By Elly Welch
It’s not often you find a Michelin-awarded chef cooking up nosh at the local Arts Centre. But in Stornoway, it’s absolutely true.
Kenny MacKay, new head chef at An Lanntair, is taking dining at Stornoway’s creative hub to new levels. And his magic ingredient? Keeping it local.
“We have wonderful ingredients in the Islands ,” said Kenny, former head chef at Glasgow’s Michelin Bib Gourmand Awarded all-Scottish eatery , Stravaigin. “I want to celebrate that with simple, fresh dishes full of flavour that are both memorable and affordable.”
Kenny was born in London but visited island relatives during school holidays. He didn’t train as a chef until his twenties when, after finishing a degree in Risk Management, he found that he was happiest cooking. A decade later he was top of his game but, as a new dad, was finding the 80-hour weeks tough going. He and his wife, also a chef, decided to change lifestyle and move to his ancestral home, Lewis.
Once a chef always a chef, though, and it wasn’t long before Kenny was missing the kitchen. In Summer 2016 he accepted a full time position at An Lanntair that would allow him time to be a dad too. He hasn’t regretted it – and nor have his customers.
Kenny has been making a big impression with his delicious all-day menu that skillfully merges the café-bar feel with his own unpretentious blend of gourmet, fusing local ingredients with world flavours.
Kenny is also building up the evening restaurant into an experience to remember, with full table service and a laid-back but sophisticated ‘fine dining’ feel.
“Catering for An Lanntair’s varied clientele and all day footfall is an exciting challenge,” he said. “Its important to have something for everyone, from young children to real connoisseurs, and that’s what I’m looking to do,” he said.
No mean feat for Kenny, but feedback has been great so far - in fact many of his dishes are now daily sell-outs. Many of his meals have ‘wee plate’ options - ‘light dining’, or ‘fine snacking,’ you could say.
His homemade haggis made with local lamb in a pan, in the traditional island way, is proving so popular that they are now making several batches a week. It’s particularly tasty with the optional whisky sauce.
Local fish and seafood are also a priority. Customers, who dine overlooking Stornoway harbour, can now enjoy hand dived local scallops served with pineapple and chilli salsa and a zingy Thai salad. Another must-try is the local mussels, harvested in North Lochs, and steamed with a choice of interesting sauces. Or how about a Moroccan spiced monkfish kebab with lemon couscous? And don’t forget our old friend, fish and chips.
If you’re not a fish lover you might like ‘Steak Wednesdays’ (two steaks and a bottle of wine for £35). Or a homemade burger served with crunchy salt and pepper chips?
Vegetarians can enjoy a wide choice now with inventive salads as well bean-burgers, a vegetarian haggis option and a fantastic Indian Daal with pickled vegetables. Kenny is experimenting with local seaweed dishes right now, and is on the lookout for horticultural suppliers who can provide fresh salad and vegetables grown on the island.
“Up here is it wonderful because you literally know the fishermen and crofters or growers by name,” said Kenny. “This is very special and how food should be, local to the environment it is served in.”
To view An Lanntair’s new menu online