Author: Laura Simpson

I am a 34 year old Glasgow girl who grew up in Inverness. Having just moved back to the Highlands, you'll find me at Highland Foodie checking out places up there. I got married in 2011 and my specialist subjects are all things Glasgow, wedding, beauty, cooking and eating out. They say write about what you love so I mainly write about food!

Trome! Greek Food in the Highlands

Greek food is possibly my favourite type of food, and Greece is definitely one of my favourite places in the world. I used to try different holiday locations every time but now I struggle to see past going back to Kassiopi. The culture, the warmth of Greek hospitality, beautiful surroundings and a pile of Greek restaurants so proud to serve you dishes that they were brought up on… it’s hard not to fall in love. And now we have lots of memories here, even miss S asks to go back and she’s only 4. I like to think that my trip there while I was pregnant is why she likes olives so much.

Kassiopi

So when Kostas, the owner of Trome! (Pronounced Trom-eh), got in touch I was excited about trying the Greek pies. Kostas used lockdown to start a business that he is passionate about & when I asked him if he used to be a chef he gave a little smile and told me no but that he had been taught to cook from a young age. He didn’t even need to explain much, I could picture the scene with everyone helping and learning in the kitchen. Trome! has been his vision since his family relocated to Inverness four years ago. The pies are made by small local producers in Greece that he knows and can be bought freshly cooked or frozen. Trome means ‘let’s eat’ in Greek & the large portions meant that I really ate.

The delivery arrived just before lunch & was piping hot so I had the cheese pie (£4) with some lettuce and tomato. A mix of feta and mizithra cheeses in a bougatsa (multiple layers of stretched thin phyllo pastry), this is the most traditional pie and one that Greeks often have for breakfast or brunch. As a big feta fan this was right up my street. The pastry had a crunch that you never get over here with bakes and the filling was very cheesy. I had it with a Starbucks iced coffee (£2.20) that arrived with it because cold coffee is a big thing over there. I was fully transporting myself.

Cheese Pie

The pie that I was most looking forward to was Spanakopita (£4) – full of greens like spinach, and feta cheese. This is one that I have definitely had as part of a family lunch in Kassi. It tasted so authentic and wasn’t changed for British tastes – yes! Again, the pastry had a nice crispness and the filling was fresh with the slight tang and creaminess of the feta. I need to order more already!

We had it with some salads and the cheese and ham pie (£4) for dinner. This pie was also well balanced with ham, swiss cheese and some tomato sauce within that ever crisp pastry. The tomato sauce really helps to balance out the richness and I think that the pie would be nice with a pot of blitzed up tomato and herbs sauce on the side.

Spinach pie & cheese and ham pie with my green bean and prosciutto salad & my standard-ish salad with fresh beetroot and olive oil/oregano dressing

When I talk of food transporting me places, Baklava can do it in one mouthful. I rarely eat it outside of Greece so I was eager to dig in. I was messaging my sister in-law at the time (we often go to Kassi as a family) and received a video of my brother in-law in return, sad and jealous that they don’t live in Inverness to get some! They had good reason to be sad because the baklava (£4.50) was heavenly. No doubt that I’ll be ordering this again. You need a sweet tooth for baklava, with the syrupy honey flowing between layers of phyllo pastry and crunchy bits of nuts with cinnamon peeking through. At £4.50 a portion it is not inexpensive but not more than you’d pay over there. But if you like baklava then I am fairly confident that you’ll be happy with this one.

Baklava, which I ate straight out of the box. It was calling me!

It was a lovely sunny day on Thursday so we decided to have a picnic in Farr. This was the perfect opportunity to have the last savoury pie- gruyere. We heated it up in the oven before leaving so the cheese was nice and gooey. It had lots of gruyere so was strongly flavoured and one for a real cheese lover. The pastry had a nice buttery taste and I would serve it with a dressed salad to cut through the richness. It was eaten up before the rest of the picnic so that is always a good sign.

Gruyere Pie
Picnic spot

The final part of my pastry heavy week was a custard pie known as Bougatsa in Greece. Probably the most traditional pie over there and I had three friends messaging me about it the day I posted a photo on social media. This pie isn’t healthy but no dessert is so I just embraced it. Next time I get this pie for people coming over I might make a cherry compote or something to go with it. It is £4.50 a portion but I’d only eat half anyway so to me it serves two. You could even pass it off as homemade at a dinner party if you bought a whole one.

