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No. 1 Bistro at Mackay's Hotel - Wick

web: www.mackayshotel.co.uk | email: info@mackayshotel.co.uk

No. 1 Bistro at Mackay's Hotel
Ebenezer Street
Wick
KW1 5ED

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tel: 01955 602323


And at No. 1


Published 20/09.2008


Score 28/30



EVER gone to a restaurant and forgotten your reading glasses? Dashed annoying, is it not? Your arms never seem long enough to get the type on the menu in focus.


Wick's No 1 Bistro at Mackay's Hotel has the solution, though. As well as dishing up some rather fine grub, it also sells those magnifying glasses that are the saviour of any absent-minded spectacle wearer.


The spectacles - for the more fashion-conscious, it has to be said, and considerably more expensive than the £2 versions from a high-street chemist - are housed in one of two impressive displays at the bistro, whose entrance is on Ebenezer Street, the world's smallest street at only 6ft 9in.


The other display at No 1 confirms the hotel's proud record of serving up local produce. It shows pictures of the champion cattle and prime sheep that it has bought at the nearby Caithness Livestock Centre, at Quoybrae, run by Aberdeen and Northern Marts.


It is a great shame that many other establishments do not follow the lead of hotel owner Murray Lamont in supporting local farmers by buying direct from them and paying a premium price.


Having had to make do with a sandwich for lunch as they had run out of mince in Kirkwall - yes, no mince in Orkney, where the cattle population outnumbers humans by three to one - I was somewhat hungry.


No 1's menu certainly made me salivate. It was filled with delicious local produce, including Wick haggis and potato scone, Highland venison, Caithness beef and sea bass and Scrabster haddock.


That said, there was also Scottish free-range chicken, Scottish salmon, hot smoked mackerel and Caithness lamb sausages.


There was just one item on the bill of fare that I turned my nose up at - goat's cheese souffle. I have yet to appreciate goat's cheese as a food source. Goats smell awful, and so does their cheese, which tastes equally bad as the whiff they give off.


No 1's staff are young, but they were as keen as mustard to secure my order.


I was taken in by the blurb and opted for the Cullen Skink, for which No 1 says on the menu it has an enviable reputation. Main course was a 10oz sirloin steak sourced from those wonderful people at Mey Selections who have done so much - with a little help from the Prince of Wales - in boosting the fortunes of livestock producers in the far north.


There were only two words to describe the soup - absolutely divine.


I had thought an old contact, Norrie Grierson, who used to be mine host at the Pennan Inn, in picturesque Pennan, used to be the bee's knees when it came to Cullen Skink.


But Mr Lamont and his team beat even Norrie. Their soup was wonderfully creamy and came with chunky potatoes and what seemed like an entire smoked haddock. I could have gorged myself on it for the rest of the evening, but resisted the temptation.


The steak was wonderful, and oh so tasty.


The home-made chips it was served with were excellent although, if nitpicking, the broccoli and carrot batons were slightly cold.


The local theme continued into the desserts, with Halkirk strawberries on offer and home-made ice cream. For the more adventurous, there was watermelon and blackberry jelly with home-made rasp sorbet or a dark chocolate cake with blueberry ice cream.


I opted for the Highland cheeses, a selection that came from Orkney, I discovered, after sending the waitress back to the kitchen to find out their provenance.


The cheeses were served with home-made chutney and oatcakes, although my ever-persistent bugbear was that the biscuits appeared to be rationed.


No 1 was extremely busy on the night that I visited, but that did not faze the youthful staff. Mr Lamont also visited every table and spoke to the diners, which was good to see.


My only issue was over the wine. I wanted a bottle of Chardonnay, but the barman shook his head on being told of my request by the waitress. She came back not with the wine list to make another choice, but said I couldn't get that and instead pointed me to the laminated wine list on the table.


It offered only glasses of wine, so it was a case of ordering one with the soup and then selecting a rather fruity Echo Point Shiraz from Australia's Limestone coast to accompany my steak.


All in all, it was a very pleasant meal in wonderful surroundings that really hammered home that this was an eatery proud to serve local produce. If only others would follow No 1's example we would have two of Scotland's prime rural industries - agriculture and fisheries - rejoicing.


Here's hoping No 1's enthusiasm proves highly infectious across the rest of Scotland and that those who source from catering giants see the error of their ways.


My meal, with two glasses of wine, a cider and pot of tea, came to £45.55.


No 1 Bistro at Mackay's Hotel, Ebenezer Street, Wick. Phone 01955 602323, or visit www.mackayshotel.co.uk

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