We’ll soon be able to venture beyond our local park … and to help us, the Observer has launched a guide to Britain’s hidden treasures, starting with Jay Rayner’s hunt for tasty morsels in unlikely places
The Oban docks on Scotland’s west coast are a functional place. Veteran CalMac ferries to the islands heave on their moorings and, from time to time, there’s a waft of diesel in the air. It’s not the first place you might think of visiting for lunch. But there, alongside the blocky, modern ferry terminal building, is the glory that is the Oban Seafood Hut. It’s in the kind of prefabricated shed only its designer could love, and emblazoned with a garish bright green signage that can doubtless be seen from a mile off shore. But oh, the food. One afternoon, beneath gunmetal skies, I feasted on scallops the size of a baby’s fist in ponds of hot garlic butter, shiny black mussels and crab sandwiches thicker than an airport bonkbuster novel.
I cannot claim that the Oban Seafood Hut is a secret, newly whispered. I’ve written about it in my column and, in any case, part of my job reviewing restaurants in normal times involves giving exposure to the relatively obscure. I have no secrets. But it is proof, if we needed it, that a very good time out is not necessarily found in all the most obvious places; those destinations weighed down by labels like “beauty spot” and “national park” and the crowds of visitors that flock to them.