Ox & Finch, Finnieston #cravingselloutbritishinspiredtapas

Trendy, high-ceilinged venue with a casual vibe, offering creative, contemporary tapas-style dishes.

A La Carte

Why: they make elegant food seem effortless, whilst maintaining consistent high quality in all areas including excellent ingredients, new menu items to keep things fresh in addition to the solid favourites and fantastic service. Their success is only accentuated by the fact you need to ensure you book a table well in advance, as you’re about as likely to get a last minute table at Ox & Finch as you are winning the lottery!

30th August 2018

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My visit to Ox & Finch on this occasion was due to a friend finishing the Graduate Program within the company we work for and also getting a job in the same team as me. I wanted to treat her in celebration of her success, so Ox & Finch had been on my list to re-visit. Having just recently started a new job in that region myself, I had been working pretty hectic hours with days that seemed to merge into one another. So approximately 45 minutes before our dinner was due to start, a reminder flashed up in my phone (whilst I was still out on site) and I had to chuck everything together, hang up on someone and race out of there whilst making sure I locked and alarmed up everything too to attempt to get there in time (screenshot below refers).

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Luckily, the traffic wasn’t too bad travelling from the southside of Glasgow into the city centre and I made it with a minute to spare! We had booked for 6pm, so I actually had to wait at the bar for a couple of minutes as the couple seated at our table prior to us was just leaving as I arrived. I was seated not long after, and after choosing water (tap obviously, I’m like a poster child for it at this point in my work gear…) which arrived in a lovely repurposed Harris gin bottle, I waited. When it got to around 10 past, quarter past … I phoned Fruzsi (my friend), as after our exchange where I advised I may have been late, she was now significantly later whilst only living a few minutes walk away. Oh how I laughed… as she thought the table was booked for 6.30pm and had been waiting around in her flat ready to go, so ironically I had beaten her!

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As I hadn’t had much time that day to eat much else, I decided to order a ‘snack’ to tide me over until we had both settled down to choose our main menu items. The beetroot hummus, whipped feta, hazelnut dukkah and chicory was an obvious choice; as anything with feta and beetroot is bound to be magnificent to me – I love the flavours! I also ordered the fresh toasted sourdough with salted butter to “wash it down” (if there was some way of gesticulating sarcasm and my barely veiled attempt to justify eating bread, then I’d do it … unfortunately you probably see right through me thinking ‘why in the feck would she wash anything down with sourdough?’, but ask me if I care… I don’t).

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So Fruzsi arrived (told you she lived close), which meant she could share in the delights of my snack starters. I’m not shy in admitting there was a part of me that was gutted I had to share anything at all; I still have to work on this inherent gremlin inside of me lingering just below the surface coaxing me to steal ALL the food and snarl, kick and bite at anyone who tries to take any of it away from me. Does anyone else have this problem?

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We chatted for a while and finally settled on 5 dishes (if you don’t count the 2 x snacks/starters we already indulged in). With the first powerhouse sense of scent hitting us in the form of the charentais melon, prosciutto ham, white balsamic & mint. The fragrance from this dish was knock-you-over-worthy; it assaulted your nostrils upon entering the table’s atmosphere. Such simplicity in a small plate, but utterly worth the (some would say overpriced) cost of £6.50, as we enjoyed it so much.

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Keeping in the theme of simply but stylishly stunning – the buffalo mozzerella, isle of wight tomatoes, basil oil & aged balsamic arrived next and we dug into it with the fervour of my pups attacking a fresh bone from the knackery. The zing of the tomatoes was balanced with the sweet tartness of the balsamic and the creamy mozzerella stole the whole show. This was important for me, as I find so often with the wrongly chosen supermarket mozzerella that you feel like you’re eating a lump of plastic. It broke up softly and without the need for slicing, just came apart like it knew the basil oil needed more surface area to penetrate for maximum tastiness.

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Now I’ve had this next dish in some similar theme or other from Ox & Finch before, but this iteration of it was better than anything I’ve ever tasted before. The venison, juniper and peppercorn carpaccio with hazelnuts and crowdie sang with varying notes of flavour, culminating in its eventual harmonious symphony of deliciousness in my mouth. If you generally shy away from raw meat, I would encourage you to try this, as the accompaniments suit it so well that you can hardly tell it’s ‘raw’. I love crowdie; it’s got a place in any savoury or sweet dish in my opinion so with my knife I spread it thickly over the venison prior to it making the final destination journey into my gub. The hazelnuts provided a silently strong backbone to the dish, ensuring the softness of both raw meat and crowdie didn’t leave you wanting. In the words of a fellow insta foodie (@myyummofoodblog) – YUMMO!

