“ Address: 285 Brook Street / Broughty Ferry / Dundee / DD5 2DS „
===The Royal Arch===
Days off are possibly my favourite thing on the planet. Well... at least my favourite work related things. My last day off consisted mainly of wandering round doing some very early Christmas shopping and enjoying the smell of cinnamon pine cones in the local garden centre. In between all this overly organised christmassery, Allan and I became a touch peckish. As such we decided to find somewhere to eat.
Jump back about 20 years and you will find a very young Allan in a pub/restaurant in the ferry (that's Broughty Ferry for those who don't know the area) with his grandmother munching away. Modern day Allan regales me of tales of how great the food was in said pub regularly and we've been meaning to go for a long time now so I could sample their delights and Allan could re-live some happy childhood memories. Since we found ourselves in the area on this magical day off, we decided to finally give it a bash.
---On the outside---
The Royal Arch is situated in Broughty Ferry (a little seaside village on the outskirts of Dundee) on one of the main streets ( 285 Brook Street to be exact). It's about a five minute walk away from Broughty Ferry Castle, a large play-park and the beach so it's a very good area for a little day out with the kids. It's quite a noticeable place as it's painted red and has big stain glass windows. It does look a bit like an "old-man pub" from the outside looking a touch tatty round the edges. If it's summer then you will normally find some extra tables and chairs outside the pub and it catches the sun quite nicely.
Parking shouldn't be too much hassle as you can easily walk most of the ferry in 15 minutes and there's a lot of pay and display parking spaces. If you are lucky there are a few free parking spaces a couple of streets back but if you get there later in the day you'll really need to hunt for them. The ferry is really popular for people wanting a low intensity wander and lunch. It's ten times more packed on a sunny day due to the proximity to the sandy beach. There's plenty of transport links with both a trains and busses running near-by.
The pub dates back to 1869 when it was called The Royal Arch Tavern going through many similar name changes from tavern to hotel to arms ending up on "bar". It always seems to be very busy. The pub side comes with free Wi-Fi and is equipped with sports TV. The restaurant door is on the right hand side under the "Lounge" sign. I always thought it was closed till Allan gave it a push yesterday so don't be too shy about going in, it will be open.
---On the inside---
Upon entrance my first impressions were that it was quite a strange place. It is quite a small restaurant and due to the stain glass windows it's also quite dark when you first enter. We had to wait a moment to let our eyes adjust before we could do anything. It felt a little like I had just walked into an old woman's living room just after she'd had a bar installed and got the tables out for guests. Not uncomfortable and certainly warm, but very different.
Due to the circular layout of the restaurant it can feel a little like everyone is looking at you when you walk in, but you'll soon get over it. It also makes for great people watching as you can pretty much see everyone in the restaurant from most of the seats. There can't be more than about ten tables seating around five or six people each so it really does feel quite intimate. I can't really complain about it though as there is still plenty space to move around. I would imagine it may be a bit cramped for wheelchair users when it's full though. To be honest the place doesn't have great wheelchair access anyway, with you having to take a step up into the lounge and a step down into the toilets.
The restaurant is decorated in the art deco style, full of elegant figurines of women and stained glass everywhere. Once your eyes adjust there is plenty for them to focus on, be it the gorgeous windows and booth dividers or the two giant stain glass circles on the roof acting as lighting. As if that wasn't enough the place is dotted with artwork based on Dundee and its surroundings. It's quite unique and it certainly kept me interested though I probably looked a bit strange staring at the roof and the walls. I also found myself singing along to the music that was playing away gently in the background. It was mostly unobtrusive pop music probably from someone's mp3 player but both Allan and I were impressed with the selection, both getting to hear a few songs that we really love while we ate. Kudos to that!
As soon as we walked in we were greeted by the staff and basically allowed to choose where we sat as it was empty. We went straight for the big curved comfy looking seats that lined the walls, partly because we didn't want to sit in the middle of the room. We were very lucky, within half an hour the place was full. After we were seated it took less than a minute for the barman to come over with the menus and take our drinks orders. This is something I really look out for as a lot of places I've been take forever to even take your drinks order and it really winds Allan up if they haven't bothered to acknowledge you or get your drinks. Thankfully the staff at the royal arch were on the ball, even when it filled up everyone was seated promptly and their orders taken and drinks received within five minutes of walking in the door. Our food only took about ten minutes after we ordered to come out and everyone else also seemed to be getting their food fairly quickly. The only thing I would be wary of is that the kitchen shuts down for a few hours during weekdays between 2 and 5. That being said I'd really recommend booking a table anyway as it would seem the place is almost always packed out. As mentioned before, we went on a Tuesday afternoon and while it was quiet at the start, it soon filled up and there were no seats left by the time we left.
The restaurant area has its own separate bar from the pub on the other side of the building which is really great. It means that you get to just enjoy your meal rather than being surrounded by people who are there to watch sports and shout at the TV while getting sozzled. If you want to get sozzled in peace, then the bar on this side is fully stocked. If you'd prefer something a little more sobering I noticed they also have a rather large coffee maker perched on the bar. There are seats around the bar but I can't really imagine there being room for anyone to sit at them when it's full. A fully functioning bar can never be a downside at a restaurant I say, and this one certainly meets my standards!
