food blog

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.

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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.

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? 

Miele’s Gelateria Continue Church Streets’ Reign 

Many years ago, about two-thirds of the way down Church Street, was the Stratton dairy shop that satisfied all my ice-cream whims. Sadly it closed down years ago, before Stratton dairy itself did- how I miss glass bottles of milk being delivered to the door. Anyway, I’m not sure if another shop was in the unit from then until now. Then, in December, Miele’s Gelateria opened. This excited me for a few reasons- my love of gelato, they are an independent business & the fact they open until 9pm. 


Naturally I’ve been in a few times since then so I thought I’d better write about it. Their active Facebook and Instagram accounts tempt me regularly and pretty much push me back in the door. It’s not only gelato, there’s the coffee, cannoli, sandwiches, milkshakes…I could go on. 


The gelato is homemade and so delicious. For those of you who are confused about the difference between gelato & ice-cream this is my understanding. Gelato is churned at a slower rate so takes in less air and is therefore more dense and it is stored at a slightly higher temperature so it’s softer. It has a lower fat content as they generally use more milk than cream so the flavour shines through. My favourites so far are the pink grapefruit and the vanilla but I’m sure I will be adding to that list. 


It must be tough opening a Gelateria in chilly December when it’s not tourist season but these guys seem to be doing well- a testament to the terrific products they are selling. Suddenly I’m finding more reasons to venture into town… 

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.

 

Purchasing The Highlands

One of my favourite things to do when Mr S has a day off is to go for a jaunt in the car and stop for a coffee or lunch somewhere. If this can be in conjunction with a farm shop or shop where I can buy local produce then there will be a big smile on my face. I wanted to write about a few things that we have bought recently on our little day trips that I’d recommend. 
First of all, I have to go to Duncan Fraser & Son Butchers on Queensgate in Inverness. My husband is in love with this place. I think that it’s important that a butcher can be knowledgable and advise their customers. A while back we were looking for some skirt (flank) steak and another butcher didn’t know what it was- we’ve never been back. On the other hand, there is a particularly friendly and helpful butcher in Duncan Fraser’s that Mr S speaks to before coming home with a lump of beef, pork or whatever his current notion is. Luckily he hasn’t come home with any baby pigs as yet! My mum has always bought her steak mince there and the meat we have tried has been excellent. 
   
 

Across the road is the Old Victorian Market, and within that is Duncan Fraser Fishmonger. We try to go here as often as allows- I hate the thought of Tesco being the only place in Inverness to buy fish. They sell cracking prawns, mussels, hake… I could go on but I won’t bore you. They also have a game section so we tried some venison recently. 

Homemade prawn saganaki using Duncan Fraser prawns


Logie Steading is a country estate near Forres, which houses a lovely cafe and shops to tempt you. I’ve written about Logie previously here. My favourites are the gin and coffee, and we had a tasty pate from there too. Logie is a good place to take visitors so they can view local produce all in one place. 

We bought a bottle of Crossbill Gin- this stuff is far harder to buy than it is for me to drink but luckily Logie saves the day again. 

  

Connage Highland Dairy is also somewhere that I’m full of praise for. I am a cheese lover so mum wanted to introduce me to Connage- what did I do before they were in my life?! 

It’s basically a massive refrigerated room of cheese with a side of biscuits and chutney and a cappuccino to drink. Go, go and tell me what you thought. 

The shop is on the outskirts of Ardersier, perfect if you’re on your way back from Nairn, Inverurie, Keith, Inverness airport, Elgin, Logie Steading (above). Let’s face it, I use any excuse so that I can eat more of that creamy black cheddar. 
  

Finally, this was never going to be written without a mention to The Egg Box Shop at Cromarty. I don’t know who John & Donald are but Cheryl & I would like to extend our personal thanks for creating your shop. If you want to extend it to sell other produce, or if you start doing other things please let us know. We almost had you out fixing the car recently but that’s a whole other matter! I never leave Cromarty without stopping for eggs here and they sell the elusive double yokers. 

Where have I missed out? I’ll do regular local favourite posts if you tell me where to find the best places. 

