Chef Nick Nairn is a busy man. But the restaurateur, now 64, shows no signs of slowing down.
‘I always thought I would be retired by now but I think I am spinning more plates than ever before’, he said.
In 2021 Nick had his annus horribilis. His cook school in Port of Menteith flooded after a frozen pipe burst, then his restaurant in Bridge of Allan was destroyed by a devastating fire caused by malfunctioning kitchen equipment.
But rather than sinking into a dark hole, Nick and his wife Julia have used the challenges as a springboard to new horizons.
‘The new restaurant is going to be a stunning destination to eat, with a cathedral style roof above the bar and plenty of natural light’, said dad-of-four Nick.
‘Before the fire the space had more of a café feel to it, but the new space will be more grown-up.’
The pared-back interior has been overseen by Edinburgh-based designer Pat Renson who has opted for a contemporary but relaxed look with some urban touches and the much-loved original log burners.
Nick will also be overseeing the pop-up fine dining restaurant at The GWCT Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace on 30 June to 2 July.
This is the second year Nick has fronted the 300-cover restaurant, creating a bespoke menu which showcases the best of Scottish produce and game.
Sitting on the banks of the river Tay, the restaurant will be serving breakfast and a two-course lunch to VIP ticket holders on all three days of the fair.
‘I only live an hour away from Scone Palace so I have been attending The GWCT Scottish Game Fair for decades,’ said Nick.
‘It is such a social occasion, I love catching up with friends from all over the country and having a go at the airgun shooting.’
Sponsored by Scottish family butchers J.W. Galloway, the restaurant will be serving dishes like roast haunch of roe deer cooked over coals by chef Cai Ap Bryn of Game & Flames.
‘Gone are the faceless caterers. Instead we have collaborated with Cai who is a big name in BBQ,’ Nick said.
‘The way he cooks everything outside on big metal racks certainly adds some theatre and will stop passers-by in their tracks.
‘The smell is incredible. Cai will oversee everything for me while I mingle with diners. Visitors are going to want to book a table on all three days.’
On top of all this, Nick is also penning his tenth cookbook which will be published in time for Christmas next year.
He said: ‘It will feature more than 100 of my favourite, easy-to-follow recipes in it, and will focus on the notes I have made over the past few years.
‘It will contain food you actually want to eat – nothing too fussy or fiddly.’
Nick’s last cookbook was published in 2009 so this new installment is a long-awaited welcome addition.
Recipes include venison scotch egg, fish tacos and seafood linguine.
In addition to this, Nick is squeezing in interviews with Scottish food writer Cate Devine who is ghost writing his memoir – another big demand on his time.
The book will chart his time in the merchant navy, opening his first restaurant in 1986, being the youngest ever chef to be awarded a Michelin star, his hugely successful TV shows and of course cooking for the late Queen.
So how does Nick cope with managing his busy workload?
‘One word – polytunnel. It is my sanctuary’, said Nick.
‘Growing fruit and vegetables from seed is incredibly rewarding and relaxing.
‘The polytunnel is my pride and joy.
‘Spending a few hours hiding in there focused on potting and propagating provides me with welcome respite from the demands of everyday life.’
August this year will mark the two-year anniversary of the fire that took 30 firefighters to extinguish at Nick’s Bridge of Allan restaurant.
It is fair to say that he has well and truly risen from the ashes.
For tickets to Nick’s restaurant at The GWCT Scottish Game Fair this summer, visit www.scottishfair.com