Surprises come in all shapes and sizes, or so it seems. When The Silver Fox and I recently headed out to South Queensferry for tea by the sea (ok,technically it’s an inlet), the first thing I noticed was that the Forth Rail Bridge’s lights were conspicuous in their absence. I had my new camera all ready for some ‘atmospheric’ night time shots at this fabulous landmark, and instead I found myself peering out across the water at an indistinct version of the bridge’s familiar form. Apparently they’ve been out for ages, and they’re saving the re-introduction to be part of the Olympic Flame’s journey through Scotland later in the summer. Oh well.
Surprise number two that same evening came in the form of a rather lovely dinner at The Boat House. South Queensferry doesn’t exactly seem to be awash with a huge choice of places to eat, so locals must be delighted with this place.
The Boat House comprises a bar, bistro and ‘proper’ restaurant, but none of these can really be seen from the street level entrance, so it’s a bit of a mystery punt in some ways, if you’re not already familiar with the place. The stairs took us down to the more relaxed bar area, and with a North-facing aspect , I’ll bet the views are amazing in the daytime and on summer nights. Having said that, the more formal ‘restaurant’ side was made up of a couple of smaller rooms, and the crisp décor and linen-clad tables made this a lovely spot for winter dining. A few nautical touches here and there brought the theme together, and the focus on the menu from chef/patron Paul Steward is very much from the sea.
A post-birthday celebratory glass of prosecco for me, and a single pint of Stella for Monsieur (who was in charge of the wheels) to look over the menu. I was 1/2 of a second to slow to shout shotgun on the scallops with Stornoway black pudding, and so I selected the smoked haddock fishcakes with homemade tartare sauce for myself.
My fishcakes were a bit of a gamble, as sometimes I find smoked haddock a bit too, erm, smoky! As it turnsout, the soft fishcakes were delicious. A convincing but still delicate flavour from the fish was blended with well-seasoned potato and herbs. As with everything to went on to eat that night , the presentation was absolutely gorgeous too. Graeme’s plate was a full one too, the kitchen seeming to like ‘3s’. Three excellently cooked Oban scallops, just the right level of searing on the outside to bring out those sweet caramelised flavours. The now almost ubiquitous pairing with the black pudding showed why this dish is so popular in Scotland, meaty but not over-powering the scallops.
I had a mild temptation to try a steak, but in the main this is a seafood restaurant, so it made sense to stick with the sub-aquatic offerings. I selected the yellow-fin tuna with mango salsa (£18.95), and G had the wild Scottish halibut with an orange, ginger and pink peppercorn reduction (£19.95) . The actual size of the fish portions were generous, and my tuna was the ‘dream’ version of how a seared piece of this fish should be. Still just translucent in the centre, blackened with flavoursome stripes from the grill. It was so good that I’m craving it again, as I write this on a Sunday morning. The fresh mango and spring onion salsa was great and merited me asking for a wee extra portion. The second version of which was even better as still cold from not having sat on a heated plate.
G’s halibut was a lovely piece of clean white fish, and the sauce was a particularly moreish take on burnt orange. My thoughts were that the halibut was a wee bit overcooked (it was a massive cube) but G refuted it, and enjoyed his main. Both dishes came with a selection of fresh al dente vegetables, if slightly mixed-season with turned baby carrots, asparagus, tenderstem broccoli and cherry tomatoes. For the record the tomatoes weren’t al dente, but soft and deliciously sweet.
Desserts (all £4.50)were of a good standard and home-made, however I don’t think pastry is necessarily the kitchen’s strongest point. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the bread we ate at the start was supermarket tiger bread. Nevertheless, the sticky toffee pudding was a gem, deep in flavour and spongy without being too insignificant in texture. The accompanying vanilla ice cream was of a good standard, but I think this is the kind of dish that would be better presented in a bowl to allow for a better mix of toffee sauce and meltage on the ice cream. Oh, and more of that toffee sauce please! G’s vanilla pannacotta was silky, with the requisite ‘wobble-factor’ and a true vanilla flavour. The accompanying apple purée was a bit lost, as it meant the dish just seemed a bit wet (perhaps appropriate for a seafood place). Some kind of shortbread or biscotti would have made a nice ‘alternating’ bite.
With its relaxed atmosphere, well-written wine list, great soundtrack ( I got the giggles when ‘La Mer’ came over the speakers), and charming front of house team, The Boat House is definitely the kind of place that you’d love to have as your local bistro. Whether it’s quite at the stage of ‘destination dining’ I’m not 100% on, but we’ll definitely come back again later in the year. Tuna for me again, and next time hopefully I’ll get to see that bridge!