I’ve recently been to Skye, which I guess isn’t the best tropical destination with which to round off a rubbish summer! However I’m a bit of a fan of the raw ruggedness of Scotland’s countryside and was keen to experience more of the beautiful highlands. We went for the week with my parents – who took a bit of convincing that it was the place to while away a week – until they twigged that the island is home to not one but two Michelin star restaurants, then we had them interested!
The island of Skye is a butterfly shaped piece of land which is joined to Kyle Lochalsh on the Scottish mainland by a small 90s bridge. One of the nice things about Skye is that even in the ‘large’ towns you still feel remote and isolated. Our first eating expedition was in the south of the island. Kinloch Lodge is a family run Michelin star restaurant and Conde Naste rated hotel. As we drove down a dirt track it was hard to believe that we were arriving at a venue of such high accolade! The restaurant itself felt like the Victorian home of a wealthy crofter, full of antiques and ancient family photos. The location was to die for as we were surrounded by hills and water and as the sun was setting it twinkled mysteriously for us.
There was no choice on the menu, although you could opt in and out of any of the courses. We went for the 6 course menu, leaving out the cheese and oatcakes. Canapes were served in the drawing room and were presented proudly in neat rows on a piece of local slate. The stand out bite for me was the simple yet tasty parmesan cracker topped with salty blue cheese mousse and crisp, clean green grape.
Our pre starter was a piece of steamed salmon served with…. caramelized banana! Not exactly what gets my taste buds salivating but was a surprisingly effective pairing – soft salmon and crunchy sweet banana! It was served beneath a closh for ultimate surprise factor! Our starter was a locally hand dived scallop that came served atop a light fishy mousse and creamy dill sauce. This was lovely and delicate and full of fresh sea flavour.
My main course was various cuts of local black face lamb (rump and cutlet) served with a punchy and outstanding rosemary gravy and dauphinoise potatoes. I have to say that I was disappointed when it first arrived as it looked so small and stingy on the plate. However as we ate we realised that it was just enough as it was so rich and especially after all of the other courses we’d already consumed!
Dessert was a light passionfruit parfait and coconut sorbet. This was creamy and decadent without being sickly. I opted for the whisky flight, which was two whiskys picked by the barman, to complement the dessert. These came ‘iced’ which I loved as I do like my whisky cold. The whisky really made me feel like I had arrived in Scotland!
Our time at Kinloch Lodge was unexpectedly relaxed and chilled out, despite being served top notch food. The ingredients reflected the natural beauty we were surrounded by and it really got the holiday mood started as we felt well looked after and treated to some wonderful morsels of food.
Our next adventure out was to the famous Three Chimneys, which is based in Dunvegan only a couple of miles down from the road where we were staying. This restaurant has an exciting and inspirational history. It was taken over by the Spear family in the 1980s. They ran it as a small bistro despite having little experience of running restaurants. Over the years it has built up a fantastic reputation with both locals and visitors to Skye. It’s number 26 in the Times top 200 restaurants in the UK and is 4th in Scotland! We’d been enticed in by a decent review from the food critic at the Independent.
The Three Chinmeys is housed in a 100 year old crofters cottage, we were surrounded by original stone walls and low ceilings, but still with the luxurious feel of a Michelin establishment. The food is traditional Scottish fare that has been given a modern twist. The menus were lovely and straightforward – 3 courses were £60 regardless of what you ate and there was a good and exciting choice.
Our amouse bouche (or wee taster as the waitress corrected me!) was Shirley Spear’s famous shellfish bisque. Now I do love a good bisque and so I’ve bought her cookbook so that I can reenact this gorgeous soup. It was deep in flavour and thick and warming – which is just as well as it was howling gales outside. I love that such beautifully complex flavours can be achieved by boiling up leftover shellfish shells, brilliant!
My starter was the fruits de mer from the lochs of Skye. In reality this consisted of two oysters – one served naturally and the other served with blended cucumber . The former frightened my mother who has never had oysters before and the latter frightened me who hates cucumber! As it happened the cucumber was a good addition to the oyster, making it really clean and cool. Also on the platter was a juicy langoustine and my favourite of potted crab, which was sweet and creamy and felt really indulgent. I enjoyed it all and it felt like a lovely big portion.
As it is grouse season it seemed rude not to try this for our mains and so three of us did. We were served the crown and it was cooked perfectly –soft, pink, juicy and with a livery gamey tang. It came with fluffy tattie scones, which were a bit like hash browns, and some salty, crunchy bacon. Wild brambles bejewelled our plates and gave a welcome sharpness to cut through the rich meat. Our other dining partner went for the pollack with scallop and red wine sauce, which she seemed very happy with.
The dessert choice was excellent and we all had difficulty choosing what we wanted. Apart from me as I had been thinking about the famous steamed maramalade pudding all holiday! This did not disappoint, it was light and fluffy and with a healthy addition of tangy marmalade that lifted it out of being a stodgy pud. It came floating on a bed of beautiful drambuie custard. It might sound a bit old school, and indeed this has been on the menu since the 1980s, but they’ve managed to bring it into the 21st century and its popularity has cemented its place on the menu forever! Other desserts on our table included a deconstructed cranachan, which was like a piece of artwork on a plate and just as tasty – it came laced with the local Talisker whisky. Speaking of whisky I chose a 1997 Highland Park (from Orkney) to accompany my dessert. It came in at a whopping 60% and was practically evaporating in the glass it was so strong. As predicted it was lovely and warming and almost exhilarating to drink.
We all thought the food at the Three Chimneys was outstanding. We felt excited by our choices as even when we picked something familiar it would still have a twist to surprise us with. The flavours were robust, comforting and left you wanting more. If we had one criticism it was that the atmosphere felt ever so slightly over formal, given the cottage’s humble surroundings. This didn’t really impact on us but it meant that smaller dining groups were practically silent, as if they were intimidated by the whole experience. The service itself was faultless, we felt very well looked after, just not as relaxed as we had been earlier in the week.
The Three Chimneys is definitely worth a trip if you are in Skye – go and see what all the hype is for yourself. Yes it’s in the middle of nowhere but at least you can stay over in its adjoining hotel, and then you can have more of their lovely marmalade for breakfast, and no doubt some loch kippers!