The last two years of the covid-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions and lockdowns have taken their toll on everyone.
Many businesses have not survived, as the hospitality sector was battered by social distancing and the levels system as we all navigated our way through the uncertain times.
One business that has been completely changed due to Covid is the Drouthy Cobbler in Elgin, a picturesque town less than an hour from Inverness.
In April 2020 it was reported that dozens of staff were made redundant from the pub after it was unable to access furlough cash.
The pub closed, and only reopened in May 2021 with new owners, staff and a fresh new look. Bought by Speylife in early 2021, eight weeks of renovations followed before the pub reopened.
At the helm is Kevin Smith, formerly a director at Craigellachie Hotel, who is running the bar with fiancee Tony Pollock.
Those that know the Craigellachie Hotel will have an idea of what to expect, as Smith helped transform the 18th century abode into a design-led retreat with a brilliant bar and drinks menu available at the Copper Dog.
Food was set to be centre stage when the Drouthy reopened, although the couple were keen to welcome back regular customers. Speaking at the time, Smith said: "I don't want to lose that 'hipster' vibe the place has but we have gone in a different direction style wise.
"It's a public house and diner and the dining element is something we think Elgin could do with more of. We want to push for that. We definitely want to be more about food and not just a boozer.
At the same time, we have the lane as a drinking area, with new furniture, new lighting and new courtyard garden.
"We are really looking forward to seeing the customers, people who previously loved the Drouthy, and all of our new regulars. We want to continue the reputation the place has and ensure it grows."
I booked a mid-week dinner in April, keen to see the revamped restaurant and try out the new menu (a few weeks before Bob Geldof popped by, twice).
Located just off the high street, down a cobbled lane lit by festoon lights, the Drouthy has a welcoming feel even before you’ve stepped through the dark red doors.
I’d been looking forward to trying a cocktail from the new menu, and the recommended refreshing and not-too-sweet Peach Fizz made with peach and raspberry gin and prosecco did not disappoint.
When it comes to the food at the Drouthy Cobbler, diners can expect a compact range of seasonal fayre with the menu split into starters and small, mains, sandwiches and sides - with a couple of daily specials also available.
There’s a decent selection for veggies with the menu showcasing local produce such as Geddes Farm pork and Grants of Speyside haggis.
For starter I chose the salt and chilli crispy fried squid. Strips of squid were served tossed with spring onions and green and red chilli and placed atop a mayo with a side of fresh lime.
The soft and tender squid was ideally cooked, with the salt and chilli batter giving it a kick which was accentuated by the accompanying chilli.The creamy mayo helped stave off too much heat from the dish and the fresh lime juice gave a welcome burst of zest.
I was almost swayed by the Scotch beef burger (a true pub classic) but instead went for a special dish of monkfish risotto for my main course.
This dish consisted of two large, juicy pieces of fish which were served with sprouting broccoli stalks on top of risotto flecked with pieces of pancetta and garden peas. The meaty texture of the monkfish gave body to this course, and complemented the smooth, soupy-like risotto.
The pancetta added some smoky saltiness, while the peas and broccoli introduced some crunch. A highlight of my meal and definitely one to look out for.
I somehow passed over a portion of disco fries, which look like they’d be a meal in themselves and include additions such as beef ends, goat’s cheese and BBQ gravy or bacon, parsley butter, parmesan and truffle.
With just enough room for dessert, of which there was a choice of classics such as sticky toffee pudding, creme brulee and affogato.
It was the caramel, apple and bramble crumble tart that caught my eye. A twist on a classic crumble, the fruit filled tart was served hot with traditional creamy vanilla ice cream. Sweet with a hint of tartness from the berries, this was an excellent way to end the meal.
For those that’d rather finish up their dinner with a cocktail, the salted caramel espresso martini being served to a table across from me looked delicious.
The Drouthy Cobbler was very busy for a mid week in early spring, and it was heartening to see a local pub coming back to life post covid thanks to the considered menu and excellent drinks, not to mention the stylish renovation both inside and out.
While dining alone, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to the friendly staff, and will definitely be returning with friends (and my dog) in tow.