Declan Curran has managed Oban tradition The Lorne Bar on Stevenson Street for 11 years. But he is now the proud new owner of the pub and shaking it up with a fresh attitude and a fantastic new menu.
A chef by training, Declan began his career with StenaLine super ferries running out of Ireland, where he worked for eight years. He had moved to Glasgow, where he was managing a restaurant for a group, and when they took over ownership of The Lorne in 2005, he moved to Oban to take it over.
When he bought The Lorne last year, Declan returned to his first love- cooking. He can be found in the kitchen preparing each dish from scratch, for, as he admits with a laugh, “I’m rubbish behind the bar. I’m better off putting that labour into the kitchen.”
From traditional pub faves like mac and cheese and Chicken Balmoral, to succulent seafood specialities such as steamed mussels and pan-seared scallops, there is something for every taste at the Lorne- even vegetarians will find lots to love with dishes such as Quorn sausages and mash or burgers. Diners will discover a few surprises, as well, such as chicken enchiladas and homemade pizzas. (And the locals will tell you Declan’s Cullen skink is to die for!)
Declan is livening up the pub side of the The Lorne as well, with a great selection of ales and lagers (they are Cask Marque approved) along with a line-up of exciting live music, pub quizzes and Fridays specials.
OLTA food blogger Michelle McAnally managed to get Declan out of the kitchen long enough to talk to him about his new approach to dining at The Lorne.
The Lorne has always been an Oban tradition, but not necessarily renowned for its fare. As the new owner, how have you have changed it into a top-notch pub dining destination?
“The corporate company that had ownership was bringing in pre-made food and all you had to do was operate a microwave. I’m taking it away from all that. Everything is made with fresh produce, cooked from scratch- good quality products such as local haddock, local produce and a lot more specials. It’s all food that I love. I’m aware of vegetarians as well, so we have a lot of Quorn dishes. We’ll be going down the seafood route seasonally, which will be sourced locally. We are really just trying to rebuild the Lorne again because it lost its way a wee bit. It’s getting people in the habit of thinking of the Lorne as a food venue, which it really hasn’t been for years. I’m a lot more motivated now that I’m the owner. The reason I got back in the kitchen is because I love cooking- and that’s the key to being a good chef, being passionate about it.”
Your new menu features a “Feast for a Fiver” section that has become quite popular with locals and visitors alike, offering pub favourites such as haddock and chips and your signature Pork Stornoway. What can customers expect from this special menu?
“When people see a five pound meal, they think it’s going to be just ‘all right’ and the portions are going to be small. But that’s why it’s called Feast for a Fiver. We’re pushing the value for money and giving people and excuse to come in and dine at a traditional pub and get fresh food at a price that actually beats the chains- but the quality is so much better. The quality is there and the price point is there. I really like the Pork Stornoway dish, it’s a concept I came up with. It goes so well together.”
There are so many great eateries in Oban, and local seafood is a no brainer. Where does The Lorne stand out?
“I’m a huge critic for presentation. You can get a chef that can cook fantastically and if he doesn’t present the food well, as soon as it hits the table you’re going to look and say ‘that doesn’t look great.’ But I always like presenting food well. Cooking has always been a passion, I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I take great pride in what I’m doing and always trying to improve. I buy all my seafood here- it’s quite nice to spend money locally. Plus I like coming in in the morning, looking around the kitchen, seeing what I need, going down to the pier and have a chat to see what the fishmonger has on offer.”