"When the familiar faces come through the door it's an absolute joy". Chefs and food people tell us about the customers they've missed over lockdown.

There’s no doubt we’ve missed restaurants, but has the feeling been mutual?

We asked chefs, sommeliers and restaurateurs about their favourite customers. Many of them very diplomatically said “all of them”.

However, some were happy to tell us about the much loved diners that they’re looking forward to welcoming back, hopefully on April 26.

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Rob Latimer, co-owner of Inver Restaurant & Rooms, Cairndow

“There’s a super sweet couple who come once a month. They really appreciate what we do and he often brings us a bottle of wine. In return, he has a very fussy cat, so we save him the trim from our whole halibut.

I also had a customer who came a couple of Christmases ago. I wear white Nike trainers and it was the end of the year so they were pretty worn in. He lives in Holland and works for Nike, and couldn’t stand looking at my trainers because of the state they were in. I had to contact him a week or two afterwards and I told him my shoe size. They arrived quickly. I refer to it as my Nike sponsorship”.

Pam Brunton, co-owner and head chef of Inver

When the familiar faces come through the door it’s an absolute joy.

Pam and Rob from InverPam and Rob from Inver
Pam and Rob from Inver

One customer must be in her 90s and lives locally. She’s been coming three or four times a year since we opened, with grandkids or godchildren. She had a cocktail named after her at one point. It was called Plums Forsyth, because on her first visit, she went up to the bar and said hello and asked us to forgive her plummy accent.

There’s a family that comes in and orders five plates of the cheese puffs - a potato dauphine. That can clear out the stocks and instigate a panic.

There’s also a couple that were our earliest supporters. One of them died at the start of last year, then she was on her own to deal with difficult grieving. She came back last year and it was emotional, as she described Inver as being one of their happy places.

There was also a chap who came every Sunday for years, to get a coffee and scone. He brought his own records to play on the record player.

Katie O'Brien and Paul Kitching, owners of 21212Katie O'Brien and Paul Kitching, owners of 21212
Katie O'Brien and Paul Kitching, owners of 21212
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It’s really nice when suppliers come and eat with us. You end up with a dining room that’s full of people who are part of a special ecosystem. We’ll get the gardeners Kate and Russell, and Alastair Barge of Gigha Halibut and his wife Fi, who makes cheese from their Jersey cows’ milk.”

Paul Kitching, chef patron of 21212, Edinburgh

“One of our favourite couples are from the Lake District, they come up four or five times a year. He likes his beef rare, and she likes hers very well done.

There’s also a couple from Manchester. He’s a retired doctor, and they’ve been coming for years - one always has fish and the other well done meat.

Peter May and Sabine at Hebridean Tea StorePeter May and Sabine at Hebridean Tea Store
Peter May and Sabine at Hebridean Tea Store

You get invited to people’s houses. Americans are great. We could spend a month in the US and not have to pay for a room.

We’ll sit in the lounge and talk with people who have been coming for years, and never about food. It becomes less important because the friendship supersedes it.

It’ll be nice to have someone at the front door who’s not from Amazon or a postie. To have the door open in the summer and see a taxi pull in and a woman step out in a beautiful dress and a guy in a suit and tie, looking immaculate. They’ll come up the steps together, and we’ll ask if they want a glass of Champagne”.

Sabine Weiten, owner of the Hebridean Tea Store

“We are a speciality tea store on the Isle of Lewis and stock around 150 different teas and infusions.

We had an elderly lady who came in twice a week. When we spied her on the other side of the road we put the kettle on. I miss her and hope she is well.

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Once she didn’t come for weeks and we were worried sick. When she finally turned up, we were very relieved. She had been on holiday, and laughed when we told her that her absence gave us a fright.

An elderly, but feisty, lady regularly came in with her carer. She was 98, but her mind and wit had not withered. She promised us she’d turn 100, just to be able to annoy the heck out of her carer. Unfortunately, last autumn, she left this planet peacefully in her sleep. Her carer came in to notify us and thanked us, and said that we’d helped her to enjoy some pleasant afternoons out. That really made me cry.

My personal highlight was a visit from Peter May, I really got starstruck and dared to ask for a photo”.

David Lapsley, sommelier at Etive, Oban

“Our regular customers mean more than awards and accolades. They travel many miles across Scotland, the UK, Europe and beyond. It’s humbling the distances people travel to enjoy your offering on repeat visits, multiple times a year.

A certain few spring to mind. The couple that start the evening with a glass of Champagne, the same one, every time. I don’t even wait now, it’s served as they enter.

The monthly repeat diner that’s left handed, and their table is set accordingly.

The guest that absolutely adores potatoes. Our chef makes sure the vegetarian tasting menu that only she receives has multiple varieties of potato and styles of preparation.

For these people and the rest, they are now friends and family of the restaurant in our eyes”.

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