The recognition caps a remarkable year for Lach Maclean, the chef who brought the restaurant back to the top following the challenges of Covid closures and difficulties recruiting staff.
Lach told the Gazette this week: “We didn’t expect to win. The competition we faced was really strong. Most of these guys are Michelin Guide and AA listed.
“In the past two months, we have won three awards, which is really satisfying for such a small restaurant and such a small team. Apart from Leila and me, there are only two full-time employees and the others are part-time.
“When we reopened, we made the decision to really focus on seafood which was quite high risk, but it paid off. There are a lot of challenges ahead with rising food prices and rising costs. energy, but for the moment, we are well placed”.
Eighteen months ago, Lach intended to add the former Digby Chick restaurant in Stornoway to his business, but staffing challenges put the expansion on hold, to be revisited at some point. given in the future.
Although Lach grew up in Stornoway, his parents are from Barra and South Uist. Part of his interest in food and good local produce comes from his father Donald and his uncle, Archie MacLean, who has run Gearraidh Mor Farm and Craigston on Barra Slaughterhouse since 1984, supplying many of the mainland’s top restaurants.
However, Lach says he owes the course of his career to the luck that a training development officer from Perth College visited Lews Castle College on the right day in 2003.
Unrelated to his visit, there was a “competition” between catering students that day and Lach emerged on top. The trained inspector was also a ‘spotter’ for the Gleneagles Hotel and at the age of 17 began his career at Scotland’s finest hotel.
Lach started out as chef clerk, the youngest employee at the Gleneagles Hotel and the youngest of 52 other chefs. “It was a great learning experience,” he says. “Then I became Chef de Partie, which is a little notch above what I was and so on in the ranks”.
Among the highlights of his career at Gleneagles was cooking for the G8 summit in ‘incredible security’ when guests included George Bush, Tony Blair and U2 singer Bono.
The norm for chefs is to move on after a few years to gain experience. He first followed his chef to a restaurant in Chester. Then head to the Ritz Carlton in London. Back closer to home in Inverness and four years at the Hilton in Glasgow.
His ambition, however, has always been to have his own place and that came to fruition in 2017 when he took over the lease of what became the Harbor Kitchen. The location has suffered a few false starts, but has become a true island success story.
The Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards jury said: “The food is absolutely fantastic and excellent value for money. Brilliant – and we would love to recommend you all to visit”.