The Soutar family has been holidaying on the Isle of Arran since the dawn of time.
There was a brief Covid-related hiatus before normal service resumed.
As creatures of habit, we have our high and low rent food traditions. There’s always a trip to baker Wooley’s for strawberry or caramel tarts, not to mention Calmac chips - also available on the smaller replacement ferry, while MV Caledonian Isles is out of service, after crashing into the harbour. Oops.
We also load up on free samples at Arran Cheese Shop, and there’s a visit to seafood restaurant Mara and The Coffee Pot.
It’s not all about food though. We might walk to the King’s Caves, or Machrie Moor Standing Stones. Or do a third of each route. And take a picnic.
We rarely deviate, partially because things don’t change quickly on the island, not that we’d ever want them to.
Three-year-old business The French Fox, owned by Guy Gautier and his partner, Emma-Jane Fox, was there on our last visit in 2020, but we didn’t make it along.
Guy is continuing the legacy of his late father, Mark Gautier, who, as well as being a chef at the Savoy and other top London restaurants, also ran traiteur Madame Gautier, which served French food to customers at farmers’ markets and various festivals. They planned to launch a family restaurant together, Bistro Gautier, in the English town of Harpenden, though Mark sadly passed away just before it opened, and Guy, his sister, Liana, and Emma, had to do it without the patriarch.
The couple left a few years ago to concentrate on a smaller project - Pierre, their turquoise Peugeot J7 van.
You used to find them at various locations across the island, but they’re currently stationed at Auchrannie Road in Brodick from Friday to Sunday (and they’ll be adding Thursdays soon) until the end of October.
We commandeered a couple of their al fresco tables, opposite what must be the island’s only tattoo parlour and a jewellery and joss stick shop.
There were three generations to please, so we ordered almost everything on the bistro-style menu, apart from the poulet a la Provencal (£13) and the Provencal tart (£12).
Sorry, Provence, it’s nothing personal.
My 11-year-old niece and I had the confit de boeuf (£15) and the venison and bramble croquettes (£6), which we tackled with wooden forks.
A pair of gallous robins hopped along and nagged us for scraps, but there were no spare crumbs, so we told them to go bob-bob-bobbin off.
The beef stew was gorgeous, with loads of cushiony threads of meat, as well as a red wine and mustard sauce saturated bank of buttery pomme puree, then chevrons of Arran mustard mayo. It was all so pleasingly squelchy, like pushing your feet into wet sand, with the only contrasting texture a layer of beige and feathery crispy onions.
The three neat bolsters of tightly crumbed venison were lovely too - dense, substantial and perfect dipped in the pot of gravy mayo. One and a half each was just enough.
My sister had gone for jarret de jambon (£13.50), which featured a mound of shredded and mustard glazed ham hock in a gravy that was dotted with parmentier potato buoys. It had a perfectly crispy egg on top, with a runny yolk and a bronze hem around its white edge, as well as more of those crispy onions and some spring ones too.
We’d also ordered double croques. Croque-a-doodle-deux. The robins did get a couple of crusts, but only because their begging and tears were getting insufferable.
The traditional monsieur (£6.50) was filled with stamps of gammon, as well as mayo and plenty of cheddar, and the epinard (£6.50) vegetarian version of this sandwich was packed with lashings of vibrant green creamed spinach, tomato and cheddar. Both were made with thick slabs of sourdough bread from our other favourite Arran destination, the most excellent Blackwater Bakehouse, and topped with crispy onions.
I just wish I’d remembered to try their pudding of profiteroles (£4.50), which are a thing here, but we completely forgot about them in the flurry of scraping every last bit of pomme puree into our mouths and binning our boxes.
Despite that, my niece, and the rest of our posse, definitely wants this place added to our annual itinerary.
I agree, and hopefully future generations of hungry Soutars will make the pilgrimage.
We’ll try not to fill up on free samples of cheese and Calmac chips before our 2023 visit.
Mara, Shore Road, Corrie, www.mara-arran.co.uk
The menu changes daily at this restaurant, which is open from Tuesday to Sunday and has a few window seats inside and a couple of picnic tables on the decking. Sample dishes, which can be pre-ordered for collection, include the smoked whiting kedgeree or Goan fish curry. They also do sweet things and coffee all day.
Blackwater Bakehouse, Blackwaterfoot, find them on Facebook
Get here early for sourdough loaves, or sweet stuff including their bergamot and lemon infused treacle tart, Eccles cakes or almond croissants.
The Shack, various locations in Arran, see Instagram @theshackarran
Here’s another pop up food truck, which you can track down through social media. Their offerings include crab roll with lemon mayo and rocket or a monkfish and king prawn and coconut curry.