Tam Cowan Restaurant Review: The Real Food Cafe

There is gold in these hills! In 2009, you may recall that a mining company discovered large amounts of the precious yellow metal near Tyndrum.

Tell you what, though. With around four million vehicles and 50,000 walkers passing through the village each year, I think The Real Food Cafe has to be an even bigger gold mine.

We certainly found gold by tasting their fabulous fish and chips. No wonder they won one of the best gongs at the 2013 National Fish & Chip Awards.

Opened in Spring 2005 by Sarah Heward and her late husband Steve Wolsey, it was previously an Antony
Worrall-Thomp … sorry, I mean a little chef.

And a few of my fellow restaurant reviewers have spoken a lot about fabulous food.

“A dough supper class,” ooh one. “God’s chip shop,” said another.

Let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with a good fish supper because it is hands down the best comfort food in the world.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve become lyrical on quite a few fish and chip cafes (Benny T’s near Falkirk, Holdgates in Perth, The Townhead Cafe in Biggar and The Ashvale in Aberdeen or Brechin to name a few – uns) and IMHO the Real Food Cafe is among the best.

By the way, for those of you who just feel a breath of fresh air when you connect to Emmerdale, I have to tell you that Tyndrum is halfway between Glasgow and Fort William on the A82 ( if you are driving) or The West Highland Way (if you are walking).

In fact, with The Real Food Cafe as my go-to pit stop, I can’t think of a better reason to get another chance on the famous 96 mile hike. Where’s my backpack?

When I was 16, I walked the West Highland Way with my dad, and if the Real Food Cafe had been opened in 1985, I don’t think I would have come back to Motherwell.

My tent would still be pitched in front of the front door. Just a little problem with this place – it was a bit cold.

And that’s not what you want when you’ve already been ambushed in the parking lot by a family of polar bears who stole our hats, scarves and gloves …

We first took a seat by the window overlooking a busy bird feeding area and little Sophie was immediately mesmerized.

However, it was absolutely Baltic and we moved to a small booth near the front door in The Kidz Zone.

A little better, luckily, but still a “coats on” job. Please correct, Sarah.

In terms of overall decor, I think it’s fair to describe the Real Food Cafe as a no-frills fish and chip restaurant, but I promise you’ll find plenty of thrills on the plate.

The fish and chips at Real Food Cafe was awesome

The menu features chip shop classics like chicken, burgers, sausage, and black pudding, but you’d be crazy not to head straight for fish and chips.

Fish, by the way, is an “MSC certified sustainable stock” and I know this is an extremely important issue that keeps us all awake at night …

Take last Saturday night, for example, when I slipped into my local chippy at midnight and asked for a fish supper.

“Is this MSC certified sustainable haddock?” I mumbled.

When the lassie behind the counter shook her head, I naturally stepped out. Yeah that’s right.

Seriously, hats off to the Real Food Cafe for taking this sane 21st century approach. Can you imagine a world without fried haddock? Me niether.

Regardless, our plates full of piping hot fish and chips were wonderful.

A quick mention also for the mashed peas (excellent) and the fresh and tangy tartar sauce which was clearly homemade.

The freshly fried boneless haddock in a light crispy batter was just perfect and the appropriate chips from the chip shop were superb.

Twice fried, I guess. Or, if I’m mean, heat it up.

In fact, that’s a fair point that I never really thought about before … is there really a big difference between ‘trendy’ twice-fried crisps and seedy reheated takeout?

Anyway, it was fresh food all the way to the Real Food Cafe.

And I invite you to eat it with the small wooden knives and forks to take away. Fish and chips never taste so good with the right cutlery.

Finally, one of the walls of The Kidz Zone houses a touching sanctuary dedicated to the café’s co-founder, who sadly passed away in 2006 at the age of 48.

But listen, what a beautiful legacy. Believe me, Steve, the Real Food Cafe still serves some of the best fish and chips this reviewer has ever tasted.

Verdict: 23/30

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