The Trossachs, Scotland: Tom Lewis' pop-up and where else to eat
Chef Tom Lewis has put Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park on the food map with his eclectic collection of restaurants and cafes. Now he's sealing the Scottish region's reputation as a hot destination for culinary food-trippers with a pop-up fine dining restaurant in a shipping container. Sophie Pither goes along for the gastronomic ride.
Tom Lewis' pop-up
It takes someone special to turn an old shipping container into a hip restaurant. Tom Lewis, high-energy chef-owner at Monachyle Mhor Hotel, is that person – with bells on.
Tom’s innovative ideas are evident in all Mhor enterprises. So far, these are a smart hotel, Monachyle Mhor, a groovy motel/all-day restaurant, Mhor 84, a café, pie-shop and baker, Mhor Bread, and a smart chippy serving seafood pasta as well as haddock and chips, Mhor Fish. All are within the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park with its alluring heather-strewn peaks and glinting lochs.
This latest venture (part of Tom's Mhor To Your Door operation) is particularly inspired. Its USP – aside from being a restaurant in a container – is that it can be towed to dazzling locations, enabling a posh pop-up with spectacular views. Tom’s taking bookings to hire the whole shebang, but look out for pop-ups at events, too.
The style of the mobile restaurant is cosy elegance. It’s arranged with 24 white table-clothed settings, vases of wild flowers, candles, a log burning stove and stylish white-washed floorboards. One length has windows and the other a misty photo frieze of Loch Voil. Take a seat and it’s easy to forget you’re in a metal box that used to ship grain all over the world.
The menu is likely to be a multi-course taster featuring local produce, all cooked in a converted silver sheep-trailer alongside. You might get crowdie from Katy Rodger’s artisan dairy paired with wild sorrel served with a light dram of 10 Year Old Glengoyne whisky, then perhaps a loin of venison – shot in the next glen – with sunset-tinged foraged chanterelles or nettle-crusted skirlie, and a slice of Trossachs trout matched with herbs from the Mhor kitchen garden. All of it delicious.
Where else to eat in Loch Lomond
Tom and his team have set the bar high for good food in the National Park, but there’s an increasing array of producers here too, offering venison, beef, lamb, smoked fish, shellfish, fruit, honey, dairy produce, cakes, pies, whisky and craft beer. Scotland as a whole has a revamped pride in its native produce. Where once it used to ship the best seafood and meat abroad, Scots are now relishing it on home turf and enticing visitors with it, too.
A clutch of top chefs – Tom, Nick Nairn, Martin Wishart and, a smidge north, Andrew Fairlie – have set up shop in the region. Other exceptional eateries dotted about the local countryside include Venachar Lochside, The Woodhouse, the Lake of Menteith Hotel, the Cross Keys in Kippen, the original Loch Fyne Oysters and more.
But it’s Tom and his inventive ideas that sum up the Trossachs food scene. The bright and welcoming bar and restaurant at Mhor 84, with its colourful, upcycled décor, and now the mobile restaurant define his Just-Do-It approach. He’s the type who has an idea, and before anyone else has pondered it, he and his family have built it, given it a lick of paint, decorated it with eclectic bits, and started cooking in it.
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First published: September 2015
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