Scott Davies is a chef on a mission. Having been garlanded with awards in St Andrews at the Rocca and the Adamson restaurants, and narrowly missing out on winning the BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals, he has just launched a new menu he hopes will regain a coveted Michelin star for The Three Chimneys restaurant in Skye.
Shirley and Eddie Spear were taking a risk when they upped sticks from London in 1984 to open a fancy restaurant with rooms in an old croft up a single track road. But Shirley says it “turned out to be the best decision we ever made” and now The Three Chimneys is thriving.
"The tasting menu begins with melt-in-the-mouth oxtail with carrot, salsify and black garlic, and the dishes that follow are a tour de force"
The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2014, but lost it the following year. Davies, who joined in June, says: “My aim now is to take The Three Chimneys back to its roots, but with a more modern style of presentation. I will be using as much of the freshest Skye produce as possible – the ingredients we have here are the best in the world, with amazing fishermen, farmers and growers all keen to work with us.”
The focus is on local produce with a Nordic influence, and traditional techniques such as salt or ash curing, preserving, fermenting and pickling. Davies says his aim is to be entirely self-sufficient locally within three years. Crofters supply most of the fruit and veg, along with eggs and cheese. Plans are in place for an abattoir near Portree and when that happens all meat served in the restaurant will be bred, reared, slaughtered and butchered on the island. Wild deer shot in the nearby mountains provide the venison.
The tasting menu begins with melt-in-the-mouth oxtail with carrot, salsify and black garlic, and the dishes that follow are a tour de force. Scallop with artichoke, crab and apple; pork with parsnip, shallots and kale; halibut with langoustines, cauliflower and mussels; venison with beets, chestnut and celeriac; Scottish cheeses; a faultless hot marmalade soufflé with mealie ice-cream and petit fours of beetroot, plum, bramble and apple. Wine is expertly matched with each course.
Everything is beautifully balanced and nothing is out of place. It is simple but sophisticated, confident and accomplished without being too showy. A professional master chef at work.
The six bedrooms next door in another former croft building known as The House Over-By are luxurious. Guests are greeted with afternoon tea consisting of whisky fruit loaf, buttermilk scones, muffins and madeleines. Scott has done away with the buffet for breakfast, which is served à la carte, obviating the need to keep getting up and down. Binoculars are provided for guests to watch the wildlife and we observe a porpoise, or possibly a dolphin, make its way down Loch Dunvegan while we enjoy Stornoway black pudding, Mallaig peat-smoked salmon and grilled west coast kipper for breakfast.
Dominating the skyline east of the Three Chimneys are the flat-topped mountains known as Macleod’s Tables. Legend has it they were formed during a visit to the island by St Columba. He was not well received by the local chief, who refused him any hospitality.
St Columba then delivered a sermon at the local church on the verses from St Matthew’s Gospel: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” The skies darkened and there was a thunderous roar. The congregation emerged to find the two nearby mountaintops flattened, providing a place for St Columba to sleep and dine.
One night’s dinner, bed and breakfast based on two people sharing a double or twin room is £380, or £65 per person for the main menu and £90 per person for the tasting menu. As we leave the hotel, the reception desk is busy taking bookings. The restaurant is not big but it can seat far more people than can be accommodated in The House Over-By. Disappointed diners are told they are welcome for dinner but there is no room at the inn. Instead, staff work their way through a list of approved nearby hotels and bed and breakfasts.
As a result, this whole area of Skye is reaping the benefits of The Three Chimneys and its hospitality. Looking down from Macleod’s Tables, St Columba would surely approve.
The Three Chimneys
Isle of Skye