Julia Bryce and Susan Welsh take a look back at some of the long-lost treasures of the Inverness dining scene…
It’s always sad to see a popular local establishment close its doors, but, particularly in a time of so much uncertainty, it’s nice to look back and remember those venues we once enjoyed visiting.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen one or two casualties in the hospitality scene of late, yet with so many businesses continuously adapting, it is great to see how collaboration and innovation has seen them through.
From launching takeaway services to teaming up with other firms to bring a more substantial offering to customers, the sector is one to be celebrated for being as positive as it has through hardship.
In this article we raise a glass to the gems we’ve lost over the years, with a strong reminder that supporting local has never been more important.
Here are some of our favourites that are gone but not forgotten..
The Joy of Taste – Church Street
When The Joy of Taste restaurant opened its doors on Church Street it offered not just a superb fine dining menu, but a new concept in dining to the Highland capital.
The brainchild of local publican and Hootenanny music venue owner, Kit Fraser, this was a joint venture which saw trained volunteers work as waiting staff, serving high-end, professionally-made dishes at very reasonable prices.
Prices were able to be kept low as, instead of taking a wage, many of the staff opted to enjoy a delicious dinner, glass of wine and good company at the end of their shift instead.
Initially diners were encouraged to share tables with other guests in the swish, modern bar restaurant which had previously been a cafe specialising in pancakes.
But the concept caused some confusion, with some potential diners mistakenly thinking they had to share a table, when really, it was an option designed to encourage new friendships and good conversation.
Despite being deemed a favourite by many locals and visitors, Mr Fraser handed over the reins of his social enterprise eatery to Inverness entrepreneurs, Charlie and Elaine Barbour, owners of the nearby White House Restaurant in 2015.
After getting a new look, the premises re-opened as The Ivy Bar and Kitchen, but it too closed its doors for the last time last year.
So Coco – High Street
So Coco on the High Street enjoyed a prime spot directly opposite the historic Town House. It was a huge hit with lovers of good coffee, hot chocolate-based treats, and melt-in-the-mouth chocolates.
The coffee shop first opened in 2013 and fed thousands of customers during its five years of operation.
Among the favourite items were breakfasts, macarons and Spanish-style churros served with a with velvety, dipping chocolate sauce, served in pots that made it hard not to lick them clean!
But in January last year, So Coco closed its doors leaving 15 staff out of work and hundreds of disappointed customers.
At the time, owner, Roy Dinnes, told the Press and Journal that the premises had been sold, which meant the shop had to close, but they were looking for other premises.
The venue is now home to the shop Tartan Tweeds of Scotland.
McGonagall’s Steakhouse and Restaurant – Bridge Street
Famous Scottish poet, William Topaz McGonagall, was the inspiration behind the name of McGonagall’s Steakhouse and Restaurant on Bridge Street, Inverness.
He wrote many a poem about Inverness and the surrounding area.
McGonagall’s originally opened in premises above the famous, Gellion’s Bar – on the opposite side of the street to the restaurant – where it was said the poet had at one time, recited his work.
The steakhouse served a wide variety of good steaks, sourced both locally, and from more exotic, far-flung destinations, and liquidators were appointed in November 2018 to close down the business.
The semi-open plan kitchen allowed diners to see the chefs at work, but on occasion, accidentally delivered unexpected wafts of smoke.
After closing its doors, it changed hands and was given a complete, very stylish refurbishment, opening as Nar, which offered a Mediterranean menu in glamorous surroundings.
Most notably, the entire ceiling had been rebuilt to accommodate new fans, giving it an exotic Turkish-style look.
A new venture for Jad, owner of the popular Cinnamon Indian Restaurant in Inverness, it sadly too announced in September this year, that it was to close.
Morrison’s Bakery and Snack Bar – Queensgate Arcade
Anyone remember Morrisons Bakery in the Victorian Market Inverness? Through the back and upstairs was the tearoom.⬇ ("meat your friends here") 😆
Established in 1975, Morrison’s Bakery and Snack Bar, was housed within the Queensgate Arcade, also known as the ‘Victorian Market’.
On the lower floor there was a traditional bakery and towards the near, a staircase leading up to the snack bar.
It attracted a variety of customers ranging from schoolkids and teens working part-time in the market, to young parents, office workers and retired folk looking for a traditional, good value meal.
The menu included staples like pie, beans and chips, sausage rolls, tomato soup, well-filled sandwiches and cakes washed down with gallons of strong, hot tea.
Advertising posts encouraged people to ‘Meat’ their friends there.
The company was dissolved in July 2019.
The Locarno Cafe – Academy Street
The Locarno Cafe on Academy Street was owned and run by Renzo Serafini.
It had two entrances, one on Academy Street and one within the Victorian Market.
The street entrance also housed a shop area with a tremendous selection of sweeties, all looking fabulous and tempting in gleaming glass jars.
The cafe served a selection of traditional coffees which gave it a wonderful aroma, while it was a regular favourite with ice cream fans, too.
This is a fantastic image of the Locarno Cafe on Academy Street back in the 70's which is sure to bring back lots of…
Rendezvous Restaurant – Ness Walk
The Rendezvous Restaurant was located on the busy waterfront at Ness Walk and is now home to popular Scottish eatery Rocpool Restaurant which opened in 2002.
The sleek, stylish brasserie is based on the riverside and boasts castle views, making it an excellent choice with locals and tourists alike.
Crawfords – Queensgate
Located on Queensgate in the heart of Inverness, Crawfords had a bakery which baked fresh goods every morning at street level, enticing customers in with its delicious smells.
One level down you would find a popular restaurant which served up an array of tasty dishes to diners of all ages.
Castle Restaurant – Castle Street
Announcing its closure earlier this month due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Castle Restaurant on Castle Street will officially close its doors for the last time after service on Saturday November 21.
The restaurant, famed for its crinkle-cut chips among other hearty home-cooked meals, first opened to customers in 1959 and has fed thousands over the years to become one of the Highland capitals most-beloved eateries.
Owners Lorraine and Richard Comfort, who have been at the helm for just more than a year, previously said that a reduction in workforce in the city centre due to the pandemic has significantly impacted day-to-day takings.