Maki & Ramen, Edinburgh 05-2021

With very little time to spare between returning the rental car and taking the train back to London, the fastest/delicious recommended nearby food was ramen. Luckily it was a delicious one with nice thick pork broth that translated well into a takeaway train meal. Hell ramen (chilli broth, cha siu, soft boiled egg, greens) £12.5 and Tonkotsu (pork bone broth, cha siu, soft boiled egg, greens) £11.9 hit the spot nicely. It's also good to see a place in the UK that includes (half an) egg rather than always having to pay an extra £1-2 for it.

The Boat Country Inn & Restaurant, Aviemore 05-2021

With last orders at 19.30, it was fortunate that we were staying here, managed to score an outdoor table (since they didn't allow any indoor dining) and order directly from a waitress as their website didn't list the menu items we wanted. Despite it being a cold and intermittently heavily raining evening, the thrill of dining again and the outdoor heaters made it more pleasant.

- Cullen skink (traditional Scottish soup, creamed smoked haddock, potatoes, onions) £8.95
- Parmesan crusted chicken schnitzel (breaded parmesan crusted chicken breast served with side salad, herb butter, fries) £15.95 - it looked incredible and seeing other tables receive theirs is what made us order it. Just look at that crust, melted glistening butter and oil. It tasted good too which was naturally essential;
- Sunday roast beef with trimmings - given it was a Sunday I was torn between the schnitzel (managed to try someone else) and the Sunday roast. It was cooked through but still pretty tender with some lovely potatoes too.

The morning had a breakfast included, and their full breakfast( an egg, sausage, bacon, black pudding, haggis, smoked salmon, potato scone, tomato, mushroom, beans) certainly had everything you could possibly want (maybe other than tatties).

I can't imagine that I'd be in the area again as even if I returned to the Cairngoorms I'd probably try elsewhere. But if fate should deem it so, I'm coming back for the schnitzel.

Lochcarron Hotel 05-2021

Oddly enough it was very very difficult to find somewhere to eat for lunch along the drive from Torridon to Cairngorm. I suppose we had a late breakfast and checkout and so by the time we were hungry, places were closed (or not open during the quiet period even though it was a Bank Holiday Sunday). Parking next to the Lochcarron, we spotted this hotel which looked very closed from the outside. When we entered, we were the only 4 diners (at 4pm) and it appeared noone had been a guest there for a while...

They may even have fired up the kitchen just for us!

It was a simple pub menu including a decent steak & ale "pie" (a lovely stew with reasonably tender meat chunks with a pastry puff on top) and some local scampi.

Bo & Muc, Torridon 05-2021

Although not strictly in Torridon (it's in Achnasheen), it is located at The Torridon hotel where the stables are. They are the Gaellic words for pig and cow (vs. in Vietnamese where they are the words for beef and squid funnily enough) and the adorably fluffy Highland cattle can be seen right outside grazing away happily.

Given Scotland's newly opened travel, there weren't many options for dinner nearby but it was an available affordable place, that was happy to have us (even though we were supposed to leave by 8pm and were not allowed to drink alcohol inside). After the very long 7-8 hike up Beinn Alligin it was lovely to be able to sit inside and enjoy a meal.

- Sourdough, whipped butter, olives £4 - wouldn't normally have ordered this especially considering we had burgers but I think we were just so hungry. From memory it was nice spongy and seasoned;
- Highland beef burger (caramelised onion, gherkins, Isle of Mull cheddar, fries) £16 - it may seem counterintuitive to adore the cows and then eat one, but I wanted to try it just to know. It was served medium and was reasonable although I would have preferred a thicker patty. Honestly couldn't tell a difference between this and other beef, but I suppose that was unlikely to be the case with a patty;
- Aubergine burger (applewood smoked cheese, tomato sauce, parmesan, basil) £16 - a nice crumbed patty although would have been nice with a bit of salad in there;
- Sticky toffee pudding, vanilla icecream £8.5 - sweet, soft, hot, delicious.

Overall an adequate meal like a gastropub in a pleasant setting. The outdoor areas where people were drinking and watching the cows and scenery over the lake would be particularly lovely in normal times.

Lochinver Larder, Lochinver 04-2021

After a morning seeing the stunning (cold) blue waters of Achmelvich Bay, we passed back through Lochinver before the long scenic drive to Torridon (or Annat to be precise).

The eating options in Lochinver are sparse at the best of items I suspect and the larder's reviews for pies meant my eye was in well in advance. And after a series of convincing statements, encouraged the party to go there.

Because of the outdoor dining area close to the mouth of Loch Inver, we could get a socially distanced takeaway and still have a picnic-style table to enjoy our meals. Pies were cheap £5.95. I was a bit torn between steak & ale classic, venison cranberry, and savoury lamb.

In the end I chose the more mountainous venison & cranberry, which pleasantly had nice chunks of meat and a reasonably buttery pastry. A good pie, and even though not the best I've had, I could have had a second...

The Mustard Seed, Inverness 04-2021

We were making a very (very) long drive from Perth to Lochinver on a Thursday afternoon before the May bank holiday weekend and with the journey to take 7 hours, we needed a good break in between around dinner time. Although I was much less keen for a long sitdown (given our journey time and late arrival), I was overruled by the 3 passengers and we ended up in the little outskirts of Inverness along the River Ness.