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Now at a price tag of £14.00, the seared scallops, piccalilli, ramsay’s black pudding & apple dish could be off-putting, as I will admit for all of three scallops, it’s pretty steep. However, as soon as you scoop up some of that puree, smear it on a scallop you’ve shredded in half with your fork, whilst piling it up with apple and black pudding … you soon forget the somewhat questionable cost as the dish sends you into a dreamworld of  tantalised taste buds, exorcising all thoughts of potential expense. The sear on the scallops speak for themselves (and for the Chef’s for that matter – as they clearly know what they’re doing) … could you refrain from choosing the scallops when you visit?

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Another ‘MUST HAVE’ when visiting Ox & Finch is the confit duck leg, yellow curry, thai basil and crispy rice, and yes I capitalised the ‘must have’ for a reason. This dish is a long-standing menu item on their menu, and it’s stayed whilst others have come and gone or been amended slightly, for a damned good reason – ’cause it’s so fricken delicious that I can imagine people staging a protest if it were to be removed. The crispy rice is the foundation of the dish, much like a house needs bricks, as without it it would undoubtedly fall over. The duck is delicate, whilst also being robust, and breaking off the bone is delectable chunks to be fought over by the diners (or at least this is what happened with Fruzsi and I … the gremlin raised it’s ugly head and accused her of taking too much meat and not sharing exactly equally, ha!) And all of this is swimming lazily in the prefectly balanced yellow curry sauce of dreams (I’m using the dream analogy again, yes, but then you’ll forgive me for thinking that this place is a Mecca of sorts).

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Due to my eagerness to order dishes in advance of Fruzsi even turning up, meaning we ‘kind of’ ordered 7 dishes instead of 5 (I’ll maintain these weren’t all actual dishes, as some were quite light, making them half dishes in my opinion LOL), I wasn’t sure I wanted dessert. I must mention, there is a strict difference between want and need when it comes to food and me, and I’ll admit I’m easily swayed when anyone attempts to change my mind in favour of more tasty goodness. Thus, the raspberry millefeuille with olive oil and mascarpone was ordered and oh what joy I had that Fruzsi convinced me to share it with her! It was sheer DELIGHT in layered form. I love a good textural experience and this creation was so bloody good, I wish I’d ordered my own. Don’t be discouraged by the almost simple descriptions of the menu items at Ox & Finch – as if you are not wow’d at every turn, I’ll take you back all over again and convince you to change your mind!

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I treated Fruzsi to this meal and it totalled £58.50 for all dishes and we had only drank tap water throughout the meal. Worth every penny!

Chefs of Ox & Finch, you talented bunch, keep it up!!

Cail Bruich – Taste of the Season – June 2018 #cravingpreCBrefurb

“At the CAIL BRUICH Restaurant our focus is to create a modern style of Scottish Cuisine, influenced by the best in classical and modern cooking techniques. We passionately craft our menus with an appreciation of the finest ingredients and produce, all available from Scotland’s outstanding natural larder.”

Taste of the Season

Score: 16/20

Why: they scored slightly lower on this occasion primarily because the service was a little slower (when we’d asked for it to be sped up) and for no comment/action on the dessert issue – see below for details. It was lunch time and the restaurant was quieter than the dinner service the month prior so I hadn’t expected this to be the case (maybe I was just missing the attentiveness of Josh, who knows!), but take a look at my other Cail Bruich blog post here for my 19/20 experience.

June 2018

Menu

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Upon enter the restaurant at 12.30pm, we were seated at the window (which I’d requested) and offered some water. I had been given a voucher (Taste of the Season menu deal for two) and advised the Waitress that we would be using it. I arrived 10 minutes before the booking time and earlier than my friend, Andrew, but I mentioned that we only had limited time to have our meal as he was working afterwards (we offered them the specific time he would need to leave). Once he arrived, he ordered an Americano (the relevance of this will factor in later…) whilst saying he would also just stick to tap water, and we gestured that we would like to begin the meal.

Retaining some mystery and intrigue, the menu depicts ‘snacks’ as a precursor to your first course. I love this, as although you’re aware you’re sitting down to set menu, the meal begins with a few surprises, which I always view as bonus dishes even although you routinely get them each and every time. The snacks provided were:

Crispy pigs head with lovage emulsion & Old Winchester scone with cep cream 

Meat dense and carb dense ’cause who can choose?! My preference had to be the scone; as I always favour carbs, but carbs with mushroom – DING DING DING! Apologies for the shoddy photographic skills on the pigs head, I was trying not to be rude by photographing (this was a few months ago when I still kinda cared about that… and it’s not like Andrew really bothered, as he’s been quite supportive of my blogging, but that’s social awkwardness for ya!). What would your choice be between the two snacks?

