I can so well remember the frustration of finding the delicious deli Kirkness & Gorie, tucked away down a little alley opposite St Magnus Cathedral, on the last day of our holiday prior to moving to Orkney in 2017.
That was the same day that we ‘discovered’ the Foodie’s Haven which is William Shearer’s, away down Victoria Street in Kirkwall on the right-hand side but no more than a five-minute walk or so from Kirkness & Gorie. Those two shops are amongst the featured foodie experiences we show our gastro-friends who visit us, who come thinking that we must have left all good, local food behind us when we moved to the islands.
That’s a misconception quickly corrected. In fact, most food-loving friends leave us with their bags or cars stuffed full of local produce.
Whisky, gin and beer are predictable souvenirs, but so many people take home Westray Bakehouse biscuits (especially their water and flaky biscuits) - my addiction to water biscuits has been a real surprise to me and you will find all these and so many more local foods in our local shops. To Taste Orkney and Eat Orkney please Shop Orkney.
As we open up to visitors, we really need to keep the money that you spend on food and drink while you are here in our local economy, supporting our local businesses. So please, buy local if you possibly can.
On our last but one holiday in the islands I remember buying my first rib boil, a cut you don’t see 'sooth', and braising it slowly on the bone one day in our rental cottage, then stripping the leftovers from the bones for a pasta sauce the next. What a cut of beef that is! If you are self-catering check out the local butchers for that, and some of the fine sausages and black puddings as well as haggis that they all excel at. I bought mine in The Brig Larder on Bridge Street in Kirkwall. I also bought my first smoked mussels from there which were delicious in a chowder.
Jolly’s, the fishmonger in The Brig, also have a wonderful shop in Scotts Road on the Hatston Estate on the outskirts of Kirkwall. In the Food Park nearby you will also find the Pierowall Fish Shed, (turn right by McAdie & Reeve removals on the corner, coming from Kirkwall and keep going) where you’ll also get fresh fish, and a selection of local tatties and produce from Westray.
There are peedie pantries for cakes and eggs around the islands with honesty boxes. The newest is JP Orkney in Birsay, opposite the Earl's Palace and near the Birsay Bay Tearoom. Jane & Paul usually sell through the Farmer’s Market which has not yet resumed, so their pantry is a great idea. You’ll find Orkney’s famous Fatty Cutties here, as well as at Pierowall Fish who bring theirs across from Westray. What’s a Fatty Cutty? It’s somewhere between a shortbread and a Garibaldi biscuit and an essential part of an Orkney picnic. I made up a picnic for some visiting food writing colleagues last autumn and the Fatty Cutties where much debated and enjoyed.
Any picnic will need bread and we have many bakeries producing traditional Scottish bakes and loaves, and rolls and oatcakes with the local beremeal, an ancient strain of barley. There are now also two excellent sourdough bakeries - the Eviedale Bistro & Bakehouse and the Orkney Sourdough Company - selling through the shops in Kirkwall already mentioned as well as the wonderful BayLeaf Delicatessen in Stromness. The Eviedale Bistro & Bakehouse also does takeaway pizzas but you’ll need to check their social media and order in advance - they are pretty flat-out supplying the locals so you’ll need to book your slot!
There are several takeaway vans in the islands. Perhaps the most established is Leigh’s which you’ll find in the car park at Finstown by the water. A multi-winner of Taste of Orkney awards, Leigh uses a large selection of local meats and other produce for her burgers and takeaways. The newest van is at Hatston behind the Ortak Showroom and is Orkney’s first street food van. Beiting & Brew are very popular so check them out on social media and pre-order to be sure of a takeaway.
Our local shops will have most of the essentials that you need for your holiday and basic fruit and veg as well as local milk and cream. Some will even deliver to your holiday accommodation. These shops have been fantastic in their service to our local community over the past year. Please support them while you are here.
If you need recipe inspiration for cooking here on Orkney then do have a look at my own website where you’ll find lots of locally inspired recipes for our fabulous food. Have a great holiday: eat well and stay well.
If you aren't planning a visit to Orkney this year, you can still stock up on food and drink from the islands. Visit our Shop Orkney Online page to browse some of the delicious local products on offer.
Rosemary Moon ‘retired’ to Orkney after a long association with the salmon industry in the islands. The author of 19 cookery books and countless more recipes, including writing for Waitrose and Lakeland, she has brought journalists and food writers to Orkney in the past to show off our diverse and delicious food and drink. After several holidays here Rosemary and her husband Nick have settled in South Ronaldsay but, once a cookery writer always a cookery writer, Rosemary is finding it impossible to stop jotting down the new recipes that she is creating with the island produce.
The Promoting project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.