Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: seafood

Ultimate seafood indulgence in Oban

Oban is a neat little place on the west coast of mainland Scotland and a convenient location for onward travel to various places nearby, such as the islands of Mull and Lismore in the Inner Hebrides or the nearby Glencoe and Fort William. For this exact reason, I’ve visited Oban twice but both as “stopovers” – the final destination of the first visit being the Isle of Mull and that of the second being the Isles of Seil and Lismore. That being the case, I didn’t really get the chance to explore Oban in depth during the few hours that I was there each time.

But in fact, the Isles of Seil and Lismore were only the secondary motivation of my most recent visit. I wanted to go to Oban again, this time with a friend, for a very important reason – its amazing seafood! Yes, Oban is known for delicious seafood, and having heard all about it from many different people, my friend XM and I decided to embark on a weekend pilgrimage to the holy land of Scottish seafood. Throw in some hiking here and there, but our goal was clear as day – to eat as much seafood as we could possibly stomach 😛

Let’s start gently with a view of Oban as we set out on a ferry for the Isle of Lismore. In a distance, on a hill, lies McCaig’s Tower, a place that I’m sure offers great views of Oban and the nearby islands but I have yet to visit. Maybe one day when I go back to Oban to actually see the town itself, I’ll get the chance to get up there but for now, McCaig’s remains unconquered!

Now, let’s get right into it, shall we. Before heading to Oban, we did some research on the seafood scene in town. There were many choices – you could grab some quick snacks at the local seafood shack right by the harbourfront, or you could opt for a fancier, more high-end sit-down restaurant to enjoy your evening slowly and delicately. We’ve already decided to go for the latter and chose the much acclaimed Ee-Usk, a restaurant that had a queue even at 9pm (I was so glad I made a reservation!) After a muddy hike on the Isle of Seil that afternoon, sitting down for a relaxing meal sounded even more appealing to me, as by then my stomach was growling!

We had a lot of choices but we didn’t want to choose, so we treated ourselves to the most luxurious item on the menu, the ultimate indulgence – the GRAND PLATTER FOR TWO. Make no mistake, this was one expensive meal (£100 between the two of us), but we got to try pretty much EVERYTHING. The menu description of the platter is as follows: “6 oysters, half lobster, dressed crab, king scallops, langoustines, Thai fish cakes, smoked salmon, fresh salmon, mussels, and crab claws”. There was a long period of debate on whether we should get the Grand Platter or not, but with a look of mutual understanding in our eyes, XM and I knew that there was no escape. And so it was ordered. And soon a plate larger than the width of our table was elegantly presented to us, completely full of everything that was described. XM joked (or maybe not?) by saying that she thought the seafood was lying on a bed of ice, but in fact it was a bed of MUSSELS. Holy crap that was a lot of food. How do we even begin to dig in!?

We took it slowly, tasting and enjoying each item on the platter and syncing our paces so that we ate the same things at the same time. This was honestly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is probably never to be repeated, and everything was SO GOOD AND FRESH AND HEAVENLY. Though, by the end of the meal I felt like I could never eat seafood again simply because that was sooooooo much food for two people…but we finished it – even the lemon slices! The final few mussels took the last bit of space in our stomaches, but there was no regret, none at all. I didn’t think I could ever be seafood-ed out, but in a good way. Good job, Annie. Good job, XM. Good job Ee-Usk. I was impressed, both at the food and our ability to actually finish it all. So worthy.

After the meal we decided to take a walk around the waterfront, even though I was exhausted and wanted to sleep. It did us good to walk around and digest a bit that food we just devoured, hehe. Oban looked quite nice during the night as well, though it’s not a huge city with dazzling lights and glamorous architectures. Then again, these are the kinds of destinations that I prefer over large cities – quaint, cosy, relaxing, inviting, and just fun.

On the second day, when we still felt like we could never eat seafood again, we went back to the little hut by the harbourfront and…we did it again! This time, it was a Sunday brunch to fuel up for our trip to the Isle of Lismore. The meal was a lot more within our budget range but still super fresh and delicious, and here’s what we ordered: squid, cockles, langoustine tails, smoked salmon (a whole block, not just sliced), and the most buttery and garlicy butter garlic scallops. Oh dear, what a dramatic start to the day. I guess some people always has a spare compartment in their stomach for dessert but we have one for seafood, for sure!

I feel indebted to Oban as I haven’t taken many nice photos of the town even if it has hosted me twice. The only ones I managed to take were from the ferry, this one captured as we were coming back from Lismore and about to reach dock. Again we see McCaig’s Tower high above the town and Ee-Usk restaurant, which is the building with the red roof behind the boat. Oban, let me come back next time for YOU!

