Tuk Tuk Street, Glasgow City Centre #cravingindiantapasflavourbombs

“Millions of street food vendors make up the colour, sounds and smells of India. They nourish the appetites of busy office workers, sweaty rickshaw wallahs and hungry school children throughout the day. Our menu pays homage to these road side culinary geniuses. Our food is the simple earthy, lovingly prepared food of the people and represents the tastes of India today.”

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Taibah and I visited Tuk Tuk Street on a Tuesday evening, and it wasn’t too busy (allowing me to get a photo of the unspoiled view of their wall mural). It had been high on my list of ‘must go’ places for months, so when arranging a place to meet Taibah, I suggested Tuk Tuk Street with eagerness. Thankfully, she’d been keen to go as well so it was an easy decision for us. I’d spent those months salivating over many, many Instagram posts featuring their dishes, so I already had a few in mind I knew I wanted to try. Additionally, their great attitude and clear effort at engaging with their customers, witnessed across Instagram, was a definite plus point for me and really encouraged me to make the effort to go.

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For me, customer service comprises a huge element when visiting any restaurant and Tuk Tuk Street illustrates their commitment to customer engagement clearly via their social media platforms. I’d even seen a post where a customer (another Glasgow foodie blogger) wasn’t overly enamoured of her experience and Tuk Tuk responded to her via the comments asking her to email them directly to discuss. Ensuring everyone leaves their restaurant happy with their experience is clearly a top priority for them; which impresses me and endears me to them and what they’re selling.

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Social media can dictate an establishment’s successful rise or untimely fall these days, so it’s important to recognise the power it wields and to engage directly with your customers using it. Therefore, my first nod of recognition is for the person(s) responsible for manging Tuk Tuk’s social media platforms, as you’re doing your job well!

* I’ve since found out it’s one person and her name is Pam – way to go Pam 🙂

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Mint Mambo

But where would that person be, without a good product? I listened to The  Untitled Food Podcast recently where they were discussing that although food blogging is moving towards food being celebrated for being aesthetically pleasing, or ‘Instagrammable’, rather than taste, nowhere would last very long if they didn’t have the quality and consistency of flavour to back up the ‘look’. Ultimately, we talk about, take photos of and blog about food because it elicits emotions in us through all five of our senses. Our eyes are only one, albeit a primary one, and whilst I will say Tuk Tuk provides vibrant colour schemes both in their décor and their food, there’s only so much you can do with good quality, traditional Indian food to make it look ‘pretty’.

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Take the ‘Majestica Prawn’ for example, as I don’t think anyone will be celebrating this dish for its visual accolades alone. And honestly, even the description of ‘king prawn in the shell slow cooked in a garlic tomato butter sauce’ doesn’t do it justice. I wiped this dish clean WITH MY FINGERS, as even using a spoon was leaving too much behind (never leave a man, or in this case a drip of sauce, behind!!). My friend saw how much I was enjoying it and offered her half to me willing, as she knows how much of a shellfish fiend I am. Smooth, creamy, with the right balance of sharpness too, the sauce was something I wish I had the recipe for as I’d make it daily to smother absolutely everything I eat! The prawn itself was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of bite left it in; perfect for mopping up some of the glorious sauce. Taste really is the primary sense required in this dish, as no amount of words or photos can truly depict how fantastic the experience is when you actually have it in your mouth.

Another dish that follows the same theme as above is the Golgappa ‘popular cold chaat puri from Mumbai with potatoes, chickpeas, & tamarind’. I probably wouldn’t even have ordered this dish had I not been with Taibah, who had eaten them as a child in Pakistan and stated it was without doubt her favourite street food dish. The dish arrived as five little ‘puffs’ filled with the vegetarian mixture, which was to be topped up with the liquid – provided in a little jug on the side.

The theatre of the Golgappa was exciting; topping up your puff with the zingy liquid and popping the whole lot in your mouth to be enjoyed. My hashtag in the title specifically references the Golgappa; they are little flavour bomb explosions upon impact with your taste buds. Again, the photo can’t depict the delight of filling up your little puff, bickering with your friend to make sure there was plenty of liquid to go around or even the thrill of anticipation experienced between filling and ensuring you get it to your mouth in time without spilling anything. Touch and taste really are the winning senses here, so hopefully photos of us enjoying them, tells more of a story than a basic photo of the Golgappa themselves.

