Gourmet Society Featured Restaurant: Loch Fyne – York
Despite such captivating attractions as the Barbican and the JORVIK centre or the almost iridescent beauty of the city itself I seldom find myself in York. This is a shame, particularly for the gourmet within me as I know there’s a myriad different dining spots that could enthral my taste buds. Luckily for me one such place recently reached out to Gourmet Society to sample their new menu, a restaurant that I had longed to visit for quite some time; Loch Fyne.
A specialist in all things seafood, Loch Fyne was a fabled dream I’d longed to experience for myself for years, and the York incarnation appeared to be the ideal spot for my first time at one of the chains restaurants. Situated along the River Foss, the restaurant was in a serene location that appeared to bridge the gap between a city and a hamlet. Stepping inside I found myself walking into modern tranquillity enriched with a sense of traditional charm. Instantly met by a friendly waitress, my brother and I were seen to our table where we settled in and soaked in our surroundings.
The smooth and ambient music, the warmth of the clientele’s casual chatter, the dimmed mood lighting cast by a collection of miniature spotlights; the atmosphere was ideal for both informal and special dining occasions alike. With the sun just about to set I felt that I was one lit candle away from being on a date, a thought that cemented any resolve I had to one day bring a special lady to this very spot should I ever return to York. Yet I was on the job, and with my brother no less, so I simply relaxed and perused the menu whilst sipping on my delicious, albeit a little ‘unmanly’ cocktail, the Passion Fruit Martini. It’s undeniably sweet nature was ridden by a delightfully tingling kick of vodka, already making it a drink I could see myself enjoying time and time again.
The menu had just been changed that day, offering a wealth of tantalising new options. As I’d never been to a Loch Fyne before I considered this the ideal time to visit, having heard nothing but praises for its ensemble of seafood dishes. The manager had even informed me of his usual guests not only approving of the new additions to the menu but actually embracing them, leading me to believe that whatever I ordered would surely please my discerning palate. With so much to choose from I was a little lost at first, but thankfully my brother and I were in our element, having always been fans of virtually anything reaped from the sea. What instantly caught my attention were the various oyster options, in part because I had never sampled oysters before but mainly because, even with my lack of experience eating them, I noticed that there some unorthodox methods of serving them. Deciding to throw caution to the wind I asked to try not only a tempura fried oyster but one that came served in its shell figuratively swimming in tequila. My brother cocked an eyebrow at this notion, possibly wondering why I’d opt for something so daring, but the order had been placed; there could be no turning back.
Oysters weren’t the only indulgences I desired though, as I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to scallops. I requested the King Scallops, partnered with sautéed leeks and an orange butter, while my brother couldn’t resist the King Prawns, pan fried with chilli and garlic. When our appetisers arrived we were left almost speechless; the presentation of each dish was impeccable, appearing akin to examples of what food should be, not what it could be. With so many fantastic tastes of the sea before us it was hard to determine where to begin, yet I knew there was only one place I could begin; the oysters. Honestly I was nervous, not quite remembering the appropriate methodology when it came to eating them. I decided to bite the bullet, or rather, swallow it, and went straight for the tequila soaked oyster. The kick of the tequila hit me swiftly and strongly, like a mule who’d been rudely disturbed by rowdy banditos, but the rich, subtle flavour of the oyster was blatantly there throughout it all. One large gulp sent it down my gullet, with the tequila vividly going down to my core, which proved that the oyster was certainly an experience for the brave if nothing else.
The tempura fried oyster was another matter altogether; from the instant it passed my lips I felt like a fool for not ordering every single one they had. The feather light tempura coating, the almost intangible texture of the oyster and the accompanying chilli jam that brought it altogether; opulent doesn’t even begin to describe it. Feeling selfish for experiencing heaven alone, and mustering all my willpower to part with it, I asked my brother to sample the tempura fried oyster as well. He too appeared to feel a sense of unbridled joy surge through him as, much like myself, his jaws moved slowly and his eyes closed completely. I distanced myself from the world outside my taste buds as much as I could, quietly revelling in the bliss that unfolded upon my tongue. Quietly, that is, until we both swallowed and repeatedly proclaimed the oysters to be one of the finest things ever to grace a plate.
The other starters had a tall order to fill, though they certainly didn’t disappoint. The King Scallops were beyond tender, simply melting in the mouth and fusing beautifully with the orange sauce, and when accented with the sautéed leeks there was the slightest element of a crunch to aid the taste as a whole. Equally as exquisite were the King Prawns, giving my teeth a hint of resistance thanks to the spice coated exterior. The minutest effort yielded blissful results though, with the first wave of flavour coming from the chilli. It mingled with the divine taste of the prawns, with the strong taste of garlic always present in the background. As it was all served in a butter infused with everything in the dish there was still plenty to enjoy after all the prawns were devoured, and I looked on at my brother with envy as he mopped it all up with a wedge of granary bread.
