Eat - Smooth sailing

  • The List
  • 19 June 2007

Smooth sailing

Novelty abounds on a floating Leith restaurant with a colourful history

The Ocean Mist’s story is long and colourful. A steamer-trawler fitted out by the Royal Navy at the tail end of the Great War, she arrived too late for active service, and seemed fated to rust on the dockside. Thanks, however, to KE Guinness (a member of the famous Irish brewing dynasty) the ship was given a new lease of life, ferrying rally cars to the south of France and Italy.

Three decades later in 1965, she finally came to rest on Leith’s Kings Wark quay, becoming a familiar fixture there as a floating restaurant. But lack of business forced her doors to close in 2000. The proud old tub - the last of her kind - again faced a doubtful future.

Uncertain, that was, until entrepreneurs Sassan Pour and Matthew Tabatabaie came along with their sights set on the lucrative, increasingly cosmopolitan Leith waterfront. At a cost of £1.1m the Ocean Mist has been fully refitted to house Cruz: a 90-seat restaurant, bar/club and function room/ conference suite across three levels.

Aesthetically, the job has been tastefully done: most skeletal features of the boat have been preserved - port holes, panelled ceilings and sloping decks (certain to be disorientating after a few drinks). Bar a lick of fresh white paint, the décor is minimal. Curved padded booths adorn the bar level; the restaurant floor is filled only by rows of smart black and white tables and chairs.

Being a boat that’s afloat, seafood is naturally prominent on the menu and much of it comes from local producers: Loch Fyne oysters or mussels and fresh Scottish salmon or lobster, for example. Assiette de poissons fume, a selection of smoked fish served with a leafy salad and horseradish cream, makes for an elegant starter.

Main courses are let down by some disappointingly simple shortcomings, however. The fish of the day - in this instance smoked sea bass - looks wonderful as it arrives still crackling on the plate, but the drizzle of tangy tomato sauce is barely enough to flavour one - let alone both - cuts of fish. Asparagus risotto, too, promises much with its thick creamy texture, but the truffle oil topping is overbearing, giving the dish an all too intense, even slightly sickly aroma.

There’s certainly much to be said for eating at Cruz as an experience: bright, airy, novel surrounds - plus swim-bys from Leith’s newest residents (a pair of swans with their three cygnets). Certainly among weekend drinkers and revellers, it promises to become a popular haunt. Whether Cruz can compete, however, with the established variety of other waterfront eateries - and add a famous new chapter to the ship’s proud 90-year history in the process - remains to be seen.

Cruz, The Shore, Leith, 0131 553 6699;
Open daily, serving food from noon until about 10pm; bar open until 1am. Two-course evening meal is around £18

Take Three: Places to dine at sea

Ogilvie Terrace, Edinburgh, 0131 669 5516
The advantage that Zazou has over your typical floating restaurant is that it actually casts off its moorings. The voyage on this classic narrow-boat is reserved to the Union Canal, but the trip is nevertheless a large part of the appeal. Open only to groups of eight to 12, serving hearty lunches and dinners.

B8001, Skipness, 01880 760 207
Also known as the Crab Shack, the last time we visited the Seafood Cabin near Skipness (south of Tarbert on the Kintyre peninsula), a flush of wee ducklings nestled in the lawn amid the picnic tables and benches, while hens wandered about. Fresh seafood is cooked in a tiny retro caravan. Closed Saturdays and over winter.

Anderston Quay, Glasgow, 0141 248 5376
Before the Clyde tunnel and Kingston bridge, this was one of the ferries that took people across the river. Hard to imagine today. Moored on the north banks, the Top Deck serves up buffalo wings and pakora, as well as main courses such as Mexican chilli, beef burgers and pizzas.

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