A West Coast culinary top 10
Date published: 30 September 2018
After a few days cruising at sea what’s nicer than an idyllic anchorage or a pretty harbour and a relaxing meal ashore sampling some of the best local seafood, meat and cheese the world has to offer, along with a glass of something chilled….
But where do you head for that’s easily accessible by boat, has a relatively safe anchorage or moorings and equally importantly has some nice fresh local Scottish produce to try? Here, some of the staff and customers from Loch Craignish-based marina and boatyard, Ardfern Yacht Centre, choose their top 10 culinary picks for eating out when you are afloat this season.
Working (or rather sailing and eating) our way from south to north, this gastronomic boating adventure begins in Gigha and ends in Stornoway, with many of our recommended establishments having claimed numerous food awards over the years:
1) The Boathouse Café Bar, Isle of Gigha | www.boathousegigha.co.uk
Perfectly positioned in front of a beautiful white sandy beach, the boathouse is a great place to enjoy a spot of lunch or an evening dining on some delicious local produce and in particular, the award-winning halibut which is farmed on the island. With that in mind opt for the likes of langoustine tails in garlic to start with, followed by pan seared Gigha halibut served with a mussel, cockle, shrimp and bean infusion, that can be followed up with a Boathouse meringue, cream and stewed berries pudding. Plenty of moorings are available for visiting yachts along with a new landing pontoon and pier, which leads directly to the Boathouse restaurant.
2) Starfish, Tarbert, Loch Fyne | www.starfishtarbert.com
Offering a lovely selection of seafood dishes including some fabulous seafood stews, along with signature dishes such as Dougald’s peat smoked haddock, which is smoked locally in the village before being baked and then served up with queen scallops and cream, Starfish is popular with locals and visitors alike. Try the Loch Fyne queen scallops with chilli, ginger and lime butter to start or the ‘haggis stack’, a hearty Scottish dish of haggis, black pudding and goats cheese with a red wine jus, before delving into a seafood stroganoff or the aromatic hot and sour seafood tom yam served with Thai prawn crackers. Visitor berthing is available in Tarbert Harbour and it’s a short stroll along the smart promenade to the restaurant in the village centre.
Owner Jonny Lamont does the fishing and serves the wine, while his Canadian wife Carla cooks, at this award winning restaurant on Mull. Serving up both seafood and game, Ninth Wave’s approach is based on seasonality, using the crofts own home-grown produce wherever possible, that also includes some very locally caught lobster and crab. The four course menu boasts such as Ulva oysters with herb sabayon, green apple caviar and Argyll smoked ham, followed by a warm crab soufflé, a third course of Fionnphort venison fillet with pickled beetroot and then a lemon custard cream to finish. Anchor in the southern approaches to Bull Hole, leaving a fairway for the ferry, as the main anchorage area is occupied by moorings. Then take the quarry walk to Fionnphort. Walk a further few minutes up the hill out of the village and a small road to the left leads to the restaurant.
4) The Pier House Hotel & Restaurant, Port Appin | www.pierhousehotel.co.uk
Hidden away on the shores of Loch Linnhe, the Pier House has long been associated with providing hungry sailors with a tasty selection of local seafood and meat dishes. There can be no better celebration of this West Coast local produce than the ‘grand platter’ (for two) which includes lobster from the hotel creel, chilled local langoustines, seared scallops, Loch Creran oysters and mussels and Inverawe smoked salmon. The Pierhouse mussels with garlic, white wine, cream and smoked salmon are also popular as are the 28-day matured Scottish beef steaks on offer and the sticky toffee puddings. The hotel has 6 moorings directly opposite the restaurant in Loch Linnhe available for yachtsmen dining in the hotel.
Another firm favourite within the boating fraternity, and the recipients of many food awards, the Whitehouse is a popular stop-off while transiting the Sound of Mull. Starters range from local scallops with cauliflower puree to pressed terrine of smoked hough and garden leeks. Meanwhile, for mains, try the 12-hour slow roast Lochaline pork belly with local chutney, or the pan seared Artornish stag liver and kidneys with capers and Tomatin malt jus. That can be followed up by a sumptuous ‘North of the Border tart’ with Tobermory malt whisky and highland bee honeycomb, deemed one of the best puddings in the UK by the recent Good Food Guide. Berthing or moorings are available at Lochaline Harbour and once ashore it’s a 10-minute walk along the footpath, past the quarry, into the village to the restaurant.
