Colbost, Dunvegan, Colbost, Isle of Skye , IV55 8ZT www.Threechimneys.co.uk
It’s been crowned the UK’s restaurant of the year by the Good Food Guide, but does the Three Chimneys, situated on the remote Isle of Skye, live up to its hype? Catherine Jones journeys to the Outer Hebrides to find out.
Travelling almost 700 miles for a good meal, might seem extreme. But when fine dining and innovative cuisine float your boat, sometimes you have to travel the distance - and for us that meant a trip to the Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye.
Crowned by the Good Food Guide as the UK’s best restaurant of 2018 – with head chef Scott Davies at the helm – it has been lauded for its use of local ingredients and effortless style.
The stakes were high. We’d reserved our table four months ahead and ended up planning an entire holiday in Skye around having dinner there. We’d also chosen it as the venue to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Would it live up to the hype?
Before we even reached the restaurant, we were charmed by the eye-cramping beauty of Skye; Snaking along a deserted road, we were surrounded by a rugged landscapes of looming mountains that were striped brown, fawn and ochre, and crested with inky-green fir trees.
Bursts of yellow gorse and tiny, white cottages, dotted the hillside. Sheep ambled across the road. There was no one for miles around, a welcome tonic after the hustle and bustle of city life.
Even the nearest village to the restaurant, Dunvegan, is four miles away and seems to have been immune to the passing of time. It’s quaint, with a handful of B&Bs and a tiny police station that wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Heartbeat.
The journey to the Three Chimneys adds to the magic of dining there. The landscape provides the context of where the ingredients are sourced. There’ll be no plastic-wrapped meat or artificially-ripened veg here.
Everything is sourced from within a 20-mile radius of the restaurant. The rare-breed iron-age pork is from nearby Orbost Farm, the veg and herbs are picked each morning, and the crab comes from Dunvegan Loch which in front of the restaurant.
Three Chimneys comprises two white-stone crofter’s cottages. One is the House Over-By, which offers accommodation and a relaxed lounge area, where we sipped gin from the nearby Isle of Harris, and listened to Frank Sinatra tunes.
With pared-back Scandi-chic oak tables, tweed-cushioned chairs, and a bleached-wood bookcase crammed with board games and books, it felt cosy, not cluttered.
The restaurant is located in the adjoining cottage so we got another peek at the stunning scenery before we sat down. We chose to have the eight-course tasting menu, entitled Skye, Land and Sea. There is an option to have each course paired with wine for those who can hold their liquor better than us!
There were some traditional pairings on the menu such as scallop and pork, and duck with an orange sauce, but they were pulled off with aplomb and a modern twist.
Pyramids of grapefruit added a lovely freshness to the rich, salty melt-in your mouth pork, and to the scallop with its caramelised crispy edge and soft centre. Added crunch came from the crackling popcorn and strips of celery, all bathed in a smoky glaze.
The match-box sized piece of duck crusted with coriander seeds, on top of a rich jus, was flanked by rhubarb puree, topped with sweet pops of bee pollen, and pickled radish. The tartness of the pickle and puree balanced the richness of the meat.
The stand-out dish was the Dunvegan crab. Fresh, zingy crab meat hidden underneath a sea-flavoured foam and sitting in a peach-coloured crustacean sauce that was so rich and packed full of flavour that it shouldn’t be legal! The texture was well balanced, with bite from the salt-baked turnip crisp, and the crunch of smoked almonds.
Another fish dish that won our hearts was the seaweed steamed halibut. Beautiful white fish, speckled with pink and green herbs with buttery leeks. Mussels peaked through the glistening lemon, butter and mead sauce like beacons. The crisp breaded mussel on top was a delight.
Desserts looked like pastel-coloured Jackson Pollocks. In one, spots of tart lemon curd, a quenelle of goaty-creamy mousse, dots of sweet caramelised pistachios.
In another, soft sweet pieces of baked apple, a crispy doughnut sphere and dots of crumble topping with heat from java pepper. Our taste buds were enlivened and our stomachs left contented.
Throughout the evening we were served by different waiting staff – all helpful, friendly, and passionate about the food – and we felt very relaxed, in keeping with the peaceful setting. We were sorry to leave until we got outside and saw the most beautiful blanket of stars. A perfect end to a perfect meal.
With stunning scenery, local produce, a relaxed environment, and balanced and beautifully presented food, Three Chimneys is a firm recommendation, worth the hype and the journey. It’s already won accolades for its cooking and if it carries on in the same vein, the Skye’s the limit.
The eight-course Land, Sea and Skye menu is £95 per head.