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One Fyne Day
Loch Fyne Restaurants in general
Member Name: bollinger28
Loch Fyne Restaurants in general
Date: 22/04/09, updated on 25/08/13 (495 review reads)
Advantages: Well presented selection of fish and seafood
Disadvantages: Expensive if you want any "extras"
For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Loch Fyne is a chain of restaurants serving seafood and fish. I'd describe the chain as fairly upmarket - with prices to match. Main courses are in the £12.00 to £18.00 region (with vegetables, potatoes, salad being an extra charge) and starters at the £5.00 to £8.00 mark.
~*~ DÉCOR & AMBIANCE ~*~
Our first impressions were good. The restaurant is located off the main road through the town of Midhurst, but it's set back from the road a little. Free parking is to be had in the car park just off North Street, and it's literally a minute's walk to the front door of Loch Fyne. The restaurant is housed in a charming period looking building with attractive blown glass windows.
Inside, the décor is all very modern and light. Slate flooring, oak style tables / chairs and creamy coloured walls. The crockery, cutlery and glassware were all gleaming and sparkling - making the place look very welcoming. As you enter, there are large glass fronted refrigerated displays of fish and seafood. These are all very attractive to look at and give you a very good idea of what's on the menu. Seafood and fish always make an artful and colourful display if they're done well, and this place was no exception (but sadly nowhere near the standards you see in the restaurants that throng the Rue de Bouchers in Brussels - they really have raised fish and seafood displays to a stunning artform).
We were welcomed very nicely by the waiting staff and shown to a good sized oak table for four towards the back of the restaurant. The back of the restaurant has huge floor to ceiling windows, which evidently offer stunning views over the River Rother and Cowdray Ruins in the daylight, Sadly, this being a cold and dark winter's evening in February, this was totally wasted on us. However, I understand that there is also a terraced garden to the back of the restaurant, which must be a lovely place to sit and eat of a summer's evening. The terraced area seats up to 32 covers and you can have a drink or a full meal out there, and look across to the ruins beyond. Definitely one I'd like to go back to when the weather improves I'd say.
~*~ MENU ~*~
Loch Fyne evidently started out around 30 years ago with a small oyster shack on the shores of Loch Fyne in the West Highlands of Scotland. From their humble origins the chain has grown to nearly 50 or so outlets scattered throughout the UK (you can find your nearest venue at www.lochfyne.com, and you can also download the whole menu if you'd like to see more of what they have on offer). Despite their size, the chain prides itself on still offering fresh oysters and mussels sourced from the shores of Loch Fyne as they did 30 years or so go.
Similarly, they are very committed to offering only ethically sourced fish and seafood. The blurb from their website states that they "do not source fish from deep sea trawlers or from endangered stocks and they are dedicated to the protection of our seas, maritime communities and all forms of marine life".
If you're a lover of either fish or seafood, then you're in the right place, as Loch Fyne offer a fine selection of both. Starters range from a choice of smoked salmon, mussels, oysters, lobster bisque, kippers, smoked haddock chowder plus others. Main course choices offer sea bass, salmon, bream, halibut, haddock, smoked fish pie, scallops, king prawns and so on. If you really want to push the boat out, you can partake of a whole (£30.00!) or half lobster served with truffle mayonnaise or you can plump for a Loch Fyne Platter (shellfish of the day with extra lobster or crab). Both these options are a delight to look at, but very expensive (not to mention fiddly and very hard work to eat!).
Rest assured, that there are a couple of non-fishy options available should you not be all that keen on ocean fodder -for starters there is a game terrine or a mushroom and spinach tart, and for mains there is a choice of lamb, duck or steak. Similarly, vegetarian non-fish eaters are catered for as well with items marked with an asterisk on the menu.
Added to the choices from the main menu, there is also a blackboard with some daily specials to choose from as well.
~*~ STARTERS ~*~
Having dined at a Loch Fyne outlet before (lunch in the Barnet one about five years ago), I had a good idea what to expect menu wise. I decided to have the platter of smoked salmon (£7.00), which consisted of Bradan Orach (traditionally strongly smoked salmon) and Bradan Rost (kiln roasted smoked salmon). I enjoyed both immensely, but my palate was not discerning enough to differentiate between them! My partner chose the Lobster Bisque (£6.00), which he pronounced delicious - extremely rich and suffused with flavour. Our dining companions both chose the daily special off the blackboard, which was smoked salmon pâté served with oat cakes (£5.00). Having had this before, I wasn't that keen to try it again. Serving pâté with oat cakes is a nice idea in theory, but I find oat cakes are rather boring in flavour and there are never quite enough of them to use up all the pâté. Indeed, both who chose this starter had loads of the pâté left in the ramekin on their plates long after their oat cakes had been finished off. However, the pâté itself was very rich in flavour, so perhaps you're really not supposed to scoff a whole ramekin's worth in one sitting.
