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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

24 hours in Perthshire. Part 3: Barley Bree

Darkness was already descending at 4pm when we left Glenturret, drove through the town of Crieff and headed south down the A822 towards Stirling. Behind us lay the Perthshire Hills, ahead the conservation village of Muthill, known for its high number of listed buildings and the ruins of an ancient church. This was the location for surprise number 3: Barley Bree.

Once the village inn, Barley Bree is now a restaurant with rooms, run for the last ten years by chef Fabrice Bouteloup and his Scottish wife Alison (Alison aiming one day to become a Master of Wine). They’re a great and skilful team, with an obvious love for what they do.

And here’s the proof: two AA Red Rosettes, entries in both the Good Food Guide 2017 and Good Hotel Guide 2017 and, as we read in the Scottish Field that day, the place where Andrew Fairlie - the two Michelin star chef at Gleneagles - comes for Sunday lunch sometimes.

Upstairs at Barley Bree are six comfortable bedrooms, downstairs a smallish bar and a very cosy restaurant, with the work of marine wildlife sculptor Sam MacDonald on the stone walls. From a choice of three starters, four mains and three desserts we opted for ham hock terrine and hand dived scallops (starters), Dexter rib-eye steaks and a shared apple Tarte Tatin, Fabrice’s signature dish.

It was a hugely enjoyable meal, full of flavour and served by friendly and knowledgeable staff. Dexter is the smallest British breed of cattle, the beef favoured by many top chefs because of its outstanding quality.

Afterwards Fabrice took us into the kitchen and showed us the Athanor cooking range. On the hob was a pan with over 20 litres of stock (beef bones and vegetables), slowly being reduced by half and then, once wine had been added, reduced again. ‘When we’re busy we’ll do this four times a week,’ he said.

The next morning after a full Scottish breakfast we headed home. But not before we spotted Fabrice, carrying a tray of his freshly baked crusty bread. We’d already savoured the bread at breakfast, with lovely butter from Katy Rodger’s Knockraich Farm.

Barley Bree is closed for a short break until Wednesday, January 11.

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