A Pain in the Boatswain - Bosun's Table, Largs

You should know by now that I am absolutely 100% the biggest fan of Buzzworks and their fantastic restaurants.  If you haven't read my reviews (shocking!) then you can read about Scotts at Troon here and The Longhouse in Kilmarnock here.

I received an email from Buzzworks notifying me a month or so back introducing their newest addition Bosun's Table, based in Largs yacht haven. A bit of nautical knowledge for you - a 'bosun' is the officer on the ship responsible for rigging, anchors and the smooth running of a ship, and also known as a 'Boatswain'.

Described as "a friendly and welcoming cafe", I was excited to see the Buzzworks magic inside a more casual setting.  When they have restaurants with such high quality, I was intrigued to see how they have incorporated that class, elegance and amazement into a casual and relaxed cafe/bistro.  My sister Sharon and I decided to take a day trip up to check it out, despite the hormonal weather.

Bosun's Table is a small, cosy affair with a lovely big conservatory stretching out into the centre of the square.  The conservatory, where we sat, was decorated with lovely nautical themed paraphernalia like schooners and quirky wooden signage.  Cosy and welcoming, so far they had lived up to their promise.

The nautical conservatory

I have to comment however (and it pains me to have anything remotely negative to say) that I felt that the service wasn't up to the usual calibre.  When we first entered into the cafe, we were acknowledged, but stood around awkwardly.  Eventually a young man asked where we would like to sit, and then said to sit anywhere.  I feel that either you show customers to their seats, or as they enter let them know that they can sit at a table of their choice.  He then swooped away, and we sat down.  I was unsure if he was going to bring us a menu (on the website they advertise a bistro menu at weekends) so we casually checked the cafe menu, and nattered, as us women tend to do.

The cafe menu is full of lovely, homely foods that you would expect to order in a cafe: baked potatoes, sandwiches, home baking and a short list of comforting mains.  The menu was good, but I had really psyched myself up for some of the offerings on their bistro menu! The likes of the lamb shank and the haddock gratin had caught my eye.

A lovely young girl came to our table, and I enquired about the bistro menu.  She explained that the establishment closed at 5pm, so the bistro menu wasn't available anymore - devastated!  Nevertheless, the cafe menu still had a lot of tantalising dishes available, which I still struggled to choose from!  I decided to have the prawn cocktail to start; Sharon decided to have the crispy coated brie wedges with redcurrant dip. For my main, I went for the homeliest of home dishes - macaroni cheese.  Sharon went for a seaside classic of  battered haddock (you can also choose breaded) and chips.

Prawn cocktail with marie rose sauce

This is where Bosun's Table won me over again.  The prawn cocktail was chilled to perfection, and was unbelievably fresh.  The prawns were juicy and firm, coated in a healthy serving of sweet marie rose sauce.  The fresh lettuce leaves were tossed with sliced peppers and doused in a light balsamic vinegar dressing.  The leafy salad was perfect and gave a delicious crunch with the sweetness of the prawns.  Each cold and mouthwatering bite left me wanting more, and I can say that I was devastated to reach the end.  I have to highly commend all the Buzzworks restaurants I have been to - your seafood is second to none.

Crispy coated brie wedges with redcurrant dip and salad

This dish takes me back to my childhood visits to Islay, where my sister and I both ordered deep fried brie every night at the restaurants we visited - to the point where our regular haunt ran out (much to my grans horror).  The brie was perfectly melted inside an envelope of golden crumbs that were crunchy and delicious.  The cheese oozed out when you cut it open... it gives me tingles to think about it.  The redcurrant dip was sweet and sticky and beyond a perfect match for the star of the show.  I almost wish I had ordered two starters, as after one taste of this dish and I was envious for more.

Macaroni cheese with chips, salad and garlic bread.

Macaroni cheese is one of those dishes that is so simple to make, it can be over complicated and therefore disgusting.  I am pleased to report that this macaroni cheese was great, and tasty.  The macaroni shells were firm enough to spear, and the creamy sauce wasn't too thick.  A lovely melted layer of cheddar cheese is always going to go down well with me!  The garlic bread was fluffy on the inside, and toasted to a light crunch on the outside.  The chips tasted a little strange, but not so much so that I didn't eat them.  It's strange, but most greasy spoons that you get chips from have that strange fishy aftertaste and a soggy exterior, which I really don't like;  I prefer the chip to be somewhat sweet, crispy and fresh.

Battered Troon landed haddock with chips and salad

There is nothing better than a hearty helping of fish and chips on a stereotypical Scottish day.  The crispy batter was sweet and housed some lovely flaky white meat, which was delicious.  It was a beautiful big cut of haddock, and I really enjoyed the smidgen that I was lucky to try.  Again, the chips were a little bit disappointing, but as you know from previous posts I'm not the biggest fan of chips any way.  My sister said that it wasn't the best haddock she has had, but she still cleared her plate.

We sat with our plates cleared, our glasses empty and our stomachs comfortably full.  The waiting staff were flitting around, but did not remove our plates or glasses, nor did they offer the bill.  After another five minute wait, we approached the till where a woman was stood.  As we arrived, she darted away!  Eventually, we squared our bill.