~*~ MAIN COURSES ~*~
I decided to have a non-fishy dish for my main course and plumped for the Gressingham duck breast (£12.50). This came served in a large bowl sitting on a bed of honey roasted parsnips and a red wine sauce. It was extremely tasty, with the duck breast skin being slightly crispy and a perfect accompaniment to the moist meat underneath. The duck was served slightly pink, so it retained all of its juices and flavours. My partner chose the Bradan Rost (kiln roasted salmon) which was char-grilled and served with a shellfish, mushroom and whisky sauce (£13.00). He thoroughly enjoyed both the salmon and the accompanying sauce, which was creamy with just a tiny hint of smokiness from the whisky added to it. Our dining companions both chose the grilled whole Sea Bass served with rosemary and herb butter and new potatoes (£14.00). Both fish were beautifully cooked and presented with the flakes falling easily away from the bone.
However, the area in which I feel that Loch Fyne fell down, was the fact that their main courses do not come served with much in the way of accompaniments. My duck was served on a small bed of parsnips (3 or 4), but that was it. I paid extra to have some chips with mine, but I really did resent paying an extra £2.00 for them. When you are paying £12.50 for a main course, I really do think that potatoes and a selection of vegetables or salad should be included in the price. After all, it costs the restaurant hardly anything in additional costs to throw a few spuds or vegetables onto your plate. My partner's dinner came with nothing at all apart from the salmon, so he paid £2.00 for a portion of new potatoes. Our dining companions had new potatoes included in the price of their main course, but this consisted of three very small new potatoes apiece. Grumbling aside, the food was all beautifully presented and very tasty...just a tad on the expensive side once you have to pay extra for potatoes, vegetables or salad.
~*~ DESSERTS ~*~
The dessert choice was chalked up on a blackboard, and they all sounded extremely tempting. So tempting, in fact, that 3 out of 4 of us decided to have a pudding. I choose the Dark Chocolate Torte, which was extremely rich and delicious. The two others choose Crème Brûlée, and both pronounced it delicious. The dessert portions were all extremely generous and came served with a choice of vanilla ice cream or double cream. Other choices consisted of a Sticky Toffee Pudding, various ice-creams or sorbets and some kind of apple based tart.
~*~ SERVICE ~*~
Having heard several horror stories of poor service and long waits for food, we were pleasantly surprised by the efficiency and speed of service. All the waiting staff were extremely proficient and attentive and we wanted for nothing. From being seated and offered bread and butter, to paying our bill and leaving, all the serving staff were very friendly, welcoming and efficient. Full marks to them on this score.
~*~ AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT ~*~
On the whole, we enjoyed our evening at Loch Fyne in Midhurst. However, there were a couple of areas that weren't so good. For example, the restaurant was extremely noisy and it was difficult to have a decent conversation with anyone seated opposite you. The restaurant was very busy, being at least 90% full, but the noise levels were excessive. A combination of low ceilings and uncarpeted flooring meant that the noise was rather magnified and simple conversation extremely hard work.
The second area of contention was the ladies toilet. Firstly, for a venue of this size and busyness, I'm not at all sure that one toilet is adequate to cope with the demand. Added to which, the toilet was a real mess with paper towels strewn all over the floor and the basin could have done with a good wipe. Added to that, the flush mechanism on the WC was faulty, and if and when it did work it took an age to clear. With a restaurant that can seat what must be at least 100+ covers (inside and out), I believe they need to rethink their plumbing arrangements!
~*~ RECOMMENDATION ~*~
All in all, we enjoyed our meal at Loch Fyne. The service was most attentive and efficient, and the ambiance welcoming. With a bottle of white wine and one of mineral water, our bill for four came to just over £100.00 (reduced to a more acceptable £80.00 once they'd applied our £20.00 discount voucher) Despite our grumblings over paying extra for potatoes, vegetables and salad, the food was very good indeed. However, Loch Fyne isn't somewhere I'd choose to dine regularly, simply because I feel I can find better value for money elsewhere locally. I don't mind paying £12 to £14 for a main course, but I really expect it to include at least a salad garnish or a bouquet of vegetables and/or a few potatoes. I may well return to the Midhurst branch one fyne day (sorry!), and take advantage of the warmer weather by having lunch or dinner in their outside terrace area and enjoy the views across to Cowdray Ruins.
Recommended...but for special occasions only. Fyne but expensive dining....
~*~ OTHER STUFF ~*~
A reservation is recommended if you wish to dine at a Loch Fyne, as this chain is popular. When we dined at the Midhurst one on a Thursday evening, the restaurant was at least 90% full. The clientele seemed to be mostly made up of silver foxes (a nice way of describing affluent OAP's!), all tucking into huge lobsters or crabs. Perhaps the credit crunch hasn't yet hit Midhurst and their hedge funds and/or index linked pensions are all still virtually intact...
Further details are at:-
Loch Fyne Restuarants Ltd
175 Hampton Road
The restaurants are open seven days a week and take all the major credit cards. The website gives the opening hours for your local outlet.
Summary: Good seafood and fish restaurants - if somewhat expensive