Gather by Zique #whenITISONnailit

“… there hasn’t, until now, been [a restaurant in Glasgow’s West End] with an atmosphere, an environment, that ticks what I’ll call casual-modern fine dining… Gather By Zique finally ticks that box.” – Joanna Blythman, Sunday Herald

“Upmarket, exciting new food and one of the best Sunday roasts we’ve had – this place is a must-try.” – Glasgow Live 

“An imaginative and ever-changing menu full of surprises… Gather is a proper restaurant for cool grown-ups and we need more of them.” – Anna Burnside, Daily Record

“Eating was the equivalent of seeing in colour when you have been achromatic.” – Gaby Soutar, Scotsman

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Website: http://www.gatherbyzique.com/

Instagram: @gatherbyzique

Address: 70-72 Hyndland Street, Glasgow, G11 5PT

General Information: all visits were using an @itison voucher

Date Visited: 18/11/18, 30/11/18 & 05/01/19

Menu: https://www.gatherbyzique.com/menu-1

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I think my anticipating smile above, poised to crunch on a delicious canapé, is the perfect pictorial encapsulation to my views on Gather by Zique. I purchased the Itison voucher  (https://www.itison.com/Glasgow/deals/gather-by-zique-hyndland) due to the flexibility of the voucher’s hours of use (Wed & Thu 12noon – 3pm and 5pm – 10pm, Fri & Sat 12noon – 3pm and 5pm – 6pm, Sun 12noon – 4pm), and haven’t been disappointed whatsoever on any of my three visits. I selected the voucher that included 2 x cocktails, canapés followed by 4 small plates (or one big one and two wee ones!)

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Having bought the voucher initially to use with Jonathan, I abandoned my husband-to-be in favour of meeting a fellow Glasgow foodie on 18/11/18 – @feedingdeedee (priorities eh)? We were lucky enough to be seated at the window (photo above), which was ideal considering natural light is any foodie’s dream for photo taking! Now what is going to follow are the canapés & 4 small dishes we chose and I’ll let the photos do the talking …

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Canapés: yogurt & chilli crostini, pork rib crostini, roast squash crostini, lamb croquette and sage & anchovy fritter

Vegetarian Dishes: burrata, grilled plums, spiced hazelnuts on toasted sourdough and beetroot with goats cheese & walnuts

Meat & Seafood Dishes: peat smoked haddock croquettes, braised leeks & chorizo and crispy pigs head, potato terrine & onion puree

It was pretty quiet for the duration of our visit, which meant that we were looked after extremely well by Graham, and have been for every visit since; even when it’s busier! Always a pleasure meeting a fellow foodie for the first time, but it’s especially special when the hospitality and food is excellent.

My next visit, on 30/11/18, was during a holiday prep weekday off with Jonathan before flying out to USA the next day. I purchased another voucher whilst sitting with Deirdre,  less than two weeks earlier in the restaurant, because the food impressed me so much I knew had to come back with Jonathan (like I’d initially intended… *bad fiancé).

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Of course I have another prosecco in hand; I’m finding it’s my signature drink pose on my Instagram account @laurenscravings… you’ll see what I mean! But when the voucher includs a delicious prosecco cocktail, or a non-alcoholic version of the pear & bay spritz in Jonathan’s case, you’d be silly to pass up on it. I don’t have the exact menu descriptions of the food we chose during this visit, but I’ll do my best to provide an overview (or let the photos speak for themselves).

Canapés: hummus with pomegrante on toast, partridge crostini, Jerusalem artichoke mousse with sweet potato crisp and sage & anchovy fritter

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Vegetarian Dish: butternut cappelletti with almonds & sage

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Seafood Dish: seafood bisque; mussels, langoustine & clams in broth

Meat Dishes: venison ravioli and pork belly with parsnip, apple salsa and polenta puree

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We also added an additional meat dish – the ribeye steak with roasted carrots & salsa verde, with a side of roast potatoes. The roast potatoes were slightly underwhelming; they could have been seasoned better (I asked for and added some salt) and slightly more crisp. The nduja sauce was the only addition that made them more palatable and less chalky for me, but we still left some rather than eating the full bowl.

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On this occasion, we opted for desserts, partially due to the fact that Amy of @theglasgowdiet had visited and said the desserts were her favourite part of the evening! We chose to have the chocolate fondant tart (!!!) with peanut butter ice cream and the homemade doughnuts with coffee cream.

