We Grill – Carla Lamont
Carla Lamont owns the Ninth Wave, an award-winning seafood and island game restaurant on the Isle of Mull. Along with her fisherman husband Jonny they have created ‘hedonism on a plate’ with their decadent 18-seat restaurant. The winner of the Highland & Islands Restaurant of the Year 2013 and runner-up SLTN Restaurant of the Year 2014, Ninth Wave is open from May to October. To capture the essence of the wild and wonderful Island, Carla wrote her debut book, The Ninth Wave – Love and Food on the Isle of Mull.
What was your inspiration behind Ninth Wave?
Jonny was catching all this incredible seafood and it was being trucked straight off to Spain (today, 95% of what’s caught is still exported). There were few places in Mull that actually served fresh seafood, and those that did didn’t have sea urchins or octopus on the menu. I thought it was such a shame that locals and tourists were missing out on all this local fabulous seafood; so we decided to change that! Drawing on inspiration from restaurants in Canada, childhood memories and the great produce available on this wild island, Ninth Wave was born. That was six years ago and we’ve not looked back since!
How do you source your ingredients?
All of our produce is as fresh as you can get it. Jonny goes out mid morning to fish and whatever he catches is on the menu that evening – served by him in his kilt! We try to grow as many herbs, fruits and vegetables as we can. I pick my spinach an hour before it is served, my herbs minutes before dinner. There is always meat on the island, especially beef, slow-grown lamb and lots of game. In fact, our venison and lamb have a unique, tastier flavour because of what they eat from the shore-line. I make my own chocolate, sorbets and ice cream and use the award-winning Mull cheese. As much as possible is sourced locally.
Which chefs inspire you?
I like over-the-top people so Paul Pairet’s Ultraviolet restaurant in Shanghai is just amazing. The whole experience is like a fantasy as over a 20-course avant-garde set menu your food is united with visual technology. I love it! And for traditional culinary greats, never overlook the Roux brothers.
What’s your career history?
I started working part time at a pizza place when I was 14. Once I left school, I worked in as many kitchens as I could to get hands-on experience, eventually building up to being a line cook. I worked at the Executive House Hotel in Victoria and the former Rattenbury’s Restaurant in Victoria, on Vancouver Island. My colourful landlady (who impersonated the Queen of England and travelled the world!) found out through her worldly contacts that Argyll Hotel on the island of Iona, on the western coast of Scotland, was looking for a meat cook. She knew I had a passion to travel, so I applied – and got it! I loved the place so much that I stayed, met my husband and moved to Mull.
When did your passion for cooking begin?
At home. Our entire life revolved around food. My mum was a great cook and her mum was before her. Food was the main family focus; if we weren’t buying it we were cooking and eating it! My first love was a lemon meringue pie baked by my mum. Only six years old, I remember sneaking into the kitchen before breakfast and eating it – it was definitely worth the trouble I got into! I now do a deconstructed lemon meringue on my menu and it makes me think of my mum.
Any tips for cooking seafood?
Pick the freshest seafood you can get and try not to overcook it – something most people do. For example, with langoustines all you have to do is heat up a sauce on the stove and when it is hot put the langoustines in for three minutes. You don’t have to fry them beforehand. This way, they will be cooked to perfection; soft and melt in your mouth – just the way seafood should be. People always cook it for far too long. Most recipes say to cook lobster for 20 to 25 minutes but I cook them for just seven and it makes a big difference! The second you overcook seafood it just turns into rubber so be careful with the cooking time and follow your instinct. I think people know more than they give themselves credit for.
How do you choose the menu?
We offer the option of three, four or five courses. All start with a soup or oyster course and end with coffee and chocolate. We don’t have a huge selection of main courses, as I prefer to offer more small ‘tasting’ dishes and have therefore planned the menu to mirror that. The menu changes daily and is written around what is caught and available, but lobster and crab are always on.
Hobbies outside the kitchen?
I’m a keen pool player – although I don’t play as much I’d like. I write poetry, love to read and as a Steampunk enthusiast – it’s where Victoriana meets sci-fi – I host lots of costume parties.
When the restaurant is closed, I do marketing for it, experiment with new menus, dry seaweed, forage and plant the garden. And, if I’m lucky, I go on culinary travels!
To win one of three copies of Carla’s book tweet #NinthWave @takestockmag by Aug 31