This review is based entirely on my personal opinion. We have only rated establishments that we have tried or use ourselves on a regular basis. In general Orkney produce is very high quality so its well worth trying to stick to locally sourced meat and fish. Wherever you chose to eat, one thing you should find everywhere is kind and friendly service and a warm welcome. Where possible links lead directly to sample menus. Enjoy.
Located on the foreshore in the picturesque village of St.Margarets Hope, The Creel has led the pack here and in the North of Scotland for more than two decades. Multiple award-winning foodery culminating in May of 2006 with the prestigious Scottish Restaurant of the Year Award. Alan Craigie is a Masterchef and if you eat nowhere else on your visit then eat here. Booking essential, usually well in advance in the summer months. Prices are as you would expect.
The Foveran is a comfortable small hotel situated on the outskirts of Kirkwall overlooking Scapa Flow. The modern dining room offers excellent local cuisine cooked to high standards by chef Paul Doull. Booking essential, often well in advance is advised as they are very busy in the summer months. The atmosphere is spot-on.
Hamnavoe Restaurant, at 35 Graham Pl, Stromness Tel. 850606. No website yet, simple high-quality venue with small but excellent quality menu. Last meal I had at Hamnavoe was outstanding. The standards can however be a little variable. Very much worth booking.
The Lynfield Hotel has been on an upward path since purchase by Malcolm Stout five years ago; with large scale refurbishment and re-grading to four star status already achieved. Malcolm is a collector of Orkney antiquities and continues to embellish the Hotel with his fine antiques. He is also a Gourmand, a good thing for a Hotelier. The Lynfield is now consistently vying for the status of best restaurant in Orkney. Booking essential.
Woodwick House was listed in 2006 The Independent as the No 3 most romantic dining venue in Scotland. The jury is out this season as it is under new management. The food is historically good home cooking, the location will always be magical.
Helgis is as close as you will get to a sooth style Gastrobar in Orkney. Good concept, very well executed quality interior design and very sound uncompromising food make Helgis a winner. OVER 18 ONLY. Situated on the Harbour front in Kirkwall.
Recently refurbished to a high standard the dining room is now very sumptuous. Food is good if a little old fashioned in presentation with an emphasis on local produce.
Formerly the Queens Hotel, renamed and refurbished it is now a modern 21st century style establishment. Very good and fair value for money, your expectations are often exceeded, which is usually a very good thing when eating out.
At the other end of town the West End Hotel is a pleasing building with an interesting history, similar perhaps to the current owners who have refurbished and invigorated the establishment in the last two years. It now offers very good pub and hotel food within a very hospitable atmosphere.
The Stromness Hotel is a major landmark in the town with lively bars, sometimes a lot of locals and often the venue for great local events. Food is wholesome but stick to local produce, the atmosphere can be great.
Simple characterful pub restaurant which changed ownership in 2011. The new chef has raised standards to a much higher level and the food is now very good.
At the turn of the 21st century in Orkney we had no round-abouts, traffic lights or espresso coffee machines. Times have changed and all three are now in abundance. Sadly few establishments have mastered the art of making really good espresso, but all the other usual coffee varieties are generally available and sometimes even good.
The general quality of lunchtime food is very good. Recently it has become a bit of a merry-go-round, with new owners and new openings, especially in Kirkwall. This makes for a lively and competitive lunchtime market which can only be good. These are some of my favourites. The AYRE Hotel on the Harbour front in Kirkwall produces excellent pub lunches, especially sandwiches.
Trenabies in Albert Street is a very reliable and good Cafe, often very busy. Cafelolz@21 directly opposite has been re-furbished as a Cafe and makes very good use of quality ingredients. The Reel run by the Wrigley sisters has moved to the old Tourist Information Office next to the Cathedral and is a welcome and cosmopolitan addition to the Kirkwall Cafe scene. At the other end of town two additional Italian themed newcomers have opened in the last few years; Cafe Zio is always friendly and Kate is very helpful. Lorenzo's is a very welcome alternative designed on Pizza Express lines and very well done
Less obvious is the Wellpark Garden Centre, off Mill Street next to the Arts theatre, which hosts the Willows Coffee Shop, with a never less than outstanding supply of scrumptious home bakes and first class snacks making this a must lunch stop.
Opposite the peedie sea, The Pickaquoy Leisure center off Muddisdale Rd was built in 2000 and after a few false starts with food now once again is in limbo until the new extension with pool is opened in the Summer of 2012.
In the old town hall opposite the Cathedral is the St Magnus Cafe where you will often find many locals lunching and for more local flavour on the way out of town in the Hatston estate you could try the Mart Cafe in the Orkney AuctionMart which provides solid working breakfasts and good value family lunches.
Leaving Kirkwall the West Mainland has spawned a collection of very good lunchtime stops.
Appie’s Tea Room located in the parish of Sandwick is the current holder of the "Taste of Orkney Award," for light lunches. Though to be critical these awards are somewhat de-valued by the next in line nature they seem to have. The Tea room is very smart, lovely views and after some very good food you can peruse Pam Farmers photographic work in the gallery which is outstanding.
200 yards from the ruinous Earl's Palace the Birsasy Bay Tea Room opened in 2006 as a diversification from Bob Nelsons very successful Tomato produce business. He has done a good job with the unfailingly awesome coastal backdrop of Birsay Bay making this an unmissable location for tea drinkers.
More traditional perhaps, the Merkister Hotel on the shores of Harray loch, serves first class pub lunches. Breathtaking views make the Merkister a venue that is hard to beat on a bonnie day. The Merkister was originally Eric Linklater's family home.
Stromness has a selection of good pubs but by far the most successful lunch stop is Julia's Cafe in Ferry Road opposite the Harbour. Julia started trading in 2000 and the refurbished Cafe has been very successful ever since. The Cafe on the waterfront is well used by locals and has improved to a good standard.
A long way doon Sooth, near the Tomb of the Eagles on South Ronaldsay is Skerries Bistro run as part of Carole's eclectic business covering self-catering, B&B and boat trips. She does most things well and Skerries is certainly worth the visit if you are in the locale.
Finally, as we are local, you should try the Peedie Chippie take away van which visits on Friday's from 4pm-8pm, based at the Finstown carpark opposite the cemetery. Many visitors (and locals) rate their fish suppers very highly indeed.