So, it's a bit out of date - I just found this board last week. Perhaps some of this will still be of value to others. We stayed in Edinburgh, Grantown-on-Spey, Stenness (Orkney), Stromness (Lewis), Edinbane (Skye), Fionnphort (Mull), and Killin over three weeks. Full trip report is here, if you are interested: http://www.greendragonartist.com/BI/B....
The good, the bad, and the ugly. Most of it was great. A few shining moments: Three Chimneys (www.threechimneys.co.uk/) restaurant near Dunvegan, Skye; Oakwood Restaurant near Inverness (on the A82); The Old Flax Mill (http://www.killin.info/eat/?ch=r) near Killin; Pies at The Craig Bar (http://www.grantownonline.co.uk/accom...) in Grantown-on-Spey (and the owners are real characters!). The Reef Restaurant (http://www.mull-bedandbreakfast.com/r...) in Bunessan we ate at - expensive but fantastic fresh seafood! Some forgettable food moments: Tomato and lentil soup with pasta = Spaghetti-O's sauce with ketchup mixed in with some spaghetti noodles. Most of the dishes served at the Keel Row were disappointing to us.
Deacon Brodie's Tavern: The four of us went for dinner up on the Royal Mile. Yes, it was touristy, but the food was relatively tasty and the atmosphere well-engineered. We had venison steak, smoked salmon and prawns in rose marie, and some ciders. Since this was our first full day in Edinburgh, we were still a bit tired, and a bit punch-drunk. The food was well-done, but nothing spectacular. Filling, lots of food - great for a relaxing dinner.
Haggis Cafe: This is RIGHT next to Edinburgh Castle, and thus, very touristy. It's a cafeteria-style place, and we went there for a quick snack before the castle tour. We were staying in a self-catering flat nearby, so no B&B breakfast to fortify ourselves. Two of my traveling companions had never tried haggis, so we sampled haggis, and it was quite good. Creamy and spicy, on a piece of melba toast. Everyone rather liked it, despite themselves.
Iain Mellor's Cheesemongers: I tried about a half dozen types of cheeses before I decided on one I liked. The gorgonzola from northern Italy was too strong, the brie was too bland – the other was just right (I was keeping an eye out for the three bears). I got some oatcake crackers to spread it on and figured I’d have some for breakfast in the morning. The clerk was very helpful and understanding!
Kushi's: We decided that tonight we would dine at the curry place on West Bow that had been tantalizing us with delightful aromas for the last several days, Kushi’s. The chandelier in the entry way was very grand and impressive, and the food was wonderfully delicious. However, there was a miscommunication between K and the waiters, and they kept trying to take her half-eaten dishes away when she wanted a take-away box for them instead. He kept saying ‘take away?’ and grabbed at them – she practically stabbed his hand with a fork to keep her food! We had lamb sag, garlic naan, (which doesn’t go well with Irn Bru!), mango lassi, and it was all yummy. I think it was the tastiest, perfectly spiced lamb sag I ever had. Everyone enjoyed their meal.
Roslin Hotel: We needed fuel after visiting Rosslyn Chapel - Fish and chips and steak & ale pie were the favorites, and they were adequate – nothing special. The batter was the thick breadcrumb style. The dining room did rather remind of a great auntie’s parlor – rather stuffy and formal, too quiet for comfort.
On the way to Grantown-on-SPey: We found a pub serving dinner called Allargue Arms – a peaceful place despite the name. The food was decent, but I think the poor lad serving us was brand new at the job. K was brave and tried the sweet & sour pork, which was awful - she discovered (the hard way) that you should never try an ethnic dish in a non-ethnic restaurant in the UK or Ireland. D tried the stir fry, which was passable. I had the soup and sandwich, it was filling and warm, but nothing special. Filling and warm were what was needed, though, as it was chilly and rainy outside.
Kinross House B&B: Jane was our hostess, and she was delightfully warm and helpful. Her breakfasts were top notch - tasty full Scottish, with haggis and black pudding. She made a muesli that we still crave, fruit, granola, cream and yogurt - not exactly low-fat, but delicious!
Oakwood: We headed towards the A82 south of Inverness as C had arranged for a Loch Ness boat cruise at 3pm. We wanted something to eat, so stopped at the only place that actually placed a sign BEFORE you had to turn – the Oakwood Restaurant (no website, but their email is firstname.lastname@example.org). Surprise, surprise, we found K and C there already sitting and waiting for their food (only D, M, J and I went to the castle). The food there was superb. The owners are Gaby and Gus – Gaby is French, and cooks Scottish ingredients with French style. J had a chicken breast stuffed with haggis in a blackcurrant reduction. I had the smoked salmon fisherman’s lunch, K had the deer meat goulash, and D had the venison burger. It was all very well cooked, and promptly made. The place was half-antique store/half-restaurant, and a bit crowded, but sweet.
