• Pizzas at 59 Degrees North in Sanday, Orkney

Perfect pizza at 59 Degrees North

“People are always completely surprised when they walk in. Many just come inside and say ‘wow, I wasn’t expecting to find this in Sanday’!”

‘This’ is 59 Degrees North, the most northerly wood-fired pizzeria in the UK, and owner and head chef Jon Chapman is working on the fresh pizza bases for the next batch of customers in the busy restaurant.

It’s a stunning setting – all modern, bright blues and greys, with neon signs and fairy lights adding a splash of extra atmosphere. Most of the tables are already taken, with a mix of local folk and visitors sitting down to their meals. A quick glance at the menu and you’ll find all the traditional toppings you’d expect, along with one or two twists, and starters, specials, desserts, and a wide selection of drinks.

“We make everything here using the freshest produce we can get,” says Jon. “We even grow a lot of our own salads and vegetables next door in our Polycrub. The aim is to simply be the best at what we do.”

Sanday is an island well-catered for when it comes to food and drink. There are two busy bars and restaurants in the village of Kettletoft and a couple of excellent local shops, both full of local products. But the novelty of a café and pizzeria in this quiet corner of the island is hard to resist, and according to Jon, many of the 550-or-so islanders seem to agree. “Local folk are key to our business being a success and surviving,” he says.

“They have been extremely supportive of us from the outset and many of them visit most weeks to catch up with friends over a coffee and some cake, which just makes us so happy.”

The doors to the pizzeria only opened in 2022 but, like many islanders, Jon and his wife Clare have many strings to their bow. 59 Degrees North is also motorhome aire, a successful print business, and a gift shop selling Sanday-related pieces. It’s even Orkney’s only stockist of complete raw dog food.

“We had it all planned out before we even fell in love with Sanday,” says Jon. “We were camping in the Highlands and looking for a place to put down roots permanently. An online search came up with a few Orkney properties and we drove here for a look.

“We found Sanday by chance, but after a few visits it just felt like home and leaving became harder and harder. Then the perfect property came up, offering us the space to create what we’d always dreamt of.”

The couple took inspiration from their extensive travels across Europe in their own motorhome. They kept a ‘little black book’ of different ideas and innovations they came across, all with the aim of putting some of them into practice when they finally found their forever home. That place turned out to be Sanday, and 59 Degrees North is the culmination of all their travel experiences.

It hasn’t all been easy though. Jon admits the challenge of starting a new business in Orkney’s north isles has often proved problematic, with difficulties in getting deliveries and materials at times. But for the couple, being one step ahead of the next potential problem is part of the attraction.

So, what’s next for this burgeoning business? “We have many plans for the future,” says Jon. “We’re very proud to have created nine new jobs here in Sanday, and we hope to add a few new elements to what we offer.

“I’d love other local businesses to enjoy the rewards of our success by working together – I feel that’s such an important part of island life. I helped set up the Sanday Business Forum back in 2020 and we now have 12 businesses exchanging ideas and supporting each other. We’re aiming to make the island a real destination, so watch this space!”

The 59 Degrees North Café and Pizzeria is open 11am – 8pm, Wednesday to Sunday (closed Monday & Tuesday), from 1 April until 30 September. Visit the official website for menu information. You can also find the team on Facebook and Instagram.

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