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Similarly, how could you make this Samosa Chaat- ‘chickpeas & samosa doused with mild yoghurt, tamarind & mint chutney’ look like it had wowed you on the first bite? I adored the chunks of red onion and crispness of the samosa, combined with the cooling yoghurt and freshness of the mint chutney. But how else can I relay that to you without ordering a Deliveroo on your behalf (yes, they’re on Deliveroo you lucky Glasgow City Centre sods!) so you can try it for yourselves? You see it on Masterchef: traditional Indian cooks always struggle to make their dishes look as appealing as traditional British or French dishes, as most of them comprise sauces, liquids or curry sauces that spread out unconstrained on any surface they’re on. So much of their allure comes from the palate roller coaster ride you’re taken on, which unfortunately means we rely on the likes of Matt Preston to describe to us – using his expert and world renowned Food Critic adjectives and descriptors. So although I may not be Matt Preston, I hope you understand my feelings on my Tuk Tuk experience thus far. But moving onto mains…

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We ordered the Butter Chicken – ‘creamy chicken dish cooked in buttery sauce with almonds’ and Lamb Lasooni – ‘Chef’s favourite! Our speciality lamb diced and cooked with whole cloves of garlic’, to be eaten with a side of naan bread. The Glasgow Food Geek has said it’s the best Butter Chicken she’s ever had, and I’d like to echo those sentiments! I wouldn’t ordinarily order Butter Chicken, as it can sometimes be too rich for me, but Tuk Tuk gets the balance of flavour just right to ensure you enjoy it all the way to the end of the dish. The Lamb Lasooni was equally wonderful, and I think this was Taibah’s preference of the two dishes. We had to order another naan to make sure we finished it all!

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Throughout the meal, the service from the waiters was excellent and we even got some banter beyond the generic exchange between customer and server. Overall, the experience lived up to my expectations, which is a happy outcome for both myself and Tuk Tuk, as I’ve encouraged plenty others to ensure they try it now as a result. I only hope they continue to do well, as I want to ensure I get the opportunity to visit again soon and try some more of their amazing culinary delights!

Thanks, and I hope to be back again soon … I can already feel the craving returning!

Top Tip: Parking your car can sometimes me a bit of an issue on Sauchiehall Street, so I would suggest parking either on Bath Street (parallel to Sauchiehall Street) or on Garnet Street (hill leading up to Renfrew Street). However, please note Garnet Street can obviously only be used when all the streets have opened up again following the Art School fire.

Some extra photos from my visit with Jonathan in September 2018:

 

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Potluck, Glasgow South Side #cravinghotcakes

“POTLUCK is tucked away down a cosy street in bustling Strathbungo, an up and coming area south of the river in Glasgow. We offer modern day time dining, food that is both comforting and fresh. We look forward to feeding you.”

A La Carte Menu

Score: 17/20

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If, like me, you are/were drawn inexplicably to Potluck from the photos of their Hot Cakes on Instagram without needing or caring for any further information; I can confirm they are UN.BE.LIEVE.ABLE. As I already saw someone else say: “it’s worth the hype”. They are the type of hotcakes that strike you deaf, dumb and blind from the moment they touch your lips. I was struck momentarily speechless, and then steadily more and more overcome with unconcealed joy at the sensations happening in my mouth. Read on if you’d like to hear some more provocative language used in reference to a veritable mound of delectable carbohydrate…

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Being an independent café on the South Side of Glasgow, you already expect it to be small, but I was surprised at just how small it actually was on our arrival yesterday. Being sunny, they had the ability to seat between 4 – 6 people on benches outside, but otherwise the inside can only cater to around 14-16 covers. I’m always concerned with parking restrictions and/or availability when venturing to a new and unknown location, however I can confirm there are plenty of spaces on Nithsdale Road! So the only issue that could arise is if it’s cold and/or wet; as if there’s a queue then you have to wait outside. Like most small brunch hotspots right now, they don’t accept bookings – it’s a ‘turn up and see’ type of establishment. Considering most tables are turned around and out in less than an hour, I can understand why this is their approach and will admit that in the circumstances, it’s the correct choice.