After our loch tour, we decided to head to Oakwood for dessert – whiskey and honey crème brulee, cranachan (a traditional Scottish dessert with oatmeal, yogurt and raspberries, very yummy) and chocolate cake. At first, they didn’t want to serve us just sweets and coffee, she was afraid of not having enough tables for the dinner crowd, but it turned out fine.
Craig Bar: Jane also recommended a place for dinner – the Craig Bar, which serves pints and pies. Sounded good to us! There wasn’t anyplace that night that had traditional music, so a couple of characters (which the owners of Craig Bar certainly are) were good enough. The owners are Beryl and her son Robbie, and boy, are they fun! We got pies – I got a Smokey Jo pie, with potatoes, spinach, cream and mushrooms in it – K got a Minty Lamb pie, and C had a Heidi pie (goats’ cheese, sweet potato, spinach, garlic and onion). Alas, Robbie was not the creator of these wonderful pockets of yum, but he gets them at www.pieminister.com, out of Bristol. Robbie regaled us with stories of incredible feats and impossible deeds and his dear, dear wife. His mom told us of her upcoming trip to China for the Olympics – at youth hostels, but flying over business class. We had a grand time, they made us feel very at home and welcome.
The next night, back to the Craig Bar for pies for me and J – the rest of the group headed into town for another place. J had a Chicken of Aragon pie, I had the Mr. Porky. J decided it was time to try different whiskeys in earnest, so sampled 5 of the local nectars (interspersed with a half pint of Guinness each time to clear the palate, of course). He tried the MacAllan (which was his favorite, and he bought a bottle later to bring home), the Glenfarclas 105 (which was VERY strong and he tried last on purpose), the Highland Park (which he didn’t like, it was salty) and 2 others.
Dunrobin Castle Cafe: We had lunch in the castle shop, which was adequate, and met up with K and C while there. I had a salmon baguette, but the baguette was too crisp to hold the slippery salmon when I bit into it. The strawberry tart did a lot to make up for that shortcoming, though!
In Thurso (which was also much bigger than I had expected on this far outflung corner of the country) we drove through town and found a pub at the end of the main road, the Weigh Inn. It was close to the ferry entrance, so we decided to stop for a bit of dinner. I called K and C to let them know, but had no idea if the call would go through or not. There was a wedding reception going on, and many men in full kilt regalia. We even saw the bride and groom arriving in a late model classic car of some sort. I had the taglieterre carbonara, but it was linguine instead, and very thick (sticky). It wasn’t great, but it was filling. I’d been on the lookout for the famed cock-a-leekie soup everywhere I went, but hadn’t found any yet. K and C did end up joining us, but weren’t interested in eating – they get seasick easily, and we were about to embark upon a 2 hour ferry ride. They did nibble on some quadruple chocolate shortbread cookies that they bought at the Walker’s Shortbread factory a couple days ago.
We were staying in Stenness, and arrived rather late off the ferry, but were now hungry again. Our hostess sent us to Kirkwall for either Chinese or Indian, the only things that would be open then. We asked directions once we got into Kirkwall, and the lady we asked told us the Indian place was near the library, the ‘second largest building in Kirkwall’. The largest building was definitely the St. Magnus Cathedral in the center of town – a magnificent piece of architecture made out of red standstone. We found the Indian place, and we had Roshni lamb and chicken biryani. This was delicious, nicely spiced, and just what we needed. It was close to 11pm as we left, and the sun was still not near setting.
Mill of Eyrland B&B: This was our lodging for our 3 nights here, and Morag was our hostess. Breakfast was at one big table in the dining room, all with posh appointments and good, filling food. Morag puts out a selection of interesting jellies, such as lime and lemon, as well as black currant, marmalade and apricot.
Kirkwall Hotel: M, J and I went out in search of dinner, as D was sleeping. We went into Kirkwall and picked a place at random along the dockside street – the Kirkwall Hotel. At first they were snippy because we didn’t have a reservation, but we got a table. Service, on the other hand, was evidently harder to get. The food was great, but at first they completely forgot our soup (we ordered lentil soup), and we had to flag down one of the servers to find out what happened to it. Then they admitted they had forgotten to put in our order at all, so gave us dessert on the house. It seems there was no one server assigned to any table, so things fell through the cracks – and as big as we were, it seems we were crack-fallen. The seafood penne I got was very sweet and vinegary, like the red sauce was made with brown sauce or something. I didn’t really care for it, but M’s roast beef and J’s roast lamb was very good. Desserts again made the day – fudge and whiskey cheesecake was creamy and delightful. It’s amazing how many sins can be made good with a good sweetie.
