The warm lights of Duck’s Inn in Aberlady on a dreich October’s night would be a welcome sight for anyone at the end of a very long day, but it was a particular relief for my partner and I on this misty autumn evening.
We drew up to what seemed like a warm embrace after a day of meetings, email tag and mundane administration.
Although we hadn’t come far – only from Fife – we were two weary business travellers in need of a hot meal, glass of wine and a good night’s sleep.
Lucky for us, that’s just what we got.
Arriving at Duck’s felt like coming home after an intrepid day’s business and the traditional inn couldn’t have been more hospitable or accommodating on this cold, dark night.
Run by husband-and-wife team Malcolm and Fiona Duck, with the help of their two sons, Duck’s is a recently-awarded two AA rosette restaurant with rooms – with the emphasis largely on the food.
We were shown to our twin room by Fiona, who made us feel very welcome indeed. Her friendly and honest chat softened the fact that the accommodation, we felt, was badly in need of updating.
We were later to discover, however, that our somewhat dated room still made for an excellent night’s sleep.
While the rooms and adjoining ensuites may be in need of a makeover, they were clean and the beds were comfortable – everything you need for a stop-over midway between business and home.
But while we were looking forward to – and expecting – a hot meal, glass of wine and good night’s sleep, we couldn’t have prepared for what came next.
Little did we know that Duck’s is a purveyor of some of the best fine dining in Scotland.
We were blown away by our culinary experience at Duck’s, where the ambience was elegant, discerning and exciting – appealing to every sense in our bodies.
Twinkling fairy lights and candlelight made it extremely romantic – akin to a top Parisian restaurant. But it was also humble and friendly – and without a hint of snobbery.
In fact, the whole experience was a complete and unexpected assault on our senses.
We dined in Donald’s restaurant – affectionately named after Malcolm’s father, the original Donald Duck.
And, in hindsight, perhaps we should have expected our dining experience to be out of this world. Malcolm first forged his reputation at Edinburgh bistro Le Marche Noir, which could also explain the subtle French nod.
As well as two perfectly-cooked rump steaks, the menu – devised by newly-appointed head chef Michael Mozdzen – begged us to try something new and I’m pleased to say that never before have I been quite so rewarded for leaving my tried and tested comfort zone.
One roast breast and confit leg of partridge, cashew nuts, butternut squash, Israel couscous, cumin and orange later and we were this Polish-born chef’s biggest fans.
I could also gush about the Port Seton langoustine, confit pork belly, lemon and tarragon gnocchi, pickled mushrooms and langoustine tea but I’d suggest you make a booking and sample it for yourself.
In fact, my advice is to follow this amazing chef, formerly of The Pompadour by Galvin at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, to whichever ends of the earth he travels.
Utterly in awe of his amazing talent, we offered our congratulations on a fantastic menu and even more impressive execution and were humbled by his philosophy of making fine dining a bit more laid back.
The epitome of laid back, Michael, who sports dreadlocks, is passionate that fine dining shouldn’t be intimidating and we certainly admired his style.
As two wine lovers, we were equally in our element with the contents of Duck’s cellar – which includes a £3,000 bottle of 1970 Château Petrus Pomerol – and managed to drain at least two bottles of Inkspot, which came highly recommended by Malcolm.
I can also recommend a walk around Aberlady to work off Duck’s desserts, which include the likes of burned honey cream, hazelnuts, fig and orange, and beurre noisette.
Situated on the East Lothian coast, the village is an architectural melting pot and there’s a great view of Fife across the bay.