Restaurant review: Andrew Fairlie, Gleneagles
Prandial Pleasure - Narnia revisited A panoply of pastimes.

A visit to Andrew Fairlie's two-Michelin-starred restaurant in a discreet corner of The Gleneagles Hotel is a Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe experience for grown-ups. As I slipped through the doors, from the hotel's conference room - where a rambunctious piper was warming up for an evening do - "The Skye Boat Song" melded surreally for an instant with the restaurant's jazz. But when the doors closed, I was in an adult Narnia: a small world of dark teal walls, Cezannesque paintings and illuminated white- clothed tables.

With a restaurant this exclusive (it's booked up until next spring), you'd expect nose-in-the-air service, but Fairlie's young team appears to achieve effortlessly the virtually unachievable - a mix of knowledgeable enthusiasm, attentiveness and invisibility.

I had heard hallowed reports about Fairlie's French-inspired cuisine from Scottish relatives envious of my visit, so I knew I would try his signature smoked lobster entree. Fairlie apparently experimented with smoking the flesh but found it overpowering, so smokes only the shells over old whisky barrels before reassembling the lobster and roasting it in butter and lime. The result is spellbinding.

Mains were somehow both dainty and hearty, thanks to rugged local ingredients such as lamb from Fairlie's brother, which came artfully arranged with a miniature shepherd's pie. Not everything is local: Fairlie prefers French poultry. My Anjou squab came with foie-gras balls that burst cheekily in the mouth, leaving you unable to talk for a good five seconds. Dessert was a playful, modernist display of themes on my favourite subject - chocolate: each a delicate little assault course for spoon and tastebuds.

Leaving the restaurant to plunge back into piperdom required some adjustment. But, as in C.S. Lewis, knowing that Fairlie's secret world exists at all makes up for the fact that you may wait a while to return.

Andrew Fairlie, The Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Scotland, PH3 1NF. Tel: 0800 704705.