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Cultured butter with sea salt & smoked goose fat butter with juniper salt

 

Served with sour dough, the thoughtful and well matched flavours featured even in their butter is why Cail Bruich is reknowned for it’s fine dining appeal; no detail is overlooked. Andrew tried not to eat too much dairy so they delivered a serving of smooth and creamy babaganoush to the table for him; I almost wanted to steal it for myself it looked so good! We laughed at this point as I clearly hadn’t heard what she’d said it was and I was adamant it wasn’t babaganoush – shows even those of us who are ‘foodies’ get it wrong sometimes and points for Andrew (he loves to win…) So anyway, I contented myself with both knobs of butter and enjoyed them immensely.

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Flame grilled sea bream, gooseberry, radish and burnt cream

The bream dish was exactly the flavour palate I talked about in a few of my Instagram posts, specifically in relation to how well Cail Bruich manages to deliver on it. The bream almost has a raw texture, which I loved, but my friend didn’t. The gooseberry sang with sharp notes in amongst the puffed rice textured crunch and crisp, cool radish slices. The was my dish of the day, happily finishing off my friend’s dish too as he wasn’t too enamoured – his loss was my gain!

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Isle of Wight tomato, green strawberry, elderflower

Now I’ve cheated with this one and stolen the photo from their Instagram page (bad, I know) as I totally spaced on taking a photo! This was a fermented strawberry and tomato gazpacho type dish, with fresh and fragrant tomatoes offering a sweeter note to the zing of the strawberries. Many of my favourite dishes to leave the kitchen at Cail Bruich have been centered around tomatoes, but I wasn’t totally sold on the strawberry combination. I preferred the tomato, elderflower and almond milk dish from the Jamie Scott menu. I had actually got in touch with Josh (our Waiter from that evening) to ask him if he could swipe a photo of this dish for me, as I’d forgotton to take one, so unsure if the inclusion of it on their Instagram soon after was as a result or just plain coincidence, but regardless – I was lucky!

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Cod, jersey royals, confit leek & warm tartare

We opted for the £10 supplement course and were pleased for doing so – it was delicious! Cod is so easily uninspiring (I feel), and all the small considerations on this dish raised it to godly heights. It was a warming, satisfying and well put together and thus worth the additional tenner.

I’ll mention at this point that we asked the Waitress to literally ‘call’ our next dish as soon as she placed the cod down in front of us… and continue doing so until the end, as we recognised we were running out of time. Our following course arrived quite promptly as a result, so I was optimistic that we’d finish up in enough time…

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Pork Belly, apriocot, baby gem lettuce, white turnip

Warm lettuce on meat dishes always makes me scrunch up my face and wish for a better accompaniment. Interestingly, I carried out a Poll on Instragram as a result of this thought and it seems I’m in a minority – most people love it! I will admit – of all the warm lettuce leaves I’ve had, these ones were pretty decent. Additionally, I’m not generally drawn towards warm fruit either so this dish wasn’t really flying high on my ‘god damnnn’ list, but I’ll conform and say it was a pleasant enough. For not enjoying warm lettuce or fruit with my hay smoked pork belly as a general rule, I did finish most of the dish (the meat was beautifullll – the fat had melted into the layers of the pork meat making it rich and silky). And I’ll give it one thing – it looks hella pretty!

However, we sat with finished/empty plates for a considerable period of time, and although I kept trying to catch someone’s eye, it proved slightly futile. After finally having our plates cleared and making a decision on the timing, Andrew stated he had to leave. So unfortunately, I was left alone to enjoy the joy that was the final course:

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Artichoke cake, raspberry, carmalised whey, artichoke

I’m am officially converted to whey, which is a by product comprised of primarily milk sugar, thus giving it its smooth, rich and sweet creamy flavour. Combine this with the absolute (I’m going there…) moistness of the artichoke cake, sharp spike of the raspberries and temperature change of the cold artichoke cream and #voila – you have yourself a winning dish ! I was absolutely gutted that Andrew missed this, as it stole the show for me; every mouthful made me revel in its genius each and every time.

The disappointing element for me was that when I was issued with the bill, every item was accounted for. Now, I didn’t grumble or say anything – as it was a set menu and I had the voucher (not that that should make a difference – I always maintain vouchers should not impact on the level of service you expect), but considering we only had one dessert I was hoping for some consideration that improved serving attentiveness during our last few courses would have gone a long way in ensuring all courses were delivered within the timescale. I would like to clarify that I didn’t expect the supplement to be removed (we had eaten this course after all!), but considering Andrew had had a black coffee I suppose I use my own experience in the hospitality industry to consider how I would ideally like the establishment to react in these circumstances. Coffee beans don’t cost very much in the grand scale of things, and it would have been a nice gesture to indicate they realised that one of us had ‘missed out’ on a course, and subsequently saving them some £cash£ in the kitchen as well (as they only had to serve one).

