Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
March 29, 2021

The Harbour Cafe, Elie, Restaurant Review (takeaway)

This East Neuk business is offering nationwide delivery of its seafoody meals finds Gaby Soutar.

I once bought a dress by Scottish fashion designer, Jonathan Saunders, for 50p (marked down from £600) at a special online sale.

It was my finest moment. I felt immortal. Queen of the world.

People often ask me, how did you do it? My secret is, never look back.

Once the thing is in the virtual basket, click your way out of there, don’t be distracted by the other pretty pictures, your email or the phone. Focus. Hold your nerve.

Think of it like a heist, and your mouse is the getaway driver. Go!

I should have followed my own advice when ordering the new At Home menu from Elie’s Harbour Cafe, which is owned by Amy Elles of last year’s Great British Menu fame.

I’d popped their meal for two (£70), which featured two dressed half lobsters, Andalusian potato salad, langoustines, sourdough, Spanish almond tart and other lovely bits, into my online trolley.

Then I had a leisurely browse of their “add-ons” - shell-shaped chocolate petit fours, organic Balcaskie rare roast beef, oh my, Arbroath Smokies, yes siree. Lobster or oysters and Champagne, quite the thing, lobster thermidor, ay get the gist.

Tinkering as Rome burns.

When I went to check out, there was zilch in there.

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It’s like when you miss your last train at Waverley because you’re faffing about in Valvona & Crolla.

I hope whoever ordered the last one is very pleased with themselves. Perhaps their langoustines will reanimate, and claw them on the snoot.

Thankfully, there were other options. I eventually settled on the smorgasbord for two (£60).

Order on Tuesday by noon for nationwide delivery, which is an additional tenner, to arrive at your doorstep on Friday. Or collect from their Elie harbour spot if you live nearby.

Our box was a real tombola of seaside treasures.

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There were paper bibs, and, rolled up like treasure maps, placemats that featured their crab logo, hand wipes, sea salt with flakes of wakame, a lemon, a sprig of rosemary and wooden picks. Also, two grey stones, presumably from Elie beach.

These were multi-purpose: for cracking crab claws, weighing down the mats if you wanted to eat al-fresco, starting a campfire or using as a second home holiday cottage for slaters.

The food was neatly labelled and packaged in their compostable or biodegradable containers.

One of them contained four pink langoustines, curled up like sleeping Bagpusses.

As one of them was looking at us funny with those beady eyes, we pulled its cheeky head off, and the other got the same treatment.

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Their meat was sweet and so crystalline fresh that you could imagine their antennae were still twitching.

We ate this option solo, though I suppose we should have had them with the aioli. Instead, we used this thick garlicky condiment to ice our fat clutch of about a dozen naked pre-cooked mussels, which we’d decanted from their vacuum pack.

There were also half a dozen pork meatballs, to be nuked in the microwavé (as Nigella recently called it) along with their magnolia-coloured creamy gravy, a large dollop of silky mashed potato, and a blob of lingonberry jam.

That was good, but four slices of trout gravadlax, with edges feathered by dill, were the best bit.

We had these alongside the lightly pickled cucumbers, cut into shapes like Trivial Pursuit wedges, as well as cardboard coloured and crispy sheets of knackebrod.

We were actually feeling quite knackebrod at this point, what with the endless eating. There was probably enough to feed three.

There were still two little whorls of rollmop pickled herring, which I snaffled like a selkie, and a single fillet of caramel-hued smoked mackerel to share, with two sauces on the side - beetroot horseradish and a tangy honey mustard.

Despite the initial disappointment, things had worked out pretty nicely for me.

I’m a fan of smorgasbords when they’re as good as this, though I’m still a bit sad about not getting to try their Spanish almond tart.

Oh well, let’s hope the other shopper has managed to prise that langoustine off their face.

Harbour Cafe

The Toft, Elie Harbour, Elie

How much?

Dinner for two, £60 (plus a £10 delivery charge), excluding drinks

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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