Review: The Harbour Cafe, Elie

Wet weather didn’t put off Stephanie Abbot when she visited The Harbour Cafe at Elie in Fife.

SPENDING any amount of time by the sea has an almost magical effect on one’s mood. Despite the persistent drizzle that spread across much of Sunday, the thought of a lunch at The Harbour Cafe in Elie in the East Neuk of Fife was a welcome weekend adventure for my friend and colleague Morag, her daughter and I.

The town of Elie is beautifully picturesque, so driving through was a lovely experience in itself. Arriving at the cafe, which is situated a stones throw from the water, we entered an adorable wooden beach hut with four long tables. It had a very relaxed and welcoming vibe and you could imagine all three huge windows being thrown open on warmer, sunnier days.

While we perused the menu, we tucked into some salted crisps, nuts and juicy Perello Gordal olives. To begin, Morag and I shared the Arbroath Smokie pate (£7.50), which was served with a wedge of lemon and sourdough bread. It was rich, creamy and extremely moreish.

For mains, I chose the half East Neuk lobster and Morag opted for the dressed crab. They were both served cold with hot buttered new potatoes, East Neuk Market Garden salad, aioli and sourdough bread. There’s also the choice of langoustines or cold rare roast Balkaskie beef and horseradish (all £17.50 each).

Due to the pandemic, all dishes are served in takeaway containers with disposable cutlery and cups. Regardless, our mains looked very pretty and inviting. The lobster tasted incredibly fresh and succulent. However, we were all in agreement that if you’re serving lobster with hot potatoes, it should also be warm and preferably smothered in garlic butter. The portion of aioli was very small and, while the potatoes were divine and perfectly seasoned, the sourdough bread felt like overkill, that, and there was no butter served with it. I enjoyed a small glass of the house white, which did complement the fresh lobster very well. Morag’s crab was really fresh, well-prepared and a good sized portion.

For dessert we tucked into the Santiago tart (Spanish almond tart, £4.50) served with boozy cherries and pistachio ice cream (with a choice of ice creams) and Ossau-Iraty with truffle honey. The latter is a French cheese made from sheep’s milk and was something we all enjoyed. It was served with a large flat disc-shaped cracker, which we split in half. The truffle was detectable right away and there was a smokiness to the cheese, which was pleasant. However, there were only two slices of cheese and the dish costs £5, which is quite steep in our books. The tart wasn’t what I expected and had a consistency more like a sponge cake. While the cherries were delicious, the tart itself was quite forgettable for both of us.

Overall, the location for this cafe is fantastic. While we ate, we watched kayakers glide through the water and one zippy jet ski speed past a few times. It was lovely looking out across the water and I could just imagine sharing a bottle of wine with a friend or afternoon date, and enjoying this pretty spot together. I’d be keen to return without the car and do just that, as well as trying the crab or langoustines. The staff were also extremely friendly and helpful, explaining changes as a result of covid-19 very clearly.

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