Now, I don’t want you reading the end and thinking that the overall review is negative, because that is absolutely not the case! The food is always stand-out good at Cail Bruich and it steadfastly remains in my Top 3 restaurants in Glasgow for dinner. But I think it’s for this reason that I was looking for that final goodwill gesture; to indicate they  had observed the fact we both hadn’t managed to finish the full set menu. Maybe I’m feeling this way as it was such a wonderful, tasty course and Andrew missed out on it… as I would love to see it, or something similar, featured on their menu in future.

So this concludes my experiences of ‘pre-refurbished’ Cail Bruich, as they’ve opened up again recently with totally new seating area, bar, kitchen and menu – featuring Bar Bites (available for walk-ins, no booking required) including dishes such as: Loch Fyne oyster with frozen raspberries; crispy monkfish cheeky, ponzu mayonnaise, seaweed vinegar; BBQ sweetcorn, smoked butter, pecorino, lemon, parsley and a few more!

I can’t wait to go back again soon and see how they’ve changed everything, hopefully the food remains consistently good as always!

Cail Bruich – Sunday with Jamie Scott #cravingJamieScott

“At the CAIL BRUICH Restaurant our focus is to create a modern style of Scottish Cuisine, influenced by the best in classical and modern cooking techniques. We passionately craft our menus with an appreciation of the finest ingredients and produce, all available from Scotland’s outstanding natural larder.” Sunday with Jamie Scott – Menu Score: 19/20 […]

“At the CAIL BRUICH Restaurant our focus is to create a modern style of Scottish Cuisine, influenced by the best in classical and modern cooking techniques. We passionately craft our menus with an appreciation of the finest ingredients and produce, all available from Scotland’s outstanding natural larder.”

Sunday with Jamie Scott – Menu

Score: 19/20

Why: fine dining in Glasgow doesn’t come much better; the food, service, ambiance and general ‘feel’ of Cail Bruich is somewhere I won’t ever tire of visiting. The flavour combinations are safe, yet inspired and the roller coaster ride of textural euphoria they provide is top notch. (I have to reserve the 20/20 marks for Michelin, so it’s basically top marks for this Glasgow establishment).

27th May 2018

Menu

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So welcome to a photo gallery and musings of Cail Bruich (one of my favourite restaurants in Glasgow), with guest Chef Jamie Scott (Masterchef The Professional Winner 2014) leading up the kitchen. Cail Bruich regularly run these types of ‘events’ – just check out their Facebook and/or Instagram page for more information on upcoming dates/guests. And we’re off…

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Celariac Taco, Broad bean, Fresh Peas & Smoked Cultured Cream

Johnny complained .. cause it all looks like vegetables. ‘Cause he a MAN, and man apparently need meat in every single dish to validate their masculinity. And apparently beans are ‘change of beggars’… what am I marrying?

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Brown Crab Brioche, Brown Crab Emulsion, White Crab Meat & Lemon Thyme

This was extremely buttery, and Johnny said overpowered the white crab meat, which I do agree with but I still delighted in the richness, albeit I would maybe have paired it with something other than brioche.

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Isle of Wight tomatoes, Elderflower, Smoked Almond Milk

This was my favourite, as we had this meal 4 months ago now and I still reminisce on it with the fondness of an old friend. It was overwhelming fresh, light and visually spectacular – with the contrast of green to white – and the elderflower oil and almond milk provided a creaminess which makes it hard to forget.

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The video of the almond milk being poured over the tomatoes was the first re-post photo/video I had on Instagram, so thanks to Cail Bruich for that. Also, Josh – our Waiter – was lovely and patiently accommodated me taking a video. Clearly intuitive and insightful as I didn’t even need to say anything; really glad we had someone serving us who is excellent at their job as it improves the night tenfold.

‘Cail Bru’ beer

This beer was served with the sourdough bread (below) – it’s from Drygate brewery – a local Glasgow beer with hints of local gooseberry, oats and elderflower. A toasty malted delight!

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100% Sourdough & Cultured Butter

The bread had already been seasoned, so CB get brownie points for that. By this point  in the meal Johnny was saying he needs calories (LOL), whereas I was sitting like a happy badger all delighted.. especially with the addition of beer.

Loch Fyne Scallops, Scottish Green Strawberries, Brown Butter Hollandaise

What a delight! Cubed chunks of smooth and silky scallop meat with textures of strawberry topped off with a creamy buttery hollandaise – such a refreshingly light fish course, and one I’d welcome over and over again. At this point I said I didn’t care if Johnny complained as he wasn’t bringing me down from the foodie euphoric high you get when your tastebuds are blessed with such  flavours and textures ! But he thoroughly enjoyed the scallop dish as well, so it was a  success !

