Isle of Skye

Last week we found ourselves back in Scotland, not that’s it’s been that long but it’s a long time since we had been so far north and it was the same week as storm Babet was striking these shores.

Of the places we stayed and ate at one stands out, head and shoulders, from the rest. A place I have been wanting to go to for some considerable time but just never really had the chance. Indeed, the last time I was on Skye we had our then 6-year-old with us (he’s 24 now), and it would have been inappropriate at the time to take him there. That is to say it would have been unfair of us to inflict him on such a tranquil and beautiful place.

Kinloch Lodge sits at the end of a long drive overlooking Loch Na Dal on the Sleat peninsular on Skye and there can be few more picturesque settings to be found, anywhere. Sadly, we were only staying one night as we had other places that needed our attention in a short time frame but the impression it left on us both was almost immeasurable. 

The first thing to say of course is that it is a long way away! We drove there from just outside Edinburgh and it took around 6 hours in total, we did break the journey for a short while. Luckily for us the storm that was raging not only in Scotland but in England and Ireland too stayed well clear of us as it was dry all the way there and even sunny when we arrived. I know, hard to believe, the truth is it never rained at all in the time we were there, I swear it must have been the driest place in the UK that day and the next, irrespective of Storm Babet wreacking havoc across the country. But no matter the distance the joy of arriving and the outlook was second to none.

We were greeted in the car park, just as I was unloading our suitcase, by the General Manager who then directed us to the opposite building to the main house, the one nearer to the water. There is always a sense of slight disappointment when you’re directed away from the main house don’t you find? As though you are heading for somewhere that is probably inferior to expectations. None of it though, the room we had at the front of the house directly overlooked the bay, not only that but it was a suite. We entered into the spacious bedroom with a large, far larger than normal, bathroom to our left, beyond the bedroom was a sitting room, also overlooking the bay with seating arranged to perfectly take in the view.

I have to admit that I sat there with a cup of tea and a shortbread for a long time just looking out of the window. When I managed to tear myself away from the view we headed off across the car park to the main house for the main event, dinner.

Kinloch Lodge has had a fantastic reputation now for many years under the leadership of Lady Clare MacDonald, a prolific cookery book writer, and her chef Marcello Tully, who I believe was with her for around 11 years and held a Michelin Star for many of those years. Run now by her daughter Isabella who has stepped into her mother’s footsteps with simple grace and charm, and in the kitchen their new chef, Jordon Webb. I say new, he has in fact been there since 2021, came to help out until they found a new chef, which in the end was him. He loved it so much he stayed. The house is all you expect and want from a country house, with its cosy rooms, roaring log fires and comfortable sofas and creaky armchairs.

Drinks in the lounge with lots of MacDonald memorabilia around the room amply displaying the impressive MacDonald credentials, then through to dinner. A simple three choice on each course with the menu changing daily, exactly what I always used to do, and features as much local produce as they can fit on to it. When I say local, I mean as local as their own garden for some of the veg, things like wild mushrooms foraged by the chef, fish and shell fish from around the waters of Skye, meat across from Inverness, you get the picture.

The panelled dining room, bedecked with portraits of MacDonald's from across the generations, its tables covered in white tablecloths. I have a thing about tablecloths, firstly I love them, I understand of course why not all restaurants use them, they cost a fortune to maintain and launder. The thing is, if you’re going to use them, please oh please make sure you iron them properly. I have waxed lyrical about Kinloch so far but on this one point, as with so many places, they let themselves down. Iron the cloth onto the table, but not just the top! Do the sides as well, please! Otherwise, it’s only half a job!

The bread that came, made in house as one would expect, was fantastic. The appetisers or Pre-Dinner Treats as they call them of Confit Chicken Thigh and a Chorizo Crostini and a Cod Brandade Croquette, Brown Crab Emulsion, were taste explosions and a real treat, so aptly named.

My first course, Cured Shetland Halibut, Chilli Sambal, Cucumber and Lemon Grass Consommé, there wasn’t enough, I could have eaten twice, three times the amount it was so good. Fresh, clean, full of zing, just a hint of heat from the chilli and the balance of the cucumber and lemongrass was superb, beautiful but could have done with possibly a few leaves, but that is me being picky to the nth degree. 

Jane had the Stuffed Isle of Muck Partridge Breast, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kinloch Chanterelles, Chicken Butter Sauce. Beautiful to look at, great flavours a thoroughly lovely dish all round and a perfect use of seasonal and local produce.

Halibut                                                      Partridge                                                      Venison 

For main course we both had the Seared Skye Venison Loin, Pak Choi, Venison Bao Bun, Peanut. Venison Bao Bun, who’d have thought! It was superb. The other choices of Shetland Cod, Kohlrabi, Drumfearn Mussels, Celeriac, or the Potato, Cauliflower and Aubergine Vegetarian option sounded good but could not compete with the thought of the Bao Bun.

To finish, while Scottish cheese was an option, we both went for the sweet options, I had the Olive Oil & Pistachio Polenta Cake, Scorched Orange, Mandarin Sorbet and for Jane, the Bramble and Rosewater Bavarois, White Chocolate, Mango Sorbet. Both dishes well executed and nicely presented, not quite on a par with the other two courses but still good. The Bavarois slightly lacking in flavour and the pistachio cake a little heavy but once again I am being very picky.

The following morning, I had the opportunity to meet with Isabella and the chef and have a look around his kitchen. He comes across as a man that is thoroughly passionate about his craft, the ingredients and their provenance. Two things that I saw in the kitchen that impressed was the bread rolls were in the process of being made and someone had just strained off the stockpot, yes, the stockpot, and there I was thinking I was the only person still making their own stocks, virtually everywhere I have eaten in the last 2 years are using bought in stocks. Well done Jordon, keep it up!

As anywhere it was not perfect, but it was pretty close. There will always be something that is just not quite right, and there was, but only minor things like nowhere to put your soap in the shower, bought in shortbread instead of homemade in the room, the not completely ironed table cloths, the food order not taken in the lounge but at the table, oh, and an odd take on toast for breakfast, that was one thick slice (doorstep), only one per person. But hey, lets be honest here, these are tiny little things in the scheme of things.

It is fair to say that we both loved Kinloch Lodge, would we go back? in a shot. While I was sitting watching the bay with my cup of tea my thought was, I could live here! If only!

Room 18/20        Food 17/20           Service 16/20            Views 20/20

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