I’ve heard about this place on many occasions but had not visited until a week or so ago. Great food I was told. Stay at the Great Glen Hostel (a great hostel) or camp by the Locks and eat at the Eagle. Nothing, though, prepared me for an actual visit!
We arrived at the Locks about three in the afternoon. After a while watching a boat coming through the locks we popped over to the Eagle.
The Eagle is a large barge, one of the continental ocean going barges rather than a narrow boar. Entering through the small door you find yourself in a wonderfully warm and welcoming environment. On the right of the door is a wood panelled bar and to the left an eating area.
We sat down with fine pints of good real ale. And then we began to chat to the proprietors and what a laugh we had. They are not locals (although they have lived in Scotland for some time) but are from deepest Essex, Romford I think. It was if the Essex contingent from Gavin and Stacy had turned right on the M4 by mistake and had continued north for 400 miles or so! I make these comments in the best possible light — they were as warm and welcoming and outrageously funny as you could expect.
The Eagle does food and we fancied eating a real meal rathe than relying on dehydrated stuff. A sign on the wall said food orders must be made by three in the afternoon; it was four. I hazarded to enquire whether we could still order food. You can — came the reply — but only if you order NOW! The chef had some lamb shanks in which he would cook for us in a red wine and rosemary sauce. We quickly ordered. it’s OK he explained, I just have to pop not the kitchen and put the lamb on! You can’t get more personalised than that!
We got chatting. Music is a bit of a theme here and notices ask for musicians to identify themselves. I owned up to being a guitar player. Oh, we have one of ten came the reply. We can have a few tunes later. Sadly, I don’t know the names of my hosts but she played the concertina I think and the chef oldie he had started to learn the squeeze box. I ventured that I had always hankered after playing a squeeze box; e disappeared into the kitchen and bought out his instrument and then let me fiddle around for it for a while.
We trotted off to the hostel and returned at 7 ish. While we were waiting for our food we chatted with some of the boatmen at the bar and had a look at a lo of family snaps. Our food was simply superb.
This is a cook who knows that he can do some things very well and I guess these are the daily specials. Our lamb was long cooked and fell beautifully off the bone. It is easy to ruin a red wine sauce with too much rosemary but our cook had got it spot on. The food was served by the cook directly from the roasting dish; there was no doubt about the provenance of this bit of food — it had been made for us.
This was as good a meal as I’ve had anywhere over the last few years. We finished off with home made apple pie and ice cream, the pie being just as well judged as the lamb.
Eccentricity comes with this place and it all adds to the experience. I wanted a bottle of wine and waited patiently while the women at the bar cooed over baby photographs. It was a nice wait. When the wine finally appeared we realised we had no glasses on our table. We asked the chef. He shouted to the bar. What? You want glasses as well came the reply!
At the end of our meal I felt quite knackered and we decided simply to withdraw to our beds. What you’re going? What about the music? We left to shouts of, ‘he’s bottled out, bottled out he has …”
The Eagle has its own Facebook page which is well worth checking out. You’ll see that music is a bit of a thing here and sessions are regularly hosted during the season. When we passed through they are thinking of opening a couple of evenings during the winter simply because local musicians were demanding it — this is apparently such a good place to play.
If you find yourselves walking this way, don’t hesitate to visit. This is a great place and a great laugh. Book in for a meal. But remember you have to arrive by 3 in the afternoon; it is worth planning your walking route around it.