Small Highlands

Cafe Eighty 2 livens up an A82 run

Drumnadrochit is a village on the western side of Loch Ness. Some would say it’s the home of Nessie, with the exhibition centre & tourists flocking there. To me, Drumnadrochit is somewhere for a day out without veering too far from Inversneckie. It’s also not far from where we were on the boat in my last post at the Loch Ness Gin launch. 

I don’t expect visitors to get the pronounciation correct, but just don’t let that put you off going. Especially when you can find gems like Cafe Eighty 2. 

Cafe Eighty 2 is situated on the main road running through Drumnadrochit (A82) on the Lewiston side but it can still be easy to miss. From the outside it almost looks like a house. It has a rural feeling with a muddy car park so bring your wellies on wet days.

 

 

Once inside, we were greeted with a smile & chose a table. There is no paper menu, because it changes so regularly, so they use blackboards on the wall to display that days choices.

I’d heard about their fresh juices so we had a pineapple and sweet potato number and they were lovely. My only criticism would be that they weren’t very cold so I’d rather ingredients to be kept in the fridge where possible. The combinations were good matches and you could tell they were made to order without any prebought purées and such.

 

I thought I’d try the all day breakfast after being intrigued by their homemade beans. Said beans were smoky and tomatoey, and matched the rich black pudding well. The homemade bread was fantastic too and the egg perfectly soft. My only criticism with the dish was that it was slightly dry as a whole since the beans weren’t saucey and the meats weren’t cheap and bulked up with fat. I asked for butter for the bread but in hindsight should have asked if they had any extra sauce for the beans or something. You could tell that the plate was brimming with quality ingredients.

 

My pal decided on the soup and toasted sandwich option to share with her bambino. The sweet potato and pepper soup was hot and satisfying as well as flavourful.

Again they had used homemade bread for the sandwich, and quality ingredients inside. It got the thumbs up from both pal and child, quite a feat!

 

After lunch we decided to try out their coffee with a little cake. The fudge cupcake was light and fluffy with lots of rich icing – perfect cupcake ratio.

The brownie also scored highly with its rich, dark chocolate and slightly gooey texture.

They have a proper coffee machine and know how to use it too, phew! Coffees, along with everything else, are served in crockery from the 80’s that will nostalgically transport you back in time.

 
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I’ve been back to Cafe Eighty 2 since this visit and, considering they are placed outside the village out of the way, they seem to be doing a roaring trade. People obviously believe in their healthy and homemade approach to food and this will keep them in good stead for the future.

 

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The Storehouse at Foulis

It’s been a busy time of late at Highland Foodie HQ so I haven’t had a chance to do a full post on our Christmas lunch at the Storehouse of Foulis. But I wanted to get it out before Christmas so that you can try it before it’s too late….
  

We wanted somewhere baby friendly for lunch on the outskirts of Inverness. The Storehouse appealed because they also have a premium food & booze shop on site so it felt like a little day out instead of just lunch. 

It’s about 20 minutes in the car from Inverness following signs to Alness. You’ll see it on the right after the Cromarty Bridge. 

We arrived on the dreicht Wednesday afternoon and the place was heaving. It has a large seating area but we still had to search for a table. Luckily there was a couch free, which turned out to be handy for feeding the babies and pram space. 

It is self service and the queue was long but went down fairly quickly. 
We both opted for the Christmas turkey lunch but were tempted by the homemade soups, beef stew, baked potatoes and salads. 
  

The food was fantastic- much better than I was expecting and not like a self service meal at all. They gave us plenty of white and dark turkey meat, which wasn’t dry, alongside a pig in blanket and lovely stuffing. My favourite bread sauce was followed in the middle, surrounded by carrot, broccoli, green beans and courgette. I particularly liked the courgette and green beans because they still had a nice crunch and you don’t normally see them on a roast dinner plate. I might rethink my veg options this year. My only complaint is that there wasn’t quite enough potato for the amount of meat. Saying that, I just loaded up with veg instead. Finally, I have to mention the cranberry sauce because it was delicious. I’m not one for cranberry sauce after trying to many jellified versions that are lacking in flavour but this one tasted fresh and fruity and the cranberries were juicy with no jelly in sight. 

