On my trip to Turnberry Isle this weekend, I ate dinner at one of the resort’s restaurants: Corsair. Everything about this experience was new; I almost never eat at a hotel restaurant, certainly not at an edgy and sophisticated place such as this. But let me tell you: I’m very glad I did.
Corsair is the creation of renowned chef Scott Conant, and when you eat at a restaurant that prominently displays its chef’s name, you know it’s going to be good. I didn’t know what “corsair” meant at the time, but have since looked it up and discovered that it’s another word for a Mediterranean pirate. Corsair specializes in American and Mediterranean ‘farmhouse cooking,’ which is a fine dining trend picked up by countless restaurants across the country, after consumers demanded more organic, farm-fresh fare. What you get is a fancy restaurant making classic farmhouse-style dishes (like steak, chicken potpie, or roasted beets), usually with a twist.
In this case, the ‘twist’ was both the combination of seemingly disparate flavors and the fact that most of the dish names were unrecognizable on the menu (to me, at least). Fortunately, my waiter was more than helpful in deciphering them. I started with the “Crispy Squid with pickled cherry pepper emulsion.” I had deduced that ‘crispy squid’ meant calamari, but the latter four words were utter gibberish to me. It turns out that “pickled cherry pepper emulsion” simply means “spicy aioli-style dipping sauce.” Both the squid and the emulsion were delightful, but more exciting was the fact that I can now use “emulsion” to describe any pureed food substance.
In between courses I sampled some of Corsair’s house-made breads: onion focaccia and what I’m pretty sure was a white dinner roll, with some delicious mascarpone butter topped with sea salt.
For my main course, I ordered what my waiter had described as, “the best roast chicken you will ever have in your life,” and I must say that I can’t remember ever eating a better roast chicken. It was seasoned with all kinds of herbs and spices; served with polenta, fried parsnips, and fegato sauce (which is basically chicken liver puree); and sprinkled with hazelnuts.
The real highlight of the meal was dessert: a delicate apple tart with cinnamon anglaise and honey-rosemary vanilla ice cream (a tasty combination), as well as a Valrhona chocolate soufflé: rich, creamy, and made from the finest French chocolate. It was probably the best soufflé I’ve had to date.
“So, did you enjoy your meal?” asked our waiter.
“Yes,” we replied, as if to thank him, “why don’t you have a name tag?”
“Ah,” he said, “the head chef does not believe in name tags. He thinks that if you really wanted to know my name, you would ask.” So we did. And I must say, Leopold was a wonderful server.
I returned from Corsair both full and impressed. Fine dining is definitely a treat- especially when you’re not entirely sure of what’s going to be put in front of you.