Dean Banks traveled the world for years working in Michelin starred restaurants, private chefing, and learning how to be awesome (my words not his) before he landed his big break on MasterChef UK in 2018, where he made it to the finals. He didn’t win, but his talent was made apparent to the UK. He landed his own restaurant in the 5 Star Kinnettles Hotel in St Andrews, which opened in early April 2019.
Of course, being stupid Americans, we didn’t know any of this. So, when we happened to be staying at the Kinnettles Hotel on our trip to St. Andrews in May and stumbled upon Haar, we had no background on Banks, or the restaurant. St Andrews is a small town with not a lot of restaurants, and we were tired the first night, so we decided we’d try the hotel’s restaurant on a whim, more out of convenience than anything else. Most restaurants we go to or review we’ve done research on before, so we at least know a little bit of what we’re getting into. This one we were flying blind, so there were literally no expectations. Oh, we were also with our parents on this trip, whom we affectionately termed “The Olds” about halfway through our week together. “The Olds are telling weird jokes again,” “The Olds can’t walk anymore,” you get the idea.
You know the feeling you get when you’re surprised, happy, and just kind of in awe of your luck for wandering into a magical place you had no idea existed 3 minutes ago? That’s the way we felt during and after the meals we had at Haar. Every dish, whether it was a side, entree, or dessert, were perfectly executed and full of flavor. Each dish left you wanting more and more (and more and more). This place is going to blow up, and we’re just happy that we were able to walk in and experience Chef Banks’ magic before there is a two- month long waiting list to get a reservation.
There were two options when we dined at Haar. You could do a chef’s tasting for £65 or you could do à la carte Both times we did à la carte, which was a nice way to meander through the menu and share with the table, especially since we were with our parents. Literally everything we had was incredible, so I don’t think you could go wrong if you tried.
Oyster, jalapeño, & Cucumber
We knew we were at a special place when the oysters came out in dry ice. The jalapeño added a nice spicy kick to the briny oyster.
Spiced Octopus, Citrus Barley, Burnt Tomato
This was the best octopus dish I think I’ve ever had. The octopus was cooked perfectly and served over a spicy tomato sauce with a nice helping of barley. The flavor of the octopus mixed with the tomato and barley was just incredible. This is the dish I think about the most and want again so badly that I’m considering a quick weekend trip to St. Andrews.
Scottish Grass Fed Beef, Black Garlic
Every sauce on every dish was a 12 out of 10. This black garlic sauce paired with the beef so perfectly it begged the question: “why don’t we always eat steak with a black garlic sauce?” Just incredible.
Fife Rare Breed Pork belly, Kimchi Puree
Chef Banks doesn’t have any “throw away” menu items. There is so much thought put into every dish. We were talking to Chef Banks and asked how he got inspired by his dishes. He said that most are inspired by his travel and watching street food vendors cook. This dish must have been inspired by a trip to Asia, but what is amazing about Banks is he puts a Scottish spin on everything (hence the Fife pork).
Lamb Rump, Café de Paris
Lamb and duck are my two favorite and go-to meats. The best part about Scotland is there is lamb everywhere (shout out Dolly), and Banks’ take of turning the lamb into a classic French steak dish was top notch. Besides the octopus, this was a favorite for me. What made it extra special? The potato straws, which soaked up the Café de Paris sauce and became soft and delicious.
Wild Halibut, Tomato Beurre Blanc, Sea Kale
My dad, aka Bernard, loves fish, but he normally stays away from Halibut because, in his words, “Halibut has no flavor.” I was interested to get his opinion on Haar’s take on the Halibut, and even he admitted that this was the best halibut he’s ever had. The Halibut was cooked perfectly and the tomato/kale sauce paired with the fish was just delightful.
This was a giant rhubarb ball that we poured whiskey over, which caused the ball to melt and turn everything into a kind of dessert soup. Normally i’m against a whiskey shot in a dessert, because all you can taste is the whiskey. But the whiskey merely added a nice edge to the dessert and definitely enhanced the experience.
Banana seems to be a polarizing dessert. Olivia of Updog Kombucha throws up if she’s within 100 feet of a banana. I personally love them, and I loved this dessert, which mixed toffee, banana, chocolate, and whiskey together into a magical experience.
Haar has a its own amazing bar in the back, with a wide variety of Scottish gins and whiskeys. Alex, the main bartender, let us try a variety of the best Scottish libations. The Ackermans’ new favorite Scottish Whiskey (they don’t call it Scotch in Scotland, FYI - don’t embarrass yourself America) is Dalwhinnie, a brewery located about two hours north of St Andrews. It’s a mild whiskey that went down smooth. We also discovered Aelder, which is a wild elderberry elixir made right in Scotland. It’s meant to be mixed with other drinks, but we drank it straight up and enjoyed the s*@t out of it.
Haar is easy to pass by, and is unassuming since it sits on the first floor of a hotel. But it has a very nice, casual vibe that makes you feel comfortable and really highlights the exceptional food. No frills, no bullshit – just really freaking amazing food. St. Andrews is a golf town after all, so most people were wearing golf attire and that seemed to be the appropriate dress.
Haar is located on the main floor of the Kinnettles Hotel, which only has 9 rooms. We were staying here so we got to know everyone working there, including all of the staff of Haar. Everyone could not have been nicer, especially to our parents who don’t understand that Old People American humor doesn’t necessarily translate well into Scottish. God bless them. Chef Banks himself came out to talk to us and ask how everything was (all of the Olds immediately said we had a food blog and embarrassed us), and spent about ten minutes talking with us about his story.
It would be remiss to mention that Jason made a 60 foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of the Old Course and got a very large round of applause. He says this was one of the greatest moments of his life; The Olds would be a great TV show and would star George Clooney and Martin Sheen; Scotland’s food is underrated - don’t believe the myth that UK food is bad – it is if you go to a pub and eat there everyday, but if you seek out the good stuff, you’ll eat at restaurants that rival any other great food culture around the world.
Ranking: 5 out of 5 with 1 Michigan Pug
Haar deserves a Michelin Star. Every dish is incredible. It’s worth a trip to St Andrews just to visit Haar. Drink a whiskey at the bar and, of course, eat Chef Banks’ amazing food. If you’re planning a trip to Scotland in the near future, don’t miss out on Scotland’s newest star restaurant.