|Tarbert: two restaurants and a castle
||[Aug. 20th, 2016|10:22 pm]
On our first evening in Tarbert, we ate at the Starfish. It's the obvious choice: well recommended, inviting white exterior with blue shutters, local artwork on the walls, good seafood... Not cheap, but I'd happily have gone back there.
After spending the day in Skipness, we were back in Tarbert quite early. durham_rambler had had enough, but I didn't want to waste a minute of the last day of the holidaym so I went for one last walk round the harbour, one last inspection of the shop windows - there was some sort of promotion going on which included a competition for the shop window which best illustrated the theme 'space': lots of Star Wars models, some very fine planets, but why had the ships' chandler chosen to put three monkeys in their window? I had hoped to find the gallery listed as along this street, but instead took the steps up to the castle, which gave me some fine views over the town, took me through a belt of midges - only the second time of the trip when I was seriously bothered by them, and no more than an incentive to climb that little bit higher:
Steps led down the other side of the hill into woodland, and I was tempted, but it was time to return, and make plans for the evening. We decided to try the Anchorage Restaurant: the reviews were very mixed, but the positives were the sort of thing that appealed to us. The restaurant is next door to the Islay Frigate pub, and not as distinct from it visually as it should be: we had walked past without really noticing it.
Inside, it's a tiny space, with a bar at the back and the kitchen behind that. The décor is best described as 'quirky' and has too many fishing nets for my taste, but the general effect reminded me of a French family-run restaurant - except that it wasn't busy: in all the time we were there we saw three tables occupied, ourselves included. Yet it was reasonably priced - cheaper than the Starfish - and the food was terrific. My seabass with fennel risotto and smoked mussels had slices of fennel in a creamy golden sauce with telltale strands of saffron. The homemade soda bread was packed with flavour: I tasted cumin, caraway, seasame - the chef told us there were ten different seeds in it. The cheese plate (actually a cheese slate, set carefully on the slate table mat before me) held five Scottish cheeses: Highland Chief (cheddat-type with whisky), smoked cheddar, Dunsyre blue, a ripe and flavourful Brie and an organic goat's milk log, plus an assortment of oatcakes, chutney and a heap of walnuts. I complimented the chef on the walnuts: "Just lightly toasted." This attention to details made his cooking really special.
I had the opportunity to talk to the chef because as well as cooking he was waiting at table: he explained to us that the waitress had called in to let him know she couldn't make that evening, but he hadn't picked up the call until too late. Over breakfast the following morning we explained this to our host at the Knap Guest House: "Oh, he always says that. He hasn't got a waitress..."