AFTER sitting on a bus for well over an hour, I was beginning to wonder why I’d agreed to go to the Green Inn in Ballater.
It’s not that I wasn’t excited to try out their acclaimed food, it’s just that the process of getting to Ballater was a bit of a trek for this city boy.
Since I didn’t want to drive (and given that a taxi from Aberdeen would probably cost the same as a budget flight to Majorca) a bus was the only option.
And so that’s how we found ourselves tootling along the A93 constantly questioning whether all this effort would be worth it.
We needn’t have worried.
The stress of the trip faded away within moments of meeting owner Trevor O’Halloran.
Sinking into the plush sofa with the menu, olives and a glass of wine, the bus journey became a distant memory.
A true family business, the Green Inn is owned by Trevor with wife Evelyn and son Chris – the uber-talented man in the kitchen.
To start I had smoked quail consomme which came with sweet potato fondant and a perfectly poached quail egg.
Just breaking the surface of the intensely-flavoured crystal clear broth was a gently gamey confit of quail leg – an addition Gregg off Masterchef would surely call a “triumph”, and I have no reason to disagree.
My wife was delighted with the cooking of her seabass fillet, although she thought the accompanying parsnip puree and vanilla beurre blanc sauce perhaps edged the dish into the “too sweet” category.
She had no such qualms with her main course however.
After I won the toss for the fillet steak, she plumped for the sea trout with crushed potatoes, asparagus and Parma ham.
This time the accompanying beurre blanc sauce was livened up with lemon and herbs – a perfect combination with the delicate fish flavours.
I let her taste my pan-seared fillet with wild garlic and lightly smoked potato puree but she was happy to let me finish it myself.
Her loss, because it was one of the best steaks I’ve had in some time, with the smoky potatoes, woody mushrooms and deep rich red wine sauce delivering big countryside flavours.
I had to consciously pace myself otherwise I could have polished it all off in under five minutes.
Stuffed but determined to see what magic chef Chris would conjure up on desserts, we shared a passion fruit souffle.
The tart-but-smooth dessert had risen perfectly out of the ramekin dish just like they do on TV (but never at home) and was the perfect palate cleanser after such a luxurious meal.
Sitting on the bus home we had plenty time to reflect on whether the trek to Ballater had been worth the effort.
Both of us were unanimous – undoubtedly.
I think I’d better get used to this infernal bus journey ...