Custard Pie

If you are thinking about ordering for work they also sell other soft drinks. No doubt we’ll be ordering one day in work soon. Trome! sell whole frozen pies for £15-16.50 that serve 4-6 people. But if the portion sizes are the same as the individual portions then they would serve more. Now that lockdown is starting to open up it could be good for family get togethers (soon), especially if your family are Greece fans but can’t go this year. Bring Greece to you!

Please note: Kostas at Trome! very kindly gave me a complimentary order so that I could try the products for an honest review. It was reassuring that he was happy to do it for an honest review as I am always clear when offered gifts that I won’t lie and that scares some places off. Luckily the products were delicious so thank you Kostas for introducing me to a welcome new business in Inverness.

https://trome.co.uk/

Edinbane Lodge Soaring in Skye

What do you do when your husband has been working away for the best part of a couple of months and you’ve barely seen him? Well, I start looking at where we can go for a date night away once things calm down. And I’m big on researching so I can easily make that into an event itself! After scouring hotels within two hours of Inverness and making a shortlist I still didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing so I took to social media for advice. Many hotels were shut for the winter months or open but the restaurant was shut or closed on the quieter Sunday night that we were looking at. Then Edinbane Lodge in Skye was recommended. Skye is about two hours away then up to Edinbane was adding an extra hour but I thought I would take a look. And as soon as I did I knew that I was onto something special. A quiet confidence struck me for somewhere that the current owners had for a little over a year. Then I looked at reviews and everyone loved it. It seemed to tick all of the boxes – food of a high standard, lovely rooms, local produce, not a chain, romantic setting. An enticing winter offer of a half price room if you dine with them sealed the deal.

Truth be told I havent been to Skye for about 7 or 8 years because it is packed with tourists in the summer months now. So I really enjoyed going back off season when the roads are quieter and you can explore at a gentle pace.

On arrival at Edinbane Lodge we were warmly greeted and shown to our room upstairs. The room was gorgeous with dark wood and blue tones that gave a relaxing sumptuous feel. Straight away I noticed the local artwork that I had read about on their social media, the Edinbane Pottery cups and the lovely big bed.

The high standard continued into the bathroom with the roll top bath, separate big shower, anti-steam bluetooth mirror and Highland Soap Co toiletries. This was the room that we wanted and more.

We had been invited down for a welcome drink so went back downstairs to peruse the bar list. The local theme was not lost in this area with as much coming from Skye & Highland brewers and distillers as from anywhere else. It was only right for me to try a G&T with their own gin made by Isle of Skye Distillers using the lodges own botanicals & Mr S had an Isle of Skye beer. The gin was served in a proper balloon glass & tasted lovely.

Back in the room the coffee machine had Nespresso pods so we had a coffee (after figuring the machine out!) and what I think was homemade shortbread.

We got ready and I made use of that lovely rolltop bath. The only thing that would have made it better was a nice bubble bath to put in it but the body wash gave a nice aroma.

We went down early enough for a cocktail before dinner. They don’t have a full cocktail menu but the friendly barman had told us earlier that he can make anything suited to our tastes. Mr S went for an Old Fashioned & I had a gin cocktail with homemade blackberry jam, egg white, elderflower and lemon juice. Both were made expertly, we ranked them up with the best. Our canapes came with them and I was reassured and excited at the same time because the canapes were so bloody good! The popped pork crackling was like eating a really well seasoned, slightly spicy rib with the texture of a prawn cracker. We liked them so much that we asked if we could buy some for later on in the night. Alongside these was a spoon of artichoke puree with some roasted artichoke and a crumbed ball of smooth potato encompassing rich mince- their take on mince & tatties.

Mr S had a revised menu to accommodate his nut allergy but mine is below-

Tasting menu £50 if you are hotel guest

On receiving the menu the Celeriac creme brulee was not something that I was excited about but it was really fantastic. The caramelized top was barbequed and it came with little nuggets of popped grains to provide crunch with the silky bottom layer. The Australian chardonnay cut through the creaminess while still complementing the flavours.

The bread arrived shortly after – three kinds with three butters. The corn bread was my favourite with the plain butter.

