By Eilidh Whiteford
The complete dining experience is a delicacy to be savoured and enjoyed at Scarista House in Harris.
A Grade B listed Georgian building, formerly a church manse, with views of the Atlantic Ocean, heather-covered Harris mountains and a three-mile sandy beach on its doorstep, Scarista House has been open as a restaurant and small hotel for 40 years – with current proprietors Tim and Patricia Martin now playing hosts for nearly 20 years.
And the couple have earned a well-respected reputation over the years, not only for the hospitality offered to hotel guests, but for the traditional, high-quality, fresh food delivered in the House restaurant.
The care taken in the sourcing and preparation of Scarista’s food has been recognised by travel publisher and environmentalist Alasdair Sawday as the only Outer Hebridean restaurant to feature in his ‘Eat Slow Britain’ book.
Scarista House is also listed in the Michelin Guide, the Good Food Guide, and as one of The Times newspaper’s Top 10 Best Places to Eat by the Sea in the UK.
It is Tim and Patricia’s concentration on quality produce and a traditional dining experience which has earned such praise.
“We’ve never followed food fads,” said Patricia. “For us it means we can concentrate on using fresh local produce, making sure the quality of our ingredients is the best, being consistent in that quality, and importantly, not waste food.”
The Scarista House restaurant is open to both hotel guests and non-residents and serves a set menu each day. Booking is essential.
Tim and Patricia – who are joined by chefs Scott MacKenzie and Donald Iain MacLennan in the kitchen – take particular care to cater for vegetarians and vegans also, including delicious hand-made vegan chocolates, and, given advance notice, can provide for most dietary needs.
Breads, cakes, biscuits and ice creams are all hand-made by the Scarista chefs – and produce is always as local and as fresh as possibly available.
“We have a number of set menus, but we do focus a lot on fish and shellfish,” Patricia said. “And we very much focus on sourcing locally.
“Our lobsters for example are caught in Scarista Bay, so when we see the fishing boat bobbing about out there, we know Donald is out catching lobsters and with a quick phone call he’ll drop some of his catch to us when he comes home.”
As well as delicious food, Scarista House also boasts an interesting wine list, with around 80 different wines from suppliers like Les Caves de Pyrene; Geodhuis, and Domaine Direct, with prices ranging from £12 to £120.
A dinner at Scarista House is a whole dining experience with a four-course meal, good wines, and a hearty fire in the library to relax by and enjoy interesting conversations with fellow diners.
Photographs by Lesley Chalmers