The Carnivore Club Hits The Highlands 



If you’ve been reading for a while then you’ll know that I love meat, I love local and I love trying new things. So when I was emailed by a company that send you boxes of Artisan British charcuterie it immediately piqued my interest. Each month uses a different charcuterie company and this months box contained meat from a Highland business called Great Glen Charcuterie. 

Great Glen Charcuterie are based in Roybridge, which is down Spean Bridge/ Fortwilliam way. I’d heard of them and been wanting to try their meat so this was a great taster box. They specialise in charcuterie using wild Scottish venison that they make by hand and air dry. 

The Carnivore Club is essentially an online company that send you meat. They use different British charcuterie companies every month so that you can try meat from smaller companies that you might not have heard of. Good for small businesses to get the word out. You can order a box as a one-off for a gift or start a monthly/bi-monthly/quarterly subscription. 

Perfect timing as it’s much easier for us to have a nice dinner in than out right now with a little baby. 


It arrived by courier and the meat was encased in a sturdy gift box. Inside there was a leaflet with information about the box and serving suggestions and five different products to try: two salamis, two chorizos and a venison bresaola. The aforementioned were venison pork salami, green peppercorn salami, chili venison chorizo & venison and pork chorizo. 

The first meat that we tried was the pork & venison chorizo. We used it in place of bacon on treat night in a creamy seafood pasta… delicious! We then used the venison and pork chorizo in place of our regular chorizo in our affectionately named ‘sexy pasta’ that uses roasted Mediterranean veg and herbs. Again, it was lovely. We liked both of the products and the only thing we found was that the chorizos weren’t as oily or paprika-y as normal chorizo so adjust recipes accordingly. 

The salamis are rich and tasty, a fantastic addition to an antipasti board alongside cheese, olives and proscuitto. 

The bresaola is being kept until date night because it is the one we are looking forward to the most. I’ll be doing it the traditional way with rocket and shaved Parmesan on top of the slices then drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over it. 

I thought that the box was good value. It’s £29 if you subscribe and £32 for a one-off and if my maths were right the box had £27.41 worth of products (not to mention the nice gift box) plus Great Glen charge £4.95 delivery so you’re making a saving. Since getting the box I’ve spotted Great Glen charcuterie at The Storehouse & Corner on the Square and they are (obviously) a little more expensive than buying direct so The Carnivore Club are competitive price wise. 

To get it every month you’d have to be a true carnivore, I would say that I am more on the bi-monthly part of the scale. The boxes are compiled using British companies & I hope to see and try more Scottish charcuterie in the future as I like to support local. 

We have friends scattered all over the UK and I’m constantly wracking my brain over what to buy them as gifts that are easy to send but still special so this will really help me out. It’s also a nice idea for new parents who might not go out for a while so that they can treat themselves at home.

I can be somewhat sceptical about these subscription services that send you things because I don’t always feel that they are good value for money but I can honestly say that the box I was sent by the Carnivore Club felt like it was. I’ve seen photos online of another box and it also looked like you got your money’s worth. A nice way to spend some disposable income on or to gift someone. Just not to a vegetarian! 


 
N.B The Carnivore Club kindly sent me a box to try. There was no pressure to be nice about it so I just gave my honest opinion. Im very selective about what I write about so research anyone who contacts me first. I’m actually about to order another box! 

This content will also be posted on my sister blog Girl Around Glasgow 

Camerons – Loch Ness Hideaway

 

Do you ever visit somewhere for the first time and it just feels right? You feel at home and comfortable and fond of the place from the get-go. Cameron’s tea room out at Foyers gave me that feeling from the minute we commandeered those sofas in front of the wood burning stove on a rainy day. 
  

If you don’t know Foyers then take the road out to, and past, Dores. It’s about fifteen minutes drive past Dores Inn along Loch Ness with wonderful views to make the journey feel quicker. 