Salty, flavoursome mutton broth with soft lamb that melted in your mouth…another course that was hitting the mark. I was questioning the Gewurztraminer on the wine flight so early in the meal before trying it but I did like it with the meaty dish.

I’ve never baked mussels before – I’d be scared to overcook them – but the next course has given me inspiration to try. They were cooked precisely with almost crunchy crab on top, surrounded in butter & with a tasty accompanying wine. I never tried the pepper dulce after the review over the table of his but that was excess to the dish as it had everything it needed to shine.

The mallard and squash was another rich dish that I loved. My favourite element in the dish has to be the choux farci because I didn’t know what it was. In fact it is (usually meat) stuffed cabbage so far more interesting than the cabbage ball that first presented itself.

Last of the savoury courses was cheese. I’m the only one in my family that’s not a fan of Minger cheese but I wanted to try it again as it has been a few years. Mr S likes it but I’m still not swayed. I enjoyed the accompaniments though.

Now onto the two dessert courses. Yes two! This was certainly noted when I first saw their menu before booking.

My cherry and almond pre dessert had the most delicious cherry sorbet and the mock cherry was filled with a mousse. The nuts introduced some texture to the smooth elements and crunched through the sweetness. Perfect match with the amaretto.

By now I’d forgotten to take photos – maybe I was enjoying myself too much or maybe it was the wine flight! But the malted barley mousse, skye ale, butterbeer ice cream was a clever way to end the meal without being overly sweet. The Tawny accompanying it was great and I’m a big fan of tawny port.

I’m not forgetting the petit fours served with coffee as the macaroon rivalled Laduree in Paris.

The dining room is understated and I felt very comfortable and relaxed in there. On a side note, the toilets gave me interiors envy with their charming basins.

Lastly, the service was first rate. We wanted for nothing and our waiter was professional but down to earth.

We retreated to our room with a couple of drinks and that popped pork crackling.

After a peaceful sleep we were looking forward to breakfast. Tea and freshly squeezed orange juice readied my stomach for the good stuff as we were skipping the porridge.

After asking the manager what to have he said you can mix it up so I had Vatten beef sausage, duck eggs, Aultbea white pudding with spicy ketchup. Mr S had similar but with the Edinbane estate venison steak in place of the white pudding. Well it makes a big difference having a breakfast with such high quality items, it was delicious.

We left feeling refreshed and happy. I couldn’t have picked a better place for a night away & would love to go back.

Utopia…but where?

We live near the distributor road and have never found anywhere nearby to have coffee that we really liked. Having resigned ourselves to go further afield into town, Simpsons or somewhere in the outskirts, I was surprised to hear of a new coffee shop down the road from us in nearby Hilton. AND it was supposedly good! After a bit of googling I realised that it had taken the old unit where A&I Butchers were (next to the Post Office) and I was glad because I had a bit of a childish hissy fit (to myself, not to the staff!) when A&I shut their doors so some good had to come of the closure.

In full disclosure, this was the second time I went to Utopia with the first being a disaster because it was so busy and I had a grumpy child needing fed so we couldn’t wait. I wasn’t forgetting about it though and even came equipped with toys, paper and crayons for the child to ensure success.

The menu is bijou but I’d eat most of it so I was happy. The sandwich menu is all mix and match so Mr S decided to make up a chicken and halloumi sandwich. The staff were very understanding of his nut allergy and made him a different side salad as the usual one has nuts. The side salads are inventive and I was impressed with the effort- I find the usual undressed side salad a chore but this was tasty. The sourdough was lovely and it was a nice sandwich but it would be nice to see chutney or mayo or something as an option to go in the sandwiches.

I chose the spiked avocado and halloumi on sourdough… heaven! All three ingredients are at the top of my list so together they were very pleasing. I loved the slight chilli heat but that I could push the flakes away if I didn’t want them. Not one negative thing to say about this dish. Perfect.

My initial concern was that Utopia is not very child friendly because there is no kids menu/option mentioned. It puts me on edge when they aren’t thought of because I wonder if the place wants us there. But we asked the owner and he got something specially for my little girl. Top marks.

We finished the lunch with a Highland Patissier tart. I rave about these tarts all of the time so I won’t bore you with anymore…bloody delicious things.

Finally the coffee. The coffee…what it is all about. It was a good cup of flat white – it wasn’t bitter from the beans being ground too long ago, it was strong but milky, definitely worth coming back for. Finally somewhere within walking distance to get a solid cup of coffee.

