Surely it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood knocks on Eddie and Shirley Spear’s door and asks to make a movie of their lives.
Not sure who they are? Well here’s a clue. It’s half past one on a dreich Monday and after dodging sheep determined to share the same single track road in Colbost, a pretty north-west corner of Skye, the gable end of a white-washed cottage looms into view.
What’s unusual is the sight of lots of cars, some parked with gay abandon outside the cottage overlooking Loch Dunvegan, as it’s a remote part of Skye.
The car park was full you see, filled with diners visiting the Three Chimneys Restaurant, owned by Eddie and Shirley.
Despite summer being some way off, even on a Monday, the place was packed – demand often outstrips supply here.
The couple’s story is the sort Hollywood loves. They moved here from Surrey nearly 30 years ago, following their dream of opening a small bistro that served traditional Scottish dishes.
Despite having no formal training or experience, word quickly spread about Shirley’s use of local seafood and produce.
Fast forward 28 years and the latest project at this world-renowned restaurant is a structural development programme of the kitchen, restaurant and rooms at the adjacent building, The House Over-by, costing around a third of a million pounds.
A kitchen table has also been launched, where guests can eat while watching the team of chefs, headed by the multi-awarding winning chef/director, Michael Smith, at work.
So that’s the story; but does it live up to the hype?
From the traditional windows in the converted cottage, there are lovely views across the small but colourful garden and the loch itself.
Nothing about it says: “I’m famous – look at me!”
It’s elegant but understated with exposed stone walls, nice artwork, polished wooden tables and comfortable seats.
The staff, smartly dressed in suits, offer a typical Highland welcome that’s warm and genuinely friendly.
Two-course lunch costs £28.50 or pay £37 for three courses and choose from four starters, four mains, three puddings and a cheeseboard.
My starter, Andy Race smoked haddock and ham terrine with Brunigill Farm quail egg, syboes, apple, orange and nasturtium, sounded like the flavours might compete with each other but that wasn’t the case.
The terrine was sensational, packed with big smoky flavours, while the perfectly cooked quail egg added sweetness, which in turn complemented the zinginess of the apple and orange. In other words, every bite did a little dance on your tastebuds.
My guest opted for individual blackface lamb haggis with Antony’s neeps and greens and a peaty gravy which could be summed up in one word – wow!
If all haggis tasted like this, you’d have no problem getting kids to eat it.
The texture was soft and the flavour concentrated without being overly strong. The vegetables were cut into minute pieces but again, the chef’s skill had them packing a flavour punch well above their weight.
Incidentally, the bread and butter offered with your meal is home-made, and if you eat yours quickly, because it’s so yummy like we did, they’re quick to offer more.
For mains, I chose pan-fried Mallaig hake and Sconser scallop with new potatoes, summer vegetables and Moonen Bay lobster and tarragon butter while, sticking with her meaty starter, my guest chose charred blade, slow-cooked shin and tongue of Black Isle beef with tattie scones, cauliflower, Glendrynoch watercress and pickled onions.
I felt like cheering when my beautifully presented dish arrived as the scallop had its jewel-orange roe attached. I hate it when chefs pinch this to make sauce.
There must be something in the waters at the village of Sconser as the scallop was almost as big as my thick slice of Hake, but despite being bigger than normal it was still deliciously sweet with a nicely caramelised exterior.
The hake had that fresh, just-caught taste while the lobster and tarragon butter was greedily mopped with the last of the home-made bread.
This plate went back cleaner than a whistle, as did the meat dish which delighted my guest so much she began to make gentle, moaning sounds.
Assuming she was doing it to wind me up, I asked to taste the shin and tongue which looked like a dark and sticky over-cooked stew but tasted sublime, hence the unusual noises emanating from our table.
To finish, I chose the iced toddy syllabub with Wester Hardmuir strawberries and aniseed brittle which was a deliciously creamy dessert with just a hint of whisky and a very moreish aniseed brittle which they could easily sell in a sweet shop.
There was a good selection of local and Scottish cheeses available and, seeing my companion unable to decide, the friendly waitress suggested she have a wee taste of them all, which pleased her no end.
Our bill for two three-course lunches, a bottle of sparkling water and two glasses of Casal Garcia rose wine, came to £94.25.
That may seem a lot for lunch, but it really was a magical experience, with first-class local produce being turned into dishes that were special, while the service could not be faulted.
For example, when I asked the waiter for a copy of the menu, he asked me to wait a few minutes then returned with a menu that had been signed by all the chefs, turning something ordinary into something very special.
Three Chimneys Restaurant, Colbost, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Highlands, IV55 8ZT. Phone 01470 511258.