  
I like a wee Firefly drink too so that earned them bonus points. 

I finished with a rich chocolate mousse and a coffee, albeit two hours after we came in because we were chatting so much. The relaxed nature is a major plus for the informality of self serve – we loved our chilled out afternoon. It can get loud in there because it is such a large room so we felt at ease incase there was a baby meltdown (thankfully there wasn’t!). 

Since we had two babies to contend with, I forgot to take more photos but I’ll do a full post next time I go back. Because I will definitely be back. 

Sutor Creek Cromarty

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I’ve written about Cromarty before here so I’ll not bore you by repeating myself except to say that it is our go-to place for a date day. We love the quaint little place. Last time I wrote about Cromarty it was about a cafe called Coupers Creek & this time the subject is its sister venue, Sutor Creek. 

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I first heard about Sutor Creek online in a write up by The Guardian. It was the only place up north being mentioned so I thought it must be worth a visit. I’ve since seen that they’ve won awards for their Sunday lunch so we’ll try that soon.

Inside it is teeny weeny with about ten tables. We have always gone during the week but I imagine you need to book at the weekend. On this occasion we arrived in the middle of the day so the lunch menu had finished and dinner had not yet started. They run the pizza menu all day & it was the pizza that I wanted to try so I was more than happy. We will come back for lunch because the food sounds great, and I can’t wait to have a steaming plate of mussels in Happy Chappy ale.
Talking of Happy Chappy, they sell the range of Cromarty Brewing Co beers and have a selection of malts for those so inclined.


Now, for the pizza. We shared two between us to try what we could. The ‘Gregors’ pizza (£12.50) had lightly spiced pepperoni mixing with sweet sun dried tomatoes and salty olives. A little red onion provided a sharpness and the basil left a fresh taste. All of this mixed with the creaminess of the buffalo mozzarella was just delicious.

The standout quality for me was the base of the pizza, which had been cooked in the real wood fired oven. These are a rarity, and I could taste the difference. The base was crispy and held all of the toppings well.

Our second pizza choice was the Hawaiian (£10), a favourite of mine. A pizza with ham and pineapple is not authentic at all but I love it all the same and, at Sutor Creek, they added Parma ham to the mix. Why I hadn’t thought about doing this before I just don’t know because the Parma ham made this pizza. It took it from ‘that’s nice’ to ‘silence whilst I eat this whole pizza’!

I’ve since been back and had the Hawaiian again but added olives and I’ve decided that this is the pizza for me.

They have now gone down to their winter opening hours so there will be less visits from us Wednesday lunchers but we’ll make time for them elsewhere. They are open on Wednesday nights & all day/night Thursday-Sunday so we’ll swap things around.

I have to mention the selection of cute pottery jugs that they serve water from because it is touches like this that make me like this place.

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I’m starting to feel like an advert for the people who own the two creek places, who I don’t know by the way. I tell people about them all the time and recommend them on here – a happy customer indeed. I’m just passionate about places that are doing things well. Maximum effort and quality ingredients shine through above other establishments with a quiet confidence that is rare.

A Sutor Creek lunch followed by a walk along Rosemarkie Beach is one of my favourite days.

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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.

The Classroom Bistro In Nairn 

For me, moving back to Inverness had some clear positives. One of these is that there are some beautiful beaches within half an hours drive to spend days off at and Nairn fits this bill perfectly. From the *squeaky voice* cute fishermans house with tiny doors to the play parks along the front, Nairn is somewhere I’ve spent many a day running around sand dunes, braving the chilled Scottish water, trying not to drop my ice-cream on the zip line, browsing little shops and finishing the day with a beachfront chippy from Friar Tucks. I’m not sure if my sister has yet realised that they have knocked the arcade down because there could be tears when she shows up with her supply of two & five pences to no slots. 

Since my old Nairn days, the Classroom Bistro has opened and I’d heard good things so we were off to try it out en-route to the beach.

 

The visit started with a low point – two female front of house team members walked right past us at the door without acknowledging us. A simple ‘hello, be with you in a second’ would have made us feel welcome & know that someone would be over. People seating themselves in restaurants is my bugbear, but if I didn’t work in a restaurant to know it is not acceptable practice, I would have done it on this occasion. Thankfully, a polite young man was more customer focused and took us in. 

