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

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant28

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

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant9

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!)

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant12

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 …

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant11

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).

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant

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

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant1

Vegetarian Dish: butternut cappelletti with almonds & sage

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant seafood

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

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

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant steak

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.

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant5

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.

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant13

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.

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant14

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.

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant21

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

gather by zique glasgow food best restaurant22

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

Christmas Activities in Glasgow 2018 #cravingfestivecheer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year !

IMG_1835

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

hotel chocolat

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)

IMG_1828

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

IMG_0823

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

IMG_1833

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

IMG_1834

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

IMG_1838

“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

escape room.jpg

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top

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!

IMG_1836

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/

IMG_1830

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)
_ _ _

The Hidden Lane Gallery
1081 Argyle Street
Finnieston
Glasgow G3 8LZ
_ _ _

Studios above the Gallery
1079 Argyle Street
Finnieston
Glasgow G3 8LZ
(white door between the Tesco ATM and the Hidden Lane Gallery – appointment only)
_ _ _

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

IMG_1831

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

Merry Christmas to you all ! Lauren x

Ox & Finch, Finnieston #cravingselloutbritishinspiredtapas

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

A La Carte

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

30th August 2018

ox and finch menu restaurant glasgow

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

41873097_10156827313613578_5731816117744173056_n

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top8

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top11

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top2.jpg

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top6

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top3

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

ox-and-finch-glasgow-good-food-best-restaurant-top13.jpg

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top4

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top

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

ox and finch glasgow good food best restaurant top10

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

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

Topolabamba #cravingdaddyprawntacos

Topolabamba is the Mexican restaurant for true foodies. Try our classic Mexican dishes and street food – oh and make sure to leave room for dessert; we’re talking churros people! Share with friends (real or imaginary) and even take a photo for Instagram if you like! Use the hashtag #Topolabamba and we might even share with the rest of our followers and likers. We are proud of every single dish that leaves the kitchen and every single “mmmm” from our customers. For those of you who love authentic Mexican food – or simply food in general – you’ve come to the right place.

A La Carte

Why: if you’re looking for no fuss, vibrant and tasty Mexican food in Glasgow – Topolabamba is the place to go! Plus it’s ‘tapas’ style, meaning you get to share and try lots of dishes during the course of one meal, so make sure you don’t miss out on the Pasilla Prawn Tacos, ’cause they are the BOMB. Good service each and every time I’ve visited lifted the score slightly, as it is a more casual dining spot.

26th July 2018

40594044_10156793871113578_6964944491631345664_n

Topolabamba is one of those restaurants that Johnny and I regularly default to in times of ‘where shall we go for dinner’ when we don’t have the energy to search for inspiration; simply because its tasty, reliable and offers a variety of dishes that will address most of your cravings at any given time (even if you don’t know what they are yet!) I feel like by making that statement I’m making it sound basic and ‘you know what you get’ type of food, but in all honesty I believe you need a couple of places like that in your restaurant repertoire. For example, The Glasgow Food Geek has Bread Meats Bread as part of her default list, and I know this from watching insta stories that depict the typical ‘not sure where to go’ theme, and ending in a place that you know they frequent in times like that. It’s honest, good food that is generally reasonably priced and never too busy that you can’t get a table (like Ox and Finch, which is also in my Top 5 list, but not in my ‘default’ list – for the simple reason you need to book weeks in advance).

I find that I rarely talk about ‘vibes’ too much in my blogs, because Johnny makes fun of me for using that particular word and I get enough daily criticism from him to avoid small pitfalls where I can (ha!), but Topolabamba has a relaxed, whilst upbeat, vibe that matches any type of evening you fancy having. Going in with 10 people for their famous flavoured margaritas? No problem! Want a lively, but not too lively that you can’t hear each other, romantic first date restaurant? Ideal! Looking for a quick bite after a day of shopping and don’t want to bother with getting dressed up? Come on in! It genuinely manages to address every possible atmospheric brief you could level at it and come up trumps. And that’s before I even get onto the food…

