General

I’ve Hopped! : North Hop 2015

You can read my before event piece on North Hop 2015 here if you haven’t already.

North Hop – a beer, gin, food and music mini festival – was THE event in my social calendar this August. It was a chance to go to an exciting, adult only event in Inverness that involved some of my favourite things and, to make it even better, I was going with some of my favourite people. The only fly in the ointment was my abstaining of alcohol due to the imminent appearance of my own little egg but I had taken plenty of tasters along and didn’t rest my feet until after the midnight hour. 

Along with 1500 others, we waited in the queue in anticipation then collected our branded North Hop glasses that came complimentary with your entry ticket. We were all rather confused why we had been given them at the start of the event and not at the end until we went through and realised that these were our tankards to use for the night to sample all the beer.
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We started off downstairs where the main music stage, a host of beer producers and some foodie stalls to feed you through the night were located. Beer could be bought in half pints or schooners (2/3 pint) to allow you to sample as many different ones as possible without ending up on the floor.

First stop was Cromarty Brewing Co as they had developed a special North Hop session IPA with raspberries – a glass of this was included in the ticket price. Mr S billed it as ‘surprisingly nice’ because he’s not usually a fan of beer with a berry type fruity flavour. For someone so serious about beer this is praise indeed. For the record, Cromarty’s beer bottles are regularly found in our fridge & Happy Chappy Pale Ale is one of my favoured tipples so look out for it around the Highlands and even further afield.

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Rock Rose gin from Caithness had also created a limited edition North Hop gin especially for the event. It had notes of strawberry and rhubarb and was delicious. They were selling this along with bottles of their classic gin – something I had seen in bars but not in any shops yet so I treated myself to a bottle for when I can indulge again.

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The world’s oldest brewery, Weihenstephan (Bavarian State Brewery), were at the event to extend the beer selection to further afield. The drinkers loved the tipple and especially how cold it was. At least two of our party said that it was their choice stand of the night.

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Barney’s Beer from Edinburgh was also a hit, especially the Volcano IPA.

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Thistly Cross cider company were there for those who prefer their beverages more appley than hoppy. I arrived prepared with a cider fanatic on hand to be my tester. She reported back that she liked them all and was very happy with the selection but wanted them colder next year (although she did say that was nitpicking and was raving about what a fab night she had).

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Aye Love Real Food was my first nourishment stop of the night because I couldn’t walk past the scotch eggs a minute longer. I chose one with black pudding and it came with a dollop of mustard mayo. The egg had retained its slightly soft centre and there was a substantial meat layer to keep me going – wonderful. It could only have been made better by slightly heating it up and I’m sure they’d sell more this way in the future.

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The Lochness Inn at Drumnadrochit were also there, selling Highland Crispy Beef. This was a hit with our party – tasty and as crispy as promised with the added crunch of veg. I tried some early on but when I went back later it had changed from beef to chicken so I got to sample both. After trying their fayre at North Hop, I’ll be making a trip out soon to sample their menu.
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The beer was in full flow and I even had a little sample of my favourite Drygate Outaspace Apple Ale – I can’t wait until I’m allowed a whole bottle of this again! As former Dennistoun residents, we are well acquainted with Drygate’s other offerings – Bearface Lager and Gladeye IPA – and if you haven’t tried them yet then you should. Preferably in their lovely bar/brewery in Glasvegas but anywhere would do really as long as they are cold.

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Wooha’s wheat beer went down well, as did St Andrews Eden Mill Bunker IPA, Six Degrees North, Loch Ness Brewery, Fyne Ales and all of Windswept Brewing Co’s lot.

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Fresh revolution were offering a few dishes on the night and my group tasted the Thai curry and the meatball sub. The sub was fantastic and the Thai curry was super flavoursome but needed more veg. My biggest regret of the night was not getting a mackerel fish cake, which I am sure would have been delicious.

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Upstairs had more of a feminine touch with tables decked out with gin centrepieces and the music stage hosting softer acoustic sets.
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I loved watching 10 Dollar Shake making up their selection of cocktails using the finest gins and they had even concocted some beer cocktails for the weekend. They adapted one for me into a mocktail and it was as lovely as it could be minus the gin!

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Later on I sampled another mocktail from Berry Good that was also tasty and served in a prosecco glass – bonus. Next year I’ll be drinking their mini bottles of actual prosecco with a straw!
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Also upstairs (but out on the balcony) were Aberdonians The Adelphi Kitchen barbeque-ing sausages to go with Angus & Oink sauces. The very spicy sausages were a hit with the boys, as were the sauces, but the white sliced bread and tortilla chips were strange accompaniments that could definitely be improved upon.