The next night, after a long day of sightseeing, we were back in Kirkwall with everyone for dinner, we decided to try the Chinese place as a break from the pub food and Indian food we had hitherto been surviving on. Well, the Chinese certainly know how to use pepper and garlic, let me tell you! It was almost (not quite, but almost) too much pepper for me – black with encrusted pepper yummy umm yumm! That set us to practically comatose, so off to bed we went.
Ullapool: We found a pub for some refreshments before we were due to the ferry checkin; the Argyll Hotel didn’t seem very interested in our custom, and so we just had some sweets and drinks. The owners looked to be a couple of retired hippies, complete with a flowing dress and long hair.
K and C and I went out in search of dinner, and found the Caledonian Hotel – where we had a couple pints and watched a young girl with purple hair flirt with her guys. However, they only had pints, so K had to overcome her objections and go to the Indian place, Balti House. The guy who prepped the takeaway order was quite nice – raised in Aberdeen, but born here in Scotland. It’s quite surreal to hear someone speak English in a Scottish accent one moment, and then start speaking Hindi to his brother the next. He said there wasn’t much around for trad music, perhaps MacNeil’s might have some. K and C got their takeaway dinners, and we headed back home for an early night after a very long day of travel. It turned out to be the best Indian food we'd ever had, I believe.
J and I decided to try the Indian place for dinner the next evening, Balti House, and it was fabulous. I had the chilli garlic lamb, and J had the chicken tikka curry. It was spicy, but not hot, lots of flavor, very tender. The waiter, though obviously of Indian descent, was born and raised here in Stornoway (his brother had been from Aberdeen, the one that helped K and C the other night).
Hal O'the Wynd B&B - Graham and his wife run a clean, neat, not-fancy B&B right in town centre, with yummy food. They also serve those that are in another nearby self-catering place, workmen that are in town for a project.
Duone Braes Hotel: We went back to find someplace that might be open for dinner, and settled on the Duone Braes Hotel, not far from Dun Carloway. We were salivating at the garlic mussels on the menu, but they were out, so we settled for salmon and scallops with roe. He really liked his scallops, and still mentions them to this day, 4 years later.
The Lodge at Edinbane (http://www.the-lodge-at-edinbane.co.uk/) has got to be my favorite B&B on the entire trip. It was wonderful! Large, rambling property, lots of rooms, a pub and dining room on property, everything run by Hazel, Pete and Cal. It even had resident ghosties to keep you company at night. And yes, even though all the rooms on the website were pink, she had some purple and even some blue rooms available! They do all the cooking, and the Scottish pancakes with crystallized ginger were amazingly good. Sweeter than US pancakes.
Dinner that night at the Lodge: Since we were denied our mussels earlier in the week, we tried again, and scored. Yum! I had a chicken leek and mushroom pie, while K and C both had beef boulognese (sp?).
The next night, back to the Lodge for some dinner and pints! Dad tried the cheese salad, which does sound strange, but looked tasty – a nice salad of greens and veg with several different cheeses on it, including brie, cranberry stilton, feta, etc.
Three Chimneys: We met up with K and C and settled down to a lovely lunch. Our table was near the front window, so half of us could look out at the bay during the meal. The wait staff was very attentive and helpful, and the food was simply superb. The decor was rustic and charming. For starters we had the seafood bisque, fennel soup (bright green!) and roast pigeon, which was savory and perfectly cooked. For lunch itself I had the roast lamb, which was lightly drizzled with a wonderfully savory/sweet sauce. Dessert was a simply melt-in-your-mouth lemon sorbet parfait. I also had a glass of tawny port, while K and C made the mistake of ordering the Gaelic coffee. I think they expected something sweet, like a latte – but it was not! C tried to sweeten it up by adding a piece of fudge (very sugary fudge) served with the coffee, but it didn’t help. Hey, it was worth a try! While the meal was more expensive than our normal pub meal, we knew that going in and it was WELL worth the cost. It filled us up happily!
Another night, after a bit of exploration and wandering, we headed back to the B&B. We had planned on dinner there, but K, C and I had concert tickets to the Peatbog Fairies in Portree, so we went into town for dinner there before the concert. We ate at a café on the main square, and I had a very tasty wild boar burger. They had Kopparberg Pear Cider, which made a nice variety from our typical apple ciders.
Sligachan Hotel: We had lunch in the Sligachan Hotel, and I had some Cullen Skink soup – it’s like a smoked fish chowder, and very tasty, full of lumps and chunks. I also had a roast veg, pesto and feta grilled sandwich, and was quite full. I had a cider that was something 70, and a bit sour – I didn’t care for that one very much.
