Gather by Zique #whenITISONnailit

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

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

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

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

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

Instagram: @gatherbyzique

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

General Information: all visits were using an @itison voucher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vegetarian Dish: butternut cappelletti with almonds & sage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meat Dish: tagliatelle with suckling pig ragu and crispy herbs

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

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

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

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

Lx

Ox & Finch, Finnieston #cravingselloutbritishinspiredtapas

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

A La Carte

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

30th August 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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!!)

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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).

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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?!)

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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 – Taste of the Season – June 2018 #cravingpreCBrefurb

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

Taste of the Season

Score: 16/20

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

June 2018

Menu

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Flame grilled sea bream, gooseberry, radish and burnt cream

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

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Isle of Wight tomato, green strawberry, elderflower

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

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Cod, jersey royals, confit leek & warm tartare

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

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

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Pork Belly, apriocot, baby gem lettuce, white turnip

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

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

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Artichoke cake, raspberry, carmalised whey, artichoke

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

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

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

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

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

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.