The Crusoe Hotel, Lower Largo, review

We go on the trail of Alexander Selkirk at this recently refurbished inn

Saturday, 15th January 2022, 12:00 am

What you’d take with you to a desert island is such a cliche-d question.

I’d go for a volleyball, so I could put a hand print on it, and have an instant friend, like Wilson in Castaway with Tom Hanks. Or, something fancy to eat - like smoked almonds, truffles or a hamper of cheese. Then I could go out with a decadent bang, since Bear Grylls-ing it isn’t really my thing.

My husband is a better person to ask. He’s a very distant relative of Alexander Selkirk, who was born in Lower Largo and, in the early 18th-century, was shipwrecked for four years and four months on a Pacific island, Mas a Tierra. This sailor’s story of derring do inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe.

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Tart tatin

Anyway, my other half says his desert island essentials would be a case of wine, a satellite phone or a fishing rod. I think he’d probably survive longer than me, since it’s in his genes. I’d be bitten by something poisonous or have fallen down a ravine after a day.

The only exploration I’m willing to take part in should involve Fife’s picturesque fishing villages and civilized places to eat, like The Crusoe Hotel, on the Lower Largo quayside. They say the footprint in the bar here is Alexander Selkirk’s, which would make sense, since you must have very dirty feet after being marooned for so long. Another trait that runs in the family.

The building was recently taken over and renovated by restaurateurs Graham and Rachel Bucknall, who have quite an empire, with The Bridge Inn in Ratho, as well as The Ship Inn and The Golf Tavern, both in Elie.

Apparently, locals in this village were worried they might bring Edinburgh and Elie prices to Lower Largo. I’d say the Crusoe Hotel undercuts what you might pay in those places, but only by a smidgen.

Venison

Still, both of our starters were worth every penny. The Orkney king scallops (£10) featured three palm-sized nuggets, with that burnished edge like a tea mug stain, along with a rustic celeriac puree, and neat cubes of black pudding and chorizo. Very good, but the bubble and squeak (£9) was a higher tog of comfort food dish. It consisted of a potato, ham hough and cabbage island, surrounded by a creamy leek veloute, and had a perfect poached egg on top. It was wonderful to eat this, while watching the tide licking up into the car park and dusting dog walkers with spume.

Things sagged a little, like a hammock, in the middle of our meal.

It was the Anster cheese that had sold me, when it came to the Roscoff onion tart tatin (£14). Sadly, there were only about half a dozen small chunks of this, sprinkled on top like a garnish, and it had been swamped by the other ingredients, with a huge handful of rocket, and layers of acidic and balsamic-y onion on the puff pastry disc.

The Balmoral Estate loin of venison (£23) felt a bit more complete and put wind in our sails, with three pink springy wads of meat, roasted squash, a fat king oyster mushroom, and a super savoury game sausage, plus a jug of meaty jus. It did feel that an element was missing - something that might have lifted the earthy-ness - and we wished we’d ordered a side, like the crushed rosemary garlic potatoes (£4).

Crusoe Hotel

There’s a neat selection of four puddings, or IJ Mellis cheese. Although there didn’t seem to be any obvious pear or pistachio in the frangipane (£7), this slice of tart was fantastically syrupy, palate moulding-ly gooey and almondy, and came with a scoop of plain ice-cream and chevron stripes of blackberry sauce.

They also do a date-y and rich sticky toffee pudding (£7), which comes with a jug of pale yellow and buttery sea salted caramel sauce. I was pouring it into my spoon, and taking it straight, like medicine.

The closest that Robinson Crusoe got to anything like this was cultivating raisins on the island. He also survived on goat meat.

“How do you fancy that?” I asked my husband.

King scallops

“I’d just have to make sure I had my tagine and Moroccan spices with me”.

See, he’s a real survivor.

2 Main Street

Lower Largo

Leven

01333 406775, www.thecrusoe.com

The Verdict

How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £70

Food 7.5/10

Ambience 8/10

15.5/20

Places to try Nearby

Kinneuchar Inn, 9-11 Main Street, Kilconquhar (01333 340 377, www.kinneucharinn.com)

It’s only a ten minute drive from Lower Largo to Kilconquhar, or an hour and 25 minute walk via the Fife Coastal Path. It’s one of our favourite Scottish restaurants of the last couple of years, with a menu that changes daily and features ingredients sourced from the Balcaskie Estate.

The Peat Inn, near St Andrews, Fife (01334 840206, www.thepeatinn.co.uk)

Another restaurant with rooms, this place remains the place to go if you want to be spoiled rotten. Their menu might include dishes including lemon sole fillets cooked in paprika butter with scallop mousse, young carrots, scallions, sea herbs and Champagne veloute.

Giddy Gannet, 10 Station Road, St Monans (01333 730959)

The brothers whose parents used to own The Ship Inn recently opened this St Monans Cafe. They’re serving up coffee, sandwiches, with fillings including hot smoked salmon, cream cheese, caper and dill, as well as pastries, cake and soup.

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