Right then, now it is time for the award for restaurants.
In Scotland they were shut at the start of the year. Then it was by reservation only inside.
I think my first restaurant meals inside (whilst traveling) were at the Glenelg Inn in May. I stayed there for 2 nights. I liked that place a lot, partly because it is so far off the beaten track. Perhaps I will book to go back in 2022.
May took me to Lewis and Harris as well, via Inverness. The dinner I remember from that trip was in HS-1 in Stornoway. Scallops and black pudding.
August brought the start of my Change-of-Scene overnight escapes, for their therapeutic value as much as the travel experience. The first took me to Edinburgh, and brought dinner at a Kurdish restaurant – Erbil. It was amazing. Fatoush, a kebab, rice, bread and ayran (I have forgotten the Kurdish word for it).
I visited Aberdeen twice on C-o-S breaks, and both times I ate at Tango Turtle – Caribbean food. Good value, excellent service and really enjoyable food.
I had a fun C-o-S night in Glasgow too, in August, including dinner at Cafe Antipasti. Pizza, tiramisu, a couple of glasses of wine, and coffee. I loved it.
Of course it does not need to be a big dinner, or a fancy one, to be fun or memorable. In Cromarty in September I had pizza à la boîte and a beer in the street, and loved it.
My holiday in Portugal was a real highlight of the year, and the food side of it was outstanding. As well as going on a food tour in Porto, I enjoyed several local restaurants.
I have found it really difficult to choose a winner in this category. In spite of it all, I have been spoiled for choice. Some restaurant experiences which were excellent, but nothing out of the ordinary, became much more memorable as a result of the pandemic situation.
To give an example, I had a big bowl of mussels at the Kimberley Inn in Findhorn at the end of April, sitting outside with one of my cousins and his wife. The mussels there are great. It is a place I have been frequenting from childhood. Eating outside by the seaside in the sun in April is always wonderful. It was sociable, after weeks of social restrictions. Restaurants had only just re-opened in that part of Scotland.
My Porto food tour was another example. It too was sociable, but within local restrictions. The food was wonderful at all the places we were taken. We learned a huge amount about local cuisine and eating habits (wine drinking habits too). It was so exotic and liberating after 18 months of being stuck on Plague Island under the heel of the Johnson junta.
One of the pleasures of these “best of …” blogs is dragging some of these memories back up to the surface, and reminding myself of how much enjoyment they gave me.
Ultimately, I have chosen that food tour in Porto as a collective winner for 2021. It was memorable in ways which even the other highlights cannot match.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2022