Scotland

The Seafood Café

 

02/09/18

Findhorn, Moray

We’re up in the North of Scotland for the weekend, staying in a lovely B & B in Elgin. We’ve spent this unexpectedly sunny Sunday in Lossiemouth, walking a few miles of the Moray Coastal Trail, and cooling off by splashing about in the sea. It’s been delightful – all sun-blushed and salt-swept – so there’s really only one thing that will do for dinner.

Fish, of course.

So we head off to the pretty fishing village of Findhorn, and make our way to The Seafood Café, which has been recommended to us by the B & B’s proprietor. Located within the Royal Findhorn Yacht Club, this is an unprepossessing room, all pine furniture and pale walls, although the latter are hung with some pretty impressive photographs of local landscapes and wildlife. The place is empty (‘Sundays are quiet,’ we’re told) and it closes early so last orders are at 6pm, a little earlier than we’d choose. It’s unlicensed too, which isn’t a problem because we’re driving – but we note that there’s a BYOB policy, so it is quite possible to dine and wine if you want to. But we’re here for the fish, not the booze, and we’ve been told to expect the best.

We order a sharing platter to start – and it’s immediately impressive. There’s prawn cocktail here, as well as larger undressed prawns, a couple of generously-sized langoustines, smoked mackerel, oysters, smoked salmon with crispy seaweed and two salt-crusted scallops. It’s all delicious, but the scallops and salmon are the real standouts, the crispy seaweed elevating the latter and providing a nice contrasting texture.

Philip orders the ‘Posh Fish Fae Peterheed‘ for his main, which comprises a poached lemon sole stuffed with scallop mousse, another of those grilled langoustines, a pea purée and some sweet potato fries. As it should be, the stuffed sole is the star of the show, so light and delicate in flavour, it virtually melts on the tongue. The pea purée works well with it, and the fries are decent too: home cooked and crispy.

I have the daily special, which is hake, served with crushed potatoes and samphire. The potatoes are cooked with turmeric and tomatoes and are absolutely heavenly, while the hake is grilled to perfection – all soft, buttery flesh and hot crispy skin.

We may have eaten a lot, but we love our puds, and today’s specials sound so homely and tantalising that we really can’t resist, so we order a sticky toffee pudding and an apple crumble between us. They’re good – not as fancily presented as the main courses, it’s true, but who cares? The STP is sweet and moreish, generously topped with caramel sauce and accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a shard of honeycomb. The crumble is spicy with cinnamon, the apple slices still quite firm and tumbled in the crumble mixture rather than covered by a layer of  it. It’s an interesting twist on a traditional dish, and I like it a lot. Yum, yum!

It’s only 7.30 when we leave and the sun’s still blazing, so we take another walk along that picturesque shoreline, admiring the view and feeling most contented to be here.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield

 

 

Advertisements

Mary’s Milk Bar

28/06/18

The Grassmarket, Edinburgh

When the temperature soars, a person’s fancy turns inevitably to thoughts of ice cream. Visitors to Edinburgh’s popular tourist magnet The Grassmarket cannot fail to have noticed the habitual queues arranged haphazardly in front of a tiny, unprepossessing cafe called Mary’s Milk Bar. The place is a bit of a legend around the city and, unusually in such cases, there really is a Mary, who hails from Yorkshire, and who trained in Bologna at the prestigious Carpigiani Gelato University. She takes her inspiration from the milk bars of the 1940s and makes all the ice creams fresh every morning, then serves them until they’re gone, which – given the current heatwave – doesn’t take very long.

The place offers a few other things, of course: coffee, milk shakes, chocolates – but, frankly,  it’s the ice cream that’s king here, ranged in a handsome display case and featuring a myriad brilliant colours and some pretty unusual flavours. Peanut butter and toffee, anyone? Liquorice and passionfruit?  Green tea? Or will you just go for plain old milk flavour? There’s something here for everyone.

But, you may say, those are pretty long queues. Is it really worth the wait? Well, I have to tell you that my first mouthful of their famous salted caramel confirms that this is a reputation founded not on fresh air, but on flavour. Indeed, this just might be the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted and it’s certainly amongst the finest to be found in Edinburgh, which really isn’t short of decent ice cream parlours. It’s good value too: a generous helping, served up in a crunchy sugar cone that – important this – offers ice-cream right down to the very last bite, costs only £2.50 (£3.50 for a double scoop).

As you lick happily away, you can’t help wondering how Mary’s business does during the colder months but, like Groucho Marx, I hate hot ice cream and, anyway, while the weather’s so clement, it’s imperative to get down to the Grassmarket, tag on the end of that queue, and wait patiently for your turn to choose your favourite flavour.

Trust me. You won’t be disappointed.

5 stars

Philip Caveney