Hawthorn Restaurant, Benderloch, Oban

Passing trade is something that Hawthorn Restaurant cannot exploit, although with kerb appeal in bucket-loads and a frontage which prompts inquisitiveness, it sits in the Benderloch countryside, 8 miles north of Oban. The village of Benderloch’s derives it’s name from Beinn eadar dà loch, meaning “mountain between two lochs”, those lochs in question being Loch Creran and Loch Etive, both playing an important part in Hawthorn’s story.

And although the geographical location is sublime, very beautiful and easy to reach, Hawthorn does not benefit from high footfall, thus begs the question of the polite request to make advance dinner reservations.

The answer becomes hugely apparent, not long after arrival at the quaint little croft building, sitting on farmland with a very green and lush outlook. Rasa and her team extend the most friendly, polite and efficient welcome, whilst maintaining an air of calmness and relaxed mastery, over a busy restaurant.

Hawthorn feels personal and intimate yet caters admirably on our visit for casual diners and a larger family celebration, without delay and yet, very amenable to our preference for relaxed periods between courses.

The menu takes advantage of the abundance of fresh, seasonal produce from the surrounding land, river and sea and adds a unique twist and unexpected additions, making a memorable visit and distinguishing Hawthorn from a number of other ‘good food’ places in the area. Chef Kevin Hanlon seems passionate about making a mark in the area and word has it, his name is already synonymous with quality and passion with his food belying the humble surroundings of the working farm, on which Hawthorn sits.

It is that which I love about the West Coast and this area in particular, where skills and talent are retained and the passion for the area and its produce prevents an exodus to cities and the draws of a faster paced life. This is where you can find true gems such as Hawthorn and add them to the mental notebook of places to come back to, talk about and remember with a great fondness – a little secret treasure.

The food is presented with great consideration and art; a hugely extensive drinks and wine list to accompany each course and the whisky; well, someone there is a whisky fan, so no-one leaves having been disappointed with the choice of digestif.

So, next time you are visiting Oban or the general vicinity, where distance, really is no object, hunt out Hawthorn Restaurant – you will not be disappointed with this gem of a find, where repeat business and word of mouth is the name of the game.