Tam Cowan’s restaurant review: The George Street Fish Restaurant, 13-15 George Street, Oban
WHILE it might be a dream job for some guys to judge Miss World or a wet T-shirt contest, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven last year when I was invited to get my teeth into a “chippy war” that had broken out in Oban.
To cut a long story short, all three fish and chip shops embroiled in this minor conflict served up a fantastic fish supper. But the overall winner – and deservedly so – was The George Street Fish and Chip Shop.
Quite frankly, I thought it was right up there with my personal favourites – L’Alba D’Oro in Edinburgh, Holdgates in Perth, The Ashvale in Aberdeen, The Chip Chick Inn in Glasgow and The Anstruther Fish Bar in, well, do I really need to tell you?
Needless to say, I was immediately frothing at the mouth when I heard the owner, John Stewart, was planning to open a restaurant next door and I visited it last month – just a week after it opened.
Sure enough, the interior was showroom-style (I think the packaging had only just come off my chair) and the multipurpose toilet (male/female/disabled) simply sparkled.
It was one of those big WCs that could easily double as a squash court and you’ll love the fresh flowers on top of the cistern (if they didn’t die 30 seconds after I popped in).
Tell you what else I really like about The George Street Fish Restaurant, just like the takeaway next door it’s open all day, seven days and that’s great news.
Let’s face it, you never know when the craving for a fish supper is suddenly going to hit you over the head like an Acme anvil in a Road Runner cartoon.
Even the lively background music was pretty decent.
It was Abba all the way (I think the Swedish supergroup are still top of the charts in Oban alongside The New Seekers and Mungo Jerry), featuring all their fish shop classics – I Have A Bream, Dancing Queen Scallops and their massive Chinese hit, Ling Ling.
The menu’s a wee cracker. Apart from a good variety of fish (battered, grilled or fried), the “not fish” section features a fillet steak or chicken breast in breadcrumbs.
The George Street Haddock Tea (fish and chips, mushy peas, bread and butter, with tea or coffee) for £9.50 (or £12.50 with a glass of Prosecco) looks exceptional value.
The house wine was a measly £13.90 a bottle (it’s always the same story when I’ve got the motor) and the £5 kids’ menu – fish, sausage, chicken or pizza with chips, peas or salad and fruit juice – is also worth shouting about.
We both started with the home-made smoked mackerel mousse and it was utterly delicious – velvety smooth, sensationally smoky and, boy, you could really taste the mackerel.
In short, a million miles from the bought-in stuff. I usually like good oatcakes (preferably Arran oaties) with a mousse or pate, but it was served with some of the best crusty bread I’ve ever tasted (right up there with Guy’s and La Lanterna in Glasgow or Cafe St Honore in Edinburgh).
In fact, my crafty mate Ron spread the mousse on very sparingly before asking the waitress for some extra bread and a full basket of the stuff duly arrived.
Now that, like making pea and ham soup from a chicken stock cube, is clever.
Main courses? Had to be fish and chips, of course. But I went a bit posh, by trying the lemon sole. And it was fantastic.
The delicate fillet of fish was enveloped in a light, crispy batter and the chips – Maris Pipers, peeled and cut in the back shop and cooked in beef fat – were exceptional. Crispy outside, soft and fluffy in the centre.
On the side, very good mushy peas and a generous bowl of chippy-style picked onions.
(If you’re wondering why your mouth is watering, it’s because this is proper food we’re talking about, folks. Quite frankly, you can stick your Michelin stars where the sun don’t shine.)
Across the table, Ron described his grilled sea bass as “half the price of Glasgow and twice as tasty” and, I must say, served with a rocket salad and lemon, it did seem amazingly good value at just £11.50.
His dessert – home-made apple crumble – was not the way I like it (more apple than crumble), but Ron loved it.
And, even though I was stuffed, I’m glad I didn’t miss my favourite dessert – banoffee pie – as the restaurant’s very own version was superb.
Any chance I can review this place next week as well?