The annual family holiday to Arran. Showers, sunshine, mist, cheese samples on toothpicks, Avon Skin So Soft, digital detox, paperback, distillery, Lochranza and Brodick Castles, CalMac, seals, another non-sighting of basking sharks, pebbly beaches, golf club cafes, sticky tablecloths, toasties, standing stones, wild flowers, undulating roads and struggling cyclists. It’s been the same since 1982, that’s why I like it.
There’s hardly been a new restaurant since then either. The most recent contenders are the excellent Glenisle and the bistro at The Douglas Hotel, both of which will be newbies for aeons. As the grey-haired man in the Brodick Co-op said: “I moved here 30 years ago, so only another 40 years until I’m considered a local.”
Coast, however, has recently come under new ownership. We’ve been before (two years ago) and the bistro-style menu doesn’t seem to have changed much. Our starter – a huge pot of chicken liver pate (£5.50) – was slick and meaty, with a large portion of sweet onion chutney on the side, but we weren’t sure what to do once we’d demolished all five of the cork-coloured mini Arran Oatcakes. Eating the remaining paste straight out of the ramekin made us feel like stray moggies rootling in a can, so we just ignored it.
I’m sure there are many people who don’t sigh internally when they see the ubiquitous haggis bonbons (£5.95) on a menu. I wish I was one of them. However, these three bollards from Lochranza’s Arran Butcher were goodies – pompoms of crunchy-skinned peppery offal, with an accompanying jug of mushroomy-tasting “pepper sauce” on the side.
Mains weren’t quite as successful, especially my roasted salmon fillet (£12.95). The piece of pink fish was fine, but the dish in general was oilier than a leak in an omega 3 factory. Its anonymous topping of “chilli and garlic drizzle” tasted of nothing but pulped tomato, while a claggy helping of dauphinoise potato was pretty ascetic and needed to be plumped up by more cream and garlic.
These tatties, as well as a fat hunk of woolly white bread, also came alongside a decent vegetarian offering of ratatouille nicoise (£9.95) – a basic stew of onions, peppers, olives and tomato. Not bad.
The braised lamb neck fillet, (£14.95) served with a finely chopped mint sauce, was probably the best main course of three, simply because it was a decent nugget of meat. It came with mange tout and carrots. Fine, though the school dinnery mashed potato needed to be pimped up with something.
So, the only real downer on this plate was the ridiculous excess of oil. As with the salmon dish, they’d splashed on more grease than the cast of Magic Mike XXL. Not sexy. When I see waffles, I think breakfast, but I ordered some for pudding anyway (£5.50). This grid of dough was pleasant enough, with loads of berry compote and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on the top. The lime and chocolate chip cheesecake (£5.50) was a cheesecake, Jim, but not as we know it.
Think disassembled affair in a sundae glass. At the bottom, there was some crumbled biscuit, then a layer of wet and sugary mascarpone mixed with hamster treat-style chocolate pellets and a squirt of not enough lime. If they’re looking for no-cook combos that involve bunging a few ingredients together, there are probably better options.
Luckily for this place, there’s no rush when it comes to tweaks.
We’re on Arran time, so it’ll be the new gaff in town for, oh, easily the next decade. Take your time guys.
Shore Road, Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran
(01770 700 308, www.coastarran.co.uk)
Dinner for three, excluding drinks: £60.30