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Veal Sweetbread, Sea Beets, Fermented Garlic Purée & Pickled Mustard

The pickled mustard lifted the dish and provided a slight sharpness to balance the umami flavour, which is always welcomed by me. The sweetbreads were reminiscent of fois gras; for those who wouldn’t even ordinarily try them, I encourage you to do it in a decent restaurant where they know how to accompany the flavour to best showcase it’s delicate flavour and celebrate their unique texture.

Johnny Update: he’s having the time of his life huffing and puffing like a giant who’s been not been given his daily child as sustenance… I’m hoping we have a decent meat dish coming soon as I can’t deal with him bringing me down from my joy at this point.

Confit Lamb Shoulder, in Bassicas, Wild Garlic, White Turnip & Green Cabbage Emulsion

Hurrah! Meat arrives … the lamb was extremely tender and provided the desperate meaty richness we were after (Johnny was after). Wild garlic was in season at this point (see my Foraging post for info), so it added a great fresh, forest fragrance to the dish.

I would like it noted that I was a great fiance at this point and gave Jonathan half my lamb dish, as he had given me his tomato course earlier on. Not sure if it’s a fair trade off in the eyes of most, but it suits us – as we both ended up with more of our favourite dish.

Strawberries, Woodruff, Sweet Cicely & Freeze Dried Strawberry Meringue

Contrasting temperatures was the hero in this dish; the strawberry sorbet underneath, contrasting with the room temperature meringue and topping. A myriad of sensations!

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Newport ‘Tag Mi Suas’

‘Tag Mi Suas’ translated as ‘take a seat’ in Gaelic is Jamie’s Scottish take on a traditional  tiramisu. It was made with all local produce: 50%, 70% and 90% chocolate used, mascarpone, touch of coffee in the sponge at the bottom of the chocolate dome and milk butter sorbet.

Jamie brought this out to the table himself, and I had a fan-girl moment when meeting him, which meant that I never took a picture of the ‘whole’ dish … you may notice there is a bite sized chunk missing, ha!

So he wandered off, and whilst I was thinking ‘I wish I had asked for a photo’… Johnny rose from his chair (without prompting), walked to the pass and asked if he could come back out again for a photo with me. The outcome is below 🙂

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I returned to Cail Bruich to sample their own Chefs ‘Taste of the Season’ menu in June 2018 – please see my other post/photos here.

The Mither Tap Restaurant, Pittodrie House (Macdonald Resort Hotel) #cravingstellarservice

“One of the most historic and romantic hotels in Scotland, with roaring fire places and sweeping spiral staircases, Macdonald Pittodrie House is set in 2,400 acres of glorious grounds.”

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I love historic houses with roaring fireplaces, floor to ceiling windows, wood panelled rooms with dark green or burgundy paint used in the theme of the Victorian era, effectively used to create a cosy mood. Unique and interesting pieces of furniture, oil paintings and trinkets adorning the shelves and fireplace used to complete the scheme; with woodwork, cornices and ceilings also painted. I grew up in a house that was over 150 years old, with no rooms in the simple shape of a square, coal fires and little nooks and crannies for us to hide as children when playing hide and seek. So I find myself feeling both nostalgic and extremely at home when I’m sitting in an old leather chair looking out open bay windows enjoying some coffee. Unfortunately however, this wasn’t the emotions I was feeling when I was sitting in the drawing room of Pittodrie House for the first time. But it was the room where my emotions were swiftly swung around quite quickly by excellent customer service.

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My friend and I had booked Pittodrie House via an Itison voucher for DBB @ £139 (which is now sold out), and booked it for the day after I returned from my holiday in Italy (Sat 16th – Sun 17th June). We travelled up from Glasgow and arrived around 3pm to check in. I’d had some issues during the booking of this voucher, as although it states a Feature Room they had twice sent me confirmation of a classic room only. This was resolved over a few phones calls, but I had printed off the confirmation stating a Feature Room to take with us. Call me contrary… but when I need to deal with something as simple as confirming what is stated on the voucher deal, it doesn’t fill me with confidence when arriving – but I remained optimistic!

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We arrived, checked in, confirmed it was a Feature Room (yes) and headed up the stairs. There was a wedding on whilst we were there, which was nice to see, as I’m at the stage of considering various venues for my own wedding. Entering our room, my first feeling was of being underwhelmed; from the photos online of four poster beds, couches, dining tables and ornate furniture we were slightly confused with ‘The Night Nursery’ and its proclamation of being a Feature Room. The order of their rooms is: Classic, Executive, Feature and Suite. Now one thing I’ve learned from my many, many travels across Scotland with work is that there is an easy way to check what category your room falls into – check if what you have in your room matches the amenities they state for that room type on their website, e.g.:

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Please Note: the photos above are not my own; they were taken from Trip Advisor (pictured: Night Nursery room) and the Macdonald Hotels website (advertised ‘Feature Room’) respectively.

