Saturday, October 11, 2008

Eating Out - The Three Chimneys, Skye


It's Saturday, perhaps a special experience of eating out is appropriate. This time at a place in the middle of practically nowhere, a place I had never heard of before I briefly read about it in a B&B brochure - but then again I'm no foodie, perhaps all those people who own practically every cookbook ever published, whose favourite pasttime is to watch TV-chefs shows or dazzle dinner guests with their own kitchen concoctions or eating out at new fancy-schmancy restaurants regularly knows exactly which place I'm writing about by just looking at the pottery detail above...

... or perhaps you can guess which place it is by looking at this village sign?

The Three Chimneys restaurant is a multi award winning, highly acclaimed, five star place on Skye, gorgeously set by loch Dunvegan. From the outside it looks like one of those pretty, yet modest, white washed houses you see everywhere in the area - however when you step inside this particular house you immediately sense this is a different place, from the (overly) friendly waitresses and waiters hoovering around you to the simple and rustic, yet luxurious furnishing. It's a smallish place, it's said you have to book well in advance, months even, but we got a table on a whim the same day, so I suppose there might be exceptions to that rule...


Now I'll take you through our dinner - the vegetarian bit that is, M of course opted for a piece of dead animal of some kind, of which I'm not going to neither write nor show pictures - and wrap this post up with my pros and cons views of the place. Highly acclaimed, and expensive, places for food (or other experiences for that matter) have a tendency to make people act like a concurring flock of sheep. Myself I most always get *slightly* more hesitant and critical, and far from always I'm all that impressed by the overall experience...


The pre-order complimentary nibble - cheddar scones with herb cream cheese. If these simple looking things were to set the standard for the whole meal it was going to be simply... divine. Absolutely melt-in-your-mouth-heavenly they were...


The complimentary bread, served by an extremely chatty waiter with a huge bread basket containing about 10 different breads. I honestly can't remember which kind these were, but one was really nice, the other one far from, and M didn't much like any of the two he opted for.


I admit, sometimes I stumble and fall, apart from the lemon this complimentary dish wasn't exactly a vegetarian pre-starter, some sort of fried fish with a seafood mix, a melt in your mouth thing with absolutely no flavour.


I rarely eat starters and with all those complimentary pre- and in between dishes that was a wise choice this time too... Here we have the vegetarian dish on the menu, the open lasagna (in parts a bit too al dente) with amazingly prepared chanterelles and veggies. Overall quite lovely.


Another heavenly in-between-dish, the complimentary pre-dessert nibble, vanilla parfait with tart red currants and cardamom crisp, mmm and mmm and...


Sadly the dessert I chose turned out to be quite a disappointment. Finally I found that "typical Scottish dessert" on a menu, and nothing that contains raspberries, shortbread and whipped cream can be wrong, can it? I mean a dash of whisky can't spoil such a heavenly concoction, can it?

Well, the only redeeming thing about my dessert of choice was the lovely shortbread, the Skye raspberries were way too tart and the whipped cream bit of this Cranachan dessert was completely disgusting with too much smokey (Talisker of course) whisky. Sigh. M loved the flavours, especially the whisky and cream part. That is, after he had devoured his dessert of marinated fresh pineapple with lime and chili, passionfruit jelly, coconut ice cream, rosemary sorbet and cardamom biscuit - he said it was quite ok.


The after dinner tea, with complimentary (too sugary) sweeties, we had at the large indoor veranda at the House Over-By, which is the adjacent guesthouse of Three Chimneys. The view overlooking loch Dunvegan was more than pleasant, but the furnishing and hence ambiance was just way too modern, un-inviting and un-comfortable. I would so have prefered cosy sofas, armchairs and candlelight for a relaxing after dinner experience.


So what was my overall impression of this presumptive five star fine dining then? Well, as far as food is concerned I thought it was in some parts insipid, bland and boring, in others quite, quite lovely.

I love the fact that the ingredients are fresh and locally produced.

I don't mind that you have to pay for after dinner tea with sweeties.

But I really don't like the fact that there was a fixed price for a three course dinner, since not everyone like to have both starter and dessert - although with a bit of persuasion it was possible to have only two courses to an adjusted price, but it felt *a bit* cheap to even have to argue about it...

We both chose non-alcoholic beverages with dinner and we also got a large jug of ice water. I noticed that guests that drank wine with dinner got their water jugs refilled regulary without having to ask, by the hoovering, rather cringing, waiters. We never did.

Even if the waiting staff was in general very (overly) friendly all that fuss was just a *wee* bit over the top annoying in the end, especially since they also insisted on fiddling with the linen napkin in one's lap and constantly re-folding it when one put it on the table.

There was also one strange young man dressed like a waiter though seemingly without any particular task who kept walking back and forth through the rooms constantly stealing glances of himself and his hairdo in the small mirror on the wall beside our table.

The waitress asked us if we wanted to have the after dinner tea at the veranda in the adjacent guesthouse, but she never explained that we could leave the restaurant and go over there when we felt like it and then get the bill. After having finished dinner we were completely ignored and it just felt rather "silly" when we as guests had to go ask some waiter by the entrance door if it was ok to pay over-by.


I did decide to get the signed cookbook by the owner and chef Shirley Spear and it's a really lovely book as well as read. It's so much more than a cookbook, it's an inspirational life story with snaps from the family album, a few recipes thrown in and lots of stunningly gorgeous pictures of both food and Skye.

I haven't tried any of the recipes yet, but there are quite a few that are suitable for vegetarians that sounds mouthwatering. Like oatmeal and potatoe soup, hot marmalade pudding, mushroom and wild garlic risotto, rhubarb crumble tart, Three Chimneys shortbread, celery, apple and chestnut soup, cardamom crisps...

Would I recommend taking a trip to Skye? Oh yes, yes, yes!!! Would I recommend a trip to Skye for the main purpose of visiting Three Chimneys? No, I wouldn't. It was nice that we stumbled over the place, it was indeed a rather pleasant experience. I like the seemingly unpretentious look of the restaurant and of course the gorgeous setting. But it was far from the best meals I've ever had, I have had better meals for far less money and I very much prefer it if the staff is attentive without being so very in your face visible all the time.


I treasure my cookbook though, and hopefully I will be able to make something nice from at least a few recipes in it in a not too far future. And while cooking and eating I will think of and long for Skye and its abundance of be still my beating heart and misty eyes wonders of nature.

Scotland July 2008


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Such beautiful pictures! A nice place and great food!



Pia K said...

Thanks for kind comments, Rosa!

Wendy said...

Very interesting review. I've toyed with eating at the Three Chimneys a few times but have never done it. Largely because I like relaxed dining and have always assumed it might not be so - as you prove!

I know a few folk who work there. Am fairly sure I know who the "hair checker" was! Lol!

Pia K said...

Thanks, Wendy, the "funny" thing was that on the one hand it was a relaxed-no-dress-code-ambiance and the people dining there wasn't of a particulary posh looking kind on the other hand all this pottering about and superfriendly way was rather exhausting.
Ha, ha, that's so funny about the hair checker! He sure made an impression:)

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