Loch Leven Seafood Cafe

Onich, by Fort William

LOOK, we’ve had the Loch Creran oysters by now: salty, slurpy, slippery and super fresh – the shells going bottoms up, their contents sliding majestically and rythmically down the gangplank of fate to a salute of satisfied grunty noises from round the table.

And then we had the little, tight, crunchy, sourdoughy rolls with olive oil for dipping into. And the soup, maybe not so keen on the soup, but those palourdes set in a bed of salt, dripped with garlic butter, grilled to a light tan, I’ll come back to them too. The point is this: by the time the main courses arrive and we spot the tiniest of miniscule problems the Loch Leven Seafood Cafe is already ahead of the game.

I mean we’re in the shadow of the Pap of Glencoe, in an oasis of green, eating the freshest of Scottish seafood. Plucked within a radius of 60 miles, says the waitress, then kept fresh in tanks, says the internet. It’s just that we ordered one hake, one whole lemon sole and one seabream. And we’ve got two sole and no seabream.

And see that water we were offered when we came in and first sat down, it’s still not here. A minor, minor point but we have asked twice. Boom, issues raised, problems solved.

The water arrives, the seabream doesn’t, because let's face it the sole is already cooked and sitting here looking right up at me. Well, it would if it had a head (shouldn't a whole one?). And I’m being told I’ll only be charged half price for it.

I’m actually midway through spluttering, wah-wah-wah that’s really not necessary but am already talking to the back of a rapidly retreating head. Well, it is quite busy in here this evening.

Look, you come here for fresh seafood. And that’s exactly what it is. The sole is simply lovely, perfectly cooked and moist. Sweetly roasted carrots, a tangy salsa verde, a large pool of what I think is pureed carrot. It’s £16, or it would be if I actually paid for it.

Later, when going over the bill we’ll realise there was no charge for it all. And I can tell you they genuinely have no idea that The Herald is going to review the restaurant.

The hake comes with roasted cherry tomatoes and sprigs of basil on the plate. It’s £14.50. Seriously.

Seafood in Scotland is often eye-wateringly expensive, served in fractional portions and often highly mucked about with. The prices in here are refreshingly low. The food straightforward. They wisely bill themselves as a cafe and not as a restaurant because with its hard floors, plain white walls and functional feel that’s really what it feels like.

All around us tourists sit up to their oxsters in shells and claws and all the other paraphernalia that accompanies trying the great Scottish seafood platter. It’s a hit. Understandably.

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I would imagine if you were coming to Scotland to taste the country then this is pretty much exactly what you will have in mind.

However, it’s not entirely perfect. The dozen or so half-shell palourdes or clams, very like Italian vongole, attractively grilled, sitting on a bed of salt, were good; being fresh and flavoursome, yet again simple and straightforward.

That soup we weren’t so keen on. For some reason it took a very long time to come from the kitchen and when it arrived replete with razor clam, mussels, palourde and the odd prawn in shell – the stock or base tasted very thin and weedy.

We will go on to order desserts from the big blackboard menu that hangs above the entrance to the kitchen. The lemon posset is decent and tart but they’ll be disappointed themselves with their rhubarb crumble. It arrives in one of those little round terracotta dishes that rarely signal good things. It’s just stewed rhubarb with a thin smear of a poor, crunchy, biscuitty nothing-like-a-real crumble topping. But hey ho. That’s not what we came for.

Loch Leven Seafood Cafe

Onich, by Fort William

01855 821048

Menu: Seafood from the lochs and seas within a 60 miles radius. A must-try at least once. 4/5

Atmosphere: Incredible outside, a bit white and bleak inside though you’ll not notice that if you get a window seat. 3/5

Service: A bit harem scarem though very pleasant and took the price of a lemon sole off the bill because of a mussed up order. That’s exceptional. 5/5

Price: Excellent value with those fresh fish main courses hovering around the £15 mark. 5/5

Food: Faultlessly fresh seafood served pretty plainly and simply. Not so sure footed on the desserts or starters. Worth a visit though. 7/10