Before I get run through by a dirk by an irate Highlander, I’m talking about Scotland’s food revolution that has transformed eating out here. It is, of course, still possible to find disgusting food but then so it is in all countries. Now, for instance, you can eat as well on the West Coast as you can in London.
Although there have long been a few scattered pockets of excellence like the long running Peat Inn thirty years ago the general offer was pretty dire despite Scotland having some marvellous raw ingredients. There’s Scottish beef and venison and wonderful fish and shellfish on the West Coast. This is a marine treasure trove for scallops (Coquilles Saint- Jacques), langoutine, crab and other shellfish also plenty of fish. In the past much of this was exported to the Continent as there was little local demand. Now that has changed and many small restaurants on the West Coast offer wonderfully fresh hand-dived scallops
I remember being on the Isle of Skye over 30 years ago and being astonished that it was impossible to find a place to eat in the early evening because everywhere was closed by 5.30pm.
Over the last three years we have gone on a week’s tour in picturesque parts of Scotland with Carole’s mum. In 2011 we explored the Outer Hebrides – eating well as we made our way north through the islands. Last year we went to Orkney where the food overall was competent rather than exciting as it had been in the Hebrides. This year we are exploring the west coast as well as spending four nights at John O’Groats. We set off on Saturday and have had some great food.
Saturday lunchtime we had a great lunch at the Applecross Inn after an amazing drive over the hills up a tiny narrow road. From Applecross there is a stunning view across to the island of Skye and the Cuillin mountain range. We had some excellent and wonderfully fresh scallops and local crab.
After Applecross we headed up along the coast – again with stunning views – to Gairloch. On Sunday we discovered the surprising and funky Melvaig Inn, which has many associations with the music of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Featuring various album covers plus an Elvis Presley clock along with many hundreds of LPs all carefully filed. I’m sure the Melvaig Café is a place that the majority of Les 5 would love. My only doubt is whether it would have enough resonance for young Lalau.
On Sunday night we were surprised and delighted by a brilliant meal at Na Mara in Gairloch. This restaurant has been open for four years. The cooking is wonderful assured and precise. I started with a very generous portion of Skye mussels perfectly cooked in a very flavoursome tomato and chilli flavoured broth. My main course was venison cooked decidedly pink accompanied by a lovely slice of black pudding. Scottish black pudding is can be excellent but quite different from the French as it includes oatmeal. I bowed out here but Carole and her mum then shared a perfect stickly toffee pudding. With it we drank a bottle of Nico, a simple but good value Portuguese red from Setúbal.