Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Restaurant review: Rediscovering the joy of dining out at Cafe One in Inverness

The lamb main course.
The lamb main course.

Cafe One in Inverness is the star of the show as our restaurant reviewer takes a trip there to sample the goods.

Time spent in my kitchen slicing, dicing and preparing food is as good for my soul as an hour in a yoga class or mindfulness session.

That said, I’ve grown bored with my own meals, and been longing for a full-blown restaurant experience again.

Being shown to a nicely-set table, having someone wait on you, the sheer joy of reading a menu full of dishes you haven’t made yourself…

Who would have thought that something as everyday as eating out would become a fantasy for millions? But hurrah!

Fantasy has become reality, and at the time of writing, Inverness is sitting at Level One which means you can eat indoors and be served alcoholic drinks at the same time.

The restaurant interior.

Cafe One, a long-established restaurant located directly opposite Inverness Castle, was our choice of first place to visit post lockdown, and we were delighted to find proprietor, and host with the most, Norman MacDonald on sparkling form, greeting us, locals and tourists, like long-lost friends.

As is the way these days, diners are asked to wear face masks until seated at their table; hands are to be sanitised; contact details are taken for Track and Trace, while staff wear masks at all times.

Apart from that, it felt like a welcome return to normality.

The restaurant comprises a small bar area and two linked rooms, neither of which have windows.

But clever lighting and decor, such as one wall dressed with a golden, shimmering material which reflects light, creates stylish and sophisticated rooms.

More of the restaurant interior.

Adorning the walls are several pieces of modern pop art, which themselves are worth popping into the restaurant to see.

I happened to notice it took exactly eight minutes for our waitress to return to take our drinks order after presenting us with the menus, and had to smile as she apologised profusely for the delay as it’s not unusual to sit for 20-30 minutes in some places before becoming visible.

Meanwhile, a plate of crusty bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar was delivered – designed to be nibbled while studying the menu, but demolished with indecent haste by us as the aromas drifting from the kitchen whetted our appetites.

The food

From a selection of nine starters, any of which I’d have happily had, I plumped for venison and Nduja meatballs, served with rocket, lemon, chilli, parmesan cheese and toasted pine kernels, while my partner selected scallops with cauliflower, semi-dried tomatoes and a Madras vinagrette.

To aid digestion, a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc were ordered.

The combination of Scottish venison and Italian spicy Njuda sausage was a new taste sensation. Perfectly cooked, my trio of meaty, moist meatballs had perfectly balanced flavours so you could taste both meats – one didn’t overpower the other.

The rocket salad, salty parmesan cheese and fresh lemon were clever accompaniments which enhanced the dish.

The salmon dish.

Across the table, the trio of fat, juicy seared scallops, wrapped in crisp and salty pancetta, were also declared a hit.

Beautifully fresh and bursting with flavour, while a Madras dressing added a wee layer of heat.

My partner stayed with seafood for his main course of pan-seared escallop of Scottish salmon, Cromarty Firth white crab, fries and a salad with an ingredient I wouldn’t have thought of serving with salmon – fresh mango.

The dish looked amazing, really colourful and appetising, and he quickly made short work of the two salmon escalopes and zingy salad.

He liked the combination of sweet mango with salty salmon, so I stole a wee piece to try it for myself and while it was tasty, I don’t think it’s one I’ll try to recreate at home.

The lamb main course.

But I’d love to be able to make at home my mains of garlic and rosemary rump of Highland lamb, reared on Cafe One’s own farm, Holly House on the Black Isle, served with black pudding, curly kale, skirlie potatoes and carrot puree.

It was, quite simply, sublime.

The lamb was beautifully tender, and I confess to eating it very slowly as I wanted to savour every mouthful as I was enjoying it so much.

I was equally enjoying the art work, and when the guests next to us vacated their table, I took the opportunity to get up and have a closer look at two of the stunning pop art pieces, one featuring Brigitte Bardot, the other Amy Winehouse.

Reluctant to leave, we decided to end our meal by sharing a cheeseboard, generously loaded with Smoked Dunlop Cheddar, Howgate Brie, Blue Murder (all Scottish), plus Irish Porter and Welsh Black Bomber cheeses, alongside oatcakes, heather honey, quince and grapes.

Raspberry cheesecake is also served at the restaurant as a dessert.

The verdict

A fabulous dining experience from start to finish and a welcome return to normality for us although, we both said later, it felt a little strange to be eating in the same room as others again, and it took us a few minutes to get used to the sound of a noisy, busy restaurant filled with happy diners.

But will we take that over semi-silence and home-cooked meals? You bet.


Cafe One
75 Castle Street, Inverness IV2 3EA
01463 226200
Price: £96.60


Food = 5/5
Service = 5/5
Surroundings = 4/5