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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A Fyne accord

A review of Covent Garden’s Loch Fyne Restaurant

 

In May 2004, the car park of the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar at Clachan in Argyll, Scotland became famous after Gordon Brown and John Prescott met there to discuss and agree who would be Tony Blair’s successor.

 

John Prescott (now Lord Prescott) and Gordon Brown made the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar's car park famous in 2004
John Prescott (now Lord Prescott) and Gordon Brown made the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar’s car park famous in 2004

Allegedly the pair sat in a car for some ninety minutes and then whilst Mr Brown made a phone call, Prescott headed inside and bought some oysters to take home (presumably for his beloved, Pauline). The ‘Loch Fyne accord’ as it became known catapulted that particular restaurant into the history books and is still talked of today.

 

Loch Fyne Restaurants, a separate enterprise, began life using the Loch Fyne name under licence from the Loch Fyne Oysters company in 1998. The restaurant business secured the backing of entrepreneurs Ian Glyn and Mark Derry and grew to have 38 sites across the UK by 2007. In August that year, the Greene King Brewery acquired the business for some £68 million. Today, the chain has 42 restaurants in total yet still proudly proclaims that its “roots are firmly in Loch Fyne”.

 

The interior of the Covent Garden outpost of Loch Fyne Restaurants is bright, airy and comfortable
The interior of the Covent Garden outpost of Loch Fyne Restaurants is bright, airy and comfortable

I dined at the group’s Covent Garden restaurant on a sunny afternoon earlier this summer in the company of the Emmy Award winning former CBS foreign correspondent turned finance expert Jesse Schulman. Though the business we discussed was not of national importance, we did agree that this was the perfect setting to come to our own accord. Within a large, airy room, diners will find simple furnishings, wooden flooring and a seafood counter stuffed full of fresh fish from Scotland and beyond.

 

The menu in Loch Fyne Restaurants is extensive and perhaps a little overly so. With 12 starters, 21 mains, “signature platters” and daily specials, diners could be left somewhat overwhelmed but given that both Dr Schulman and I are quite specific sorts, we went straight to the staples.

 

To begin we naturally opted to follow where John, now Lord Prescott had led before us. A dozen Loch Fyne oysters, priced at £19.95, were indeed perfect to share and accompanied with Tabasco and red onion in balsamic vinegar they set us off nicely.

 

A dish of piri-piri king prawns (£6.65) was not as spicy as we’d hoped but it was the main courses that shone through and they turned out to be surprisingly excellent.

 

I enjoyed a whole baked 1lb Canadian lobster (£25.95) with chips and a garlic butter sauce very much whilst my companion commented that his Loch Fyne smoked haddock was perfectly poached. Served with a colcannon mash and a soft poached egg, at £13.95 this dish was most deserving of commendation.

 

To finish we shared a cheeseboard of Exmoor Blue, Cornish Yarg and West Country Brie (£5.95). Disappointingly it was fridge cold on arrival, a common trait in restaurants, but a tarte Tatin (£5.75) with clotted cream more than made up for that.

 

Though the Loch Fyne wine list is basic, it begins at a very reasonable £15.25 per bottle for both the house Sicilian red and white. We opted for a Chablis at £25.95 that was served at just the right temperature. I’m certain Lady Prescott would have found it as perfectly quaffable as we did.

 

Blair, Brown and Prescott’s pact may seem like a dim and distant memory now to most but the name Loch Fyne will live on. It will remain of note for good food at reasonable prices.

 

Loch Fyne Restaurant, 2 – 4 Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5YJ. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7240 4999. Follow Greene King, owners of the Loch Fyne Restaurants brand, on Twitter here.

 

 

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