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Also with a prime balcony spot was La Tortilla Asesina, a local restaurant serving up freshly made paella. It’s one of my favourite places in Sneck so we had to have a bowl. We had actually already been to La Tortilla before North Hop as we used it as our meeting place. Warming up our tummies with boquerones and Estrella (Galacia 0,0% for moi) can never be a bad start to a night.
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With upstairs going for the decadent feel, downstairs was decked out like a barn with hay bale seats. This was a great way to make it feel outdoorsy without having to rely on Scottish weather for the night to go ahead. It also provided somewhere to listen to the musicians gracing the stage whilst sampling all the event had to offer.
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Not all the beer was for drinking on the night and a few breweries, such as Eden Mill, had take home packs. I wish I’d bought a few of these as presents now. North Hop should do a special Christmas event for me to get all of my presents for the grown ups!
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Brewdog kept us amused with their novel advertising ‘tattoos’ to brand us… something to make you smile the morning after. Along with their chilled Jack Hammer and Hop Fiction, they were a hit with my lot at the festival.

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Poporopo popcorn also stood out for my non-drinking-but-eating-everything-in-sight self and I sampled the lot. The sea salt and peanut butter flavours were my favourites from this luxury popcorn brand and I came home with the sea salt (not that there’s much left now, nom nom).

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Tipplebox were there showing off their mail order cocktail making kits that would be good for birthday presents. The stall was busy when we arrived so they are obviously going down well.
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The Storehouse at Foulis had a large selection of gin, vodka and other bottles for those thinking of taking home momentos or adding to their spirit collection. The skulls were attracting all the attention and I had to stop myself from buying everything.

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Rebel Tattoos had made the trip from Aberdeen and were selling custom artwork as well as chatting about their tattoo skills.
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Ovenbird’s ‘in coffee we trust’ slogan couldn’t have been more true for me as it gave me the energy to last the night. I stepped away from the decaf and the Foreigner (flat white) pinged me back to life like only a good coffee can. My tasters of the Bad Girl Bakery cupcakes said they went very well with the coffee. I’ll be looking out for the gin and tonic cakes next year as they’d sold out by the time I got to them.
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I liked that the event had enough people to create a buzz but that it wasn’t packed so full that you had to wait an age to get served and were squashed up like sardines. It was pretty much sold out and I think that the number of tickets allowed per session was spot on for maximum enjoyment.

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Our beer gaggle’s award for beer of the night was a tie between Cromarty Brewing Co’s AKA IPA, Six Degrees North Wanderlust Wheat and Weihenstephan’s ice cold Hefeweiss. A special mention also has to go to Brewdog’s guest beer, Mikkeller Pale Ale Swindle, for being so gluggable.

All of us loved the night at North Hop and the general consensus was that it exceeded our expectations. It was a refreshing change from the usual weekend events and I’d be a contented lady to see more like this in Inverness.  As long as it was well promoted to spread the word, I feel that there is a buoyant market for it. We left as Happy Chappy’s indeed.

Thanks for reading. To keep Highland Foodie going, you can support & follow this blog by clicking on the ‘follow blog by e-mail’ button for more Highland posts (I won’t send you spam and don’t post that regularly so won’t clog up your inbox).

More photos if you haven’t had enough-

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Aye Love Real Food

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Thumbs up for the sausage roll but it would have been nicer warm

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Paella from La Tortilla Asesina

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The Adelphi Kitchen’s Spicy BBQ sausage

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Couper’s Creek Cromarty 


Cromarty has fast become one of my favourite day off drives since returning to the homeland. I originally fell for its quaint character and houses with tiny doors on the shore and then I was further drawn in by their eateries, gift shops, Cromarty Bakery and arty feel to the place. I just love it.

My ideal drive down this way involves lunch, the bakery and Rosemarkie beach on the way back – maybe even Chanonry Point for some dolphin spotting. 

Coupers Creek Cafe is right in the hub of Cromarty on Church Street, one of those tiny streets. If you are taking anyone with mobility problems then I’d consider dropping them off and then parking the car than the other way around. That applies to most places in Cromarty!

We settled at one of their cute tables and both ordered teas. I’ve had Suki Tea before and really like it – you can’t beat a nice cuppa and a catch up.

