Tucked away in the lovely village of Northon, a picturesque Harris village that is little more than a single street, is The Temple Cafe. The name is understandable, given the small stone building’s appearance, and the fact that the remains of a real monastic temple lie a short hike away across the Northton machair.
Step through the low door and you’re instantly greeted with a smile and welcoming words: nothing is too much trouble for Gail, who runs the cafe,or her staff. Inside the cafe is small and cozy, with old fashioned wooden tables and chairs, and bright Harris Tweed bunting strung across the tops of the windows, which offer a panoramic view of a particularly spectacular piece of Harris scenery.
The food here is fresh and the recipes unique, with vegetarian options too. Butternut squash and parmesan tarts, hummus plates, goats cheese bruschetta, and reuben sandwiches have all graced the chalkboard lunch menu in the past. In the summer months, the cafe is open for evening meals on Thursdays and Sundays, and offers a takeaway pizza service on Friday nights – a practice popular with locals as well as tourists.
Although I was tempted to eat a second lunch and order the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw in a seeded bun, I restrained myself (just) and opted for a coffee and a sweet treat. The latte was perfect, smooth and milky with just enough of a caffeine kick, while the caramel-infused chocolate brownie was moist and sweet without being cloying.
My mum decided on tea and a fruit scone, but wasn’t partial to the preserves on offer; Gail said she could easily get some strawberry jam from the store, which we assumed was somewhere in the back of the tiny Temple Cafe kitchen. The next thing we knew, Gail was running across the road to her kitchen to retrieve the jam from her house – now that’s what I call customer service!
Part of me wanted to lounge inside and absorb the atmosphere, but when the sun shines on the Isle of Harris, there really is nowhere more beautiful, so I ventured back into the sunshine. Luckily The Temple Cafe provides for such eventualities: picnic tables and wicker chairs are arranged with perfect views of the salt marsh, Scarista beach, and the North Harris hills on horizon.
No wonder there are stories of visitors eating here on four out of their seven days on Harris. Even I have to admit I was tempted to go back the next day and drive an hour and a half for the pulled pork sandwich, and that view. A combination of a quirky interior, excellent service, fresh food, and a stunning setting truly makes The Temple Cafe stand out from the crowd.