If our children find themselves in bed at half past six being speed read their story it means only one thing. We are going out that night. In a brave attempt to have children out of sight and mind before the baby sitter arrives we move time forward a couple of hours.
The other evening was particularly special. We were being treated to a seven course taster menu, with accompanying wine flights from the Henschke Estate, at the Kinloch Lodge Hotel on the Isle of Skye. As soon as the babysitter appeared, we charged out of the door and off to Sleat where the Kinloch Lodge nestles at the head of Loch na Dal.
It was a wild and windy night but we arrived to a warm and professional welcome from the staff who ushered us into the snug, cosy lounge. Once we had ordered drinks and got comfortable in front of a roaring log fire we were greeted by Marcello Tully, the hotel’s chef and reason for it’s Michelin star. He offered us a selection of canapés including a ball of black pudding stuffed with a cherry and covered in rice crispies. (I have done many photo shoots at the Kinloch Lodge as part of their romantic break packages and much of the conversation with the couples being photographed has centered the food and in particular on the rice crispie black pudding balls). Now it was our turn to taste them. So good, who would have thought it?
We were called through to the dining room. It was time for the seven course extravaganza which, according to the menu, is “a delicious collection of Marcello’s signature dishes showcasing the fabulous produce we have available in Scotland!”
It was time to find out if that was true.
We started with a soupcon of sweet and salt corn which smelt like salted popcorn and tasted like heaven. Then we moved on to steamed Mallaig cod with caremelised grapefruit. Sounds strange but the bitter fruit sauce worked really well with the perfectly steamed flaky fish. It was also when we first tasted the Henschnke riesling. I thought of riesling as the horrible stuff my parents used to buy in a supermarket but this was a gorgeous dry wine that sparkled across your tongue.
Roast quail, vegetable and Perthshire honey mousse, cauliflower and a port and orange jus…need I say any more? Except to point your attention to the potatoes cut to look like mushrooms. It’s things like that that tickle me. We had a 2007 pinot noir and a 2008 semillon to go with this course. I found the semillon bland, almost tasteless. I thought the pinot noir was a full on, fantastic taste experience. Rounded and lingering on the palet for just the right amount of time but not outstaying it’s welcome.
Slow roast Moray pork belly, seared west coast scallops, sweet pickled fennel with an oriental sauce (it’s difficult to write that without hearing the masterchef voice). Another delight. Alongside this dish Strathdon blue cheese prune and orange mousse and Perthshire honey jellies and my husband’s great big paw. Another unusual combination. When the cheese and sauce were combined it gave the cheese a richer smokier taste. I loved the seemingly bizarre combinations of flavours we were encountering. When I looked at the menu I was a little doubtful, but they all worked. I was appreciating having many courses of small portions. Enjoying each different taste without feeling like you need a rest after each plate leaves is wonderful. The two red wines served with this course suffered from being compared with the pinot noir which towered over them.
At times the table seemed to be awash with wine glasses with a couple of plates squeezed on the edge. We counted 16 glasses on the table at one point.
This was a wine based little cocktail. It smelled like a freshly cut privet hedge but tasted completely different, a sweet rich fruity experience with a wine after taste. Delicious.
There should have been a picture of a highland cranachan with oatmeal whisky and espuma at this point but we descended hungrily on it with no thought of photography. It was wonderful, take our word for it (I was not looking forward to this course as I had the image of espuma being the medical name for some sort of discharge but it was explained, much to my relief, that it is just foamy cream). So this is a picture of the next course Orange creme brulee and chocolate ice cream. Sounded great, tasted even better.
That was it, seven sublime courses. A magical culinary experience.
One of the many great things about a taster menu is that at the end of the meal you can still rise from the table and make it back to the lounge without all the sighing, belt loosening and waddling that normally happens in a restaurant blow out. So we ambled intead of staggered to the lounge to enjoy coffee and petit fours.
That’s Kinloch homemade tablet nearest the camera. We both kept it till last. Sweet, heavenly but a whole lot naughty too.
Once the coffee was drunk, the sweet meats nibbled (trying to make them last longer) it was time to leave. We sadly made our way home trying not to think too fondly of the warmth, hospitality, wine and fine dining we had left behind. We arrived home to relieve our baby sitter who reported no problems. Just as you would expect from someone with five children and 10 grand children. I put the kettle on while my husband took our dogs out for their walk. He was pushed and buffeted down the road by the wind of a gentle Skye evening until he turned for home and shoved back at it. The wind took offence and threw some freezing rain in his face. After he removed his dripping coat and sodden shoes we sat quietly with tea, selected a digestive and tried not to think of the tablet…
The Kinloch Lodge is a delight that enfolds you, takes you and gives you peace and the very best of food and wine that Scotland has to offer. We look forward to sharing more Kinloch tales.