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The bright yellow painted exterior is as eye-catching as their hot cake photos, nestled in a row of other (dull by comparison) shops and residential flats. The huge storm doors appeal to my old-fashioned sense of style and exterior/interior décor preferences (as my Pittodrie review professes), with their slap-dash use of paint only adding to its character. The potted plants hanging from the wall, illuminated by their close-by weaved lightshades; provide a homely welcome as you step through the doors. We were advised upon arrival that a table would likely be available in the next 15-20 minutes, which turned out to be accurate. Waiting in the sunshine wasn’t any sort of hardship and I also heard another waitress offer coffee to others standing in line, which was lovely. We were ushered inside (thankfully – as I hadn’t brought my suncream) to one of the tables directly visible on the right hand side.

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Adding to the small, quaint and slightly retro vibe is their almost dainty furniture, which although I found endearing, Jonathan wasn’t so enamoured … As he couldn’t fit both his legs under the table. Granted, he is significantly bigger than your average Joe, but it could cause a problem for people who hit leg day hard at the gym as much like my other half. Fresh tap water flavoured with a sprig of mint arrived at our table, alongside our menus. We ordered soon after; a skimmed flat white, a long black and Johnny opted for the Salmon Scramble – “hot smoked salmon, chilli scrambled eggs, tenderstem broccoli, sesame seeds, dill, toast”.

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Although I was tempted by many things (I’ll just need to go back again), there was only one obvious choice for me on the menu – The Hot Cakes. Let me just loosen you up, in preparation of my attempt to articulate my tasting experience, with Potluck’s menu description of them: “Peach Hot Cakes: roach peaches, white chocolate pistachio crumb, raspberries, honey, pistachio kulfi, raspberry gel, pashmak”. What is kulfi and what is pashmak I hear you ask? Kulfi is a popular frozen dairy dessert from India, similar to ice cream in taste and appearance, but denser and creamier than its Western cousin. Pashmak is an Iranian version of candy floss, which slightly melts onto the top of your hot cakes to form a crunchy sugary coating of absolute joy. They offer a lemon option as well, which I think I’ll need to order next time given my penchant for all things sharp and zingy.

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After waiting a little while longer than expected for our coffees, I asked the waitress if we could have them over. Extremely apologetic for the time we had waited, she removed them from our bill. Thank you Katie ! You really did exceed expectations by doing that, and it raised the happi-ometer in anticipation of our brunch. And then they arrived …

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I won’t say too much, as you NEED to go there yourself. Aesthetically, they were a wonder to behold; fat fluffy hot cakes nestled amongst a myriad of colours, temperatures, flavours and textures. They were stacked to a towering height of generous proportions and finished with the pretty white pashmak, or ‘fluff’ as I called it. Now I’ve eaten many a dish where they make the effort to have the dish extremely pleasing on the eye and yet it falls down in other areas (mainly taste). But no, no, no … not in Potluck! Whoever the Chef is in there, I feel like I need a photograph with them ASAP, ‘cause they are going to be famous for these babies!

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It literally struck me speechless; I moaned, I ooohh’d, I ahhh’d, I stared in wonder around the room imagining where on earth these fat, fluffy carbohydrates had been all my life. And that was only on the first mouthful as I kept being surprised with all the different elements the dish had to offer. Reminiscing about them now, I can’t quite believe how good they were. If you do anything this weekend, head to the south side of Glasgow and get some of Potluck’s hot cakes!

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Johnny’s salmon dish was a decent portion, although he had asked for an extra portion of salmon because, y’know, protein so that’s probably not the typical amount of fish. The chilli eggs were interesting and palatable (in his own words) and overall a thoroughly enjoyable dish. He did end up finishing over half of my plate of hot cakes though, and they were also his preference. Mopped every last crumb up from his plate, my plate and we probably would have done the same for our neighbouring tables plates if it hadn’t been considered socially impolite.

We left happy badgers and will definitely be returning again very soon !

Let me know what you think,

Signature

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 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.

 

Singl-end Cafe & Bakehouse, Merchant City #cravingtrunch

“Bohemian joint serving a wide array of creative dishes, home cooked baked beans and coffees.”