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The chocolate fondant is one of the most decadently delightful desserts I’ve had in a long time and with the addition of the creamy nutty ice cream; it was well worth the extra few hundred calories! The doughnuts, although nice, didn’t match up when compared against the tart in my opinion, although still tasty.

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My third and final visit (or first visit of 2019), was on 05/01/19 with my friend Christine for lunch, having bought ANOTHER voucher… LOL! We followed the same drill – prosecco, pear & bay spritz cocktail, canapés and 4 x small plates to share.

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Canapés: gin cured bream with hazelnut & apple, parnip hummus crostini, caramelised onion & hazelnut and pork pate crostini

Vegetarian Dish: puy lentils, grilled broccoli, pickled chilli & feta and satsuma, mozzarella, radicchio & toasted hazelnuts

Seafood Dish: stone bass fillet, smashed Jerusalem artichoke, pancetta & sage

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Meat Dish: tagliatelle with suckling pig ragu and crispy herbs

My favourite dishes from all three visits are: the goats cheese with beetroot, ALL of the pasta dishes (they’re divine!) and the chocolate fondant tart.

I love that the menu changes so often, even although it means that I don’t get my favourite dishes the next time I visit. But this isn’t a problem, considering most of the dishes they create are always a welcome and lively party on the tastebuds.

Their desserts also change often, so although you might not get the chance to try their sticky toffee pudding sundae – there will definitely be something to entice you to fill your dessert stomach (we all have two different stomachs don’t we?!)

I hope this encourages you to pop down Hyndland Street and pop into Gather by Zique – they deserve the recognition and custom for being such a lovely restaurant and business.

Lx

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!!

The Boathouse, Isle of Gigha #cravingislandlife

“Gigha is a small island off the west coast of Kintyre in Scotland. The island forms part of Argyll and Bute and has a population of about 160 people. The climate is mild with higher than average sunshine hours and the soils are fertile.”

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The Isle of Gigha is an island community that is owned wholly by its residents under a development trust called ‘Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust’. The islanders purchased it in March 2002 for £4million, with help from grants and loans from the National Lottery and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Interesting Fact: 15th March is celebrated as the island’s “independence day”, as this is when the purchase was made between private owners and the community.

Venturing over to Gigha, although unknown to most, is something I really feel everyone should endeavour to do at some point, especially if you’re already down the South West coastline! I work on the West Coast, and the Isle of Gigha is an island under my Operational remit at the moment, unfortunately only until the end of next week, hence why I wanted to make the most of my last minute opportunity to visit one last time. And god damn was I hella lucky with the weather! It was bloody glorious … as the photos can attest to. The island is accessible via a ferry from Tayinloan, which is situated on the A83 almost exactly between Tarbert and Campbeltown in Kintyre, Argyll.

The CalMac ferries run every hour, on the hour, from Tayinloan to Gigha from 8am until 7pm (Mon – Fri during the season) and every hour on half past the hour back from Gigha to Tayinloan. It only takes 20 minutes to travel between, and it costs approximately £25 for 2 people and a car return journey. If you want more ferry information, either in regards to timings or costs, please visit CalMac website.

Since I am a self-proclaimed foodie, which is why I started this blog in the first place, the key aspect of this post is to talk about The Boathouse restaurant. I’ll touch on where to stay, other ‘things to do’ or general information about Gigha further on , in the hopes that it may seal the deal on your decision to take a trip over to try their locally sourced seafood (maybe in conjunction with a visit to Tarbert and Campbeltown – as there’s plenty to do there too, but more on that another time!).

The Boathouse, Ardminish Bay, Gigha

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The Boathouse is a family owned restaurant with a great reputation for the finest Scottish seafood on the West coast of Scotland, most of which is landed on our doorstep.

When I visited Gigha back in February I didn’t get the opportunity to try this restaurant, as it is only open seasonally (23rd March 2018 until 30th Sept 2018). So when I decided to organise a visit this time around and I knew my Mum was coming with me, it was the obvious choice for evening dinner plans. We booked a table in advance for 7.30pm and (being the fussy, pernickety b**t*rd that I am) I requested a window seat – but being an old boathouse, there only is 2 x small windows with little visibility outside, but I’d still request it if you like natural light. Whilst sitting in our hotel’s beer garden at around 6pm, we got hungry. So I made a phone call to The Boathouse and they accommodated our booking an hour early at 6.30pm and we walked down to the restaurant from The Gigha Hotel as it only takes about 5 minutes.

