Friday, February 25, 2011 www.inverness-courier.co.uk
An improvement but could still do better
Finding an adrenaline high . . . in the freezer
Restaurant League Table
23 River Cafe and Restaurant, Bank Street. 01463 714884 Zizzi Ristorante, Bridge Street. 01463 237735
Longman Road Inverness Quick critique Food: Classic fish and chips, plus various alternatives. Ambience: Frantic and unsettling. Cost: Three courses for under £15. Menu Starter: Platter for two. Mains: Haddock special; barbecue chicken and chips. Dessert: Chocolate brownie and ice cream. THANKFULLY my return visit to Lorimers was better than when I was last there in August 2009 and only gave it 12 out of 25 — largely because I did not enjoy my chips. This time I am pleased to say there was a vast improvement. Chips are an accompaniment to thousands of meals throughout the year at this restaurant, so should be treated with the respect they deserve. Two years ago I described them as little golden bullets shooting off my plate as I attacked them with my fork due to their tough exterior, but this time they tasted just fine. But as Lorimers takes one step forward, unfortunately it seems to have taken a few steps back. One of the impressive features of my previous visit was the completion of my three courses within 58 minutes — this time it was approaching the two hour mark before we were done and that included sharing our starter and our dessert. The restaurant was half full, but it appeared the staff were run off their feet. We were seated in the conservatory area with a view of the busy Longman Road and the Stagecoach building. It was a cold setting — despite the fact I was wearing my thickest jumper. Our menus were grubby with hairs stuck to them and chips were on the floor under our table. Not the
ideal first impression for any newcomers. My companion and I decided to share our starter which was the platter for two. There was plenty to eat with BBQ ribs, battered mushrooms, onion rings, potato skins, garlic bread and a garlic dip. The dip was overpowering and left a lingering taste for hours afterwards, while there was more meat on a butcher’s pencil than was on the ribs we were given — detracting from an otherwise tasty selection. Our waiter apologised for the lengthy wait between courses but happily it was worth it. For mains I chose the large haddock special which was exceptional. The fish was cooked perfectly, while the chips were top drawer. Another improvement came from not having to hunt down the bottle of tomato sauce, as each table had its own this time. My companion’s chicken was served with bacon and mozzarella plus barbecue sauce and chips. It was a delightful combination which satisfied her appetite. Unfortunately due to other arrangements and the lengthy meal time we had to share our dessert in a bid to get served faster. We went for the homemade brownie with ice cream. The warm chocolate flavoured cake, which contained nuts, was reasonable and the vanilla ice cream was acceptable, but it was far from a memorable combination. Overall this second visit was better than my previous encounter yet there are still areas for improvement. Service on a Saturday lunchtime must be better. I acknowledge there are takeaway facilities which are busy, but the restaurant customers should not suffer as a consequence. As a cheap and cheerful fast-food alternative it would be recommended but just stick to the mains and, as an extra tip, it might be better as a carry out.