The first food to arrive was a peri peri roasted chicken panini with Swiss cheese and sesame mixed greens. I never tasted it but, judging the contented noises across the table, I’d say it was a positive report. A clean plate at the end further emphasised this. £7.50 is not cheap for a panini and salad but the portion was on the large size and they seem to use quality ingredients – I’d much rather pay a little bit extra for this than get something substandard.

My lunch choice was a panini filled with Tain cheddar and seasonal chutney with watercress (£5). The cheese was gorgeous, a proper cheddar loaded with flavour and the chutney was equally tasty with sweet and tangy notes. The accompanying salad (maybe they were out of watercress?) had a lovely sesame oil dressing on it to liven up the leaves.

My lunch date selected a lemon and lime cake from the daily specials cabinet. I was reliably informed that it goes well with a cuppa.

I was eager to try their ice-cream and ended up with the toffee and tablet sundae. They had overdone the skooshy cream on top so it took a while to get through to the good stuff – but when I did it was very good indeed. I’d recommend it if you have a sweet tooth.

After our relaxing lunch we perused the local gifts that they have on sale and bought a couple of wee things before a wander around Cromarty.

I’ll definitely be back to Coupers Creek & have visited their sister venue, Sutors Creek, too. Both of them are worth a visit if you’re in the area or would even warrant a drive down that way.

North Hop Inverness 2015

 

 After seeing photos of the massively successful North Hop Aberdeen 2015 on social media, I’m now very excited about North Hop Inverness 2015! 

For those of you who haven’t been before, North Hop is a celebration of craft beer, gin, local food, music and cocktails. Ahh, so many of my favourite things! 
There will be local musicians on stage to tap your feet to whilst trying out new craft beers or artisan gin from one of the bars. Luckily the beer hall is inside but outside themed so you don’t need to get your wellies and raincoat on unless you fancy the outside terrace. 

 

 There will be food stalls to eat your way around such as Spanish delights from La Tortilla Asesina, Aye Love Real Food’s artisan fayre (can’t wait for a scotch egg), The Loch Ness Inn with shredded chilli beef pots and more, The Adelphi Kitchen (think BBQ & meat), Poporopo popcorn & Fresh Revolution street food. 

 

Big Boozy names in attendance:

Bavarian State Brewery, Weihenstephan (the worlds oldest brewery)

Cromarty Brewing Co

Brewdog

Loch Ness Cider

Thistly Cross Cider

Eden Mill Distillery & Brewery

Windswept Brewing Co

Six Degrees North

Loch Ness Brewery

Drygate Brewing Co

Fyne Ales 

10 Dollar Shake

Berry Good 

Cairn O Mohr 

Rebel Tattoo studio (custom artwork)

Wooha Brewing Co

Ovenbird Artisan Coffee Roasters

Stacey Hannah Chocolates

Bad Girl Bakery
Betty Booth will also be there to take silly snaps of you and your friends to remember the day. 

 
  

The 1500 strong event will run on Friday the 21st of August from 6pm until midnight & will have two sessions on Saturday the 22nd – 12pm until 6pm and 7pm until 1am. Tickets cost £15 per session and include a branded North Hop glass, beer token and programme. 

Tickets can be purchased through the North Hop website http://www.northhop.co.uk or Eden Court box office (01463 234234). Strictly over 18’s only. 

Saffron Brings Flavour To Cradlehall

I’d been hearing positive reviews from the Miller clan about an Indian restaurant in Cradlehall called Saffron so decided to try it for myself. First of all, Cradlehall is a residential area of Inverness in the East of the city that takes about ten minutes to drive to from the centre. Saffron has opened up next to Cradlehall shop in a tiny unit that has 7 or 8 tables and a takeaway area. There are no other restaurants in Cradlehall so it’s great for those who live there now that the drink drive limit has been reduced. It’s also currently bring your own bottle so you won’t spend a fortune. 

I had tried to book on another night but they were full, so booked a few days in advance this time – something to remember if you’re planning a visit. 
I have been twice now and both times had poppadoms and dips to start so I didn’t fill myself up before the main course. Mr S was eyeing up the Saffron Thali so that he could sample a bit of everything so we shared that and my choice of curry. I usually picked a Chasni in Glasgow but apparently this is a Glasgow curry & you don’t usually see it in other places. Undeterred, I asked about it anyway thinking that the staff might have heard of it and recommend something similar. The waiter asked me to wait a second and returned saying the chef would be happy to make me a chasni – happy days! 

