To enjoy world-class seafood, perfectly cooked and served up in romantic locations, you don't need to look any further afield than Scotland
If you recoil at the sight of a plump lobster rather than instantly start to plot ever more intricate ways of pulling it apart and teasing out every bit of juicy flesh, then you may want to stop reading now. Seafood-lovers have never had it so good and today there are numerous places right here in my native Scotland where the fresh local fish and crustaceans are a crucial part of the attraction. Even outside the city centres seafood restaurants are booming.
Take South Queensferry, in the shadows of the Forth Bridges, where the Boat House has kicked off something of a revolution. This first-rate restaurant opened in 2003 and has gone from strength to strength, winning a place on the country’s highly respected The List magazine’s ‘Hit List’ three years in a row thanks to its faultless cooking and use of fresh fish and shellfish.
The ground-breaking Boat House was joined later the same year by Orocco Pier, where seafood does not dominate, but features strongly on the menu, and more recently by Dakota, a hotel with a grill restaurant run by Roy Brett, who once worked with Rick Stein in his seminal Cornwall seafood oasis. At Dakota a chilled shellfish platter that would not be out of place in a chic Parisian brasserie sidles up next to fresh Scottish white fish. Not to be outdone, the Boat House has also recently opened a more informal bistro with fresh oysters on a menu that includes a fish of the day.
Heading further north, next stop is the St Andrews Seafood Restaurant. This spectacular glass-fronted restaurant makes the most of the dwindling Fife fishing fleet as well as the views in the self-styled ‘Home of Golf’. Excellent east-coast white fish and the seafood platters are the stars here.
Head west and that is where the best of the shellfish is, with a flurry of venues dishing up stunning crustaceans. In Fort William, Crannog serves up imaginative dishes as well as huge pots of mussels right on an old pier where the salty smell of the sea fills the air. They also produce excellent smoked seafood from their own smokehouse.
Kishorn Seafood Bar is a remarkable little oasis in the middle of nowhere. This tiny log cabin offers remarkable fresh seafood. Huge platters and scallops with garlic butter and croissants are the signature dishes in this informal Highland escape. A short drive away (across Britain’s highest, most scenic and surely most frightening road), the Applecross Inn awaits. This is a pub with a difference, with chunky local langoustines and lobster as well as real ales on the menu. The highlight is savouring that gorgeous fresh produce on a bench outside, with the sun setting over the unmistakable mountains of the Isle of Skye across the water in the distance.
Another Highlands contender is Loch Leven Seafood, which sums up all that is great about seafood in Scotland at the moment. This fresh lochside venue just north of Glencoe boasts a bright restaurant space inside, an outdoor terrace and a shop next door where you can stock up fresh shellfish to go. The seafood bucket here, filled to the brim with all manner of aquatic beauties, is a gastronomic highlight guaranteed to sate the appetite of even the most dedicated lovers of seafood.
Where to stay
Orocco Pier: sleep above the restaurant in the chic modern rooms and enjoy the same sweeping views of the Firth of Forth after dining here.
Dakota: rooms as stylish as the restaurant. Pick of the bunch are the lavish suites on the upper floors.
Applecross Inn: cosy wee rooms await at this traditional inn, so settle in for a seafood feast and a snooze.