If you’ve yet to visit it yourself, you should know that our No 1 Bistro opens its door onto the shortest street in the world – Ebenezer Place. Just 2.06m in length, it was officially recognised as the World’s Shortest Street by Guinness World Records in 2006. If anything, our small size is overlooked relative to our great service, as we continuously strive to service the best local produce available.
There are few places where you can trace the food on your plate back to the farm down the street, but at Mackays it’s at the heart of our menu. Here’s our journey from the wild Highlands to No 1 Bistro.
“Provenance is so important to us,” explains Murray. “Colin Ross hand dives for our scallops off the coast of Sanday in the Orkney Islands. Our wonderful free-range eggs come from Castletown, just down the road. And we know which farms supply the cattle our beef comes from.”
And to accompany that fine meal? Murray works with Mackays’ wine suppliers to pair the food on the menus with the right wines, and both menu and wine list change with the seasons. “All our staff are trained so they can make a wine recommendation to suit your meal from a position of knowledge. We are proud of all of the wines that we list, and proud to be able to offer advice where it’s wanted.”
As for whiskies, Murray’s reputation proceeds him, holding a merit qualification from the Scotch Whisky Association. He owns a handsome collection of rare and fine malts, perhaps some of the oldest in Scotland, dating back as far as the 1930s and 40s, and while some of these may appear for sale on the Whisky Cellar website from time to time (www.whiskycellar.scot), many will stay in the family collection.
For Murray, whisky is about taste and flavour, and about matching the right dram to the right occasion. But above all, it’s personal. It’s about people, and memories, and friendships. The first-time whisky had a real impact on him was on a Highland croft in the late 1970s. He had been driving north to Wick one snowy evening and stopped to drop off a pal, John, at his parents’ farm near Culbokie. The weather closed in, and the power went off, and Murray had to stay until the roads reopened. John’s mother was a tremendous cook, and over the farmhouse’s solid fuel stove she produced a ribsticking beef stew. The evening was rounded off with stories round the fire, lubricated by a dram. And although that was Murray’s first real whisky memory, 40 years later he’s still making memories. Like the measure of heavily peated Islay malt he enjoyed on a recent summer’s evening, with thoughts of his pal Nick, who had gifted him the bottle.
Good food, good wines and good whisky are about more than fuel and alcohol; they are about good friends – and making good memories. An evening or night at Mackays Hotel – perhaps with Murray behind the bar – could be the start of making many more.
Click here to explore the menus available on the World’s Smallest Street.