My employer requires me to review brand new restaurants. However, there’s a loophole, which allows me to visit the venue of my choosing.
That is that it’s my birthday and I’ll scream until I’m sick, if I don’t get to eat where I want. I’m sure that my editor would rather capitulate than put up with a Gaby tantrum.
As part of this year’s festivities, I decided to go use my annual free pass to go to Inver, which is considered one of Scotland’s best restaurants and has a Michelin green star for its sustainable practices.
I am embarrassingly late to the game. This place opened way back in 2015, when we might innocently have presumed that Covid was the new name for Blockbuster.
I usually pretend that I’ve been, whenever people ask. I’ve interviewed its owners Pam Brunton and Rob Latimer plenty of times, and am always nervous that they’ll ask me if I’ve visited before. Yes, of course, I’d say. My nose is getting longer just thinking about it.
From Monday to Wednesday, the restaurant caters exclusively to their residents, but from Thursday to Sunday, proles like me can book. Hooray.
We visit for the a la carte lunch menu, rather than the six-course tasting offering that’s available in the evening, and are welcomed into the former crofter’s cottage by staff in their hip and vaguely nautical uniform of boat neck blue jumpers.
There is an interesting crowd today, when it comes to diners, with some rather cut glass accents and a dress code of fleeces and walking gear.
From the list that they call Fancy Drinks, I’m straight in for a very potent old fashioned (£9, with Bulleit Rye, Caol Isla, Pedro Ximenex, demarara syrup and Angostura bitters), while my designated driver drinks in nothing but the view. Actually, he did end up having a fruity tea kombucha (£3.50) and I could hear his stomach microbiome rumbling in appreciation.
The starters sound beautiful - poetic.
We share the courgette and fig leaf quiche (£11.50), which is the lightest of its kind that I’ve ever had. It practically floats, and is gently cheesy and earthy.
It comes with a curved dam of sliced courgette, petals, seeds, bouncily fresh broad beans, a dusting of bee pollen and honey, with a herb-y and marbled sauce that a waiter pours into the central reservoir.
There’s also the Kames sea trout (£13.50), with gummy and vital-tasting pieces of fish and all sorts of other Barbie-pink and orange pretty things, like nasturtium petals, bubbly roe, green strawberries, halved Isle of Wight tomatoes and rose. It smells as good as it looks, like a beautiful eau de toilette that a seal might dab on whatever the flipper equivalent of its wrists are.
I go for the main course of St Brides Farm Pekin duck (£36) - a pink cross-section of irony meat, but also a burly and rough bit of sausage that’s been made with the poultry’s barbecued trimmings. This dish is accessorised by apricot, strips of fennel and other gorgeous nibbly and vibrant-looking bits.
This option sang, and so did the Gigha halibut (£34.50), which was a perfect fillet of fish, along with a mossy green tomato broth, fennel, beans and a herby salad with sweet cicely and meadowsweet.
We also shared a portion of hand-cut chips and baked potato salt (£5.50). These skinny fries were dusted with a feathery topping of desiccated onion and potato that worked a bit like MSG, in that it made them addictive. I will never forget them. Missing you already, best ever chips.
For pudding, we shared the dreamy baked soft meringue (£12), which was like a take on ile flottante, and involved balmy textures and flavours, including foraged herb woodruff, and heavily-perfumed halved strawberries, their dried powder and blanched almonds.
Afterwards, we had two excellent double espressos (£2.50 each) in the reception area, while listening to Crosby, Still, Nash & Young on their record player, and watching the waves buffeting the shore.
What a birthday treat.
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