Eat - Oysters
- The List
- 18 October 2007
Oysters make an exciting comeback to Newhaven harbour after an absence of – oh, around 150 years
It’s a homecoming, of sorts. The Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in Argyll is revered on the Scottish food scene, in modern times a place much more worthy of the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ tag than the hill summit a few miles away. The chain of Loch Fyne Restaurants, now 37-strong with this new opening in Edinburgh, its first in Scotland, is in fact a separate company from Loch Fyne Oysters, which runs the oyster bar, shop, shellfish farm and smokehouse in Cairndow. Much is shared between the two, however, not least the provenance of the majority of the seafood served and the inspirational charm of the original converted lochside cow barn.
In the old fishmarket at Newhaven Harbour (the old Harry Ramsden’s) the company has secured another fantastic site and an immediate top five entry into Edinburgh’s best restaurant locations. Another part of the building still operates as a fish market (more distribution centre than bustling auction house) and city records show that in the middle of the 19th century six million oysters a year were landed at Newhaven to feed the poor of Edinburgh. Loch Fyne seems a most suitable new tenant.
Secure a window seat here and you’ll have a view of the old stone harbour and lighthouse, boats bobbing at their mooring and, at night, the lights of Fife twinkling across the water. There’s a sparkle too inside the large, smartly lit restaurant, bar and deli. Alongside contemporary wooden fittings are gleaming white tiles, enlarged photos of Argyll shores and blackboards proclaiming the company’s ethical fish policy. It’s the old cow shed with a generous dose of All Bar One slickness.
One third of the menu consists of Loch Fyne essentials: oysters, mussels, platters and salmon smoked in various ways. Although prices are, on the whole, reasonable, this is where you can blow out, egged on in no small way by the compellingly sweet, smooth taste of the oysters. The rest of the menu has an array of seafood-centric starters and mains, including a lip-tingling salt & pepper squid, rich if uncomplicated fish soup, a rather too chilly lobster salad and a steak of snow-white halibut seared on the bars of a char grill and served with robust, salty olive and tomato salsa. Mostly simple, but mostly reliable and good.
While Loch Fyne is a great Scottish brand, the homecoming will feel a little compromised if you’ve an instinctive suspicion of chain restaurants, however well run – a bit like a friendly cousin coming ‘home’ to Scotland with a London accent. But head down to the historic harbour to munch on lots of fresh, sustainable Scottish seafood with a glass of Muscadet as the sun sets over the Forth Bridges and you’ll find you get on just fine.
Loch Fyne Restaurant
25 Pier Place, Newhaven Harbour, Leith, 0131 559 3900, www.lochfyne.com
Open Mon–Sun 9am (for breakfast) through to 10pm. Average price for two courses £19. A daily changing lunch menu has two courses for £11. Shop open same hours (noon–6pm) for wet fish.