The Sugar Boat, Helensbugh

So, we’re in a heatwave. Likely to be the hottest EVER! Met Office issues first ever Red Heat Warning. Might be 40deg, although such hyperbole is rarely realised and it’s probably only a cool 38 or so. We’ve been in Scotland where normal service usually prevails and a steady 15 degrees is heaven. Her Majesty’s government is busy with choosing a new leader so (1) can’t be bothered with the climate change nonsense and (2) none of the candidates gives a toss about it anyway. Disaster.

The grandchildren are on a week’s sailing where ‘white horses grandpa’ prohibit beginner sailing, even in Optimists. In our downtime (recuperating) we needed a restorative lunch. Helensburgh is a game of two halves. The ‘front’ is mix of shops you’ll find in many Scottish west coast towns – nothing to write home about, apart from the iconic fish’n’chip shop ‘The Wee Kelpie’ which closed when the roof fell in. Waitrose was here but closed in the recent ‘right-sizing’ determined by Sharon White. The housing, on the other hand, is splendid. Obvs. Mackintosh’s The Hill House is the jewel, but there are lots and lots of others we’d happily inhabit, ranged down the gentle, south-facing slope to the Clyde. 

So it was not surprising that when a Michelin Star chef decided to leave London (Arbutus etc) they should end up in coming back north – he previously worked at Cameron House and his wife is from nearby Dumbarton. Reassuring and comforting. A safe, welcoming haven. Probably a good choice but let’s wait and see. Surely all those big houses need a place to eat?

When restaurateur Will Smith of Wild Honey and Arbutus left London, he chose Helensburgh as the base for his new restaurant, Sugar Boat, and brought head chef Scott Smith with him.

Open all day it would be a great place for breakfast or ‘brunch’ (what’s that when it’s at home…Ed?) but we opted for lunch. Dinner would be good too, but unlikely for us. (Those grandchildren again). We’re not big eaters at lunch – or anytime – but a couple of glasses of crisp Italian white, two bowls of very good, creamy Cullen Skink (a bit salty mind) and some excellent coffee. Good loos too. Also a smart ‘home’ and well stocked wine shop. All in all a win for Helensburgh. 

Restaurant Sugar Boat Helensburgh

PS The name ‘Sugarboat‘ comes from the wreck just off Helensburgh in the Clyde. On the evening of 27 January 1974, a severe storm caused the 4,576 GRT Captayannis to drag her anchor while she was waiting at the Tail of the Bank to deliver sugar to the James Watt Dock in Greenock. Her captain ordered the engines to be started with the intention of running for the more sheltered waters of the Gareloch but before she could be brought to power she drifted onto the taut anchor chains of the BP Tanker British Light. The tanker suffered no damage but her anchor chains holed the sugar boat below the waterline, allowing water to pour in. With a wrangle over ownership and costs, she’s remained there ever since.

Fire on the beach in the glorious weather…

An Optimist…


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