Month: August 2013

Posh Nosh At La Vallee Blanche

La Vallee Blanche first appeared on my radar back in 2008 after Joanna Blythman reviewed it. If a restaurant is good enough for her then its definitely good enough for me. We visited that year & my memory from the meal was that there were snails dotted around my plate… actual snails. Minus the shell thank goodness, but still a first-time for me. I had ordered duck by the way, in case you thought I can’t read a menu! So it was a little fancy for me when I was 24 years old but, to be honest, anywhere that gave you a free roll served with silver tongs probably was at that point in my life. Luckily I’ve come a long way since then & now I’d try most things, albeit eyes, and I enjoy something new on my plate.

I had been twice since then (in 2011 & 2012) & loved it the first time but thought it was just okay the second. So when a friend said that she’d never been I thought this could be a nice opportunity to return.

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Entrance (on a sunny day)

First of all, I’d like to say that I like the decor in here – it has a slight fancy log cabin look & it makes me think that it’s a sanctuary from the Scottish weather. All dark woods and warm reds give it an elegant vibe, whilst the soft lighting provides a relaxed ambiance.

We popped in on a Sunday night after work & had the Menu Du Jour, which is priced at £12 for two courses or £14 for three courses. This gives you three of each starter, main and dessert to choose from. I love a bargain and this seemed like great value for money.

We both opted for soft drinks because it was a school night & then we were brought over a roll & butter each.

Next was a hors d’oeuvre that looked like a sausage/pâté on toast with some green sauce (I promise that I will start to write down these descriptions at the time!). Whatever it was, it was a welcome addition to the meal & pleasant to eat.

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Hors D’oeuvre

Furthermore, the starter choices contained another unknown (or untasted) ingredient to me – lambs tongue. At first look I thought ‘no way’ but then I remembered the snails & decided to push the boundaries a little. My lambs tongue was braised & served with beetroot, pickled turnip & radish. It was such an attractive dish that I almost didn’t want to eat it but I was too hungry for that. The lambs tongue tasted a bit like liver mixed with sausage & had an almost crispy edge to it as if it had been finished in a pan. This unquestionably made it taste nicer & I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. The beetroot & pickled turnip managed to stand up to the rich flavour to make a tasty dish.

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Lambs Tongue

My friend opted for the potato & garlic velouté. The weather is starting to turn so it’s getting into soup season – I love a well made soup. She kindly let me sample some and I found it to be full of flavour and easily a curl on the couch number.

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Potato & garlic veloute

Service was swift and attentive without being irritating & our main courses came quickly after the starters. I ordered the fillet of hake, jerusalem artichoke purée, baby gem & garlic veloute. The hake was cooked to perfection and it was served with delectable little baby onions. I felt that the dish went well together and I’d happily order it again. The only negative for me was that I would have liked something thicker on the plate served with the fish. The artichoke purée was quite liquid-y and mixed in with the veloute leaving no thick accompaniment for me to scoop up with each mouthful of hake. Saying that, the flavours were excellent and, as I said before, I enjoyed the dish.

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Hake

The second main course was chicken supreme, sauteed potatoes, bacon & creamed cabbage. It sounded like comfort food with a classy edge and I was assured that it tasted just as good. The flawlessly cooked chicken arrived with a crispy skin and rich jus, which stood up to the salty bacon and cabbage combo.

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Chicken

Full to bursting, we sneaked a look at the dessert menu anyway. My eyes were drawn to the chocolate & orange pave with bitter chocolate sorbet. I had to have it and it turns out my friend was thinking exactly the same thing.

When the pave arrived we knew that we had made the right choice. Visually, it looked impressive, with all the components of the dish neatly on show. The next few minutes at the table were fairly quiet with occasional appreciative murmurs in between mouthfuls of velvety pave. A very good dessert indeed.

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Chocolate & Orange Pave

After a mediocre visit last year, I can safely say that I’m looking forward to my next trip here. Lunch and pre-theatre menus are astonishingly good value for such a classy place with thoroughly decent food. The a la carte menu also has some dishes that appeal to me greatly – scallops with cauliflower puree (the best scallop accompaniment in my opinion) & veal osso bucco so I’ll need to put La Vallee Blanche back on my list for another time.

 

 

 

You might also like Cail Bruich: https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/eating-well-at-cail-bruich/

La Vallee Blanche on Urbanspoon

That Time I Went To Perth in Australia

If there’s anything I love as much as Glasgow, it’s holidays. I love to explore and experience other places and their unique cultures, food & sights. I have been very fortunate to go on several holidays over the last few years – I am taking every opportunity before a mini me comes along.

Last year we travelled much further than we had before – we went to Australia. My brother in-law and sister in-law had moved to Perth at the beginning of the year so we planned a family trip in October with the in-laws.

My first impression of Perth was of how big and city-like it was. I don’t know why but in my head I expected something very spaced out and outdoorsy but inner Perth is full of tall buildings. We went for a wee drive on our first day to get our bearings & visited the impressive Kings Park. It is easily the biggest park that I have ever been in and is a mecca for runners, families, walkers & tourists.

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View of part of Perth from Kings Park

We barbecued a rather impressive pink snapper on the first night to mark the start of the holiday and what a barbecue it was. The fish and seafood was amazing over there – such a wide selection and top quality picks.

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The next day we had arranged to go on a wine tour of the Swan Valley region, which is only 30 minutes drive from Perth. We started at 11am but it didn’t seem at all strange or naughty drinking vino at this hour, it felt like that’s what we were supposed to do. If only I could do it forever!

