The Dowry


Commercial Street, Lerwick

We’re in Shetland, mainly for the purposes of researching a book I’m working on. But it would be rude, wouldn’t it, to pass up the opportunity to try out some of the local dining venues? We’re based in Lerwick and a wander around the town doesn’t reveal anywhere that looks particularly promising. However, an online check reveals that a place called The Dowry has several good reviews, and it turns out the place is only a short walk away from where we’re staying.

It’s a lively cafe bar, run by friendly young people and we’re soon enjoying a convivial drink while we peruse the menu and listen to a selection of Manchester music. Hang on, isn’t that Blossoms? Susan used to teach drama to the keyboard player! A case of synchronicity, I suppose.

The concept here is shared plates so we order a starter of Gordal olives, sweet bell peppers and smoked almonds. Of course, there isn’t much preparation involved here but it’s a little triumph, the huge firm smoked olives making all other olives seem meh by comparison, the bell peppers sweet and stuffed with a creamy cheese filling and the almonds – though the first spicy/salty mouthful is disconcerting – quickly grow on me until they’ve become incredibly more-ish.

Next up we share a small plate of sesame Halloumi, which comes on a bed of Tabouleh, and is liberally decorated with blobs of yoghurt. There are two generously-sized chunks of cheese and, while this is a little bland, it’s more than made up for by the rich Moroccan flavours of the tabouleh and that tangy yoghurt.

Two large, colourful plates follow. There’s a lovely pan-fried halibut which comes with brown rice, pickled veg and a deliciously sweet red pepper purée. The fish is perfectly cooked, a delightful flakiness under the crispy fried coating. There’s also a seafood stew, which features a couple of langoustines, some exemplary mussels, several beautifully cooked scallops, ling and monk – all ladled with a sublime lemongrass and coconut sauce. Everything on the plate is good save for the langoustines (and this is by no means the fault of The Dowry), which offer the usual dispiriting evisceration of heads, legs, carapace, only to leave an insubstantial scrap of flesh, which is gone in seconds. I’m beginning to feel the same way about lobster. It always looks so imposing on the plate yet hardly seems worth the effort. But I digress.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience: the food adventurous, the atmosphere buzzing and it’s excellent value for money. Unusually, we’re both too full to sample the puddings, though they sound worthy of further investigation another time.

So, if in Lerwick, do check out the Dowry. It’s worth your while.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney


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