John Junor, the self-proclaimed sage of Auchtermuchty, died in 1997 after a long career as a journalist which saw him become perhaps England’s best-known Scottish journalist.
who was he? Well, among many other things, he was quite ahead of his time – a thunderous bigot with an abusive personality who claimed those negative traits as his way of telling it like it is.
Bullies often do, of course, but his modus operandi has delighted parts of a country willing to bow at the feet of right-wing politicians like Margaret Thatcher and her fellow Tories.
The world today is full of people like John Junor, eager to show that enlightenment is a weakness, while treading on the less fortunate or less “normal”.
When John Junor wanted to point the finger at what he saw as a society on the brink of decadent collapse, it was to the idealized golden streets of Auchtermuchty that he often sought his promised land, a place where men were men and women were grateful.
As his obituary in the Independent put it: “The auchtermuchty of Junor’s Sabbath imagination warmed the heart of every Sunday Express reader. It was a place where the girls were pretty, the guys were lusty, and there was little room for ‘w******* and p*******’. No man in Auchtermuchty has eaten quiche”.
Junor would no doubt have been delighted and relieved that quiche wasn’t on the menu at Boar’s Head, a newly refurbished pub serving really good food in his absolute favorite town to scour as he headed out to play golf in St. Andrews.
The Boar’s Head is actually a real find and I was led there by a random internet search for gastropubs in North East Fife.
This is my regular bugbear as there are so few pubs serving good food in Dundee and North Fife.
Let’s face it, there’s something lovely about just walking into a pub and eating something that’s presented with no fuss or faff – the sort of thing you want on a day when you have nothing in the fridge but you don’t want to go there at the trouble of booking a restaurant.
I have been to Auchtermuchty several times (I was a fairly regular visitor to the deer farm there, and there is an interesting auction house nearby) although I had never been to the High Street , where the boar’s head is.
This former coaching inn is a delight, not least because the ongoing transformation of this 300-year-old building has preserved it for new generations to enjoy.
The story of how new owners Justina and David transformed this building into such a charming and unpretentious space is very encouraging but, since our main focus here is to talk about food, I am mostly delighted to say that eating here is a delight.
Chef Andrew Spence is originally from Shetland and has worked at Gleneagles and various five star European resorts, as well as in private catering.
He is certainly one to watch as the food he produces here is far beyond what you would expect from a local pub, and that makes Boar’s Head a destination.
This is pub food ramped up to restaurant quality and I think it will only get better as this place attracts a wider clientele.
My first visit here was on a Sunday and I went with my friend, journalist-musician-photographer Graeme Ogston, who happens to be celiac.
When I had made reservations, the effusive person on the end of the phone (who turned out to be co-owner Justine) effortlessly brushed aside any concerns that there might not be enough items on the menu to make sure that Graeme had enough choice.
She was right and Graeme later commented on how knowledgeable Justine was about how she explained the menu to him and how her knowledge reassured him.
Greeted by this wonder, which quickly seemed to be in five places at once here, we chose to sit in the bar area and wish Graeme had brought his dog Meghan Barkle as this space is dog friendly and relaxed.
A more formal dining room is also available, but I’d say the casual bar area is the place to come for that real Sunday lunch vibe.
The menu is concise and so much the better: five starters, three roasts, four main courses and four puddings.
Graeme was delighted with his pine-smoked Scottish salmon, pickled red currants, crispy nori seaweed and mustard emulsion (£7.50) which was beautifully presented and delicious.
My Perthshire Wood Pigeon Breast, Dressed Hispi Cabbage and Peppered Raspberries (£8.50) was wonderful, the tartness of the berries enhancing the gamey flavor of the pigeon beautifully. Presented simply on a white plate, this is my kind of food – honest, earthy, harmonious and delicious.
My main course was even better and I’m happy to report that the chance of my hangover wasn’t just an invitation to alliteration here – it also led me to the classic Shepherd’s Pie, served with a cutlet of lamb and a butter mash, which was an absolute salve thing, soothe and delight (£16).
I’m not the biggest fan of mash in the world unless it’s done perfectly (I use a potato masher and pounds of butter so it becomes more of a salve than a gooey paste) and this mash was ambrosial. The meat inside was smooth, well seasoned and so deeply resonating with goodness that I risked burning my mouth in my rush to devour it.
