A performance of eating
It begins with the setting; a painted abstract of yellow and orange provides a backdrop to the white room, exposed dark wooden beams cross the ceiling, bright autumnal flowers sit on crisp white linen tables with custom cutlery and sleek glassware. Our corner table provides box-like seating of the spectacle about to unfold. A black granite block sits expectantly on the table, a prop in the waiting.
Our food arrives, the performance begins…
Having been home for 6 months now, I thought it was time to pay a trip to the home I left behind, Scotland. And what better way could there be to remember than through food?
My visit to Scotland was a meld of all the things that I love about traveling- discovering new tastes and sights, the sense of becoming an explorer- coupled with a comforting sense of nostalgia. And so in returning to Scotland it was not quite a sense of homecoming but certainly one of comfort and ease, made all the more pleasurable by the fantastic local seafood.
After driving from Glasgow to Loch Lomond, we decided to follow our stomachs-our standard traveling procedure-and take a 60-minute detour to Loch Fyne to sample the local seafood. Despite being the beginning of autumn, in a country well known for cold and rain, the weather couldn’t have been better, clear sky and bright sunshine followed us as we drove towards the west coast. These ideal holiday conditions provided the perfect atmosphere in which to have my first taste of raw oysters.
Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, like all good seafood restaurants is reassuring close to its food supply, with the seafood coming directly from the loch itself or nearby regions. The langoustines and oyster both come directly from the Loch.
Oysters then are a must, we have them two ways; with a simple shallot vinegar and cooked with garlic breadcrumbs. We also can’t pass on the West Coast langoustines served with a light tomato mayonnaise and brach orach- a traditional strongly smoked salmon.
Soon the table is covered with a seafood lover’s dream and no hint of the lingering fishy smell that accompanies a less than fresh catch. We begin with the raw oysters, my first and definitely not last experience of these delightful beauties.
The oysters are plump and full, my teeth meeting no resistance as I bite into velvety smoothness. Almost as if it was never there, the oyster dissolves upon my tongue, filling the mouth with a sweet ocean fragrance. The garnish of bright purple shallot vinegar is surprisingly bland for its colour and lacking that sweet vinegary bite that one expects. The garnish however is irrelevant, for what shines through is the pure quality and freshness of the oysters.
As expected the bread-crumbed oysters ooze delicious garlicky butter. Unfortunately the overly thick coating of breadcrumbs overwhelms the oyster, and the delicate sea taste, so clear in its raw form is overshadowed.
The salmon is unfortunately no match for its predecessor, and for an admirer of strongly smoked foods has a lighter smoking than expected. The Bradan Rost, kiln roasted salmon, purchased from the shop, despite being overcooked is far more delicious, and doesn’t last the trip home.
The langoustines are an exercise in brutality and sweetness. Armed with claw crackers I dive in, breaking off heads and cracking claws. Shells fly, bits of langoustine landing in my hair and on the table as I eagerly peel back the sharp edged (finger tip slicing) shells to get to the white flesh within. The flesh is surprisingly fragrant, yielding a clean, sweet taste far beyond any ‘prawn’ (the local name for langoustines) I have ever tasted. Rather than overpowering this delicate taste, the subtle tomato mayonnaise enhances their inherent sweetness. These delightful flavours send me back to the shell bowl again and again, combing for any remaining morsel that may have been overlooked or still waits to be unlocked from the tiny claws.
Reminiscing about this meal makes me wonder what other delights still wait to be uncovered in Scotland and when I will next be able to venture home.