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

Recipe #1: Bacon, Mushroom & Truffle Cream Pasta

Bacon, Mushroom & Truffle Cream Pasta

Ingredients

75g salted butter

4 x rashers smoked bacon (chopped)

2 x finely diced shallots

3 x finely diced cloves garlic

50 – 80g Saint Agur soft blue cheese

1/2 x tub button mushrooms (quartered)

1/2 x tub chestnut mushrooms (finely sliced)

50ml double cream

1 x tsp truffle purée – bought at Borough Market in London (£14 for 50g, or £24 for 90g) – or I’ve found something similar you can purchase on Amazon – link at bottom of recipe

1 x tsp white parmesan ‘cream’ (can be substituted for 50 – 100g fresh parmesan), however you can find this jar or similar in T K Maxx home section

150g pasta … maybe… I always cook too much LOL

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Method

1. Add butter, bacon and shallots to pan of medium heat and allow to cook until you start seeing some caramelisation on the shallots (can take up to 10mins)

2. Add pasta to salted boiling water and cook as per packet instruction for al dente (as it will soften further when you toss through hot sauce)

3. Add the garlic and cook off for another few minutes, but not too long as garlic burns quite easily

4. Add blue cheese into the pan, take the pan off the heat and allow it to melt, taste and add more if you want later if you want – dependant on your preferences

5. Reduce heat and place pan back on job. Add in mixed mushrooms and toss in mixture to ensure they’re fully coated (add a dash of water if needed, although the mushrooms release water when cooking I usually do this) until they’re softened and size has reduced significantly

6. Add double cream and teaspoons of truffle purée & white parmesan ‘cream’ (or fresh parmesan)

7. Increase to medium heat again and allow to reduce down until it’s reached desired consistency

8. When this has reduced, sieve water off cooked pasta (retaining some of the water to add into the sauce if required) and add to the sauce – toss until it coats all of the pasta

9. If you feel it needs some more moisture, add a dash of the water you cooked your pasta in

Please tag me in photos, stories etc. if you make it 🙂

Enjoy ! Lx

Links to Truffle Purée (or similar):

Most similar, although slightly expensive:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004MB3ESS/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B004MB3ESS&pd_rd_w=cbRIK&pf_rd_p=8e5be0e3-b258-4b06-8b6e-695b24f935a4&pd_rd_wg=CfgLJ&pf_rd_r=3HGJ7P9M57G86HKEXKTP&pd_rd_r=f43b4e56-0cfc-11e9-a0e7-b779efb91800

Similar enough, but more affordable:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/truffle-magnatum-Italian-specialty-Truffles/dp/B0746J7ZF6/ref=pd_sbs_325_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B0746J7ZF6&pd_rd_r=f9d63e13-0cfc-11e9-9526-c700fc7563af&pd_rd_w=5wfOr&pd_rd_wg=pc2a3&pf_rd_p=18edf98b-139a-41ee-bb40-d725dd59d1d3&pf_rd_r=P8M99WJ5Y76BGJEJ2C3X&psc=1&refRID=P8M99WJ5Y76BGJEJ2C3X

Christmas Activities in Glasgow 2018 #cravingfestivecheer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year !

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So many people are quick to jump to the negatives aspects of the Christmas season; the weather is too cold, the songs start too early or the days are getting too dark. I wanted to write this blog in advance of December to provide some inspiration and ideas on the sheer magnitude of things to do we have available to us right here in Glasgow in the festive season. Genuinely, I started to gather ideas for all the events, markets, shows, restaurants, activities and spots to visit and it could have went on and on (I probably could have reached 100!), but I’ve curbed it down for you lucky lot. The Christmas ‘spirit’ is all about the attitude you’re bringing into the holiday period; if you throw yourself into the lively buzz that surrounds the city for weeks leading up to Christmas, the dark and wet days will fade into the background.

December is almost upon us and it’s my favourite time of year, possibly partly because it’s my birthday on 2nd December so that serves to launch me straight into the season from the start. Let me take you on a whirlwind tour around what I like to get up to in Glasgow during the festive period.

First of all, buy an advent calendar from Hotel Chocolat !

https://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/shop/christmas/advent-calendars/

Address: Hotel Chocolat, 42 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, G1 3JX

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Their chocolate is all unbelievably good, whether you fancy white, milk, dark or fruit & nut! If you want to browse what is on offer, they have a high street store on Buchanan St in Glasgow City Centre. They have an excellent off of 3 x packs of chocolate (6 x small chocs) for £10, which make great stocking fillers if you need a little something extra to throw into someone’s present.