The Mustard Seed has excellent Google ratings (4.5 from >1000), an available table booking, and also an early evening menu if you are there before 6.30pm. We sat down around 6.25pm or so and the waitress was only too happy to let us have the deal even though we didn't order for another 15mins. 2 courses for £14.95 is a really good price.

- Grilled local haggis with fig & caramelised onion relish, Arran mustard dressing & rocket salad - a fancy haggis in a black pudding form, finely spiced, crisp exterior and much nicer than the usual;
- Chicken, gammon & button mushroom pie topped with parmesan mash & served with braised leeks & cabbage - unconventional without the pastry, but the parmesn crusted top was full of flavour. The chunky meaty filling was good too.

Bellies full and onward to the sunset at Ullapool and then to sleep in Lochinver.

Kingshouse Hotel, Glencoe 04-2021

On the week Scotland opened up to the rest of the UK, many hospitality venues were still yet to open during the week saving themselves for the weekend or maybe even the Bank Holiday the week after. This mean a relative paucity of places to eat at and many meals instead cooked at home after buying from the local fishmonger or supermarket.

Unfortunately on this afternoon after a nice sunny, windy, cloudy and snowing hike partially up Devil's Staircase, we drove back east along the A82 to head back to our accommodation but the road was blocked and backed up. An accident had occured with severe injuries and there was no way to get through. Like many others, we turned around with no particular destination in mind. A detour around would take an extra 2h. Luckily for us Kingshouse Hotel was open and accepting visitors and not just their guests.

It's a beautiful setting across a highway, but with the mountains in the background and some unafraid deer. The seating areas outside (the only places you were allowed to drink alcohol under Scotland's rules) made for a lovely (albeit chilly) spot to watch.

Inside was nice and warm with a fireplace adding homeliness.

- Cullen skink (traditional soup of smoked haddock, potato & cream, crusty bread, butter) £8 - warm, delicious, hearty;
- Estate venison cobbler (with braised red cabbage & apple) £16 - very tender venison (interesting that we had just watched their brethren outside) with a pastry lid that was crispy but didn't have the lovely thick chewiness of proper pie pastry. Still very tasty.

Sad circumstances brought us here and we felt grateful for our lives.

Cuchullin Restaurant, Isle of Skye 01-2019

For our one evening in Portree, after scouring lots and lots of menus and searching for somewhere on Skye that is actually open in January, I settled upon Dulse & Brose. The menu had some local ingredients that I was looking forward to. Unfortunately they had other ideas, telling us at 7.15pm that they had closed their kitchen for the night.

And so the only place open and willing to serve was Cuchullin. Not a problem, it was warm and friendly and served by 2 lovely local lasses and their smiles.

- Steamed mussels (shallots, garlic, white wine broth) £13.5 for large - mild flavour;
- Battered haddock with Rooster chips £13.5 - very good fish although the batter was a bit soft. The Rooster chips (whatever they are) were outstanding skin on versions. The best I had in all the Scotland meals;
- 8oz sirloin steak (tomato, portobello mushroom, rooster chips, pepper sauce) £21 - after driving around and seeing local cattle I thought it was worth trying steak. One lass could tell me it was local (Scotland) but not if it was local (Skye). Hmmm. The meat was cooked to a nice rare for me as requested and although it wasn't very tender, the flavour was excellent with assumably just a bit of salt and pepper.

It was a good meal in cosy surroundings in a place that was willing to serve the winter visitors. Thank you.

The Oyster Shed, Isle of Skye 01-2019

In the small town of Carbost, there is a seafood place (this one), a brewery for whiskey, and a coffee shop that is closed for winter. Otherwise there's also the special views of the water, particularly enjoyable when eating fresh seafood at The Oyster Shed.

The shed itself has a variety of things to order from oysters in their farm shucked, to lots of different types of terrines made from each seafood type, and some other bits and pieces including frozen local meats.

- Oysters £8.5 for 6 - really good flavour, salinity and hint of metallic. The texture has a touch of bite and the size is medium;
- Scallops £10 for 7 - very large scallops, cooked perfectly with salt and butter. Tender, juicy and the best of the lot;
- Lobster tail £13 - a small tail that must shrivel a lot when cooked in the garlic butter (or they gave us a very small one) that tasted ok but wasn't as good as the scallops;
- Crab claws £6 for 6 - very cheap for these boiled and served cold bits. The meat was unexpectedly firm and quite dense. Not my taste.

The oysters and scallops are worth going back for. I'd probably try the langoustines next time too, since they are a local Skye specialty.

Artisan Gelato, Edinburgh 01-2019

On a freezing 2C day, there is nothing better than gelato. I was the only one who thought this way and ended up here after a quick search for places around my Airbnb.

They serve an exceptional gelato. The pistachio was a perfect colour and flavour. The dark chocolate with orange wasn't one I've seen elsewhere, but a favourite chocolate of mine usually. It could have used a touch more orange, but that's just being picky. 70% dark is also the right amount of dark.

It was texturally great with no ice crystals. And of course in the cold it didn't melt at all.

It isn't cheap by any means, but it's very good.