Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Lobster Pot


I WROTE THIS PIECE ABOUT THE LOBSTER POT RESTAURANT BAR IN AUGUST, 2008, AS RECOLLECTIONS OF THE LOBSTER POT DURING THE 1970s.

I HAVE RECEIVED A NUMBER OF MESSAGES SINCE THEN. THERE IS CLEARLY A MEASURE OF SENTIMENT ABOUT THE OLD PLACE. I'M PUBLISHING THE ARTICLE AGAIN, FOR THE BENEFIT OF NEW READERS

STRANGORD, COUNTY DOWN, IS ONE OF THE MOST PICTURESQUE VILLAGES IN NORTHERN IRELAND.



HERE HE GOES again, I hear you groaning. Timothy Belmont has wandered down Memory Lane and dived into the pond of Nostalgia. I'm permitted a spot of nostalgia now and again.

Heaven knows how many gallons of gin I have consumed since the mid-seventies; a fair amount of it within the walls of the revered Lobster Pot in the picturesque village of Strangford, County Down. 

Those were the days indeed. A perfect day started with the sun rising and waking me from my slumber very early on a Saturday or Sunday at Castle Ward.

Our boat, the Dolphin, was ship-shape and ready for action. The tide was right and a day was spent on Strangford Lough, the sea as calm as a mill-pond, perhaps visiting an island and having an Ulster Fry or fillet steak - from Duffy the butcher - whilst basking in the sunshine.

Incidentally, the Hon William and Mrs Ward (now the Viscount and Viscountess Bangor [Sarah Bradford]) beat us to it, on one occasion, by buying a whole fillet of beef, thereby leaving young Duffy with nothing. They were served just before us in the shop.

Evenings were invariably spent in the Lobster Pot. Here are some memories of that wonderful place:-
  • Driving down in our Mums' Minis, with petrol costing 70 pence a gallon
  • Celebrating exam results in the lounge-bar
  • The lounge-bar was carpeted, with brown or blue velour buttoned banquettes lining the walls and down the centre too, crescent-shaped
  • Memorabilia on the walls like stuffed game-birds in cabinets, a ship's wheel, port and starboard lights, a lobster-pot, lifebelts
  • A telly high up in a corner & inconspicuous
  • Spirits served in french-style wine glasses
  • Really large, fresh scampi - langoustines - & chips cost £3.65; tartare sauce in minute, sealed plastic packs but...
  • In the Dining-room sauces were served in stainless-steel dishes with spoons
  • A grand a la carte menu enclosed within a leather padded A4-size folder
  • The main menu was exhaustive in terms of choice; vegetables ranged from asparagus tips to sweetcorn or cauliflower, fresh peas, sauté mushrooms, leeks - almost everything
  • The main dining-room was at the front and a second one was at the rear
  • Great staff like Ann the head waitress and Jim the bar manager, both defecting to the rival across the Square when Walter became Mine Host
  • Two pretty waitresses in the bar in 1976 when I was sixteen and I fancied Julie. I sent her a Valentine card and addressed the envelope to "Julie the Sensuous Barmaid". Julie, if you're reading this now you know the secret; I know it's been preying on your mind for thirty years (!)
  • The Chicken Maryland was great; my favourite dinner was scampi, french-fried potatoes, french-fried onion rings, asparagus tips, perhaps sauté mushrooms too
  • We ate in the main dining-room occasionally; it was a toss-up between the LP or Aldo's in Ardglass (the late Samuel (Sammy) Crooks, a former Dean of Belfast, always recalled Aldo's green curtains!).
The Lobster Pot closed down in September, 2008. Here is an official Notice.

I have written about our last meal here.

It is inconceivable that the Lobster Pot's doors shall remain closed for good.

Recent owners, Messrs Johnson, McMorrow & Dabbernig excluded, have spent a small fortune in gutting out and dumping any vestiges of the original restaurant, which was renowned as being one of the most successful establishments in County Down during the 1970s and 1980s.

To my mind, it was a fundamental error of judgement to do this. Whilst it may have needed some minor redecoration, new upholstery and paintwork in keeping with its ambiance, it was foolish to spend money gutting the heart out of the dear old girl.

They may as well have changed the name. Her heart was mercilessly ripped out, thus making her utterly unrecognisable and a faint shadow of her former glory.

The Lobster Pot was never the same, to me, as a consequence of this action. It thrived in the safe hands of Dr Johnston in the sixties; and Seamus McMorrow during the seventies and eighties.

Things changed during the nineties, and I believe the Lobster Pot was never the same again.

I deplore the fate of the Lobster Pot, because I cared about it and still hold many happy memories of former times spent there with friends and family. 

I have such wonderful memories of the old place as it used to be.

First published in 2008.

12 comments :

Lord Rush said...

The Lobster Pot, yes a very tranquil place, I was there at the beginning of this month on a visit to the Strangford Ferry people, great bunch they are. I cannot comment on the food as it was a quick Guinness and back to dear old Belfast, pretty place the Lobster Pot will visit again but this time for lunch, and yes you are wallowing in the mist of time, the only trouble is that I remember it all so well, keep on wallowing!!
Best Regards
Lord Rush.

Timothy Belmont said...

I imagine you're rushing to get back - oh dear, couldn't resist that awful pun!
Nostalgia = senior moment :-)

Tim

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories. After church services on Good Friday,this in the late 60s, early 70's, my father would drive us to the Lobster Pot for lunch. A family tradition. Ah,nostalgia!

Timothy Belmont said...

Anon,

Have you got any recollections you could add to mine? Be my guest!

Tim

davethewineguy said...

quick scoop for you sir
The lobster pot is to be reopened for a trial period by a local bar chain to see if it is viable - can't tell you anymore than that.

Timothy Belmont said...

Indeed. I heard yesterday from a few volunteers based in the locality that it was opening. They had no knowledge as to the new owner. I'b naturally be interested to learn more.


Tim

davethewineguy said...

the botanic inns group are to operate the lobster pot - it is opening soon

Timothy Belmont said...

Dave, thanks for that. I'll give the rivals a run for their money, no doubt!

Tim

davethewineguy said...

needless to say their wine list will be excellent!

Timothy Belmont said...

I'm pretty sure that the original LP (in the 70s & 80s) had a comprehensive wine-list. They probably sourced it from one of the old, long-established vintners in Belfast - Hollywood & Donnelly or somewhere like that, perhaps...

Tim

davethewineguy said...

holywood and donnelly have been swallowed up by the monolpoliser that is winemark mccabes and are no more - a sign of the times in the local wineworld- i am too modest to mention who i am employed by.

Anonymous said...

A new venture for your lordship? http://www.propertypal.com/7-11-lobster-pot-bar-the-square-strangford/186945