Posts for July 2013
Tuesday 30th Jul 2013
We were recently featured in Seafood Business – a publication specifically for seafood buyers and sellers, with more than 30 years of experience.
“Diversifying business interests can be a clever strategy for when times get tough, though it is equally important not to spread yourself too thin. One seafood restaurant in the Scottish Highlands, The Crannog Restaurant, has attempted to strike a balance and forge a little empire on the shores of Loch Linnhe.
Located in a refurbished bait shed on the Fort William town pier, the restaurant has become the centerpiece of a business that began a quarter of a century ago with fishing. Local fisherman Finlay Finlayson was catching langoustines for sale in London when he came upon the idea of selling fresh seafood in town. He converted the old bait shed into a restaurant, and 24 years later the establishment is still going strong. An eye for an opportunity has continued to serve Finlayson well, for the restaurant now forms an integral part of the Crannog Concept business.
“The population here triples in the summer, so Finlay was aware of the tourism potential in the area,” says Olivia Gemmill, The Crannog Restaurant’s marketing and communication manager. “Lots of customers are now repeat customers, not just from Scotland and England, but from further afield.”
The secrets to the restaurant’s success, says Gemmill, are fairly straightforward: spectacular loch-side location and keeping things simple. The menu changes according to season and availability, while a specials board lists the fresh catch. “Our menu is often dictated by the fishermen,” she says. “But this need for flexibility is both a challenge and an opportunity; our chefs need to be creative!” The head chef at Crannog is local Stuart McLaughlin (Stewart MacLachlan), who served his apprenticeship at the restaurant before gaining experience abroad.
“We always try and source at a reasonable price, so sourcing is a major issue for us,” says Gemmill. “We are obviously affected by fishing quotas, but not to the same extent as other parts of the country. For example, serving cod is a big issue down south at the moment — it’s seen as a bad thing because of overfishing — but in the deep waters around here, cod is abundant.”
As the restaurant business began to take off in the early 1990s, Finlayson spotted another golden opportunity: operating cruises around the loch. He bought an old boat, revamped it and turned it into a viable tourist vessel. This has enabled the business to take further advantage of the natural environment, with visitors on the lookout for porpoises, seals and golden eagles.
The most recent expansion for Crannog Concept was the purchase in 2004 of an underwater training center in Fort William. The center is primarily used for health and safety training; Scotland has a booming offshore oil and gas sector. “We saw this as another excellent business opportunity,” says Gemmill. “The challenge, of course, is that the price of oil influences demand for our services, but unlike much of the rest of the U.K. economy, the oil and gas sector is booming This is certainly one advantage of diversifying our business practices.”
For the moment, the Crannog Concept, built around sustainably exploiting the opportunities provided by Fort William’s Loch-side location, is ticking along nicely. There are no immediate plans for further expansion, though Finlayson and his team always keep an eye out. “In summer we’re always full, so we could double the size of the restaurant; unfortunately it’s on a pier!” says Gemmill. “I think in the near future we’ll focus on more evening cruises, taking guests over to the next loch.”
Contributing Editor Anthony Fletcher lives in Brussels and you can read the full article on the Seafood Business website.
Thursday 25th Jul 2013
With this amazing spell of weather and regular evening sailings the cruise boat has been making its journey up Loch Eil on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday evenings. Boarding for the evening cruise starts at 7.15pm departing from the Town Pier at 7.30pm. Our regular evening Skipper Jamie Ball provides an entertaining commentary with information and facts about Ben Nevis, Fort William and the beautiful area we live in. As the sun sets Jamie keeps his binoculars on hand ready for identifying the abundant wildlife. En route through the narrows Souters Lass passes a heron’s nest. Wildlife appear from all angles including porpoise, black throated divers, buzzard, cormorants, moorhen, oystercatcher, whooper swans, and more. Recently there has even been an osprey lurking in the trees. The journey continues into Loch Eil. Here Ben Nevis can be seen in all its splendour with amazing lighting from the sun as it sets in the west. Souters Lass then turns and heads for home before darkness falls.
Come and join us on any of our sailings; call the crew on 01397 700714.
If you have any questions about our evening cruises and the wildlife we have seen leave a comment for Jamie and he’ll get back to you. Alternatively, come and join one of our daytime cruises which depart daily at 10am, 12noon, 2pm and 4pm and you can join them in the wheel house.
Thursday 18th Jul 2013
At Crannog, the seafood we serve is sourced mainly from the West Coast of Scotland; we aim to serve seafood from as local a source as possible. We regularly have mussels, langoustines, scallops and clams along with crab claws and lobster served on our daily specials. Our langoustines have historically been fished here in Loch Linnhe or Outer Loch Linnhe; more recently large, succulent langoustines have been landed at the nearby harbour of Mallaig and brought to Crannog to be served at the restaurant in the space of a few hours.
Just a few miles away our mussels are bought from a local farm in Loch Eil. If sea conditions are difficult we travel a wee bit further to get supplies from Glencoe, Mull or Arisaig.
This summer our Mallaig fishermen are already nearing their fishing quotas for monkfish and cod. Once the quota has been caught the fishermen are no longer allowed to sell them so Crannog will be looking elsewhere for these fish. The East Coast fishermen at Peterhead or Scrabster are equally good suppliers.
Our lobster comes from Eigg and scallops come from around the island of Islay, complementing our full array of seafood and ensuring our guests are provided with the finest, freshest, locally sourced produce that makes Crannog so special.
If you have any questions about our seafood and where it comes from leave a comment and one of our chefs will be delighted to get back to you!
Thursday 11th Jul 2013
Earlier this year Stewart MacLachlan, our very talented head chef, spent a day at Lochaber High School demonstrating some fantastic, simple seafood dishes to local school children. The “Seafood in Schools” group activity was offered in an attempt to educate primary 7 children from all of our local schools along with the high school 1st year pupils about the variety and availability of seafood sourced locally here on the West Coast of Scotland.
The pupils were very interested in the practical aspect of the fish cookery demonstration. Most were brave enough to taste, some were very enthusiastic indeed and a few were aficionados!
Here is one recipe which Stewart produced in a matter of minutes – you could try it yourself at home and get the whole family to help:
Salmon pasta with parmesan cream
Scottish farmed salmon from Shetland
400g penne pasta
300ml fish stock (cubes will do)
200ml double cream
250g fresh cubed Salmon
½ cup grated parmesan
50g chopped spinach
Sprig chopped dill
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and put in pasta
- In a medium pot put in fish stock and cream
- Bring to the boil for a minute and add the cubed salmon
- Add parmesan and turn down to low heat
- When the pasta is just about ready add chopped spinach and dill to the cream mix
- Drain the pasta and also add this to the creamy Salmon mix
- Stir a couple of times and serve
And there you have it – a very simple yet incredibly tasty and healthy meal for all the family to enjoy!
Let us know how you get on with the recipe by leaving a comment below – or email any photos of your culinary delights to us so we can share them on our blog and on our Facebook page!
Monday 8th Jul 2013
With the school holidays well under way, every child in the area was excited about their end of term treat! The whole of Fort William Primary were lucky enough to climb aboard Souters Lass and take a Crannog Cruise. Down the loch the children had the opportunity to learn more about the salmon and mussel farms, as well as watch for wildlife and admire the views of Ben Nevis. They could even spot their own school from the water.
The cruise also marked the last week for their head teacher who is retiring at the end of term. Mrs Sue Commander has worked for 14 years as the lady in charge of Fort William Primary School. She will be enjoying a well-earned rest after so many years at the helm!