Side note – A&I are still in Culloden for the carnivores missing them.

Have you been anywhere worth visiting recently? I love recommendations so get in touch.

IV10 Fortrose

If this isn’t the first post of mine that you’re reading, you’ll know that my family like a day off drive and explore. My parents work hard and growing up Sundays were a family day. We all love holidays so I guess it’s like going on mini holidays to brighten up the week. We often cross the Moray Firth then go along the Fortrose/Rosemarkie/Cromarty road (A832). We go to Rosemarkie beach and Fairy Glen is calling us, or at least the little person. It takes me back to beach days in the 80’s and 90’s at, as I called it, Markierose. We soak in Cromarty’s arty vibe and go dolphin spotting at Chanonry Point. And the day isn’t complete without a coffee, an ice cream or sometimes lunch.

Last year a new place opened in Fortrose called IV10. Granny Foodie and I went for coffee & I knew that I wanted to go back for food.

When you walk in you’re greeted with a display of cakes, cheese and charcuterie – my favourite kind of welcome.

The menu is impressive reading and they are not just playing it safe here. You can tell they have a real love of food. We had decided to share and Miss S is going through her fussy three year old stage so played it safe. Next time I’m digging into a couple of small plates and I’ve definitely plans to leave the car at home so I can try their impressive beer, wine and cocktail list.

We chose one of their wood fired pizzas – a Margherita with rocket. Mr S makes pizzas and is very critical but this one bowled him over. We all loved it. The dough was tasty and seasoned and the toppings were good quality. It went straight into my top three pizzas up here.

The spaghettini with slow cooked traditional ragu made with beef, pork & veal sounded great so we ordered one to share. We were kind of taken aback when it arrived as there was pasta and meat but no sauce. The pasta had olive oil on it so it wasn’t dry but no tomato sauce. My understanding of traditional ragu is that it is cooked in a broth and tomato sauce or tomato purée – I could be wrong though. Am I being really British?!

Anyway, I enjoyed the dish once it had grown on me but I’m not sure it bowled Mr S over. I think it was an expectation thing for him and if he’d known he would have been more keen. My thoughts on it would be to change the description but I’m not sure what wording would be best.

The actual ragu had lots of flavour to the meat and I loved the finer spaghettini instead of the usual spaghetti most places serve. Fresh herbs on top gave it a clean, peppery taste and balance to the rich meat.

We had gone in thinking we wanted fish and chips before seeing the menu so we ended up ordering a side portion of hand cut chips with aioli. They were soft and fluffy inside & crispy and salty outside…perfect. The aioli was also great and full of punchy garlic.

We couldn’t manage a dessert each but wanted something sweet to round off the meal so chose the salted dark chocolate tart. I think it was creme fraiche that it came with (I think we asked if it came with anything so maybe check this) and you needed it to balance out the rich tart. It was so rich and dark and velvety and salty – all round gorgeousness.

I liked it so much that I’ve been back since but they were full so we couldn’t get a table. Somewhere to phone ahead at the weekend. As disappointing as it was that they were full, it’s nice to see small, local businesses thrive and (rather selfishly) I hope that means that they will have longevity because I want to go back.

It was time for a walk along Rosemarkie beach and a play in the park…like it’s 1989.

The Seafood Shack in Ullapool

I like to pride myself on exploring the highlands but I hadn’t been to Ullapool since I was a little girl. It wasn’t on my radar until I kept hearing about the Seafood Shack – literally a shack selling fresh seafood to takeaway, or eat at one of their few outside tables. It kept popping up on my instagram, then I saw it recommended by a chef in a magazine article then a friend recommended it. Time for a day trip west.

Knowing that it’s outdoors, we were hoping for a dry day. But as we drove the hour and a quarter journey from Inverness, it became clear that the weatherman was not on our side. We went for a swim to the local pool to build up our appetites then headed over at lunchtime.

It is easy to miss the place – it’s opposite Ullapool Museum if you’re planning a trip. It is sandwiched in between two buildings in the middle of a street, with their own wee seating area for customers. We managed to get seats under an umbrella so were semi shielded from the elements.

Everything on the menu sounded nice so we shared a selection. My only regret was that we never tried the crab claws as well.

