LOCH Fyne has established itself as Britain’s best known chain of seafood restaurants over the past 18 years, primarily, and cleverly, by not appearing to be a chain.
But while the 40 odd outlets the length and breadth of the country may have their own particular look, they share one particular quality on which the Loch Fyne reputation has been established – attention to detail.
Both are obvious at the characterful Kenilworth restaurant housed in a long-time hostelry dating back to the 1500s in the heart of the old town. A welcoming bar area greets diners on entering, leading through to a modern, stylish, and relaxed restaurant with open kitchen, and chiller displaying catch of the day, and the famous Loch Fyne oysters.
That attention to detail was obvious before we had even had a morsel. Our waiter Patrice was a Frenchman with every bit as much character as the building. Being French he also had a genuine love and understanding of food, and also a true passion for the Loch Fyne menu, a passion he was only too willing to share.
First up those famous for good reason oysters from the sea loch on the west coast of Argyll and Bute. One on ice in the raw combining the distinctive taste of both salt and fresh water, the good lady’s hot in tempura batter with a thick chilli jam.
For starters I opted for haggis and seared Scottish scallops. Caramalised pear and a lemon beure blanc brought a beautiful sweetness to the dish. For the good lady it was light, tender pan fried garlic and chilli pawns with lemon oil.
The main menu offered some really tempting regular choices from fish pie to whole lobsters and entire crabs – and a range of steaks and other turf dishes if seafood is not your bag – but we both could not resist catch of the day options. I went for line caught Icelandic cod on a bed of mash with clams and mussels in a lovely rich white wine sauce, and she, whole sea bass from Greece, with sauteed potatoes, and sugar snap peas with a soy sauce. Both were perfectly cooked and were certainly hearty.
That said we still managed to find room for a perfect wobble creme brulee with light buttery shortbread biscuit, and a wonderfully rich, but not over-sweet chocolate and raspberry delice with whisky cream.
All this was helped down with a glass each of the smooth Italian Ripasso Valpolicella from a well chosen and not over complex wine list.
Kenilworth may be just about as far from the sea as anywhere in Britain, but it’s reassuring to know that fine seafood is still available on the doorstep.