Fingal and The Royal Yacht Britannia's executive head chef, Mark Alston, on his foodie heaven and hell in our Q&A
Fingal is a former Northern Lighthouse Board tender ship, which is now Scotland’s only luxury floating hotel
What’s your favourite ingredient and why?
The shellfish found around our coastline is world class. We like to showcase its natural flavour and versatility on our menus in The Lighthouse Restaurant that’s onboard Fingal, including in dishes such as our West Coast langoustine with mango salad, tarragon crumb, and shellfish bisque. The dish that’s become our signature is our salmon, which we smoke in-house.
Do you have a guilty food pleasure?
I have a sweet tooth, so it has to be a rich and indulgent chocolate cake.
Tell us about your first food memory?
My earliest food memory is eating Nardini’s ice-cream with my father on the beach in Largs, North Ayrshire, as part of a day trip we had together. Unusually, one of my other first food memories is eating celery as a child. I loved it but at the time my friends and family of the same age asked to try it too and hated it.
What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?
Without a doubt, it has to be the incredible Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. It’s the only restaurant in Scotland to hold two Michelin stars, combining the very best in French and Scottish cooking. Andrew Fairlie’s legacy is a huge inspiration to me and my cooking. I’d describe the style of food on Fingal as classic with modern influences reflecting the glamour of a superyacht with an old-world elegance.
Starter or pudding?
I find it quite hard to choose, so I’d probably have both.
What would be your last supper?
For my last supper, I’d have to choose a great and well-aged cote de boeuf, served with a portion of hand cut chips. This single, large rib of beef is very juicy and full of ﬂavour. It’s an expensive cut, so it’s a real treat and if cooked well, you can’t beat it.
Do you have any food hates?
I’m not a fan of overly ripe cheeses.
What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?
My starter would have to celebrate the best Scottish seafood, so I’d either choose langoustines from the west coast of Scotland or I’d go for scallops from Orkney. The main course would be the same as my last supper and to finish off I’d go for my favourite chocolate cake or perhaps an apple tarte tatin. I love to share dining experiences with those close who I’m closest to, so I’d invite all my family and close friends. If I had to choose a special guest, it would be one of the restaurant industry’s great ambassadors, such as Michel Roux Jr., Marco Pierre White, Marcus Wareing or Éric Fréchon.
What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?
I find it hard to choose between these two cities, but it would be either Paris or London. The best meal I’ve ever eaten was at the Epicure Restaurant at Le Bristol in Paris. It was exceptional.