Overlooking the Grieg Street bridge crossing the River Ness, McBains by the River has a prime spot in the Highland capital. Newly opened in 2019, the McBain family opened their restaurant after years of catering experience in local golf clubs.
Offering seasonal local produce, Chef Paul delivers an inventive menu from the kitchen, while his wife Corinna runs the front of the house as well as has administrative expertise to ensure the smooth running of the business. With Paul’s experience of training as a chef with his father, then more latterly with his uncle in Edinburgh and the potential of one of the McBain children showing a keen interest in baking, this is truly a family-run establishment.
Paul has also judged a local school’s Junior Masterchef competition and is keen to see young people gain cooking experience.
Our meal at McBains highlighted the best of the Highland larder, as Paul only uses locally sourced produce. Meat and seafood from across the region feature on the menu. My choices from the dinner menu started with a tower of crabmeat and cream cheese, flavoured with dill and garlic sitting on two oatcakes. Dots of lemon & avocado puree, and sweet chilli dressing around the tower were clever choices to cut across the creaminess.
My dining companion was delighted by her perfectly melted Highland Brie croquette, wrapped in crispy breadcrumbs. The accompanying tomato salad and dressings of tomato & chilli jam and caramelised onion complimented the brie well and ‘made’ the dish.
Mains followed on, with my dining companion choosing Isle of Harris salmon, topped with a creme fraiche and chive dressing. Sitting on a salad of cos lettuce, the leaves revealed new potatoes, caramelised red onion and roasted red pepper hidden beneath. It was a much more substantial dish than anticipated and well received.
My fillet of well-cooked lamb on layers of ratatouille, asparagus and white pudding mash potato surrounded by oyster and chestnut mushrooms was excellent in terms of both taste and texture. I was tempted to wipe the plate clean to taste every drop of the port jus but I just about resisted!
The restaurant was busy during our mid-week visit, with happy diners enjoying the pre-theatre menu as we arrived, and weary tourists being welcomed in at 9pm on the warm July evening. Given the heat of the day, we decided to uncharacteristically avoid our joint favourite dessert of sticky toffee pudding, instead opting for two cold desserts – white chocolate & lime cheesecake for me, and panna cotta for my dining companion.
The presentation of the desserts both had the wow/Instagram factor – with tuile biscuit spoons and mini pink meringues on both, and a crescent of marinated strawberries and mint with the panna cotta – which had a great wobble to it! My cheesecake had all the essential elements of a creamy, zesty tower.
Our meal at McBains by the River was excellent – well worth a visit if you are local or a visitor, to experience the best of Highland produce and true family hospitality in Inverness.
Thanks to McBains Restaurant by the River and What’s Happening Inverness for inviting me for a complimentary dinner for 2 in exchange for an honest review.