This may be a short jaunt for some people (you know who you are, the ones in Lycra) but I’ve never pedalled so far.
My gluteus maximus hurt and I was hallucinating carbs.
After parking our bikes, we found a pew in the new bistro area. As the only pub in the village of Ratho, this place has just undergone a £500k make-over courtesy of its new owners, Graham and Rachel Bucknall, who took over last year.
It looks crisp, with a whitewashed decor, a single wall of floral wallpaper, and hyper-efficient waiting staff in a fast-foody uniform of purple polo shirts.
There’s also now an outside terrace, where you can view this eatery’s own flotilla, Pride of the Union and Pride of Belhaven (parties can also dine in one of these canal boats, if they book in advance). Meanwhile the kitchen is looked after by Ben Watson – the former executive chef of the Howies restaurant chain, which is currently up for sale.
Should you fancy it, the menu features fish and chips, burgers, and sausages and mash, albeit souped-up versions (ie the fish was coley, and the bangers are possibly hewn from their own herd of saddleback pigs). We were drawn to these old favourites. However, in the interests of research, we stepped away from the obvious stuff, in favour of the more interesting options.
To start, the marinated herring fillet with sweet sherry (£4.75) was plump and zingy, with a mayonnaise-coated salad that consisted of cold waxy shards of sliced Charlotte potatoes, peppercorns and spring onion. Very Scandinavian and as fresh as a chilly fjord, with a wedge of lemon on the side.
My dining partner, Rolf, went for the organic salmon fishcake (£4.65), which is also available as a main course (£8.95). It was a single breadcrumb-coated puck, which was aerated and light, with an interior that was dappled pink and white. His only criticism was that this offering was a little underseasoned. Still, flavour was provided by a large blob of homemade tartare sauce, which was dotted with shards of gherkin, capers and red onion.
Next – as Rolf thinks of himself as the King of Risotto – he fancied The Bridge Inn’s white onion and broad bean variety (£8.55). Unfortunately, there can’t be much call for risotto in Ratho, as this seemed to have been bubbling on the stove for a while. It had turned into watery rice pudding, which was a shame, as the notes of onion, lemon and Parmesan, along with the toothsome texture of broadbean, were good. My main of grilled mackerel fillet with chorizo stuffing (£8.95) wasn’t much cop either. I was presented with a fat piece of smokey fish that was lying on top of five slices of decent chorizo.
“This beast has NOT been stuffed,” I wanted to shout at the people in purple polo shirts. But life is too short. I ate it up, and, to be honest, this assemblage wasn’t too bad – there were also a few halved tatties, and a rather bland “celeriac and poppyseed slaw”, which didn’t seem to have either of those ingredients in it.
It’s at times like this, I imagine a conflab in the kitchen, when they say; “Let’s not season our dishes, we’ll let the top-quality, locally sourced produce do the talking”. Then they all high-five.
All very well and good, but I do like an application of herb, spice or condiment.
Thankfully, pudding was a return to form. The cooked and set Scottish cream (£4.95), was a thick, Dita von Teese-pale, vanilla-flecked custard, with a layer of rum jelly on the top, which resembled smoked glass and provided a pleasantly medicinal tang. Lovely crumbly shortbread on the side too.
And, although unusually soggy and granular, the dark chocolate brownie (£4.75), had a rich molasses flavour.
It was enough to give me legs. However, next time I tackle this trip, I’m going to be powered home by bangers and mash (other diners had this, and it looked smashing).
That stuffed mackerel is as much use as a fish on a bicycle.