The Restaurant, Eden Court Theatre, Bishop’s Road. 01463 239841 The Mustard Seed, Fraser Street. 01463 259119 The Kitchen, Huntly Street. 01463 259119 The Waterfront, Huntly Street. 01463 233870
By John Davidson email@example.com
21 Little Italy, Stephen’s Brae. 01463 712963 Aspendos, Queensgate. 01463 711950 Jaipur Indian Restaurant, 14-17 Bridge Street. 01463 232914
20 Girvan’s, Stephen’s Brae. 01463 711900 Steak Academy, Academy Street. 01463 709409
19 Chez Roux, Culduthel Road. 01463 240089 Contrast Brasserie, Ness Bank. 01463 227889 Jimmy Chungs, Bank Street. 01463 237878 Delices de Bretagne, Stephen’s Brae. 01463 712422
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Ash, Academy Street. 01463 232403 The Redcliffe Hotel, Gordon Terrace. 01463 232767
17 Filling Station, Academy Street. 01463 663360
15 Lorimers, Longman Road. 01463 717717 Ramada Encore, Academy Street. 01463 228850
11 Snow Goose, Stoneyfield. 01463 701921
Restaurant Rating Quality of Food: nnnnn Menu choice: nnnnn
Surroundings: nnnnn Service: nnnnn
Value for money: nnnnn Total: 15/25
PENDING the day in an indoor freezer might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea but, geared up with two ice axes and a pair of crampons, I can think of worse places to be. I have a fair amount of experience in the Scottish mountains in winter but ice climbing was something I’d never tried. Given the last couple of winters in the Highlands, however, I thought it might be worth acquiring the skills. Going vertical isn’t usually my preferred route choice, whatever the conditions, so what better way to learn than in the controlled environment of a giant freezer, complete with 15-metre climbing wall? I headed to the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven with this in mind (and with a flask of tea to help wake me after the early rise).Before I got onto the climbing, though, I got the ultimate warm up. The aerial adventure course — described as “possibly the hardest course in the UK” — is a real test of nerve and balance. It’s hard enough climbing up the net to get 15 metres off the ground to where the action really starts. Ian, my instructor, clipped me onto the safety device and I gulped as I looked at the course. For somebody who loves the mountains, I’m still a bit scared of heights. The first task is a giant step across nothing to the starting obstacle. I’m 6ft 1in, and I could only just reach the platform with a big stretch! Looking ahead I could see a wire with a rope to hold onto, then another wire with a series of hanging ropes. Beyond that there is a series of hanging, swinging platforms
before a monkey bridge then . . . well, it looks like it’s just part of the frame but then you turn onto a log (damp in today’s conditions) with nothing to hold onto. I held my safety rope like a security blanket but thankfully managed to walk my way across! Turning the corner I was now on the home straight — but what a straight. A hanging climbing wall traverse
led to the next platform, where a series of blocks hanging off separate wires provide the most difficult obstacle of the whole course. Once over them, there’s another gap to leap — or step — over before the final “leap of faith”, a very mini zip slide back to the platform. “Do you want to go round again?” asked Ian. I’ll let you guess my answer!
However, after a quick abseil off the side, he had something else in store for me. I thought it best not to ask too many questions as he hooked me onto a massive chunk of wood below the 15m aerial adventure course. I started moving backwards and, more significantly, upwards, and upwards, and upwards . . . until finally he shouted from far, far below: “I’m going to count to three, then you’re off.” After enjoying some time in the cafe, Jamie Smith, director of the Ice Factor and qualified instructor, took me onto the climbing wall. I’ve done some climbing before so he checked I knew what I was doing with the ropes then assessed my technique — or lack thereof! After some handy hints, and a bit more practise, he had me on a few slightly more technical routes but this was more about improving skills. Some of the advice he gave was the best I have received, now I just need to be able to put it into practice myself. Soon I was ready for the main aim of my visit — a go on the world’s biggest indoor ice climbing wall. A group of six of us enjoyed a two-hour session in the deep freeze where our instructor Andy got us on the go. After getting right to the top on my final climb — through sheer determination by this point as my arms were totally pumped — I came down buzzing from the whole day. The Ice Factor had been more than the dedicated climbing centre I had imagined, and it was well worth the trip to Lochaber to get a rare day in the great indoors.
Ice Factor fact file Getting there — Follow A82 from Inverness to Fort William then continue towards North Ballachulish, where you turn left onto the B863 signposted for Kinlochleven. Ice Factor is situated in the old aluminium works on the left just after the bridge (2.5 to 3-hour drive) What to wear — You’ll need thermals and/or three layers of clothing for the ice wall, as well as gloves and a hat. Changing facilities and showers available. Good soled trainers required for the aerial adventure course, and an outdoor jacket. Equipment hire — All technical equipment
included in price of instructed sessions. Minimum boot size 4 for ice climbing. Cost — Full day adventure pack (rock climbing/ice climbing/high ropes course/giant swing), Adult £75, Junior £60. Half-day (any two activities), Adult £55, Junior £45. Taster classes, Adult £30, Junior £25. Hit the Ice skills course, Adult only £48. Courses — Ice Factor also offers a range of outdoor summer and winter walking, mountaineering and climbing courses. For more information visit www.ice-factor. co.uk or call 01855 831100.