For two starters, two mains and a couple of drinks, the bill was a lovely £25.  I was happy with the food, the setting and the variety of classics available to eat.  The only downfall, which really pains me, was the service. I know that Buzzworks have hired some of the most fantastic staff I have ever encountered in my years of dining, and it saddens me that the staff at Bosun's Table aren't quite up to that standard.  Perhaps the staff were there from a previous cafe that habituated that building (so my sister thinks) and I truly hope that they work to improve their customer service to that of Scotts and The Longhouse.

I haven't lost my faith in Buzzworks, and I know that I will continue to love their restaurants.  I think Bosun's Table just needs a bit of the Buzzworks magic to make it into a cafe that's worth raving about.

Contact Details:

Bosun's Table
Largs Yacht Haven
Irvine Road
Largs, Ayrshire
KA30 8EZ

Tel: 01475 689198

Website:  http://www.bosunstable-largs.co.uk/

Wheelchair access: Yes

Strictly Average, If You Catch My Drift - The Boathouse, Kilsyth

I'm becoming a permanent fixture in Kilsyth these days.  I'm a huge fan of Chippy Mahal, which to this date still does the best chips and cheese I've ever experienced.  Although I won't be reviewing Chippy Mahal, I would recommend a visit.

My friend Craig and I decided to go to The Boathouse in Auchinstarry, just outside of Kilsyth.  Situated next to a marina full of canal boats in a very modest setting, The Boathouse looks very quaint and welcoming;  Catch it on a sunny day and you're in for a treat.

The Boathouse

This wasn't my first visit to The Boathouse, and I really enjoyed my time there so I was happy to return.  The staff are warm and welcoming, the setting is tranquil and as a four star hotel and restaurant, I maintained my high expectations.

There was a set menu on offer, two courses for £9.95.  The menu wasn't very extensive and there was not much on the menu that tickled my fancy, so we decided to go a la carte and have a splurge.  We shared a starter of haggis bon bons in a whiskey cream sauce.  For seconds, I opted for the barbecue pulled pork sandwich (with a side of onion rings, naturally) and Craig chose the Texan burger with fries.

Haggis bon bons with a whiskey cream sauce

I was rather disappointed with the size of the haggis bon bons.  I didn't think they would literally be just about the size of an actual penny-sweet bon bon!  The haggis inside was hot and creamy, with a lovely spicy kick.  The breadcrumb crust was crispy and light, so it was delicious.  The whiskey cream sauce was really delicious, but I would have liked a bit more of it as you could barely taste it due to the strong flavour of the haggis.  The phrase 'less is more' should not apply to food!  Bigger bon bons, more sauce, happier customers.  That, my dears, is a fact.

The Texan burger with fries

I absolutely loved that the burger came out on a big slate.  The chips were seasoned with flakes of parsley, and the burger was stacked high and bursting with ingredients.  The burger was juicy, the bun was toasted and it smelled divine.  The Texan burger is a juicy beefburger, topped with smoked bacon, melted cheese, barbecue sauce and a crispy onion ring, all based on a warmed bun and a bed of salad.  On my last visit I did order a cheeseburger, and I can confirm that they are truly delicious!  Both Craig and myself were rather let down by the chips, which were a bit soggy and depressed looking.  For just over £11, you would have hoped for fresh chips - crispy outside, fluffy inside, that kind of thing - but these were limp and reminiscent of  the chips you would have got from Wimpy...just before they shut down.

Barbecue pulled pork sandwich with fries and onion rings

Oh my god, this sandwich was the best thing to happen to me that day.  The pulled pork was so tender and sweet, and melted in your mouth.  The barbecue sauce was rich, but not overpowering, and slightly smokey. The flour bun was warm and soft, and it was so easy to eat.  It looked as though it would be a challenge and quite messy, but it was perfect.  As mentioned above, the chips were soggy and quite pathetic looking.  I did try some with my portion of mayonnaise (which surprisingly was free) but they were too far gone to be saved with a condiment.  I was also pretty disappointed in the onion rings.  I almost lost my teeth to the cause, they were so hard.  We came to the conclusion that they were reheated and the batter had solidified into what can only be described as an onion hula hoop, and not even the crisps - the plastic hoops you can swing round your hips.  You would have to have pretty small hips for these ones, in all fairness.

We did mention to the waitress when she came over that the onion rings were ludicrously hard, and she was sympathetic.  They still appeared on our bill though, and at a pound for four, two of which were untouched, I was a bit miffed that I was being charged for them.

For one starter, two drinks and two mains, the bill was just over £32.  I'm usually happy to pay this, but considering the calibre of food was below the standard I am used to I grudged handing over my bank card.  The staff were so lovely, but when customers plates are taken away with pretty much all the chips untouched and a gripe with the quality of food, surely that would be a sign to perhaps not charge them the full amount?

I would like to return to The Boathouse, because I know that they can serve fantastic food - I have witnessed it first hand.  I'm hoping it was an off day, and perhaps the chef just wasn't up for frying fresh chips or onion rings and opted for a cheeky microwave session.

At least I know that Chippy Mahal is only just up the road, should I ever crave some damn good chips...

Contact Details:

The Boathouse
Auchinstarry Marina
G65 9SG

Tel: 01236 829 200

Website: http://boathousekilsyth.com/

Wheelchair access: Yes