Loch Fyne is located off the west coast of Argyll and Bute and means Loch of the Vine. At 40 miles long it is the longest of the Scottish sea lochs. Loch Fyne is best known for its reputation as an oyster and herring fishery and not growing grapes as the meaning of the name suggests. There have also been several Scottish sea-fishing records set in the loch.
Back in the 1970’s Johnny Noble, laird of Ardkinglas House and Andy Lane, a marine biologist, started their own oyster farm on the shores of the loch, selling fish and shellfish to help pay the bills of the Ardkinglas estate. They became well known for their quality of seafood, which resulted in them opening an oyster bar and smoke house on the shores of the loch. The popularity of Loch Fyne Oysters grew quickly and they opened more sites and founded Loch Fyne Restaurants.
Loch Fyne Restaurants was purchased by Greene King in 1990 and they now have 35 locations all over the UK. Due to the diverse menu, not surprisingly their fish is now sourced from all over the world and not just from Loch Fyne.
Loch Fyne Restaurant Winchester
I was invited to sample the new Autumn menu that Loch Fyne Restaurants have recently launch to celebrate the new season. There was a good selection of new dishes available including Grilled Scottish King Scallops, Grilled Cod Rarebit, Warm Flaked British Ham Salad, Poached Loch Fyne Smoked Haddock, Spelt Risotto and Loch Fyne Fisherman’s Stew.
I ordered the King Scallops and Inke the Pan-Fried Chilli & Garlic King Prawns. Unfortunately the scallops had been overcooked, they were very small which probably didn’t help. They were served with a slice of mildly spiced chorizo and a pool of melted butter. It wasn’t an inspiring dish. Perhaps Loch Fyne need to reconsider not only the cooking of the scallops, but also how it is plated, to make it look modern and more appealing.
The prawn dish aesthetically looked much better. However, the prawns had a pappy texture and the dish was very oily and scattered with raw garlic. Not really the start we were hoping for.
For my main I ordered the Whole Roasted Sea Bass and pardon the pun, this was a totally different kettle of fish. It was succulent and perfectly cooked. It was served with heritage potatoes and an aioli. I also ordered a side dish of samphire, which was salty but crisp, as you would expect.
For her main Inke had the Loch Fyne Fisherman’s Stew. This was a selection of fish and shellfish which had been poached in a spicy tomato broth. It was served with potatoes, artichokes, garlic bread and aioli. Once again a much superior plate of food with good flakes of fish and nicely cooked shellfish. The broth was balanced and not overly spiced.
We both chose a couple of their new desserts. Inke had the Glazed Clementine Tart served with a Chocolate Ice Cream. It was wonderful and tangy and the chocolate ice cream obviously paired with the clementine perfectly.
I opted for the Loch Fyne Tiramisu. It was rich in flavour, but not overly heavy. The chocolate had been shaved to keep it light, so was perfect to finish a meal without feeling bloated.
Loch Fyne have a good concept and a wide range of dishes available. The execution of them was more hit than miss, but the misses could easily be sorted out if they have a bit of a brainstorm in their development kitchen.
Loch Fyne Winchester, 18 Jewry Street, Winchester SO23 8RZ
We dined as guests of Green King and Loch Fyne Restaurant in Winchester. However, all editorial content is my own.