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Although we’d booked a table, we walked by a few people sat on benches outside and couldn’t help ourselves – we had to sit outside too and appreciate the awesome view … I mean look at it?! Have you ever seen a more glorious backdrop … I think it would undoubtedly win first prize for the ‘most likely assumed to be a tropical island, but actually in Scotland’ award. It might tie in first place with Luskintyre beach in Isle of Harris, but Gigha is in my area right now (Argyll) – so it has my total allegiance and vote!

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My mum and I had already looked up their menu online, but were delighted to find a vast array of local seafood dishes available on the Specials Board. Anything they had run out of was marked with an asterisk (gutted about the mixed grill of fish situation… although it worked in my favour, as I’ll get onto), but regardless there was plenty on offer in addition to the main menu – lending to the fresh ‘sea to plate’ ethos. So much of their produce is landed locally on Gigha – salmon, halibut, lobsters, scallops etc. and the list goes on!

Our order comprised of the following:

Starters

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Langoustine Tails in garlic butter (me)

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Deep Fried Monk Cheek with plum sauce and lime (Mum)

The langoustine tails were finger licking good (like seriously, I’m an animal!) and they weren’t shy with the portion size either so you feel like you’ve won the lottery when the dish is placed in front of you. My Mum loved her monk cheek, and said the batter was crisp and delicious but the lime was a little sharp for her. She said I would have enjoyed it though (as my taste buds live for sharp flavours … pass me the whole lemon please!) Unfortunately at this stage, the damn midges got so bad we had to move indoors, and although they’d given away our table to someone else – they accommodated our request (thank you so much!)

Goodbye gorgeous backdrop for my photos… until we meet again…

Mains

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Whole Lobster (me – told you it worked out in my favour didn’t I?!)

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Grilled Gigha Halibut with avocado, apple, radish, chilli & orange crispy pancetta with walnut arancini (Mum)

The grilled halibut was cooked well and served over a cold salad, which my Mum said was light, crisp and nailed it on the flavour combinations – her smile below was maintained throughout the whole meal, so that always makes me happy; as I love it when I get to share a great dining experience with my Mum. I ended up ordering the lobster, because 1) they didn’t have any of the mixed grill of fish left, 2) I love lobster and 3) it kept drawing my eye, and I’m not on Gigha often – so ‘why the hell not’ attitude promptly reigned supreme in this situation. And I was not disappointed! First of all, look at the size of it! It has a monster amount of meat in it, which made for a very happy (albeit full) girl. It was cooked extremely well, and the light salad  and potatoes were the perfect accompaniments. Lobster meat can quite easily become quite tough if overcooked and not handled well, but the chef clearly knows what he’s doing with this excellent local produce!

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Desserts

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The Boathouse Meringue (me)

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Clootie Dumpling (Mum)

My Mum had decided before she came to the restaurant that she wanted the Clootie Dumpling, as it’s a childhood favourite of hers, and she said it was delicious – the ideal balance of moist and rish. She wasn’t as keen on the whiskey ice-cream that came with it, but that’s a personal preference as neither of us is hugely keen on alcohol infused ice cream. My decision to order The Boathouse Meringue was a direct result of one being placed down in front of the man sitting at the table next to us – it was a total FOMO moment. I was quite full, but I couldn’t rightly leave the restaurant knowing I had missed out on something so spectacular! It was the perfect ratio of crunchy to chewy and the vanilla infused cream and fruit complimented it impeccably in a firework display worthy finale for the overall meal.

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Our server, Annabelle, was polite, smiley and a great waitress for the duration of our meal, which always impacts on your experience of a restaurant. And she put up with facial expressions like the one above whilst I tore into my lobster! The meal came to a total of approx.. £100 (excluding tip), and we left distinctly full and feeling like Violet who just visited Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but not regretting it one.little.bit.

So much so, that after work the next day, we decided to go back from lunch the next day before getting the ferry back to the mainland. So it wasn’t quite the goodbye we thought for that glorious view, as it looked equally if not more beautiful the next day. Annabelle was working again as well and laughed when she saw we had come back less than 24 hours later and perched ourselves once again at the benches outside and – luckily for us – the midges didn’t make a return.

We decided to share a couple of starters, and opted for more seafood, as clearly The Boathouse knows how to handle its seafood and it would be a damn shame to miss out on all their offerings, so we ordered:

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King Prawns: with garlic hot sauce, cardamom and lime butter and blackened fried noodles

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Seared Scallops: with 12 hours slow cooked pork neck, pear & black pudding bon bons, cauliflower puree and green chilli and orange marmalade

The prawns were succulent, meaty juicy and moreish – with the texture contrast of the fried noodles in a rich, flavoursome sauce that my Mum proceeded to spread on bread (made freshly on Gigha). The scallops (I feel like I don’t even need to say they were cooked perfectly at this stage) were delicate and ideally suited to the cauliflower puree and bon bon accompaniments – I only wish there were more!

