Fine Dining at the Torridon Hotel’s 1887 Restaurant

by Keith Savage · 1 comment

Pre-dinner aperitif in the Torridon Hotel's drawing room

During my stay at the Torridon Hotel I had the pleasure of dining at their 3 AA Rosette restaurant, 1887. Here the focus is on local Scottish produce prepared with modern French techniques, and with a new menu each day the creativity of 1887’s head chef, David Barnett, is always on display. As the 3 AA Rosettes attest, 1887 is a lauded restaurant and one of the finest you’ll find on the North Coast 500. You can’t miss the freshness of produce from the Torridon’s two-acre kitchen garden or the quality of meat from the Torridon Farm. It’s a gross understatement to say I was excited to dine at 1887 — I appreciate every aspect of a fine meal, from the visual character of dishes to the unique combinations of the lesser-known ingredients — and it was especially wonderful to enjoy this dinner with Sarah and my parents.

Just to give you an idea of Mr. Barnett’s pedigree, he began his culinary career as a teenager in Perthshire at restaurants like Kinfauns Castle, 63 Tay St., and Gleneagles. Later, he studied under and worked for Martin Wishart, one of Scotland’s great chefs, before spending time at the Isle of Eriska and the Airds Hotel in Port Appin, where he also won 3 AA Rosettes. On his menus you’ll find loads of fresh fish, seafood, game like grouse, and venison. Perhaps now you’ve got expectations as high as mine were.

We began the meal in the Torridon Hotel’s drawing room with aperitifs, almonds, and olives. I sipped on a Linkwood and looked over the day’s menu. 1887 presents you with the choice of a three-, four-, or seven-course meal. The three- and four-course meals require you to make some decisions while the seven-course meal provides a taste of everything. We all settled on the four-course dinner before entering the beautiful dining room where waiters lay napkins in our laps.

The first thing I noticed was the tasteful table decoration replete with what looked like a river stone crowned with rock salt and a generous slab of butter. A short while later waiters arrived with the first of three snacks, items we had not ordered: Radish dipped in cream and butter with maldon salt. Crunchy, slightly creamy, and salty with a mild tang. A nice palate cleanser to begin the meal. The second snack (not pictured) was a black pudding Scotch egg made with quail egg and stood up in a small porcelain cup. We ate the little croquette with our fingers, and the mixture of crunchy and creamy textures, rich, savory interior, and slight heaviness played well after the radish. Our trio of snacks ended with a spoonful of pistachio ice cream, beer cream, and smoked herring roe. Easily the most wild of the three snacks, it was sweet and intensely salty from the roe though the ice cream and cream were refreshing cleansers in their own right. Very interesting!

A gorgeous loaf of white and brown bread wrapped in a burlap covering arrived after the snack plates had been cleared away. Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, the bread had a delicious, delicate flavor that kept us coming back for more. I restrained myself, but with the butter and a little bit of salt it could have been a meal unto itself.

I chose the soy oysters with white cabbage and cucumber-oyster juice yogurt sauce for my starter. All of the ingredients lay upon a razor thin slice of white cabbage while bits of pickled cabbage crowned the oysters. This was delicious. Salty oyster and vinegary cabbage married together in a kind of seafood Tzatziki. Sarah chose the cornfed chicken with mushrooms, onions, and lentils, which, beyond the amazing presentation (see below), showcased the delectable local produce.

I was already feeling very happy when the main courses exited the kitchen. I opted for the North Sea cod with shrimp Hollandaise. Cod usually isn’t the most exciting fish but this preparation was amazing. The fish was moist and flavorful and coated in that wonderful Hollandaise. The sauce was beautifully balanced between shrimp and cream. Buttery potatoes and charred cauliflower lay in a parabola around the fish that provided flavor contrasts. The flavors truly came together to create a dish greater than the sum of its parts.

Sarah selected the Highland beef with cep (a type of mushroom), leeks, and crosnes (an avant-garde vegetable somewhere between Jerusalem artichoke and water chestnut). The beef was expertly cooked to medium-rare, and something in its preparation reminded us of seaweed. The combination was unexpected, though the quality of that meat might well have ruined all other steaks for me.

I’m not a cheese-course dessert guy, so I went with the caramelized pear with caramel ice cream and pear and sorrel purée for my last course. This was light, herbaceous, green, and fresh with just the right amount of sweetness from the pear and ice cream. A salty sweet crumble hid beneath the smooth ice cream and served to highlight the flavor notes of the produce.

All of us were glowing as we drifted back into the drawing room for petit fours and coffee. The meal lasted a solid two and a half hours, and I was sad to see it end. In all of his dishes Chef Barnett showed restraint, a flair for visual appeal, incredible flavor combinations, and a mastery of texture. He allowed the quality of 1887’s produce to shine through and amplified it with his skill and technique. This was easily one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

Torridon is a destination for many reasons: The beauty of its setting, the quality and luxury of the hotel, and, last but not least, the magnificence of its food. 1887 Restaurant is the perfect place to splurge on an excellent meal in a romantic and unforgettable setting.

Disclosure: The Torridon Hotel and 1887 Restaurant provided me with a complimentary meal. All opinions expressed here, as always, are my own. 

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