So upon finding we didn’t even have the soft bathrobe and slippers (which apparently comes into play at Executive room level) and no sign of the sofa, table and chairs, Arran Aromatics, Fruit Bowl etc., I was quite disappointed that even with numerous conversations prior to arriving I would need to discuss the room anomaly further. Leaving our stuff in the room, we went back down to Reception to discuss the matter, and were transferred over to Becca to deal with. She advised she would need to discuss it with someone else and asked us to wait in the Drawing Room and she would organise some tea and coffee for us whilst we waited (first bonus point here – well done). Cue the scene of sitting in a room that I would ordinarily be feeling comfy, slightly awed and generally happy to the actual feelings of trepidation, anticipation and irritation with the current state we found ourselves in. At the risk of sounding cheesy however, this is where our Knightess in Shining Armour arrived to salvage our feelings and subsequently the whole trip.

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After waiting for about 15 minutes, Kelly the Operations Manager introduced herself and although she stated that The Night Nursery is a Feature Room (apparently due to the fire place), she could understand how our expectations weren’t met and that we hadn’t received the items that it clearly stated should be present within a Feature Room. Firstly, she stated she would waive the £50 charge that we should have been paying extra for staying on a Saturday night. She offered us some sandwiches or a snack, but we declined as we had just eaten an hour or so previously at The Creel Inn. Thereafter, she arranged for Housekeeping to ensure all items were in our room that is promised, and she also included a bottle of prosecco and 2 x Lush bath bombs. She also offered to move us to the nearby Norwood Hall Hotel at no charge to ensure we had an upgraded room, but we declined in favour of staying at Pittodrie as the general hotel was lovely and we felt that in theme of the current conversation, we’d be well looked after and we both wanted to leave having had a good experience. The voucher only included 2 x courses at dinner, but she allowed us 3 x courses at no extra charge and also provided us with 2 x glasses each of champagne to accompany it (I’ll provide a run through of our dinner soon – as it was the final push needed to lift our spirits back to feeling excitement and enjoyment).

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Once our room was ready, we left The Drawing Room feeling like Kelly genuinely cared and was personally invested in ensuring we enjoyed the rest of our stay. I won’t provide you too much detail (‘cause I think you’re already realising that short and snappy ain’t my strong point in blog writing, which is the total antithesis of real life LOL) on the next few hours, except it included hot baths with Lush bath bombs, fluffy bathrobes and prosecco enjoyed in the room!

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We had dinner booked for 8.30pm, as we’d had quite a generous lunch … gotta give your appetite time to work itself up again so you can do a decent meal justice! The Mither Tap Restaurant at Pittodrie House is a 2 AA rosette, and the setting is quite intimate as it’s in another of their lovely wood panelled and decorative front rooms. I was particularly fond of the large mirror on the wall, but we’re here to talk about food, not my love of period ornate furniture.

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Our order compromised the following:

Starters

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Scottish smoked salmon, served with heritage beetroot, capers, caper berries and a quail’s egg

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Ham Hock Terrine

The salmon, as is the case with the majority of Scottish salmon, was tender and delicious even whilst being quite thickly cut in comparison to what is usual. It was of such good quality though that I was extremely happy for the thicker slices – meant I had more to eat! The capers and caper berries provided an edge of saltiness, and the only suggestion I would have is to pickle the beetroot and serve a couple more of the thin slices to add another level of flavour contrast, or some apple slice/cubes etc. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the egg was cooked perfectly!

Levi enjoyed her terrine as well, and specifically mentioned she loves the salty notes coming through as it’s a total novelty for her as she generally eats the same as her kids and thus doesn’t cook anything with salt anymore. The addition of cherry added a sharp sweetness that cut through the saltiness in a perfect balance on the palate.

Mains

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Roast lamb, fondant potato, roast onion and garlic cloves, buttered savoy cabbage, sweetcorn puree and rich gravy

The lamb was pink, thus cooked exactly the way I like it, and smothered in the richest tasting gravy I’ve had for a looong while, so well done on the thorugh execution of that! The creamy sweetcorn puree and buttered cabbage provided difference in texture and added to the decadence, with the roast onion and garlic giving a strong punch of favour considering they were small additions – perfect! Roast garlic cloves have to be a favourite of mine; I’d never last as a Vampire with my serious love for copious amounts of garlic on everything and anything.

Desserts

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Strawberry Bavarois with meringue, sesame tuile, fresh strawberry and strawberry daiquiri sorbet

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Tonka Bean Crème Brûlée with shortbread, fresh passion fruit and passion fruit sorbet

Considering I decided to forego cheese for a set dessert – unheard of – I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the strawberry bavarois (translating to a dessert consisting of milk thickened with eggs, containing gelatin and whipped cream). It was very moreish and I somehow managed to eat it all, even after the first two courses and copious amount of champagne … what a champion! I’ll let Levi tell you about how much she enjoyed her dessert in her section at the end.

