The Scottish Seafood Trail takes you on a culinary journey around the best places to enjoy the west coast of Scotland’s delicious and abundant seafood.
The Royal An Lochan in Tighnabruaich looking out across to Bute, is a member hotel restaurant of the Seafood Trail and a favourite of Tom Kitchin no less. We visited it to chat with the owners Christine and Keith Bettis about their hotel, the local produce used in their restaurant and being featured on Channel 4’s ‘Relocation, Relocation’.
The best seafood on their doorstep
The restaurant at Royal An Lochan makes the best use of the fantastic selection of seafood available within minutes of their hotel.
Christine – “We get our shellfish from Prentice Seafoods in Tarbert, Our normal fish, our haddock, and so on comes from the Fishmongers Dougie Johnson, in Tarbert, as well. They bundle it up in polystyrene boxes, put it on the ferry, it has its free trip across the ferry and we collect it from this side. So we have local shellfish on the doorstep, so to speak.
“The halibut from Dougie is Gigha halibut. The scallops are Loch Fyne scallops, the langoustines are either from Loch Fyne or the Isle of Bute. The mussels are a mixture of Loch Fyne or Mull, but they are all west coast and from a 50 mile radius. It’s nice to be able to turn round to guests and say, ‘your langoustines could have been caught out there’.
Take a look at Head Chef Raymond O’Neil making moules marinière.
“Our meat is from McIntyre’s Butchers on the Isle of Bute. They have a guy that comes round in a van twice a week with our breakfast sausages and our rump steaks for the bar. Then all the dried goods and stuff comes from local suppliers.
“We try and be as local as possible, up until the end of last year, we would get smoked salmon from a guy called Guido, who smoked his salmon in the village. It was the most stunning salmon and tasted gorgeous but he’s moved away now.
Here’s Raymond cooking pan-fried Loch Fyne scallops.
[Tweet ““We use Gigha halibut, Loch Fyne scallops & the langoustines are from Loch Fyne or Bute.”]
Tom Kitchin enjoying langoustines
The hotel’s restaurant has received a fantastic accolade from Tom Kitchin no less, who visited the hotel without the owners even realising at the time.
Christine – “Tom Kitchin was here and he has since said in the BBC Good Food magazine, that his favourite meal was with his wife sitting next to him, and a glass of wine, having langoustines at the Royal An Lochan. You can’t get much better than that!”
Check out Raymond cooking some of their very fresh langoustines here.
The whole experience
A small hotel with 11 bedrooms, most of which have fantastic views across the sea to Bute, we asked Christine, why someone should book a night at the Royal An Lochan?
Christine – “I think it’s the experience. It’s the experience from the minute you start the drive to the hotel at the Road End, eight miles up the road, and then you turn into our road. You have all this beautiful scenery that keeps popping up.
[Tweet “From the sea view rooms you can see the sun rising behind Bute.”]
“From the sea view rooms you can see the sun rising behind Bute. We tell the guests to leave the curtains open, no one will see them, leave your curtains open and you’ll see a beautiful sunrise. The area is fantastic, so much peace and tranquillity.
“If you want that personal touch, but not too much in your face, then this is the place to come. It’s just somewhere to come and chill, there’s no pressure, you can just use the space as your own. A lot of guests say it’s like walking into someone’s house, it’s got that relaxed feeling as soon as you walk through the door.”
On their ‘Relocation, Relocaiton’ show, the couple reveal the experience wasn’t as straight forward as you would think.
Christine – “We applied to ‘Relocation, Relocation’ in July 2009, I didn’t think more of it then Channel 4 phoned up at the end of the year, asked if we were still interested and they started filming in January 2010. They showed us four hotels, they were all nice but not right and they left us alone to think about it.
“While they do the research, you’re not meant to do any research yourself. They said ‘we’re desperate to find your ideal hotel, should we do another search area?’. Just before that, we’d visited the Kames Hotel, down the road which was for sale, and we fell in love with this area so I told them to look in Argyll.
“Before we told them that, we came in here [Royal An Lochan] for coffee. We got an email saying this hotel was being sold for bankruptcy, and we thought, ‘how do we tell Channel 4 this is our dream hotel?’ because then they’ll know we’ve been looking directly! So we got our financial adviser to tell them, as he was supposed to know us inside and out. He phoned them up and said, ‘I know that Keith and Christine would love that hotel.’
“So it came to the filming again and Channel 4 brought us down, filmed us at The Kames, and said, ‘right, we are going to show you another hotel’, we thought it had to be Royal An Lochan but we drove right past it and ended up in Dunoon, not even close to the village location we’d requested. We couldn’t understand why they didn’t show us this hotel so we asked them off camera.
Keith – “It turns out Channel 4 knew it was up for sale and that it was the perfect hotel for us but couldn’t show it to us due to a decision by the hotel’s bank or management company.
“Obviously we bought it in the end in July 2010 and they came back that same month to film us here in a catch-up programme. The coverage was fantastic for our business. Within 10 minutes of the show finishing on Channel 4 the website crashed and we got our first booking. The show is shown all over the world and we get emails from people in South Africa or New Zealand, who have seen the show, ‘Oh, if we are ever in Scotland, we’ll come see you’.
Royal An Lochan have currently got a fantastic offer on the 5pm Big Deal that includes a dinner spend – £75 for an Overnight Stay for 2 and £30 towards Dinner at The Royal an Lochan, Argyll – more information here.