Wednesday 15 April 2009
We had to take the new car somewhere for a wee hurl so it was only a matter of choosing the appropriate eatery. You have to understand that any expedition J and I undertake tends to involve food, whether a restaurant, a deli, or a farm shop. We’ve eaten in all sorts of establishments from roadside cafes to Michelin starred restaurants, always looking for something new and interesting to eat. Compared to us the Fatdog is a mere beginner.
I had always fancied trying the Loch Leven Seafood Cafe (a few miles east of the Ballachulish Bridge on the Kinlochleven road) and with a half decent forecast in the west it looked like a good opportunity to give it a go. It would also give us a good idea of how the Santa Fe would run on a reasonable length of journey.
The Fatdog was tossed into the expansive back area of the 4×4 and we set off northwards, plodding our way through numerous sets of roadworks (and that was just in the first 10 miles to the far side of Stirling), before zooming into the open countryside…to be stuck behind every 35mph driver that the Almighty could punish us with. I was watching the clock run down and the prospect of a shellfish lunch disappear fast.
We had covered the boot of the Santa Fe with cardboard and then put the Fatdog’s towels on the top. Hopefully this would keep the beige coloured boot relatively clean. Unfortunately the cardboard/towel combination proved to be just a wee bit too slippy for FD. As I drove the tight right hand curve of a roundabout I glanced in the mirror to see a pokerfaced Labrador glide effortlessly, nose in the air, from one side of the car to the other. The Fatdog was not amused.
The Loch Leven Seafood Cafe
We arrived at the little cafe restaurant about 1.30pm. Great…it had a little outside terrace with views across the loch…and the sun was shining! It also meant the Fatdog could join us for lunch instead of being cooped up in the car. I should mention that this is not only an eating establishment but has a small deli and big tanks…big tanks of live (soon to be dead) critters. Langoustines, lobsters, crabs, clams, scallops and mussels are all for sale. They’ll even cook them while you nip round to the cafe for a beer!
The guy at the next table was spending a few bob on such a celebratory lunch for tomorrow and while the shellfish were having a hot water bath he was stretched out in the sunshine having the odd beer. He was a garrulous character and very soon we had his life history. I don’t know what it is about eating outside but there always seems to be more inter-table chat than would happen if you were sat indoors. With 3 outside tables now occupied the conversation flowed with everyone taking a keen interest in everyone else’s plate.
We had opted for scallops in a garlic, fresh herb and almond topping and langoustine (served in a lemon butter sauce). J and I tend to order separate dishes and then share…neither of us likes anything getting past us! The scallops were simply superb. Big juicy and cooked to perfection. The topping was almost a crust with the addition of the almonds but didn’t overpower the taste of the shellfish. The langoustines were also beautifully cooked with the lemon butter sauce good for the mandatory bread dunking. A couple of glasses of South African white, a bowl of Spanish olives, some focaccia like bread and the ensemble was complete. The Fatdog looked particularly enthusiastic.
We finished off with a baked apple with strudle topping and some Spanish cheeses.
Then it was time to sit in the sun and chill, albeit briefly. Unfortunately the Fatdog had yet to be walked so we had to cut short our siesta and make a quick stop at the shellfish shop before heading off.
We strolled into the tank shed for a wee look round. Even before we entered the building we could hear the sound of gurgling salt water rushing through the large 1m deep steel tanks. A miscellany of shellfish inhabited the various containers. The Armoured Division had their claws and pincers taped to prevent random acts of hostility and an unpalatable tendency towards crustacean cannibalism. The gentler clams settled on the bottom of their tank blissfully unaware of my spaghetti recipe. Someone was in for a rude awakening!
Having viewed the live merchandise we headed for the shop to order something more…ahem…dead. Packed into a polystyrene case with a frozen milk bottle of water as refrigeration (they think of everything) we carted off clams (for a spaghetti dish with garlic and white wine), scallops and a bag of mussels for the Cupcake Queen.
To round off the afternoon we took the Fatdog for a pleasant stroll around the little lochan behind Glencoe village. Waymarked trails lead around the lochan’s surrounding woodland at the foot of Sgorr na Ciche.
What has all this to do with an unexpected journey you may be asking yourself? Well, as we were chatting to the woman I took to be the owner of the Seafood Cafe, she just happened to mention that the west coast weather was to be glorious for the next few days. Our ears pricked up. We were on holiday. Could we manage a couple of days away. By 9pm I had managed to book rooms for the next two nights…we were on the road again.
(to be continued…An Unexpected Journey (Part 2) – Moby the Haddock)