Did it surprise you that I am ending my post with seafood? Yup, even upon leaving Oban, XM and I decided to get some good ol’ fish and chips for the 3-hour train ride back to Glasgow. I guess you can say that fish and chips are a “national” British food, so we couldn’t leave without grabbing some from the seafood capital of Scotland. I hope the other passengers who were in the same coach as us didn’t find it annoying to be in the presence of such awesome-smelling (and tasting, though they could only assume) food that couldn’t be shared with them. Heh, goodbye Oban, see you again someday!

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Cheung Chau, the dumbbell island

The “dumbbell” island of Cheung Chau, so nicknamed because of its shape on a map, is one of the many tourist attractions near Hong Kong. By ferry, it takes about 40 minutes (an hour by slow boat) to reach from Hong Kong island, making it a perfect day trip. When my friend suggested it, she caught my interest by telling me that Cheung Chau would be a food lover’s heaven. In addition to an island breakaway, it’d also be a food hunt! Of course I more than gladly accepted because HEY, who wouldn’t want some super-sized mango mochi and giant curry fish balls?

Upon arriving at the ferry terminal, we realized that clearly we weren’t the only ones who were going after the mango mochi and curry fish balls, as the crowd waiting the board the ferry was huge! OK, they’re probably not all tourists, but I do wonder if this mass exodus from Hong Kong to Cheung Chau occurs on a daily basis. On the way to the island, my friend and I took the slower ferry with a travel time of one hour.

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Incredible Iceland #3 – So much good food!

The thing about Iceland is that I had such high expectations in everything – and these expectations were exceptionally met – except for its food. Well, that’s not exactly true. More like, I didn’t know what to expect, except for a lot of fish and seafood, maybe. I had taken the time to research about the city of Reykjavik and the natural wonders of Iceland, but I didn’t really pay much attention to the food. It was more of a eat-as-you-go scenario, or so I thought. It seems that Iceland really is a perfect place, as the food was a very pleasant surprise. You go on Tripadvisor or other review sites and every restaurant in Reykjavik has a 3.5/5 rating or higher. So as it turns out, the food was pretty darn good. Add “culinary delight” to the ever-growing list of things I love about Iceland.

The first night I was in Reykjavik, I stopped by a restaurant close to the guesthouse, named 3 Frakkar Hja Ulfari. Apparently the name of the restaurant means either “3 overcoats” or “3 Frenchmen” in English. I sat down and ordered the “Gratineraður Plokkfiskur með rúgbrauði”, or “Hashed fish with black bread “Icelandic specialty””. Icelandic specialty…why not. (I had really contemplated getting the hakarl and was later relieved that I didn’t. The real hakarl experience will be shared in another post.) Don’t be fooled. The yellow blob is not an omelette, but hashed fish covered in some sort of sauce. I couldn’t make out what the sauce was in the hashed fish, so I asked the waitress. She didn’t know either, so she asked the chef, and told me that it was Bearnaise sauce. HUH. That was the strongest Bearnaise sauce I’ve ever had. The one I’ve had before was more on the sour side where as this one was really potent, really…fishy. Or maybe it was just the hashed fish. Good stuff 😛

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Enfin, La Rochelle

It’s summertime, so that means it’s time to go to La La La La La…Rochelle!

I had wanted to visit this seaside city since last year because a lot of my friends have studied there, but we always failed to coordinate the timing. This year, our own little IDS group from Bordeaux finally got a chance to do a weekend trip to La Rochelle, courtesy of Mathilde whose family lives there.

You’d expect that by the end of June, summer would already be in full swing but NO. Summer decided to hide from us during that one weekend that we planned an outing. Not only that, but rain invaded most of our trip, as if it was jealous that we were having fun. Not cool, mother nature, not cool. (Full photo album on Facebook.)

Here we are at the old port, or vieux port, of La Rochelle. Yep, those are gray skies you see, and you it may not be apparent, but it was raining like mad. Everyone (except for me) was prepared with an umbrella, so I had to sneak under one or just rely on the hood on my jacket most of the time. Didn’t matter though, the group was in high spirits most of the time because nothing takes away the FUN when the IDS-FunMates are together. Take that, rainy weather!

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Saturday morning at Capucins

There’s a little place in Bordeaux not too far from Place de la Victoire, called Marché des Capucins. Locals like to come here as an alternative to the supermarket, because it offers a variety of fresh goodies at a cheaper price. Produce, meat, seafood, dairy products, pastry, flowers, wine…you name it!

I don’t come here as often as I should, but when I still had Mr.Nikon last year, I took him to Capucins for a visit. It wasn’t so much the prospect of buying anything as the sheer number of vendors row after row, the variety of goods on sale, and the vivid spectrum of (almost kaleidoscopic) colours that could be seen from end to end that attracted me to drop by.

Oh, and if I remember correctly, I had Mr.LS-san as my company. What better place to take a friend going to Bordeaux for the first time than its characteristic morning market?

We start out in the Saint-Michel district (which I had partly written about here) where another big outdoor market is taking place. Here you can find lots of vendors selling clothing and random accessories of all sorts.

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