While we sat in the car, I remembered that this hotel did wild swimming sessions.
I’d got a press release about them, back in the early summer last year. Apparently, they’re taken by a local expert, who’s nicknamed Dan the Merman. I thought I might spot him sitting on a rock, wearing a mankini and combing his beard with a shell comb. No such luck.
Even if you are half-fella-half-fish, it definitely wasn’t the right sort of day for plunging into a grey-looking Loch Linnhe. The wind was squalling and there was sideways rain.
We knew that, as soon as we got out of the vehicle, we’d get soaked. Cue a countdown. Three, two……one, and we sprinted to the reception of this hotel, which is part of hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray’s Wee Hotel Company portfolio.
The bar area was already packed, with dripping sou’westers by the fire.
However, we were first into the restaurant, which has two AA rosettes and views out to the bobbing boats.
Since it was a soupy sort of day, he decided on the starter of Cullen skink (£9). It was a Moby Dick of a portion – there was probably a pint of the stuff. However, it was virtually impossible to slow down, pace yourself and not be a gannet, since this was such a balmy bowlful, with stacks of smoky haddock and leek. The ultimate in comfort food, especially with a pad of chestnut-coloured oat and treacle soda bread on the side.
I’d gone for the hand-dived scallops (£18). This dish featured a golden pie crust on top of the scallop shell, so it looked like it might be a purse belonging to Botticelli’s Venus. Except, instead of chewing gum and lipstick inside, there were four sweet scallops, in a white wine-y jus. Gorgeous, as was the accompanying jugful of roe Jacqueline - a sort of buttery jus made from the scallop’s brightest extremities – to slosh over the top.
The Pierhouse Platter (£60) is probably the most desirable option on the mains list, with langoustine, lobster, rillettes and other delights, and they upgrade to a grand version of this for £160, which probably contains all sea life from within a mile’s radius. They probably only sift out the seals, basking sharks and porpoises.
However, he’d already been sold by the Simply Grilled Fish, which, on our visit, was sea trout. This comes with an increasingly fancy choice of sauce, starting with beurre noisette and seasonal greens (£20), then roast apple and cider sauce and caramelised apple (£26), and culminating in the bisque, oyster and saffron rouille and Loch Leven mussels (£24).
As a purist, he went for the most affordable option, and it consisted of a perfectly cooked piece of burnish-skinned fish in a pool of buttery cabbage, kale, seeds and herbs.
I’d downsized with a small portion of their signature Loch Leven mussels (£8, or £16 for a large), which, according to the menu, are rope grown and farmed by James Maclean and Shona Maccoll. I feel that they’re just one step off knowing each of these bivalves’ names. I started with Wee Blubber, who was wibbly and lathered in garlic, white wine, smoked salmon, cream and parsley sauce. Its siblings, including Shelly Duvall and Molly Usc, went down the hatch shortly afterwards.
We didn’t really need the side of hand cut chips and Blackthorn Sea Salt (£4.50), though we ate it anyway, and the roast celeriac, honey and stout glaze (£5) divided the crowd, as it was like a sticky toffee pudding in vegetable form.
Speaking of which, there was no space for pudding. The Cullen skink had absolutely done us in.
I felt sad about that, as two of the options on the list were my dream desserts. As we drove away, I had instant regret about not ordering the Don Pedro creme caramel with currants and caramel glaze (£7) or the burnt orange, whisky and cinder toffee rice pudding (£7).
Should we go back? I did think about it, but wanted to preserve my dignity.
Anyway, I am adding the act of skipping their pud to my long list of life regrets.
My visit to The Pierhouse will be added to the other compilation, entitled My Favourite Seafood Restaurants in Scotland.
(01631 730 302, www.pierhousehotel.co.uk)