The Skye’s The Limit for the award-winning Three Chimneys
Tempus dines at the newly crowned UK Restaurant of the Year 2018
Tucked away on the wild, blustery coast of the Isle of Skye, The Three Chimneys restaurant is a true Scottish gem in culture, tradition and taste. Whether you choose to arrive by car or helicopter, the journey there will be something to treasure in itself as you pass across the island’s exquisitely rugged natural landscape.
The Three Chimneys, from afar an unassuming crofter’s cottage, was this year awarded the Good Food Guide's UK restaurant of the year 2018, opened back in 1985. Bought by a Scottish couple with a passion for food, Shirley Spears OBE and her husband Eddie began the restaurant’s culinary journey while using the upstairs space as their living quarters. Perhaps this the reason why, despite the evolution in the restaurant over the past three decades, The Three Chimneys still feels like a home away from home.
We arrived at the restaurant on a cold winter’s night to be welcomed across the threshold and into the gloriously cosy dining room with open arms, something which came as a delight to two hungry travellers who had ventured from afar in the highlands. There is nothing I adore and appreciate more than good service, and The Three Chimneys makes this an artform.
As we were seated in the luxurious yet simplistically designed interior, adorned with Skye stone and carpentry, the Maître d’ lead us through the restaurant’s history and the skill of its latest chef Scott Davies over a selection of homemade breads and caramelised seaweed butter - scrumptious. 2013 Masterchef runner-up Davies shares Spears’ passion for simple, fresh, home cooked food that honours the fruits of the Scottish land and sea still delight the many hikers, locals and now visitors from afar that visit the area.
Welsh chef Davies began his career at aged just 16, and soon went on to work at some of the most prestigious establishments in the UK, including Michelin-star The Square under Chef Phil Howard. He is only the third head chef to work at The Three Chimneys in its 32-year history – a lucky role for any chef. With direct access to one of the world’s most sumptuous ‘larders’ including fresh shellfish specialities, Skye boasts a quality of produce many chefs could only dream to have on their doorstep. However, perhaps not all as easy to access as you may think. Scott and Spears have worked tirelessly for years to build personal relationships with the few farmers and fisherman on the island just to ensure the superior supply of produce that The Three Chimneys acquires.
In one instance, Scott applied for certification to have the Soay lamb – featured in his signature dish – bred on Skye. Not an easy feat when the breed was once only found on a separate island, St Kilda. Soay lamb is renowned for its taste – which is all thanks to the selective grazing chosen by the highly intelligent breed of sheep. And it was truly delicious. Denser and more flavourful than your average cut of lamb – and in fact more comparable to Icelandic lamb than most British fare. The dish in question was served with charcoal roasted beetroot, brambles and haggis; earthy deep flavours, showcasing the local produce with a sophisticated flair. Oh, so satisfying for the soul on that Scottish evening.
If I had to pick a favourite dish at The Three Chimneys it would have to be the Dunvegan langoustine and crab, served with Kohlrabi – a turnip flavoured member of the cabbage family, sea herbs and picked and crispy shallots. Both the langoustine and crab are fished on the coast overlooked by Dunvegan castle, which is already rather special in itself. The taste – like everything The Three Chimneys strives for – as pure and as fresh as you could experience.