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Lancaster backdrop

The first vineyard (Lancaster) was a sight to behold with vines as far as you can see & a wee tin shed in the middle that they do the tastings from. We tried whites, roses, reds & dessert wines along with a cheese platter from a local cheesemaker. I realised then that Australia keep the good wine for themselves & export the mediocre bottles! The lady doing our tasting was so passionate about the wine and it was such a relaxed atmosphere that this was my favourite place of the day.

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Lancaster wine tasting

Next we went to Houghton Wines, which was on a much grander scale with a big air conditioned tasting room, a gift shop, cafe & cellar. When we began the tasting we were given a bucket so we could spit the wine out afterwards if we wanted – obviously I never even entertained that idea. Again we enjoyed a few wines of each colour, bought a bottle & headed over to the cafe for lunch washed down with a bit more vino. The food here was gorgeous & I’d highly recommend it if you are ever in the area.

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Houghton Wines

Changing tack, we went to a brewery next called The Feral Brewing Company & sampled a selection of local beers. I liked that you could buy tasting boards & I tried them all even although I don’t really like beer very much. It was mixed reviews on this place – I think you have to be an experienced ale drinker to appreciate it.

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Feral Brewing Company tasting kit (read ‘the runt’ description)

We ended the day in Upper Reach winery. This was a dainty but beautiful place & makes the nicest tawny port that I’ve ever tasted. We brought a bottle home & have managed to get people to bring us another 4 bottles back in their suitcases since then because we love it so much.

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After our busy day we headed back to base to rest and headed out to Modo Mio italian restaurant for dinner. The restaurant is housed inside the Crown Casino (formerly the Burswood) along with several other premium restaurants. The food was of a very high standard and I remember being particularly impressed with my risotto. I did not take any photos because it was quite fancy so it would have felt inappropriate.

The next morning was a very early start which was unfortunate for me because I was still jet-lagged & managed 4 hours sleep the night before. We were headed for Rottnest Island, which is a scenic, conservation island about an hour & a half ferry ride away from Perth. Part of the ferry route is called ‘humpback highway’ because there are so many humpback whale sightings so my eyes were on the water all the time but to no avail. I quite like boats so enjoyed the journey out and was looking forward to get on our hired bikes to explore the island. First on the agenda was to find the elusive Quokka – known as the happiest animal alive, Quokka’s are small marsupials that look like mini kangaroos minus the pouch.

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A Quokka

We had a picnic lunch at Geordie Bay and then nipped to the loo where we met our first Quokka in one of the cubicles! They almost look like they’re smiling and they are very docile. We got quite overexcited and took lots of photos but we realised later on that this wasn’t going to be the only Quokka we’d meet on our trip.

As we cycled around the island and in & out of various bays, we took in the wonderful views out to sea. It really is picturesque and I found it relaxing with no cars and little noise.

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We spent some time in the water cooling down – although I was on constant shark watch because my sister in-law had told me that they’re common around Rottnest. It reminded me of the Maldives because it was so quiet (you normally get a bit of beach to yourself), the sand was white and the water was so clear…paradise.

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My Favourite Quokka (smiling)

On the way back on the boat it was a bit chilly but I was determined to stay outside to soak in the views. I heard someone shout and then realised that there was a humpback whale splashing about in the distance behind the boat. It took my breath away so much that I never even got my camera out to capture the moment. When the boat was too far away to see it any more I went inside to tell the family and the people next to us had some great photos of the whale so I cheekily asked if I could take a photo of his camera screen.

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Humpback whale on ‘humpback highway’

We spent some time in Leederville as it has relaxed bohemian vibe and lots of shops, cafes & restaurants.

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Greens & Co Leederville (I loved the lights)

The other Mrs S & I got up early one morning for some hot chocolate & churros from San Churro in Leederville. It was a new experience for me having never tried churros before but one that I’m eager to repeat. Why has no-one tapped into this market in Glasgow yet?

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Another newbie to me that I tried on this trip was macaroons. I had heard about them but wanted to go someplace that I knew that would do really good macaroons for my first one. I found it in the award-winning Jean Pierre Sancho, where we shared a variety of macaroons in different flavours.

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Before we left for Australia I had read about a place called The Little Creatures Brewery, which is along the coast at Fremantle. I was determined to visit, and we did, and I loved it as much as I thought I would. It was extremely busy with people at tables & the bar drinking and people enjoying lunch. Tables are over two levels in this industrial style place with brewing tanks and such dotted around the building. We tried the craft lager and homemade cider, along with some snacks to share like mussels and nachos. I would love to go back to spend a whole Sunday with a big group of friends chatting, eating & sampling the beer. Until I win the lottery to buy all the flight tickets, I will have to make do with heading down to West brewery in good old Glasgow where they sell Little Creatures lager by the bottle.

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On the way back from Freo we stopped at the beach briefly to watch the kite-surfing. How they don’t all get tangled with each other is beyond me because there was so many close together. I imagine that it takes a lot of skill & practice before you get to busy beach stage. It was great to watch and something that I will remember.

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We ended the Oz experience with a mega BBQ on the balcony of tiger prawns & steak that was immense.

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Perth city centre has free and regular buses so it is easy to get around and there were much less cars on the road. I found it a terribly expensive place to holiday but this is to do with it being such an isolated city so importing goods is expensive. On the other hand, it is much cleaner than the cities over here, offers more activities and is a gorgeous place to visit.

I was sad to leave Perth but luckily we were going to Hong Kong on the way back to distract me. If I ever get the opportunity to go back then I’ll make sure that it is for longer because Western Australia offers a wealth of things to do.

 

 

 

 

 

You might also like:

https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/honeymoon-of-our-dreams-the-maldives-2011-trip-report/

Glasgow’s Italian Kitchen

I have a true love affair with Italian food. I eat it a lot and there’s always an Italian restaurant on my short list for where to go for lunch or dinner. Such is my obsession that extra virgin olive oil, good quality balsamic vinegar, garlic, lamb & fresh seafood would make up the main ingredients to my last meal, maybe with a bit of pizza or focaccia thrown in. The fresh ingredients coupled with the rustic approach wins me over every time.