Keel Row: This is the only restaurant in town, and it shows. I had the venison, which was ok, but tasted not much different than beef. The desserts were mostly ice cream, which I don’t care for much, so I decided to pass on that. J had some, and loved it, though.
Lunch the next day was somewhat better (they have a different lunch menu) They had delicious stacked burgers for lunch, and they weren’t cooked to a hockey puck, yay!
We tried the Keel Row again for dinner, and regretted it. I think it suffers from being the only dinner option in the area. Lunches were great, but they offered a different menu at dinner, and it wasn’t nearly as good. I had the steak (which was an awful cut) and J had the ‘Italian Veg and Lentil Soup’ – which turned out to be a sauce like in Spaghetti-Os, with some spaghetti swimming inside it, and a few lentils. The look on J’s face when he stirred it and saw the spaghetti was priceless. Now, J is a bit of a food snob, and especially with Italian food, as he can cook a mean marinara sauce. This was just bleh. We passed on desserts.
The Reef Restaurant: We decided to head off to Bunessan for more variety in dinner choices; and our gamble paid off! We tried The Reef Restaurant, and had a delicious meal. J tried the butternut squash soup, which was very rich and frothy. M ad D had lamb rump, while I had the salmon. J had the salmon/mussels bouride – it was all great, with a very nice presentation, flavor, and service. Dessert was great as well, with cappuccino crème brulee, dark chocolate and drambuie cheesecake, and sticky toffee pudding. I had the cheesecake, and it was not too sweet, wonderfully good. It was definitely a meal worth a 6 mile drive down the Evil Single Track Road.
Falls of Dochart Inn: About 1pm we got into Killin. At first we thought we had missed it – we saw a sign, and then there was nothing but woods. But it turned out just to be a sign TO Killin, and we finally found it. A beautiful little town! Right on the Falls of Dochart, the bridge over is right on the main road. We had lunch at the Falls of Dochart Inn. It was a great lunch – brown trout, open salmon sandwich on focaccia bread. The bread was fresh and nutty, and the fish was flaky and tasty.
We dined there again for lunch a couple days later, and this time wasn’t as good as before. Part of it was that the dining room was full, so we had to eat at the microscopic bar tables, and thus split up into two tables. Part was the smoky fire right next to us. Part of it was that my venison burger was overdone and resembled the feared hockey puck. The Cullen Skink I ordered, in contrast to the last time, was thin and runny, and I couldn’t find any bits of fish in it at all. Sigh.
Killin Hotel: We went to the Killin Hotel for dinner, but it wasn’t the best meal I have had. I tried the curry, and the chicken was rather dry, the rice pasty. There was a huge tour group in the next room, seated after us, so perhaps the kitchen was just busy with them. J had the chicken with haggis, but again, not as good as the one he had at Oakwood.
The Old Flax Mill: This was one of my favorites for the trip. The Old Flax Mill is run by Adrian and her husband (never caught his name – Alan?), and is a great place to eat, we highly recommend it. There is a choice of the number of courses, up to three. The first is cold, home made appetizers such as shrimp in sweet chilli and cilantro, artichoke salad, salmon in sour cream sauce and honey, mussels, smoked salmon, chick pea salad, etc. Everything we tried was delicious, and you basically take a plate and take whatever you want to fill it up. There were probably at least 25 different dishes to choose from, though labels would have been helpful on some of them. (What I thought was a seafood salad turned out to be potato salad, but it was great anyhow).
The next course is the main course – a choice of several different varieties of roast. There was roast beef, Hieland Coo in whiskey sauce, lamb in honey, mint and garlic, roast chicken, and a local game dish with venison, rabbit and pheasant in a smoky bacon and red wine sauce. The Hieland Coo was a little stringier than normal beef, but that could have just been the cut. The others were all savory and spicy and delicious, truly filling.
Well, not completely filling – we had glimpsed the desserts when we were loading up our appetizer plate. There was a chocolate cake so rich it was like fudge, cranachan, tiramisu, pineapple in honey whiskey (J passed on that one, he's allergic to pineapple), stewed plums in drambuie. We got all we could fit in a bowl, and my, it was simply heaven. We rolled out of there like a couple of Hieland Coos named Hamish.
Shutters: We had dinner at a small café down the road (Shutters). I tried the lasagna, fully expecting to be horrified. J had the chicken kiev. Mine was weird, but tasty… there was more cheese than pasta in it, and very little red sauce, but it worked. J pierced the thick coating on his chicken kiev, and poured out the garlic butter over the veggies. It worked.