Ultimate seafood indulgence on the west coast
Our Scottish dining experiences were pretty much led by Tripadvisor as we sought out the best food we could find for our short stay. Inverary was the closest location for us especially given the long drive up from Birmingham that had left us hungry and needing to relax. After a swift drink in the nearest local pub The George Hotel (which we later learned was actually a maze of rooms and dining spaces not just the small bar area that we stumbled upon) we found Samphire hidden amongst an active construction site as works are carried out on the Grade A building that formerly housed a Butcher’s shop and greengrocer. The tiny entranceway and bar opened out into a cosy restaurant setting with low ceilings and relaxed seating as we were presented with a huge board full of delectable specials. There is something infinitely exciting about a specials menu as it implies two things to me, 1) Here are some dishes we made from leftover items so we don’t have to throw them away= commendable or even better 2) Here is the freshest produce we have and this is what we fancy doing with it today = likely to be incredible.
The specials board (despite my terrible photo) was the winner for us, and our desire to sample as much local seafood as possible was satiated by the promise of ‘A taste of the Loch’ .We ordered starters as what would a weekend away be without indulgence, my strategy to ordering is normally pretty simple find a few things I want on the menu and make sure I order something different to Jordan so that I get to taste new things (Sharing is mandatory when we go for dinner!)
I opted for the roasted pigeon breast from the main menu in an attempt to quell my seafood longings so as not to spoil our shared platter set to come. Served with local black pudding and roasted beetroot it was the warming, rich dish I needed before embarking upon a seafood odyssey. Expertly cooked pigeon and soft earthy beetroot was beautifully complemented by a dab of crème fraiche and a sticky port jus but the over generous portion of (admittedly very tasty) black pudding left it feeling improperly balanced and I opted to sideline half of it until I had finished the other components so not to loose the flavour amongst its salty, crumbly mass. Jordan stuck with the specials menu opting for the ham hock,pork belly and black pudding terrine, it proved to be much lighter than my selection with the spiced pear puree adding just the right amount viscocity to balance out the denseness of the oatcakes.
A taste of the Loch is exactly what we got, and we were beyond excited. A bounty of treats hidden amongst the pile of shells revealed itself as we made our way through the mountain of food presented to us. Fresh, simply cooked and slathered in butter this was the perfect way to sample the range of seafood available in the region whilst also making lots of mess as butter dripped and slid down fingers. Mussels and clams disguised plump queenie scallops and a hidden dressed crab lurking at the bottom of the plate whilst further digging revealed oysters swimming in a bath of pungent garlic butter. As we bargained over who ate what (Langoustines being my favorite whilst Jordan is a fan of scallops) and cracked open crab legs and claws we could not help proclaim our delight to the attention of the table next to us who were quite amazed that we managed to polish it all off. As we picked and prodded at shells in search of the last morsels of meat we watched closely as a cheeseboard arrived at the adjoining table; laden with frozen grapes, celery and quince jelly and the ubiqiutous stack of oatcakes our fellow diners were taken aback by the plentiful offering. However, whilst a platter of seafood is sizable- we were certain we could manage one final course after seeing the soft oozing brie melting across the slate accompanied by a sharp Dunsyre blue, pungent goats cheese and of course a lump of mature Mull Cheddar. As our table was cleared and we ordered our final course of the evening we speculated about how much better the cheese could be if served with some of the red wine we had back at our hotel- after all, we had packed it with the intention of picking up some local cheese during our stay. Within minutes of ordering, the incredibly helpful staff had packed us up a cheese plate to go so that we could fully enjoy it in the comfort of our own room and without one of us missing out due to needing to drive. A takeaway cheese board isn’t something I’ve come across before but as soon we we asked if it was a possibility-our wish was granted.
Such pleasure did we get from that meal that it took a lot of effort not to return again during our visit but it goes without saying that should we venture to the region again we would make a point of stopping by.
Samphire Seafood Restaurant, 6a Arkland ,Inveraray , Scotland, PA32 8X