Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, stands at the centre of an extraordinary region of rugged beauty and is famed for its food and drink. Here are 10 of the best restaurants to look out for.
Opened in 2002, Rocpool has a superb location in the centre of Inverness on the west bank of the river Ness. The restaurant is constructed from glass on two sides and enables diners to admire the nearby Inverness Castle, built in 1836, as well as the view over the city. The interior décor is light and modern, as befits the cuisine which is modern European in style with an emphasis on using the best quality Scottish produce. Expect plenty of seasonal produce from hand-picked local suppliers and small independent outlets. On the menu at Rocpool you can find Highland beef, Speyside venison, Black Isle pork, smoked salmon from Mallaig on the west coast, and mussels from the Shetland Isles.
The Dores Inn is on the historic road that runs south out of Inverness all the way along the southern bank of Loch Ness to Fort Augustus. The road was built by Field Marshal George Wade in the late 1720s to ease the movement of soldiers in the period following the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. The Dores Inn is a traditional family-run inn providing excellent food and drink, with classic dishes such as fish and chips, mussels, steaks, and scallops. The surrounding scenery is spectacular – from the inn in the summer you can look out over the cerulean blue waters of Loch Ness and the amazing Highland peaks. During winter enjoy the misty, romantic atmosphere of this part of rugged Scotland.
River House Restaurant
The River House Restaurant is run by the Cornishman Alfie Little, who utilises his connections and rapport with local fishermen and farmers to source the finest, high-quality food and wine for the menu. The cuisine at the River House Restaurant is based on classic dishes where the excellent quality of the ingredients is able to shine through without becoming overcomplicated and over-refined. Diners can expect wonderful fresh seafood and hearty meat dishes. Starters on offer include pan-seared Isle of Harris scallops, Orkney crab on toast, and west coast cod flakes with roasted cherry tomatoes. Main courses to watch out for include the 28-day matured prime Scottish rib-eye, and a choice of sea bass, halibut, plaice and hake.
Café 1 boasts a central location close to Inverness Castle and the river Ness. The cafe combines an informal and friendly atmosphere with traditional décor and wonderfully rich deep purple walls. The style of cuisine is contemporary with excellent Scottish ingredients from the Highlands and Islands supplied fresh each day. Café 1 even has its own croft, Holly House, where they breed their own herd of Hebridean sheep and Highland cattle which sometimes make an appearance on the menu. Starters on offer include wood pigeon with haggis mash and 24-hour smoked salmon with Moray Firth crab. Options for mains include Angus sirloin and fillet steaks, smoked haddock, and garlic and rosemary-marinated lamb rump.
Aspendos is named after an ancient Greek city – the ruins of which lie in modern-day Turkey. Unsurprisingly, the food here is Mediterranean and Turkish in style, with an array of meat grills, skewers, fish dishes and vegetarian fare available. Steaks are also on offer. Among the traditional starters are dishes such as soslu patlican (aubergine, peppers, yoghurt, sauces cooked in olive oil) and kalamar tavu (fried squid with a capers sauce). Main courses include karniyarik (aubergine stuffed with minced lamb), rakili tavuk (chicken, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and raki), and kuzu guvec (lamb with onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and oregano).
The Indian Ocean is regarded as the finest Indian restaurant in Inverness. It has an a la carte menu featuring a wide range of traditional and more exotic curries using fresh ingredients and high-quality produce. Located on Academy Street in the centre of Inverness it is just a short walk from the eastern bank of the river. The Indian Ocean is especially noted for the quality of the seafood specials, among which are Tandoori sea bass, king prawns, or rainbow trout, haddock roast biran, and jhal kakra bhuna – spicy crab with capsicum, onions, and special sauce. You can opt for curries of any strength – from the mild options such as tikka masala, chasni, and mohonwala, through to jalfrezi, madras, and all the way to vindaloo. House specials include the indulgent lamb naga jalapani – Scottish lamb cooked with spices, Naga pickle, and Jalapeno peppers.
The Mustard Seed
The Mustard Seed opened in 1995 and offers simple, well-prepared cuisine and friendly service. What makes the restaurant unique, though, is that it is a former church. There is a double-height ceiling, an open fire, and a few modern touches. The restaurant is situated on the eastern bank of the river Ness, and from the terrace area on the top floor there are fantastic views out over the river and the city of Inverness. The chefs have built strong links with local suppliers to provide a modern menu rooted in Highland cooking styles. There are sittings at lunchtime, in the early evening for theatre-goers, and at dinner time. Dishes to watch out for include game and pork terrine, loin of Ross-shire pork, and rib-eye Steak from Munro’s Abattoir at Dingwall, just north of Inverness for mains.
Culloden House Hotel
Just outside Inverness is Culloden Moor, the scene of the battle of Culloden in 1746 in which the Jacobite forces under Bonnie Prince Charlie were finally defeated by the army of the Duke of Cumberland. Before the battle Bonnie Prince Charlie used Culloden House as his lodgings. Set in 40 acres of gardens the hotel boasts an excellent restaurant that stresses the origins of the produce served. Fruit and vegetables come from within the gardens of the house, meat from Munro of Dingwall, and local fish from Duncan Fraser. There is also a Whisky of the Month and a promotion of the enjoyment of Scotland’s national drink – there are more than 160 malts in the Culloden House cellar and each month a different one is on offer. The restaurant is a Malt Whisky Embassy affiliated with the Scottish Malt Whisky Society.
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