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We then sat in the small, intimate bar area enjoying the last of our champagne before bed. Kelly came through to say goodbye to us before heading off home, and checking one final time that we were happy with everything. Thank you so much for turning our whole experience of the overnight stay around – it’s all as a result of your excellent approach and customer service (and the amazing food!) that we had such a good time, regardless of the room situation.

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We enjoyed the breakfast the next day; we decided to eat in the room with the huge skylight as it provided a lot of natural light to enjoy your morning meal. The sausages, beans, mushroom and bacon were tasty, but I did find the beans got cold quite quickly, potentially due to it only being a couple of the small burners underneath the trays to keep them warm and it was a deep dish. I also had to ask for some poached eggs, as after I’d been seated they pointed us towards the buffet but it only had fried eggs on offer. Unsure if this was only one that one occasion, as there was a wedding in so the waiting staff seemed to be under some pressure to manage the sheer number of people, but otherwise I would have liked it if they had explained that if we wanted anything else then we were free to ask/request e.g. for poached or boiled eggs/omelette etc.

There are numerous activities that can be arranged for your stay – including golf, clay pigeon shooting, pony trekking etc. I’m a big fan of clay pigeon shooting personally, so I love when hotels accommodate group activities to suit all parties. The walled garden was quite overgrown unfortunately, which is a shame as it would have been a nice area for photos during a wedding. It’s clear that the driveway has recently been updated and tended to, so it would be nice to see the garden kept up to the same standard.

Overall, Kelly’s personable attitude and excellent customer service, in addition to the wonderful chefs carefully crafted creations at dinner, are truly what won over Pittodrie House for Levi and I. We left extremely happy and I personally felt really glad that my friend’s experience and well-deserved night away turned out so well!

Until next time,

Signature

Levi’s Viewpoint:

“I had a fabulous night away with Lauren. When we first arrived at Pittodrie House we were initially slightly disappointed with the room. We were expecting a much larger room, with a feature bed, bathrobes and a fruit bowl! Although we didn’t move rooms, we were reassured it was in fact a feature room (although a small one). The duty manager, Kelly, could not have been more accommodating. We were given complimentary tea/coffee, prosecco, champagne, a third course for dinner and Lush bath bombs for the room. She also ensured that the bathrobes and fruit bowl were in our room. This effort is what made our stay so special and led Lauren to consider this as a wedding venue.

The dinner itself was a pleasant surprise. It truly was fine dining.  The presentation was immaculate and there was not anything I could fault. I am so pleased we had the complimentary dessert as I got to taste the tonka bean brulee. It is now my new favourite flavour! I have now discovered that you can buy many tonka bean associated flavours online.  It tasted so good it led me to a frantic Google search when I returned home.  The only way I can describe it is that it tastes homely.  After dinner we found the bar in a lovely little cosy room with a real fire, which was the perfectt way to end the night with a few drinks.

Before we left the next morning we went to explore the grounds.  We found the walled garden, which (if given a little TLC) would be lovely. With Bennachie in the background the setting was beautifully atmospheric. All in all we had a very enjoyable stay.  Kelly made every effort to make sure we left as happy guests, which we did.

I would definitely consider visiting Pittodrie House again.”

The Strathearn, Gleneagles Hotel #cravingperfection

“Representing Scotland at its best – its heritage, history and beauty – The Strathearn experience is like going to the theatre and being entertained. One of the last bastions of first-class Highland dining, The Strathearn’s traditional walnut gueridon trolleys, silver cloches and butler trays deliver the touch of a bygone era, while a setting of elegant grandeur reflects the essence of Gleneagles glamour.”

Overall Rating: 10/10

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I’ve got a confession – I adore Gleneagles. This makes it extremely easy for me to write a review or blog post on anything related to it, as it’s almost like reliving the great experience all over again, whilst trying to articulate the excellence of the experience in words that do it justice. I’ve posted the Trip Advisor review I wrote from my stay at Gleneagles for Jonathan’s birthday treat in April HERE, which focuses more on the hotel itself. I’m going to use this opportunity to discuss my experience of The Strathearn restaurant, as that’s where I decided to dine on my recent visit. The opportunity to stay this time around came as a joyous perk of having a mother who loves Gleneagles as much as I do; she was there to celebrate her friend’s 60th birthday with a table booking in Andrew Fairlie’s. I was tempted to try room service for the first time, but after reviewing the available menu items, I decided to venture out on the iconic allure of the cheese trolley.

