So said Frank Bruni in an article in the New York Times in 2008.
I was unaware of this critique/restaurant until I casually mentioned to a friend in my Pilates class that my husband and I were going to Finland and Scotland in July.
"Oh, you must go to this wonderful restaurant in Scotland. Chimney-Something. I hope it is still there," she said.
A quick Google search and an email reservation request confirmed that The Three Chimneys was still around and doing quite well. The only options available for a Wednesday night, even with three weeks notice, were a 9:45 pm seating or a spot at the Kitchen Table for a 7-course dinner.
Guess what we chose?
Sitting out in the middle of nowhere, this upscale restaurant is surrounded by a folk museum (below is the admission 'hut' where you buy a ticket using the honor system).
And parking space, out front, with an incredible view.
Pre-dinner drinks are served in the reception room around the back and the whisky is plentiful.
At 7:30 pm, we were escorted back in through the front door. We walked by the smartly dressed couples at elegant tables, pushed through the swinging door (that separates the front of the house), glided by the busy kitchen staff, and pulled up a chair at our table for eight.
Two of us.
We spent 5 hours, yes, FIVE HOURS, in the kitchen at a big wooden table and we were allowed, heck, invited to stroll around and ask questions, peer into pots and have ourselves a good time.
And we did, oh, did we ever.
At three separate intervals, the chef asked for volunteers so I hopped up to style the food for a fish course and yell loudly for 'service' when it was complete. Later I jumped up to whisk eggs in a copper bowl, by hand, for the soufflés. So much fun. Our table was filled with two delightful couples from Philadelphia, traveling together after bidding on this event at an auction. Another fun couple from Toronto, who went on 6-8 hour hikes during the day and then splurged on fabulous meals, sat across from us.
|Such a pretty seal on the menu!|
Ok, let's eat...
|Loch Dunvegan Langoustines with Tattie Scones & Bridget's Organic Mesclun|
|Colbost Skink, Marag Dubh & Talisker Crumb, Local Croft Egg Yolk|
|Vol au Vent of Loch Bracadale Crab|
|Blackface Haggis Pasty with Anthony's Vegetables|
This is the course I volunteered to 'plate'. The sous chef filled the bowl with crushed coral from the local beach and added the scallop shell while the three of us who 'helped' got to spoon the three sauces. Amazing combination of flavors - who would think to pair a gingerbread cookie with a pan-fried scallop on a bed of asparagus and rhubarb?
A few guys at our table volunteered to plate this dish...so there was some good-hearted ribbing about the number of cherries (and how they were not divided evenly) and the, well, the aesthetic aspect.
Such a FEAST.
And sprinkled between those courses was a small bowl of gazpacho, a cheese plate and fresh breads.
The last thing I tasted was a chocolate coconut truffle.
It was D I V I N E.
So to sum it up.
We talked. We laughed. We ate. We drank. We watched. We learned. We cooked. We were surprised to look over and realize that that kitchen was cleaned up and many of the staff members had left. Of course, by then, it was after midnight and time to head out.
One of those once-in-a-lifetime evenings!
Here are a few shots from the kitchen.
|Chef Michael Smith talking to our group.|
|Ooops, cherry sauce went flying during the plating of the venison course.|
No worries, my husband's shoes now have a souvenir of our great dinner!
Chef Michael Smith was working with a relatively new staff (approx. 3 months on the job) and most came with no culinary training -- which makes the meal just that much more impressive!
He also told us that having the Kitchen Table was really important to him --- a chance to show visitors what was going on behind the scenes and also a way for the kitchen staff to interact with the guests. The chefs are usually behind closed doors and don't get to hear all the comments, compliments and excitement from the diners.