Mackerel pate

Smoked mackerel pate was served with a nicely dressed salad. The pate itself was excellent – meaty and not over-creamed with a lovely smoky flavour. I will definitely be ordering this next time.

Tempura haddock wrap

Then a tempura haddock wrap was crispy and warm, with crunchy salad and silky pesto mayonnaise with a hint of lemon. The wrap was another winner for me, without a doubt.

Cullen Skink

The Cullen Skink was boiling hot so we had to leave it to cool a little but it helped on the cold day to warm us up. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by how thin it was. It had a nice flavour but I was looking forward to a thick, creamy, slightly blended soup and this wasn’t that. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it if the menu had said smoked haddock soup but I couldn’t describe it as Cullen Skink as I know it.

Half lobster

Finally, we ordered a half lobster – it’s what I came all that way for really. It was also served with salad (you can never have enough salad though) and dill potatoes. The potatoes were kind of in a potato salad style but I’m not a dill fan so I left them. The lobster itself was so fresh and I loved the butter dressing. I could have eaten a whole one of these.

The Seafood Shack close for winter soon and I’m so glad we made it this year. I enjoyed it even although we sat in the rain so it should be even better when the suns out. I’d like to plan in a couple of trips through next year – Ullapool is a pretty little fishing town to wander round too so it makes a nice day out. I’m told that Wyvis natural play park in Garve is great so next time we’ll break up the journey for the little foodie.

My west coast adventures have begun.

If you have any recommendations of where to go next then let me know.

Fig & Thistle – An Inverness Beauty

When we first moved back, there was a prosecco and tapas bar on Stephens brae that we never got to try before it shut down. It’s not the first time that somewhere closed down here before I got to it and it makes me want to throw my toys out of the pram. But then Fig & Thistle opened where the prosecco bar once was and happiness was restored. The restaurant has zoomed up to the top of my favourites list so much that this isn’t the first time I’ve written about it, read the other time here. It’s well deserved though, and that post is over two years old. We were in for a birthday dinner but it’s worth noting that they have a lunch menu with mains around the £8 mark.

For starters, both were chosen from the specials menu. Smoked haddock croquettes with accompanying aioli and pickles were lovely. The croquettes themselves were cooked well, a nice crunch but not overdone. The aioli and capers/pickles lifted the whole thing up and my only request would be a little more fish in them. This is the second time I’ve had them so they are winners for me.

The specials board had a seafood risotto that sounded amazing and they very kindly made a similar one as a starter portion for us. I’ve had risotto in here a few times and the chefs make the most gorgeous risottos that I’ve ever eaten, it’s such a strength of theirs so look out for them on the menu. This was the highlight of the meal by far and when we got home we were still trying to figure out how they got the mussels to taste so charred! Beautiful prawns and mussels, little sweet scallops with the creamiest of risottos, it was perfection.

For mains, I chose another dish from the specials board – duck breast with figs, crispy potatoes and jus. The duck was soft, the figs had been dried to intensify their sweetness and the potatoes had a fantastic crunch to them. It was served with a curried purée that gave the dish a splendid warmth. Another winner.

The only dish chosen from the main menu was sirloin steak au poivre. The steak was cooked exactly as ordered and came with a silky, creamy sauce. The homemade chips were crunchy and fluffy inside, and the veg was expertly cooked.

Now, by the time dessert arrived I’d forgotten about taking photos so there are none. Could be something to do with the wine (Chardonnay then Malbec-both highly recommended) but hey-ho, it was my last day as a twenty one year old (ish…and a bit more). The creme brûlée and mango cheesecake were both moreish and solid good cooking. A great way to finish the meal.

I almost breath a sigh of relief when one of my favourites is still as good on a return visit, and Fig & Thistle always step up to the plate. It has a relaxing, informal atmosphere that puts you at ease and dishes that are accomplished and flavoursome.

I’d love to see them change the a la carte menu as it hasn’t changed much since opening, but the specials board always contains some gems.

From a selfish point of view, I’m so glad that Fig & Thistle opened up here. If you couldn’t tell already, it’s a good place in my eyes. Other people that I’ve spoken to have said the same so it’s nice to hear that they have been welcomed to Sneck with open arms. I hope they’ll stay!