As with most things, I tend to break down Italian restaurants into categories for ease of making a selection. The three main ones are meaty Italians, pizza Italians and everyday Italians but some places fit into more than one home. The latter category has recently been filled with visits to Celinos and Soho, due to to the closeness of Celinos to my flat & the excellent value of Soho. My go-to meaty Italian is La Lanterna but I’m planning a visit to La Parmigiana soon. The Italian Kitchen on Ingram Street falls between the meaty and pizza category, as I’ve had both there and both have been delicious.

 

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The restaurant has been part of the Merchant City for a few years now – their website says four years but I’m sure we’ve been going there a little longer than that so it might just need updating. It was opened by the same people that have the nearby Italian Caffe but while the Italian Caffe concentrates on italian tapas like dishes, the Italian Kitchen has a large range of pizza, pasta, meat & seafood.

 

There is one massive draw that takes us back to the restaurant – their rabbit ravioli. Homemade ravioli is a rarity in restaurants and a relatively untapped market in Glasgow. Then if you put rabbit in a ravioli, you’re on to a winner for me…providing it has some flavour. We first tried the Italian Kitchen’s rabbit ravioli a few years back and I remember being absolutely smitten – dreaming about it for days afterwards. Thankfully, it is still as delicious today and is served in a starter portion of five pieces topped with peppery rocket. I always ask for cheese, which is of the fresh grate-at-the-table variety, because italian cheese makes everything taste better. The ravioli filling is rich and slightly gamey and the pasta is the perfect thickness. The dish is served with a game gravy, which complements the flavours of the rabbit and the rocket brings a fresh peppery element to the dish.

 

 

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Rabbit ravioli £7.95

 

 

The ravioli is also part of one of their set menus, which seem to be on all the time, so you can get it with a main course for £17.95. Mr S went for the set menu but I went a la carte because I really fancied a pizza. I eventually decided on a simple pizza of tomato sugo, mozzarella, anchovies, olives, capers and extra virgin olive oil but asked for it without the anchovies because I find they can overpower the other flavours. Their pizza bases are crispy but doughy and one of the best that I’ve found in Glasgow for my tastes. I like that the high quality mozzarella almost blends with the tomato sugo so it’s just a creamy tomatoey goo and, on this occasion, I enjoyed the saltiness of the capers and olives.

 

 

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Pizza £9.95

 

Mr S chose the grilled fillets of seabass with lyonaise potatoes and fine beans and he admitted that he was slightly disappointed on first taste. It seemed somewhat a plain dish when it arrived with no sauce. There was a lump of flavoured herby butter on top but that was the only flavour injection. But as he made his way through the dish he commented on how he was enjoying it more and more. In hindsight, I think that the wrong sauce could easily ruin the dish and simplicity was better in this instance. The butter was not yet melted when it arrived so you can put on as much or as little as you want so the seabass can take centre stage. In the end the dish won him over and he was glad that he chose it.

 

 

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Seabass (part of set menu A. two courses for £17.95)

 

We skipped dessert (again – I’m so proud of myself!) because I was full after my gigantic pizza, which they packaged up the last of so I could take home.

 

The staff were friendly and patient (we can never decide what to have) & I appreciated them running after me when I was walking past later on because I forgot my brolley!

 

Including drinks (a beer & two glasses of wine), the bill came up to about £50 so it was not ridiculously expensive and we had a lovely anniversary meal.

 

 

Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

A Lazy Monday at Cafe Gandolfi

Working in a busy restaurant robs me of most weekends so there’s nothing I like better than a lazy Monday off work and somewhere nice to eat. The Merchant City is a pleasant walk from our flat so we quite often meander down there until a lunch menu, pre-theatre or amazing sounding dish catches my eye. There’s certainly enough choice with over forty places that serve food in this tiny area. We had a fantastic meal in Cafe Gandolfi with the in-laws back in April so we felt that we wanted to go back and sample the other goodies on offer.

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In true lazy Monday style, we never arrived to Cafe Gandolfi for lunch until about 3pm. This has happened so often that myself and a friend have renamed this time as ‘linner’ – it’s an in-between meal like brunch but between lunch and dinner. Many restaurants in Glasgow close after lunch and don’t reopen until around 5pm so they are no good for linner but most places in the Merchant City stay open making it the perfect destination. Cafe Gandolfi looks reassuringly homely and a great place for a casual Monday meal.

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I love the chunky wooden tables that were commissioned just for them and the big tables are laid out in such a sociable way that it makes me want to come in as part of a large group. It was quiet when we arrived due to the time of day but they still had five tables in so it was ticking over.

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I was tempted to have the scallop special but last time that I came in I had the special instead of the chicken and I was determined to try the chicken this time but I love the sound of the courgette flower. I haven’t been able to try one of these yet but they look great and seem to be the new thing in cooking.

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Gandolfi scores brownie points with Mr S because they sell St Mungos lager on tap from the local West brewery (he is a big fan). I would highly recommend taking a trip down to West for a try of their selection of Glasgow brewed beers or you’ll find St Mungos in several Glasgow bars & restaurants. I didn’t fancy an alcoholic drink so I went for their home-made St Clements juice. The only point I would make on the drinks is to make sure that you order them before you need another because some drinks have to come from the bar upstairs so we waited a wee while for these.

As I said before, I had almost certainly decided on the chicken when we went in but I looked through the menu nonetheless. All of the starters sound delicious and there is an array of main courses to choose from.

