Dinner at the Lochside Hotel, Bowmore (Scotland)

I described this dinner last week as the bad one between two decent meals at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen. It was, in fact, the worst meal we had on Islay, and probably the worst we had in Scotland—the fish and chips from the food truck outside Fiddler’s in Drumnadrochit at least had the virtue of being much cheaper. We ended up here after our attempt to eat dinner at the Port Charlotte Hotel failed on account of our having failed to make a reservation. The dining room was absolutely empty but they could not seat us. Now, it’s likely they had reservations for every table and didn’t want to risk us going late but there was something about the pause and once-over the manager gave us before saying they couldn’t seat us that made us feel a little odd. But I digress. Leaving Port Charlotte, we thought about trying the Bridgend Hotel but parking was hectic and so we kept going and ended up in Bowmore instead. After parking near the pier we walked up the street which has the restaurants and as the Lochside Hotel came up first we poked our heads in; and when they said they could seat us, we sat down. There was a nice photograph of Pinkie MacArthur on the wall next to my head and this seemed like a good omen. Alas, it was not.

Now, it’s possible that we made a big mistake by steering away from local shellfish at this meal. As at this point in the trip my body composition was about 75% mussels (conservative estimate), I decided to try something completely different. That something completely different was chicken stuffed with haggis. The haggis was inoffensive but the chicken had been cooked till it was dry, verging on the texture of sawdust. The missus’s salmon was likewise overcooked. The boys, however, enjoyed the rump steak they split, and it was cooked properly. All the mains were served as veritable towers, with lots of veg under them. Well, I guess that the fact that we ate a lot of veg was a good thing—our meals to this point had not been what you might call very healthy.

I should say that the restaurant itself is quite attractive, especially if you snag a table in the bright dining room overlooking Loch Indaal. We were not there but the space was bright and nicely done up with portraits of what seemed mostly like managers/staff members of Bowmore on the wall (though there was the photograph of Pinkie MacArthur as well). As to whether our meal was an aberration I can’t say—if you’ve eaten there and had a completely different quality of cooking, please write in below. Here now are some pictures of our meal. Scroll down for cost, service etc.

All of this plus two glasses of milk came to just over £50 with vat and before tip. Which is not bad in theory for the items we ate but is definitely too much for how they’d been rendered. Service, however, was uniformly pleasant and attentive. As I say, it is possible we caught them on a bad night and/or ordered poorly. If you can confirm or deny please do so.

Alright, there’s only one Islay meal report left to come—from Portnahaven. After that I have a lunch in Tarbert and possibly a Thai dinner in Glasgow to write up and then we’ll be done with Scotland. Quite a few London meal reports still to come though—first up will be an account on Thursday of an afternoon tea experience.

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