage, the only weak note being watery batons of 'turned' carrot and neep.
Such carnivorous excesses demand a great red wine. Ronald Livingston, clearly an oenophile, has put together an interesting list with some rare treats on it. His pleasure and delight when you pick one of his favourites is quite infectious. We mutually purred over a 1997 Amarone di Valpolicella from Speri, (winner of a prestigious 'Three Glass' award from Gambero Rosso and Slow Food Italy). It was splendid, a truly memorable bottle. This is a great list if you're a wine anorak.
I'd like to tell you that following dear Doctor A's precepts, I declined the puds for a wedge of cheese but then, I find it impossible to stick to any one dietary line, preferring to follow my own philosophy of 'If it tastes good - eat it.' So we tucked into a great baked chocolate construction with a hot oozing middle complemented by a nice milky ice cream (neither were too sweet) and the dessert platter - a miniature creme brulee, stem ginger ice cream and sticky toffee pudding. Deeply nutritionally incorrect I know, but once in a while, really rather good.
Joanna Blythman is Glenfiddich Food Writer of the Year. Picture by Adrian McMurcie www.amcmurchie.com