 

The Saffron thali has tandoori chicken, seek kebab, chicken tikka mossallah, lamb bhuna, chicken dansak, lamb samosa, basmati rice and naan bread. The tandoori chicken was still moist and well marinated – great dunked in the sauces. Chicken tikka mossallah (spelt different on the menu from the chicken tikka massala so don’t know if it is different) could have done with some oomph whilst the Dansak was both of our favourites and new to us. The sweet and sour element gives a flavoursome curry and we’ve ordered it since. I’m glad to have started with the thali on our first visit – it’s a bit like samples at launches in the sense that you can find your favourites without having to order whole dishes.
 My chasni was exactly as I remember it – sweet and sour with a hint of mango chutney. It is a good sauce for mopping up with naan and often the whole table end up using my sauce for this towards the end of the mains. It’s my guilty pleasure and any time I order anything else in an Indian restaurant I just don’t enjoy it as much. 

 

  

I’ve spoken to several other people about Saffron and it seems to be a hit all round. They score points with me for having an up to date website with a menu to browse – it is so important for restaurants to build their business up. The idea of more local restaurants around the residential areas of Inverness appeals to me as buses up here aren’t very reliable and taxis are expensive. I don’t think it takes much business from the city centre because both times we went we would have ordered a takeaway or eaten in if we couldn’t get a table. Walking ten minutes to a restaurant for dinner & a glass of vino is something that I’d spend my money on regularly, as long as the food is of a high standard.  Now if someone can open a good restaurant in Inshes please…

Highland Aspendos Turkish Feast

I have a huge appreciation of Greek & Turkish food after going to Greece last year. If there’s anyone that knows how to cook simple but do it very well, it’s them. You think that the lamb skewers sound basic then they arrive & you can tell that it’s been skilfully marinated in lemon, oregano and other beautiful flavours. And the dips are fantastic and the seafood out of this world. 

Inverness only has one restaurant that fits the bill, unless there’s others hiding. Aspendos is a Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant on Queensgate next to the post office. 

We almost never made it here because I’d tried phoning all the day before to book but no-one was answering or it was engaged, and they don’t have an online booking system. I know from working in a restaurant not to phone at peak times (taking a booking at 8pm on a Saturday night for a week in advance when you have a full restaurant waiting for service is a nightmare for a restaurant worker!) but I tried about 8 times to no avail. Luckily I popped in on the off chance but I hope they don’t lose a lot of business from such things happening. 

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The mixed mezze menu would have appealed but my cousin is a bit fussier than me so we chose from the lunch menu instead. 

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Starters were decided on – mucver and meze tabagi – and they brought us complimentary bread and dips whilst we waited. 

I’m guessing that the bread was homemade & it was wonderful. The soft, warm and herby bread tastes delicious topped with some creamy cheese dip or tomatoey number.

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Mucver arrived looking like rosti cakes dolloped with yoghurt. They were crispy on the outside and full of flavour, I’d order this again.

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The meze arrived with cacik, humus, tarama salata & what I think was maydonoz salatasi and kozlenmis pathican. Cacik is similar to tsatziki, humus is chickpea dip and tarama salata is fish pate. The more acidic maydonoz salatasi lifted the creamy flavours (a tabbouleh parsley salad with tomato, onion, olive oil and lemon juice) and the kozlenmis pathican (roasted aubergine, peppers, parsley, garlic & olive oil) complemented it. 

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Main courses arrived and I was lacking in stomach space already. The tavuk sis across the table from me was marinated chicken with rice and salad. Exactly what I mean about simple done well. I tasted it and my only criticism is that I like lots of fresh oregano on my meat and there wasn’t, but this is purely a personal observation. 

They also came out and offered their homemade chilli sauce – just say yes (delicious!). 

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My mantarli karides guvec arrived as a baked pot of prawns, mushrooms, green pepper, garlic, onion, aspendos sauce and cheese. Again, the flavours were all there and there were plenty of  tiny prawns. I would have preferred a smaller portion of this and some rice to accompany it instead to soak up the lovely sauce. There were so many prawns that I couldn’t finish it as a dish alone. 

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Having decided not to have a dessert, we were somehow convinced into sharing a ‘small’ one (not a hard job really!). 

Classic baklava was gooey and nutty. When it arrived it looked a small-ish portion but it’s so rich you wouldn’t want any more.