Thoroughly satisfied even after the first hurdle, I laid back in my plush seat and cast my eye across the menu once again, wondering what could possibly follow up such an incredible start to a meal. When our charming waitress arrived once more at our side I quickly placed my order, deciding to keep things varied with the Seafood Grill, while my brother became captivated with one of the alluring specialities, the Crab-Lobster Burger. Still grinning from round one, we both relaxed a little and eagerly awaited our main courses.
We didn’t have to wait long as before we knew it our waitress was there once more, this time brandishing two dishes that simply boggled the mind. ‘Eclectic’ and ‘diverse’ are just words, you see, they cannot possibly explain the truly gargantuan scope of my Seafood Grill. An ambitious medley of mussels, squid, gilt-head bream, Scottish salmon and a single king prawn and king scallop (which I greeted eagerly once more) all served with sautéed potatoes and a lobster butter; the Seafood Grill was certainly a challenge I felt confident tackling. Everything had been prepared to perfection; the salmon simply peeled from the skin and flaked at the lightest touch, the gilt-headed bream and fluffy potatoes felt like ideal palate cleansers, the squid added a fantastic additional texture to each mouthful, and the mussels pried from their shells easily and were reborn as something heavenly when dipped in the lobster butter. The entire journey throughout this dish was paved with that lobster butter, which incidentally is something I would gladly spread on any other food for the rest of my life if I could. There was so much to enjoy about the dish, especially with the addition of the greens that came with it, and no two mouthfuls were the same. It was nothing short of a cornucopia of flavours, a dish that presented you with almost everything the sea had to offer.
When it came to the Crab-Lobster Burger I could see that it too would be quite the mountain to climb. I have quite large hands though even I would struggle to grasp the entire mass of the thing like a standard burger. Deciding to proceed with grace my brother took to his knife and fork to cleave through the burger and tackle it in literal bite sized chunks. Eventually he granted me a taste with what looked like a tear welling in his eye. Within a heartbeat I could see why he had been so silent when wolfing down this dish, feeling a pang of guilt for taking even a morsel of it away from him. The soft yet potent flavour of the crabmeat, which revealed itself after penetrating the breadcrumb coating, seemed so filling from just one bite. Adorned with the rich lobster meat topping and matched with a Hollandaise sauce, this was very much a different breed of burger; the kind that royalty might dine on when they’re feeling casual. Hearty yet not overbearing, the dish as a whole was certainly for fans of crabmeat and offered a more laid look at Loch Fyne’s diverse portfolio of dishes. Though it was a special, and thus may not normally feature on the menu, I will still sing praises for the Crab-Lobster Burger, stating that it is definitely a dish worth savouring.
With our plates clear and our stomachs bulging there was little question as to whether either of us wanted a dessert, yet I felt a professional obligation to push through the certainty that I was full; that and I’m somewhat of a glutton. Besides, I couldn’t resist the call of something so new and after virtually every member of staff had regaled me with at least one personal story they had with the new Tiramisu I simply had to try it. The manager had told me of when he and other higher ups had first tasted it they tore open the sample tub like a bear after honey, whereas our waitress simply sung about how adorable the dessert looked.
She wasn’t lying; served in a little jar with protruding chocolate straws and garnished with mint leaves it looked too cute to eat. The presentation of every dish had been flawless all night and this really was the proverbial cherry on top. Despite its delightful appearance I felt no remorse when my spoon pierced the chocolate exterior. The boldness of the coffee, the sharp taste of the dark chocolate, the liberal sweetness of the maple syrup; it all combined into a blissful taste that mixed into the creamy base perfectly. Each bite was so rich that half way through I was in awe, as at first glance I had assumed I could work through this dessert in no time at all, yet the contrast between the chocolate flake exterior and the indulgent interior demanded you take your time with each mouthful.
When the dust had settled and our stomachs could take no more we rose to leave, afraid we’d never budge from that spot if left to our own wishes. I certainly didn’t wish to part from this sanctuary of seafood but I had a long drive ahead of me, out of the soothing lights of Loch Fyne and onto the darkness of the motorway. Though the journey home didn’t feel too daunting as I had truly had a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience, one that would stay with me for quite some time. As we thanked the fantastic staff for our incredible evening I looked back in longing, barely one step outside, wondering when I’d be so fortunate as to find myself at York’s Loch Fyne once again.
Have you tried Loch Fyne’s new menu yet? Or do you prefer the old menu? Why not tell us about your Loch Fyne experiences in the comments section below, or via Facebook or twitter! And be sure to check out the rest of the gourmet goodness on the Gourmet Society blog!
By Tom Simpkins