Foss Bridge House
1 – 5 Walmgate
Tel: 01904 650910
Has your bank become a trendy wine bar or restaurant? Mine hasn’t, but my all-time favourite ironmonger has. Stubbs in Walmgate was iconic; their closure was a loss to DIY’ers everywhere. A new lease of life, however, now wafts through the building as Loch Fyne Restaurant at ground level and cool apartments on the upper floors.
Loch Fyne pride themselves on actively seeking out unusual and historic buildings for their inherent beauty, most of which are away from prime retail locations. Their choice of location in York is precise. What was once an area doomed for any restaurateur (the exception being the Blue Bicycle) is now thriving with good eateries. The building, gorgeous.
Thankfully, they haven’t trashed Stubbs into oblivion. The renovation is sympathetic and many of the original features saved. The bar is the old shop-counter, complete with the scars from years of use; the wine racks the original shelves that once housed nails and screws; the splendid staircase, one going up and one coming down, polished and gleaming.
Essentially Loch Fyne is a chain restaurant. There are now thirty, with three in Yorkshire. Hearing the plans to open in York I wondered were they just a cockleshell close to overkill. But, their premise of choosing locations and sympathetic restorations keeps them from appearing samey. I have eaten at five including the original on the Loch, the menus may be the same but each venue is distinct.
What does puzzle me though is how supplying 30 restaurants across the UK directly from the Loch and small producers in the area, fit their strict environmental and marine conservation policies? I have nothing but praise for Loch Fyne’s work in protecting fish stocks and sustainability and am sure they calculate their carbon footprint but I wonder how it measures up?
There is no starter at Loch Fyne for me other than the oysters. I love them. I want no fiddly bits on the side, no lemon, no Tabasco – nothing but ice and the sweet scent and taste of the sea. I can easily down 12 at one sitting, but today, with restraint only order 6 (£7.95). They were fat, plump and luscious. With eyes closed, I savoured everyone. Am not sure though that whoever was working the oyster bar was adept at opening them. I did extract several shards of oyster shell, which took away some of the pleasure for me. Ah, well, never mind they have only been open a short time so perhaps a little more practice will help.
The other must-order is Moules Mariniere (£5.95). Having visited the mussel beds on the Loch I always feel a closeness to the little molluscs. This is the season for them and it showed. Fat and meaty, there were very few to discard. The sauce was textbook and more especially when mopped up with thick crusty bread.
On a fishy roll, Scottish Halibut with tomato, olive and caper salsa (£17.95) and a Traditional Puff Pastry topped Fish Pie (£8.95) followed. There are choices for the carnivorous; a Glen Fyne Prime Steak or Pork Chop and vegetarians have many options. Side orders of veg and salads come separately and from £2.25 a portion rack up the bill, so beware.
The halibut was spot on and the salsa with enough bite to lift the dish from bland to remarkable. I am sorry to say the fish pie didn’t do the same. The pastry was longing for another ten-minute spell in the oven, the fish tasteless and the sauce greasy. What a disappointment. Fish pie is a classic dish, and making one doesn’t need a Master’s degree, so why in a restaurant of this calibre was this shambles coming from the kitchen?
The seasonal veg side dish wasn’t much better. A few scraps of ‘boiled’ cabbage plus beans and mange-tout that had travelled several thousand miles to get here, and tasted like it.
There are desserts on offer at £4.95 but we passed having eaten more than enough.
All in all, apart from the blip at the end it was a good lunch and shows promise. The staff are lively, bright and well informed, the place relaxing and welcoming, the food good. I will certainly go back for another try.