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We were just going to have main courses but the Arbroath Smokies were delicious last time so we shared one. They bake them with tomatoes. cream and parmesan & serve them with toast fingers and salad. The smokies were as good as the first time and I could easily polish off two of those instead of having a main course next time.

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Arbroath Smokies £7.50 (apologies – we started eating before taking a photo!)

Mr S chose the New York Pastrami with cheese for his main course. It came as an open sandwich on sourdough bread with the pastrami on top followed by mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese. He said it was fabulous and the ultimate comfort food with the cheese on top. It is also a nice touch that the salads come undressed and then they offer you house dressing as a choice instead of the salad arriving soaked in oil.

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New York Pastrami £12.50

My dish was a home-made chicken kiev that came with creamed potatoes, sugar snap peas & a beetroot and radish salsa. It arrived at the table oozing with butter and it was indeed the rich dish that I had been expecting. I usually veer away from ordering chicken in restaurants because I always think of chicken as an everyday meat & half the time it arrives overcooked but the idea of a chicken kiev transported me back to my childhood. Having eaten in Gandolfi a few times now I knew that the chances were that it would be miles better than the kievs I ate as a child but it provided enough nostalgia to prompt me to order it. The chicken was juicy and tender so that worry was swept away after the first bite. The salsa was more like a coleslaw minus the mayo than what I would call a salsa, and the flavours went really well with the dish and provided enough freshness & crunch to cut through the butter. It was the sort of dish that you have to be in the mood for in my opinion (I was) due to its hearty nature.

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Gandolfi Chicken Kiev £16

No desserts were ordered this time but the time before we tried the malteser pot, crème brulee & the baklava and I remember them being enjoyable.

Gandolfi also offers you the best of both worlds with the ‘cafe’/restaurant part downstairs and the bar, which also serves food, upstairs. They also have clean, modern toilets with nourishing handsoap. It is amazing how much of a rarity this is and I like nice toilets in a restaurant.

It is not cheap but all of the ingredients seem to be as fresh as you’ll get so I can understand that this costs money. The bar upstairs also provides somewhere to sip on a cocktail or sup a beer after your meal, so you don’t need to go searching for anywhere in the rain. Again, it’s not Glasgow’s cheapest bar but they have a large spirit collection, friendly, knowledgeable staff and the Parmaviolet Martini’s are to die for.

 

 

Read about my visit to Gandolfi Fish here: https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/gandolfi-fish-makes-a-hat-trick/

Cafe Gandolfi on Urbanspoon

Yet Another Restaurant Trip Report on Burger Meats Bun!

Wow – I have never heard as much social media chatter over a restaurant as I have with Burger Meats Bun. Even before they opened last month, Twitter was full of discussions about this new Glasgow eaterie. The problem about creating such a buzz is that you have to live up to the hype or you’ll be slated…badly. So when I ventured along West Nile Street a couple of weeks ago I was excited but oddly nervous – could it actually be that good or is it going to fall flat?

 

 

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After locating the place in one of the basement spaces near Revolution & Amber Regent, I surveyed the outside. Bold red lettering made it eye catching but, I’ll be honest, reminded me a little of those old Wimpy signs. Not always a bad thing if it automatically makes people think burger. I can assure you that the food was a trillion times better than Wimpy and the food is ultimately why we were here.

 

 

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The décor is modern and a mix of tables and high tables with stools. We managed to bag one of the lower tables at the far wall and my friend started reading the menu. As per usual, I had looked on-line so had decided what I was having before I’d even left my house. My big cheese burger consisted of a beef patty, dale end cheddar & home-made burger sauce. We decided to share some maldon sea salt chips & cheesey chips, for variety purposes of course. She went for the cluckin BLT burger – confit leg meat, home cured & smoked bacon, mayo and salsa verde. We also ordered soft drinks, which arrived in their cans complete with straws. Perfectly informal just as I was expecting.

 

 

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My burger on arrival

 

The informal dining experience did not end there as my burger arrived shortly after all wrapped up. I had read other reviews beforehand so knew that this was the case and also thankfully knew to use the kitchen roll that was provided because the burgers are extremely juicy. As I took that first bite I suddenly understood what all the fuss was about with this place. The beef was cooked perfectly (I like a bit of pink in my burger), the cheese was gooey and the sauce provided flavour without overpowering it. I admit that I had been sceptical about the brioche bun because I thought it would have a sweetness but, in reality, it just meant that I could eat with my hands without the whole thing collapsing on the second bite. They had run out of pickle when we went in (they make their own. drool) but had put some kind of pickled cucumber-y tasting thing in the burger that I really enjoyed.

 

 

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Big Cheese Burger (£7.50)

 

The cluckin BLT seemed to impress my friend in equal measure. The chicken meat was flavoursome and a match with the bacon & the salsa verde provided a lovely contrast.

 

 

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Cluckin BLT burger (£7.50)

 

 

Our two sides of fries – one maldon sea salt & one cheese – were really well made delicious chips. They were fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside and I suspect that they are triple cooked. They tasted so good that I don’t really care but just don’t ever tell me how many calories are in them.

 

 

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Cheesey chips (£2.50)

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Maldon Sea Salt chips (£2.00)

 

By this stage I had calmed down, nerves were all gone and I was stuffed. I may have been full but there was no way that I was leaving without trying the burger & shake dessert. It arrives on a wee tray with a small tonka bean shake on one side & a macaroon on the other. The macaroon is dressed like a burger with the macaroon being the bun, chocolate ganache being the burger, raspberry coulis ketchup & passionfruit gel as a cheese slice. It looks cute as a button when it arrives and it’s yummy.

 

 

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Burger & shake dessert (£5)

 

I like the quirky decor mixed with their minimalist vibe – on the back of a booth was cows in grass, there is a giant BMB logo on the wall and a lovely quote on another wall.

