This summer has been for slacking on this food blog, but all with good (at least for me) reason. As alluded to in my last post in June, I was getting ready to go on vacation — a longer vacation than usual for me. It wound up being a glorious 15 days (well, once we got reunited with our luggage on day 3 especially) in Europe — Scotland, the Netherlands and France to be precise.
I’ll be writing a few posts about the trip over the next week or so, doing a couple of food-focused posts like this one, as well as a couple of general travel-type posts. I know you guys are generally reading for recipes, and I promise that sense of normalcy will be returning shortly. But meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this peek into some of the food I got to enjoy.
The trip began with a one-week excursion through Scotland, a country that was completely new to me. The bulk of our trip focused on Scotland’s countryside: While I love visiting new cities too, my current life as a city dweller makes me more inclined toward immersing myself in different environments. And frankly, much of Scotland’s splendor lies in its natural elements.
That said, whether we were traveling through the city or country, we ate incredibly well in Scotland. Everything — from Scottish breakfasts at hole-in-the-wall cafes to takeaway sandwiches to sit-down meals in random inns or acclaimed restaurants — ended up being pretty delicious. Perhaps this was just dumb luck, or it may just be that the Scottish are serious about their food. Here are some highlights (and yes, I ate haggis multiple times, including in the form of a pakora — bless multiculturalism!):
The Granary – Portree, Isle of Skye – We arrived in Portree, our home base in the Isle of Skye, a little tired of sitting in the car for ages. So we took it easy that evening, just strolling around town and popping into this restaurant to put our names down for a later dinner. The meal, reasonably priced, especially for what it was ended up being such a delightful pleasant surprise — so delicious and rich that we decided not to even try putting down our names for a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant the next night.
I had a soup to start, but basically it was the main dish — duck — that won my heart. I also remember loving how delicious the accompanying potatoes were. If you ever find yourself in this little town in the Isle of Skye, it’s a restaurant worth checking out.
Uig Hotel – Uig, Isle of Skye – While driving back down from some exploration further up from Portree on the Isle of Skye, we drove through this little town called Uig and just ended up stopping at the Uig Hotel’s restaurant for a meal. It ended up being a top-notch meal — I had some rack of Highland lamb, which was delicious and then we split a dessert called “Cranachan,” a lovely traditional dessert that involves raspberries, whisky, oatmeal and honey. Sweet, but not too sweet, it’s a really nice way to end a meal.
The Scran & Scallie – Edinburgh – We returned to Edinburgh on our final night in Scotland and had made a reservation a couple of weeks in advance for dinner at this restaurant, which is the brainchild of a couple of Michelin-star chefs. The food, much of which borrows from Scottish tradition, also has a modern element and the vibe in the restaurant is not unlike the vibe found in trendy gastropub-type places in New York. A place like this can run into the danger of being overrated, but we enjoyed it.
I indulged in a “Chicken liver parfait & pickled cabbage” starter (I was really quite enamored with the cabbage) and the “Confit pork belly, coco beans and basil” main dish. For those of you who are so inclined, my boyfriend couldn’t stop raving about his “Roast bone marrow, ox tongue & mushroom” starter. There were some tasty cocktails as well and we topped it all off by splitting the “Chocolate Brownie and Stout Ice Cream” for dessert.
The only heads up is that yes, this is a slightly pricey spot, so if you ever decide to go there, budget accordingly.
SOUTH ASIAN CUISINE
Gucchi – Edinburgh – When in Scotland, have Indian food? Damn straight. South Asian food is rampant in the UK, so it had to be done. On our second night in Edinburgh, we dined at Gucchi. We ordered the tandoori chicken, bhindi (okra), a tandoori roti and vegetarian biryani (presented almost like a little pot pie) and it was a joy.
Everest Inn – Perth – We stopped in the town of Perth one night as more of an on-the-way destination, but we needed dinner. This restaurant, which offered Nepalese and Indian cuisine, was quite a treat. And this is where I ate a perfect example of the benefits of globalization — a haggis pakora. Scottish/Indian fusion? Yes, please. We had tried haggis as a little appetizer, which is largely how it seems to be served, at an inn where we got lunch driving up through the Highlands and had already liked it (it seems to be unfairly maligned). So we had to try it. The rest of the meal comprised of “Chicken Nepal” (which involved a lovely mango sauce), Pilau (a rice dish) and a side of mixed vegetables. And we finished it off with kheer (rice pudding).
Overall, the food in Scotland ended up being a pleasant surprise in the sense that even when we weren’t seeking anything particularly amazing, we ended up being wowed. We also stuffed ourselves with a couple of Scottish breakfasts here and there (eggs, sausage — in one case, a side of vegetarian haggis) and also had some porridge, of course. And there was the flight of Scotch we tried at a bar because when in Scotland… There is much to be enjoyed on the food and drink front in Scotland, and I would encourage you all to try it out if you ever find yourselves there.