6) Café Fish, Tobermory, Isle of Mull | www.thecafefish.com
Bustling Café Fish not only offers diners an idyllic view of Tobermory Harbour, but provides an array of daily fish specials chalked up on their menu boards, the contents of which depends entirely on what local fishing boats have caught that day. With a company moto of ‘the only thing frozen are our fishermen’, you can expect to find fresh langoustines, scallops, crab, lobster, mussels and oysters to name but a few. The starter menu boasts temptations such as crab cakes made with fresh Croig crab and served with a sweet chilli mayo, moules mariniere, or a tapas trio of langoustine, oysters and a crab claw served with yuzo mayo. For mains try the seared Sound of Mull scallops with a Malaysian coconut and turmeric laksa sauce or of course the signature ‘seafood platter’. Pontoons and moorings are available in Tobermory Harbour and it’s a short walk round the bay to the café, situated on the upper floor of the Calmac Ferry building.
7 Café Canna, Isle of Canna | www.cafecanna.co.uk
Situated on the shoreline of Canna Harbour, a warm welcome awaits at Café Canna from Chris and the team. With an evening menu that features produce from the local area such as rabbit, haddock and salmon there is also lobster to choose from too. Starters include Mallaig hot roasted salmon with a horseradish cream, lime and Highland heather honey vinaigrette, while mains can see customers tucking into Skye ale battered haddock, a Canna rabbit stew with potato rostis or a bowl of Arisaig mussels. To finish there is a chocolate brownie with ice cream and Hebridean sea salted caramel sauce. There are 10 yellow mooring buoys available for visiting yachts in Canna Harbour and, once ashore, dinghy’s can be landed near the ferry slip. Café Canna can be contacted on VHF Channel 8.
8) Plockton Shores Restaurant, Plockton | www.plocktonshoresrestaurant.com
Adjacent to the village stores you’ll find a cosy restaurant serving up anything from a seafood platter to venison dishes. With a daily menu depending on the availability of local produce, starters include Isle of Ewe haddock cullen skink, Rannoch Moor smoked venison or Stornoway black pudding with baked apple, goats cheese and a red onion marmalade. To follow there is anything from Isle of Skye mussels to traditional whisky haggis, neeps and tatties or the lovely sounding roast rack of Celtic lamb with roast garlic, spinach and wild mushrooms in a red wine reduction. Plockton Harbour CIC provides and maintains 15 moorings for visiting yachts and access to two pontoons to allow crews to visit the beautiful village and its various eateries. The restaurant lies on the waterfront in the centre of the village.
Home to a whisky collection totalling over 130 single malts, the eighteenth-century, Stein Inn, is located on the Waternish Peninsula where ‘Skye’ is said to meet sky. With a dram in hand looking through the mouth-watering seasonal menu, diners get the choice of mussels mariniere, Skye scallops or three varieties of pan-fried garlic mushrooms as a starter, before reading on to discover Highland venison pie and Scottish salmon with a Vermouth and tarragon sauce as mains options along with a lovely cheese selection to finish. The hotel has one mooring available for diners in Loch Bay, with 2 public moorings owned by the local dive centre also available nearby for a visitor charge. Otherwise anchor in the loch opposite the Inn and once ashore dinghy’s can be left at the jetty.
Located in an old chandlers right in the heart of Stornoway, Digby Chick is home to local chef and proprietor, James Mackenzie, who uses the finest local produce for his seasonally changing menu. Apart from the abundance of fresh seafood on offer a separate steak menu includes a 14oz T-bone, which can be served up with a choice of sauces from bacon, red wine and mushroom to Dijon mustard and brandy. Open for lunch and dinner the comprehensive menus include the likes of deep fried brie in panko breadcrumbs with roast pear puree and a cranberry and chilli muffin to start, followed by fillet of Minch cod on rosemary roasted vegetables, sweetcorn beignets and a cambazola cheese dressed spinach and bacon salad for mains. Then if there is room for a pudding you can always head for the deliciously sounding apple and puff pastry tart with malted milk ice cream and stem ginger shortbread. Berth alongside on the Stornoway Port Authority visitor pontoons and the restaurant is within walking distance of the harbour.
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