THE FOLLOWING WEEK we have a slightly delayed birthday celebration for my dad's 85th.
My dad is the most easy-going man I know and professes himself quite happy with either
no celebration at all or the prospect of just going down the hill in the village to the Ferry-
bridge for a meal there. This is not to be sniffed at because they do very good food there
these days and the wine list has got really interesting over the last year or so; they've got
Chateau Musar on there for one thing, a wine I find it hard to see past (or, following a
third bottle, after).
However, a fine and rich tradition has evolved in this family of remorselessly exploit-
ing the birthdays of our elder-folk as excuses for slap-up nosh-fests, and Dad is rapidly
persuaded that what he really wants is for Ann and me to take him and Mum to the Cham-
panay Inn across the river in Linlithgow, for enormous steaks and, oh, maybe a bottle or
two of something nice from a sunny continent of an antipodean persuasion.
We used to celebrate Mum and Dad's birthdays at the deeply wonderful Peat Inn, not
too far away from us, near St Andrew's, but my mum's a bit frail these days and doesn't
like to stay away overnight anymore, so - being a lot closer - it looks like the Champanay
has kind of inherited the dubious honour of hosting parental hoo-has. The fact they have
Grange on the wine list certainly doesn't count against the place either.
Like the Peat Inn, the Champanay is a restaurant with rooms. The relatively recent
accommodation section is built on top of the wine cellar, which I got to visit once and is
what my idea of Heaven would look like if it didn't have windows. And if I wasn't an
The Champanay's main dining room is housed in an impressively appointed octagon-
al mill house. Like the less formal Chop and Ale house next door, it majors on steaks that
are hung for three weeks in an ionised chill room. In the main bit there's a proper restaur-
ant pool with darkly lurking lobsters of various sizes, their claws peace-bonded by rubber
bands. Altogether not a place for vegetarians of a delicate disposition.
We eat wonderfully (apart from me; I habitually use my fork upside down for peas,
but there you are) and drink accordingly. We have Cullen Skink - spelled correctly -
cream of parsley soup, scallops and cold smoked salmon to start, washed down with some
Chassagne Montrachet, then rib-eye steaks, fried cod and more scallops for main courses,
with a bottle of '91 Grange and a delicious '90 Nederburg Eminence to finish.
Now then. Grange.