 

 

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After scoffing all of that food we sat and weighed up the place. Our burgers were £7.50 and normal chips are £2 so essentially it’s £9.50 for burger & chips – not very dear and that’s before taking into account that they are making the buns and everything fresh with top quality ingredients. We stuck to soft drinks this time but I have read that the cocktails are nice but small so I’ll try one out next time. Other than that my only gripe is that I personally would like to see full size shakes on the drinks menu. There’s nothing better than a strawberry shake with a juicy burger.

 

 

Burger Meats Bun on Urbanspoon

Honeymoon Of Our Dreams: The Maldives 2011 Trip Report

Two years ago tomorrow we were excitedly heading off on honeymoon for two weeks to the Maldives. After months of deliberation beforehand of where to go and then which island to choose, we decided on Kuramathi on Rasdhoo atoll. We booked our Kuoni holiday through Tropical Warehouse (part of the Bluebay travel family) to save some pennies and I could not recommend their service enough. This ‘one in a lifetime’ holiday was so ridiculously amazing that I could not get it out of my head so we have booked to return in November with my brother in-law & sister in-law who live in Oz. I will write a big trip report on the November holiday but I just wanted to share some snippets from the first visit because there seems to be a lack of Maldives posts on here.

 

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We flew from Glasgow with Emirates, changing at Dubai, to the capital of the Maldives. The Maldives is made up of a cluster of small islands in the Indian Ocean that you get to by boats & seaplanes so all holidaymakers fly into Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, which is in the capital Male. From Male we were bussed to the seaplane lounge & then boarded one of the tiny seaplanes for the 25 minute plan journey to our island.

 

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This time we are taking the boat to the island so that we have tried both but the seaplane had some breathtaking views of the tiny archipelagos in the water.

 

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On arrival we were given a mocktail and flannel to cool us down after the long journey then we checked in & were given some information about the island. To be honest, I knew most of the information already because I had been on Trip Advisor constantly in my excitement and the forums on there provided me with valuable tips in advance. They had upgraded our beach villa to a deluxe beach villa because we were on honeymoon & I shrieked with excitement when the receptionist told me. We were escorted to our villa in a golf buggy & told that our luggage would be along in a couple of hours (a tip I’d learnt from the forums so we had clothes in our hand luggage). The island takes about 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other but you can get ‘taxi’ golf buggies if you have mobility problems or are lazy.

Our villa had a big four poster bed, sun loungers on our deck, a private outdoor shower & an outdoor lizard that we named Bernard.

 

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Room surprises on arrival

 

We changed quickly and headed out to explore & eat some lunch. Our villa was opposite The Reef restaurant & The Laguna bar at the quiet end of the island and this is where our first breathtaking view of the holiday appeared…

 

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Kuramathi is one of the largest islands in the Maldives & it offered us the island experience without going too Robinson Crusoe. Villas, bars & restaurants are scattered around the island, hidden between the vegetation and peeking out on to the beach. There are two pools for when the salt water gets too much and an amazing house reef so you can snorkel straight from the beach.

 

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Reef sharks

 

One of the things that I had noted on the forums before going was to make sure that you pick the best food package for you because you stay on the island the whole holiday. We opted for the select all-inclusive package because the standard all-inclusive allows you to have meals in your buffet restaurant but the select gave us the option of using all of the a la carte restaurants. To be honest I think we would have been happy with the food in the buffet restaurant because it was of a high standard but our foodie instincts took over and we went select. Breakfast was served in our buffet restaurant & you could eat lunch there too or you also had the option of the Island Coffee Shop or the Palm italian. They served afternoon snacks in two cafes but we were normally still full from lunch. Dinner could be taken in a choice of six a la carte restaurants or in any of the three buffet options. We had some amazing meals on the island such as the thai curries at the Siam Garden, steak diane at the Island Barbecue & fish at the Reef. Our all inclusive package also included our snorkelling gear, a sunset cruise, a visit to a local island (we never did this based on forum advice) & drinks all day long. There was a big cocktail list and I made a fair dent in it! As much as I love my Bombay Sapphire I had to ask them to give me smaller measures because they would fill 250ml glasses up half with spirit…it would have floored me.

 

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note the Jack Daniels in the bottom right photo!

 

Before we booked the Maldives we hummed and hawed about it because we were scared that boredom would set in with so little to do. This was not at all the case & there was plenty to keep us entertained. We walked around a lot to burn off all of the calorific meals, taking in the scenery as we went. There are nature walks that you can do, an eco centre to wander about and a spa for those relaxing massages. Kuramathi has a full sports centre that even houses transparent canoes to make the most of the ocean below. There are sports for those inclined & they have staff versus guests football matches – the staff are football mad. The sandbank at the end of the island is very scenic and a romantic place for a stroll at sunset.

 

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Sandbank

 

An average day for us would be to go to our buffet restaurant (Farivalhu) for breakfast, stopping at reception to book a dinner restaurant, then mosey along to the eco centre jetty to do some snorkelling. After an outdoor shower we would have lunch then go to the pool for a swim, read & sunbathe. We might stop off at some point at the Palm for some delicious coffee ice-cream then have a walk around the island, taking in all the crabs, herons, sea life, flora & fauna. Sometimes we even took an afternoon nap!

 

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Crabs at the Laguna Bar

 

Depending on what time dinner was booked for we would either shower & get ready for the night or go to the Laguna bar & then shower so that we could watch the stingray feeding most nights. It was my favourite part of the day as it was such an experience to watch & the sunset at the same time was beautiful.

 

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Stingray feeding

 

After dinner we would go to whichever bar was nearest to where we had eaten & listen to the live music that was on offer. Most people dispersed about midnight as there were a lot of divers needing a good nights sleep but we enjoyed the disco at the Fung bar a few times.