Variety of wildlife finds a home within city boundaries
THERE is a variety of wildlife to be found within the city of Inverness and fortunately most of it is easily seen. The River Ness supports dippers and ducks such as the red breasted merganser and mallard. If you are lucky you can even see otters while, to the annoyance of the salmon anglers, the grey seal is relatively easy to spot. Grey seals seem almost to play with the fish they catch as if mocking the anglers so intent on plying their rods. Large gardens enjoy a wide variety of birds, particularly where feeders are well stocked, and foxes, hedgehogs and even roe deer can also be found. But what of the birds in the centre of the city during the winter and how do they cope when the weather is bad? As I walked around Inverness one day last week these thoughts crossed my
mind, mainly because there were two pairs of herring gulls on the top of the buildings in the High Street that sounded as though they were courting. Their raucous cries varied from loud, laughing and wailing call notes to short barks that the books describe as “kyow kyow, kyow”. Herring gulls and, to a much lower degree the lesser black-backed gulls, can be a nuisance in fouling buildings and even attacking people when the birds have chicks later in the year. Now they are content to scavenge what they can and seem equally at home in the main streets, inside the building of the railway station and in the car parks of large shops. In some of the larger car parks they stand on posts and buildings calling and if one swoops down for food the others see it and follow.
Soaring over some of the inner buildings the large flocks of feral pigeons are conspicuous and they swirl around sometimes in spectacular aerial flights. It is difficult to imagine that all these pigeons originate from the rock dove that used to be mainly a coastal bird. Then they were tamed into doocots that at one time played an important part, to well-off people, in supplying meat and eggs all year round. When the doocot pigeons — much changed by selective breeding — escaped once the structures fell into disuse they began breeding with wild rock doves. Now it seems unlikely that there are any true rock doves anywhere in the Highlands, and for that matter the Islands. Other successful birds to be found in Inverness are the hooded crows and carrion crows. The bird in the photograph
is a hooded crow that was stalking around the car park of a large supermarket in the middle of the city. As if to indicate the sheer resourcefulness of the bird it was going to parked cars and systematically taking dead insects off the radiators. This was a pure hooded crow as opposed to the carrion crow that is black all over. The two birds are now, as from 2002, classed as two separate “forms” despite the fact that in some areas, such as in and around Inverness, they successfully hybridise. The range of the carrion crow has extended in the north of the UK driving the pure hooded crow northwards and westwards. Whatever one thinks of the hooded and carrion crows they have to be admired. Very few other birds could have coped with so much persecution now and in the past by trapping and shooting.
Fancy a Career in the Media? In conjunction with RockNess we are giving budding journalists and photographers the chance to take the first step on the ladder by covering this year’s festival for The Inverness Courier. You will receive advice from our award winning journalists and photographers and see your work appear in the paper and on our website. The competition is open to 16 to 25 year olds and to enter the writing section simply submit a review of no more than 350 words of any gig, film, play or television programme. Photographers should send us up to three pictures of an event they have attended, anything from a family party to last year’s RockNess.
Media Talent Search
Shortlisted candidates will receive free tickets to this spring’s Road to RockNess gigs in Inverness and cover them for the paper. From these, two writers and photographers will be chosen to win VIP tickets to RockNess where Kasabian, Paolo Nutini and Chemical Brothers will headline and official Inverness Courier accreditation. Either e-mail your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org, marking Talent Search in the message field, or post them to; MEdIa TalENT SEaRCh, EdIToR, ThE INVERNESS CouRIER, NEw CENTuRY houSE, STadIuM Road IV1 1FG. Good luCK!