Sunday, 17 August 2008

Sunday Drive

The fuel gauge was reading a quarter full and, as we drove into Downpatrick, I remembered that the county town has an ASDA petrol station so we made a small detour in order to fill up. Unleaded petrol cost 109.9 pence a litre. I had no idea how substantial the commercial park was there, what with a Halford's store, Argos, McDonald's and more.

We motored on to Ardglass. They are making major improvements to the streets in the village, and the area close to the golf club and Aldo's - an erstwhile favourite restaurant of ours which is long overdue a visit - will be greatly improved when they finish the roadworks. I walked over to Aldo's for old time's sake to read the menu, but there was a little notice which advised patrons to venture into the main reception area to read it. I invariably go for the scampi anyway!

We left Ardglass and cruised northwards towards Strangford. I'd intended to stop at Curran's Bar for a snack and we pulled in while I inquired if they were serving bar snacks. Should have known better: it was Sunday and, therefore, Carvery Day. The bar snack menu was off. In fairness though, they were very busy and prepared to accommodate us had we wished to have a snack. I decided to drive further on and into Strangford.

It's about 18 months since we last ate in the Lobster Pot. We used to frequent it most weekends every summer for twenty-five years: 1972-1997. I think it's quite unrecognizable now, inside at least. When we started going, a Doctor Johnson ran it; then Seamus McMorrow was mine host for a lengthy period. Seamus didn't miss a thing; you should have seen his eyes darting from one corner of the lounge-bar to the next. At Christmas-time he invariably had a waiter deliver a tray of drinks to us on the House. He may not have described himself as a restaurateur - which he was in reality - but Seamus was a great one and it's little wonder that the LP was one of the best-known restaurants in County Down (as I'm sure it still is). When I was a teenager, Seamus's kind and friendly wife dealt mainly with the diners and a la carte orders and I affectionately referred to her as "the wee lady" - not to her face, I hasten to add! She always had a most pleasant expression and it was a joy to meet her.

The LP was sold in the late eighties, I think, to an Austrian chap and it went directly downhill from thereon in. I could tell more but I shan't. The old girl has changed hands a number of times and, frankly, I preferred her in her original state which, to my mind, had a lot more character; though it must be acknowledged that different generations have differing tastes. She was practically gutted out ten or so years ago and there is little of her former character remaining except the odd life-belt and lobster-pot adorning the walls. There, I've fired the old reactionary salvo; I've got that out of my system.

I don't know whom the current owner is, except that a small fortune has been expended on it. It's been extended on either side. The LP's main rival is the Cuan across the Square. We parked in the Square and strolled in to the bar, which is the first door on the left. It is quite small - compact; it used to be the main dining-room in the original LP. There was only one barman on duty, taking food and drink orders and serving them.

I ordered a small shandy and a vodka and tonic for the Dowager and took a copy of the bar menu which was simple and straightforward. Fine. You know what I ordered - scampi and chips. The Dowager had soup and fresh bread.

It seemed to take ages for it to arrive, I suppose they were busy in the main dining-room. The scampi came on a large, oblong plate. There was a fair-sized side-salad, dressed, two lemon quarters, crisp & dry chips, and the scampi seemed to be freshly battered. It was good. The portion was just right for me; I left some chips as I usually do. I like my tartare sauce by the bucket-load so, inevitably, there wasn't enough and I had to request more. I always find those little receptacles they use - which hold about a tablespoonful - so mean anyway. The original LP was worse (I'll forgive them that misdemeanour): in the bar they brought you a frightfully minute, sealed, plastic sauce pack about two inches square which was transparent with a turquoise label emblazoned Frank Cooper, I think. I needed about six of them; now you know how much I relish my sauces.

The Dowager had home-made soup and was not forewarned that it was piping hot. She needed to take a cold drink. The bread came in a basket: really fresh, sliced french bread and their delicious, gingery wheaten bread. Fresh butter too. It was very good indeed.

We enjoyed our meal. The bill for food amounted to £18.60 and the scampi was £14.95 which I deemed a little pricey, since the scampi in the dining-room was the same price. Perhaps I'm not comparing "like with like"; however the bar scampi could have been a couple of pounds cheaper. That said, the scampi across the Square at the Cuan was the same price, though breaded.

  • Cosy little bar with a friendly atmosphere
  • Good bar snack menu with meals ranging from about £3.50 to £14.95
  • Really fresh basket of home-made breads, still warm
  • Situated in a prime location in one of NI's most spectacular coastal villages
  • Parking relatively easy
  • One bar man today and it took ages for our meals to arrive
  • Large plasma telly on the wall showing a soccer match
  • One-armed bandit machine
  • Either the tables are too high or the seating too low for eating meals - unless you are Jeremy Clarkson
  • Scampi could have been a few quid cheaper - it was the same price as scampi in the main dining-room
  • There were a few peanuts and a wrapper on the counter behind us which hadn't been swept up
I stress that some of the above points are relatively minor and all my own personal opinion. All in all, it was a good day out and I'm glad we darkened the door of this old, though rejuvenated, haunt once again.

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