Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday, 22 August 2016

First review - new Sun Dancer restaurant and bar in Nairn

(Please see UPDATE at end)

The new Sun Dancer restaurant and bar in Nairn finally opened a week ago yesterday (i.e. Sunday 14th August); I do not think it has yet been advertised in any way, certainly it was not in last week's Nairnshire on Tuesday 16th, so it seems to have undertaken what is usually known as a "soft opening". Rumours locally are that it was originally scheduled to open in May, presumably in order to catch the late-Spring and early-Summer trade, but local rumours are that its opening was delayed for various reasons; I will not repeat any of the reasons I heard about though, as this is mere hearsay and the important point, as I see it, is that it has now opened.

I visited with my partner yesterday Sunday 21st August around lunchtime and we had ice cream milkshakes in the ground floor cafe - very nice they were too and the interior is bright, cheerful and modern in feel and the young lady serving us was pleasant and friendly. We asked if we could visit upstairs to see the bar/restaurant and being told "yes" went up to take a look.

It was much more spacious than I imagined it would be (I live close by so have followed its progress over the months). It is well laid out and the tables are not too crowded together. There is a bar area in one corner, with comfortable and quite smart furniture in that part of the floor. The tables and chairs of the main restaurant part are also quite smart and the balcony at the front has some tables and chairs, pleasant for a drink on a nice day or evening. We asked to book a table for the same evening and returned for our meal later with time for pre-dinner drinks.

The staff are friendly and pleasant, although still obviously learning their jobs and getting comfortable with their work environment, drinks and menus, etc. We had a very nice meal indeed, broadly comparable with the two other what I consider decent eateries in Nairn (The Classroom and The Bandstand) and the cost was broadly similar too; the Sunny Brae is lovely too of course, but is rather more refined in many ways than those three (including the Sun Dancer), only being a bit more expensive.

There was a Sunday menu on offer, 2 courses for £15.95, with 3 courses being a few pounds more; there was a small but sufficient range of options for starters, mains and puddings/desserts, although we understand there may be a more extensive menu in due course, but that they are trialling a slighlty more restricted menu, at least at the beginning, not to over-complicate matters. The food as mentioned was pretty good, so this represents good value I think, specially for an evening meal, with drinks (campari/soda, guinness [2 pints in all], a large glass of white and a small glass of red, for the cheese we had for dessert), the total bill was about £66-, rounded up to £71- (for 2 persons) with tip, a bit less than we would normally have added, for the reasons mentioned later in this review.

The table settings are nice (white quality table cloths, decent cutlery and crockery, high quality cloth-like paper napkins) and the dining table seats are quite comfortable and smart. It is obvious considerable care has been taken with designing a very pleasant venue to take full advantage of the lovely views out over the Firth; we had a corner window table just inside the outdoor balcony so the views were excellent, but most tables (even those not directly adjacent to the large windows) will have good views of the Firth.

The only criticism I would have is that the service was very slow and somewhat disjointed, but always pleasant and friendly, although it did require us on several occasions to try and attract the staff's attention after we had been waiting for lengthy periods, both to place our orders and to receive each course, requiring us to query the delays throughout the evening. For example we had to wait 15 minutes after finishing our main course before managing to attract the attention of someone to take our dessert order (the cheese board for both of us, which was excellent when it came, but obviously required no "cooking"), then after 25 minutes of waiting for it to be delivered, we managed to attract the attention of a waitress returning to the kitchen with used crockery from another table, when it was delivered rapidly; probably it had been waiting for delivery to us in the kitchen for some time, I suspect.

Getting the bill took another while, a pattern throughout the whole evening. However, I think this will become a great place to eat in Nairn, assuming they maintain their initial food standards (which are quite high in local terms I'd say), once they become rather slicker in the service area. I put the delays down to the staff still becoming familiar with their roles, so expect and hope this is merely a "teething" problem. I think they have been quite busy during their first week of operation, from what the lady who appeared to be in charge indicated to us, and it was certainly pretty busy on Sunday evening when we were there, so everyone there was flung into the deep end whilst still learning their jobs. We shall certainly visit again in a month or so (rotating it in with the other places already mentioned, which we will undoubtedly visit again in the intervening period), and hope we will have an equally enjoyable meal, but experience somewhat slicker service, once the staff have become more comfortable in their jobs. However, first impressions are that it is a very welcome addition to Nairn's dining scene.

NB/ This review is a slightly more detailed version of one I have already placed in the restaurant's own recently-created Facebook page here.

