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9 of the top restaurant openings in the north and north-east in 2021

Mara is a fine dining restaurant in the Highlands.

It is fair to say this past year the hospitality industry has been challenged more than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From being completely shut down to reopening with tight restrictions in place, local lockdowns across the country and rules and guidance chopping and changing, it has been a year like no other.

However, that said, many have risen to the challenges and some have even managed to successfully open new businesses altogether, including many of the venues we’ve highlighted below.

The Dipping Lugger – Ullapool, Highlands

Opening in Ullapool in September, this restaurant and rooms has proven extremely popular with locals and staycationers alike.

Overlooking the shores of Loch Broom in Ullapool on Scotland’s West Highland Coast, head chef, David Smith, whose background includes training at Le Gavroche and with Tom Kitchin, The Boath House in Nairn and his first head chef role at Ullinish Lodge on the Isle of Skye at 25, where he gained three AA rosettes, has worked tirelessly with his team to serve up incredible meals.

Offering a seven-course menu that celebrates the Highlands’ produce and includes dishes such as Loch Broom oyster, spiced carrot and roe deer, the 18-cover restaurant features ‘The Tasting Room’ where people can enjoy a wee dram or two.

The restaurant is owned by the team behind local gin firm Seven Crofts Gin.

Address: 4 West Shore Street, Ullapool, IV26 2UR

Mara at Links House at Royal Dornoch – Doronoch, Highlands

Luxury fine dining restaurant, Mara, opened at the five-star Links House at Royal Dornoch hotel earlier this year in April.

The Highland venue produces an array of dishes created from sustainable produce within a 20 to 50-mile radius of the restaurant and is headed up by executive chef James McDonald.

For those diners enjoying the seven-course tasting experience, a donation will be made on their behalf to Glen Affric’s Trees for Life Project which is a lovely touch, especially for those conscious about the environment.

Mara has been proving increasingly popular and will definitely be a venue to watch in the coming year.

Address: Links House at Royal Dornoch, Golf Road, Dornoch, IV25 3LW

Orrin Restaurant & Bar – Elgin, Moray

This restaurant has brought a completely new dining concept to the town of Elgin offering just a tasting menu for diners to enjoy.

Spearheaded by head chef and owner, Andy Fyfe, the fine dining style venue’s eight-course tasting menu has been going down a storm since opening at the tail end of November.

Andy has more than 18 years experience working as a chef and the venue is open Thursday to Sunday for lunch and dinner service.

Address: 2-6 South Street, Elgin, IV30 1LE

The Drouthy Cobbler – Elgin, Moray

This laid-back restaurant has seen a complete renovation and is now one of the trendiest places to dine out in Elgin.

Specialising in seasonal comfort food, The Drouthy Cobbler also offers up a range of classic drinks including speciality cocktails.

As well as the indoor venue they also have an outdoor area down the lane where guests can enjoy some fresh air. In winter they have added a gazebo to keep everyone warm, and in summer it is a gorgeous sun trap – and the perfect place for alfresco dining and drinking.

Address: 48a High Street, Elgin, IV30 1BU

Duncano’s Bistro – Westhill, Aberdeenshire

Having just opened its doors earlier this month, Duncano’s is the newest venue to call Westhill in Aberdeenshire its home.

The venue offers somewhere to relax and enjoy a coffee, and will also make for a perfect place to celebrate a special occasion.

Open for breakfast, lunch and offering small plates in the evening, this stylish venue is a must-visit if and when you are in the area.

Address: Unit 17, Westhill Shopping Centre, Old Skene Road, Westhill, AB32 6RL

Masaki – Aberdeen

The mastermind behind Aberdeen’s The Sushi Box, Atisaya Aitcheson, has relaunched her business and has opened a new restaurant called Masaki.

Based in the former home of Yatai on Langstane Place, and neighbours to late-night cocktail bar Orchid, Masaki is a Japanese eatery.

While they do not have a license to serve alcohol just yet, you can bring your own booze and there is also a range of soft drinks to enjoy.

The menu consists of everything from nigiri to uramaki, sushi rice bowls, ramen and more. There are also usually daily/weekly specials and a range of desserts from local baking firm Fat Batch.

Address: 53 Langstane Place, Aberdeen, AB11 6EN

The Albyn – Aberdeen

Reopening to the public under new ownership, The Albyn has experienced huge success since opening its doors once again in November.

The stylish restaurant and bar is based in the West End of Aberdeen and has been taken over by Simon Cruickshank and his wife, Christie, who have invested a seven-figure sum into resurrecting the iconic restaurant, bar and nightclub.

The venue now has a stunning garden room where guests can enjoy a range of dishes, cocktails and drinks.

Address: 11 Albyn Place, Aberdeen, AB10 1YE

Travancore Restaurant – Aberdeen

Travancore is one of Aberdeen’s newest Indian restaurants to hit the foodie scene. Offering up south Indian cuisine, specifically from the Kerala area, enjoy dishes of which the recipes have been handed down generation to generation.

With authentic flavours, pop in for dinner Tuesday to Thursday or for lunch, too, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

They also offer a delivery and takeaway service as well with a whole menu stuffed with snacks, starters, mains and dessert options.

Address: 11 Holburn Street, Aberdeen, AB10 6BS

Cartoos Grill House & Desserts – Aberdeen

We couldn’t not mention the restaurant that opened in Aberdeen in August that has robot waiters, could we?

Cartoos on the Beach Promenade opened its doors with two robot waiters in its brigade. Designed to assist the staff, they can take guests to their table, deliver food to them which guests have to take off the trays, and take dirty plates away, too.

Sunny Bhatti, owner of the eatery which also has an ice cream parlour called Love Ice Cream within it, wanted to bring something unique to the beachfront.

And he certainly has. One of our restaurant reviewers sampled the fare earlier this month and really enjoyed their meal.

Address: 3-9 Esplanade, Aberdeen, AB24 5NS

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