Price point: starters around £6-7

Mains around £15-20

Jocktoberfest – a barrel of fun 

Ten years ago I went to my first festival. Ten whole years ago- that makes me feel so old! I remember all of the planning- buying an 85 litre rucksack and a camp stove, buying as much cheap booze as we could and getting my wellies on. Most of all, I remember the bubble that we were in when we were there. You become so immersed in your surroundings that you almost forget about the world outside for a weekend and feel totally de-stressed. Dancing and singing in a field makes you feel free, there’s no doubt about it. I love it.

Last month we nipped over to Jocktoberfest and found ourselves back in that place again – feeling free and… singing and dancing in a pile of hay. Jocktoberfest has been going on for a few years now but this was the first time I went. It runs in September every year at Black Isle Brewery and pays homage to good beer, music and food.

They sell tickets by the weekend instead of by the day but they are incredibly good value at £35pp (under 13s go free). We just went for the day but next year I think we’ll do the whole weekend, ideally in a campervan if we can get hold of one.

The first thing that struck me when we arrived was how many children were there-maybe about 15-20 or so. Very family friendly. This isn’t the kind of festival for a group of 18 year old lads to get smashed, create a mosh pit and get rowdy so if that’s you then don’t bother showing up. It’s about appreciating some fantastic live music whilst drinking a craft beer and eating an organic lamb burger. It’s a festival for grown ups, some with kids to tag along. 

We started at the bar, where there was an impressive beer selection to work our way around. My favourite was Anything Gose followed by Goldeneye ale. For non beer drinkers they had cider, wine and a few spirits.

We then lined our tummies for the night ahead by sharing some pizza and a lamb burger. Woodburns Sourdough pizzas had a little wood burning oven to freshly make pizza and you created your own toppings.

The lamb burgers were Black Isle Brewery’s own using their own lambs and we’re full of flavour and juicy. Both were perfect for a night of beer and dancing.

Then it was time for the music to start. Calum Jones, a Scottish 17 year old, put on a superb set and we were mightily impressed. Of course we got our dance on! Definitely a name to look out for in the future.

Calum Jones

It’s not a big festival, and on the Friday night there was just one stage then two on the Saturday. I liked how intimate it felt with being so small and how close everything was. There was plenty of sheltered space if it had rained too.

Weekend Set List 2017

Ho-Ro really brought it with the Jock vibe with a modern upbeat ceilidh style set. Perfect for dancing round in the hay lined barn and the atmosphere was amazing.

We even managed to get a first dance arranged for a couple that had got married that day. Everyone created a circle and it was a lovely touching moment feeling the festival love.

For Jocktoberfest there was less prep, but all of the atmosphere that we could have hoped for. We stepped into that bubble for the night and loved every minute of it. It was a whimsical and free night with some pretty damn good beer, food and music. I felt like I’d stepped back to being young again, not a bad thing once in a while. See you next year.

Corner On The Square Beauly

Often my favourite places up here are outside of the city centre. Maybe it’s because a drive makes me hungry and it feels like a whole day out. It also stirs up memories of family days out when I was growing up. Spending proper family time together and going for adventures. I’m trying to keep up the tradition with my little squidge on the rare days that both Mr S and I are off. 

The Beauly/Muir of Ord road isn’t too far away (about half an hour from Inverness) and has a few nice places, one of them being Corner on the Square cafe in Beauly. 

  

I like Beauly as it has little shops & we can pick up dinner in the butchers and greengrocers. How I miss greengrocers from living in Glasgow – this is an unfortunate thing about living in ‘Tesco town’. 

Corner on the Square also has a fab deli counter and shop so you can get a selection of cheese, meat, olives, wine, crackers, tea/coffee, jars and so on. 

  

Greek food is my favourite so I chose the mezze platter (£7.50). It came with griddled halloumi, roasted red peppers, pitted olives, houmous of the day, dressed salad and bread. I enjoyed all of the picky bits, and it was especially easy to eat with a baby to keep still. Bread served with it is from Cromarty Bakery and delicious. It was also a bonus to get a proper salad with no iceberg & a tasty dressing. My only criticism is that I felt that the houmous was lacking in garlic. 

I’ve previously had their soup and it was excellent so I’d recommend that too. 

  

They have a large cake and pudding selection so it’s a good choice if you have a sweet tooth. We had a chocolate brownie (taste-wise delicious but could have been softer and more brownie gooey) and a cake (yummy), and I’ve also tried their traybakes and they get the thumbs up. 

