Eat your way around Lewis & Harris
If a destination wants to impress me, it needs to impress my taste buds too. I’m the most glutinous of gannets, and totally unashamed to admit it. The standard of eateries in Scotland’s remote locations can vary wildly, ranging from award-winning fine dining to uninspiring captive-market cafes. As such, I spend as much time researching dining options as I do attractions when planning my next adventure. A disappointing meal is enough to send me into a right wee huff! Thankfully, I need not have worried where Lewis & Harris was concerned.
From the famous beaches and otherworldly landscapes of Harris in the south, to the ancient standing stones and historic villages of Lewis in the north, this Hebridean gem has a lengthy list of attributes. I’m delighted to endorse its outstanding culinary offering as one of them, giving Lewis & Harris a big foodie thumbs-up from me.
Superstar scran options are in abundance, operating within various settings across the island; butchers, distilleries, crofts, road-side cabinets and sea-view restaurants. Here are my tasty suggestions for eating your way around Lewis & Harris. Remember, I only recommend places I have experienced for myself, so if I’ve missed out somewhere fantastic, it’s likely on my list for next time.
Let’s get stuck in.
– Lewis –
Digby Chick – for the finest food in Stornoway
5 Bank Street, Stornoway
I discovered this small-town gem on my second visit to the HebCelt Festival, and after a weekend of festival food and late-night chippy indulgence, it was like an oasis in the dessert. Myself and some friends decided to restore the balance, and partake in a civilised lunch, after the previous day’s festival exertion. Enthused, and somewhat dishevelled, we slid into a booth within the restaurant’s modern interior. I started an argument with myself over what to order, and repeated this exact behaviour on my return two years later. A testament to the delightful menu, of course.
Local ingredients and the freshest of fish are served beautifully, boasting flavours and textures which warrant a round of applause from your taste buds upon impact. My most recent experience involved crab cakes & crispy squid followed by pork belly with apple crumble mash. Delicious!
Charles MacLeod Butcher – for black pudding
Ropework Park/Matheson Road, Stornoway
Welcome to the home of Scotland’s celebrity black pudding. The authenticity and reputation of this fine animal product is taken very seriously, with the Stornoway trademark being reserved only for the two butchers based on the island who make the black pudding; no imitations allowed! Charles MacLeod, also known as ‘Charlie Barley’, has multiple awards under his apron thanks to this famous food. The secret to its success are the handful of quality ingredients, the spot-on seasoning, and the absence of any artificial nonsense or nasties. The result? A delicious unrivalled flavour with a crumbly, melty texture.
Stornoway black pudding is as much at home in a fine-dining dish as it is with a full Scottish breakfast, however you cannot beat buying it straight from the source; it’s a novelty, and it’s compulsory – as stipulated by ME. On my first trip, I waited until the last day to purchase my souvenir black pudding. It was a Sunday…
Oops! Be sure to pop-in when it’s actually open to stock up and enjoy.
Loch Croistean Coffee Shop & Restaurant – for sweet treats
Lochcroistean Old School, Lochcroistean
On the vast and wildly gorgeous drive to Uig beach, a toilet break seemed unlikely. Little did we know the perfect pit-stop was nearby. Contained within an old school house, the café takes its name from the nearby Loch Croistean. The interior is quirky and full of character, with high ceilings and vintage trinkets. We stocked up on water and tray bakes for the journey, and agreed it was a shame we wouldn’t get a chance to dine there this time around.
Pronto Pizzas – for hangover emergencies
7 Bank Street, Stornoway
Most commonly frequented by locals on their way home after a knees-up in the pub or in Era Nightclub at the weekend, it’s not one of my standard foodie recommendations. I must mention it however, for one reason only. I will not declare that the pizzas are fantastic, but what I can highly commend them for is delivering the goods almost straight to our tent at the Laxdale Campsite. With an intense HebCelt-hangover-hunger, and little energy to negotiate the walk into town, this was a much-appreciated service. It tasted like the best thing on earth at the time. Bless you, pizza saviours!
– Harris –
The Anchorage – for a seafood dinner
Ferry Road, Leverburgh
I liked The Anchorage from the word go. I called to suss out the dress code, in the hope we wouldn’t have to extend our journey by returning to the hostel to ditch the day-wear. I was warmly reassured that most diners walk in windswept or just off the beach, so our walking boots and waterproofs were completely acceptable. Perfect!
