Skye at Last!
After our North Coast 500 road trip (we managed 800 miles!) we visited Skye and it turned out to be a week of “best of’s.” An Airigh, our accommodation for the week, was one of the best holiday cottages we have ever rented. Perched on the cliff above Loch Dunvegan and looking towards the Western Isles, it was the perfect place to chill out and relax in stylish, comfortable surroundings.
Dramatic landscapes and fabulous restaurants.
We love exploring Skye’s dramatic landscape and then dining in its many fabulous restaurants and An Airigh gave us the perfect base to do this. The cottage was ‘handy’ for Ullinish Country Lodge which was at the top of our dining wish list for 2016. We’ve been following a young local chef called @SkyeChefMonty on Twitter and loved the look of his Skye food creations. A visit to Ullinish Lodge and a meal cooked by Chef Calum Montgomery and his sous chef Louis Anquetil was a must.
Calum is only 26 and has already worked in some of the countries top restaurants and hotels including Cuillin Hills in Portree, One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, Kinloch Lodge on Skye and Ullinish Lodge where he has gained 3 AA Rosettes during his time as the head chef. The new year sees Calum return to Kinloch Lodge’s Michelin starred restaurant as head chef, working alongside Marcello Tully. We couldn’t wait to sample his 7-course dinner menu priced at £59.95 per person.
Ullinish Country Lodge serves dinner at 8 pm on the dot with canapés enjoyed in the lounge from 7.30pm. It’s quite unusual to have everyone dining at the same time, but it keeps the staffing requirements keen, the kitchen under control and it’s also very sociable. We loved the way they served random tables first for each course – it kept us all on our toes and nobody felt left out!
Canapés and homemade breads and butters.
If we judged the rest of the dinner on the canapés alone, then this was going to be some feast. A fabulous platter of crispy salt and chilli pork skin; Carbost oyster (from the Oyster Shed) with gin granite and bitter lemon; Moray squid with squid ink cracker and micro coriander arrived and were lovingly washed down with a perfectly served G&T.
Amuse and Starters
Eight o’clock arrived, and we were seated in the formal yet cosy dining room munching on Calum’s homemade bread and butter awaiting our amuse of Uig crab and popcorn soup with popcorn tuille. Flavours and textures collided as the tuille was broken into the soup – an unusual combination but an absolute delight to eat.
The butcher in Aultbea’s puddings made a frequent appearance on our NC500 tour breakfast menus, and their white pud popped up in Raymond’s starter of Grampian Pork Cheek, Celeriac with Aultbea White Pudding. Calum has taken great care in selecting the very best of Skye and Scotland’s larder when compiling his menu and you can see this from the list of 18 key suppliers on the menu.
The pork cheek was moist and very tender with the white pudding adding a deliciously savoury crumb. The celeriac gave the dish a warm, fuzzy feeling and he enjoyed every mouthful.
My starter of Twice Dived Sconser Scallops from David and Ben Oakes, with fennel, cashew and ginger beurre noisette raised the same question around the room – How can a scallop be twice dived – did they drop it the first time around? It turns out that Scallops are first dived from the deeper waters and then placed in shallower lochs to allow them to feed better, turning them into big, fat Scallops.
The attractively presented scallop was so fresh and perfectly plump that the knife just slipped through with complete ease. The burst of flavour from the fennel along with the crunch of the cashew nuts made this a dish you wanted to last all night.
Raymond’s main of Scrabster hake, charred pear, baby carrots and orange went down a treat. It’s so unusual to have anything fruity with fish other than lemon but the zesty orange and sweet pear worked tremendously well with the meatiness of the hake. After the hearty starter this main was refreshing, flavoursome and was a riot of colour on the plate.
This Highland boy loves venison, so it was the Edinbane Venison Loin from David Urquhart at Skye Game with venison shin, Pomme Dauphine and parsnip that immediately caught my eye when I opened the menu.
The loin was cooked pink, perfectly seared on the outside and attractively presented on the parsnip puree and venison juices. The “spring roll” shin was gorgeous, wrapped in crisp pastry and very moreish. This was an attractive dish, packed with flavours and textures and I scraped the plate clean.
Cheese and Pre-Dessert
Cheese is served before pre-dessert ( I know -cheese and two desserts!!) at Ullinish, and it’s a cheese course like no other. Gasps of glee went up around the room as the cheese course arrived.
Textures once again play a huge part in this course – The delightfully creamy Strathdon cheese, the sourdough dust, the pickled grapes, the iced pear sorbet, the mini apple and the quince jelly all combine in each mouthful to create the best cheese course we have ever tasted – an absolute triumph.
A surprise pre-dessert followed of almond parfait glazed with cherry jelly with liquorice stalk, white chocolate and cherry ganache, oat crumb and cherry and almond sorbet. It was cherry but not as we know it – the white almond parfait interior contrasting with the darkness of the exterior, initially confused the brain. It was an eye-popping culinary illusion that was unexpected and left everyone with a smile on their face.
Raymond’s main dessert was also very creative – A Tempered White chocolate “Egg Shell” fallen from its windy perch and smashed to the ground exposing delicious creamy coconut and saffron ice cream with the ‘yolk’ peeking out above the chocolate twigs. It seemed such a shame to eat it but it was gone in no time at all.
My Talisker and chestnut soufflé with smoked milk ice cream was also a delicious end to our meal. The iodine and smoky flavours of Talisker meant that you could actually taste the whisky in the soufflé. All too often I’m left wanting when a dish says it has whisky in then doesn’t taste of it. Not here – the whisky along with the smokiness of the ice cream left me in Blackhouse heaven with a peat fire smouldering away in the corner.
Coffee and Petit Four served in the lounge
Coffee and Petit Fours are served back in the lounge by the fire and are optional at £3.50 each. After that feast, it was probably the last thing we needed, but after such a perfect meal we couldn’t wait to see what the nibbles with coffee would be!
The petit fours were passion fruit and almond marshmallow, salted apple caramel and praline chocolate and they didn’t disappoint!
Ullinish Lodge was a lovely venue to enjoy such excellent creative cooking with its wood panelled rooms, open fire and thick tartan carpets. We have visited lots of restaurants in 2016 some of which we have blogged about and others that we haven’t but this was certainly our best meal of 2016. We can’t wait to see how the kitchen at both Ullinish and Kinloch Lodge continue to evolve over the coming year. As far as @SkyeChefMonty goes – watch this space!
Where to find Chef Calum Montgomery if you are visiting Skye.
We dined at Ullinish Lodge Hotel where Calum was Head Chef until December last year. Calum is now Head Chef at Kinloch Lodge Hotel at the south end of Skye.
Ullinish Country Lodge
Isle of Skye
Tel: 01470 572 214
Kinloch Lodge Hotel
Isle of Skye
Tel 01471 833 333
We also watched our best sunset of 2016 at Trumpan Church on the Waternish peninsula – regarded as one of the best spots in the world to watch the setting sun. What a fabulous week on Skye!