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Douglas Blyde: Kinloch Lodge, Restaurant Review

Published:  05 April, 2011

Kinloch Lodge has received recognition for its wine list from the AA, Scottish Hotel Awards and Michelin. With log fires, plumped cushions and family memorabilia, it feels more of a family home than an hotel. This is unsurprising considering it is the Highland seat of one of the country's most influential cooks and food writers, Claire MacDonald and husband, Godfrey, High Chief of Clan Donald.

On arrival at the bright white building bordering mountains and a sea loch, family member, Tom Eveling greeted me, as all guests, with a flute of toasty blanc de blancs (Philippe Hérard). Self-taught in wine, the former Sky Sports reporter is responsible for Kinloch's cellar as well as day to day management with his wife and daughter of the MacDonald's, Isabella.

Roaming Alsace to New Zealand via Corsica and Lebanon, Eveling describes his selection as 'eclectic'. To inspire guests, it features no fewer than 53 wines by the glass and plentiful halves.

However, in addition to wine, Eveling stocks 80 whiskies including seven expressions of Talisker, Skye's only single malt distillery. Scottish gins also appear, like Caorunn, distilled with botanicals, heather, bog myrtle, rowan berry, coul blush apple and dandelion. Meanwhile, Inverness silver birch sap 'wine' is apparently 'good with foie gras'.

The deep green dining room is festooned with ancestral portraits, one of which shows the impact of a wayward Champagne cork. Here, head chef Marcello Tully is the world's second Brazilian to hold a Michelin star. He told me his sense of purpose stems from the plausible belief that "food makes people happy."

Brought to the table with Californian cradles, wine, beer and Scotch flights are designed to complement different aspects of a dish. These come with printed cards.

Dinner opened with wittily titled 'soupçon' of 'slightly spicy' pea contrasting fluffy homemade goats' cheese bread punctuated with apricot. Tully mentioned savoury use of fruit depicts his Brazilian heritage while generous, concentrated sauces reveal the influence of French training (Albert Roux).

Tenderly treated local scallops ensued, dappled with butter foam and bordered by purées of butternut and cauliflower. Cool white port (NV Churchill's) added vim and candied lemon complementary to the scallops, while nervy two year-old Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige (Tolloy) cleansed the cosy butternut purée away.

Vanilla essence with sea bass on courgette fritter was echoed by cask beer. Matured in new whisky barrels for 77 days, 'Innis & Gunn' proved a seamless match, also working with the largely soft dish's firm courgette cubes.

Finally, silken panna cotta, defined by crème fraîche, collaborated with a near 'frozen' flight of drams of complex, creamy Johnnie Walker Gold and wholemeal and honey scented Dalwhinnie 15. Intriguingly, these changed with warmth. Such alcohol (40-43%) also scythed through bold raspberry coulis.

I imagine Eveling and Tully enjoyed devising such arresting matches as much as I enjoyed sampling them. Here's to another 'Loch in' soon...

Kinloch Lodge, Sleat, Skye. IV43 8QY

Tel: 01471 833333.

Douglas Blyde.