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We then paid up promptly, as we thought we could catch the ferry at 1.30pm, only to realise that there isn’t a 1.30pm ferry (lunchtime break) and we HAD to go back to The Boathouse for coffee and cake to await the next ferry at 2.30pm. So it was fair to say Annabelle probably thought we were obsessed by this point, but it was drinking my coffee whilst overlooking the Ardminish Bay that I had one of those rare ‘ahhhhh’ moments. One of those moments where you sit back, breathe in deeply and really appreciate your surroundings; feeling totally content and present in that current moment. We then headed off back to the mainland, having had a totally great time on Gigha, primarily thanks to The Boathouse restaurant, staff and location.

I’m only sorry I never got to try their Queenies, and their crab claws, oh wait … and their lemon sole … and ………. Oh never mind, I’ll just need to go back!

The Boathouse also offers camping and camper van facilities, with toilets and showers within their grounds. So take a trip over, park or tent up and enjoy the view over a glass of wine and some langoustine tails – I swear you won’t regret it.

Where To Stay: The Gigha Hotel

With its natural charm and delicious locally-sourced cuisine, the Gigha Hotel is a true testament to the finest in island hospitality. Perched quietly above Ardminish Bay, the Hotel offers everyone unsurpassed views of the beauty of Kintyre Peninsula and beyond. Whether you are with us for the day or a week, our dedicated staff will always make you feel welcome! So bring your boat, your bikes, your wellies and relax with us. Stop in at the pub and have a drink with us and allow yourself to be inspired by this wonderful hidden gem.

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The Gigha Hotel is a typical island hotel; the perfect balance between local chatter (locals gather in the reception area for tea), cosy public areas (the front room has lovely couches, TV, games and books), outdoor seating area (for when the sun does shine and you want a beer garden) and quirky elements that make it stand out in your memories later in life (the breakfast order process).

Things To Do: Achnamore Gardens

Sir James Horlick acquired the estate in 1944 he wished to establish a garden to grow his more tender Rhododendrons.  He managed this by cutting small clearings in the Ponticum and trees and by 1970 the garden was full and looked magnificent. On his death he left some of his collection to the National Trust for Scotland so that rare species could be propagated and shared with other great gardens.

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If you’re looking for something to do, the community owned and operated gardens deserve a visit – they settle you into that ‘ahhh’ moment I mentioned earlier even more as nothing quite achieves that more than the beauty of nature.

Local Produce: Wee Isle Dairy

Tarbert Farm is a small dairy farm on the Isle of Gigha off the southwest coast of Scotland, run by Emma Rennie Dennis and her brother Mark Rennie, where we milk roughly 60 cows. The herd is predominantly Friesian, with a few Jersey and other breeds. The farm is owned by the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust; Emma & Mark’s parents took on the lease in 1968.

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You can drive by the dairy farm and past the cows that produce the lovely milk and artisan ice-creams by travelling north on the island and over the cattle grids. Similar to organic produce, it’s nice to see the animals frolicking around and playing with each other as it demonstrates a happy life on the island for them. Wee Isle Dairy milk is also one of the only producers these days that you can get the truly traditional ‘cream at the top’ of the milk bottle; extra tasty when mixed in with Scots Oats porridge! Their milk is available from various shops in Argyll (I picked mine up in Furnace local shop), and also in Edinburgh and Crieff now too.

Views: Sunset over Islay and Jura

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Top Tip: The Gigha Hotel is currently running an Itison voucher, so why not take advantage at a discounted rate and go see how great the Isle of Gigha is for yourself?!

Mammy’s Viewpoint:

“Seriously WNTL about The Boathouse and Gigha…fantastic service and fabulous food in a ‘far far better than the Caribbean’ setting. My friend and I, with our four legged friends Cerys (Welsh Terrier) and Nina (German Shepherd) are already planning an island hopping road trip in a converted van and will book in advance for the ferry, camping and the restaurant. We’re taking no chances. Can’t wait to return.

