Two and a half years ago, we made the trip to Skye to sample Michael's food. We had heard so much about him, all good, and within the industry, his reputation is second to none. He's both a chef's chef, and a chef that makes every meal a genuine pleasure. At that time, he was cooking at The Three Chimneys, and we had the best of times there. The food was without doubt spectacular, but what stays in my mind even more than the food was the hospitality we received from Michael and his team. Such heartfelt warmth takes the restaurant-guest relationship to a new level and we were smitten.
Well, for those who don't follow Skye News, things have changed somewhat and Michael is no longer at The Three Chimneys but has opened his own restaurant on Skye alongside Loch Bay on the Waternish peninsula on the north-west part of the isle. It's appropriately named Loch Bay Restaurant. Some things are quite different from his old gaff, the restaurant for example has only about 20 covers, is almost a neighbourhood restaurant in feel and the food sits in both style and price point more appropriate for that vibe (with no white table cloths in sight). But there is also much that is familiar: a celebration of local produce, exquisite cooking and hospitality as warming as a Talisker on a cold winter's night. And Michael is not the only familiar face you'll see from the Chimneys either, as Izzy (pastry) and Graeme (FOH) have made the journey with Michael also. Yet despite the restaurant only opening this year, it already feels a happy place, and it already feels a place with soul derived from a chef and a team with a sense of purpose rooted in the local community.
Menu-wise, there's an a la carte option (£37.50) that offers on both starters and mains a choice between a fish dish, a meat dish and a vegetarian option. There's also a seafood tasting menu (£55) drawing upon the fact that in Skye, nowhere is more than 6 miles from the sea and the local produce from those clear waters is as good as it gets. You should also be prepared to dust down your Scottish, especially come dessert as you perhaps decide between Cranachan and a Clootie Dumpling. For the quality of the produce used, and the quality of the cooking delivered, the menu is without doubt a bargain making repeat visits not only viable but an absolute no brainer if you're staying on the island for week as we were. And the menu does change daily such that over three meals there, as well as the varying fish course, we also enjoyed partridge, hare and mallard as main course options. I should add at this point also that the wine list is as easy on the wallet as the food.
The food is smart but also comforting, so you might choose to start with a comforting Smokey Bree (that is Brew/Soup of crustaceans) or a crab risotto with razor clams, fennel and chilli (see pictures below for our Friday night menu). And with the restaurant being a small intimate affair, the kitchen is similarly scaled, so it will be Michael himself who has personally added that vital ingredient - love - to each of your hot dishes. The outcome is, no surprise, perfection in every dish. Oh, and you must try the Clootie Dumpling for your pudding at least once during your stay, it's a masterpiece.
I always used to say back in the heyday of the blog, if you want to know which restaurants bloggers really like, see which restaurants they return to eat at. On the first occasion of eating Michael's food and receiving his hospitality, I was so sad when it was time to leave that I knew I would return despite the restaurant being, well, let's say not local to me. And so deciding this year where to spend my holiday, I chose Scotland, and I chose Skye, and I chose Michael, and with the holiday now over, I can say that the journey was most certainly well worth it and we were amply rewarded with good food, warm hospitality and now happy memories.
Further information: Loch Bay Restaurant website
Additional thoughts: Loch Bay is open for lunch and dinner (check the website for details). If you are looking to visit Skye for the day by car, a nice loop might be: arrive via the Skye Bridge and visit Skye's main settlement of Portree in the morning, which is a beautiful harbour town, then take a short drive to Loch Bay Restaurant for lunch, after which a visit to Skye's only whisky distillery (Talisker) rounds out the day nicely and leaves you well placed for returning to the mainland again via the bridge.