The decor inside is modern (there were too many other diners in to take photos) and you’d be mistaken for forgetting that you’re in Nairn. Luckily, I could still order fish and chips to remind me. We both ordered off the lunch menu (I don’t think that the full menu runs at lunchtime) and shared our dishes. The lunch menu is not too big but this is generally a good sign to me because lots of dishes generally mean that they aren’t made in-house. There was a pasta, baguette, steak, burger, soup and a couple of salad options so nothing too crazy but using some imagination in the toppings. If it had been a colder day then I’d have been straight for the Cullen Skink but I was far too hot for a soup on this occasion. As well as the aforementioned fish and chips, the Cajun chicken burger was selected.

The fish batter had a satisfying crunch when you bit into it and the fish was nice & soft inside without being overcooked, and didn’t go soggy after I squeezed the lemon wedge on top. I don’t think the chips were homemade but they had a good balance between being soft inside with crisp shells. The tartare sauce was effective in its grease-cutting job but I wanted more sour notes from it for my palate – more gherkin perhaps. I particularly liked that it was served with a dressed side salad to freshen the whole dish up – in winter, peas are always my preferred choice but as a daytime summer dish the salad was ideal.

 

 

The Cajun chicken burger was served with the same chips and dressed salad as the fish was, as well as a mayo. The chicken itself was nicely blackened and had a spiced flavour but wasn’t especially spicy – a pleasing all rounder that people of different spice abilities could choose. Maybe they could serve it with a spicier Cajun style dip on the side for those who like the cayenne and peppery notes that Cajun offers. My only real criticism is that the bun wasn’t toasted so went a bit soggy halfway through but we both like the dish nevertheless.
 

  
No desserts were ordered as we had our sights set on beachside 99 cones so we paid up & the lovely young man serving us made a genuine effort to chat and check that we had a positive experience. The extensive cocktail menu on the table makes me want to return at night so take note Nans… a Nairn girly festive night out may be on the cards.

Carrbridge Revival At The Kitchen 

 

Credit: Fergus Thom Photography (www.fergusthom.com)

 

At times I forget that Carrbridge is so close to Inverness & end up going to Beauly or suchlike for jaunts. Some of my favourite places in the Inverness area can be found hidden in the little villages, which makes it perfect for days out and post lunch walks. Carrbridge holds fond memories for me as this is where Landmark Forest Adventure Park is. Landmark is where highland kids spend birthdays or school holiday treat days – there was always such excitement in the car if that’s where we were headed (my poor parents!). There’s water slides, nature trails, play parks, towers to climb, puzzle areas, diggers and so on…lots to keep kids, and adults, entertained & we loved it. I can’t wait to take my kids to Landmark, although remembering that we’re there for them and not me might be a challenge. 
 

The FB photos that compelled me to visit

 
I found out about a new cafe opening in Carrbridge a few months ago called Carrbridge Kitchen. Their Facebook page reeled me in – the first food photo was of a massive rare piece of roast beef, they got my weakness and off I trotted. We were taking the next generation for her first girly lunch so it was an important occasion, and one that I plan to do many times more with my little niece. 
 

proud auntie

 

The plain eater cousin chose a ham sandwich (requested no salad,no condiments, no frills for her) alongside a vegetable soup. The food was presented on attractive mottled crockery instead of the standard white catering stuff you see so often now. Obviously that doesn’t matter if the food isn’t up to standard but I can tell you now that it was delicious. The vegetable soup that can so often lack taste was flavoursome and had more than just a few root veg chucked in. I’m sure I could taste broccoli which is something I’d never think to put in but it probably helped to lift it.

soup & sandwich £6.95

Wanting something different from a sandwich, the specials board caught my eye. Lamb koftas arrived with flatbread, yoghurty-mint dip and a good sized fresh salad on the side of the plate. Just enough spices & seasoning were used in the koftas to be aromatic but not spicy and the lamb still had a hint of pink (punches air). The mint dip provided a lovely fresh taste and the flatbread was nice and soft. I particularly enjoyed the salad because it was dressed properly and it hardly had any leaves – I’d take cucumber, pepper and tomato over boring leaves any day. It added interest to the plate and wasn’t just an afterthought. If this dish is on the specials again, I wouldn’t hesitate about picking it. 

