There are a remarkable number of similarities between ‘mad scientist’ and ‘head chef’, says Ninth Wave restaurant owner Carla Lamont. She tells us about her beautiful Isle of Mull restaurant.
What did you do before you started this business?
I was a chef and have always been a chef. For a while I wanted to be a mad scientist. I got the mad part right, and I do get to wear a white coat...
What inspired you to start up?
My husband John is a lobster and crab fisherman. On this part of the Isle of Mull, there was nowhere to buy or dine on fresh seafood back then. We thought it was a shame that all the seafood got shipped off in vivier lorries to Spain, so we thought we'd do up the derelict bothy on our croft and turn it into a seafood restaurant.
Tell us about your business in 100 words
Ninth Wave is an intimate, award-winning seafood and game restaurant on the scenic Isle of Mull, where we offer quality modern cuisine: a celebration of excellent produce gathered from the magnificent provider that is Scotland. It lies on a traditional croft brimming with wild meadowsweet where you can dine in the comfort of a lovingly renovated, 200 year old crofter’s bothy.
The restaurant is run by ourselves, John and Carla Lamont, Carla is an award-winning chef. John is both your welcoming host for the evening and the fisherman who caught the delights appearing on our menu.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
A restaurant with all my favourite things in it...comfy chairs, a genuine welcome, a relaxed atmosphere, local colour and hedonism on a plate!
Where do you get advice, support or help?
Business Gateway has helped us a lot with courses and information. Our relationship with Highlands & Islands Enterprise Association has been valuable as well. Local councillors have aided us in obtaining necessary documents etc.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
Highlands & Islands Enterprise Association was instrumental is helping us with grants and set up info when we were in the planning stages. We tried eight different banks and no one would look at our project. It took seven years from idea to opening and Triodos Environmental Bank stepped up and was brave enough to take a chance on us...and I'm glad to say it's paid off. I did give them credit when asked at the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards who we'd like to thank.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
In 2015/16 we won a major hattrick of awards; Visit Scotland Thistle Awards ‘Best-Restaurant Experience’, the Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards ‘Scottish Sourcing Award,’ and the coveted ‘Restaurant of the Year’ award at the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards! I also feel our greatest success is creating a place that people love to come to...some profess Ninth Wave to be their favourite restaurant in the world, which is the best one could hope for.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
There's no other place like it...it's a symbiotic combination of rustic charm (the building and Jonny? The old salty seadog himself) modernism, organic produce, Pacific Rim cuisine, a genuine willingness to get it right and the magic of the Isle of Mull itself.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
Liberating, a creative well-spring of freedom, financially frightening at times and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
I would like to share the largesse of Ninth Wave and Mull with the world...perhaps a food show on the BBC or the Food Channel. I would also hope to be continuing to make people happy through creative food avenues and doing what we do best...and of course it would be grand to be accepting Restaurant of the Year Award at the highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards in 2022.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you have a clear vision, let no doubt enter into it and hold onto your dreams like a terrier, you can make magic happen.