Seafood Seasonal update - July 2018

The Staff Canteen


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Japanese BBQ   langoustines low res

Simply steaming the fish then finishing off

on a Japanese barbeque grill allows

the quality of the seafood to shine

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Is there a new way to serve Scottish seafood? With his new Edinburgh restaurant Borough, Darren Murray hopes to demonstrate that it is indeed possible.

His carefully honed launch menu of 10 mains (including four seafood options) is, he says, non-prescriptive and its mix of small plates at around £6 and more substantial ones at £18-£22 is aimed at encouraging diners to try different things. The 29 year old from Dunbar, who worked in top British restaurants before working at the award-winning Norn when it launched in 2016, does not care for tasting menus. He prefers to let diners decide what they want.

Borough was launched earlier this month in the same space as Norn used to be. Head chef-patron Darren is enjoying the opportunity to develop a new identity for the restaurant.  

Seafood is a big part of that. He likes to steam fish and to use his Japanese barbecue grill, but he also says that raw food is a passion. “I enjoy natural flavours, and the seafood we get here is the best quality, so simplest is best,” he says.

The launch menu featured tagliatelle with mussels and gherkin (a tribute to his Polish wife); Loch Etive sea trout with cauliflower and truffle; oyster with tomato and bone marrow; and mackerel tartare with green strawberry and elderflower.

Avoiding the Flavour Overload

Oysters   prepped by Chef Darren Murray
Scottish oysters prepped by Chef-Patron Darren Murray

Each dish comprises no more than four ingredients. “I don’t want to create flavour overload,” he explains. “Each component has its own attributes and I want them to be tasted and appreciated in their own right, and for diners to understand every single thing on the plate.”

This unusual approach helps make his seafood dishes sing.

One canape was smoked haddock croquettes. Monkfish is also a favourite and he is already set to introduce some new seafood dishes, including a Scottish octopus carpaccio, and a squid dish and a new way with North Sea tusk. To enhance the sense of being near the sea – Borough is in Leith - he also serves a lamb fat and seaweed brioche.

“In my experience it’s not true to say people don’t want to eat fish in restaurants,” he adds. “They ask for it and expect to see it on menus and I try to give them new flavour experiences with it. Over the 11 years I’ve been cooking I’ve learned and developed my own take on modern European cooking inspired by Scotland, without being pretentious and hopefully without making diners feel they are being dictated to.”

He praises the efforts of his specialist supplier Stevie Fish at Fish Brothers Seafoods in Linlithgow: “I ring Stevie at night, by 3am he is choosing our order, and by 8am he has delivered it. The hard work put in by our suppliers is phenomenal and they deserve a bit of limelight.”

Meet the next generation

Kevin Mackinnon of Loch Dunvegan Shellfish is a third-generation shellfish fisherman based on Skye. His grandfather supplied the Three Chimneys when it was first established by Shirley and Eddie Spear 33 years ago, and his father continued the business.

Now a father of two himself, Kevin, 30, is happy to have returned to the island he loves after a career in the Merchant Navy where he travelled the world, followed by a spell working in the North Sea oil industry.

He is based at Loch Dunvegan and works right round the west coast of Skye and up to Loch Snizort with his business partner Steve Morrison. Each has his own boat and a two-man crew to creel-catch fresh prawn, crab and lobster.

It’s a 12-hour day that starts at 6am which in winter – often the most fruitful time for shellfish – means leaving home in the pitch dark. Prawns, his main catch, are plentiful now until around September, as are lobster, and with crab coming on from August, he is super-busy.

He supplies a range of high-end local restaurants, from the Michelin-starred Loch Bay at Stein, Waternish, to the Three Chimneys, Edinbane Lodge, The Old School House and Dunorin House Hotel. “Skye is absolutely booming right now, and demand for our shellfish is higher than ever as the tourist season is longer than ever,” he says.

Fishing is a Perlious Profession

Skye (2) low res

When the weather is rough, the catch can be hurtled towards shore and crushed on the rocks. Last year, they lost about £30,000 worth of creels in this way. “Our biggest challenge is bad weather,” says Kevin, who has always worked at sea.

Through wholesaler DR Collin & Son of Eyemouth, he also supplies mainland restaurants, as well as France, Spain and increasingly the US and China, which is willing to pay three times the price for the best quality produce.

“The price of shellfish hasn’t really gone up here, but the cost of catching it has. We want to continue to work with local businesses as much as possible.”

The creels themselves are hauled up hydraulically to be emptied by hand into the boat and they handle up to 1300 each day. “It’s light work but it’s repetitive and physically stressful,” he says. 

“But there isn’t a better job when the weather is warm and calm, and being out in the open and in control of my own destiny is great,” he adds. “However, the summers are short here and the winters long. Our boats aren’t very comfortable, and we don’t have a seat which means we’re standing all day.”

Now he hopes to build more comfortable boats with better facilities and enhanced safety features so he and Steve can stay out longer, get bigger catches, and thus keep all their customers happy.

Article written by Cate Devine, Scottish based food writer @CateDvineWriter (

Species in Season

Lemon Sole low res

Mussels Seafood Species Descriptor Graphic low res

Herring Seafood Species Descriptor Graphic low res

Lobster Seafood Species Descriptor Graphic

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Editor 13th August 2018

Seafood Seasonal update - July 2018