 

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Sunset at Kuramathi

 

Finally, I have to mention Kuramathi’s wonderful staff. From the helpful reception team to the lady at the bio station trying to convince me that reef sharks won’t eat me, everyone that we encountered were friendly & knowledgeable. Our young buffet restaurant waiter (I feel terrible that I can’t remember his name) could not have done any more for us and greeted us with the biggest smile in the morning. Gladys that works in the Siam Garden & the pool bar was our favourite lady and we shared a love for John Grisham novels. We waited longer than normal for drinks in the bars a few times but I am sure that all those cocktails are not the quickest to make & we were too chilled out to let it bother us.

 

Consequently, we had a honeymoon that was better than we could have ever imagined. No regrets at all about choosing the Maldives, or Kuramathi, and the countdown calendar on our wall is a testament to how excited I am about our return visit.

 

 

Cheese & Wine Tasting at Zizzi

Anyone who knows me knows that I love food and I love wine but I’m also passionate about learning about them too. So when I was invited to a cheese & wine tasting at Zizzi in Royal Exchange Square I jumped at the chance. I apologise for the photo quality now… I was at a wine night after all.

The restaurant is in an enviable location right on Royal Exchange Square and holds part of the old Borders bookshop building with those gorgeous Greek Ionic columns outside. The flagship restaurant opened up in February this year, joining two other Zizzi’s in Glasgow (Princes Square & Cresswell Lane in the West End). This is the first of their cheese & wine tasting nights but they are hoping that it will become a regular occurrence and to roll it out to their other Glasgow restaurants.

 

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Upon entering the restaurant we were met by the manager, who directed us to the bar as we were early. The restaurant was busy & had a buzzy vibe to it that was great to get me out of work mode for the day. We were led to the upstairs bar shortly after for a glass of Prosecco or an Aperol Spritz then headed over to the tables laid out with lots of cheese, wine & some information sheets.

 

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I thought that it was a great idea to lay the tables out so that you were sitting with others & not just in tables of two – it made it very sociable & we chatted to people on both sides of us. It also meant that when we started the cheese & wine tasting we all freely compared thoughts with each other about how everything tasted.

Phoebe from The Roving Fromagiere kicked off the night by explaining our cheese chart (pictured below) and a little about the cheeses we were about to devour. The delicious cheeses were supplied by George Mews, I.J Mellis & Zizzi.

 

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She started us off with a milder cheese, Mozzarella Di Bufala, which was accompanied by some crisp Prosecco. I found it interesting to learn about how the cheese is made and all about the ‘pasta filata’ – the stretching method used to create the balls of mozzarella. Phoebe demonstrated the technique of how to use all of your senses to really understand the cheese and this involved touching, breaking, smelling, rolling and tasting. This was used throughout the tasting to examine each different cheese style. We continued drinking the prosecco while trying the second cheese, which was Pecorino Sardo Isola Bianca. This was my favourite cheese of the night due to its mild yet rich flavour and slightly grainy texture.

 

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Third on our cheese wheel was a goats cheese called Chevre Log, which was full flavoured with a bloomy rind. I tried it but I’m just not a goats cheese lover although the consensus around me was that it had a lovely creamy taste. The Tallegio that was next on the list was more to my liking. When carrying out the sniff test I wasn’t sure about it (deceptively strong for a semi-soft cheese) but it has a comparatively mild yet tangy flavour. We enjoyed a Viognier from Sicily with the goats cheese & the tallegio – the robust flavour with the clean finish more than stood up to the challenge.

 

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Phoebe from The Roving Fromagiere

 

The next choice was Grana Padano, which I mistakenly thought was a poor mans softer Parmesan. Phoebe explained that Parmesan is made from whole milk but Grana Padano is made from skimmed milk & that Grana Padano has a less harsh flavour so it goes with more food. It made a great pairing with the Barbera D’Asti Superiore 2010 DOCG that we were served. Andrew from Zizzi’s introduced this wine as one that also makes an excellent pairing with cured meats and as a wine that is light yet full of blackberry flavours. I could really taste the blackberry coming through and I enjoyed the wine so much that I will be keeping an eye out for the Barbera name.

 

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Andrew

 

The last cheese that we tried was a stinker…literally. It was a Gorgonzola Dolce and the dolce part in the name means that it has a slightly milder flavour to plain gorgonzola. The general feedback in the group was that it had a horrible smell, thank goodness Phoebe had made it clear at the start that she welcomed all opinions! The group was split in the tasting and it seemed to have a marmite ‘love it or hate it’ effect. Phoebe explained that the stronger tasting area were the blue bits so some of us avoided those for a less pungent experience. I wasn’t a fan so I was glad that the Barbera was there to wash my mouth out but I’m glad that I tried a cheese that I probably would have never bought.

Phoebe then thanked everyone for their participation & Andrew explained to us all how our 25% off Zizzi discount cards worked. We were also given a card for a free hand & arm massage and goodie bag at Molton Brown. The event tickets had been sold through Itison for £8 per person and I think that it was great value considering we got a glass of prosecco (worth £4.95), all of the cheeses, tasting servings of Viognier & Barbera, the Molton Brown goodies, a 25% off Zizzi discount card valid for four months & the educational chewtorial from The Roving Fromagiere.

 

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After all of that wine we decided that we better have some more food so we popped downstairs to the restaurant for a table. Most of the tasting group seemed to do the same so the place was packed. We ordered some drinks (ok, we had more wine) and started looking at the extensive menu. After a thorough look we decided on some starters to share and ordered mushroom arancini (rice balls) and garlic bread with mozzarella & balsamic onions. The restaurant has live music on Wednesday nights so we settled in for the night to chat and listen to the acoustic set. The musician, Alan Cranney, played a mixture of hits from Bruce Springsteen to Johnny Cash to Mumford & Sons. We thought he was excellent and it appeared we weren’t alone in this as there were a couple of ladies sporadically dancing.

