Text by Meghna Golder
I’m a city-bred girl. I’ve spent my whole life moving from one city to another. Therefore, it stands to reason that my reaction on visiting a village which is 85 per cent nature and maybe 15 per cent human habitation would be somewhat…disproportionate to other people’s reaction.
My family and I visited Scotland last year in August sometime around my birthday. We were long due for a family holiday, and my birthday served as an excuse to make this trip. It also helped that my father knew someone who had a place at a resort quite removed from civilisation. Things, as they say, fell neatly into place.
We arrived at Glasgow airport in the early evening. We rented a car that was to be our home for the next few days because of the inordinate amount of time we spent in it and off we went.
All those articles talking about how beautiful Scotland is? They’re not lying. The next few days felt like I was living in a Windows wallpaper carousel, just one stunningly beautiful place after another. The city quickly gave way to miles and miles of highway. Then were the fields with their picture-postcard cows and trees. Trees that I’d only ever read about in my geography textbook.
Aberfoyle, the village near which our resort was situated, is a picturesque village. It runs the length of the main street on both sides and ends before it begins. A little way away is a school and an assortment of houses. There is a river, which opens into a lake—the Loch Ard.
Now you’ve probably driven past a lake where the only barrier between you and the waterbody is a low parapet. I, for one, had not. The lake was like a sheet of grey glass in late August, and while I was feeling on the wrong side of chilly, we saw a family of four casually swimming in the lake completely impervious to the cold.
We reached by late evening and decided to go for dinner in Aberfoyle itself. We aren’t particularly late eaters. However, by the time we set out for the village and requested a table at our first choice—The Faerie Tree Inn—we were told by the sweetest man there that they were sorry but their dinner service was over. Disappointed but not defeated, we set off down the road. Another place further on also reiterated what the first restaurant said. With little hope, we turned our sights onto a small but cosy-looking restaurant—The Clachan Lounge—that seemed to be open.
Now, my mother, as a rule, doesn’t like eating in a restaurant that has few or no other patrons. But in the face of necessity, under threat of hunger and the fact that even the local Cooperative had shut, we were compelled to enter. Only one other table was occupied. All else was quiet.
We sat down, and the very cheery lady manning the bar came with the menus. I went for the staple fish and chips. My sister ordered some chicken wings, and my father went for a steak. My mother doesn’t recall exactly what she had. I didn’t set aside too much hope for the food. It was a small place in a sleepy village. At best, the food would be average.
But I was wrong and how. I’m not sure whether it was the excitement of a new place, the exhaustion from the flight and subsequent long journey, the colder climate or the chef’s skills but the food was excellent! I took my first bite of the fish and chips and paused. I’ve had my fair share of fish and chips. The dish is readily available in London. But I couldn’t recall the last time I had eaten fish that was so fresh and flavourful. The fish was cooked to perfection, the batter nice and crisp. The tartar sauce was the right amount and didn’t run out before the fish was done, which is a pet peeve of mine. The fish also didn’t disintegrate when cut and speared while eating. All in all, I asked for a good plate of fish and chips, and if there was a fish and chips god in heaven, they delivered.
I looked around the table. The smiles that broke out on my dad and sister’s face showed me that I wasn’t alone in my assessment.
The cheery lady returned to check up on us and took some time out to chat with us. She told us how she and her husband look after the restaurant. Her husband cooks the food, and she manages the counter. Early every morning, they drive in from Glasgow and open shop. They reach home well after 12 every night.
Despite the long hours and strenuous work, she seemed so warm and cheery that it added a little something extra to the meal.
We took our time and heartily enjoyed dinner. Over the course of the next few days, every time we ate somewhere, we would return to the dinner we had on the first evening. However, for one reason or another, we just never went back to the restaurant.
We should have returned just to test whether or not that first night was a fluke. But my gut tells me it wasn’t.
And now, seven months and countless meals later, like unrequited love, I can vividly recall that meal and think of it fondly. It was, to date, the best meal I’ve had.
It only makes me think that sometimes happy accidents do happen and life’s lemons aren’t that bad.
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About the writer:
Meghna Golder is an editor, both research and otherwise. She’s an avid reader of both prose and poetry. She occasionally also fancies herself as a writer.
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