18 August 2010
Back in the Spring, we had a couple of realisations: 1) there aren’t many places to eat out round here in the evenings (how restful is a self-catering holiday for chef in the family?), and 2) we’ve got a lovely café which doesn’t get much use. So we thought make use of our café
and provide a friendly evening meal, just once a week. We called it 'Tanera Nights' (by mistake).
I’ll admit to having a couple of nightmares at the thought of this. Rich is a Chartered Surveyor; I’m a biologist: we’re not flush with qualifications or experience for large-scale catering.
Nevertheless we seem to have pulled it off and, poised for our sixth full-house, we're gently getting the hang of it. Our 40 eaters are a mixture of guests staying in the Island’s cottages and Coigach residents and visitors ferried over in Patricia from the mainland.
A simple, three course meal is served at two long tables stretching the length of the cafe. The set menu stars wonderful produce from Coigach, as well as organic and / or Fairtrade ingredients wherever possible. After a starter of Badentarbet prawns (or a lovely veggie alternative) and salad from Achiltibuie Garden, the main course might be a Moroccan tagine, a choice of risottos, or a thai curry, accompanied by some nice homemade bread. Rich and I cook one pudding each; my speciality is a rich chocolate cake which involves four large bars of dark chocolate (Fairtrade of course) and 10 eggs. Rich oscillates between an apple and almond sponge cake and a plum pudding. The competition at serving time is intense. Mine wins.
Main course and pudding are served buffet style; queuing up for food enhances the already convivial and informal atmosphere (and allows those desperate for chocolate cake to elbow to the front of the queue). Most weeks we manage to conscript a small army of helpers in the kitchen: our Working Holidayers (first Isla and Pete, then Joy, Mike and their two boys Joseph (6) and Theo (4) and now Wendy and Christopher – all worthy of stories of their own); young hands from the mainland (Joseph, Kelly and Abi) and my dear Mum and Dad have all been amazing. It may be preposterously hard work, but none of my nightmares have come true and it’s brilliant to look out over the cafe – lit with candles and happy faces – and feel the warm, buzzing atmosphere. A couple of times we’ve had some musicians strike up for an impromptu session, but otherwise folk seem quite happy drinking fresh mint tea, grazing on the cheese board and exchanging tales of their Summer Isles adventures until it’s time to climb the path or board the Patricia. And now it’s getting properly dark at night, there are some fine phosphorescence displays on the way home. Wonderful.
I ordered a book from Amazon the other day, ‘How to run a restaurant’. I think I might even read it over the winter, and then who knows what we’ll be up to next year...
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