  

So if the sun is shining in that direction get in the car and go! 

And don’t forget the butcher and greengrocer on the way back.

Thank you for reading. If you are reading this via social media then please sign up to email alerts or follow me on WordPress if you have it. This is how I can gauge how many people are interested and what posts they read or don’t read.  You only get an email when I write a new post (no junk mail) and there should be a follow button right at the bottom of the page. You’ll get an email checking you meant to follow me so click on the link and you’re done. And, of course, you can unfollow at any time. 

Service with a smile at La Taverna Aviemore 


It makes such a difference to me what the staff are like in a restaurant. It can be the difference of going somewhere because of convenience or making a trip especially. I understand that you can get a sudden rush or be understaffed, and I make allowances for it, but it’s the friendliness that changes everything. Waiting in a busy place is not an easy job but some people are just naturally good at it and put you at ease. Luckily, I’ve found some gems in this category recently. 

Friends of mine kept recommending La Taverna restaurant on the edge of Aviemore but it has such tough competition nearby that I never seemed to get there until last year. Now it’s our favourite place in Aviemore! 


Decor is old school traditional Italian even although the outside looks like a big ski lodge. It has an informal feel, which is probably to do with many of their clientele coming straight off the slopes or from doing watersports. Until March this year we had only visited in the daytime but I can now attest that the nighttime clientele were mainly sporty ones or tourists looking to rest those weary feet. 

Keeping on the informal lines, they do a buffet both at lunchtime and at night, as well as their a la carte menu. I’ve had an a la carte meal once because I wanted to try the seafood spaghetti (delicious) but the buffet is so convenient for us with a toddler. 

They serve a selection of pizza, pasta and salad, and in the evening it includes dessert. We generally visit right at the start of lunch and they always ask what pizzas we like and make things that we want on there – gold star for customer service. 

Then there’s the pastas, at least four on at a time. Little L favours the creamy pesto one and macaroni cheese while my go to is the tomato and chicken. 

Salad isn’t just the normal buffet affair. The orzo salad is my favourite and they have plenty of olives to keep L happy. There’s a few pasta salads, beetroot salad, the normal leaves, a tomato salad, bean salad, coleslaw and more. 

Sometimes we’ll order ice-cream to share afterwards under the pretence that we’re doing it for the child. Think what you will but it’s nice ice-cream. 

La Taverna should be eternally grateful to their staff because, ultimately, that’s why we keep going back and I’m sure we’re not the only ones. I’d describe the service as relaxed, genuine and cheerful. They always greet us with a smile, even the chefs if they are about. The fact that the chefs say bye if they are out front tending to the buffet says it all. How many places does that happen in? 

Coming to Inverness? Read This First

Almost there!

Boring practicalities they might be but here’s some tips on how to make the most of your time in Inverness & the Highlands. 


Hire a car

If you can drive & can afford it then hire a car for part of your trip. Inverness city is small but the whole rest of the Highlands are begging to be seen. How else will you visit the gorgeous blue flag beach in Nairn, the quaint village of Cromarty or the Cairngorms? There are limited buses and trains for those who don’t drive, but it’s far more exciting visiting where you want when you want and being able to stop at Black Isle Brewery or Bad Girl Bakery on the way home. 

Dores beach


Book Restaurants
 

Tourist season is starting earlier every year, and restaurants are getting busier because of it. The locals like to eat out on Fridays and Saturdays so you are always best to book in advance for these days. Eden Court often has popular shows on so places can be busy all week until 7pm. If there’s only a couple of you then you’ll probably be okay without a booking during the week but big parties should book when they can to avoid disappointment. Many restaurants have small capacities so keep that in mind. On the other hand, don’t be discouraged because you’ll find somewhere to eat without a booking but it might not be your first choice. 

Remember that many restaurants are closed on Sundays and some on Mondays, and that some places close between lunch & dinner service (usually 2.30-5pm). 

Due to licensing laws over here, some restaurants will not serve alcoholic drinks unless you are eating so it’s best to check before going in or try one of our lovely bars. 

Venison from Fig & Thistle bistro


Do your research

If you are staying in Inverness city centre then supermarkets and newsagents close fairly early, even earlier on Sundays. As far as I’m aware, Barneys (on Castle Street), Tesco & Co-op are your latest opening places to get sundries. You’ll need a car (or taxi) to get to the out of town 24 hour supermarkets. 

