I have to be honest and say I was a little ready to dislike Christie’s Scottish tapas restaurant before I even walked in the door – something I’m ashamed to admit now, having visited the place and
This is a very unusual situation as I try to judge every establishment featured on these pages as fairly and fairly as possible. I certainly never let myself be judged before eating there, because the proof of even the most modest place is always in the table, the service and the atmosphere.
Fortunately, the many happy customers we saw during our Saturday lunchtime visit seemed to appreciate this new business, which had only opened on June 3, three weeks before our visit. After launching the concept with a restaurant in Falkirk in April 2021, it looks like the owners are onto something.
My problem certainly wasn’t that Christie’s was offering what they define as Scottish tapas because the use of that word to denote a scale and style of presentation became something that charged like a bull from its true place of birth in Spain a long time ago.
Tapas now mean something very different from what started out as free snacks in Andalucia, either to boost business (salty snacks make you drink more) or to sustain drinkers on a drunken night. The word tapa itself means a top or cover, reflecting that the original dishes were served on small plates, often balanced on top of a drinking glass. This had the added effect of preventing fruit flies from entering the drinks, a problem probably more acute in the hot, dry climate of Andalucia than here in Dunfermline on a bracing day in a Scottish summer.
I also didn’t mind that Christie’s was located in a huge leisure park – “East Scotland’s premier leisure venue”, no less – on the outskirts of Dunfermline (strangely, the restaurant doesn’t is not yet presented on the official site of the leisure park, probably because it is quite recent).
On the contrary, I am the man who recently spent what felt like an age in the St James area of Edinburgh, determined to find and experience the fantastic fusion restaurant Ka Pao, tucked away in an elevated corner of the juggernaut like a jewel in the crown – if indeed you see 1.7 million square feet of a “retail-oriented lifestyle district” as something
What had put me in such an impasse then?
Well Christie’s website is full of the kind of marketing jokes that normally drive me into the wall, although I’ll admit we live in a time where we’re all constantly upset about something, no matter how trivial or innocent be it.
In the case of Christie’s – a place that, again, I really liked – it’s the story they’ve built around it and the language they use to describe it.
What is this new fashion for dropping Scottish words and idioms into the text almost arbitrarily? Surely there must be a name for it but until someone enlightens me I’m going to have to stick with adjectives like “gratuitous”, “incoherent”, “mannered” and, for me, ” absolutely maddening.”
No one is saying that our language and culture should not be represented in our daily lives and, as a proud Scot myself, I am all in favor of preserving language and tradition for future generations. But using Scottish words as marketing tools that cannot fail to denote a labored notion of authenticity really bothers me.
First, we’re told we can ‘experience a unique taste of Scotland with a braw wee plate from scran’. Further on, we are told repeatedly that “a tapa is simply a braw wee plate of scran”, a statement that is both repetitive and condescending, as if no one had ever visited a tapas bar before.
We hear a lot about the fact that “Christie’s Restaurant was founded by two friends who love to dine with family and friends. One has very simple tastes and prefers basic dishes and the other is rather greedy. So they decided to open a restaurant that offered a hospitality experience that everyone could enjoy.”
So far, apparently as solid as a business plan-manifesto.
The website goes on to explain the meaning of hospitality and, just in case you still haven’t understood, claims that “the dictionary even goes so far as to explain that Scotland is famous for its hospitality”, lest you didn’t. don’t realize you were in a restaurant where strangers might bring you food and you might enjoy it.
Listen, I’m not blaming anyone for a concept in this world of branding and focus groups — especially a new business going into a pandemic. As long as the food is good and the experience is enjoyable, why should we care how she is dressed?
The difference between Christie’s and something like the aforementioned Ka Pao in Edinburgh – which also serves small plates, this time influenced by Southeast Asian cuisine – is that the concept has not been allowed to eclipse the food, just for the sake of a business model.
So how is the food here? As they say online, “let’s take a look at the floor menus” and see.
From a reasonably extensive menu, we chose seven tasty dishes and shared a dessert. It seems fair for lunch, but the excellent staff here will guide you through the menu and let you know if you’ve ordered too much or not enough.
To promote sharing, everything happens suddenly in an operation that seemed to rely on a staff standing at the pass checking each order with military precision.
Dishes are served on tiered racks on attractive stoneware and the first thing to say is that my Perthshire Beef Stew (£6.95) was wonderful.
