The buzz of crickets and the glow of fireflies finally tempt you into the night to sample the Boat House alfresco as you vow to return to lunch. True love awaits the family looking for a great night out”.
Boat House, Cameron House
Loch Lomond, Alexandria, Dunbartonshire
(0871 222 4681, www.cameronhouse.co.uk)
Lunch for two, excluding drinks
I’d guess that whoever wrote this restaurant description on Cameron House’s website is either translating directly from the original Japanese, or is high on life. For one thing: fireflies unlikely, midgies yes. Also, I would definitely leave my family at home if I was looking for true love. They’re clingy and cramp my pulling technique.
Still, you can see why the space might be so inspirational. Yachts parked outside in a private marina, acres of outside decking, geese havering about, and a New England-style interior with wood that’s painted the colour of spearmint toothpaste.
This resort also offers Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond for the fine diners, the Claret Jug for golfers, Cameron Grill for an evening meal (if you can’t quite stretch to MW at LL) and this, its family-friendly, all-day affair.
The Boat House’s rather pricey menu boasts stone-baked pizzas, “shellfish featuring Loch Fyne”, burgers, vegetarian stuff and posher bits.
It’s huge and busy – a mass-catering operation, as many hotel restaurants are.
Our prettily presented trio of seared scallops (£9.25) was good, with their dependable BFFs of black pudding. There was also additional and imaginative sweetness provided by a slice of sweet carrot purée, dried carroty crisps and a vinaigrette that was studded with bloated raisins.
The jumbo lump crab cakes (£8.95) turned out to be a singular cake, but it was packed with crab meat, as oppose to potato or other miscellaneous filler. This came with a blob of what they described as Creole mustard, but which was more like Thousand Island, and a sugary sweetcorn relish.
My main of seared sea bream (£15.95) was similarly adequate. The portion size was utterly mahoosive – three fillets of fish, a giant cloud of mash, four butterball mussels (I looked for their tiny Loch Fyne labels, but they must’ve been snipped out), oceans of creamy sauce, peas and, incongruously, halved cherry tomatoes.
I enjoyed it, though it was lacking in seasoning. However, that’s the nature of the machine – keeping the hordes happy is hard. If in doubt, hold the salt.
Also, as the mash hadn’t been listed on the menu, I’d ordered chips (£3.25) on the side. So unnecessary, I wish they’d told me.
While I scoffed this, my dining partner was sweating over the US-style Maryland chicken (£15.50).
In a wire basket, there was bread-crumbed and fried chicken legs and wings (good, soft), a sweetcorn pancake (fiery hot with chilli), maple-smoked bacon (a piglet’s worth), a four-inch long banana fritter (curiously nice, but in short supply) and a side dish of transparent and DayGlo romesco sauce. Oh, and chips.
We’re not proud of eating all that, but it scratched a certain itch.
I’m afraid that my pudding – the Boat House banana split (£5.50) – sucked. It consisted of a square of dry banana loaf (they’d described this as “banana bread French toast”), which was drizzled with toffee sauce and had a dollop of decent rum ‘n’ raisin on the side. I’ll give them half a point for reinvigorating my love of this retro ice-cream flavour.
The glazed lemon tart (£5.50) had a bit of a silty and damp pastry, but was zesty enough and came with some good plain ice-cream.
Unfortunately, they were washed down with my ultimate bugbear – hotel coffee. Go to a five-star hotel and you will invariably pay around a fiver for a cuppa Joe. We got a cappuccino and a macchiato (£3.75 each), both of which tasted like the rotten swills from an ashtray. Cameron House is not unique in this respect.
So, the Boat House. Not bad, and I do vow to return for lunch, though I haven’t found true love.