Book yourself and some friends to go see a pantomime!

https://www.paviliontheatre.co.uk/shows/the-magical-adventures-of-cinderella/

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/aladdin/kings-theatre/

You don’t have to be a kid or have kids in tow to justify going to see a panto! One of the best things I have done in recent years is go to see one as an adult and enjoy the jovial and lighthearted comedy for what it is – fun. They are showing Cinderella at the Pavilion Theatre and Aladdin at the Kings Theatre. Book yourself a ticket and laugh until your belly hurts with everyone else.

Go see a Festive Film at the GFT!

https://glasgowfilm.org/shows/christmas-at-gft

it's a wonderful life

My family have an annual tradition of going to see ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ every year on Christmas Eve. It makes me cry – every. single. time. Christmas ultimately is about family, so celerating it by spending time with loved ones watching an old family favourite film in the cinema is special. If a black and white movie isn’t your thing, they are also showing: White Christmas, The Mupper Christmas Carol, Die Hard, Elf, Frozen, Jingle All The Way and a few more. So cosy up with some popcorn and snacks in a room full of people just waiting to feel the Christmas joy alongside you!

Visit the Christmas Markets!

https://www.glasgowloveschristmas.com/whats-on/Pages/Glasgow-Christmas-Markets.aspx

St Enoch Square Christmas Market
Fri 9 Nov – Sun 23 Dec
Mon – Wed, 10am – 9pm
Thu – Sun, 10am – 10pm (finish at 6pm on Sun 23 Dec)

George Square Christmas Market
Sun 25 Nov – Mon 31 Dec
Mon – Wed, 10am – 9pm
Thu – Sun, 10am – 10pm (finish at 6pm on Mon 24 & Sun 31 Dec)

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Market stalls with gift ideas for family and friends, mulled wine or hot chocolate, the big wheel, hella tasty market food or simply to absorb the buzzing atmosphere – the 2018 Christmas markets at George Square or St Enoch centre have lots to keep you occupied. I always make a point to organise a get together at the weekend with friends to visit and enjoy – you should too!

Go for a festive themed Afternoon Tea!

https://cuptearooms.co.uk/festive

https://cuptearooms.co.uk/s/Festive-Brochure-2018-19-Web-Version.pdf

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Cup Menu

Now afternoon tea is good … but festive afternoon tea? Even better! If you fancy treated a loved one to a festive season outing, why not pop into Cup – Glasgow and indulge both your sweet and savoury tooth at the same time ! Plus it includes an actual drink – go on!

Make mulled wine !

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fruit-recipes/jamie-s-mulled-wine/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/69604/sloe-mulled-wine-

mulled wine

It’s a party pleaser! And perfect for a cosy winter night in with your loved one, or even as a punch bowl offering at a party. It’s really simple and easy to make, and a benefit of making it yourself is you don’t need a Yankee candle to scent your house, as your home brewing will do that for you.

Get A Tunnock’s festive box!

http://www.tunnock.co.uk/

Address: 43 Main St, Uddingston, Glasgow G71 7HH

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Is there anything more Scottish than Tunnock’s? Forgive my Dad… I swear any time a camera comes within a metre radius of him he shuts his eyes! But this is to show you the size of the Tunnock’s festive box. It’s hard to find information online, but if you pop into the Tunnock’s Tea Room in Uddingston, you’ll be able to purchase them there. I’d get down early in the morning, as they sell out fast! My Gran absolutely loves them, as I get her one every Christmas.

Make a cheeseboard with cheese from George Mews & have a Games Night!

https://www.georgemewescheese.co.uk/

Address: 106 Byers Road, Glasgow, G12 8TB

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I bloody adore cheese (as we all know), so when we started a family tradition a few years ago of a cheese-fuelled games night I couldn’t have been happier. Cheese, chutneys, crackers, bread, fruit, nuts, dates, quince and honey galore! You’ll never run out of an option for everyone when shopping at George Mews. My games recommendations would be Monopoly, Cluedo or Trivial Pursuit – all basic bitch games but I’m easily pleased.

