Portavadie: Perfectly Palatable...and More!
Portavadie, on the shores of Loch Fyne, was originally intended to be an oil rig. I'm delighted it's not! Extensive development has seen it become a marina with restaurant, accommodation, leisure facilities, and a spa. I have visited before, about eight years ago when I was on a sailing trip. We took a berth in the marina and I was over the moon to find excellent drying and shower facilities - if you sail, you'll know what a treat this can be!
This time we visited to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I booked a studio apartment and we took the route they advise against in their confirmation email! They advise against it because it includes a lot of single track roads so if you're not familiar with driving these roads, follow their advice! Living locally and using that road regularly, I'm comfortable with the route, and so we set off in the direction of Tighnabruaich, in beautiful sunshine. Fortunately, as you can see from the photo, the sunshine was still there when we arrived! Remarkably, it hung around all day while a storm raged about 30 minutes up the road! This made for a lovely experience in the infinity pool, where we basked in the sunshine. There are three options for eating at Portavadie - there's the cafe at the leisure facilities, the restaurant at the marina, and the Lodge kitchen and bar.
After we'd checked in and availed ourselves of the leisure facilities, we wandered over to the restaurant for dinner. We'd booked a table for 7pm and stopped for a drink beforehand. As 7pm approached, we started to head for our table but were told we could just relax with our drinks, no need to rush. This was really nice and put us instantly at ease. I'd ordered a Nerabus gin (it's from Islay) and was admiring the smell when the barman popped over to our table to tell me that he'd put bitters in the glass and swirled the ice before adding the gin, hence that extra aromatic note. I thought that was a really nice touch and excellent customer service for him to notice us discussing it and nip over to explain.
When we were seated in the restaurant, we were left with the menu and our drinks order was taken. The restaurant overlooks the marina and so scenic, pretty views are guaranteed. We were brought water and, after we'd chosen our dishes, we were brought bread with oil to dip. The bread was a really gorgeous, chewy sourdough - normally I don't bother with the free bread brought to the table as I don't want to spoil my appetite, but I could not resist this!
Something that jumps out at you from the menu is the regular use of ingredients from Argyll's larder. I swithered when choosing my starter, tempted by the Tarbert scallops but swayed ultimately by the smoked salmon from Dunoon's Argyll Smokery. The hubster went for the pickled Loch Fyne mackerel and we were not disappointed. The dishes were so pretty!
Pickling is clearly on-trend right now - both our starters had picked elements - and the crunchy pickled veg brought real texture and acidity to my plate, which cut nicely through the salmon and complimented the horseradish. These were both delicious options, and a nice, light way to start the meal.
Onwards to the mains! Again, the provenance is evident and it's so pleasing to see good, local produce as the star of the show. Going slightly further afield (!), I chose the Scrabster cod with triple cooked potatoes and a warm tartare dressing, and the hubster picked the slow cooked Scottish chicken with bacon, sweetcorn and creamed potato. We were not disappointed.
Again - so pretty! I loved my dish - it was bursting with flavour and was essentially a smart take on fish and chips. Under the crispy panko crumb, the cod was meltingly soft, and the cubes of triple-cooked potato paired so well with it and the tartare and peas...probably the fanciest "fish supper" I've had! If you'd like an indicator as to how much I enjoyed this, I had to deliberately slow myself down to avoid scoffing the lot in a matter of minutes. The hubster's chicken dish looked fabulous - you could see how soft and moist the chicken was and everything on the plate worked together really well. These are well-thought out mains where every element on the plate brings something to the dish.
We were offered the desert menu but decided to take a little time to recover before diving into the final course! We both knew what we wanted the moment we saw the menu though - dark chocolate ganache with pistachio ice-cream and marinated cherries. And Oh - Em - Gee, was it good! That ganache! It was so rich and so smooth and so chocolatey. There was a chocolate soil and tuille, both of which brought a nice bit of texture to the dish, and those cherries had been marinated in (I think) kirsch which normally I'd not be especially keen on but it'd been done really well, so that the cherries had a deep, rich almost raisiny flavour to the them. The pistachio ice-cream brought a nice, cool, light element to the pud and along with the cherry sauce, helped cut through the richness of the chocolate. It was the perfect way to end a thoroughly delicious meal.
I should also add that service was really nice. Our server had 'trainee' on her badge which we both agreed was an excellent way of helping to support new employees. We didn't at any stage feel rushed, despite this being mid-season and the restaurant being busy. We had plenty of time between courses to relax (but not so much we were wondering where our food was) and so we felt free to just enjoy our meal, rather than worrying about whether or not they needed to turn the table.
In terms of price, it is a little more expensive but it's a luxury resort, so you get what you pay for. We spent around £80 for three courses and two large glasses of wine, so this felt like a fair bill. If you're not feeling flush enough for this, the Lodge kitchen and bar offers a range of home-cooked food with at £6 - £7 and mains from £13 - £16, so are different options to suit different budgets.