Did you know that our seafood is so popular that we’ve seen guests hire helicopters to travel from the east coast to dine with us? A truly wonderful testament to the talents of our team!
For International Chef’s Day 2021, we stepped into our busy kitchen to learn more about the inspiration behind their flavoursome dishes in an interview with Loch Melfort Hotel’s Head Chef, Richard Young.
Q. We recently sampled one of your Catch of the Day specials, a monkfish tail with delicious, curried sauce with mango & cauliflower. Where do you get the inspiration for such creative flavours?
Richard. Interestingly, the monkfish dish is now a fixture on our current menu. It started out as the catch of the day. For those dishes, we usually try to incorporate well-known good food marriages in a more contemporary way.
Fish and curry have always been a great combo. We add the roast cauliflower (which makes a lovely curry in its own right), and a lot of people enjoy a mango chutney with their Indian food, so we added pickled sweet fresh mango for acidity.
We’ve always had great feedback around our pastry, so we wrapped the monkfish in thin puff pastry for texture. Most dishes are variations on a theme. There is not much out there that’s 100% original, it’s all about pulling the dishes together, dishes that fit your customer’s style and tastes.
Q. The hotel has a new vegetable garden. Has this made a difference to the decisions you make around the menu?
Richard. Year one of the experiment is almost over, and it would be over doing it to say we make huge menu decisions based on the harvest. However, what it does do is gives us scope to seasonally enhance our specials and vegetarian dishes. It also offers a plentiful supply of fresh garden herbs.
Success stories this year were the nasturtiums, a beautiful peppery orange flower garnish that went incredibly with fish. The green leaves made the most amazing pesto, and we loved working with the shiraz (purple) mange tout (a first for me), rainbow beetroot, and courgettes. They all added colour to plates. I also need to give a big shout out to the variety of small onions we had, which were intense and sweet.
We’ve talked about attempting berries of various kinds for next year, all being well. However, my gut feeling is to limit varieties of all produce and concentrate on the most practical, but interesting, ingredients.
Q. Oban is famously known as the Seafood Capital of Scotland. Is there a particular fish you love to work with? And, why?
For me, seafood screams shellfish, so my answer is scallops … all day long! We get them from the cold Mull waters; hand-dived, plump and absolute top quality. Also, nothing beats live langoustine jumping about the box. Super fresh is the key, and our location is perfect to benefit from that. When I do our fish demonstrations, I always use scallops as one of the ingredients as they’re an interesting subject matter that never disappoint. They’re versatile, luxurious, and require good judgement to cook them. They have it all.
Q. What is the greatest compliment you have ever had about your food?
Sam, our General Manager, will tell you that Chefs don’t take compliments easily. We are our own worst critics. I must be honest, the best compliments come from those who tell me, “Chef, I’ve eaten here several times and it’s always been really good”. It indicates consistency. There’s no point being a world beater one day, then pants the next.
One I don’t feel ashamed to be proud of, HRH Princess Anne once said, “You have a very good Chef in there”. I was content with that.
Q. Given their variety, the special dietary menus at Loch Melfort Hotel have obviously been put together with lot of consideration. Was it important for you to make sure the hotel was leading the way in this regard?
It’s an on-going development of our business. It’s difficult to satisfy everybody all the time but, what we can do, is our best to accommodate and cater for an ever-changing diversity of diner. It’s always great to hear people think that way about our efforts around the menus, but it seems natural to us, and we can always do more.
Natasha’s Law was a big influence, as everyone wants to know more about what they are eating. We do use artistic license but, fundamentally, simplicity is the key. If you get your core values right, and customer requirements on point, you can’t go far wrong.
Please note: Our Restaurant is very busy at the moment and we recommended you book a table in advance to avoid disappointment.