HE HAS eaten his way around the world, but a visit to a restaurant in Skye two years ago obviously left an impression on renowned food critic Frank Bruni.
• Shirley Spear outside the Three Chimneys at Colbost, near Dunvegan, singled out for its 'amazing' food and an 'enchanting' dining experience. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The New York Times restaurant critic and Pulitzer prize winning food writer has now named the Three Chimneys restaurant at Colbost as one of his top five favourite places to eat in the world.
The award-winning island restaurant has joined eating places in Rome, Pollenzo, Miami and New York on the influential writer's list, which appears on www.epicurious.com, a website popular with American foodies.
Mr Bruni said of the Three Chimneys: "For me this wasn't just a restaurant, it was the centrepiece and emblem of one of the finest vacations I ever took, a road trip through the Scottish Highlands that had me gasping over and over at the beauty I encountered.
"The Three Chimneys is almost at land's end on the Isle of Skye, with sheep and seals galore visible from its entrance. Some diners come by helicopter from Edinburgh or Glasgow: that's how big a deal this restaurant is in Scotland.
"It's intimate, beautiful, serves amazingly fresh local seafood, and does right by the local lamb as well. An enchanting experience through and through."
Joining it on the list are Trattoria Monti in Rome; Michael's Genuine Food and Drink, Miami; Guido Ristorante, Pollenzo, Italy; and Hill Country, New York.
It is the latest in a long line of accolades for the Three Chimneys, which was established 25 years ago by Eddie and Shirley Spear, who moved north from Croydon with no experience of running a restaurant,
At first they opened a tearoom, then added a kitchen extension in the late 1970s. After a complete make-over, their now famous venture opened in 1985.
Ms Spear said: "This is a huge compliment. Frank Bruni must have eaten at all the most prestigious restaurants in the world. We did not know it, but he visited us two years ago and obviously still retains fond memories of his experience here."
She said the recognition was a credit to everyone who had worked at the restaurant, especially the present team, led by head chef Michael Smith.
She added; "To be named as being one of Frank Bruni's favourite top five restaurants in the world is possibly the biggest thrill of a lifetime of very hard work, but it also puts the whole team here under enormous pressure to perform even better than ever before."
The Three Chimneys has won more than 30 major awards, including Scottish Restaurant of the Year in 1990, a listing at No 28 in Restaurant magazine's top 50 restaurants in the world in 2002, and more recently, a coveted EatScotland Gold Award.
But just in case Mr Bruni's five "favourites" were thinking of resting on their laurels, he had a barbed qualification.
"I believe that all of the restaurants [on the list] are, to varying degrees, exceptional. But they are not, as a group, the most ambitious, accomplished, and flat-out impressive restaurants I've been lucky enough to visit. Not even close."
and more recently, a coveted EatScotland Gold Award.
But just in case the five ‘favourites' were thinking of resting on their laurels, the notorious Bruni, known as the ‘enfant terrible' of food writing, had a barbed qualification in typically blunt New York style.
"I'm not choosing what I think are the five best restaurants I've ever eaten in, because I was asked, really, for five favorites—five examples of places I personally love—and that's a different thing.
"Favorites simply connect with you in visceral and almost inarticulable ways: ways that aren't about objective achievement or concrete shortcoming. They play to your peculiarities, and they provide you a cherished routine or a cluster of memories that no other restaurant can provide.
"I believe that all of the restaurants (on the list) are, to varying degrees, exceptional. But they are not, as a group, the most ambitious, accomplished, and flat-out impressive restaurants I've been lucky enough to visit. Not even close."