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I wandered round from Braid House around 7.45pm and I was pleased to be seated in the conservatory area, beside the window, by the hostess Francesca. My table provided lovely lighting for a few photos as it was still light outside; and meant I had a view of the lawns out to the side of the hotel. The sommelier Elena-Diana offered me the drinks menu, which I declined as I do prefer to spend my calories on food rather than alcohol… depressing, but true. I also wasn’t feeling all that hungry, so I decided I would order 2 x starters followed by (duhhh) the cheese trolley, because, well… cheese. I always have room for cheese; it’s my chocolate dessert belly equivalent (i.e. people who say they can be full to the brim, but mention a chocolate dessert and suddenly they have room for it). Gleneagles offers 3 x courses for £65 in The Strathearn restaurant, but if you aren’t feeling up to 3 courses, you can choose from the same menu as if it were A La Carte.

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I knew I would be ordering the beetroot and goats cheese starter, as it had lingered on my taste buds since my visit in April. So my only real choice came down to whether I wanted Scottish Langoustine Bisque or Wild Mushroom and Fennel soup. I hadn’t noticed the soup on the menu the month previously and although not directly responsible for the food menu at all, I need to thank Elena-Diana for her recommendation to try the wild mushroom soup. Our logic was neither of us had tried it, but both loved mushroom and I’d had the langoustine bisque numerous times before. I’m extremely glad I took her advice, as the depth of flavour in my bowl was staggering. I didn’t get a particularly aesthetic photograph, which is maybe my failing as an experienced blogger but I’m blaming it on greed and anticipation; I didn’t relish pausing the waitress whilst she poured the warm soup over a nicely constructed pile of fennel and mushrooms in my bowl. It all tastes the same when it’s in your mouth anyway, so I didn’t feel so bad about not catching the little vegetable mountain in all its glory before it was swallowed up by fungus-decadence. So my personal thanks to Elena-Diana, and also the chefs for this wonderful new and delightful addition to the menu!

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Following my soup, I had the Heritage beetroot, goat’s cheese and baby leek salad with truffle honey and toasted seeds. I enjoyed it so much when I tried it on my last visit in April, I HAD to get it again. As I said to Elizabeth who was one of the waitresses attending to my table, I genuinely thought it was even better than last time (if that’s possible!). The earthy smell of the fresh beetroot is what assails your senses when the plate is placed in front of you, followed by the vibrant colours against the stark white of the dinner plate. The pickled radish provides a sharp contrast to the rich sweetness of the truffle honey and fresh beetroot. I thoroughly appreciated every mouthful of that salad; taking my time with it and revelling in how such few ingredients can be prepared and treated with such care and attention to gift diners with so many zeniths of sensory delight from one ‘simple’ dish. Another small touch, which really sets Gleneagles apart, was Elizabeth remembering me when I mentioned to her she had served me the month before. She even remembered what Jonathan, my fiance, had ordered! She must have an excellent memory, but it truly elicits the experience and feeling of exemplary service.

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To close, I had a final course, which I had been leading up to with fervour and anticipation… the cheese trolley. Cheese is included in the 3 x courses for £65 menu at no extra charge, but you can allow them to bring you a selection or you can ask for the trolley to pick yourself. Being a bit of a control freak in certain aspects (Jonathan would say many!) I prefer to pick my own. I also think having the opportunity to see the cheeses and ask questions about them are part of the experience; one which Christina helped grandly with. I’m a big fan of soft, strong cheeses and goat’s cheese (unless that wasn’t already obvious with how much I raved about the beetroot and goat’s cheese salad). So apologies in advance if you’re a hard cheese or blue fan, ‘cause I’ll be disappointing you miserably with my recommendations here! I chose 6 x cheeses from the trolley:

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You can see from above I’m clearly a French cheese fan, oui oui!

My favourite of the evening was the St Maure (11 o’clock position), but I cleared the plate so they were all delicious! Only disappointing element of the evening for me was that they didn’t have any of the charcoal crackers I like, which they usually do have available. I’m not an oatcakes with cheese lover so I asked for some more of the pumpkin seed bread rolls, which was no issue at all. This was also accompanied with truffle honey (again, I know… but it’ so yummy!), quince and chutney.

Whilst enjoying my cheese, I became acutely aware of the piano playing Clair Du Lune followed by Tale as Old as Time in the background and I just stopped for a moment to appreciate my surroundings and the ambiance created within The Strathearn. I left feeling well looked after, content and happy, and I really couldn’t have asked for much more than that having eaten alone. Thank you!

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Francesca greeted my Mum and I warmly again the next morning for breakfast and seated us at the same table I’d had the night before. Sunshine illuminated the room and the conservatory was heating up quite quickly due to the greenhouse effect. Thankfully there were a set of doors behind us that were opened up, providing some cool air and a welcome breeze. I won’t delve too much into the breakfast on this review (I’ve shared some photos on my Instagram), but let me know if you want to know more about it on another post!

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Service: 10/10

Food: 10/10

Ambiance: 10/10

Value: 8/10

Instagram: @laurenscravings