The River House Restaurant in Inverness, Scotland is a small boutique restaurant situated on the banks of the river Ness, that specialises in seafood
One Saturday night in May, with babysitters arranged, myself and the wife headed to this lovely little establishment for dinner; owning a shellfish business we only eat seafood in restaurants that serve top quality local produce and know how to cook it, and the River House is definitely one of those.
But there was a problem, it was full! There had been an issue with our booking, which turns out was all our own fault, we were an hour too late. Despite this, the chef proprietor Allan ‘Alfie’ Little, juggled the tables and managed to fit us in on what was a really busy evening in town.
We were delighted and had a fantastic meal. Towards the end of the evening we got speaking to Alfie as the kitchen started to wind down and, well you can guess where the story goes next.
So now we are now supplying the restaurant with a small weekly order of oysters, and are really happy that we get to pass these on locally to a chef and a team with such a passion for seafood. If you are in Inverness and want to eat our oysters, or other high quality seafood then this is the place to go.
We thought it would be interesting to speak further with Alfie, get him to share his thoughts and experience and tell us a little about his life and his motivations. So here is a small interview we carried out with him.
When did you first become interested in food?
[Alfie] As far as I can remember I have always had a love of food. This will surprise no-one that knows me! Growing up in Cornwall and seeing an abundance of fresh produce available from the land and sea all around me, led me to start thinking “what can I do with this?”…. Then the cooking began!
Tell us about your restaurant and your vision for it?
[Alfie] We have owned River House for 17 years now. When we first started it was very difficult to create and achieve the idea we had for it but as time moved on the idea came to life. Our vision was to create a relaxed, yet intimate dinning experience. Making people feel at home, whether for a meal or just a coffee and a glass of wine. We wanted a local bistro feel .. now we think we have achieved that !
How important is sourcing high quality Scottish produce?
[Alfie] For us at River House it is very important to source seasonal and sustainable produce both locally and throughout Scotland. There is a great array of quality ingredients produced by passionate suppliers and we hope both chefs and diners will embrace this larder.
You have been involved with sharing your knowledge in local schools. What has driven this and why do you think it is important?
[Alfie] Not doing too much with the schools this last year as the restaurant has taken up all my time, however I will get back into it. To me, it extremely important that we encourage the next generation to embrace food and the happiness it can bring. Either from cooking itself or the social interaction of dining together as a family, or with friends, that it something we seem to have forgot.
Now, as you know, we run an oyster farm, so we would also really like to ask you a few questions about our seafood of choice, the oyster! So in no particular order…
What dressings go best on oysters?
[Alfie] Oysters are great naturally but are also fabulous with a dressing. We always have at least four or five choices on our menu. At the moment, the two most popular dressings are the classic red onion / shallot and red wine vinegar and a creation we made of Isle of Harris Gin, chilli and lime.
What drinks match the best with oysters?
[Alfie] Drinks to go with oysters, well there is the classic champagne, but other bubbles are really good to, for example Franciacorta from Italy and Cava from Spain. If you like your wines then a crisp clean white wine like Chablis or Picpoul are good. Do not be shy with a beer either. A stout like Ghost Town from Cromarty Brewery is excellent. I recently tried citrus style IPA with some oysters and that worked well too. Not to go on about drinks but at River House we do a good Bloody Mary Oyster Shot and a Dirty Martini, using an oyster rather than an olive.
What about cooked oysters? Shall we see these on menus in the future?
[Alfie] To be honest, I am not a fan of cooked oysters. To me they are perfect naturally, but you never know you might see a tempura oyster with chilli and soy dip or grilled oyster with bacon and cheese some day!
What tips do you have for an oyster beginner?
[Alfie] I think the best tip I can give to an oyster virgin is … TRY THEM AND SEE!!!
If you would like to visit the River House (and we think you should!) then contact them via their website or phone them on 01463 222033 to make a reservation.
And if this has not convinced you then check out all the fab photos on their Instagram, that surely will!