Month: March 2014

Las Iguanas Launch Party

I’ve been to a few launch parties now but none with latin dancers and such a party atmosphere as Las Iguanas on West Nile Street. It was loud, lively and opened the place with a bang.

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There was plenty fizz, rum cocktail, sangria, caipirinhas, wine and beer going around and the place was packed. I tried a bit of everything in the name of research and all of the drinks get the thumbs up from me. They are very proud of their caipirinhas because they make them with their own branded cachaca.

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They were generous with the food too. It started with the tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole that was on the tables then the staff started handing out a selection of food from their menu. I liked almost all of the food that I tried. There were shot glasses with various sauces like black bean & bacon (not for me) and coconut curry sauce (delicious). Empanadas, quesadillas, meat skewers, leaves cupping various meats in sauces and more.

 

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My favourite was the garlic mushroom quesadilla – there’s no boring veggie options here. In fact, I came with a vegetarian and when the PR lady found out she returned with a veggie platter especially for her. Nice touch.

 

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After feeding us, the team at Las Iguanas then treated us to some funky dancing from the professionals before getting the rest of us on the dance floor for a try.

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The whole place and atmosphere screamed fun and, although the place won’t be that lively every day, it could be an ideal place for hens and other groups.

 

 

I’d like to extend my thanks to Loop PR & the staff at Las Iguanas for inviting me.

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Tea Etiquette At Eteaket

I popped through to Edinburgh last month to meet a friend and we ended up at Eteaket for lunch. It’s a modern tearoom on Frederick Street and they also sell their own branded tea.
We both chose the high tea, which consisted of half a sandwich with a fruit scone, a little cake and a tea of your choice. It was nice to see this because sometimes afternoon tea is just too much food.
As we waited for our choices we couldn’t help notice how busy the place was. The door was opening non-stop with people coming in for tables and some groups were turned away because they did not have the capacity to accept them.

 

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The tea menu has a whopping 47 choices that include black, white, green, oolong, rooibos, fruit, herbal, chai and flowering teas. We chose the silver needle white tea (white won a great taste award 2012) and a cranberry apple fruit tea. Each one comes in its own teapot with a brew timer for the perfect strength. The tea leaves are in a removable basket so, once your timer is up, you lift the leaves out to stop it gaining strength. I have never seen strainer baskets like that before and I was tempted to buy one on our way out.

 

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Our lunch arrived fairly quickly and our sandwiches were on soft bread with lots of filling. There was a big fruit scone and a mini fruit tart. The scone came with a pot of jam and a pot of clotted cream but could have done with being a bit softer.

 

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We sat with our tea for an hour chatting away until the rain stopped. After a quick browse around their tea related products for sale, we walked towards Stockbridge market. It is just a small market but had a good selection of fish, meat, fruit & veg and so on, as well as stalls selling street food.

 

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I’ve never been to Stockbridge so we wandered through the streets and I spotted The Scran & Scallie – Tom Kitchin’s pub that is on my to do list. Hopefully I’ll be writing about The Scran & Scallie sometime this year. I’m making my way around Edinburgh!

 

Eteaket on Urbanspoon

Brel Brilliant

Glasgow has many bars and pubs that sell food. I can be sceptical about the food in these places because in my head lots of them buy in frozen junk that they pass off as food instead of whipping up something delicious. The first time that I can remember having truly great food in a pub was when I was in London staying with friends. The Earl Spencer in Southfields was like one of these ‘gastropubs’ I’d seen on the telly & I was pleased as punch sitting with my half kilo of shell on fresh prawns. I returned to Glasgow thinking how amazing it would be to live in London with places like that to eat. All I want from a pub that sells food is high quality. A full on ‘Gastropub’ with a seasonal menu would be nicer but I’ll settle for pleasant surroundings, quality beers on tap & food that is better than average. Fast forward a few years, a change in ownership and the new improved Brel emerges on Ashton Lane.

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After eating at Brel years back and thinking it was okay but not enough to make me go back, Brel would not have been on my radar. But then I was invited to a night to celebrate the new menu that I couldn’t make but the other bloggers photos looked delicious. So I put it on my list & we went along one night after work.

The mussels came recommended so Mr S & I decided to share a starter portion in a smoked bacon, caramelised onions, white wine and cream sauce. They were certainly the best mussels I’ve had this year, if not longer. The sauce was delicious and there was bread for dipping. We both said that we need to go back soon just for a big pot of mussels. Probably better that they stop serving food around 10pm because otherwise we’d all be leaving working and having late night mussel snacks.

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£6.50

 

Mr S chose the ribs for his main but regretted it afterwards. Not because they weren’t nice – he just said that ribs taste almost the same wherever you go – but because the mussels had been so good that he wish he’d ordered them.

 

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£11.95

 

I was curious about the slow cooked brisket of beef, seared skirt steak, pancetta and dauphinoise potato so I ordered it. I don’t know which chef thought up the idea of having slow cooked brisket on the same plate as medium rare skirt steak but I would be ecstatic if they could come to my house & sort my dinner out tonight.