I didn’t hashtag #daddyprawntacos for nuttin’! These ‘PASILLA KING PRAWN TACOS’, perfectly formed using ‘Crispy Pasilla Chilli Battered King Prawns, Soft Corn Tortillas & Mexican Slaw’ are what keeps me coming back again and again and again. The crunch on these things is unreal! The prawn meat inside is always wonderfully done, the Mexican slaw not too spicy and the soft taco shell cradling it all in anticipation of your inevitable swoon. I’m not joking – I phoned the restaurant in advance of coming when I visited on this particular night, as they had run out the last time I visited, and it’s not worth Johnny having to deal with my disappointment and utter despair if we went and had to face that fate yet again. Luckily though, they were stocked up and ready to go, so I obviously ordered a portion to myself, which meant Johnny had to order a couple for himself too. He made one of his typical vulgar jokes re. the comparison photo of both prawns (above on the left) about how you’re the one at the back whilst the prawn at the front is the guy she told you not to worry about. He made me put that joke on my insta story LOL thereafter checking with me every 5 minutes if I’d received any comments on the hilarity of the joke… I took my pleasure from advising him clearly my insta foodie pals didn’t find it as funny as he did.

40603754_10156793871753578_6491794259895648256_n

Johnny then chose to order the Lamb Rojo Tacos & Barbacoa Beef Tacos (pictured above), and I helped him with one of the lamb tacos. The meat is succulent, slow cooked and juicy, meaning the cool crema and/or crumbly cheese is integral to ensuring you can finish them all off easily. Fresh garden herbs lift the somewhat heavy and rich meat laden flavours, without detaching you wholly from them; you enjoy the headiness and then are whisked away to avoid it becoming too intense.

These Crab Ceviche Tostadas (pictured above), which are 2 crispy corn tortillas topped with crab and crema were refreshing, light, crunchy and sharp; a veritable myriad of textural and taste sensations. This is my sort of dish – seafood with fresh lemon squeezed on top served on a crunchy, crisp tostada for that satisfying bite. These are a close second to my prawn tacos and will forevermore remain on the default menu list items for Topolobamba (please never remove these from the menu!!)

40607175_10156793870948578_668853650688311296_n

Without fail, no matter how much else he orders or how full he is, Johnny always orders the ‘CHICKEN MOLE ENCHILADA’ – Pulled Poblano Chicken Baked with Crumbly Cheese, Served with a Rich Red Mole Sauce – a meaty mountain of a meal in itself. Funnily enough, with the three different types of tacos (in addition to the fact he’d eaten steak and rice literally about an hour before we came out) he fell short on this occasion. But our servers were great when we asked to take it away in a doggy bag, meaning he has his sixteenth meal of the day sorted (note: slight hyperbole may have been used in this statement).

40572521_10156793871698578_4365840625820499968_n

The only small criticism I had for this visit was that I ordered the ‘CALLO DEL MAR’ – King Scallops with Guajillo Chilli Sauce for the first time. Unfortunately, I had finished all my other dishes and was waiting for a little whilst for the scallops before inquiring where they’d managed to run off to from a waiter. His response that they ‘took longer than the other dishes to cook’ somewhat puzzled me, considering scallops are an extremely delicate protein and therefore by their very nature take LESS time than most things to cook. I think Johnny’s comment was that we could have cooked a tomahawk steak in less time, but he’s a bit of a c*nt, which I believe I alluded to earlier, so I generally ignore these comments. Moreso, because I’m generally always the one who makes comments/complaints when we’re in restaurants… it’s the age old situation of him loading the bullets and me shooting them ’cause I’m a mouthy bugger at the best of times. But instead, I settled down pondering this for a few minutes, awaiting their arrival, as Johnny was still working his way through his dishes at this point and wasn’t paying too much attention (yet). They arrived not long after, delivered by who I later found out was Ken (Manager), who stated they had taken longer than was acceptable and he’d taken them off our bill as a result. This type of preemptive service always makes me happy; when you receive excellent customer service without the need to prompt action yourself. So thanks Ken!

