Torrish Restaurant at Hotel Ness Walk


I MAY be entirely wrong but before a morsel of food crosses my lips I have started to wonder whether the much vaunted and new Ness Walk Hotel is already more than a little too pleased with itself.

We walk-ins for dinner at the Torrish Restaurant are met slightly sniffily at reception, bustled with too much haste through to the dining room and placed swiftly at an awkward table which feels as though it's in a corridor decorated blandly from some corporate hotel warehouse.

It’s Saturday night, the beautiful River Ness sits below Inverness’s magically atmospheric castle just out there. There’s apparently a real fire burning somewhere in here but we can’t see any of that. Instead we struggle to find something interesting to start from a menu where the soup sets the ball rolling at a tenner, duck liver parfait is £13 and my venison tartare alone will be £14. The scallops are £15.

I’ll tell you now that the waiting staff, of which there seems to be very many, will feel like they’re in a hurry – as though there’s a second sitting coming along soon – while the kitchen will feel at times to be achingly slow. And while it’s by no means empty tonight there are enough vacant tables to suck atmosphere from the evening air.

Strangely, too, for a restaurant with such high-end pretensions the amuse bouche will turn out to be nothing more exotic than haggis bon-bons. Pleasant enough, but really?

Still, I won't make my mind up about the food until the dessert arrives and puts the tin lid on the whole affair.

Before that we’ll have had three fat, grilled scallops served somewhat theatrically old-school style in their shells, samphire tossed casually around the dish, micro-cubed apple and nuts strewn pretty pointlessly underneath. A venison tartare is sweet, quite pleasant though served with a quail’s egg either so recently out of iced water or a fridge that it’s utterly, stonily cold. More micro-cubed vegetables mixed in with that meat also means the whole thing crumbles on the plate making for an entertaining game chasing components around it with the fork. Beetroot-cured salmon promises chive powder, beetroot gel and horseradish gel yadayada and delivers even more cubing of ingredients, none of which manages to dent the good, rich flavour of the fish. It’s the best starter, if not the most challenging for the kitchen.

Now, in one of those comedy-gold moments that has everyone else at the table laughing (at my dopeyness) when the mains arrive I’m so baffled by the half-grilled pumpkin that dominates my plate of partridge that I try to cut a piece to eat, before realising the greens and pumpkin puree are actually underneath it. And it's purely decorative,

A waiter had steered us towards North Atlantic Monkfish (£24) roasted rather than grilled and it was a good suggestion: the fish being moist and nicely coloured, the fondant reasonably good while there was a large pool of red wine jus amid a lot of bland puree.

There’s a collective tasting, too, of the Highland venison saddle (£32) which has liquorice root powder and blackberry, but somehow, as is so often the case with venison nowadays even in the Highlands, it is a disappointingly bland piece of meat that is not brought to life by what surrounds it.

I mentioned earlier those desserts which are saltily priced, or dare I say hotel-priced, like everything else. Strangely, though, we are served petit fours before they arrive – some lacklustre Madeleines.

Anyway, what should be better than a garden apple, raspberry and pistachio crumble (£10)? Er, most things. Served in a generic ceramic dish with a gloopy, jammy filling, a gritty, extremely lazy, crumble topping, alongside a pistachio ice cream with so much flavouring it tastes like marzipan. Some sliced apple crossing custard pointlessly at the side. Dreadful, I’m afraid. And finishing off a meal that, at these prices, should have been much, much better.

Torrish Restaurant at Hotel Ness Walk

12 Ness Walk


01463 215215

Menu: Safely Scottish. We struggled to find anything interesting on the limited starter section, or the unambitious dessert section. 3/5

Service: Lots of staff flitting about. Not much interaction with any of them. It felt impersonal and more hotel than restaurant service. 3/5

Atmosphere: Much praise has been heaped on the creation of this hotel but the restaurant we were in felt bland, corporate and uninspiring. 3/5

Price: Priced for the hotel’s rating perhaps. While there’s a spirited attempt to meet that in the mains, the starters, amuse bouche, and desserts felt budget. 3/5

Food: Had a few moments: the salmon starter and the roast monkfish. As a hotel dining room pretty reasonable but as a stand alone restaurant uninspiring. 6/10