Advantages Excellent "aquatic" menu
Disadvantages Quite expensive for a bistro atmosphere
|Value for Money|
It’s very easy to go continually to the same restaurant. Once you find one that suits your taste and pocket, inertia has a lot to be said for it.However, once in a while, we do like to kicks over the traces and branch out.
Last Saturday evening was one such occasion.Loch Fyne Restaurants are a national chain of eateries specialising in fish and other seafood. Actually, “national chain” might be too grand a description, since there are currently 22 branches with a heavy South-Of-The-Wash bias, these being -
Bath, Beaconsfield, Brighton, Cairndow, Cambridge, Covent Garden, Crouch End, Egham, Elton, Fulham Road, Hadley Highstone, Henley-on-Thames, Knowle, Loughton, Nottingham, Norwich, Oxford, Reading, Sevenoaks, Twickenham, and Winchester. They are however expanding.With a parent company in Argyll, Scotland, dedicated to providing food from sustainable resources, it should be possible to eat your way through the menu with a clear conscience. I always have a slight suspicion that I’m helping eradicate the swordfish whenever I order a massive steak thereof at our local “Greek” in Ealing.
The particular branch we graced with our presence was in Twickenham, West London. Having seen a few more from the outside, I guess that they have a corporate similarity in décor (primrose and blue), although the buildings differ widely. This one is a converted pub, as Ciao member Spankygoodtime well remembers. I’ve personally passed it several times during my work in the Richmond area, making a mental note to visit when I’m not dressed like a cycle courier.The menu does cater very extensively for those that wish to sample the fruits of the oceans, and inland waterways. They even cater for those that want their dead flesh from grass-munching quadrupeds. For example, venison features both as a main course, and as a starter of smoked Rannoch venison slices on a rocket and Parmesan salad. (£4.95)
Strangely enough, this is exactly what I chose for a starter, as I felt that our finny friends could wait.My wife, Ruth, chose a half-portion of the house speciality, mussels as her starter. Starters are classed as light dishes, so you’d be quite justified in ordering a few, instead of a main course. The mussels are home grown by the company themselves, cultivated on ropes in Loch Fyne. As they arrived, we wondered whether the complete steamer was a sign that we had been mis-heard, and that a full portion had been ordered. For £4.95 it was exceptional, both in quantity and quality. Mussels can be ordered either in the familiar “marinière” style or steamed in chilli and coriander oil.
That basket of wholemeal bread they left with us came in handy, I can tell you – the pan was nearly dry by the time we decided to give in and wait for our main courses!Main courses almost HAD to be fish, after all, what’s the point of going there and saying “I’ll have the steak please”?
I’m no great fan of bony fish – sardines and pilchards (sorry, Schmutzie, I mentioned PILCHARDS) are about the limit of my osseous dexterity, and having had a bone wedged sideways in my throat, I’m in no hurry to repeat the ordeal. Big steaks from big fish are my thing, hence the swordfish.In the case of Loch Fyne and Co., I chose a seared tuna steak served on warm noodles with a soy and chilli dressing. At £12.95, it’s not the cheapest bit of fish I’ve eaten, but it was about 10” across and delicious. If I’m honest, the soy sauce was a trifle overpowering for my liking, although in other situations, with Peking Duck for example, I love it. It just seemed a tad overdone here, that’s all.
Ruth had pan-fried Kintyre scallops, which I’m TOLD were delicious. That’s the trouble with ordering something of which you only get half a dozen or so. You don’t feel like letting someone else have a taste!Side orders of vegetables are extras – yes, you can ever order mashed spuds for £1.50, although others, like salad with walnut dressing set you back £2.50.
There is a sensibly chosen wine list to suit most budgets ranging from the house white, a Macon Blanc at £9.95 right up to a classic Mersault Burgundy at £36.95 (spot the expense account end of the wine list!). Choice at the lower £12-14 end was quite generous even so.If I have one or two gripes about the place, it’s mainly the value for money that sticks in my craw (note the crabby references). I don’t normally expect to pay £60-odd pounds for a bistro stripped-pine atmosphere with the neighbouring table’s precocious little “darling” banging into my chair every few seconds. It’s not that people with children shouldn’t go out (OK, it is really), but a bit more floor pace wouldn’t have gone amiss, to keep us all at arm’s length. This does of course indicate that the place isn’t really “candle-lit dinner for two” material. They have tables for two but the place is a bit boisterous for a romantic assignation. Of course, it was Saturday night, and we were asked if we could be “out by 9”, which wasn’t a problem for us as we were “in by 7”
Anyway, the noisy parties all seemed to be enjoying themselves, as did we in our own way. Luckily for us that it wasn’t our Wedding Anniversary or some other mill-….errr mile-stone. I didn’t notice any children’s portions on the menu, so presumably a lot of the younger ones had starter portions for their main meal. It’s either that or the good people of Twickenham are a damned sight better heeled than I am, which is also probably true.Strangely enough, the one item we felt was a tad overpriced for what it was, was the Crème Caramel at £4 – this being the standard dessert price. Maybe the others, like Sticky Toffee Pudding were better value, but we both had the same, so we’ll never know!
If you want to break a “halibut*” of always going to the same “plaice”, flex your gastronomic “mussels” and go to a Loch Fyne. Just be prepared to pay 35 “squid” each for a full meal. On reflection, had we known how large the first course was, we’d have re-thought our strategy, possibly by ordering starters or light dishes as they call them.*Halibut was one of the dearest dishes on the menu at £16.95, although we’re not talking “wrapped in paper to take away” here. This one comes char-grilled with a basil pesto dressing.
On our way out, I spotted a colleague and her husband. This lead to the inevitable note comparing. They had both ordered the sea-bass and been disappointed to find that it was a whole small one, bones and all, which was not what our combined memories of the Canary Islands had lead us to expect. It just goes to show – if you’re not sure, ASK!FIN
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