The lamb chop that emerged from this dish was perfection in perfection.
If it’s on the menu when you go to Boar’s Head, I highly recommend ordering it.
By now my hangover had subsided, largely helped by a greasy Coke, which might not earn me any culinary credibility, but it would certainly take away the benefit of a post-Merlot descent.
Graeme’s Roast Pork was perhaps the most appealing dish of the day, beautifully presented with a small jug of rich gravy and an ace of tasting.
Sunday roasts come with all the right accompaniments, including excellent Yorkshire puddings, and what was great about this one was that it wasn’t all just stuck on the plate like a pile – it was presented with style and respect for
The desserts here aren’t an afterthought – in fact, they’re a highlight and it would be a joyless person to skip them for calorie reasons.
My rhubarb creme brulee with honeycomb (£7) was a seasonal riff on a classic, the brittle sheen of honeycomb a nice contrast to the wobbly deliciousness of the rhubarb creme.
Graeme’s pink peppercorn panna cotta, passion fruit puree and white chocolate crumble (£7) was a thing of beauty, the texture of the panna cotta offset perfectly by the rubble of white chocolate surrounding it , the drops of pie mash perfectly framing the dish. A delight, and visually made me feel like an astronaut venturing into space (maybe the hangover hadn’t really gone away as much as I thought).
I must admit it was a real pleasure to discover this place and we came away very impressed with the whole experience.
A return visit a few days later only confirmed my belief that this is one of the most exciting places to open in Courier Country last year.
Here you have a couple who bought this dilapidated place in December 2020 and refused to let the vast problems resulting from the pandemic and lockdowns defeat them.
Inspired by TV shows like Escape To The Chateau, Justina and Paul (who has a 10 year history in construction management which I guess proved invaluable with this project) embarked on a program of eight-month renovation that finally opened them doors on August 4, 2021.
This vast project consisted of making the building waterproof and completely renovating the facade of the house and the kitchens. The windows have been replaced, the walls have been stripped, the building has been redone, a new bar has been built and a new kitchen has been installed. They did most of this work themselves, with help from their families.
Trying to keep the feel of a traditional village pub, the couple transformed the interiors in an understated but assertive way, with glossy wallpaper walls contrasting with more traditional pub furniture.
It’s a pleasant environment and an expression of their own taste and vision and I admire them for successfully combining tradition with contemporary touches. That said, I don’t like lampshades very much, but I don’t plan on eating them anytime soon.
The jewel in that crown, however, remains the food, and Chef Andrew Spence (actually the first chef to apply here, which just proves the power of serendipity) Boar’s Head has such a big trump card.
If anything, my second visit confirmed this was a chef to treasure because my calamari with wild garlic mayonnaise, wild garlic flowers and lemon (£8) and hummus with David’s spicy red peppers, black olive crumble, baby carrots, courgettes and corn on the cob (£7.50) were just as good as the starters that Graeme and I had enjoyed.
David’s truffle and pea risotto with crispy parmesan cheese (£14) was perfect in texture and flavor, the rice cooked perfectly and the flavors delicious.
My wild boar burger (£15) was served properly including good onion relish, cheddar cheese, pickles and fries.
An excellent apple pie (£6.50) ended a second great meal at this great find.
The Boar’s Head is the kind of place we need most in Courier Country, and it was really exciting to find it – because eating out doesn’t always have to be a huge palaver and, in saying that, I don’t does not in any way disparage what is provided here.
But what’s really special about this place is that you can eat so well in a pleasantly unpretentious environment and you can have a burger or a rarer game dish for your supper. I really like it because every trip to eat out doesn’t have to be for a full three-course meal, and everyone at the table may not share the same culinary language.
It’s a place that locals can enjoy, but also for those of us who live in a wider catchment area. As more and more people come here I feel that Andrew Spence will grow in confidence and the skill and confidence in his cooking will produce more and more full size food.
These people are trying to do something big here – and they’re already succeeding.
I wish them all the best and can’t wait to go back.
Address: The Boar’s Head, 23 High Street, Auchtermuchty, Fife KY14 7AP
P: 01337 258153
Price: Starter from £6, main from £14 and dessert from £6
- Food: 5/5
- Performance: 5/5
- Surroundings: 5/5
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[Wonderful food at The Boar’s Head in Auchtermuchty]