Champany is really a suite of places, with a restaurant, chop and ale house, cellars and rooms spread across a little plot of land just outside Linlithgow. I remember it from when it lost its Michelin star, a couple of years back, but it hadn’t really been on our radar for a visit. That was until Jeffrey, the founder of global food review site, Chowzter, mentioned that he was staying there and was keen to invite the Chowzter Scottish reps over for dinner. As it turned out, I was the only one who could make it.Upon arrival, I was seated in the bar and was soon joined by Jeffrey. He made immediately for the wine list ordering up a bottle of Penfold’s Grange. This was decanted and brought to our table in the main restaurant.
The dining room is quite wonderful. A converted circular farm building, it is appointed in classic style. It is both warm and homely yet refined and even a little austere. This is aided by the staff members who whilst welcoming and attentive retained a sense of buttoned-down formality throughout. There were aspects of service that were five-star and beyond, yet there were many errors made throughout the evening, with dishes delivered to the wrong diner a couple of times. This was symptomatic of the place being full of contradictions and very hard to assess.The menu is centrally about the steaks. Owner Anne Davidson proudly brought out the cuts of meat for us to inspect. She told us about the sourcing, from a farm near Forres, and even gave us a little spin around the kitchen with its custom-built grills.
We were sold on the ribeyes, so ordered them. I decided to start with their home hotpot smoked cod, while Jeffrey ordered the black pudding.We started with a pair of oysters, which the owner assured us were nowhere near as good as the ones that had been in just yesterday. They were still plenty tasty enough.
Of the starters, Jeffrey’s was the clear winner. The black pudding stack was served in a rich oxtail reduction that had him in raptures. My smoked cod served with a simple hollandaise was rather nondescript by comparison.We then ran into a little issue. Jeffrey had thought the ribeye we’d both ordered would be the bone-in prime rib. His ribeye didn’t hit the mark, so he asked them to bring the prime rib, too. I tucked in to my ribeye with half an eye on leaving some room to help Jeffrey out, as the prime rib was for two to share.
There’s no doubt that the prime rib was a big upgrade on the ribeye, but neither dish really knocked it out of the park for me. It was a very good quality ingredient, well-prepared, but lacked wow factor.I was the lucky recipient of one of the better doggie bags I’ve had from a restaurant, as there was a lot of meat left over, despite our best efforts. It made for good eating the following day.
Summing this evening up is really rather hard. There are things about the Champany Inn that are magical. The wine list is one: the Grange was spectacular and we followed it with another Australian red in the shape of an excellent Amon-Ra. The setting has an amazingly other-wordly charm to it. There were aspects of the service that were a delight, but then there were schoolboy errors thrown in.Jeffrey was delighted with the black pudding dish, extolling it as one of the best dishes he’s been served in the UK, and it was definitely the best thing we were served. The prime rib was very good, too, but the ribeye was pretty ordinary and my starter likewise.
I’m delighted that a complete curiosity like the Champany Inn exists. It’s not just the stratospheric prices (£43 for the ribeye, for example) that make it feel other-wordly. It’s a truly transformational place and an amazing experience to dine there. However, the food didn’t quite match up, so while I’m glad to have visited, and there are aspects I would strongly recommend, it’s the dining experience, rather than the quality of the cooking, that will live long in the memory.
Today’s questers were: Jeffrey, Blythe
We ate: black pudding in oxtail jus, hot smoked cod, ribeyes, prime rib, chips, onion rings, mushrooms, green salad
We drank: Penfold’s Grange, Amon-Ra
We wore: casual wear
Total bill: that was Jeffrey’s concern, but comfortably north of £500