Moet & Chandon has unveiled a pair of terraces at the Fairmont St Andrews hotel, complete with afternoon tea and picnics, as Peter Ranscombe discovers.
SCOTLAND has long dreamed of a café culture to rival our fellow European capitals.
Sitting outside on a terrace in the sun, sipping a cocktail or a beer or a sparkling wine.
It only took a global pandemic for us to start realising our outdoor ambitions.
With restrictions on the number of guests allowed indoors and the need for increased ventilation, outdoor seating has popped up around the country, including at Tigerlilly’s Belvedere Organic Infusions terrace on George Street in Edinburgh.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Champagne brand Moet & Chandon has teamed up with Fairmont St Andrews to sponsor two terraces at the luxury Fife hotel.
The sparkling wine – which is made by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), the French luxury goods giant that also owns Scotch whisky brands Ardbeg and Glenmorangie – is turning up in several guises at the hotel.
Moet’s pink bubbles are being poured alongside the hotel’s high tea on the atrium summer terrace.
The sparkling wine and its spirit stablemates have also been turned into a range of drinks for the cocktail terrace, next to the hotel’s entrance.
Staycationers can grab a backpack and head out on a Champagne picnic along the Fife coastal path too.
Moet is also the house Champagne in the hotel’s bars, creating plenty of opportunities for what the department for alliterative marketing has dubbed “Make it Moet” moments.
What is afternoon like at Fairmont St Andrews?
Alexander Haebe, culinary director at the hotel, was on hand during a press visit earlier this week to guide guests through the selection of treats on the three-tiered cake stand and accompanying finger sandwiches.
Local ingredients took pride of place, with strawberries from Blacketyside Farm and cheddar from the St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company.
One of the highlights for me was the peach compote to smother the homemade plain and fruit scones.
Haebe, a trained pastry chef, and his team had clearly pulled out all the stops when it came to the cakes on the top tier of the stand too.
Being poured from magnums – or double-sized bottles – the Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial was showing at its very best, with fresh raspberry, strawberry, and deeper red plum on the nose.
There was enough red fruit on the palate to balance its high acidity, aided by a lick of strawberry jam on the finish, and a small amount of residual sugar.
Tipping the scales at £48 a head including a glass of Champagne, the afternoon tea offers good value.
By way of comparison, afternoon tea with a glass of fizz at The Balmoral costs £60 – although that’s with the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, which is a notch or two above the pink Moet – while The Gleneagles Hotel charges £67 with a class of Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin and an extra pound to go pink.
What are the cocktails like at Fairmont St Andrews?
Switching from the atrium summer terrace to the cocktail terrace, Moet Hennessy’s other brands were also on show.
The line-up included the new Eminente Reserva 7 Year Old Rum (£43.95, Master of Malt), a very recent addition to LVMH’s line-up.
Served neat, the rum offered honey, caramel, vanilla, brown sugar, and a surprising amount of lemon on its warm nose.
The brown, Demerara and spun sugars on the palate were joined by more caramel and milk chocolate notes.
Its three-year-old sibling featured in the terrace’s Havana Flower cocktail, along with Amaro, an Italian herbal liqueur akin to Campari or other bitters, hibiscus syrup, and citric acid.
Other combinations include the Citric Infusion, which features Belvedere vodka, Moet rosé, grapefruit syrup, a homemade infusion of grapefruit and rosemary in vodka, Aperol, and Cointreau.
Cocktails on the terrace’s menu are priced at £12 each, while Champagne cocktails cost £14 each.
A 125ml flute of Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial costs £19 on the terrace, while its brut sibling is £17 a glass.
Which food goes with Champagne?
Exploring the Fairmont was a good opportunity to revisit some of the still wines in Moet Hennessy’s portfolio too.
Over a six-course tasting menu in La Cucina – the hotel’s main restaurant, which is currently being hosted in its larger Squire atrium – the Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial (£17 for a 125ml glass, £75 for a bottle, £150 for a magnum) put in an appearance to accompany a beef tartar, with radish mayo, shallots, and a giant caper.
A lot more of the Champagne’s “autolytic” characteristics – the bread-like aromas and flavours from its time ageing in bottle – were on show in the brut when compared to its pink stablemate.
Lemon, lemon rind, brown sugar, and brown bread on the nose led into green apple on the palate and a deliciously-intense toasty note.
The 2020 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (£16 for a 175ml glass, £65 for a bottle) was a classic match when served alongside a starter of seared scallops and black pudding.
Textbook guava, passionfruit, lemon, and grapefruit aromas, with high acidity and then initial layers of citrus on the palate and more tropical notes on the finish.
The 2018 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec (£14 for a 175ml glass, £60 for a bottle) sadly felt too heavy on the new oak, with vanilla flavours dominating on the palate.
It managed to replicate a wee bit of the freshness of the 2017, especially on the blackcurrant side of the fence, but the sweet vanilla sadly didn’t sit right for me with the impressive Highland pork fillet and belly.
What’s the view like from the Fairmont St Andrews?
Although I’m not a golfer – and hailing from Nairn, studying in St Andrews, and living in Musselburgh sadly hasn’t remedied that – even I was impressed with the view from the two courses at the Fairmont.
My morning run took in vistas along the coast, including back towards the town of St Andrews itself.
Although I’d visited the hotel during its previous incarnation as the St Andrews Bay, I hadn’t truly appreciated just how cracking its position is.
The giant desk in the room was a boon for work in between Champagne sampling, while the walk-in shower and separate bath were both top notch.
Irn-Bru, Highland Spring sparkling water, and a Highland single malt whisky bottled for the hotel featured in my room’s mini-bar fridge, but I was disappointed not to see a Scottish gin, nor a bottle or two of local beers, especially when Fife is spoiled for choice, including Futtle and the St Andrews Brewing Company.
Promoting Scottish ingredients on the menus for the afternoon tea is a great first step, but perhaps bigging-up local brews should be the next move.
Read more of Peter’s wine, beer, and spirits reviews on his blog, The Grape & The Grain