A family night out is planned but Dad wants a curry, the eldest fancies pasta, the youngest some fish and chips, and Mum really just wants a Friday night cocktail to end the working week...
The County Hotel has the answer to all. Indian food Head Chef Ravinder Khairi Chhetri – who has been delighting County customers with his spicy dishes for the past 10 months – has been joined in the kitchen by Italian Head Chef Joseph Dimola and Sous Chef Sahbi Saro Mabrouk to offer authentic, traditional Italian options for those dining out in Stornoway.
Born in south west Italy, Joseph brings a taste of his home to the Western Isles through the newly revamped County menu.
Starting early, Joseph began helping in his family restaurant when he was young and was cooking by the time he was 14, taught the traditions by his 'beautiful mum' whose speciality of meatballs, he assures, were 'the best in the world!'.
Following five years in culinary school in Italy, Joseph spent a number of years working in restaurants and hotels around the globe.
"For experience, as a chef, you move around – you learn from a new person, in a new place, and you always add to your own cooking through that," he said.
And it is Joseph's own Mediterranean and Adriatic inspired and traditional dishes that he adds to the County fare, with the new Italian menu boasting mouth watering starters like Funghi all'aglio (fresh pan-fried mushrooms served with garlic blue cheese sauce) and Fegato di Pollo fresco (fresh chicken liver pan-fried with red onions, peppers and chilli).
For mains the County kitchen serves up Joseph's classic pastas –Cabonara, Bolognese, lasagne – alongside others such as Penne con Gamberoni e Salmone (penne pasta with prawns and smoke salmon in a creamy tomato sauce), and of course 'mum's meatballs' Tagliatelle con Polpette.
And seafood and mushroom Risottos are available to tickle the taste-buds, as well as delicious seabass fillet and shellfish dishes.
Joseph, along with Sicilian sous chef Sahbi,will be adding to and altering the new Italian menu regularly, as well as introducing special offers, as they enjoy working with the fresh produce available locally in the Western Isles.
"What I like most about cooking is the creativity and fantasy element –you can play around and experiment, introduce new ingredients," he said."Here we're using around 70% fresh local produce in our cooking and it makes the difference, much fresher, much nicer."
County Classics – fish and chips, lamb shank, chicken fajitas and beef burgers are still a staple at the Stornoway Hotel, but also sharing the County kitchen is Indian Head Chef Ravinder, who remains determined to keep the County curry fans happy as his Indian menu undergoes some changes, as he said: "I've altered some of the spices and recipes and put in some new dishes, but there are still the old ones that people like."
With over 30 years experience in hotels and restaurants as far afield as Japan, Canada and Iran, Ravinder has been enjoying the slower, quieter pace of island living; and is pleased to be able to 'make people happy' with his fresh Indian food.
"When I worked in a hotel in Dubai, there were over 500 people working there, no one knew each other; but here, everyone knows everyone and it's much more simple and quiet," he said.
"For me the job is about making people happy, I'm not just working for money or for cooking, but happiness is what I'm working for. If we hear the customer is happy with their food, that gives me pleasure, that makes me proud."
And with all that eating, there's only one thing left to do at an evening out at the County – enjoy a delicious sample from Hotel's cocktail bar of course!A dinner-for-two date night, a family meal out, a work gathering, or small wedding celebration, the County Hotel can cater to all.