I do enjoy contrasts, so the chance to spend a few days mountain walking on the impressively rugged Isle of Skye, coupled with a visit to the seafood-heavy Plockton Hotel, seemed like an ideal way to fritter away a couple of days. What could be better then slogging up a mountain, spending the night in a bothy on the beach, and returning to civilisation with a bump and a plate of seafood and some nice wine?
So after a rainy traverse of Bla Bheinn (or Blavern, if you prefer), a short night listening to my partner in grime snoring blissfully, and a final ascent that qualifies me to use the phrase "there was a break in the weather, so we thought we'd try for the summit", I was looking forward to a nap, a hot shower, and a plate of the Sound of Sleat's finest. And we had a table for two booked at the Plockton Hotel, 8pm.
After a couple of refreshing and well-kept pints (Deuchars IPA and Isle of Skye Hebridean Gold), we settled in and perused the menu and short but fairly-priced wine list. It all looked good, and so I ordered dressed crab, followed by the seafood platter, m' colleague opting for crevettes followed by scallops. We really are a pair of seafood junkies, you see.
The starters were very good, both the crab and the crevettes pulling off that fresh seafood trick of being light but firm, and meaty but sweet, going well with the Muscadet we ordered in anticipation of the orgy of crustacea to follow.
But hello - what's this? A plate of scallops arrives, drizzled with oil and garlic, smelling sweet and enticing, and indeed they are good. And then my seafood platter arrives, which gives me two reasons to pause. Firstly, a crab claw, complete with claw-crackers. My father has a thing about having to crack open food - he doesn't enjoy it, he claims it's more trouble than it's worth. Happily I'm quite the opposite. I unreservedly admire the person who first looked at an armoured uber-prawn (a lobster, dummy) and thought "I bet if we boil that in seawater and break it open, it'll taste great". A great leap of ingenuity. So I rip into my claw with gusto, and very good it is too.
And then my second reason for pause. With the scent of the sea in my nostrils and the clacking of tempered steel in my ear, I look around for the next victim, but sadly, none is apparent. A quick scan of the plate reveals: smoked salmon, smoked salmon mousse, smoked mackerel, pickled herring and vegetables, and a single baby halibut fillet. Crevettes? No. More crab? No. A scallop, a clam, a cockle, a whelk? No and thrice no. Plates of crevettes are still arriving on other peoples tables, but I have none. I poke around in a desultory fashion, eat half of the (admittedly fairly good) preserved fish, and give it up as a bad job. I admit I even sulked a bit.
So when the bill arrived, confirming that I was being asked to pay £17 for, shall we say, a fairly liberal interpretation of what a seafood platter should be, I had to say something. To be fair, my complaint was met politely and sympathetically, but to no avail. The halibut was, apparently, a substitute for the crevettes. When I ask for a reduction to be made to the bill, I'm told that as everything on the platter is sold by weight, what I was served would have been to an equivalent value. I think about making a smart-arsed comment about the perils of knowing the price of everything but value of nothing, but give up - all I want to do is leave. So pay in full and leave we did. We went and drank in the Plockton Inn, where the ingredients of their seafood platter were listed on the menu, and damn good value it looked too.
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