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. 
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June 28, 2019

Seafood Shack, Ullapool, restaurant review

For incredible food and views, leave your picnic at home and eat at Ullapool's Seafood Shack instead, says Gaby Soutar

My husband’s family like to take part in a sport called extreme picnicking.

This involves going out in a rainstorm, snow, hail, biblical midge swarm or other negative environmental event, unpacking lunch, eating it with early stage hypothermia, getting back in the car and going home.

They are hardy types, and examples of how the street food genre manages to survive in this country.

It was of course bucketing down when we visited this new-ish place, which is open for its third season until the end of October. (There is shelter from the summer rains though.)

It’s in a lot that’s bookended by two conveniently wind-beating buildings (though there’s still an unobstructed view to Loch Broom) and a huge tarpaulin protects half of the seating area, with tables that are made from wooden cable reels and topped with bottles of wild flowers.

Of course, there is also the ubiquitous fat bottomed gull strutting on the table and puffing its chest out Freddie Mercury style. Sadly, Beaky wasn’t having much luck with leftovers, and they don’t do his favourite chips anyway.

Choose from the daily menu, chalked up on a large blackboard, of sustainable and local seafood.

We were there bang on noon (it’s open 12-6pm, seven days) and there was already an antsy queue waiting for the shutters to roll up, including people who had disembarked from the cruise liner parked in the harbour.

Get in line, place your order and they’ll shout when it’s ready.

“One haddock wrap!” (£8).

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We loved this. The plain white tortilla was just a practical sleeve to grip a shoe-sized piece of lightly battered pillowy fish and a padding of salad leaves, all moisturised by a slick of pale yellow lemon and dill mayonnaise.

We needed knives and forks (the packaging is recyclable and/or biodegradable) for the smoked trout (£8.50) option, with flakes of rich and pink flesh and a wedge of lemon on a pile of chunky and mayo-clad potato salad that was dotted with spring onion and sweetcorn.

As a bit of a pickle head (in more than one way), I’m a fan of a rollmop, and there were four thick herring fillets (£7.50) in a sweet cure to be unfurled. They came with more of that potato salad, some colourful leaves and peppers, and a slice of chunky germagrain-ish bread.

A doorstop of this loaf appeared again with the glorious mussels (£7.50). These were utter beasts – obscenely plump pale orange butterballs that were the lard arses of the sea – all slopped in a super garlicky white wine broth. Total joy, with loads of salty frothy jus to mop up.

Their set of four palm-sized hand-dived scallops (£9) were equally portly, with creamy smooth dewclaw-like corals, and a varnish of dill-y butter. They came with a light and lemony beetroot couscous, with grains that were dyed lipstick pink, and a bit more salad.

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We were so happy in this spot, on our pew underneath the awning, with the rain drumming overhead.

Finishing up, we shoved our empty boxes tightly into the appropriate bins, and I’m sure the seagull frowned.

Where can we go for cake, we asked the woman in the trailer? I needed pudding and they don’t do it here.

She recommended Cafe Margot, next door and just upstairs from the North West Outdoors shop, or The Ceilidh Place, but we strayed along Argyle Street to the West Coast Delicatessen ( There, we ordered two tray bakes – a chocolate and peanut butter brownie (£1.95), which had lugworm-like holes injected with smooth Sunpat globs, and a deeply jammy bakewell slice (£1.85).

Though you can sit in, we ate them down by the harbour, watching the grey clouds gliding off while the group returned to the cruise ship, making it slightly heavier on its return journey with that seafood-stuffed cargo.

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The rain had paused and the sun appeared for a nanosecond, making this the most civilised picnic my other half has ever had.

It’s not the same without frostbite, but I think he could get used to it.

Seafood Shack Ullapool

9 West Argyle Street, Ullapool

(07876 142623,


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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