The scallops themselves were oven baked, so not usually how I’d like scallops, but I understand they’re probably more in keeping with the theme of food that’s being served in the restaurant. They were tasty enough, but I’m not going to rush back to have them again. Next on my list is the new menu additions of CAMARONES A LA PLANCHA, which is another prawn dish of 2 Large Gulf Coast King Prawns Grilled in Chilli Butter, Served with an Agave Tequila & Lime Dip & COCTEL DE CAMARON – a Classic Mexican Style Prawn Cocktail served over Chilled Shredded Lettuce on a Picante Sauce, ’cause I’m an 80’s baby cliche and bloody adore a prawn cocktail (can you tell I’m prawn obsessed?!)

40557685_10156793871293578_1334648722021154816_n

Top Tip: if you book your table for 6pm, there are single yellow lines right outside the restaurant, therefore you can park for free in the evenings (after 6pm) or anytime on Sundays – enjoy !

Cail Bruich – Sunday with Jamie Scott #cravingJamieScott

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

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

Sunday with Jamie Scott – Menu

Score: 19/20

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

27th May 2018

Menu

36475430_10156632237528578_3991769933779304448_n

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

36460045_10156632197393578_8169473090611314688_n

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

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

36425322_10156632197348578_8742542635522064384_n

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

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

36456958_10156632197588578_3073762240952795136_n

Isle of Wight tomatoes, Elderflower, Smoked Almond Milk

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

33869737_10156550780648578_2011382898963251200_n.jpg

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

‘Cail Bru’ beer

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

36398966_10156632197623578_1076938774316843008_n

100% Sourdough & Cultured Butter

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

Loch Fyne Scallops, Scottish Green Strawberries, Brown Butter Hollandaise

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

36408602_10156632197993578_2965695413471936512_n

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strawberries, Woodruff, Sweet Cicely & Freeze Dried Strawberry Meringue

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

33713224_10156550780378578_11054446955986944_n

Newport ‘Tag Mi Suas’

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

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

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

Capture

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

The 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.”

33806420_10156553198688578_5191563704977588224_n

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

33763512_10156545702493578_2573066786220015616_n

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.

33530482_10156545701538578_4511622712178769920_n

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!

34049186_10156553197388578_4758214729015492608_n

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

33530508_10156545702293578_1748323788535103488_n

Langoustine Tails in garlic butter (me)

33528387_10156545701518578_576845048797200384_n

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

33499902_10156545701533578_2554392989971513344_n

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

33540458_10156545702108578_2888418291708067840_n

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!

33522852_10156545701193578_2995159378748768256_n

Desserts

33619943_10156545702288578_2784079031983669248_n

The Boathouse Meringue (me)

33576450_10156545701933578_2841007079735427072_n

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.

33508381_10156545702508578_2577884171863064576_n.jpg

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:

33619110_10156545698758578_4030998124951502848_n

 33601733_10156545697758578_8101201033503440896_n.jpg

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

33523535_10156545699838578_4425180791630200832_n

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!

33707816_10156545698978578_6013952158641160192_n

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.

19688421866_74c26b52d1_b

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.

large_Achamore_Gigha_garden_visit

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.

34046817_10156553191833578_4918218418458460160_n

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

33475164_10156545698948578_3622157709849133056_n

33577135_10156545701343578_2524221222674235392_n

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.”

31870286_10156492083303578_2105151750250954752_n

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.

31776149_10156492083528578_6391009884472606720_n

31890345_10156492083508578_6781638100641644544_n

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.

31924632_10156492083108578_3019538338970337280_n.jpgPictured above: Meaty Baked Eggs

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).

31786489_10156492083123578_1730388395949031424_n.jpg33660441_10156545698128578_1445375293899407360_n

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.

31870427_10156492083113578_8475745722430390272_n

33575187_10156545871688578_5084475481500155904_n

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!

