It started as a daydream of a vacation. Charlie Haddock and his partner, Chef Paul Rankin, had gone to a festival at Mhor 84 in Balquihidder. Feeling a bit jaded afterwards, they drove to Skye in a motorhome to visit their friend Michael Smith at the Lochbay restaurant and recuperate. They visited the pub next door.
The Stein Inn sits on the shore in an incredibly beautiful location on the Isle of Skye next to a scattering of whitewashed stone buildings and a small harbor. “We joked with each other,“ wouldn’t it be great to own a place like this? ”Charlie explains.“ Then suddenly we were in Catalonia with my son on vacation a few years later, and Michael calls to say the pub is for sale. We made an offer and it came true. I left London, where I had been for 22 years, with my children. We had fallen in love with the place, of nature, where it is. We received the keys at 6 am on July 12, 2019 and we were open that evening.
Since then the family have embraced island life, adding their own story to the Pub with Rooms, Skye’s oldest inn. “My daughter, who is 16, is in London at school but she comes with her friends every vacation and her waitresses. My son is a junior executive with his motorbike outside. Jack who is only 10 years old, everyone loves him, he loves checking the guests in their room. During the summer they go swimming in the loch at night.
The Stein Inn is the very definition of Scotland’s foodie destination, at the end of a single road, isolated even from the rest of Skye. A secluded place to rest with a glass of wine and seafood. People come from afar to be here, but much of the day’s catch landed within sight of their front door.
“Ian from Loch Bay Shellfish, he brings the crab. There are langoustines literally on the doorstep. The diners can see everything that is going on. Lobster goes from sea to plate in minutes. The fishermen will come in with it.
Charlie has felt a sense of belonging since leaving London, but it has been an adjustment process. “I used to have everything the city had to offer. I feel accepted by the community here, we know our neighbors and we don’t necessarily have that in town. I felt their support during the lockdown.
“Wi-Fi can be a challenge. Obviously, I can’t just walk down the street to buy an avocado from the supermarket. But who needs an avocado for breakfast when you can eat lobster? “Lobster every day! Charlie laughs, “I realized the grass isn’t greener in London, it’s just cut differently. It’s about putting things in perspective.”
The Stein Inn sports the flag of local products. “I actually have the Skye Flag, which I need to display outside. I’m a blower, but everything we do is about local suppliers and sustainability. We are full until November and we are delighted that people are coming from all over the country to visit us. It is an amazing place. Whether it’s fish, lamb, game or mushrooms, we get great food presented to us in the kitchen and we want to present it the right way. ”
Actor Jack Lowden says Scorrybreac is his favorite restaurant in Scotland. “Came that plate of fish that Master D ‘had caught that day and that the brilliant chef had made silly with oranges and sprinkled with Douglas fir. It all worked, ”he explained in an interview this summer.
The master D ‘is the calmly charismatic Will Humphries, a Welshman with a passion for provenance. He does most of the heavy lifting in the dining room, both carrying the plates and telling the story of the ingredients. Ask him about wine and local produce before heading to a nearby table.
The brilliant chef is owner Calum Munro, son of Runrig singer Donnie. Raised in Skye, Calum trained in mainland kitchens before moving to Paris. He returned home and started a dinner club with his parents, cooking food on the Aga family.
It evolved into Scorrybreac, a refined and comfortable dining experience housed in a gloriously kitsch converted fisherman’s house, overlooking Portree Harbor.
There are eight tables in the front room, overlooking the narrow galley which resembles a ship’s galley. “The tasting menu will change from day to day based on the best ingredients, but the style will remain the same,” says the restaurant as the manager’s mantra.
Our visit coincided with a procession of dishes that included monkfish with sea grass and samphire, a combination of hot-smoked cauliflower, rosemary and dried egg yolk before the robust flavors of the beef. Black Angus with carrot and star anise. You can expect to taste locally caught mackerel, Dunvegan roe deer from Northwest Skye, and Staffin rump lamb, often served with vegetables from the local community garden.
Scorrybreac is fast becoming a synonym for modern, safe and sustainable Scottish cuisine.
The Seumas’ Bar is a cathedral of whiskey. A huge cabin with a vaulted ceiling, there is a dazzling collection of malts – over 400 bottles in total from all over Scotland. We are between the Red and Black Cuillins, mountains shaped 60 million years ago by fire and ice, vestiges of an immense volcano sculpted by glaciers. It’s a dramatic setting for a dram.
Black Cuillin Ridge contains 11 Munros and 16 other peaks, the toughest mountain range in the country. Climbers have rejoiced in the informal hospitality of Seumas since it opened in 1987, an extension of the Sligachan Hotel which has stood at this crossroads since 1830.
Whiskey Flights present the easiest way to navigate the portico filled with bottles. The introduction to malts starts with Auchentoshan and jumps to a Balvenie Doublewood via Cragganmore and Glenkinchie.
The selection of island hoppers goes from Arran to Orkney with Highland Park, then Jura before returning to Skye with a 10-year-old Talisker. Enjoy with a platter of local cheeses, oatcakes and chutney.
For more substantial dishes, there’s Cullins’ skink, breaded North Sea haddock with rustic fries, or haggis, neeps and tatties.
Deirdre Curley grew up in Skye before moving to Glasgow. She returned to become the fourth generation in her family to run the hotel with her husband Gary.
Inspired by their landscape, they started Cuillin Brewery in Sligachan. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a pint a few feet from where it is brewed.
Their recent coffee milk stout is a collaboration with Birch café in Portree. A fascinating seaweed IPA is made with hand dipped Loch Sligachan sugar kelp. You can order online at cuillinbrewery.com.