Fort William is one of the largest towns in the Scottish Highlands…I believe they may even have a McDonalds! Not that you would want to resort to American fast food in this location though – with little cafes and pubs on every second corner, interspersed between old-fashioned lolly shops, bakeries, ice-cream parlours and shops selling hand-knitted Scottish wool jumpers, there’s much greater delights to be had.
We stopped into Fort William for a late lunch on our overnight trip to the Highlands, after a morning spent driving through to Glenfinnan to see their viaduct and Bonnie Prince Charlie memorial, and then through to Mallaig which is the final destination of the historic Jacobite steam train – which unfortunately, doesn’t run through winter! Although we couldn’t ride on the Jacobite steam train, we could still eat at the Jacobite Lounge in the Ben Nevis Bar though.
Seated at the window with views of the large Ben Nevis mountain looming over the town, we perused the menus…which you have to admit are pretty quaint and cute. While they’re obviously not genuine retro menus and are simply made to look like they are, they’re still pretty cute! The contents inside are many and varied – there’s a handful of pub classics, but then they also offer a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and even a few Indian curry dishes.
I ended up choosing the Mushroom Topped Chicken with Chips and Peas. The chicken was a tad dry but given that it was absolutely drowned in the creamy mushroom sauce, it barely signified. The main disappointment was that there was hardly any trace of stilton cheese in the sauce as they had advertised – any strong blue cheese flavour was highly muted. At least the chips were crunchy!
K decided to try his luck with one of their advertised Indian specials, a Punjabi Style Vegetable Marsala. This was surprisingly tasty – far beyond the quality of Indian curry that I expected from a pub in the Scottish Highlands! The peppers, aubergine and potato were all cooked to a tender melt-in-your-mouth point, and the spicy marsala sauce was a delight on the pilau rice. The mini naan bread it was served with (rather than the advertised poppadom) wasn’t freshly made – in fact, it was barely warm – but still worked well when dipped into the sauce.
The menu offered him the opportunity to upgrade his meal and Make It A Feast, an offer which he took up. I wouldn’t recommend it – the onion bhajis were extremely over-cooked and tasted more of chunks of charcoal than onions. The only real highlight was the minted yoghurt dipping sauce, which was quite tasty with the poppadoms.
The Jacobite Lounge didn’t quite live up to our hopes – I fear they may rely a bit on the summer tourist crowds, or locals going in just for a few pints and to watch a game. While ambitious in their variety, their food offerings don’t quite measure up. They’d be better off trying to perfect a smaller menu than trying to do a bit of everything. Proceed with caution, and perhaps stick to the pub classics like the Steak and Ale Pie which I saw some of our fellow diners enjoying.
The Jacobite Lounge at Ben Nevis Bar is located at 103 High Street in Fort William, Scottish Highlands.