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.
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.
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
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.
I chose the tasty mackerel paté, while the others went for the chicken mousse – also tasty, well made and generous portions.
Our three choices of main courses
2014 Fleurie, Cru du Beaujolais, Patrick Chodot,
Fleurie from a good vintage
which partnered even the rich dishes well
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.
Goats’ cheese, toasted walnuts, red onion marmalade
pea shoots, red wine & caramelised onion gravy
2015 Combe aux Jacques, Beaujolais Villages
Louis Jadot – delicious and enough concentration
and structure for the beef
Not sure that he asked permission but was happy to share my birthday with Usain Bolt…..