With a planning application still to be approved by the local council, organiser Douglas Hardie is set to launch his food and drink trail through the city later this month.
In February, foodies rejoiced at the announcement that Inverness was going to welcome its own street food promenade and be the home to a brand new Highland Food and Drink trail throughout its restaurant and cafe-lined streets.
Though the launch was initially planned for “May at the earliest”, Douglas Hardie of Bad Girl Bakery in Muir of Ord, who came up with the idea, says there are still a few things needing to be ironed out with the aim to launch later this month.
Douglas also welcomed a big sponsor to his project – London North Eastern Railway (LNER) which runs trains from the UK capital right up the coast and into Inverness.
He said: “LNER contacted me because they are really interested in championing local food and drink. They’ve got all sorts of really interesting food and drink schemes at a lot of the stops their trains go to up and down the country that they want people to visit.
“They’d seen a snippet about the Highland Food and Drink trail in Waitrose magazine earlier in the year after it was in the P&J and they’d got in touch because they didn’t have any involvement in anything in Inverness. It’s the final stop on a lot of their trains and they have no presence there.
“The trail is the exact sort of thing they’re wanting to get involved in. So they’re helping us get set up and with purchase costs, and are putting their own social media might behind the whole thing. They’ll be doing some video content about the trail and sharing that on all their channels.
“People don’t need to be encouraged to come to the Highlands and Islands but actually giving them something to do when they get here is absolutely valuable, especially for LNER. They’re really, really excited about it.”
Douglas is hoping it will be all systems go by the middle of this month provided Highland Council approves his pending planning application for his street food “zone”.
“We don’t have an exact launch date but we are looking at mid-July,” he continued.
“We’re waiting for the council to put power points along the promenade on Ness Walk and in the Eden Court area. It’s going to be a specific area that’s going to be dedicated towards the street food aspect of the trail. We don’t want it to be noisy and we want the structure of the street food zone itself to be either trailers or gazebos that can go up when there is street food available and coming down when there’s not.
“With the power points it means there won’t be any generators or additional infrastructure – it’s all very simple, very quiet and very clean. It’s going to be in the prettiest side of town and we want it to be appropriate for that.”
Douglas is also keen for the Highland Food and Drink trail, which will take visitors around some of the top restaurants and cafes in Inverness and finish at the planned “street food zone”, to help promote and support local producers.
He added: “We want to get the marketing of it up and running before we launch the actual event in order to maximise the membership.
“We’re also waiting for the structure of the ‘street food zone’ to be in place and approved by the council, which is part of it. We’ll be pushing the whole local food trail first of all with the idea being for us to focus on that side of town with the small independents, restaurants and cafes.
“Lockdown introduced lots of people to small local businesses and local produce. There’s also a bigger conversation going on about buying local produce over, for example, Australian.
“So there’s lots of stuff happening and we kind of feel that it’s really important and it is also a really good time to be getting the message out to people saying ‘actually local produce is interesting, these are the people who are doing it and this is what they’re doing’.
“The interest we’ve got from local restaurants and cafes is a really broad brush and the idea is that we should be able to attract everyone. There’s also the bigger picture as to how people use the town centre.
“We’re really interested in this idea of Inverness town centre being a place where people are going to eat and to wander around.
“We’ve got lots of restaurants and vendors who have expressed interest in taking part in the trail, but we’re just on the cusp of sending out the membership information and the full details and package for membership.”
Other big sponsors are yet to be announced and a website for both the general public and for members is set to be launched in the coming weeks.