Les 5 du Vin

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Eating well in Scotland: Islay & Highlands

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 The Harbour Inn, Bowmore

I have posted in previous summers on how eating out in Scotland has improved enormously over the past 20 years or so. The quality of Scottish ingredients is now celebrated whether is fish and shellfish, meat or game. Little wonder that the Highlands of Scotland are now attracting discerning visitors from many European countries.

Here are reports of four meals we have enjoyed while in Scotland over the past few weeks: two on Islay – The Harbour Inn and The Bridgend Hotel – and two in Newtonmore – The Letterbox and The Evening Flower.

The Harbour Inn, Bowmore, Islay 

One of the views from the restaurant 

On a Sunday evening we had a very enjoyable meal in The Harbour Inn, Bowmore. We ate in the section that looks out over the harbour and the bay. CRM and I shared a tasty slate of antipasto and there was plenty there for two as a starter. CRM and her mum then chose the pan fried hake – a generous filet that was perfectly cooked. You could tell without tasting that the fish was just right as the milky flakes glistened.

I went for the chargrilled squid and rabbit confit paella, which was a flavoursome and interesting variation on a traditional paella.

Without studying the wine list in detail we went for a 2015 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine, Vieilles Vignes sur lie from Château du Poyet in La Chapelle Heulin and which belongs to the Bonneau family. It had some attractive weight from the 2015 vintage but good refreshing acidity without being sharp. Drinking well now it would be no problem keeping this for another five years or more.

Happy to recommend The Harbour Inn – we would certainly go back.        

Antipasto – cooked and cru ham, salami, chicken, Kalamata olives and celeriac  

2015 Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine,
Vieilles Vignes, Château du Poyet 

Pan fried hake with mash potato, wilted spinach etc.

Paella of chargrilled squid and rabbit confit 


The Bridgend Hotel, Bridgend, Islay

The Bridgend Hotel, Bridgend, Islay

The weather on Islay is truly execrable. Fortunately, there are some good places to eat. On a Wednesday evening we tried the Bridgend Hotel and were very favourably impressed starting with the warm welcome. We were settled in Strath Lounge for pre-dinner drinks and a look at the menu featuring locally sourced ingredients 

The dining room is attractively airy and the public areas of the hotel are well appointed as are doubtless the bedrooms. 

We were very happy with our menu choices. Only the wine list could do with improvement – no vintages, a rather limited choice and it would be good to see some more interesting wines included. The list plays safe. It would be nice to see more ambition to match the quality of the food. In contrast they have a comprehensive list of local whiskies.


 Langoustine salad with garlic mayonnaise 

Warm langoustine tails with herb butter

2014 38 Parcelles, Ventoux, Famile Quiot
Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah
– attractive soft, spicy fruit, quite light colour

Grilled lemon sole with asparagus and fennel

Lamb cutlet and loin with pea mash, new potatoes 

Medallions of venison with beetroot,
parsnip crisps, potato croquettes
– the venison was nicely pink just as I had ordered 

Sliced pear, almond tart with honey ice cream 

Chocolate crème brulée with roasted marshmallows

The Letterbox, Newtonmore

The Letterbox, Main Street, Newtonmore 

Last week we had a very good return visit to The Letterbox Restaurant in Newtonmore. The restaurant opened in 2010.  

It was encouraging to see that it was busy. We started with a glass of South African Chenin Blanc while we considered our choices. Three of us opted for the two course evening menu – starter and main course – for £16.95.  

First courses: 

I chose the tasty mackerel paté, while the others went for the chicken mousse – also tasty, well made and generous portions.       

Mackerel paté with a salad and oak cakes 

Apricot, asparagus and chicken mousse 

Main courses: 

Our three choices of main courses 



 Plaice fillets in a cream sauce with samphire,
carrots and new potatoes
– off the a la carte specials menu

A rich and very good venison stew with haggis dumplings

Meat balls with tagliatelle: another rich and copious dish

 2014 Fleurie, Cru du Beaujolais, Patrick Chodot,
Fleurie from a good vintage
which partnered even the rich dishes well

Profiteroles with a cream filling

Créme Brulée with apricot and vanilla

We have had several meals at The Letterbox and have always been impressed, so am happy to recommend this restaurant. I do wonder, however, at the wide range of dishes offered in a restaurant that has space for a maximum of just over 30 covers. On the set dinner menu there are five choices of starter and main course. The à la carte menu has a big choice and then there is a specials board with five starters and five mains. It is difficult to see how this makes economic sense. 

The Evening Flower


On Saturday evening we celebrated the eve of my birthday at The Evening Flower – the café in Newtonmore that is The Wild Flour during the day. The Evening Flower runs on Friday and Saturday and is really excellent with the great advantage that you can bring your own wine, beer etc.

We were a party of 16 – family and friends. Our wine choices were not fancy but instead assured value. Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava as the celebratory apéro.    


First courses: 

Excellent seared Orkney king scallops,
asparagus, garlic butter & capers 

Seared wood pigeon breast, Stornaway black pudding,
raspberry & balsamic dressing, pine nuts

Goats’ cheese, toasted walnuts, red onion marmalade

   2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie,
Domaine de la Tourmaline, Gadais Père et fils


Lamb cutlets, creamy rosemary mash, mint & balsamic sauce

Sage, apricot & garlic pork chop,
apple & fennel seed sauce, new potatoes

Ribeye steak, roast tomato, flat mushroom, new potaoes

pea shoots, red wine & caramelised onion gravy

2015 Combe aux Jacques, Beaujolais Villages

Louis Jadot – delicious and enough concentration
and structure for the beef



Chocolate and walnut torte

Vanilla crème brulée with strawberries 

Celebratory chocolate brownie with candles
and a scoop of chocolate ice cream 

Not sure that he asked permission but was happy to share my birthday with Usain Bolt…..



Auteur : Les 5 du Vin

Journalistes en vin

4 réflexions sur “Eating well in Scotland: Islay & Highlands

  1. Jim, September 1992 (not 1977 in police room 619 …), I was invited by Mr. Morisson, with whom I had toured the Bowmore Distillery, to the very same Harbour Inn. But I declined: it was our first encounter and I didn’t think I deserved such VIP treatment. Officially – and it was also true – I had other appointments to honour. But … the same evening, I had my dinner there, together with Pascale, la Loute’s mother. We both had a DELICIOUS meal of Loch Indaal oysters. They come deep fried in a light crumbing with a « sauce tartare » dressing and a dram of 12 y old local stuff. Strongly recommended.

    Aimé par 1 personne

  2. Port Elizabeth, weather’s fine…


  3. My God you eat a lot Jim. I suppose you need it with all that cycling you do.

    Aimé par 1 personne

  4. David. Sorry to disappoint you – I am reporting on three people’s meals….


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