The cute and informal setting is dressed in nautical accessories, and blessed with close-up sea views. Seafood is the star of the show at The Anchorage, however the varied menu features multiple meaty options too. The fish pakora were perfectly formed and totally delicious, and the seafood pasta was so good, I decorated my cream top in sauce splashes to celebrate. A dessert was clearly unnecessary given my limited stomach capacity, but that obviously didn’t stop me. The chocolate fondant with pistachio ice-cream was a rich and heavenly conclusion to our dining experience.
Mote Bar, Hotel Hebrides – to eat out on Sundays
Pier Road, Tarbert
After my mishap with the black pudding on my first visit to Lewis, we were more than aware of the Sunday-shutdown on the island, and had resigned ourselves to self-catering for the day. It transpired however, that right in the centre of Tarbert, the Hotel Hebrides was packed with locals and visitors, tucking into a Sunday scran. We decided to join them.
The bar menu features classic pub favourites and a separate pizza menu. I enjoyed a pleasant wee plateful of haggis, neeps & tatties in a whisky sauce, followed by a dram, and some chatter with the local waiter about the distinct identities of Lewis & Harris; geographically they are absolutely the same island, but local politics may suggest otherwise. While it was not the most memorable of meals, it was casual, satisfying, and saved us from cooking. I would return on a Sunday to try the carbonara pizza – yum!
Croft 36 – for honesty and home cooking/baking
Being No. 1 on Trip Advisor for Harris, my visit to this unique wee culinary croft was eagerly anticipated. It is an island-style takeaway/ food delivery service, with not a morsel of junk food in sight. Instead, Julie and her husband Steve are passionate about transforming fresh produce into delicious delights. Now, let’s talk about the charming venue.
When you drive into the village of Northton, there’s a wee wooden hut by the side of the road. Inside you’ll discover fresh pies, rolls, pastries and soup, alongside a pricelist and honesty box. Genius! Stop by early in the day for the full selection and to grab the rolls while they’re still warm. After almost turning into one, I can confirm that the frangipane tarts absolutely lived up to their glowing online reviews. SO good.
We also ordered from the evening meal menu, and since our hostel was too far from the delivery service, we collected our box of home-cooked goodness on route back from our afternoon trip to Berneray. Everything was wonderful, from the crab ravioli and fish curry (accompanied by chapatis and onion bhajis) to the pancakes with an orange & whisky sauce. All enjoyed in the comfort of the hostel kitchen, before face-planting the couch.
Isle of Harris Distillery – for Kate’s Canteen
My visit to the distillery served up a couple of wee surprises. The first was that it is in fact a whisky distillery, and that the gin is simply a bonus gift to the world while the whisky is maturing. Who knew?
*most people apart from you Kay*
Anyway, the Isle of Harris Gin already has a multi-award winning and much-loved status. Like Harris Tweed, it is becoming a widely-recognised brand which shines a light on the remote Hebrides, and encourages people to visit the land which lends itself to this tremendous tipple. Alcohol aside, I was also surprised to find a damn-fine food offering within the distillery.
Managed by South African restauranteur & honorary islander Kate MacDougall, the food in the canteen is certainly not an afterthought; it’s an extension of the quality and care which is applied throughout the distillery. We grabbed some bacon and mushroom soup to takeaway with us, and there were resounding echoes of ‘Mmmmmm’ in the car thereafter. Aye, it was only soup, but it was really delicious. This certainly bodes well for the rest of the menu. I’ll be back as soon as the first batch of ‘The Hearach’ whisky has been bottled, and will sit in the canteen this time, alongside the visitors and distillery staff, who know all too well how good the food is.
The Hebridean Mustard Company
By the roadside
The honesty system is one of the things that I love most about the Scottish Islands. Perhaps because having something like this in the city is such an impossible dream. The islands have this wholesome and endearing sense of trust, unlike anywhere else I’ve been. As we drove between Leverburgh and Northton, I noticed a blue wooden cabinet at the side of the road, and knew we had to investigate.
We turned the key and opened the door to ‘the wee mustard-hut’, to find little jars of handcrafted mustard and pesto within. Not being a fan of mustard, I opted for red pesto instead and deposited my coins through the built-in money slot. Feeling far more pleased with myself than if I’d purchased the item in a shop, I packed away my prized jar of pesto for safe-keeping, until I returned to Edinburgh and drowned my pasta with the stuff. Lovely!
Coming soon to a blog near you…
Isle of Scalpay, Things to Do on Lewis, and a day trip to Berneray
Which of these foodie finds appeals the most to you?
Do you have any other recommendations for my next visit?