Arriving back in Dundee and requiring food with bare cupboards gave us one primary idea: to head back to a place we loved. Bear & I had discovered this particular eatery on a whim when wanting something nice for lunch. It became a keen favourite for a number of reasons. I decided that I would write all those reasons down and recommend them to anyone nearby in the future – The Bell Tree is well worth a visit.
1. The Atmosphere
Sometimes you can walk into a pub and feel like the stranger in the village, as if you are allowed to pay them for a drink but only if you’re willing to down it and head straight out the door again. Then in contrast, there are the pubs which have tried to become “higher” than the average bar and ends up with no locals, no families, and very little food for the money you pay. The Bell Tree has succeeded in gaining a staff and atmosphere whish makes you feel comfortable almost straight away. With choices of basic tables, soft sinking-into-them sofas, or great big enveloping armchairs, you decide. There are a couple of fireplaces, and the wood and beams convince you that this pub has been there forever, and will never go away. Sitting in last night I was pleasantly convinced of all of this by the comfort of two different kinds of people coexisting happily. On the one side, families having a nice evening meal with their young children and grandparents; on the other, a group of local men having a joke and a drink. Then us, a couple happily people-watching as we ordered and waited for our meal. It wasn’t just “nice”, it was good.
2. The Service
Although we are not quite locals, last night after a gap of a month (and probably a bit more due to packing et al), we recognised the staff, they recognised us, we were smiled at even if they weren’t serving us and generally treated well throughout our visit. When we arrived there were very few tables so we were given a tab number for any drink at the bar we might like. Within a few minutes another member of staff tapped us on the shoulder offered us a sofa/comfy chair set around a low table and asked if we’d like that. He would also order and bring drinks to us. Just the friendliness was infectious, and we sunk into those seats like we were home.
3. The Food!
There are some places where you know what is good, but you also know what is not so good. They can really disappoint when you order your favourite but when it comes it is different, worse somehow, and it just puts you off the whole experience. I can with certainty say that The Bell Tree has never disappointed. When we have brought friends here, they have often been sceptical of our praises, and then they have taken their first bite. The sharing platters are a legend, the fish dishes a particular favourite with my father and father-in-law, and the desserts have often felt necessary despite the growing fullness in our bellies. We reminded ourselves of this last night with:
Chicken Satay Skewers
Cod & chips with garden peas (or mushy depending on preference)
Organic Shetland Salmon wrapped in pancetta with cheddar mash and green beans
The starters were beautiful with all the balance and lightness of flavour you would want to get your tastebuds going. The chicken was tender and juicy and the satay sauce which accompanied it could have been drank it was so good. The sauce actually ended up being kept on the table to put with salad, chips, and anything else we might drizzle it on to elongate the experience.
Realising that we had not had much seafood recently, our mains were ordered and filled us up happily with perfectly cooked fish. The cod was coated with crunchy crispy golden batter, and the salmon fell apart as the fork pressed in with the pancetta giving a rich, meaty kick to the delicate soft salmon. We continued slowly in our meal enjoying every mouthful.
We would have had desserts had we had room. Their selection was indeed tempting. From experience the apricot-glazed bread and butter pudding is beautiful, and Bear has a soft spot for the Cookie cup.
All in all, we felt at home, surrounded by friendly people, in a beautifully put together setting. The Bell Tree, Broughty Ferry is one of a chain called Chef & Brewer, which may have made me cautious. Ultimately though I can’t judge whether their standard in the The Bell Tree is the norm or not. On the other hand, if it’s not, the CEOs should possibly go along and watch in awe in order to learn how to make a truly great pub.
P.S. My parents-in-law would likely not forgive me if I didn’t mention the amazing selection of Real Ales that The Bell Tree holds. That’s what pulled their heart-strings and will likely bring them back in the next week or so.