The Wee Hurrie


WHAT the actual Sam Hill is going on here, I’m wondering as I queue on the pier at Troon, wind blowing, sun shining, three realistic-looking seals (clearly sponsored by the Ayrshire Tourist Board) watching us humans from the harbour.

There’s an American-sounding lady behind and she is thinking the same thing. Out very loud.

“Awww,” she announces, “What?…No seats. I need to sit down to eat. I gotta go somewhere else.” And off she marches, dragging two others from the line in her wake.

It’s been so long since I’ve been to the Wee Hurrie that I can’t actually remember if you ever could sit down. But you could certainly go in.

Now there’s a hatch in a side-wall, a menu that’s at right angles to the queue (thereby invisible til you get to the front) and people wandering off to the sea-wall with blue buzzer things in hands.

Later, as we’re sitting in Lindsay’s car and he’s trying again to describe which one of those fishing boats out there his son works on, we’ll eat our way through lovely fresh sole in a puffy diaphanous batter, great crispy fillets of very fresh haddock, monkfish bombs, squid tempura and ask ourselves the million rouble question: has The Wee Hurrie lost it?

Now, just to get you up to speed here. The Wee Hurrie made the greatest error you can ever make in the restaurant trade: it was staggeringly good.

Super-fresh seafood, from the very picture-perfect harbour it sits on, simply handled, served with chips, actual-shelled-on-the-premises prawns and real, not block, haddock. Thereby creating a huge hit. Which you should never, ever be in the food business. Mediocrity being much safer.

Success only brings people long distances, with very high expectations, that can usually never be met, consistency being scientifically impossible outside the micro-chip-factory Michelin star joints.

Those people (and, yes, me) are quick to moan. The complaints came pouring in. The chips were frozen. Nah, they’re not. The batter was soggy. Only if you take it home and let it steam to death in the box. The service was woeful. Yes, it certainly was for way too long as they struggled to cope with demand.

But today the buzzer things work well. There’s a young girl at the window, two or three guys behind her manning the friers, that queue was brisk, ordering clipped along efficiently. And we then wandered round the side to wait. Debating whether the wee guy in the leather jacket at the back door firing some too-far-away-to-determine-food into the wood smoker is the McCallum Man himself (answers on a seaside postcard) who owns this place.

Then the buzzer goes off. Boom. Fast. We eat our food fast too. Which is what you have to do. Draping still steaming prawn tails into open mouths, crisp, salty, vinegary batter then that sweetness and texture that only comes with the real deal. And there are a lot of them.

The sole is my winner, though, more giant goujons than whole fillets, goujiants really.

But every single piece of seafood is despatched hungrily until all we are left with is that lobster I had ordered out of curiosity. The claws are cracked professionally enough to whip the meat out easily, very few places nowadays can do that, the meat in the tail is moist, sweet and comes out in thick curled hunks of flavour.

Mr Lobster ain’t what he used to be size wise but I would have this again.

The chips are the last thing we touch. They’re pretty much completely outgunned by what else is on offer. Are they fantastic? Nope. Are they bad? No. Definitely not.

Has The Wee Hurrie lost it then? I certainly don’t think so. And the new (to me) ordering system is far, far better. Though that’s at the price of some front of house schmaltz and personality. Which is probably still what they need.

The Wee Hurrie

29 Harbour Road


01292 3193404

Menu: Prawns, hake, haddock, monkfish, scallops, sole, lobster. All still so fresh. A reminder of what seafood used to taste like. 5/5

Service: They’ve been a victim of their own success and now have a far-more-efficient hatch and buzzer system which is better but you won’t get much patter. 3/5

Price: I consider £6.60 to £7.60 for the fish, £9.40 for the scampi, to be a bargain considering the quality. Lobster is £24.80. Chips are £2.60 extra. Worth it. 5/5

Atmosphere: Seriously, there were three seals swimming feet away in the harbour, fishing boats bobbing gently. Great setting. 3/5

Food: For proper seafood this is still the place to go. That sole was outstanding, Scottish prawns in batter almost unique nowadays. Great haddock. 8/10