 

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

Cocktails & Steaks, Uddingston #cravingaroast

We had good intentions of going for breakfast this morning when Jonathan (my fiance) and I met up with our friends Simone & Jason. They’re getting married in July this year, and we got slightly distracted in wedding shenanigans (all will be revealed on 08/07/18), which meant that we didn’t leave to head upto Uddingston Main Street until midday. Cue us arriving at Angels Hotel to be told there were no tables, followed by Smiths which was fully booked as well meaning we ended our hunt for food in Cocktails and Steaks. It boasted a Sunday Roast, which we were all pretty keen on having (and although Simone is a fiend for a Toby Cavery, we were short on time, alas…).

The restaurant was empty when we arrived around 12.10pm, and it instantly reminded me of #porterandrye with its dark wood steakhouse vibes. The waitress asked if we had booked, which we hadn’t, and we got offered a seat by the window with lots of natural light, which I loved.

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The seating arrangement is booths on one side and slide in chairs on the other, which can be seen in the photos above. I found the chair comfortable and the specially branded placemats and crystal water glasses were a tasteful touch. However, although Simone and I are big fans of 90’s RnB (Pony by Ginuwine featured), I’m not so sure it’s exactly suited to the ambience the restaurant is trying to create, as it was being played just slightly too loud for Sunday lunchtime. They playlist creator does need to be commended for their taste; but I’d prefer to hear it in in the evening and preferably with a Mojito in hand.

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Now our food order ended up being something that rarely happens to me, moreso because I fundamentally don’t agree with everyone ordering the same thing regardless of whether you’re sharing or not (I like looking at other potenital dishes on offer even if I’m not eating them ok?! Call it future planning!) – but we all ordered the same 2 courses from the Sunday Menu for £17.95.

I’ve been trying to increase my protein intake recently, hence why I chose the ‘Josper grilled chicken with a chimichurri sauce’, rather than the baked camembert like I usually would (you’ll soon find out how obsessed with cheese I am after we’re a few reviews deep…). But honestly, I’m glad I did – as the chimichurri sauce is one for the tasting! A perfect balance of herbs that aren’t too overpowering with a sharp punch of vinegar and olive oil underpinning it all. I’m a great lover of sharp flavours, and I do believe it lifted the dish into something ‘moreish’, which we all agreed on. Chicken was cooked well; both juicy and succulent on the inside but with a crisp finish on the outside. This rested on a small bed of leaves with small touches of (what I believed to be) butternut squash puree around the side.

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The roast itself is served pink, unless you specify that you like it cooked otherwise. They are generous in their portion of beef; I was given two slices, which you can see takes up the majority of the plate. And the most glaringly obvious highlight of the dish is the quality of the meat, which they state on their website is from Scotch Beef, and therefore of excellent quality (it isn’t being biased just ’cause I’m Scottish.)  I also thoroughly enjoyed the homemade Yorkshire pudding, with the bottom of it soggy with gravy that had been so thoughtfully poured inside for me. I would have liked the roasties to be slightly more crispy, but I know that can be difficult to create in a restaurant setting within the limited confines of service time. The vegetables were hidden under the beef playing their own little game of hide and seek; which I happily indulged them in playing but left slightly disheartened with how quickly the game reached its resolution. There was the baby turnip you see below, with one stalk of brocollini, one asparagus tip and three or four small pieces of carrot that would have benefited from some caramalisation. The liberally poured gravy distracted me from any despondancy I may have felt with the vegetables though as it quite literally danced over my tastebuds for the duration of my main course. There had evidently been some time spent on deepening its rich flavour, thus enhancing the whole dish overall. This is where a Sunday roast at Cocktails and Steaks is a step above your generic pub roast; the outstanding ingredients being carefully handled by their evidently talented chefs, and heightened through careful consideration of how best to handle those ingredients.

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This is true of both courses I tried today, and it did mean I left thinking that I wouldn’t mind returning to sample more from their Main Menu. Considering how busy Angels and Smiths was, I was surprised that only two other people arrived whilst we had our lunch. There was only one waitress working as well, which could have been a problem if they expected the same level of traffic as the other restaurants. She was prompt in her tasks in terms of clearing plates and providing more water for the table, but we felt she was slightly awkward at times. The best interaction we had with her was actually right at the end – maybe she was distracted with getting things set up for the day beforehand.

Our meal concluded not long after an hour of being in the restaurant, but this was due to us requesting our main course quickly following our starter, as Simone and Jason had to catch the train home to London. Although we didn’t end up getting the breakfast we’d prepared ourselves for, we left Cocktails and Steaks content and with our interest piqued for a potenital evening meal in the future.

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Instagram: @laurenscravings