This week, our restaurant reviewer visits the Rocpool Restaurant in Inverness.
It’s like when you bump into an old friend you haven’t seen for years. At first they look just the same, but after a while you realise there are some changes – the haircut’s slightly different, perhaps, or they’ve lost a little weight. But it really doesn’t matter as they are still the same person you’ve always enjoyed catching up with for a chat.
And so it was when we returned to Rocpool after lockdown. As comfortable as visiting an old friend, just one with a few changes. The staff were wearing masks, as were the customers until they were sitting at their table.
The booths which have been the scene of many a celebratory lunch or dinner are now separated by Perspex screens. And there’s quite a lot of routine cleaning taking place, particularly around door handles.
The place seemed as busy as ever, although we smiled when we realised the “people” sitting at the table further up the restaurant were cleverly positioned teddy bears, ensuring social distancing was maintained.
The menu was as good as ever. A great mix of new dishes along with some old favourites. The lunch menu here is always reasonable value, but as this was our first time back we decided to treat ourselves and opted for a mix of the lunch menu and the à la carte menu.
My friend and I have been eating here regularly for more years than we care to remember and often take a flexible approach to ordering, which they’re usually happy to accommodate.
My friend ordered crab cocktail from the main menu as a starter – one of her favourites which regularly appears on the menu. She then ordered a starter from the lunch menu, but as a main course.
I opted for the mozzarella starter from the lunch menu and the halibut from the à la carte menu, but then asked for hand-cut chips rather than polenta. My dislike of polenta has become something of a standing joke here and Steven, the chef / owner, has given up trying to persuade me (I accept his polenta is as fine as any you will find but it makes no difference, I just don’t like polenta).
My buffalo mozzarella salad was deliciously light and zingy with the addition of broad beans, baby zucchini and avocado with lemon and mint.
The crab in my friend’s salad was fresh from the Isle of Skye and combined with watermelon, locally grown baby tomatoes and creamed avocado – it was a super option for lunch.
Rocpool has a well-deserved reputation for its fish and the Isle of Gigha halibut with fresh clams did not disappoint. It was beautifully moist and was served with baby leeks, creamed cauliflower and brown shrimp butter. It should have been accompanied by polenta but this was easily replaced with the aforementioned hand-cut chips.
My dining companion was delighted with her trofie pasta with nduja sausage. Cooked with roasted baby tomatoes, fennel and capers, it had enough spice to keep the tastebuds awake and she felt the portion size was just about right to allow space for dessert.
For after all this time, how could we visit a restaurant and not have pudding!
I have to confess I had never come across Basque cheesecake before – it’s like a New York-style cheesecake but burnt on the top. It looked fantastic and my friend assured me it tasted just as good – creamy but lighter than the traditional version.
Her accompanying fresh berries from Wester Hardmuir were the perfect complement to the cheesecake and also formed the heart of my own dessert, for I had opted for the healthy eating option to finish.
Arguably the strawberry sorbet and hot white chocolate sauce were not quite so good for my waistline, but the combination was a magnificent way to end our first foray into Rocpool since the start of the lockdown. And it’s always a delight to see such a strong commitment to sourcing local produce.
So full were we, coffee was avoided, as we knew it would come with tablet, which would have proved a step too far.
The bill was higher than we would usually pay for lunch as we’d opted for the à la carte menu, but that was entirely of our own choosing.
A return to Rocpool after all these months seemed like a good excuse for a celebration.
1 Ness Walk, Inverness IV3 5NE
t: 01463 717274
- Buffalo mozzarella salad £5.95
- Crab cocktail £14.95
- Halibut £26.95
- Trofie pasta £10.95
- Cheesecake £7.95
- Berries £7.95
- Sparkling water £3.95
- Soda and lime £2.25