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EMMA HARRISON: Is Inverness a foodie capital of the UK?

By Emma Harrison

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Plenty of options in the Inverness area.
Plenty of options in the Inverness area.

We are constantly getting social media feeds spotlighting hospitality businesses winning food and drink awards, and see restaurant weeks and festivals in other major UK cities – so what about Inverness? Is it an award-winning capital for food and drink offerings too? Should we be promoting a restaurant week?

The answer to those questions, in my opinion, is absolutely yes. After having spent months researching food and drink experiences in various destinations and analysing what we have right here in Inverness and the surrounding area, it’s clear to say that Inverness should be right up there for a visitor’s choice in picking a ‘foodie’-based break. We offer unique cuisine, and the best service there is – heartfelt Highland hospitality.

Let’s start with the Victorian Market: Everyone loves a cake, and Bad Girl Bakery are masters in making those, as well as the savoury goodies they offer. In addition, the Highland Food and Drink Trail is doing a great job in promoting local producers offering us the freshest, local fast food and making it a reason alone to visit the capital of the Highlands. Within the market, there’s also an array of food and drinks to try including delicious seafood at Redshank, the pop-ups featuring Invercannich Farms freshly made burgers, and Moonshine selling beers, wine, cocktails and more. Spending an evening in the Victorian Market feels a little bit like you’re on your holidays and seeing it become more popular over time, especially this summer, is lifting.

I rabbit on about them a lot, but Quila Cridhe in Drumnadrochit offers a French toast toastie that always makes a delicious impression on me, but they are amongst many other lovely cafés in the region. In the past few years especially, artisan cafés have been on the rise, making it much more attractive for city-goers to pop by for a closer look. Velocity is one example – their newest menu includes fluffy pancakes and more than just your full breakfast offerings that many are looking for. Though of course, there is still a place for that, and places like Charlie’s Café hit the spot for many as soon as they come off a bus.

Fine dining seems to have increased significantly over the years, and since the development of Ness Walk, there are plenty that come to taste the fantastic locally sourced menu and stay in luxury whilst they’re at it. Ness Walk offers a special ‘Supper Club’ – an evening that can only be described as exquisite food with VIP treatment. We look at hotels like the Drumossie that, although on the outskirts of Inverness, is worth the transport needed to arrive there. Their menu offers delicacies such as afternoon teas and a five-star service – a great day out for the locals as well as tourists.

Branching out culturally, Inverness offers traditional Asian cuisine at Hou Hou Mei which had a waiting list all summer for good reason. Tiger on the Wall offers both classic Indian and oriental dishes that seem to be as popular as ever, as both a sit-in and takeaway.

Travelling a little further, the Downright Gabbler in Beauly has an award-winning service, with entertainment as part of your meal. I’ve tried their Highland Banquet and it really was enough to feed a King or Queen. With narration all about history as we ate, the evening was not only a taste sensation but a history lesson too. There’s also a ‘Tipsy Afternoon Tea’ where you will learn how tea, coffee, chocolate and gin changed our world amongst many other events. Plus, you can catch a late bus back from Beauly so can enjoy the tipsy element if you wish.

Around Loch Ness, Foyers Lodge and Lovat Hotel are both outstanding and have menus to suit all. They scream special occasions, or a perfect gift with Christmas around the corner. Perfectly placed, both amazing hotels offer divine food but are very different. Foyers Lodge has a seasonal menu, and a sensational outlook. Lovat Hotel offers afternoon teas with a twist, as well as a tasting menu for the evenings or a three-course set menu – a real treat for anyone that likes their food!

With surrounding breweries and distilleries, the region also offers some cracking beers from Dog Falls Brewery, as well as fantastic whisky from Glen Ord Distillery. The tour in itself is worth the journey, and you can even treat yourself to a local food and drink board whilst you’re at it.

We are home to Inverness Coffee roastery which is hard to beat for coffee in any city, as well as offering vegan lunches at Culture Café & Deli just next door. It’s up to you to decide whether you think Inverness is worthy of a ‘foodie destination’ badge but for me, the rise of more and more local suppliers and local produce on offer, we should be competitors to the larger cities, offering visitors more than what they might expect.

Visit Inverness Loch Ness has a local food and drink networking event on November 2 at the Drumossie Hotel – tickets are just £5 where you can hear all about food and drink offerings in the region, why food tourism is important and meet some of the local producers in the area. Tickets are on sale now.

Sponsored by Visit Inverness Loch Ness.

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