The menu is displayed outside so you can easily choose before you go in which I quite like. Means there's no awkward moments when you get in and realise the place is too pricey or doesn't have anything nice to eat. There is a very good range on the menu too, going from full three courses to lighter snacks like Panini's and baguettes. There isn't much excitement for vegetarian on the menu with your hot options being Mac n' cheese or an omelette. There are salad and baguette menus but it's all cold. If you aren't too fussy though, you should be able to find something nice to eat.
As it was lunch time, we decided to have a very light bite. We're trying to cut down our portions a little so we didn't want to stuff our faces full. I decided to go for a rather apt dish for such a bar with a Royal name; I had a Coronation Chicken Baguette. When it arrived the plate was packed so that was my idea of a light bite out of the window! The baguette was brimming with coronation chicken filling, served with a salad and a side of chips even though I had asked for the sides to be taken off. I'm not complaining as I ate some of them anyway but I'm very aware that if someone asks for something not to be on their plate in the food industry it's so important to get this right. Otherwise you may end up with someone like my mother who simply has to eat something that's touched a pepper and she'll be violently sick for the next two days. Thankfully I don't have any food allergies so it wasn't too much of a big deal.
As for the Baguette it was delicious. It was far too full to actually pick up so I ended up eating half of the filling with my cutlery first and finally picking it up when I thought I'd not end up covered in filling. The baguette itself was lovely and warm with the outer edges being nice and crusty and the inside being soft and fluffy. Perfection. The only slight niggle I had was that the filling was cold which made it feel a bit odd when the chips and baguette was warmed. I'm sure if you asked them they might heat it up for you though. Overall I'd give my munch a 4 out of 5. Very tasty and well presented and certainly worth the £6.50 due to the massive portions.
Allan followed suit and went with a chicken and sweet corn baguette again assuming it would be a little smaller than it actually was. His also came with salad and chips (you can choose veg or potatoes if you prefer) and was also packed to the gunnels. He did become a little annoyed that he couldn't pick it up to eat the baguette and eventually heaped some of the filling out of the baguette onto his plate so that he could. That was his only grumble. The chips were cooked perfectly, similar to the baguettes; crusty on the outside fluffy on the inside. He didn't really touch his salad either as it was too much with the large portions given, but again it was all very nicely presented and definitely worth the £6.50 we paid for it.
---Offers of Others---
While we were only in for a quick afternoon snack there were others who were in for the full three courses. As we ate we had a few of the courses drift passed in the hands of the waitress and each time we both turned to each other as the smell wafted in our direction with a happy glint in our eyes. All the courses we saw coming out were huge. They all looked and smelled delicious and judging from the reactions of everyone else in the place, there wasn't anything that anyone was displeased with. That does make me come back to my earlier point about being quite a small place. If there were to be any issues with your food and you wished to complain, there wouldn't really be any privacy to do so. Thankfully we didn't find anything to actually moan about so we didn't have to worry!
---Step inside the place where you pee---
Toilets, toilets, toilets. It's always been a bugbear of mine. It's really not hard to get it right and keep it clean, there's no excuse. The first eye raiser was the ceramic tiles on the doors to the loos. The gents had a quaint image of a little boy peeing away happily, flow full and yellow. The ladies weren't much better with an image of a little girl baring her backside to sit down on a potty whilst she shyly glances over her shoulder at you. Some may find it cute, others may find it hideous. I'm not yet decided. Pushing through the door I was met with a corridor which is obviously the back of the pub next door. At the end of this corridor is the men's. If you're a bloke you'll instantly be transported from Art deco elegance to local pub squalor. While the toilets aren't totally grotty they aren't as clean as I'd really like them to be. The walls are all tiled but a bit discoloured and cracked. The floor was debris free at least.
The sink and hand drier is huddled in the corner where the urinals are and if there was more than one person in there, you'd literally be touching someone (and not gently) whilst they pee. You could easily stand on the same spot, pee, turn, wash your hands, turn and dry your hands without leaving the same 30 cm squared. I also noticed a couple of flies buzzing about which is something I hate. It really doesn't cost much to get fly spray or fly paper. Hell you could even get a bug zapper fitted for relatively cheap amounts. So while the toilets weren't exactly dirty, they also weren't comfy and didn't feel clean. Throw in that getting back from the toilet is a bit of a health hazard, with a tiny step out of the toilet that you don't notice on going in I nearly fell face first out of the loo. Not only that but the floor slopes up from the toilet to the restaurant door which, again, you don't really notice on your way in but nearly made me fall again on the way out. Two trips in five seconds, I wasn't overly impressed. Toilets are the only thing I'm going to mark them down on.
If you are interested then they do have a website (www.royal-arch.co.uk) which is a very simple site but perfect for anything you could really need. It'll give you more history on the royal arch and even let you see all the menus available. It also has all the contact information you'll need if you want to make a reservation which, again, I would advise if you want to eat here as it is always busy.
Overall, I think this is a great little place. A real hidden gem as Allan likes to call it. The location is easy to get to and it's surrounded by other stuff to do if you want to make a day of it. The food is delicious and well priced and the staff are very friendly. The restaurant can feel a touch dark and claustrophobic when it's full but it really is quite beautiful and unique inside. The only downside is that the toilets are a bit horrible but by far not the worst I've seen. Certainly not enough to put me off going back again for full three courser next time we are wandering The Ferry!