La via Allegra

Seafood and whisky have often been tipped as near perfect partners, but at Jura Lodge this love match is intensified. Rob Allanson takes two planes, a bus and ferry to find out more
By Rob Allanson
Now it has had an internal make over courtesy of chic French designer Bambi Sloan into an exclusive luxury retreat for true whisky aficionados, Jura Lodge, which sits next to the eponymous distillery, has opened its doors offering the ultimate in seafood weekends.

For the inaurgaral gathering I found myself in the company of a handful or journalists and a couple of whisky fans all eager to learn more of the secrets Jura has to offer.

The twist in the tale comes with the introduction of our very own master chef, in the shape of Allegra McEvedy, who is going to show us the ropes and help us prepare our own seafood dishes – once we have caught our food.

Thankfully the first night is a sumptuous meal prepared by Allegra and on the side table sits the entire Jura range from 10 Years Old to 21 including the much talked about Crinan Classic bottling, a heavily peated Jura, and the glorious Superstition.

The group meshes together pretty well that first night round the table enjoying the great food, wine and of course a dram or two.

The next morning the task ahead becomes clear and the group is split up and while one set takes a tour of the island, the other head off into the bay to fish – for lunch of course.

Now I don’t want to brag but the first fish on board was mine, a fairly tasty looking pollock. My fellow fishers had reasonable luck as well. However the smiles were wiped from our faces when at lunch we discovered the others had brought home a sizeable haul.

While we had all been enjoying ourselves, in the kitchen Allegra had been receiving deliveries from local lobstermen and fishermen. This wonderful fresh produce directly from the bay saved our hides and pride.

Although not entirely as before dinner Allegra conducted the first culinary masterclass, so we were to eat what we prepared.

Those of us who wanted were put to work dissecting the lobsters and preparing the crabs for dinner. It was clear to us all that working with such fresh produce was really inspiring Allegra, so infected with this enthusiasm I set about trying to match some of the whiskies to her creations. Not easy but fun, and lets face it it’s not often you get a chef of Allegra’s calibre to bounce ideas off.

The opener for Saturday’s meal was langoustines with a coriander and chilli mayo dip. Not an easy thing to put a whisky with mayo but the Jura 10 Years Old did a fairly decent job of cutting through the creaminess of it and worked well with the chilli.

The second course of crab claw and lobster bisque and Jura’s 16 Years Old was a heavenly mix. The whisky came over all honey with a slightly salty edge to it. Both crab and bisque had a very clean fresh taste to them that worked well with the whisky, even with the bisque’s richness. There were just waves of taste coming through hall the time. A complicated marriage but as Allegra explained: “Layers and layers of love make good food and it’s the same with whisky.”

Desert did not disappoint at all. I had cunningly slipped a bottle of Superstition into the lodge’s antiquated fridge to chill down in preparation for the night’s finale – rhubarb with cream and chocolate sauce.

This had to be the weekend’s rocking mix. The honey, smoke and spice from the whisky cut through the chocolate sauce and cream.

The chocolate and whisky both coated the mouth and complemented each other. There was a slight citrus hint on the aftertaste with a resin note.

Our final day in this island paradise I think between us all we discovered the perfect seafood and whisky match, it certainly left a few big smiles round the table after Sunday lunch.

Fresh Jura oysters with a lemon, red wine and shallot dip swiftly followed by a dram of the Crinan Classic. It just had this superb sweet smoke taste to it.

So after a great weekend it is good to see that Jura is keeping the flame of fresh seafood and whisky alive, and what a backdrop against which to try a few experiments.

Allegra McEvedy

Allegra McEvedy’s cooking background is diverse. She has travelled widely and cooked in restaurants in London and the USA.

She did her apprenticeship in London at such restaurants as Green’s; The Belvedere in Holland Park; The Groucho Club and The River Café. During a spell in the USA, facilitated by being awarded a special visa as ‘an alien with extraordinary ability in the culinary arts’, Allegra worked at Rubicon in San Francisco, and ran the kitchen at Robert De Niro’s New York restaurant Tribeca Grill (regularly doing 500 covers a night). While in New York, she catered for an exclusive Democratic Party fundraiser which involved personally cooking for President Clinton.

Her second book Allegra McEvedy’s Colour Cookbook won the IACP 2007 Cook Book award in the Chefs and Restaurants category.

In 2003, Allegra founded, with partners, Leon, the award-winning, healthy, fast-food restaurant chain, with eight London restaurants.

In March 2007, Allegra became the Resident Chef of the Guardian’s G2 magazine. She has had a weekly column in the Evening Standard’s ES magazine and monthly columns in Elle, IPC’s Living Etc and Image (Eire).