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Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye, restaurant review

This year sees this family-run hotel turn 50. Rosalind Erskine went over the sea to Skye to check out their restaurant offering.

Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
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The Isle of Skye is a magical place, which is once again being enjoyed by tourists. It’s also a place that overperforms when it comes to award-winning places to eat, given its size and population.

Pretty much every inch of the island hits you with stunning views, picturesque lochs and vistas and atmospheric glens. It’s no surprise then that, if your family home was here, you’d take the opportunity to share it with others.

As is the case with Kinloch Lodge, which started life as a farm then shooting lodge for the Macdonald family.

It is now a comfortable, cosy and luxurious hotel and restaurant, still owned by the Macdonald’s and was opened by a hotel by Godfrey Macdonald (8th Baron Macdonald of Sleatand) and his wife, Lady Claire in 1972. It is now run by their daughter, Isabella.

This year the family, and their friends and guests (seemingly interchangeable given the warm and friendly welcome received) are celebrating 50 years of Kinloch Lodge with the publication of a beautifully photographed cookbook-cum-coffee-table-tome.

Lady Claire has worked with the lodge’s head chef, Jordan Webb, to create recipes that showcase the Lodge’s style and history, plus her own legacy.

The new cookbook is co-written by Jordan, Claire and local author, Alisha Fernandez Miranda, and includes modern adaptations of some of Claire's earliest dishes from 50 years ago.

Having never been to Kinloch Lodge before, I was looking forward to some peace, quiet and good food, as I set off for a solo journey in late September.

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While the drive is a good four and a half hours from the central belt, it’s one of the most scenic, with lots of places to stop for lunch or a walk, before arriving on the island.

Kinloch Lodge, which overlooks calm Loch na Dal in the Sound of Sleat, is just a 10 minute drive from the Skye bridge and close to newly opened Torabhaig distillery (which features in the book).

After a day sheltering from the first storm of the autumn (a great excuse to sit by a roaring fire with a cup of tea and watch the weather roll in and out), it was time for dinner.

From day one, Claire pioneered using local ingredients from Skye's natural larder and working with passionate artisan producers. This is something that Jordan has carried on with this daily changing menus, a print out of which are left in rooms to be browsed before sitting down to eat.

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The focus is on local Island produce, with fruit and veg from the lodge’s kitchen garden. Dishes can include items such as Portree Monkfish, Lochalsh lobster, Lewis mussels and Skye scallops.

Where it’s not possible to get ultra-local produce, it’s generally from Scotland - the duck is from Perthshire and beef, from the Highlands. There’s also a good mix of meat and veggie plates available.

After being seated in the panelled, candle-lit dining room, dinner began with an amuse bouche of a tapioca cracker with butternut squash and honey foam topped with seeds, which was the right balance of creamy, light and sweet.

My starter of monkfish ceviche arrived in a glass bowl, with the bright green avocado puree visible.

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Hidden within its depths were chunky pieces of firm, fresh fish. A burst of zesty lime kept the creaminess of the avocado from being too overpowering, keeping things balanced.

For main I chose the Skye haunch of venison, which we’d been told had been delivered fresh.

The meat, sliced and perfectly pink, was served with beetroots, chesnut duxelles and locally foraged girolles. There was also a small square of layered potato, topped with a sweet bramble and beetroot jam-like sauce.

Half moons of jewel beetroots were surrounded by a sticky gravy while a mushroom tapenade-style sauce was sandwiched between two bits of meat, and next to a pool of beetroot sauce.

There was a lot going on with this dish, but all very complementary and absolutely like autumn on a plate.

Despite being quite full, it was hard to resist the apple presse dessert, which arrived like a long finger of softly poached, fragrant apple and served with amaretto ice cream and granola.

Small pieces of dark elderberry sat top the apple, while the crunch from the granola gave texture to the creamy ice cream.

After a swift service, which the staff took time to chat (always nice when dining solo), it was time to return to the welcoming sofa next to the fire for tea and petite fours (homemade fudge and florentines).

With a welcome as warm as the fires, Kinloch Lodge is an ideal abode for enjoying not just Skye’s sights but also its produce. It’s easy to see why it has endured for 50 years. Here’s to 50 more.

Kinloch Lodge, A851, Sleat, Isle of Skye, UK, IV43 8QY
Kinloch Lodge, A851, Sleat, Isle of Skye, UK
Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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