This article appears as part of the Food Matters newsletter.

There is a tense moment on our quest for Saturday brunch when, distracted by the famously bewitching landscape of Skye, we wonder if we’ve taken a wrong turn.

Pulling over into the next available passing place, a sigh of relief is shared as Google Maps kindly confirms that we are on course to arrive in the village of Carbost within the next five minutes.

And thank goodness for that, as there’s no way I’d be making the journey back to Glasgow without taking Chef Clare Coghill up on her invitation to dine at Café Cùil.

We’d previously met through Zoom, where she told me her tale of escaping Hackney in the nick of time to ride out the first lockdown on her home island.

“I was really enthusiastic about bringing Scottish produce to London and had every intention of staying down there to run the café,” she said.

“Three weeks quickly turned into three months, and I started to realise how much better the quality of life was up here.”

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And so Café Cùil was reborn, in a fire engine red-roofed building that’s surrounded by rolling hills, offering what might just be one of the most impressive backdrops for brunching in Scotland.

While being shown to our table beside the floor-to-ceiling windows by a smiley young member of staff, it’s not difficult to understand Coghill’s decision to leave city life behind.

An intense period of deliberation follows before we whittle our choices down to a Lochalsh beef brisket and Orkney Cheddar toastie (which I had been lusting after since shamelessly stalking the café’s Instagram) and a roast tattie hash with Scottish chorizo, caramelised cabbage and fried egg.

Never one to say no to a Bloody Mary, I figure the ‘Bloody Mairi’ with Buckfast and Raasay Gin is a must, and when it arrives ice cold and full of savoury spice I’m glad to have indulged.

Although, a designated driver’s pick of homemade rhubarb and rose lemonade could give it a run for its money.

Pulling apart a wonderfully messy toastie that’s packed full of succulent shredded beef and demolishing forkfuls of salty chorizo that boldly cuts through buttery cabbage and potato we congratulate ourselves once more on our expert ordering skills.

The Herald:
It’s only when another staff member urges us to give a special of langoustine and Raasay whisky bisque a try that we begin to suspect anything coming from Coghill’s kitchen is likely to be a winner.

It’s light, incredibly moreish and offers the undeniable thrill of knowing its ingredients have been sourced locally.

Noticing more and more vehicles are starting to pull into the carpark and quite a queue is forming at the door, we make a move to free up our table.

There’s just enough time to request a chunk of their homebaked carrot cake and a salted caramel brownie to go. One more win for the road.

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Carbost and Hackney may be worlds apart, but had Café Cùil become my regular before lockdown, I reckon I’d be sorely tempted to travel hundreds of miles for another taste of their menu of no-nonsense, flavourful food with a joyous Scottish twist.

Café Cùil is located at 4 Satran in Carbost.

Read the full interview with Clare Coghill and find her recipe for Scottish Smoked mackerel on toast.