We’ve had a run of warm blue sky days recently in Caithness (though as I type this, the rain clouds are forming!) and one such day we headed out on the short 10 minute drive to the Whaligoe Steps Cafe. I had seen Whaligoe Harbour from another perspective just one week earlier on my Caithness Seacoast trip, and from the cafe, you can walk down the 300+ steps down to sea-level.
The cafe building was used as a herring station which prepared the fish before it’s onward journey to London during the 19th century.
The Whaligoe Steps cafe has a wonderful melting pot of decor, complete with a floor to ceiling window of the Whaligoe cliffs, which provides great views, especially in stormy weather. (The below image is from the Whaligoe Steps Cafe website).
The whitewashed stone walls are covered with an eclectic assortment of pictures, pots and vases, and the ceiling has huge white-rose like lights which catch your eye as soon as you walk into the room
Also catching my eye was ‘Savour‘ a recipe book featuring many of the inhouse recipes used in the cafe, and insights into Karen (the chef’s) life in Malta before moving to the northern tip of Scotland. During our first visit way back in September, before we moved to Caithness, I had seen that this was due to be published, so I flicked through the display copy for ages, resolving to buy my own copy at the end of our meal.
Much like the book, the menu takes some time to read through too! With a huge mezze section, seafood, burger, pizza, even ramen makes an appearance on the menu, and there are daily changing specials on the blackboards too. After a lot of deliberation, we decided to share three mezze between us.
The roast onion hummus served with side salad and hearthbread. The side salad was a meal in itself, with various leaves, olives, slaw, potato salad all drizzled with a nice dressing in a deceptively large bowl! I also can’t wait to attempt the hearthbread, while the hummus was a solid success – and this was the first recipe I made from the book, a mere 24 hours after our visit!
Second up – a portion of sfinci – crisp fried balls of anchovy dough, served with a chilli oil. We managed about half between us and took the rest to go. Sfinci can be most commonly found in Sicily, and the salty anchovy flavour really took us back to our honeymoon!
Finally, the classic ‘Susan’ selection of long halloumi batons – perfectly cooked and served with a garlic mayo dip (though they were also great dipped in the chilli oil served with the sfinci).
Even choosing a drink from the extensive menu took me ages, but I settled on a housemade apple juice which had been blended with rhubarb – definitely a good seasonal spring choice! Served with ice and cold water, and a bottle of homemade sugar syrup for me to sweeten as I chose.
Whilst professional and friendly, the service is very relaxed – a nod to the Mediterranean lifestyle that is prevalent through Karen’s cooking. It’s not the place for you if you want to eat quickly and go. We were quite happy to sit and enjoy the view, chat, and read our books – much like we were on holiday!
After a significant breather, we considered dessert – because everything sounded amazing and too good to miss! However, despite the call of the ice cream desserts, we both chose desserts from the specials board – a nut free carrot cake for him, and a freshly made brownie for me (which I replaced the cream with a scoop of the ‘tres leches’ (three milks) icecream – the brownie was the excellent combination of having a chewy top, and a smoothy fudgy interior, and not being able to finish it in one sitting, this was also packaged up for us to takeaway.
Tummies very full and feeling the benefit of having a relaxing time (almost to the point of feeling that we were on our holidays), it was time to leave and get back to the grind of daily life.
The Whaligoe Steps Cafe is an oasis, serving outstanding food with the bonus of an absolutely staggering view. We’re very lucky to have it as one of our most local cafes. Some things to be aware of:
- The cafe is only open Thursday-Sunday, but does open late into these evenings which is going to be brilliant in the long summer nights!
- Check the website for any extra closure days – as the cafe do provide outside catering for events and functions.
- They have an exceedingly cute cafe cat!
This is not a review post. I like to champion small businesses and hidden gems along the NC500, and the Whaligoe Steps Cafe is definitely one of them.