Tell a foodie you’re going to Skye and the first question is always: “Are you going to the Three Chimneys?”
It’s loved by many and has a lot to live up to.
Since it first opened in the mid-1980s it has evolved from a standalone restaurant to one with rooms, and over the past three years, the House Over-By, where guests spend the night, has been completely refurbished.
Lately, a fancy new kitchen has been installed, and diners who opt for the “Kitchen Table” experience get to watch the behind-the-scenes magic.
"The signature marmalade pudding with Drambuie custard was a rich wedge of steamed comfort that resembled a school dinner pudding, but with delicate and grown-up orange zest flavours"
We arrived early and were shown to the lounge in the House Over-By for drinks.
The room in this sleek new building doesn’t quite have the charm of the main restaurant area, which has low, beamed ceilings, whitewashed walls and that slightly higgledy-piggledy air you get in converted crofts. It’s elegant, though, and decorated with tasteful restraint.
To accompany our G&Ts we were served some very appetising cheesy shortbread biscuits topped with light and fluffy Isle of Mull cream cheese, as well as anchovy cheese straws that had a delicate hint of the ocean topped with smooth kipper mousse with paprika.
We then moved through to the restaurant, where Skye wool blankets are on offer should diners feel the cold.
We certainly didn’t – and the atmosphere was cosy, friendly and twinkly.
We opted for the three-course dinner menu, which cost £65 each, rather than the Skye Land and Sea menu, which is eight courses for £80.
The bread arrived with two types of butter: smoked heather, and dulse seaweed, which was cheesy, nutty, peppery and moreish.
Next came tempura oysters from Loch Harport.
Costing an extra £3 each, they were in their shells, propped up by a circle of bright green seaweed.
My dining companion, Paul, described them as being crispy but not chewy, and “gelatinous in a good way”.
A fabulous little amuse bouche then appeared: cheddar and chive dumplings with baked potato tea. The liquid was baked potato infused in tea to create a light broth with an unmistakable
jackety flavour, poured at the table on to melty dumplings decorated with a fancy crispy coil of deep-fried potato purée.
And then my starter arrived and it was truly the most magnificent little dish I’ve had in a long time. Pretty as a pudding, it was whipped Cairnsmore goat’s cheese with salt-baked roots, beetroot sorbet and Glendale salad.
The tiny balls of root vegetables were colourful and crunchy yet tender, with a gentle saltiness that complemented the creamy, light cheese, piped as if on a dainty cake, and the beetroot sorbet was subtly tangy, the vegetable’s vivid colour more in evidence than its often overly-earthy flavour. The texture was enhanced by rye crumbs and delicate salad leaves that looked like they’d been picked from a fairy’s garden. Heaven.
Paul’s croft chicken comprised tiny nuggets whose moistness was enveloped by a pleasing crispiness, alongside crushed hazelnuts, golden raisins and richly flavoured chargrilled cauliflower with cauliflower purée. In a nod to the cycle of life, it came with a slow-cooked croft egg alongside some young Jerusalem artichoke.
Having never had potato risotto before, I chose this for my next course, and it came with charcoal-roasted beetroot, some intriguingly spicy and smoky Crowdie, and iron-heavy kalettes.
This was the least impressive dish of the evening, with most of the personality coming from the greens and the cheese.
Paul’s main course was cod loin with whey-glazed pork belly, Jerusalem artichokes and mushroom dashi, a light Japanese broth. The fish held together well and flaked nicely, and the vegetables had a truffly dimension, complemented by cute little crisps. It didn’t have the wow factor of the starter though.
Things got back on track when dessert arrived.
The Three Chimneys’ wonderful signature marmalade pudding with Drambuie custard was a rich wedge of steamed comfort that resembled a school dinner pudding, but with delicate and grown-up orange zest flavours.
I had the dates and chestnut parfait with dark Muscovado cake and crème fraîche – an exceptional dessert. The tiny, richly sweet lumps of date contrasted perfectly with creamy little balls of slightly salty parfait, while sweet crunchy caramel hiding underneath it provided a burnt toffee flavour.
The wine list, which is organised by grape, gets pricey very quickly, and you can opt for the £55 “dinner wine flight” – seven glasses of wine to match the Skye, Land and Sea menu. There’s also a decent selection available by the glass.
The Three Chimneys isn’t cheap, but the flourishes of culinary genius mean it is still worth crossing the water for, and I won’t forget that starter for a long time.
Isle of Skye IV55 8ZT
Tel: 01470 511258