My aim here, as with all reviews of restaurants and hotels which I add in various places (my own blog or 'social media' or specialised review sites), is to be honest and completely fair. I do not think the Sun Dancer yet has a listing in Tripadvisor, but perhaps that will come in due course.

UPDATE (Sunday 19FEB17 16.50 RST [GMT+1]) A rather tardy comment, but my partner and I, together with a friend, visited the Sun Dancer for a second time on Tuesday 10th January 2017, this time for lunch. The lunch menu offered a reasonable range of choices and all three of us had enjoyable meals, nicely presented. The cost was again pretty reasonable too. Happily, the service on this second visit was much slicker than on our earlier visit, whilst still retaining a friendly atmosphere, without being "over familiar" in any way. The restaurant was fairly busy too, for a Tuesday in the middle of winter, with roughly two thirds of the tables being occupied in the main part of the restaurant (the smaller end part was screened off that day). We again occupied a very nice table by the windows at the front of the restaurant so had excellent views out over the Firth. In summary, I'd say we all three were quite happy with our meal and will certainly return in due course, rotating this newish restaurant with the two or three other pretty good eating places in Nairn.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Why it became necessary for the UK to vote to leave the EU

An article in this week's Spectator magazine has crystalised many of my reasons for voting as I did in our referendum on EU membership held on 23rd June last.

Dan Hannan (still an MEP), for a former committed "Europhile" such as me, brilliantly nails the lies and deceptions at the heart of the so-called "EU project". I voted Leave on 23rd June and have become more certain since then that it was the correct choice. For me this has got NOTHING to do with 'immigration', despite those who voted Remain presumptuously telling everyone who voted Leave that this was the reason we voted the way we did. Frankly I think this illustrates perfectly the sad beggar-thy-neighbour mindset of many (if I hope not most) Remain voters.

Sovereignty is not some esoteric concept, it is the basic choice as to how we make our laws and who is competent to adjudicate on them.

What really changed my mind about the "virtues" of the EU (which are many) is the callous way it has treated Greece, in the name of "EU solidarity"; Greece is not entirely innocent of course, it is not as straightforward as that, but what its treatment does illustrate is that a supranational body, the EU, is prepared to ride roughshod over the democratically elected government of a small and relatively "unimportant" member state, not for any noble reason, but simply to protect the financial institutions of its most powerful member state, Germany. To be frank, it is a moral outrage. I am equally disgusted by the petty arguments of some of my former "friends" who think the GBP exchange rate is sufficient reason to sell the soul of our country, the UK. I loathe almost everything Gordon Brown ever did as Chancellor and Prime Minister, but the one good thing he ever did was to make it impossible for the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to take the UK into the cesspit of the poorly-designed Euro, a continuing shambles, which tries to align the economies of vastly different countries, without the real and necessary mechanisms which make a 'currency union' successful, for example those which allow the US to have a common currency across 50 diverse economies, or the UK to have a similar common currency across its four component parts (and the separate regions of those four component parts).

Those mechanisms involve not just "benefits", but "obligations", which means sticking to certain basic rules - which means that countries within the Eurozone which flout the laid-down budgetary deficit rules regularly, rather than exceptionally, need to understand they cannot continue along this path if the currency union is to have any meaning and achieve longevity. This is however merely a symptom of the malaise at the heart of the EU. It seems that certain larger member states think they can flout fiscal and other rules, simply because they are large and economically significant, or powerful politically, whereas smaller states must be punished severely if they step out of line. This is not "democracy". The UK is undoubtedly a "more significant" country economically and politically, along with 3-5 other EU member states, but above all we are a democracy, and have been for quite a long time, and we think we believe in that old-fashioned concept called "fair play", not just "might is right". If I believed that true "reform" of the EU was possible I would have been amongst the first to have argued that the UK should remain a member, but empirical evidence over many years has demonstrated that this is not possible. We can and must leave the EU, and that is what we voted for on 23rd June, to ensure our democratic future as a free and successful economy, not as a vassal member state of the increasingly undemocratic entity that the EU has developed into. Other EU member states, including some if not all of the more powerful ones, have stated repeatedly that they wanted the UK to remain a member of the EU, but have consistently shown that they are unwilling to, or incapable of, making the "reforms" necessary for a true democracy such as the UK to remain. 23rd June 2016 was "crunch time" and the bluffs with which the EU has endeavoured to fob us off for many years have lost their power that day. Personally I very much regret that this decision has been made necessary. I believe that a brighter future for the UK is possible outside what has become the straightjacket of the EU. I wish the EU a bright and successful future too, of course, but am much less sanguine about that.