Shetland Wool Week - A Special Menu at Hay's Dock

by Elizabeth Atia -

Shetland Wool Week, the annual world renowned celebration of Britain’s most northerly native sheep, the Shetland textile industry and the rural farming community on these islands, kicks off for its fifth year on October 4th 2014.

To celebrate, head chef Robert (Bob) Stephen at the Hay's Dock Café Restaurant in the Shetland Museum & Archives has developed a dedicated Shetland themed menu which will be served in addition to the main menus throughout the week.

Last night BBC Radio Shetland presenter Jane Moncrieff and I were invited along for a chat with the chef and a taster session of the special menu. Jane was recording for the next installment of Shetland's Larder, a radio program about all things Shetland food related.

Hay's Dock café restaurant is located on the upper floor of the Shetland Museum & Archives. It is a spacious, well lit café restaurant with large windows overlooking the last remaining area of original dock on the Lerwick waterfront - the stone pier you see is the original Hay's Dock dating back to the late 1820's. The large stone building you see on the the pier is the pier store, thought to be the only surviving example of this building type in Shetland, and it is used to store boating gear.

The café restaurant is named after this historical landmark provides the very finest Shetland produce, simply cooked and beautifully presented seven days a week. Keep an eye out for the artwork embedded into each table under protective glass. Each table has a different piece and they are quite intriguing!

There are three starters on offer for the Shetland Wool Week Menu including the soup of the day (because there always has to be a soup of the day, says Bob), haggis bonbons with chip shop curry sauce and house cured Shetland salmon with lemon aioli. For those skeptical about haggis - do give a try, it really is quite a remarkable dish much better than the sum of its ingredients. For these bonbons, a crispy deep fried coating hides a deliciously moist and flavoursome haggis. The bonbons are served with a creamy sweet curry sauce normally found in chip shops and the whole dish is garnished with watercress.

Their Shetland salmon is cured in house in vodka and dill and is attractively presented on a black slate with capers, rocket, tomato, a lemon wedge and droplets of lemon flavoured aioli (a lemon infused mayonnaise). The salmon is beautifully tender and its delicate flavour is set off perfectly by the smooth, creamy lemon aioli and the sharpness of the capers. Yes, this dish went down rather well!

For the main course you can choose between a Shetland lamb stew, Shetland fish pie, and for the vegetarians, a beetroot risotto.

The Shetland lamb stew is made with locally reared lamb shoulder slow roasted to perfection before it is added to a stew of pearl barley, baby potatoes and root vegetables. It's proper, warming, Autumnal comfort food with succulent lamb that melts in your mouth.

The Shetland fish pie was my personal favourite of the three main courses. This mouthwatering pie is made from fresh market fish including smoked haddock, ling and tusk cooked in a white wine cream sauce. It is topped with a generous layer of creamy mash and a cheesy crumble garnished with fresh chopped parsley. Served piping hot in an individual casserole dish with a side of garden peas this was the main course I kept returning to for bite after bite... after bite!

The vegetarian option is a roast beetroot and smoked cheese risotto with crispy rocket. The crispy deep fried rocket gives a different flavour and texture to the dish, says Bob, and although it's a weird combination it works quite well. The dish has an attractive pink hue to it with chunks of roasted beetroot throughout.

It can be difficult for vegetarians to eat out at restaurants, but Bob is very reassuring that there many different options on the usual lunch time menu.

For afters there is Shetland fudge cheesecake with chunks of Shetland fudge embedded in a traditional vanilla cheesecake base, or Eton mess (as it's nice and popular). Unfortunately, neither Jane nor I had any room left for pudding after tasting all the starters and main dishes, so I have no photos to share with you of those.

Head Chef Bob Stephen has been a chef for 24 years. He began his career in Largs, near Glasgow and then moved to Edinburgh. After several years there he and his wife decided to move to Shetland, his wife's homeland.

Bob is passionate about using high quality produce when cooking, but also making meals affordable for customers. He believes he can make a difference to the food scene in Shetland - he has big dreams of turning Hay's Dock into an award-winning restaurant. He doesn't want it to be just any old restaurant, he wants it to be the best that Shetland has to offer.

His plans to achieve this include using local produce, cooked properly and presented beautifully. He wants to raise his standards with each new dish, keeping customer interest alive.

Hay's Dock is a pretty restaurant, Bob says, it's in an attractive location and he has big plans for it.

You can find the Hay's Dock café restaurant on Facebook and have a look at their menus, including their special Wool Week Menu on their website. I would urge you to go and have a taste for yourself - me, I can't wait to return!

To find out more about Shetland Wool Week follow them on Twitter and Facebook and have a browse through their website where you can watch live streaming of the events happening in the Shetland Museum & Archives Boat Hall.

Tune in to BBC Radio Shetland (92.7 fm) on Wednesday the 15th of October to hear Jane's Shetland's Larder program. Alternately, you can listen via the Soundcloud link on their Facebook page.

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