 

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£12.95 (comes with potato dauphinoise)

 

 

I went through a stage last year when every meal out that I had was so fabulous that I worried that I’d lowered my standards but I broke that streak recently with some just okay meals. Luckily, Brel has now broken this trend and exceeded my expectations.

Brel on Urbanspoon

Cook Or Be Cooked For?

In February I was invited to a shop launch in Kelvinbridge on Great Western Road. The shop is called Cook and it is the brainchild of Edward Perry & Dale Penfold, who opened the first shop 17 years ago. Their concept of selling meals that you would cook for yourself at home has now reached Scotland. Most of their food is frozen and they only use ingredients that you would at home so there’s no nasty fillers involved.

 

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We arrived to a packed shop and wandered around the different ranges. I spotted the OMG meals for one range that tell you how many calories they contain (they all seemed to be around 300kcal) because healthy eating after work is my downfall so I thought they could be great for me. But then, typically me, I spotted the dessert freezer and started practically drooling over the lemon cheesecake and the chocolate truffle torte. The desserts aren’t cheap at around £15 for the big ones but they feed 10 people so it works out at £1.50 per portion. I never tried any of the desserts but I did try the Moroccan Spiced Harissa Chicken and I’d happily buy it for my dinner one night.

 

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For people that are useless in the kitchen they have a dinner party range that you could pass off as your own cooking. I’m sure the lamb tagine or salmon en croute would be great main courses for when friends come over. There is a freezer for pork dishes and one for lamb, which was nice to see because you usually only find a couple of choices for each.

 

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I met a lovely lady at the launch that runs The Wee Fudge Company and she had plenty of samples. The fudge was melt in the mouth. My favourite is the sea salt & caramel but the chocolate is a close second.

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The launch was a few days before our holiday and I wanted to try a meal before writing this – thus why this is so late.

 

When I went back to the shop today the staff were as friendly and genuine as they were at the launch. I bought a selection of dishes to try – shepherd’s pie, smoked haddock & sweet potato gratin, peas & leeks side dish, OMG paella and OMG lamb koftas. We shared the shepherds pie, haddock and the pea side tonight for dinner. A strange combination but I wanted to try more than one!

 

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The shepherd’s pie was lovely – full of flavour and the potato/meat ratio was well balanced. It is priced at £3.65 so about the same as a Tesco Finest or Marks & Spencer meal. I also enjoyed the peas & leeks with lemon & herb butter.

The gentleman in the shop had recommended the sweet potato & smoked haddock gratin when I was looking at the fish pie. I admit that I would have never picked it up otherwise. The combination worked well, especially with the broccoli but I would have preferred it without the sweetcorn.

 

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I haven’t tried the OMG pots yet but I’ll update this once I have.

Cook seems like a useful option for people who don’t or can’t cook, and for those nights when you want a night off. I like the concept but I would like it even more without any E numbers in the dishes. Can’t have everything I suppose. They do provide tasty food with lots of choices and I will be back.

Vittoria’s

Edinburgh is a city that baffles me. The rated restaurants are so far away from the train stations and I can never find the shops that I’m looking for. Everything is so spaced out but there’s no underground to connect it. I’m undecided if the city is actually as confusing as I feel or if it’s just that I’m so used to knowing where things are in Glasgow that I turn into an old frustrated wifey when I step off the train. I also generally arrive in Edinburgh hungry and devoid of the energy needed to sail uphill to my destination. Luckily my resident Edinburger friend knows where she is going so I didn’t end up doing a full-on hike to Vittoria’s On The Bridge.

 

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Those native to Edinburgh have probably heard of Vittoria’s since there are two of them and the Vittoria group also have another three restaurants in the city. So I was bound to try one of them soon and we decided on the restaurant on the George IV bridge.

After the thousand steps of our journey, I needed some comfort. I was so glad that we’d picked an Italian for dinner tonight. My companion, Miss Edinburgh, had been to Vittoria’s in Leith & was signed up to their mailing list so had a 50% off food voucher for us to use so we booked it. We enquired about what it could be used on but we were told we needed a Vittoria’s card to use it. After reading through the terms & conditions of the offer and it saying nothing about a card, we spoke to the waiter again and managed to get it sorted. Now that was out of the way we could order.

An appetiser of arancini was ordered – rice balls made with mozzarella and bolognese sauce that came with rocket and arrabiata dip. They were crunchy on the outside as they should be and laced with mozzarella inside. I had ordered them because I was interested in tasting the difference between arancini that I’ve had before and Vittoria’s bolognese addition. It lacked the strength of flavour that I was expecting so if I go back I’ll try focaccia or calamari instead.

 

Arancini £5.45

Arancini £5.45

 

We shared a pizza and pasta for our main course to get the best of both worlds. The menu is massive so to make things easier we went for their signature pasta. Tagliatelle Vittoria was pasta in a sauce of tomato, spicy sausage, mushroom, onion, mincemeat and cream. The menu says it’s their best seller and I can see why. I thought the combination of flavours worked well and the dish was tasty.

