Lochleven Seafood Café, on the Shores of Loch Leven, near Glencoe
I was really looking forward to getting back up here for dinner. I’d been once before with Tam Cowan; friend, food critic, football pundit, restaurant reviewer, TV & radio presenter, journalist, and Bon Vivant, in fact the only thing he is not is a blood relation. It was the finale to a day of eating which would have made a Roman gorging orgy resemble a gentile amuse bouche tasting at a royal garden party. I loved it and have been desperate to return.
I was grinning ear to ear when my suggestion to head North was given the thumbs up. Debbie can’t join us for this one; she’s still hungover, jet lagged and coming down from her recent trip to Vegas where she was up on stage with Magic Mike and his pelvic thrusts. Step forward our volunteer, Julie Lin , a most talented chef who is imminently opening her new restaurant on Glasgow’s Southside. Watch out for the date, address and our review on here, I know it’s going to be a cracker, she has the gift. I’m going to ask Julie if I may join her in the kitchen at some point for an experimental session; Malaysia meets mince!!! Whatcha saying to that Julie?
It’s a miserable Scottish summer evening, pishing down, grey and a wee bit chilly. No surprise, it’s mid August what else should I expect? At least it keeps the midges indoors. As well as Julie the old faithful team are travelling with me, Clair and Sarah, my resident evil partners in grime.
As we have a journey of just over two hours ahead I thought it prudent to relax my companions with a wee bottle of chilled Pinot Grigio, to be savoured slowly as we powered through the flash floods. Nae chance; the bottle was empty as we turned a right at Tarbet, Loch Lomond. I should point out that I do not drink alcohol, in case some twat felt inclined to make a discreet call to the Polis, (thank you for the pronunciation Sarah), reporting me for driving on the lash. The wine did work a treat though, not a single “are we there yet?” from my passengers.
Just south of Tyndrum, an unnamed individual asked if we might make a ‘pit stop’. I pointed out that the Green Welly Shop was only a few minutes further on, “I’m a Glaswegian girl, I don’t need anything other than a bush.” Undeterred I motored on, not because I was preserving her dignity simply because we could replenish the wine; there was still about an hour to go. Quick toilet break and back on the road; glasses reloaded, the biggest bag of crisps I’ve seen and a toy banana each.
Even in torrential rain, the scenery approaching and driving through Glencoe is awesome, if you have never made this trip please do, I think it’s a bucket list essential. We decided not to knock on the door of Jimmy Savile’s former Highland home for fear of who whoever may be living there now. I worked on the movie, Complicity, some years ago; a couple of scenes were filmed in his house. I can vividly recall the eerie spectacle of our Knight of the Realm suddenly appearing, as if from nowhere, like a graveyard ghoul caught for a split second in the headlights of passing vehicles which cut the oblivion of the midnight blizzard. He was draped in a fur coat, his eyes red like the fires of hell. He looked like the Prince of Darkness. Now then, now then, now then!!
That was a long time ago.
We have arrived, like the Beaujolais Nouveau. Standing at the foot of a bonny wee mountain and across the road from the loch is this haven for shellfish lovers. They have a terrific shop, it was closed by the time we got there, although I’d hazard a guess it would be opened in a flash if you wanted to buy something. There’s a really handy service on offer; pick a lobster, or any shellfish, from their bountiful tanks to take away and it will be cooked and packed ready to go by the time you have finished your meal.
The trauma of ordering when eating with others drives me nuts; make your choice and go for it, stop fannying about I say. I was delighted that apart form three bowls of spaghetti vongole and one bowl of Cullen Skink to start the girls were happy to go with my suggestion of “let’s share lots of dishes.” Always best to have one person choose for the table as if eating as guests at a private dinner party, eliminates food envy.
The vongole were delicious, oily and garlicky. The spaghetti was just a little beyond al dente, we should have asked I guess, however the shellfish were so fresh and tasty it wasn’t such a big issue. The Cullen Skink was ranked as the best our little fruitarian had ever tasted. Incidentally, she has now declared she is 100% vegan apart from when accompanying us on reviews….Tell that one to Linda McCartney…
What followed was a gargantuan feast of the freshest shellfish from our crystal clear waters; meaty lobster mayonnaise with a delicious salad, sweet langoustines dripping in lemon & herb butter, plump mussels cooked in cider, hand dived fleshy scallops, firm white halibut with giant cous cous and asparagus, roast vegetables and new potatoes. OH SO GOOD, everything was ambrosial.
There are many other crustacea available as well as specials on the blackboard supported by a solid and inexpensive wine list, my little band of jakeys were on the Chablis.
Julie saying she liked, “sookin’ the heid aff a langoustine”, had me choking on my baby potato.
We couldn’t face a pudding….. Well, not until the menus were put back in our claws and the juices started flowing once more. Fresh fruit salad and ice cream, superb sticky toffee pudding, an unusual parfait on a dollop of fruit compote and a gluten free, (what’s that all about?), cherry cake which was surprisingly scrumptious. I swear Sarah is half hamster, she can store food in little pouches to the rear of her cheeks, certainly explains where all the crisps went on the jaunt up!!!
We all loved the food, the service and the location. I would be in here every other week if it was just up the road but, perhaps the inaccessibility is part of the allure.
The trek home was a lot less boisterous, poor Clair repeatedly chiming “you may as well drop me off at work now.” Big Z’s all round.
We will be back again, thank you.