lamb koftas, flatbread, mint dip & salad £8.95

The niece’s mummy was hankering after prawns so was delighted to see prawn marie rose as a sandwich option and she had it alongside the spicy parsnip soup. As soon as I tried her sandwich I wanted the whole thing (I too am a fan of prawn marie rose from time to time & right now have the appetite of a pig) but I wanted my koftas more. The spicy parsnip soup wasn’t too nippy but rather had a warming spiciness throughout so you could still taste the sweetness of the parsnips. Perfect for a cold day. 

  

The homemade cake photos on Facebook had made me excited about trying one so, even although we were pretty full, we were not leaving without some cake-age. Cousin decided straight away on the chocolate cake, which I then stole a spoon of, probably without even asking. Lucky she has a good nature and, it seems, good cake choosing abilities. Rich but moist and delightfully choclately. 

  

The big sister was trying to be good so went for a smaller cake (we have pretty good logic on ‘being good’) in the form of a lemon drizzle slice. As always, she chose something that I almost chose so I sat eyeing it up. Sweet and tangy at the same time, the cake had a good balance and wasn’t too heavy. 

 

Greed took over and I took the cookie dough cheesecake. In my defence, I didn’t realise that it was going to be such a large slice and I couldn’t finish it in the end. A mammoth dessert, it was full of sweet cookie, marshmallowy tasting bits, creamy soft cheese with a hearty biscuit base. There are so many adjectives that I could use but the best way I could describe it is unashamedly indulgent. Not for those on a diet! 

  
As I write this from my bed, I’m wondering if I could convince sleeping husband into a drive through to Carrbridge today for a return visit before work. Then my brain has a little debate about what to eat because I have confidence that I’d like anything on their menu. That’s when I know a place’s worth in my eyes – it could tick all the boxes and on paper be a 10/10 but it has to catch me and pull me in as well. 

 

Logie Steading 

My mum is a keen walker and, when out on her walks, finds hidden gems tucked away where you wouldn’t expect. A recent find that she took me back to for lunch is Logie Steading. One of those places that you need google maps for (or a good map navigator), Logie is 50 minutes drive from Inverness on the road to Aberdeen. More accurately it is between Nairn & Forres but further away from the coast in the Findhorn Valley, almost on the way to Grantown-on-Spey. 

 

 There is plenty of free parking at Logie Estate, which is surrounded by countryside perfect for a pre-lunch walk. Each place at the steadings is individually owned and each owner seemed passionate in what they do. As well as the cafe, there is a farm & garden shop, Heritage centre, bookshop, art gallery, whisky & wine shop, Cloudhowe gift shop, Diva design studio and Cairngorn Leaf & Bean coffee bean shop. You can rent out the long room for events and they also run courses in embroidery and gardening among other things.

 

Olive Tree Cafe is open from 10am to 5pm and serve lunch from 11.30am. They even take bookings, which could come in handy because it was busy the day we visited. Mum & I both had soup with mum choosing broccoli with a cheese scone. I tasted both & they were delicious. I particularly liked that the scone was hot because many places don’t heat scones up to go with soup or they are too dry but this was lovely.

My soup was equally as nice and proper comfort food with my cheese and pickle sandwich. I wouldn’t hesitate to order this again. 

I wanted a cake but couldn’t manage one so had a coffee instead. The cappuccino was strong enough but could do with a bit more foam because I like the traditional 1/3 foam. 

 

 The cafe has outside seating for days when the weather is better and mum vouched that they were dog friendly on a previous walking outing coffee stop. 

 

 

Our favourite shop was the wine & whisky shop (no surprise there!) because it had lots of local beer and fantastic gifts. The gentleman who was behind the counter was friendly and helpful even although he was covering for the owners that day. 

 

  I can’t help compare Logie Steading to Brodie Country Fair because they are both rural hubs with a cafe and shops. I preferred the cafe in Logie Steading tenfold and found it much more relaxing. The whole place has a more laid back and less commercial feel to it. The farm & garden shop should be open next time to pick up some treats too so food for the day will be sorted. A nice little day out. 

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