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Retiring manager recalls the day actor Hugh Grant walked into Mustard Seed restaurant in Inverness

By Val Sweeney

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Christine Robertson is retiring as manager of The Mustard Seed. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Christine Robertson is retiring as manager of The Mustard Seed. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Christine Robertson jokes she almost fainted after actor Hugh Grant walked into The Mustard Seed restaurant in Inverness one Sunday evening.

And then there was the time, well-known food critic and journalist Jay Rayner apparently made her blush when he complimented her on her Orkney fudge cheesecake.

As she retires after 20 years of managing the popular award-winning city centre restaurant, Christine reflected on how she will miss the staff and customers, many of whom have become friends.

“It has been fabulous,” she said. “I have loved every day.”

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The 66-year-old said it had been a hard decision but she had decided to retire due to a recent health issue and is now handing over to Brian Phillips, previously the assistant manager.

Having started her career as a primary teacher, she later became a leisure development officer in Ross and Cromarty and manager of the Averon Leisure Centre in Alness before becoming co-owner of bars, Barbazza and Osbournes, in Inverness.

She then moved to The Mustard Seed, owned by Catriona Cameron and Simon Littlejohn, who she says have been “fabulous” to work with.

“Over the years, we built and opened The Kitchen restaurant, Thirty Degrees Laundry and Art House Apartments,” she said.

“I have been involved with all of these over the years which has been so exciting. It has been really enjoyable.

“I feel very privileged to have been part of it.

Pondering on what made the job and the restaurant special, she replied: “I love the people, the business, our customers.

“We have fabulous support locally and have won awards in the last couple of years from Inverness Business Improvement District (BID).

“We have a great tourist reputation and meet so many people from so many different countries.”

Brian Phillips takes over from Christine Robertson as manager of The Mustard Seed in Inverness. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Brian Phillips takes over from Christine Robertson as manager of The Mustard Seed in Inverness. Picture: James Mackenzie.

In her front-of-house role, she has greeted diners and done her best to ensure they have an enjoyable experience.

“The manager makes sure everything is done correctly and looks after the customers,” she said.

“I try to super friendly and I like to be Miss Organised!

“I have loved working with the young people and training them.

“It is about the team.”

She recalled on one occasion food critic Jay Rayner visited The Kitchen as a customer.

His review in The Guardian afterwards was complimentary about the restaurant and his meal.

He wrote: “At the end there is an Orkney fudge cheesecake, which are surely three words that belong together.

“We are told it is made by the Kitchen’s general manager, that she often makes the dessert of the day. As we’re leaving we thank her for it and she blushes.”

On another occasion actor Hugh Grant, who was staying in Inverness, came to dine at the restaurant.

“I didn’t see him come in,” she said.

“He touched me on the back and I saw it was Hugh Grant. I nearly fainted!”

Although the job has involved long and unsocial hours, Christine has relished her work.

“In hospitality, I don’t measure work by hours.

“It is important we love where we work and what we are putting out and serving to the customers.”

Like all hospitality businesses, The Mustard Seed had felt the impact during the covid pandemic but she is proud it managed to hold on to its staff.

It also operated a takeaway service.

She found it difficult not having the daily contract with colleagues and customers but walked with her dog every day for three months up Craig Dunain.

Having retired, Christine, who has three sons, hopes to spend more time with her four grandchildren and in her garden as well as visiting her sister in Australia.

She also enjoys swimming in Loch Ness, has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Epilepsy Scotland and cycled Death Valley with friends Ali Davidson and the late John Macrae for Highland Hospice and Epilepsy Scotland as well as taking part in many local cycling events.

Since announcing her retirement, she had been touched to receive hundreds of posts, texts, emails and cards.

She said her successor, Brian Phillips, had a great attitude towards customers.

“He is super with customers,” she said. “He is very accommodating and very kind.

“It gets so busy in here but he will sail with it.”

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