The new Harbour Kitchen restaurant is opening its doors on Monday March 11th.

Perfectly placed for shoppers, town centre workers and visitors, right opposite the Town Hall’s main door on Cromwell Street, the new eatery promises sophisticated tastes, satisfying portions and local provenance of ingredients.

Owners Lach Maclean and Leelah Macaulay bring an excellent track record and lots of ideas to their joint venture. Both are island-born and have gained experience in their chosen disciplines.  Lach was born in South Uist to Barra parents, brought up in Stornoway and trained from the age of 17 at a range of establishments including the Gleneagles Hotel and restaurants in London, Glasgow and Skye.

Leelah’s background is in design, leaving her Ness roots to train in Glasgow and Newcastle before returning home. For both, this is their first venture and they bring complementary skills to the running of the business.

“I will be in charge of front of house – the overall look, running and efficiency of the restaurant,” explains Leelah. “We’re aiming for a look that reflects the local environment, so we have selected tableware that subtly brings in the feel of the sea and the shore, and the staff will be wearing uniform that connects both with nautical traditions and with the history of Stornoway food providers – the traditional striped apron of the provender merchant.”

There are six staff, all full-time – a bold move for a new business, but well thought-out, as Lach explains. “From a business point of view that helps to maintain continuity and shows that we plan to be a good employer with a positive ethos towards our team. All of them have service experience and they are a mix of ages – it’s a good, balanced team.”

Three of the team will be in the kitchen, with Lach as head chef. His kitchen staff are full of enthusiasm and, he says, “will really benefit from this professional experience. They’ll get their training here and we will get the energy and ideas they bring. 

“It also means that people who’ve had college training here get the opportunity to work on the island, so we’re helping to keep more of the younger generation here at home.”

The full team of eight will hit the ground running on March 11th, offering diners a great experience right from the first night. But the big question for new customers will be ‘what’s on the menu?’

“It’s going to be fast, casual dining, with the speed of service to match” says Lach. “Customers have no need to stick to a formal dining plan – they can get anything from a snack and a drink to a full dinner.

“Wherever we can we’ll be making the most of where we are situated, and of our long-standing connection with the islands, to get the best of locally-reared meat, vegetables and, of course, seafood. Plates I’m working on include mackerel and beetroot, salmon and treacle and a deconstructed Caesar salad. 

“There’ll be plenty of choice for vegetarians, vegans and people on other diets, too – I’m thinking of sweet potato and black bean chilli and the Harbour Kitchen house salad will include a pick and mix of ingredients like roasted vegetables, capers, anchovies and pickles.”

For those who want to grab a bite and go, there’ll be pizzas, coffee and cakes, including gluten-free and dairy-free options. Leelah, in charge of the drinks, has been searching for Scottish specialities and has sourced gins, whiskies and even a Scottish ‘Bacardi-style’ white rum. There’ll be cocktails in the evening, tables outside in the summer and a good buzz throughout the day.

“All our flavours speak for themselves,” says Lach, “so there’s no need for the environment to be pretentious. We’ll be serving Scottish, fresh, original and seasonal food and the open kitchen means there’s a bit of theatre, a sense of occasion as you see your food being prepared.

“We want people to feel comfortable while they’re eating, too, so we’ve blocked off one door, improved the heating, removed some seating to create more of a relaxed circulation space and recruited staff who know what they are doing. We actually can’t wait to start welcoming customers, now!”