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Sugar Boat Review

Visited June 2022

Sugar Boat

Sitting proudly in Colquhoun Square in the centre of the Scottish coastal town of Helensburgh since 2017, Sugar Boat is a real neighbourhood bistro that seems to offer a bit of everything. Open seven days a week, you can pop in for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and even afternoon tea. As if that wasn't enough, there's also a wine shop and kitchen store on site; I don't think I've ever seen a place this size that offers more. But of course, I was here for the food, and with positive reviews from all the major food guides I was fully anticipating an enjoyable meal as I rocked up for lunch with my wife, her parents and our two young children on a mild Thursday in June.

The restaurant doesn't have a customer car park, but there's pay and display parking (first two hours free) literally next door which was handy. We arrived to find the place fairly busy, but the welcome was warm and we were shown to our spacious table towards the back of the restaurant. I really liked the feel of the place; it's nicely laid out with a good atmosphere, exactly what I'd hoped for this kind of restaurant. On offer at lunch is a fairly lengthy carte menu with a good number of choices per course. There's also a short two course children's menu, which is always appreciated when eating with young children.

Drinks wise, there's a thoughtful wine list and a good selection of drinks including a range of cocktails, although I would have expected a few more non-alcoholic options. I enjoyed my usual Hendricks and tonic (as did my father-in-law), my wife said the homemade lemonade was OK (although to list it on the drinks menu as a mocktail is a bit of a stretch), and the kids were perfectly happy with their apple juices.

Lunch began for me with the Cullen skink (when in Rome and all that); I've had a few variations of this over dish the years, but this version was a very good effort. The main sauce body was very flavoursome and although I personally would have preferred a bit more fish and a bit less potato, it was a starter I'd happily eat again at any time. Other starters were all enjoyed also, including a dish of cured and torched mackerel, and the soup of the day. My daughter had the fish and chips from the children's menu which she was very happy with and my young son just had a portion of chips; both of these were served with the starters without any issue.

For mains, I opted for the pork loin served with wild garlic mash and chorizo. It was a fairly basic but enjoyable dish, with the big slab of pork main event being cooked well. My father-in-law went for the pan seared salmon; the fish was tasty and nicely cooked, but the peas a la francaise it sat on was very watery which was a shame. My wife and mother-in-law both had the Spring Panzanella salad, served with baby carrots, courgette and ricotta. It was fresh and delicious and a great dish for a warm day.

Desserts started with a bit of a let-down; my wife and daughter had both wanted to order the chocolate mousse but it was only when our dessert order was taken (not when we were given the menus) that we were told it wasn't available and hadn't been for a couple of weeks. I had the salted caramel tart which was a perfectly tasty dessert; not one of the best tarts I've had but far from the worst. My father-in-law wasn't blown away by the rhubarb crumble but my young son was happy enough with his scoop of ice cream.

And so, after a cappuccino for my wife and a couple of glasses from the extensive whisky list for myself and my father-in-law, our enjoyable lunch came to an end. Overall, I really enjoyed our visit here; Sugar Boat is a great example of a neighbourhood bistro with good food (in the main) and good service. I'd love to have a venue like this in my local town, and I'd certainly have no issue going back at any time in future.

Dress Code


Top Tip

Child friendly. Pay and display car park very close to the restaurant.

Guide Ratings

I think all the major guides have this about right.
Ratings Michelin Guide AA Guide Good Food Guide
At time of review Michelin Guide Listed AA RosetteAA Rosette 2
Our view Michelin Guide Listed AA RosetteAA Rosette 3

Group size: 4 adults & 2 children. Total bill: £169.