moray

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. 

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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.

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.