The past weekend I found myself up in Oban flying solo after my cousins had to pull out of the trip due to a family emergency. It just so happens that Oban is one of my preferred whiskies so after a great night’s sleep at Heatherfield House B&B and a wander around, I headed down to the distillery in the afternoon. One educational tour (and a couple of cheeky drams) later, I was feeling a bit peckish and asked my guide for a restaurant recommendation. Cuan Mor was enthusiastically suggested (and it was one I had shortlisted earlier) so it seemed like a good time to try it.
Cuan Mor is reminiscent of the gastropubs that took London by storm a few years ago except they’ve got the concept balanced just right. The outdoor area is dedicated for the bar so you can enjoy a pint while watching the sun set. There is usually a wait, but they equip you with those flashing buzzers so you don’t have to stand in line or worry about a booking. The décor is dark woods and faux leather, but it manages to be comfortable and welcoming rather than cliché. And you can’t get much friendlier staff than the lovely people who work here – big welcoming smiles and a bit of banter make the dining along experience much better.
What do you need to know?
- The menu showcases the local seafood but has plenty of good non-fish options as well
- Prices are quite reasonable with starters being £4-6 and mains around £10-18
- Cuan Mor stocks the full range of Oban Bay beers – I recommend the Dark Ale
- The service is quick and the staff know the menu and are happy to offer recommendations
Food: ★★★☆☆ Service: ★★★★☆ Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆ Value: ★★★★☆ Overall: ★★★☆☆
I don’t often say this, but why not prop up the bar at Cuan Mor? They have a great selection of beers, ciders, and spirits (naturally a good whiskey selection) and the prices are very reasonable. Pints are around £3.50 (okay so I’m biased with London prices) and premium single malts are on offer for as little as £4/25ml. Plus, the view of the bay from the outdoor tables is excellent and since you’re on the main road you can also do a bit of people watching to pass the time.
What to eat?
I struggled with the question as I was on my own but wanted to try quite a few things. After some discussion with my waitress, I settled on the Cuan Mor chicken liver pate and the haggis with mash to start, the house special beef pie for my main, and of course the sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
The starters were good with the haggis winning me over with its meaty flavours with a hint of spice. While not as good as Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow, it was tasty and went well with the creamy mash. The pate wasn’t quite to my tastes and the greyish colour was a bit off putting. However, the chutney that came as a side helped enhance the flavour which still made it decent in my book.
My beef pie was excellent. The rich steak filling was perfectly cooked and very moreish – I think I dipped everything I could into the sauce – and the pastry topping was light and buttery without being at all oily. The steamed veggies as a side helped me feel slightly healthier and I appreciated the technique to maintain their vibrant colors. Along with the pie, you get a side of sweet potato fries and that’s always a winner particularly when they are crispy and sprinkled with salt.
Dessert was average – I devoured it because I love sticky toffee pudding – but the sauce needed a bit more time to soak into the pudding and the cream melted before it was served so it was more of a soup than a sauce. Good basics, but it needs a little tweaking to be great.
What about drinks?
Given I had just spent an hour or so at the distillery, I opted for the beers. The house lager was perfect for sitting in the sun – cold and refreshing with just enough complexity in the flavour to make it easy and enjoyable to drink. However, my favourite was the Oban Bay Dark Ale which went down a treat with the steak pie. I really do need to see where I can source some of it here!
There are also wines for £4-5/175ml glass and around £15-20/bottle if you fancy that. No really top end wines but it’s not a place you’d expect to find a £100+ bottle – spend that type of cash on a distillers reserve single malt!
Worth the dosh?
My massive meal with drinks came to about £40 which wasn’t too bad. I could have probably spent about £25 and eaten my fill but I was a bit greedy. Given Oban is a bit of a hot spot with tourists, it’s reasonable for the quality and quantity of food and drink.
Find Cuan Mor here
60 George St, Oban PA34 5SD