 

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Our carb-fest was just what we needed to go with the delectable wine and we just managed to save enough room to share an ice-cream. Zizzi’s gelato recipes come from Kitty Travers, an ice-cream queen (their words) who makes the recipes up in her shed in london. We decided, as we almost licked the bowl, that Kitty knows her stuff. The richness of the ghanaian cocoa chocolate truffle gelato complemented the smooth, fresh vanilla custard gelato perfectly.

 

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The kitchen after all of that action

 

It is lovely to see how sympathetic the designers were to the stunning building in which the restaurant is housed. They have pulled out all of the gorgeous features to make them prominent, restored things like banking boxes & inserted enough modernity to give it a shiny edge.

We really enjoyed our foodie night and it has made me excited about researching events to come. This blog is going to become a great excuse for needing to go to events more often!

 

 

(I was invited to this event on a complimentary basis by Zizzi in exchange for an honest review)

Cheers To Greece

In my opinion good restaurants can be divided into categories – ridiculously fancy, special occasion and casual dining. Ridiculously fancy is usually Michelin star and, most definitely, expensive. It is my aspire to list, one day I will visit The Kitchin and Martin Wishart and it had better be outstanding! Special occasion covers places that are pricey thus birthday/anniversary events but sometimes you treat yourself to a wee pre-theatre. Then there is casual dining – places that you don’t have to dress up for, that you can nip into on a Monday night but that you know serve tasty food at reasonable prices. Yiamas restaurant on Bath street falls into the latter category with its lovingly made mix of chargrill & dips.

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Yiamas sits just off Buchanan Street so regularly becomes my choice for lunch whilst shopping with friends. You’ll have got it from the title but it’s Greek, with an actual Greek family running it & a real traditional feel to it. I told a friend who’s originally from Greece about this place last year and he said that it is ‘exactly how a Greek taverna should be’. The first time that I went in was because they have a two course lunch menu for £6.95 so I thought I’d try it out but since then I’ve heard several people rave about the takeaway Gyros (£3.50).

Last week when three of us needed a centrally located catch-up, we chose Yiamas for lunch. The coke in here comes in a glass with no accompanying can or bottle but the flavour reminds me of running out to the bakers/sweetie van that went street to street as a child for a bottle of coke – some people are die hard coca-cola fans but it doesn’t bother me & I love the nostalgia.

Once I remembered that I’m not ten anymore our starters arrived. We had hoummus & tzatsiki with pitta but our hunger led to me forgetting to take photos – I knew I should have eaten breakfast. The hoummus was well made and the tzatsiki creamy & fresh. The pitta comes with dried oregano over it, which gives it a wonderful taste. Nevertheless I do miss seeing halloumi on the menu because it is a favourite of mine & I’d love a Glasgow restaurant to do something a bit inventive with it.

I decided to treat myself to the moussaka because I’ve had it in here before & my mouth was watering just thinking about it. It arrived with homemade chips (you can swap the chips for rice) and salad & was as good as I remembered it. Thick layers of mince, potato, aubergine and bechamel…one of my ultimate comfort foods.

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Moussaka

The Sougukakia (meatballs with onion, garlic, cumin & tomato salsa) was equally traditional and arrived with the oregano homemade chips.

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Sougukakia

The third main, chosen from the a la carte menu, was beef souvlaki. It came with a choice of rice or chips and salad. The dip that arrived with it was a tasty accompaniment to this rustic hearty dish. The only thing that could have made it better in my opinion is some flavouring through the rice – herbs, stock or spices would have livened it up a bit.

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beef souvlaki

We didn’t have desserts – it was lunch after all – but it is promising that there is not a dessert menu online because they change them regularly and they are all made in house.

I’m also a sucker for an open kitchen and love watching the chefs in Yiamas prepare my food. For me it adds to the cosiness of the place because the division between you and the kitchen is broken down. I have always sat downstairs so I can watch the kitchen but they have an equally spacious upstairs that looks ideal for a large party. Now thoughts are spilling through my head of a large party in Yiamas having a midweek meze (surely I could convince them to do a meze?) – I might need to get on the phone to start arranging.

I like Yiamas and find myself veering in their direction regularly for my Greek food intake. It’s not fancy or showy but traditional food, healthy portion sizes and all comes with friendly service.

 

 

You might also like: Edinburgh Greek Restaurant https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/get-me-to-the-greek/

 

Yiamas on Urbanspoon

Take Me Back To Malaga

Recently I’ve been making mental notes about which restaurants not to forget to return to. Especially since I began this blog, I’m always on the lookout for new places so it’s easy to not make it back to one of Glasgow’s gems for a year. This said, we decided that a (non-hungover!) return trip to Malaga Tapas in the Southside was in order.

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Exterior

We popped in for a Monday lunch and the restaurant was quite quiet – this place really is one of Glasgow’s best kept secrets. We opted for the lunch menu again, which gives you three tapas from the a la carte menu for £6.95. Some of the dishes we chose were the same as last time so I’ll not repeat what I’ve already said but they were still delicious.

We really wanted to try the homemade black pudding (Morcilla Espanola) because the homemade chorizo was so flavoursome on our last visit. It was seriously tasty, and meatier than the black pudding you usually find over here. It arrived in a quince sauce that was similar to the chorizo sauce and very nice. Definitely one to get bread with to soak up all of the sauce.

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Black Pudding

Mr S chose the Fritura De Pescado as our seafood option – squid, king prawns & white fish fried and served with garlic mayo. The batter was crispy, not too oily & the seafood tasted fresh. Another good choice!

