Taste of Place Trails Stories
Steve and Maurice, the owners of Carradales Luxury Guesthouse, haven’t been in Argyll long, but the place has already captured their hearts. Having spent most of their working lives in London, they felt ready for a change and knew they wanted to open a guest house somewhere in Scotland. Where in Scotland, though, depended on finding the right location. Nestled in the lush green landscape of the eastern side of the Kintyre Peninsula, sheltered from the wild Atlantic waters just across the promontory, they found just what they were looking for in a Victorian ex-manse. Built in 1880, the house had everything they wanted in a home and a business, where they would combine Steve’s exquisite cooking with Maurice’s warm and welcoming front of house service.
A passion like no other
Steve’s passion for food is infectious and comes across instantly in conversation. He speaks animatedly as he talks me through his menu: chicken stuffed with stilton and rhubarb relish; curried crab with avocado, cucumber and watermelon; cod kiev with salsas; the list seems never ending with each dish sounding more delicious than the last. Steve was a pastry chef for five years so makes all of his desserts as well as the savoury dishes, and starts his day by baking fresh bread first thing every morning. He likes to experiment with flavours in his bread, offering vibrant combinations such as curried mango salsa and coriander, chocolate and coconut or local goat’s cheese, tomato and rosemary. He speaks of the abundance of local food that is readily available, and how he tries to make use of it wherever possible. All the beef and lamb they serve comes from the local farm, with fish coming from Campbeltown just down the road. The wild garlic will be out in a couple of months, he tells me, and he will go out and forage it to serve with fish and as a sauce for his vegan mushroom dish. Experimentation clearly plays a big part in his cooking style, he says “I’ve been a chef for forty years but I’m still learning.”
Local, local, local
The guest house offers an intimate setting for meals, with capacity for a maximum of ten guests and only one sitting each evening. Steve likes it this way, as it allows him to focus all his attention on perfecting the food – with just him creating all the dishes himself, it’s a lot of work. It also gives him time at the end of service to come out and enjoy a glass of wine with diners, learn about them and answer their questions about his menu. This is where his role intersects with Maurice’s, who takes care of the front of house experience for guests. Carradales offers four guest rooms and Maurice and Steve pride themselves on offering luxury combined with a cosy, relaxing atmosphere. Maurice tells me their aim is to offer a retreat for visitors coming in after exploring the rugged coastlines and local nature. They make a point of telling people about the surrounding area, promoting local sites and things to do, and sharing the local food and drink; “we are all about local. All we have is Kintyre gin and local whisky. We have a nice wine list too which is from Woodwinters.” Steve and Maurice clearly thrive on sharing the space they’ve created with their guests, they appreciate “the beauty of meeting different people” and enjoy the fact that “the people who come here want us to be part of their holiday experience.” They know that many people come to them for a sort of escape and, as Steve puts it, “It’s a long way for people to come so I want to make sure they have a good experience when they get here.”
It’s a way of life
As Kintyre’s only five star Visit Scotland guest house, that dream which started in London of running their successful guest house in the wilds of Scotland seems to have become a reality for Maurice and Steve. “It’s not a job, it’s a way of life”, Maurice tells me, and you can hear in their voices when speaking to them that it’s a way of life that suits them perfectly. Being able to share their food and hospitality with visitors is evidently a source of great pride for the pair, who look forward with eagerness to the summer ahead and the people it will bring to their door.