My first breakfast in Orkney was billed as ‘The Orcadian’ at The Ayre Hotel on Kirkwall’s Harbourfront. A delicious surf and turf combo of locally smoked haddock, a free-range poached egg and a slice or two of black pudding with toast and tea, it was the perfect start to a day at sea with colleagues.
I was working then but Orkney and its food and drink made such an impression on me that the islands have been my home for the past five years. To celebrate Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight I want to share some of the great tastes of Orkney you can enjoy here on holiday. Of course, the ideas are just as good for islanders too.
I make porridge with flaked oatmeal from Barony Mill in the West Mainland. I soak it overnight in water with cinnamon and raisins then add a grated apple in the morning before cooking it slowly until thick. Served with fruit and a spoonful of yogurt it is delicious. Local yogurt is made by the Orkney Dairy and is so creamy! Try their yogurt with rhubarb, one of Orkney’s most abundant foods, and you get the two toppings in one.
Orkney-produced eggs are widely available, perfect to accompany smoked haddock or salmon, or some of the delicious dry-cured bacon from the traditional butchers you will find in Kirkwall, Stromness and Dounby. Add some of their sausages and you are well on the way to a memorable fry-up, perhaps in a soft roll or a couple of slices of sourdough sitting on the beach, with a spoonful of Orkney Isles Preserves' smoked tomato chutney as relish?
I asked Karin from Orkney Sourdough how she liked to eat her bread the best and she said “Saturday is family breakfast treat time - my sourdough with duck eggs from Sunnybrae farm, bacon and haggis from Donaldsons and Orkney Cheddar.” That sounds great!
There are lots of options for breakfast preserves and, in September, you might be lucky enough to bag a jar of Orkney honey, a rarity indeed as we don't have the most bee-friendly climate in the islands. More reliable are the supplies of jams and marmalades from local shops and honesty boxes. For the morning after the night before, JP Orkney’s Gooseberry and gin jam might be a perfect hangover cure? It’s available from their honesty box in Birsay.
There are also options if you are self-catering and fancy going out for brunch. Archive Coffee in Kirkwall offers an edgy menu and, whilst their offer changes regularly, I have been happily sustained with their Tex-Mex-style beans and egg. They also do a fabulous kedgeree, a favourite of TV chef Phil Vickery when visiting the islands.
Sheila Fleet’s Kirk Cafe offers a comprehensive and tempting menu out at Tankerness - their Bere Benedicts are firm favourites. A beremeal bannock, Orkney’s native grain griddle breads, with either Donaldson’s delicious smoked ham or smoked salmon, topped with perfectly poached local eggs and a Hollandaise sauce such as I struggle to make at home. A treat indeed.
And if breakfast first thing isn’t for you, you’ll find plenty of coffee shops with scones and other tempting bakes for a mid-morning snack. If you are here on holiday with your dog try CafeLolz in The Strynd, a lane on the harbour side of St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. Lolz's bakes are legendary, and your four-legged friend will be welcome with you.