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Fritura de Pescado

We tried the classic Tortilla Espanola to vary what we had from last time. I love the idea of classic dishes and Tortilla Espanola is a cracker for Spain with its egg and potato combo. Lots of potato and onion layers and a slight salty stock taste to it – very nice but a touch too much salt for my liking.

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Tortilla Espanola

Finally I need to give a nod to how great value this place it. They have a host of offers on from the 3 tapas lunch we had for £6.95 to the A diario offer where tapas are £2.75 each between 5pm and 6.30pm Sunday to Thursday.

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After all of that wonderful food I breathed a sigh of relief that it was as good as it had been the first time. It makes me so sad when I return to somewhere and it doesn’t meet my expectations. Malaga still makes it to the top of my favourite tapas restaurants in Glasgow list.

Malaga Tapas on Urbanspoon

Eating Well At Cail Bruich

There is an abundance of restaurants in Glasgow that I want to try & sometimes this list stops me going back to places that I’ve been to once… places like Cail Bruich. We had a delicious birthday lunch there for my husband over a year ago now and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since.

Well, last week I finally got to return to Cail Bruich but this time for dinner. Sometimes you want to go somewhere a bit more special and have a bit of foodie pampering so we thought of here. My budget doesn’t often allow for this at full price, but with all the deals around now it makes it more accessible. We got an offer from a website for 3 courses from the Market Menu & a glass of prosecco for £20. Having been before, I was confident that we were going to get our money’s worth and more.

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Exterior (on another day when closed)

We arrived at 8pm to a full restaurant (albeit two tables, one being ours) and later found out that the hot weather has led to people eating later so most of their bookings were 8pm onwards. After being shown to our table at the window, our prosecco was brought over in chilled glasses. The prosecco was lovely – sometimes I find it too dry but this wasn’t and it had a delicious crispness to it. A wee note is that we were not given menus straight away – it did not bother us as we were enjoying the experience and the restaurant was busy but thought I should mention it for those speedy diners. We were then brought a few olives and some bread, which I suspect is homemade. I have to mention the butter dish that looks like a service bell because it was beautiful! Little details like this make the place feel special to me along with the classic decor.

We were then presented with menus and an amuse bouche (or hors d’oeuvre, I can never remember which is which) of a kind of blue cheese cream with sticks of crisp apple on top. I confess that I’m not too big on blue cheese but I tried it & enjoyed the texture and flavour. My friend, and a blue cheese lover, said that it was amazing.

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Amuse Bouche

We had a browse of the wine list and it was great to see that they serve some wines in a smaller 75ml glass so that you can try more. I wanted a red wine to go with my main course but the prosecco was too enjoyable to not have another glass so the smaller glass meant that I had both.

We both ordered flame grilled mackerel, pickled cucumber, apple, horseradish & rye crumbs to start but they only had one left so I changed my order. I had been swithering between the mackerel and the tomato & red pepper gazpacho, buttermilk & parmesan royale, black olive and basil so I immediately changed to the gazpacho.

After one mouthful I was actually very glad that there was only mackerel because my starter was scrumptious. It came to the table in a bowl & the gazpacho was then poured around the other ingredients from a little jug. The taste of the acidic gazpacho with the creamy buttermilk was one that I appreciated very much and the black olive gave it a nice salty edge. The mackerel was also of a high standard, with the freshness of the fruit interacting with the salty fish. My friend said that she would have liked a little more horseradish in the dish but that she loves horseradish so it was probably down to that.

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Mackerel starter

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Gazpacho starter

After the starters being deceptively filling, I was hoping that the main would not come immediately so was glad of the ten minute gap in between courses.  My friend opted for the herb & parmesan gnocchi, spring vegetables, artichoke & basil pesto. When it arrived it was visually impressive with lots of fresh colours and it tasted as good as it looked. She was going to order a side of vegetables but was recommended not to as lots came with the gnocchi, which turned out exactly right. It was nice to see that they care more about the experience and return custom than getting a few extra pennies in the till.

My choice of main course was the roast crown of wood pigeon with new season peas, grilled lettuce & roasted garlic emulsion. There was a three pound supplement on our menu for this dish but I am glad that I went for it because it was delicious. I normally would have ordered some potatoes to go with a dish like this but was determined to fit in 3 courses so decided against it. The wood pigeon was cooked exactly how I wanted it – red with a tiny bit of blood – and I would happily eat this dish every day.

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Gnocchi

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Pigeon

By dessert I was pretty full but decided on the Valrhona Manjari chocolate pave, poached cherries & cherry sorbet because it’s not often that I see cherries on a menu and I love them. The cherry sorbet was my favourite part, it was so full of flavour. There was a few chocolate elements – one was like a rich chocolate cream, then there was a slightly bubbly rich chocolate and the other was like a light chocolate dough, almost like a doughnut. There were cherries dotted around the plate (I suspect that these were soaked in a tasty alcohol) and drops of basil gel. I felt that the chocolate and cherries went fantastically but I could have done without the basil. All in all, it was a first-class dessert.

My friend went for the George Mews cheese of the day, which arrived as a cheeseboard with three cheeses, three oatcakes, apricots and walnuts. Nice to see them using local, and one of my favourite, suppliers.

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Chocolate Pave with Cheese in background

We were offered tea and coffee at the end so I had a wee macchiato to round the meal off. When the owner took this over he stopped to enquire about our meal and have a chat and we enjoyed listening to his enthusiasm about the restaurant.

My dining companion commented that it is the best meal she’s had in a long time and I can easily understand why they have won awards at Cail Bruich. This time I won’t be leaving it so long between visits.

Cail Bruich West on Urbanspoon