The Isle of Skye, often voted one of the world’s most popular islands, has sailed away with two of the top honours at Scotland’s most prestigious awards ceremony for hospitality, tourism and catering.
The Three Chimneys on the edge of Loch Dunvegan took the title of Best Restaurant in the 15th year of the Catering Scotland (CIS) Excellence Awards while Skeabost House, described by the judges as a ‘Cinderella fairy tale,’ won the Group Hotel category.
In further evidence of the growing attractions of Scotland’s West coast islands, the Douglas Hotel on Arran was named Best Independent Hotel at a packed gala dinner in Glasgow on Thursday night attended by more than 500 of the country’s leading hoteliers, caterers, chefs, colleges and suppliers.
Judges said Shirley Spear’s Three Chimneys, at Colbost in the north-west of the island, ’has consistently delivered world-class standards over many years… its chefs have wowed guests with a delicate and skilful touch that has showcased the highest standards to a global clientele.’
Last Autumn, Three Chimneys, whose head chef is Scott Davies, was named the UK Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of 2018.
Other finalists in the category included Glasgow’s seafood specialist, Gamba, and L’Escargot Blanc in Edinburgh.
Skeabost, the most recently acquired member of the Sonas group of three boutique hotels on Skye, ‘is a real Cinderella, rags-to-riches story,’ the judges commented.
Anne Gracie Gunn and her late husband, Ken, ‘took a tired, unloved hotel and transformed and extended it into one of the island’s star attractions,’ they added. Skeabost, bought in 2015, now has 18 bedrooms. It beat off challenges from the 300-room Doubletree by Hilton Glasgow Central, whose ballroom can seat up to 1,500 guests, and the 240-room Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, which features the Galvin Restaurant and Guerlain spa.
Arran’s Douglas Hotel – which is situated next to a new £30m ferry pier – captured the competitive Independent Hotel category ahead of Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh’s West End and the Lovat Loch Ness at Fort Augustus.
Judges commented: ‘The standard of customer service set the Douglas apart. It looks after each guest from the front door onwards. The fabric of the hotel is first class, it takes care to involve the local community and there’s a lovely diversity to the food from the bistro to the restaurant.’
As the country’s annual contest for the hospitality, catering and tourism sectors, the CIS Excellence Awards are widely accepted as the ultimate accolade for chefs, hotels, restaurants, gastropubs and educational institutions.
The Chef of the Year Award went to Geoffrey Smeddle, of the Peat Inn, St Andrews, a finalist in 2010. Judges described him as ‘without doubt one of Scotland’s finest chefs. Throughout his career he has shown himself to be a fine role model for the industry through his work with schools, colleges and the wider community.’ The Peat Inn itself won the CIS Excellence Restaurant of the Year a decade ago.
Other finalists in the flagship chef category included: Fred Berkmiller of the capital’s L’Escargot restaurants Blanc & Bleu; Billy Boyter of The Cellar Restaurant in Anstruther; Brian Grigor of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh; and Paul Wedgwood of Wedgwood The Restaurant.
The Young Chef Award (aged 25 and under) went to Craig Palmer of the Marcliffe Hotel and Spa in Aberdeen, ahead of the Cellar’s Conor McLean and Kevin McCafferty of City of Glasgow College.
Best Restaurant Newcomer was awarded to the Spanish Butcher in Glasgow – ‘an exceptional establishment based on an innovative concept and offering very good value for money.’
The Pub Excellence Award was won by the nautical-themed Noble’s Cafe Bar and Restaurant in Leith, where judges raved about the ‘fabulous food, atmospheric setting and gleaming stained glass windows’, in addition to ‘very professional staff and good service.’ Other finalists included two other Edinburgh establishments: Rabble Taphouse and Grill in Frederick Street, and gastropub Scran and Scallie, a joint venture between restaurants The Kitchin and Castle Terrace.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Ayrshire hoteliers Bill and Cath Costley, said by the judges to have created ‘one of the greatest business success stories in Scotland.’ Their establishments include Highgrove House and Lochgreen House in Troon, the Brig o’ Doon Hotel in Alloway, and Ellisland Hotel in Ayr.
Full winners’ list attached.
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