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Issue 21 - Entertain like a laird

Scotland Magazine Issue 21
July 2005


This article is 13 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Entertain like a laird

Provenance of food is key to internet company Caledonian Connoisseur. Dominic Roskrow spoke to managing director Gillian Bell

It’s something many of us have dreamt about: hiring some beautiful house or even a castle in Scotland, inviting over friends we have met there, and entertaining them with the very best of Scottish produce.

Beyond the realms of possibility? Not if a growing band of people who have discovered self catering holidays in Scotland – many of them in the most amazing and unusual accommodation – are to be believed.

And now, through recently-launched internet company Caledonian Connoisseur – the missing piece in the jigsaw, the food, is in place too.

Caledonian Connoisseur is the brain child of business woman Gillian Bell. What she offers is the freshest and highest quality produce delivered to your door only a day or two after it has been caught or farmed. And even visitors to the country can take advantage.

“If someone is catering for themselves and wants to put on a dinner party no matter how large or small then all they have to do is visit our website a few days before,” she says.

“If the order is in by the deadline at the beginning of the week it will be delivered by the end of it. We offer the very best of Scottish produce delivered fresh and to the highest quality.” Provenance is an essential ingredient to Caledonian Connoisseur. Gillian and her team have put together an impressive group of suppliers and products, and in addition to the very best meat, fish and game, the company offers desserts, cheeses, Scotch whisky and quality wine to make for a complete experience.

Specialities include diver-caught scallops, live lobsters, Islay oysters, a black bacon that could lay claim to being the best bacon you’ll ever taste, and other meats including venison, prime Scottish beef and fine pork.

While the idea behind the company may be a simple enough one, to put it all in to practice and gather fresh food to distribute to a wide mailing base hasn’t been without its problems. But the company took an early decision to overcome doubters by bringing in the very best people they could to support them.

Top chef Nick Nairn is the company’s food director, and his supportive postings in the company’s literature and have played a major role in overcoming some initial customer doubts about buying fresh food on the internet.

Outstanding quality is paramount throughout the operation and to guarantee freshness food isn’t sourced until the orders come in.

“For products such as fish that means a certain degree of unpredictability because we don’t know what’s going to be in the catch,” says Gillian.

“What we can say, though, is we only send out quality food.

“All our foods are fresh not frozen and contain no artificial additives or preservatives. We can tell you the farms on which your beef and lamb was raised, how long they were hung for, who’s butchering for you and we can even cut to your exact requirements. We are happy to give you the names of the fishing boats that caught your fish.” Caledonian Connoisseur has sought to work with the best independent suppliers it can find, and Gillian believes that its hard work is paying off. Not only is it sourcing great food, but customers are increasingly demanding top quality.

“There are many exceptional small producers out there making wonderful foods full of flavour,” she says.

“However, it is very difficult to find their produce unless you live in their local area. With Caleyco the aim is to find them for you and bring them all together in one easy place for you to shop.

“These days people are more concerned about where their food comes from and what goes into it.

However, I did read an alarming statistic that said 49 per cent of people don’t care; their purchases are made on convenience and price, and that’s why the supermarkets are so successful in what they do.

“We aim to bring you value for money and convenience but the key to what we offer is quality, provenance and traceability.”

Caledonian Connoisseur can be contacted at:
Tel: +44 (0)1750 505100