A Taste of the Isles

Zoom Shetland’s ‘larder’ contains a surprising selection of the freshest and tastiest produce, either to buy for cooking yourself or provided for you in a variety of eating-out establishments throughout the islands. 

A Shetland Food Fair is usually held in the later part of the year and presents a great promotional opportunity for the islands’ food and drink industry. Regular farmers’ markets are held in various venues, and in a few rural districts you will find roadside ‘honesty boxes’.

The clean, clear seas provide islanders and island eateries with an almost never-ending supply of the freshest and tastiest of fish and shellfish, caught by a modern fishing fleet and processed by an equally modern seafood industry. Complementing the wild catch are farmed products including salmon and mussels, both of which have a reputation among professional ‘foodies’ for their quality.

On land, the natural wilderness provides a perfect rearing ground for sheep and other livestock as well as an expanding range of vegetables and produce. Shetland-bred lamb includes award-winning seaweed-fed lamb as well as hill-fed and is distinctly tasty. An increasing range of local pork, beef and poultry is also available.

Zoom Some island specialities to look out for in the fishmonger and butcher shops are ‘saat fish’, ‘reestit mutton’, ‘saat beef’ and ‘sassermaet’!

Fresh milk from the local dairy herds, artisan cheeses, preserves, fruit and vegetables, confectionery and bakery goods, even beer and gin… all are produced in Shetland and available from shops and at the occasional markets and food fairs.

Most districts have a well-stocked general store, many selling everything from bread and milk to fuel and fancy goods. The local shop is also a good place to find out what’s going on around the area and the assistants will always be happy to chat and offer information. 

For an appetising eating-out experience you can enjoy anything from award-winning fish and chips and cordon bleu feasts to eastern takeaways and high teas. Hotels, restaurants, cafes and takeaway outlets are located throughout the islands, giving plenty of opportunity to enjoy a tasty, relaxing meal or a quick ‘cuppa’. 

Zoom Another experience not to be missed is a ‘Sunday Tea’. These fundraising teas, held in community halls, have become something of an institution in Shetland and you’re welcome to pop in for tea, coffee and a choice of treats from the delicious spread of sweet homebakes and savoury snacks on offer. Most events are held to raise funds for the hall or for charity and they’re a great place to catch up or mix with the locals and also to sample or buy local produce and crafts. 

Check the What’s On diary at www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/whats-on for regularly updated event details.

Zoom To wash down a good meal why not partake in a dram or two in some of the local bars or try the local ales (brewed in Unst and Lerwick), or even some Shetland gin, distilled in Unst. You can mix with the locals and other visitors, have a game of pool or darts, listen to some traditional, and not so traditional music, or dance off the calories in the nightclub!

Useful websites:

Suggested further reading from The Shetland Times Bookshop

  • Shetland Food and Cooking, Marian Armitage, £20.00
  • Cookery for Northern Wives, Margaret B. Stout, £9.95
  • Shepherd’s Delight: Recipes for Shetland Lamb and Mutton, Shetland Sheep Society, £3.50

INFO EXTRA:

All premises with food available to purchase are part of the Food Hygiene Information Scheme run by Shetland Islands Council and the national Food Standards Agency, so consumers can make an informed choice beforehand on what to buy and where to eat.

Alcohol: The legal minimum age for buying or consuming alcohol is 18 years. A local bye-law prohibits the public consumption of alcohol within the Lerwick Community Council area (some excepted dates/circumstances apply).

Smoking: It is illegal to smoke in public buildings, bars, restaurants and enclosed public spaces.