Blink at the wrong moment, and you might just miss the road-side sign for 40 North Foods.
Based in the small village of Bragar on the West Side of Lewis, the independent, family-run food business that is 40 North Foods operates out of what was once an old loom shed. The space where Anne’s father wove Harris Tweed has been transformed into one of the most popular food spots in the Outer Hebrides – and I can’t keep away.
The Croft Kitchen is the takeaway section, which has been the heart of the operation since the beginning, while the new sit-down restaurant, The Verandah, opened in early 2017. The mantra here is ‘Made at 40’: not only are all the dishes homemade, but the ingredients are nearly all local, resulting in a quality you can taste when you take that very first bite.
Local meats are smoked on the premises by Anne, giving an almost American edge to Hebridean staples, while her husband Bruce conjures up breads, puddings, pizzas, and pastries. The combination of local and traditional ingredients with inspiration and ideas from elsewhere gives 40 North an interesting – and delicious – edge.
Since it opened in the summer of 2011, 40 North has built up a steady following, with regulars making their way across the island for their foodie fix.
(Unsurprisingly, I’m one of them: if I ever find myself anywhere that can be considered remotely near Bragar, you can bet I’ll find a reason to make a lunchtime detour to 40 North.)
At The Croft Kitchen, the filling and oh-so-flavoursome sandwiches are my go-to – you can pick and choose your meats, sauces, and breads, and then prepare to feast. The problem is my eyes are nearly always too big for my stomach. I’ll order a sandwich and then leave with some extras: a spicy pakora or a venison sausage roll; a salmon spring roll or a doorstep-sized slice of vegetable quiche.
As well as the deli selection and sandwiches on offer at the counter, there’s a takeaway menu available for customers to call in and order from (think pizzas, pies, and pastas), and a weekend specials menu that is so popular it requires an order to be placed soon after it’s revealed on Facebook.
And now there’s The Verandah, too.
Building on the success of The Croft Kitchen, Anne and Bruce recently opened a fully-fledged, sit-down restaurant offering the same delicious food as the takeaway – and even more besides. Seating 20 people, the space is bright and airy, with high wooden ceilings and windows offering views across the village crofts to the sea in the distance.
There’s a lot to choose from here: soup, fish and chips, burgers of all kinds, and of course, the staple sandwiches. On my most recent visit I ordered the maple glazed beef sandwich with caramelized onions – and was shocked to be presented with a sandwich the size of which I’d usually associate with the USA.
It came with a side of perfectly crisp chips, but I couldn’t finish them all, not after my starter of homemade pulled pork, Stornoway black pudding, and macaroni cheese nachos. (That mix of traditional and international? It worked really, really well on these nachos!)
Don’t even get me started on the ice cream I had for dessert – I haven’t tasted ice cream this good outside of Italy. 40 North churns out the real old fashioned stuff, homemade with custard and hand-mixed, resulting in a dessert that is wonderfully sweet and creamy.
Every time I visit 40 North I’m impressed all over again by the food.
The options, the flavours, and the quality all combine to make a unique Hebridean dining experience. I was at 40 North for lunch this time, but I already know that next time, I’ll be returning for dinner (not to mention my usual takeaway sandwich…).
With an exciting menu melding traditional and trendy, the option of either a restaurant dining experience or an easy takeaway, and a warm welcome from the chefs themselves, you simply can’t miss discovering what’s “Made at 40” on your next visit to the Outer Hebrides.
NEED TO KNOW
How do I get to 40 North? The easiest way to reach 40 North (at 40 North Bragar) is by car from Stornoway. Drive on the A857 across the Barvas Moor and follow the signs for Arnol and Carloway; keep an eye out for the 40 North Foods sign as you enter the village of Bragar. There are buses that pass the restaurant too – pop into the bus station or the tourist information in Stornoway for the latest timetables.
When is 40 North open? From Tuesday to Saturday, The Croft Kitchen is open 12noon – 7pm, while The Verandah is open 12pm – 4pm for lunch, and 6pm – 9pm for dinner. It’s always a good idea to get in touch with them via their website or Facebook to make a reservation, as it gets busy quickly!
Where can I eat my takeaway? On a nice day, there are plenty of picnic options in the area. Sit at one of the picnic tables outside The Croft Kitchen and make friends with the (very free range) chickens wandering around the garden, or hop in your car and enjoy your feast on the sands of Dal Beg or Dal Mor, just ten minutes away on the A858 road. And if it’s raining? Just eat in your car. Trust me: you won’t be able to resist the lure of the food until you get home!