41944187_10156827413308578_4143338543676129280_n

Salmon Stack

41779792_10156827413293578_4254922133328625664_n

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

Paesano, Miller Street #cravingthebestpizzaintown

“At Paesano Pizza we are the first to bring authentic, traditional Napoletana pizza to Glasgow. Cooked in Artisan built wood fired ovens from Naples, our Pizzaiolo take pride in adhering to the process in production of the dough and provenance of the produce to Verace pizza Napoletana standard. Our pizza is a hybrid yeast and sourdough proofed for over 48 hours. The long proofing time together with cooking at an intense heat of 500oC produces a moist, light, soft, digestible crust which is aromatic and delicious.”

Overall Rating: 10/10

31895254_10156494264708578_3833081019724988416_n

I’ll try to make this review as quick as Paesano makes their pizza’s (90 seconds apparently) – as truly delicious things can’t be described with justice through words and pictures – you just gotta try it for yourself! Pizza can elicit a sense of calm, serene happiness for me; biting into doughy crust with vibrant tomato sauce and delectable toppings is a hard combination to defeat in both culinary aspects or in general life. So when I found myself heading back home from walking the dog last night, thinking “what shall I have for dinner?”, Paesano was firmly always at the top of that list.

Firstly, for being such a damn tasty pizza, they’re so reasonably priced! When you compare the cost to that of its competitors (e.g. Toni’s Pizzeria Giffnock/Gibson St), it comes out triumphant both in affordability and flavour. The price ranges from £6 – 8 per pizza, with the option to add additional toppings if you want (either from the other pizzas or the Specials Board). Their menu has 9 options, with generally another 2 pizza options on their Specials Board, which can vary weekly.

31945916_10156494679538578_4703610151196688384_n

They don’t take bookings, which can deter some people (but clearly not a lot, as the entrance way is always rammed), but I would encourage you to drop in anyway as the waiting times are minimal due to the speedy pizza making time. You would struggle to be waiting more than 5-10 minutes, and don’t they say ‘anything worth having is worth the wait’? Trust me when I tell you – it is worth the wait!

I can only speak for the Miller Street restaurant (sorry Katie!) when I say that they have certainly got the ‘vibe’ of the restaurant right; long wooden benches with cutlery being supplied in recycled tomato tins, illuminating light from their proud ‘Paesano’ sign on the wall in addition to strategically placed lighting for excellent Instagramable pictures and a constant, excitable buzz about the place to generate anticipation for the mouth-watering pizza to come. If you’re popping in for a takeaway, you’re free to go to the front of the line at the right hand side, where a waiter/waitress should take your order (this will save you standing behind a long line of people who are looking to add their name to the waiting list to sit-in).

31466818_10156494665268578_7601100337251876864_n

I actively choose to eat the crust and leave the topping section when I find myself getting slightly full… which is slightly backwards when it comes to your typical pizza eater, but crust is the prime time real estate for me on Paesano pizzas. You parents tell you to eat the meat as that’s what costing the money? Not with Paesano’s! Eat the crust first… the flavour in it alone will have you returning time and time again (pictured below is a No. 5 with additional topping of red onion and No. 8 with additional topping of tomato sugo).

31531046_10156494665523578_2534798090741743616_n

The owners have hit the nail on the head when it comes to what the people of Glasgow are after, hence why Paesano’s is such a roaring success. And considering they ran both The Italian Caffe and The Italian Kitchen so well until they sold it (before opening Paesano’s), I’m not surprised! It provides tasty, delectable, reasonably priced pizza in a chic urban setting for all to enjoy. It was named No. 1 pizza restaurant in the UK by Stylist Magazine for a reason y’know. So let it make all your doughy/ cheesy dreams come true, and I’ll take a bet that everywhere else will pale in comparison forevermore!

Not sure I hit the 90 second brief, but what can I say … I’ve got a lot to say about pizza!!

31957135_10156494264413578_6520767645417996288_n

(pictured: No. 4 with additional topping of special meat – porchetta)

Top Tip: parking isn’t great on Miller Street, so I would park nearby or take public transport/walk where possible.