Friday, 24 September 2010

Fish and Trips

It’s a good job we didn’t travel the 340 miles from York to Tobermory for the sole purpose of sampling the local seafood speciality. We had booked a half past seven table at Café Fish but still arrived too late; now Yorkshire is nowhere near as urbane as London but even there half past seven would be regarded as a relatively early table, and yet they had already sold out of not only the squat lobsters that D had been intent on trying, but also langoustines and scallops as well. Obviously the good people of Mull a) are very fond of crustaceans and b) dine at six. Part of the problem might be the lack of pubs. Tobermory is the biggest town on Mull and, aside from two rather scary looking hotel bars, there was only one pub, which doubled up as a pizza restaurant. The media may claim that the Scots are a nation of drinkers, but based on this evidence I would have to dispute that. No deep fried Mars bars to be seen either. Not that I would ever want to eat a deep fried Mars bar, I’m 99% sure. Anyway, the dearth of places to have a pre dinner tipple (or ten) may be what forces the residents to eat so early.

You can’t be too hard on a place which is obviously reliant on an unpredictable third party – in this case, the Sea, to make good their menu. Nothing is frozen at Café Fish, apart from their fishermen, as the waitresses’ T-shirts told us, so what hadn’t been fished that day wasn’t there to eat. And D was slightly consoled when he discovered that one of the main courses was a peat smoked haddock fillet stuffed with squat lobsters, so we did get to have a little taste (my verdict – pretty much the same as a langoustine, but kudos to any seafood that incorporates the word “squat” into its name.)

We never expected our trip to Scotland to be a foodie holiday, so this dinner was to be the only vaguely upmarket meal. And it was very good, relying on the quality of the produce rather than any fancy techniques to produce tasty, hearty food. D’s starter of mussels (he was obviously intent on eating shellfish one way or the other) was absolutely excellent – the mussels themselves fat and sweet.

Mussels in white wine sauce
He also proclaimed the haddock main course to be very good, albeit rich. I thoroughly enjoyed my fish pie, particularly the sharp local Mull Cheddar that crusted the top, but it would have been even better if the scallops promised on the menu had been available for the filling.
Peat smoked haddock stuffed with squat lobsters and baked in cream

Fish pie

We were too full for dessert, although we agreed that had something traditionally Scottish like Cranachan been on the menu we would have stretched a point (and our stomachs). As it was, the choice was rather uninspiring.

Shellfish bisque
The story does not end there however, because, in a last ditch attempt to try some squat lobster, we returned the next day for lunch. Unfortunately, the fishing boat had not yet come in so we were once again thwarted. D consoled himself with another, even larger, bowl of mussels and I had the fish soup of the day. Which turned out to be shellfish bisque and, can I just say, a bowl of absolute deliciousness from start to finish. It was deep and sweet and rich, with a hint of tarragon – not a herb I usually like, but here it was perfect. It was so good that I’ve been scouring the net for bisque recipes since I got back and I intend to attempt to recreate it someday very soon, and am only sorry that I won't be able to go back and do comparison taste tests.  Should you ever find yourself on the Isle of Mull be sure to pop in - and if they happen to have any squat lobsters then I'd appreciate it if you could stick one in the mail for us.

Café Fish
The Pier, Torbermory
Isle of Mull, Argyl
PA75 6NU
Tel. 01688 301253


  1. mmmmmmmmm!!!

    And i had to giggle at your observations re: scots drinking etc. Tobermory is well.. different, next time go to glasgow and tell me what you think hehe. Its those certain parts that are the cause of all those stereotypes... I should know my in laws are all from there lol

  2. I am squat myself - it is not glamorous in a person so I wish those lobsters well!

  3. I'd love to say it sounds delicious, but I am allergic to shellfish, so it sounds a bit scary to me :)

    The fish pie does look great though, I'm inspired to try and make on at some point. x