Cameron’s sits on the left hand side of the road just at the end of the village. It is a golden wooden building with its own car park. 
It’s a little cafe that also has a farm shop part, as well as selling some gift items and a few textiles.
It was pouring down and freezing the day we visited but Camerons kept cropping up when hearing about places to go so off we went. We were greeted by a lovely lady who seemed delighted to see the two babies we had in tow, and was telling us about her grandchild. 
After a chat, we ordered our lunch. A baked potato with prawns came with a nice side salad, coleslaw and crisps. A generous portion of juicy prawns on top of soft potato. The only negative was that the potato skin wasn’t crispy. 
  
The other two lunches ordered were both soup and half sandwich, which were also served with the yummy coleslaw, salad and crisps. Both sandwiches were prawn and one was with a rich lentil soup. 
  
The other was with a homely leek and potato soup. Both homemade and tasty soups. 
  
We sat chatting and basking in the heat of the wood burner for a while then decided to sample some of the home baking along with coffees. 

Carrot cake was well-balanced and the muffin was moist and flavourful. Mrs T who had the muffin loved the lemon curd and is hoping it will be there next time.

 
  

  

My sponge was fab – rich cake bursting with fruity jam and sweet icing. The jam itself made the cake in my opinion because it was packed with flavour. 

 
 
The decor is girly yet not overpowering, and we loved the stag light fittings. 
   
 

The original lady serving us finished her shift when we were in and even came over to say goodbye before she left, we felt so welcome. She was replaced by an equally friendly face and I can see why people grow an attachment with customer service like this. 
   
 

We arrived at 2pm and never left until 5pm when they closed. That speaks volumes in itself. Cosy, homely, friendly, wonderful. Enough said. 

 

The Waterfront Pub & Home Cooking 

  

The Waterfront bar is not somewhere that I would have thought of to go for food. That is until it was recommended by several different people, and rated highly online. So we went in to see if the ‘never judge a book by its cover’ theory applied… 

We phoned ahead and booked a table for two because it was a Sunday & places in Inverness fill up fast. When we arrived at 2.30pm it was quiet so we needn’t have booked but in peak season or at peak lunch/dinner time this could change. 

Anyway, on going into the bar it had a typical ‘old mans pub’ appearance and vibe. It is a pubby pub with the TV showing sport and regulars supping their pints at the bar. It was quiet at the time we went between standard lunch and dinner sittings so the atmosphere probably picks up a bit then. 
We were shown to a window table looking into the River Ness & given Sunday lunch menus. They serve one course for £8.50, two courses for £10 or three courses for £12. Their main menu online was a little more expensive so we were pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive this was. 
Mr S started with the battered garlic mushrooms – very typical pub fayre. Except that these ones tasted homemade & were garlicky with a good crunch to the batter. As pub grub mushrooms go, these were pretty good. 
  
I opted for the mushroom soup and it was excellent. Just thick enough with a hum of chicken stock in the background, good for a chilly day. 
  
We both went for the slow cooked roast beef for main course. It was a hefty portion of beef and roast potatoes topped with a Yorkshire pudding and watercress. With lots of gravy unapologetically all over the plate. Then they returned with a side dish of mangetout, parsnip, carrot and boiled tatties. The meat melted in your mouth and the gravy was lovely. It pleased me to be served watercress and mangetout- they both went really well with the other flavours and showed outside the box thinking. The roast potatoes could have been crispier but that’s my only criticism. 

The whole dish was delicious and fitted the bill exactly for why we had come out for lunch. 
 

 
Those hefty slabs of beef had defeated me but Mr S had been eyeing up the toffee apple pie. He wolfed it down so I’m guessing that it was nice. 

At this point I noticed that they have highchairs and we were told that kids are more than welcome. We will be back with Miss S sometime soon. 
  

There is nothing fancy about The Waterfront but why would you want it to be? It is the perfect place to come when you are having a dressed down relaxing day but want good grub. They offer what I’d like to see in all pubs- honest homemade fayre not out of a packet. In terms of value for money we were extremely impressed. The low prices must be for listening to football in the background because it certainly wasn’t for the food. Although I’ve been assured that it is music you’ll hear at night. 

FYI- on the River Ness there is The Waterfront & The Waterside so don’t get confused. I haven’t been to The Waterside so can’t pass comment.