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The definition of bohemian means someone or something that is socially unconventional, or I suppose ‘hipster’ could be another descriptive word we could use for the sake of this discussion. Would you attribute this word to Singl-end? I suppose you could at first glance; with their artisan bread collection, gluten-free and vegan options, eclectic menu and high-waisted jean-clad staff. I’m smiling whilst writing this; as I’ve been Direct Messaging @foodnotes_gla on Instagram this morning talking about the occasional attempt we make to try to fit in with the other ‘real’ hipsters in these types of establishments and failing miserably… earning ourselves the self-proclaimed title of ‘fraudulent hipster’. But in actuality, what dictates whether you are or you aren’t? I find a compelling argument that hipster is becoming more mainstream, and thus doesn’t really deserve its bohemian connotations anymore. With the introduction of all the new trendy brunch spots – Pot Luck, Café Strange Brew, Patrick Duck Club and the likes, it’s becoming the norm rather than something on the periphery of convention.

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We visited the Merchant City branch again this morning, as the location of the Garnethill café has always put me off going for some reason. I think people always have personal preferences of what areas of town they like visiting (i.e. I love Merchant City and Finnieston, but I’m quite as keen on West End for example). This generally has nothing to do with the restaurants themselves, but moreso do to with accessibility for me – I find parking easy in Merchant City, and Finnieston is easy for me to get to coming from the North East of Glasgow. It’s these small things that impact the decisions we make, hence why I’m glad they opened the café on John Street.

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Their menu is slightly different than what is online (simply because I had Croque Monsieur – pictured below – on our first visit and you can’t see that option online), but the majority of dishes are the same. They also generally have a specials clipboard featuring their Daily Soup and Salad options, Main Dishes and special Omelette. Importantly… even at 10am they serve ALL menu options; even those under the ‘Lunch’ heading, or any of the ‘Main Dishes’ from the specials, which is ideal if you’re more of a ‘full meal’, rather than breakfast kinda person at McDonalds (who even likes the McMuffin’s anyway?!) If you like a myriad of flavours being offered as a supplementary taste sensation over and above your typically classic dishes, then this is a place for you (pictured below – Singl-end Eggs Florentine). I love when chefs take time to really enhance flavour in their dishes, as their passion really does end up on the plate, which inevitably is what draws in the droves of customers in their masses. The fresh baked goods and fresh bread on display as soon as you enter through their doors is a smart marketing ploy, but equally effective in encouraging people to wait for a table (as you can’t book).

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Service is typical of a generally busy café; they’re polite and efficient but often don’t have the luxury of spending too much time building rapport with tables, as otherwise service would suffer. Although I did have a nice conversation with a waitress upstairs today just before I left, which always personalises the experience and encourages you to return somewhere, in my opinion. Having been a waitress myself for a significant number of years, good customer service is one of those elements of eating out that really impresses me, but you also need to take all factors into consideration when reviewing it (i.e. how quiet/busy, informal/formal or staff levels), however regardless of all that – politeness and efficiency are admirable qualities to aspire to.

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Their seemingly hand crafted table tops with old letters and stamps preserved in time for you to peruse over your baked eggs is pleasing, fun and provides a great backdrop for any pictures. I also like their island and Scottish maps up on the walls upstairs, as quite ironically I noticed the Islay map whilst on the phone to a Water Operator on Islay dealing with critical water tank levels due to a Whisky festival going on this weekend (the joys of being on Operational Stand-By…). So I suppose with the funky interior décor, there is the opposing argument for hipster status once again. But dare I say it… they haven’t caught onto the paper straw movement yet (much to my fiancés delight), so maybe it’s time we all admitted that this is simply our current trend, or dare I say ‘fad’ indulgence, for brunch these days? And they needn’t be scared of dropping the ‘bohemian’ tagline in favour of advertising themselves as leading ‘trunch’ providers (that’s trendy brunch FYI), as if I learned anything at my last creative thinking seminar, it’s that a newly created word can draw a loyal audience that transcends even the quality of the item (e.g. Cronut). But I’ll leave you with that for now, as I never professed to be a marketing genius and they’ve pretty much got brunch on lockdown anyway, so that’s a wrap folks!

33576434_10156545699283578_6783485336010883072_nPictured above: Meaty Breakfast (with substitution of vegetarian haggis instead of black pudding)

Top Tip: visit the John Street (Merchant City) branch if you want somewhere handy for parking, and be prepared to wait for a table if you’re going at busy times!

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Salmon Stack

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Altamurra Toast with scrambled eggs & veggie haggis (amazing!)

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