North East-born chef wins Restaurant of the Year award

A North Shields-born chef has picked up the National Restaurant of the Year accolade at the Hotels of the Year Scotland Awards 2023-24.

Raised in North Shields and Newcastle, Michael Leathley has been head chef at The Pierhouse Hotel & Seafood Restaurant at Port Appin in Argyll for just over three and a half years, and has settled in Scotland with his wife Ieva and five-year-old son Jonas.

Set on the shores of Loch Linnhe, The Pierhouse offers breathtaking views to the islands of Lis-more and Mull. The hotel’s Scottish seafood restaurant is led by Michael, who said: “It’s a real honour to have picked up this year’s National Restaurant of the Year award and help put our wee corner of Argyll on the UK’s foodie map.

“We work really closely with a network of the region’s best local producers and suppliers, including the freshest langoustines and mussels harvested from Loch Linnhe and Loch Etive, as well as fine handpicked oysters from the oyster beds of Loch Creran, just 10 minutes from the hotel.”

Growing up on the north east coast, Michael was never far from a fish dish and his love for sea-food began as a child.

“The thing that reminds me most of my childhood is smoked kippers,” added Michael. “When I was very young, my mum worked as a graphic designer and there was a festival she was involved in with all kinds of artists and musicians. One of the snacks you would get there was a whole kipper in a soft white roll. The smell of that – the smoke, butter and mustard – brings it all back. It’s memories of smoky fish and kippers that opened that entire door for me. I was a very strange child – I loved smoked fish at a really young age and would always be quite excited about it.

“I grew up in North Shields and my granddad was a fisherman. When he retired from sea fishing, he took up eel fishing around Northumbria and would smoke his own eels down at his allotment.”

The Pierhouse Hotel restaurant holds three silver stars and two AA rosettes, and is included in the Michelin Guide for Great Britain and Ireland 2023.

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