Hop Aboard the Red Bus Bistro for a Christmas Meal!

https://www.redbusbistro.co.uk/bus-tour/glasgow-tours/glasgow-christmas-tour/

red bus bistro

Similar to the Bustronome dining idea in London, the Red Bus Bistro in both Glasgow and Edinburgh feeds you some tasty grub whilst transporting you around the city to admire the sights. If you fancy taking in the scenery in a festive themed dining experience, then this could be something different to try.

Visit the Merchant Square Christmas Craft Fair!

http://www.merchantsquareglasgow.com/news-article/christmascraftfair

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“Are you looking to get away from the city centre crowds, buy all of your Christmas gifts under one roof, support local artisans and still have time left for dinner and drinks? Then look no further than Merchant Square’s Christmas Craft Fair! From noon until 6pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in December, and daily from Monday 21st until Christmas Eve, Merchant Square will fill up with over fifty local crafters, designers, specialists and artists. Find the perfect gift for your loved ones at our Christmas Craft Fair – a one-stop shop for all your Christmas needs!” *excerpt taken from website

Escape from ‘CHRISTMAS CHAOS’ Escape Room!

https://www.catch22rooms.com/rooms

https://www.itison.com/Glasgow/deals/escape-game-city-centre

Address: 144 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5LQ

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My friend had purchased the Itison voucher for Catch 22 Escape Rooms and we completed (but didn’t escape…) the Notorious room. The hosts were absolutely lovely and there was even a mascot dog called Stan. I’ve already bought another voucher so I can go in December to do their Christmas themed room; such a good idea for a family outing!

Visit Japanese Cafe Okashi!

https://www.instagram.com/okashicafe/

okashiPhoto Credit to Janie of @glasgowplatesandplaces

The glorious little creation is the frosted mocha with a candy floss Christmas tree – how pretty. Janie says “The cafe was super cute, they have their menu written in chalk on the blackboard wall which I thought was a cool touch. And I’m a sucker for anything marble print so loved the tables. Everything was pink & covered in flowers it was honestly like walking into my dream room.”

Visit Ox & Finch’s Pop-Up at SWG3 Acid Bar!

https://www.oxandfinch.com/festive-dining-at-acid-bar

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I love Ox & Finch ! So knowing they’re doing a Christmas themed pop-up is exciting. They nail flavour combinations with an abundance of textures, so I know they’ll take your palate on a journey of festive delight. Just check out the menu, accessed via the link above, it looks fantastic!

Go for a Sing-Along at Glasgow Concert Hall!

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Whether you like classic, fun, jazz or otherwise – the range of shows that are on at Glasgow concert hall in December is fantastic – one of my favourites would have to be the film ‘Love Actually’ played alongside a live orchestra! But click the link above to see all that’s on offer over the next few weeks.

Go to the Irn Bru Carnival!

http://www.irn-bru-carnival.com/

irn bru

Roller coasters, waltzers, game stalls and enough food and drink to sink a ship; the Irn Bru Carnival is a Glasgow institution named after our glorious orange nectar (drink). Fun with your other half, family or a bunch of friends – who doesn’t love a little thrill now and again?!

Find Hidden Christmas in the Hidden Lane!

http://www.thehiddenlaneglasgow.com/hidden-christmas/

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Need some Christmas present inspiration whilst maintaining a sense of mystery? Looks for arts, crafts, clothing, jewellery, candle or music and homewares not off the High Street? The pop into the Hidden Lane locations below for lots of gift ideas!

The Hidden Lane
1103 Argyle Street
Finnieston
Glasgow G3 8ND
(between Sandyford Flowers/Harvey’s and GG Brother Liquor/Greggs)
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The Hidden Lane Gallery
1081 Argyle Street
Finnieston
Glasgow G3 8LZ
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Studios above the Gallery
1079 Argyle Street
Finnieston
Glasgow G3 8LZ
(white door between the Tesco ATM and the Hidden Lane Gallery – appointment only)
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The Hive
1061 Argyle Street
Finnieston
Glasgow G3
(set back from the street, to the left of Pan e Vino and Tesco)

And it wouldn’t be me without a nod to food, so I’ve found a handy link in the ‘People Make Glasgow’ website that break various options down into areas within Glasgow and provides information on Christmas menus and costs etc. Enjoy!

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/glasgow-christmas-dining-guide

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Now I’m off to give Jonathan his advent calendar … from Hotel Chocolat of course!

