Cafe 1 piqued my curiosity after several recommendations and being told that it’s owned by a chef. Then I looked at their website & I saw that they rear their own Hebridean sheep & Highland cows to use in some of the dishes *swoons*. Is this the place I’ve been looking for up here? We ended up going in for an impromptu midweek meal to see.
First impressions were positive – coming in to the restaurant facing the bar was a great element of design as it allows staff to instantly greet customers in the ‘hive’ of the restaurant. Decor is simple and we were sat at the back in a romantic little corner. Low lighting added to the effect but meant that my photos came out rubbish, can’t have it all!
After deciding on red meat for mains, the wine list was studied. They do reds ranging from £15 to £175 so it’s fair to say there’s a good selection.
Quite boring but we chose the same starter, it sounded too good a special to miss. Roast partridge, chicken liver pâté, crouton, Marsala sauce and watercress – reads epically but could they pull it off? In short, yes.
The partridge was flavourful, not dry and boosted by the rich pate whilst the watercress gave a freshness to cut through this. Most importantly for me, (personal bugbear time) the Marsala sauce was both savoury and sweet. It was a sauce for a dish like this and not a dessert.
This is my favourite Inverness starter so far. I would happily order two of these with potatoes next time I go and that would be me content.
In a strange turn of events at main course ordering time, I had singled out the fillet steak & Mr S had elected the lamb to fill his tummy.
The garlic and thyme rump of lamb (£16) was nice & pink so we were off to a pleasing start. It came with rosemary sautéed potatoes but there was not enough for the amount of lamb so Mr S ordered a portion of chips that arrived just as he was finishing them. The haggis bon-bons were lovely with the lamb and some of the red wine jus. Carrot ribbons, sun-blushed tomatoes and spinach lent a hand but it was the meat that stole the show.
I had heard glowing reports on their steaks and their description and accompaniments sold it to me. I can’t lie, it was the duxelle (Or duxelles) that reeled me in. A duxelle is a fancy word for very finely chopped mushroom, onion, shallot and herbs that are slowly cooked in butter until they are soft and intense. Mushroom duxelle immediately leaped out of the menu and I wanted the steak.
My Aberdeen Angus fillet steak (£24) was massive, not that I’m complaining. Mr S was gleeful when it arrived, knowing that I’d never finish that much so he could have some. Steak and duxelle are a delicious and long-term marriage that should never split up & I loved it. The crisp fried potatoes also went well, as did the spinach and shallots. Pepper sauce wasn’t too overpowering and was perfect for my taste but, as a personal preference, I like my steak sauce in a jug so I can decide when & where to put it.
I was stuffed and now regretting telling Mr S about how the Cafe 1 Malteser crepes are famous in the Highlands. He was ordering one and I knew a spoon was coming my way. I wanted something sweet to accompany it, so we ordered a couple of glasses of Sauternes dessert wine.
The crepe (£6.50) arrived and we took our time starting so that we could wait for the dessert wine. I couldn’t see any staff nearby to ask so it must have been busy. After a while the ice-cream was melting so we had to eat the gooey, sweet dessert that is worth its fame. I nipped down to the bar & cancelled the dessert wines and this was the only time during the meal that I felt a bit disappointed. The service besides that was attentive and friendly, with the dessert wine thing probably being more of an organisational error.
We left Cafe 1 delighted that we’d found another go to place and have since been back. Definitely one to recommend.