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Aspendos isn’t a fancy looking place, but that lends itself to making you feel at home and comfortable. The service is friendly and polite. It would be a good place for a friends get together as a group. Our trip to Aspendos was one we enjoyed so much that I’ve been back since with Mr S. I had to go back for the bread, dips & chilli sauce alone. 

How Contrasting Was Contrast?

Let me set the scene; it was lashing down with rain, stormy and cold, the streets were pretty empty. We practically ran from the High Street along the river to Contrast Brasserie in the upscale Glenmoriston Hotel. A friendly man greeted us at reception and took our coats before whisking us off to the warm, inviting & cosy restaurant. There’s nothing better than escaping a cold, wet night. It was an encouraging start to our meal at Contrast.

The dining room is beautiful – rich, warm tones made us feel relaxed in our surroundings.

The pre-theatre menu had four starter choices but we both opted for pate based on the fact that we’d never make it at home. It was served with granary bread (only one slice but the staff were pro-active in offering more), apricot chutney and dressed leaves. I like a bit of salad with my pate so I was happy. The pate itself needed seasoning and perhaps some herbs or something to lift it.

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Loin of pork, caramelised watermelon, pont neuf potatoes & mustard sauce was overcooked for our taste. The watermelon didn’t blend with the dish & the caramelisation was lost on us but the potatoes were lovely. A mixed bag really.

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My seabream fillet with green olive & herb potato cake, saffron espana and chorizo oil sounded amazing. The fish was cooked well – the skin wasn’t crispy but I never eat the skin anyway. I just wanted more flavour – seasoning on the fish before cooking, more olives & herbs in the potato, more chorizo oil (or the fish cooked in it) and more saffron espana. The espana was like a foam so melted as I was eating.

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There were two waitresses on and they seemed to be helping each other to ensure a successful service. We couldn’t help but listen in as the table next to us wanted to taste the steak sauce before ordering it. She explained that they use the meat juices during cooking to make it but he wasn’t happy. They had already been difficult with her & I really wanted to step in. Never off duty!

The sticky toffee sundae with meringue, caramel sauce and chantilly cream was nice.

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My chocolate fondant (not on the pre-theatre menu) had the richness that it should and I enjoyed it.

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The dining room decor and the service were both spot on but the flavours were too delicate for our palates. Their website states that they use simple flavours – it is on brief in a way but I wanted the simple flavours to sing.

Have you been to Contrast? What did you think? Comment below…

Life Begins At 30

A couple of months ago I posted on Girl Around Glasgow that I was moving back up to Inverness – that was an emotional day!

I’m now in Inverness, very behind on Glasgow blog posts with all the craziness of moving and trying to get Highland Foodie started.

You can find the latest mention for Girl Around Glasgow here.

I thought that I’d start Highland Foodie with a wee introduction and thank you to everyone who has followed my blogging journey so far. I enjoy it and it is a bit of escapism for me so I hope that you like it too. Girl Around Glasgow is still staying for now but I also need your support for this site so enter your e-mail on the right and get an e-mail every time I post on here. You won’t get spam and I don’t post that often so it is not a big commitment.

For those who don’t know me, I grew up in Inverness and moved away to Glasgow to study at 18 years old. I’m now 30, and ready to come home and settle. Many things about Inverness remain the same (my parents still live in the same house) but the restaurants & cafes have changed a lot so there’s plenty to explore. The social media presence is less vocal in the Highlands & it’s much more difficult to find the good ones so tell me your favourites.

This week our Glasgow flat is officially sold and no longer ours. I feel teary every time I think about it even though I know it is the right long-term decision. We have offered on a house up here so fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly or my folks are stuck with us forever. It’s tempting because we are being very well looked after! Work has taken up more hours than I care to mention since the move but we’ve fitted in a few treats including drinks and tapas at La Tortilla Asesina & dinner at Rocpool. I also have lunch at Little Italy to write about as well as my girly weekend in Aberdeen.

 

My current ‘to go to’ list in the Highlands includes Cafe 1, The Mustard Seed, River House, River Cafe and McGonagall’s as well as a few coffee and cake cafes. If you know of any others that you think I’d like then please comment below or email thehighlandfoodie@gmail.com – I want to find all of the best places. I’m also looking for the best food suppliers… who sells the freshest fish, the meatiest charcuterie, where can I buy fresh farm eggs and where do I find special occasion meat?

 

Laura