Merry Christmas to you all ! Lauren x

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.

 

Whitehouse Foraging #cravingthewild

Foraging is not a new idea – our ancestors have been doing it for millions of years. It is only in relatively recent times that we have relied on farming and then our supermarkets to decide what we should be eating.In today’s busy world, convenience is highly prized but we are seeing a sharp rise in allergies. Our narrower diet, based on a limited range of farmed and processed foods is having an effect on our collective health.

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They currently have a FREE course available to book, which is on Friday 8th June in Falkirk, which you can book via their website.

I have added a link to their Website Home Page here. Alternatively, you can contact Graham via email, or further information is also accessible via Facebook.

Jonathan and I went out foraging last month with Graham & Christine at Kinneil House and the surrounding park. I had meant to update my blog with this way before now, but just didn’t get the opportunity. However, finding out that they are offering a FREE foraging event with wild cooking thrown in, I wanted to make sure I shared it with you.

The two key thoughts I came away with were: a simple forest walk won’t be the same again (you don’t realise how much of what you walk past you can eat!) and that it’s equally important to touch and smell, and not only look, when identifying something. We had an amazing time learning lots about more than 16 different plants, ranging from wild garlic, hogweed and wood sorrel to elderflower and raspberry bushes. You won’t only be shown the different plants; they’ll share different recipes you can try with your foraged goods, when you should/shouldn’t eat it, what seasons are best for what plants and also warn you away from similar looking, but poisonous, plants. 

I’ve included a list of some of the items I came across during our walk, with associated pictures and some supplementary information (photo corresponds to descriptor below).

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Ground elder  – edible, part of carrot family

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Wild garlic: lovely sauteed or used in a puree or pesto

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Rosebay willow herb

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Birch polycon mushroom: can be sliced and used as antiseptic plaster, or used in tea

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Clover root / wood avens: its root tastes like cloves (so you’d need to dig it up)

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Cow parsley: (looks similar to hemlock, which is poisonous – hemlock has no hairs, round stem and smells horrible when you split it) whereas cow parsley has concave stem (seen above), smells nice and has small hairs

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Hedge garlic: leaf garlic and stem mustard flavour

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Nettles: good for soup

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Common hogweed: when it’s you can eat the young buds or as pictured it is lovely tempura battered or fried off in butter

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Elder bush:  for elderberries later in the year, flowers in June, berries in September

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Wood sorrel: taste like apple, good with fish, (only eat wood sorrel, if it’s in a field it’s clover – doesn’t taste the same)

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Dandelion leaf:  French for teeth of lion, salad leaf, roots can be used for little parsnips – roast them, dry roasted or the root can be ground down and used as a coffee tasting substitute

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Golden saxifrage: edible, nice garnish, 5 or 6 yellow dots as marker

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Celandine: yellow flowers as marker, which is ok to eat until purple line appears and then it’s too bitter

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Hawthorne: lime green bush with sharp thorns, lovely white flowers – can eat and use flowers to make champagne

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Hogweed ‘markers’: can indicate where you can find it from far away (will cook these)

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Elf cup mushroom: an edible mushroom (the ones we found were a little past their best though)

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Sorrel: is tastes like lemon (lovely!), great with fish, and has pointed ‘ears’ as its marker, although it can look similar to ‘Lords and Ladies’ which is poisonous but L&L has more rounded ‘ears’ at bottom – so remain vigilant!

Graham and Christine are lovely people and they clearly love exploring the outdoors in addition to sharing their knowledge with others, which helps makes the whole experience something extremely worthwhile. I’ve already made some pesto with my wild garlic, which turned out great. And I’m also drawing inspiration from the lamb shoulder dish I had a Cail Bruich last night which featured wild garlic (which is what prompted me to get my ass in gear and write up this post, but it’s got its own post to follow soon too!)

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So if you’re free on 8th June, go along ! And if not, they offer other dates for trips including seaside foraging (think seaweed etc.) and a trip specifically geared towards mushrooms if fungus is your thing. Graham can also provide details of an app which can help you identify various plants if you’re struggling – advised by experts.

Top Tip: it’s really important to taste and touch what you’re foraging – don’t only use your visual senses when identifying plants.

*Please do not use the above as official identifiers, as it is purely based on my remembered knowledge and notes taken at the time – there may be mistakes due to alignment of photographs to descriptors etc.