Cafe is start­ing to make waves

The Oban Times - - LEISURE -

AN IS­LAND cafe is mak­ing waves in the food in­dus­try af­ter re­ceiv­ing three nom­i­na­tions for awards at one cer­e­mony.

Mull’s Cafe Fish, based up­stairs in the former MacBrayne’s build­ing, is where a small staff team de­liver ex­cep­tion­ally pre­pared food with flavours from all over the world. And they have been nom­i­nated at the Scot­tish Food Awards and Academy on May 7.

Own­ers Jane Gill (one of the renowned Mac­Don­ald sis­ters from Tar­bert) and food cu­ra­tor and head chef Liz MacGoughin in­vited The

Oban Times to Mull and take part in a busy shift.

I was duly pre­sented with a bright pink Cafe Fish T-shirt (XL – not XXL) and I was quickly let loose on an un­sus­pect­ing pub­lic. There were lots of codes to use on my lit­tle set of or­der pads. So I ig­nored those codes com­pletely and wrote out ev­ery sin­gle or­der in long­hand.

I’d like to paint you a lit­tle pic­ture of the scene of the size of space avail­able. I am a ro­bust woman and Liz the chef is a ro­bust woman. To­gether we would be a good avert for healthy liv­ing. The kitchen is ba­si­cally no big­ger than a large let­ter's postage stamp. So it was a tight squeeze ev­ery time we wanted to move past each other.

Yet some­thing amaz­ing hap­pens in that lit­tle space. Liz seems to be amaz­ing with her culi­nary art.

This fresh and lo­cally sourced foods draws people from all over the world to eat freshly caught fish and shell­fish cooked in amaz­ing ways.

If I said it was re­laxed, I would be over-em­pha­sis­ing the ur­gency in which these women run their busi­ness.

Ev­ery­thing is per­fect. I sup­pose when you are work­ing in a small prepa­ra­tion space, it has to be.

But so are the cus­tomers. One man asks me to rec­om­mend a dish from the menu and I in­stantly talk through the many de­li­cious meals I have had in the past.

He wants some­thing that is a bit dif­fer­ent and freshly caught.

He set­tles on a skate wing with lemon and ca­per but­ter. His part­ner, who is feel­ing way more ad­ven­tur­ous, goes for the roasted fish plat­ter.

It is a priv­i­lege to carry the plates to the ta­ble some 30 min­utes later – freshly cooked, look­ing amaz­ing and tast­ing, as they said, ‘won­der­ful’.

It is at this point that I see Ken­neth Weir, a lovely man who has so much en­ergy and vi­tal­ity, take a pair of binoc­u­lars and step out onto the bal­cony to look for the fish­ing boat com­ing in. It is so cute it looks con­trived – but it isn’t: he is wait­ing for lob­ster to be brought in. Ken­neth has cus­tomers wait­ing.

And here is some­thing I didn’t know: lob­sters are blue when they come out the sea and pink when they are cooked. That is the last time I trust Dis­ney for my seafish in­for­ma­tion.

Friend of the busi­ness and singer Robert Crum­lish (who works at the bis­cuit fac­tory by day) ex­plains the shell­fish fridge to me. There are vel­vet crabs, lit­tle sweet fresh quee­nies, lan­gous­tine (or big prawns as I had pre­vi­ously called them) and oys­ters.

Three Lon­don­ers have come to Mull on a whim to visit the cafe. By the sec­ond day of their trip, their liv­ers are poorly.

I see them quaffing cham­pagne and eat­ing oys­ters in the win­dow seat, ta­ble num­ber four for any­one in­ter­ested, and it looks idyl­lic.

Where Cafe Fish ex­cels is at be­ing re­laxed and hugely gen­er­ous with food, but also see­ing their cus­tomers as friends and learn­ing to thriv­ing on them.

By the end of my five-hour shift, I was frankly ex­hausted but Ken­neth was still on the merry(ish) go around – sort­ing things, talking to the strag­glers at the tail end of re­mains of the busy ser­vice.

But he still had time for some front-of-house wis­dom. ‘It is a welloiled machine at Cafe Fish. If you miss any­thing, ev­ery­thing else will fall out of place.

‘We have built up a rep­u­ta­tion by be­ing who we are – not by pre­tend­ing to be some­thing we are not. And people seem to like it.’

Af­ter serv­ing 89 people for lunch, he is right.

PS: I’ve kept my Cafe Fish T-shirt, and I am de­ter­mined to get a space at the Christ­mas night out.

Rita Gart­ner sam­ples the culi­nary de­lights.

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