I arrive at L’Escargot Bleu after a long day in the office and a windswept rush up the road. “Are you OK?” asks my dining companion Jenny, tactfully, as I appear round the corner with bird nest hair and a mad glint in my eye. “You look a bit… harassed.”
All is calm within the popular French bistro-restaurant. Friendly staff (in clear defiance of stereotypes of French waiters) greet us, whisk off our coats and dispatch us to a quiet corner table. A glass of sauvignon blanc – perfectly chilled, crisp, a hint of gooseberry – helps to restore my equilibrium. We’re brought an appetizer, or maybe an amuse-bouche? Nuggets of hard, tangy goat’s cheese in olive oil act as a fine complement to the wine and a hint of deliciousness to come.
For starters, I go for moules à la Parisienne, de-shelled mussels in a garlic, butter, ham sauce topped with croutons and grilled. It is impossibly tasty, even though finishing it presents a fairly good chance of ruining the rest of my dinner. Jenny goes for the crispy frogs’ legs, which turn out to be surprisingly substantial, with a remarkably delicate flavour. “Like a cross between fish and meat,” says Jenny. That’s what they are, come to think of it.
For mains, I have the pan-fried Inverary Roe Deer – vast, medium-rare cuts of tender meat in a juniper jus – served with a date and walnut pastille (a bit like a sweet spring roll). Jenny’s boyfriend having recently gone vegetarian, she embraces the red meat too – who knows when she will next have an opportunity to eat a guilt-trip free steak? She opts for a Scottish matured rib-eye with peppercorn sauce. Classic French, classic taste, delicious and “Properly medium rare.” Full marks all round.
For desserts we go for selection of sorbets and some macaroons – raspberry, vanilla, chestnut and blueberry. The macaroons are light and crispy on the outside with a substantial centre and good, distinct flavours. The crisp lemon sorbet would be a refreshing palette cleanser had we not already consumed more than should be humanly possible.
To end, the maitre d’ brings back memories of Mr Creosote as he tries to encourage us to eat the complimentary chocolate before leaving. No, please, no. It will be delicious, and I will eat it, and then I will die.
L’Escargot Bleu succeeds admirably in providing a blend of French fine dining and local Scottish ingredients, in a classic bistro restaurant with friendly staff who put genuine effort into making sure you enjoy your meal. I will be going there for significant occasions from now on.