Normal Service To Be Resumed

Where is the time going? And by that I don't mean this weekend's missing hour - thank you for that, you time-stealing bastards. No, I mean the speed with which March has vanished, and the alarming gaps between blogs. And, as it happens, the gaps between interesting foodie opportunities but that's maybe not a bad thing. The waistline could certainly do with a few nights off - and I might even blog about that in due course. The mission for the year is a 40lb reduction so I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, back to Scotland and the joys of The Torridon. After a
smashing "Full Scottish" at the Bridge Hotel - my one and only full fry-up of the week, as it happens given the waistline issues and the full-on nature of the trip - I had a lovely drive across country, from East Coast to West, cruising through some spectacular countryside. Scotland is one of those places where you can pull into a lay-by to enjoy what is clearly the most beautiful bit of countryside you've ever seen... only to drive ten minutes down the road and realise that no, actually THIS is the most beautiful bit of countryside I've ever seen - and then repeat that process every ten minutes for about a week.

There were a lot of those moments between Helmsdale and Torridon. Spectacular forests, vast Lochs, rolling hills, snow capped mountains... and then at the end of it, the welcoming delights of The Torridon. While a couple of places on the tour were slightly disappointing - stand by for the next blog for one of those - The Torridon was a joy. It wasn't the most luxurious place I stayed. It wasn't the best meal. But as a package, it's very hard to resist.

It's one of those places that is clearly aware of its (few) limitations and then does everything possible to overcome them. Roaring log fires in the reception, lounge and dining room. An incredible collection of 320+ single malts.

Charming staff. A welcoming cuppa and homemade cake on arrival. Free wifi throughout. A teddy bear on the bed - and a hot water bottle when they turn the bed down... it's those sorts of sweet, friendly touches that really impress. And, if the rain hadn't been horizontal by the time I got there - via what must be the narrowest A road in the UK - I might even have had a crack at archery. Instead, it was cake, a lovely hot shower, a little work and then dinner.

The Torridon chef Kevin John Broome is a former MPW sidekick and is clearly revelling in the "Scottish larder". Sometimes it lets him down a little - the local cheeses were rather disappointing (or possibly chosen for "safety" and mass appeal?) - but when it works, it's glorious. A dish of wood-smoked sea trout, soft boiled egg, natua sauce and celery salt was lovely, all rich and fishy and deeply comforting, and the ballotine of chicken with foie gras farcie, fricassee of chicken livers and mushrooms, vichy carrots and chive and onion gnocchi was one of the best chicken meals I can remember since becoming a fully paid-up foodie.

Sadly the cheese "issue" undermined the intriguing, and otherwise successful, squash pannacotta which was served with watercress caviar and a white cheese fondant. The pannacotta was perfect and surprisingly effective but cried out for a stronger cheese to lift it. And there was no excuse for the sorbets. Yes, they were well made, yes the flavours shone through but lime, tropical (which tasted of pink grapefruit) and black cherry? Hands up who said "sour". Individually they were fine and, if tasted throughout the day in a hot kitchen, they were probably perfectly refreshing. The three of them together though was a mouth-puckering experience.

Still, it was all forgiven quickly with the discovery of the aforementioned hot water bottle, a glass of Speyside - from the complimentary bottles in the room - and an incredibly comfortable bed. The love affair then continued with a great night's sleep, an early morning stroll down to the beautiful Loch

and an almost perfect breakfast of smoked salmon, proper scrambled eggs and, having spotted it on the menu, homemade black pudding. Yep. Home made black pudding.

How can you ignore that? It was rich, soft - the pearl barley a very welcome addition - and deeply flavoured. The only downside, in fact, is I now have to travel about 500 miles to get another slice...


Popular Posts