When I was young, one of my favorite things to eat was my mother’s beef stew with dumplings. Every swish of the Atora suet packet (surprisingly, still available and retro fabulous at just £1.90) would engender enormous excitement that mum’s legendary dumplings would soon end up complementing a stew of such rich and creamy glory that it really looked like the food of the Gods.
This stew at Christie’s was just that – a small bowl of the richest, most tender meat with a huge dumpling sitting on top. So it’s all good, and so much the better because I didn’t have to share it because David is a vegetarian.
My other dishes were also very good.
I had only ordered the candy haggis (£5.50) because our waiter had been so expansive about them, saying she always chooses them for her own lunch. These were so delicious that I even forgot my aversion to the ubiquity of sweets on Scottish menus at the moment.
My cod sticks (£7.95) were probably the least successful of my dishes, although the lemon garlic breadcrumbs and tomato and herb sauce were quite nice. The fish dishes on the menu are presented as “little fish yins” while the meat dishes are “little meat yins”. Vegetarian dishes are “little vegetarian yins” while larger dishes are – you guessed it – “big yins”.
The marked dishes are available in threes for £12 all day Monday to Wednesday, which I think is a bargain.
David’s garlic roasted cauliflower (£5) was good, the big florets nicely crispy and served with a curry dip. Her vegan tomato and feta salad was also very good, the salad nicely presented with gordal olives, pickled shallots and micro herbs, although the feta itself didn’t have that harsh flavor of an authentic version non-vegan greek.
Some ‘hoose chips’ (£3.50) were good, as was a plate of clapshot (£4) of a section labeled ‘a bit more’.
It’s funny because all this talk about all this stuff has made me realize that these mannered menu categories actually hide a lot of good, bold flavors. I didn’t order these but I’m sure the meat ‘legs’ in tomato sauce (£5.50) and the haggis, neeps and tapas (OK, that’s enough) for £4.95 would have been seasoned with assertive manner and would taste good.
It is also in favor of Christie’s that there is a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options, including baked camembert with caramelized red onion jam and toasted sourdough (£8.50) and a beetroot burger with avocado, vegan cheese, vegan burger bun, salad – and, of course, pickled shallots and fries (£10.50).
We shared a delicious cranachan (£5.95), although we could have opted for the sticky Glayva ‘taffie puddin’ with Arran ice cream (£6.25) or the distinctly un-Scottish creme brulee had we been more inclined to celebrate our internationalism and toast the
The service was smooth and totally lovely and the surroundings were really nice.
Tables are well spaced out, there’s a huge open bar, and the whole place is bright and modern. Unless you really want to, you will never remember that you were in the back of a huge shopping park.
It is interesting that Christie’s decided to open here at a time when many retailers have moved away from their high street locations in favor of these retail park sites.
Certainly the pandemic has enabled retail parks to provide a friendlier retail experience, while data produced by localdatacompany.com shows that the most common type of retail park in Britain (accounting for 44.4% of all the parks) is centered on a
offering of food.
But this particular shopping park doesn’t feel particularly food-oriented. It took us a few minutes to find Christie’s, but that’s also because it looks surprisingly low-key, like something that might as well be in the Beverly Center in LA as in Dunfermline.
Would I come back here just to eat at Christie’s? Probably not, although I could if I lived in Dunfermline. Would I go back if it was right downtown? Yes, I definitely would. But also, if I was shopping in that giant mall, or going to the movies there, I’d much rather go to a place like this – with its good food and great service – than in the ‘one of the big chain restaurants or fast food outlets – food outlets nearby.
We spent £53.73 here for a very decent lunch (service is included in the bill) and I’d say it was good value for food of this (surprisingly good) quality and presentation.
If Christie’s isn’t quite for me, I have to say I really enjoyed it and it’s always nice to have your preconceptions turned around.
It hasn’t changed my opinion of how ideas and marketing concepts can somehow overwhelm an experience, but this place serves great food in a very pleasant environment and as such has been the one of the most beautiful surprises of this year.
Address: Christie’s Scottish Tapas, 7a Whimbrel Place, Fife Leisure Park, Dunfermline, KY11 8EX
P: 01383 668888
Price: Mains from around £4
- Food: 4/5
- Performance: 5/5
- Surroundings: 4/5
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[Restaurant review: Dunfermline’s Christie’s Scottish Tapas]