Child Friendly Inverness
 

I often get asked what is child friendly in Sneck but it all depends on your children’s ages and the weather. There are several play parks within walking distance of the centre, most notably Whin Park with its boating pond and Bellfield Park with tennis courts to rent. 

There is also a crazy golf course, ice-rink, group puzzle rooms at Lockdown, go-carting, swimming pool with flumes & sports centre. The newbie in town is Infinity indoor Trampoline Park that I’ve heard great things about. For younger ones, there’s soft play at Frankie & Lola’s ten minutes drive from the High Street. 

Winter Wonderland at Whin Park

Check Local Events 

Our local theatre is called Eden Court, and has shows on most nights and some days. Book the popular ones in advance if you can. They also have a cinema if you want to catch a film. 

In & around Inverness you can find other annual events on like the Black Isle Show, North Hop, Groove festival, Belladrum festival, Inverness Highland Games, Etape cycle race and the Highland Military Tattoo. If you are staying in self-catering accommodation then take advantage of the farmers market that’s on monthly on the High street. 

Glenmhor Hotels mini beer festival last summer

Pubs/Bars with Outdoor Seating

If the sun is out then you want to make the most of it, so head to one of our bars that have outside seating. This list isn’t them all- more what I can remember off the top of my head! 

Black Isle Bar on Church Street (roof terrace)

The Heathmount in Crown (5 minute walk from the high street)

The Corriegarth in Crown (next to the Heathmount)

Johnny Foxes on Bank Street 

The Castle Tavern on Castle Street

La Tortilla (tapas restaurant) on Castle Street 

The Glenmhor on Ness Bank 

Some of my Favourites in the Centre

A wander into town to La Tortilla for a tapas lunch, ice-cream from Miele’s, a walk along the (Ness bank) islands, sampling beer & gin in Black Isle Bar, a special dinner in Fig & Thistle, cocktails in the White House, eating fish in River House, ticking another gin off the list in the Heathmount, having a pizza from the Black Isle Bar on a Sunday afternoon, Thai food from Thai Dining, visiting the shops in the Victorian market… there are so many. 

Pizzas from Black Isle Bar

Ten minutes drive from the High Street is Culloden House. They do the best (trust me on this!) afternoon tea, have lovely gardens to walk round & the place is steeped in history. Bear in mind the afternoon tea must be booked in advance so the patisserie chef can do their thing. 

Some of my Favourites out of the Centre

Travel north over the Kessock Bridge and follow the coastline to Fortrose & Rosemarkie where you’ll find a prime dolphin spotting location at Chanonry Point. Then carry on following the road round to Cromarty and eat at Sutor Creek (or Couper Creek if it’s closed). 

Or go east of inverness to Nairn and go for a walk along the beach then for lunch at Logie Steading. Don’t forget to buy a bottle of Scottish gin at Logie shop! On the way back go to Connage cheese dairy shop and get everything you need for a cheeseboard dessert. 

If you go south-east then it’ll take you towards the Cairngorms and lovely Aviemore. I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time here recently and can’t pick just one place. Loch Insh and Glenmore Forest Park are both beautiful, and I love driving through little villages like Nethy Bridge, Boat of Garten & Carrbridge. The kids will love Landmark activity centre at Carrbridge, and Carrbridge Kitchen is only five minutes walk for coffee and cake. Back in Aviemore, La Taverna does a fab Italian buffet & the Mountain Cafe is another firm favourite of ours. Andersons restaurant in Boat of Garten was a hit for our ladies dinner recently. 

Most tourists head towards Drumnadrochit and to the Jacobite cruise on Loch Ness. Instead of driving straight back to the city afterwards, take the scenic route back following signs to Beauly. A lovely little place to wander, it is conveniently close to Muir of Ord which is the home of Bad Girl Bakery. Or keen walkers could head Alness way to walk up to see Fyrish monument. 

I could go on and on… it makes me realise how lucky I am to have all of this around me. 

Don’t forget to follow the blog by email (there should be a link on this page) to read about more places that I’ve been.

N.B The above are all my opinion and none of the companies listed know that I’m writing this. Feel free to comment if you think I’m missing out on any important details.