Veering from traditional Italian, we chose the Hawaii pizza to join the pasta. Ham & pineapple may not be gourmet gastronomy but for some reason it works if you are in the mood for it. There were much classier choices but we fancied an old school choice. The base was thin, crispy edges, lots of cheese (probably too much but we did want comfort) and the toppings were delish. It was a high standard of what I think as British Italian pizza – too much cheese, sauce and toppings to be found in Naples so it is a British adaptation of the classic.

 

Hawaii Pizza £9.95 & Tagliatelle Vittoria £10.50

Hawaii Pizza £9.95 & Tagliatelle Vittoria £10.50

 

Our half price food voucher made this the cheapest meal I’ve had in a while but I would have not grudged paying full price. Our shaky start with the voucher mix up and a menu that is frankly overwhelming were replaced with thoughts of a solid classic Italian.

 

 

 
Vittoria on the Bridge on Urbanspoon

Our Return To Kuramathi: Could It Get Any Better?

To get new followers up to speed, my husband & I went to Kuramathi Island in the Maldives for our 2011 honeymoon and you can read about it here https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/honeymoon-of-our-dreams-the-maldives-2011-trip-report/

We had the most amazing time on honeymoon and could not stop thinking about it so we started saving to go back. This time we managed to persuade my brother in-law and sister in-law S & J to meet us there, not that it took much persuasion! They are still living in Australia and the Maldives is almost (ish) in the middle of Oz and the UK so it worked out well. I won’t repeat the points my last post on Kuramathi so have a read of it first if you want some background information.

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Last time we visited in August and this time we were there at the start of November. There was a bit more rain this time but nothing that distracted us from the holiday and it seems like the weather does not really follow a pattern over there so it’s hard to predict. Except from that, we noticed baby sharks and dragonflies – neither of which we noticed in August. We also took the boat to the island instead of the sea plane and, although it was not as exciting, the boat journey was fine and we slept most of the way.

The baby shark that swam in front of our villa the whole time we were there

The baby shark that swam in front of our villa the whole time we were there

 

If I could afford to go to Kuramathi every year then I would. It sounds cliché but as soon as I stepped off the boat I felt instantly relaxed and happy. I had e-mailed in advance asking for a villa near to where we were last time & when we checked in we were told that we were staying in a villa two doors down from it. They had also made sure that the two villas were beside each other – excellent customer service.

 

Hardly any photos were taken as I took many photos last time and I decided to just savour the moments as much as possible. My brother in-law has a Go-Pro camera so managed to get some amazing underwater shots on our snorkelling adventures. And we had many snorkelling adventures this time, feeling braver and more knowledgeable than in 2011. In fact, 70% of my photographs from the holiday were of animals due to all the beautiful creatures you see out there. Last time we had a lizard that scuttled around our garden and outside shower that we named Bernard and this time was no different – always there to say hello.

Good Morning Bernard

Good Morning Bernard

The hermit crabs were great to watch too if you are patient and still enough so that they will come out of their shell.

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This is my favourite land animal photo of the holiday – look at the colours on him.

 

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A favourite moment of mine of the holiday was showing S & J the Laguna bar jetty for the first time. It took our breath away and they looked equally as impressed even although they had seen our photographs.

 

Laguna Bar Jetty

Laguna Bar Jetty

 

Arriving at lunchtime, we went straight to our buffet restaurant for some real food after our plane meals. Our waiter, Shareef, instantly recognised us and met us with a beaming smile. Every morning he greeted us by name & made sure that we were well catered for. He made us feel so welcome and is my favourite waiter ever anywhere, a true asset to Kuramathi. Gladys has unfortunately left but we met April, who became our favourite female member of staff.

 

We were select all-inclusive again and ate in every restaurant except from the Tandoor Mahal. The Reef became a firm favourite with their fresh fish, sizzling hotplate steak and Australian lamb. We tried out the new restaurant, Duniye, but it was a mixed review. The service was attentive but it was so hot in the restaurant because it was in the middle of the island. We enjoyed the ceps risotto, pigeon, veal and wagyu beef but weren’t so keen on the fois gras starter and chicken breast. Saying that, we certainly still enjoyed the meal but just not as much as the Reef.

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The fish at the Reef was a treat and there is a massive selection to choose from. I’d highly recommend the lobster chowder to start.

 

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The main highlight of the holiday for me was the snorkelling. We went much further out and learnt how to use the channels properly. The four of us were astounded by all of the different types and how many fish we saw. Big shoals of bright colours that barely moved as you swam towards them. As with much of the experiences on the island, you cannot convey the beauty and colours in photographs but they give an idea of what we saw.

 

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On our third day we snorkelled right along the reef side of the island and came across a warm area of water. The next thing we saw a black tipped reef shark swim past (not unusual and they just ignore you) but then we saw another, and another until there were 7 or 8 of them around us. They weren’t circling us menacingly, we had simply swam into their hot area, but it felt like everything else had stopped except from us watching these striking creatures.

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My favourite fish were the Picasso Trigger fish and the Parrot fish.

 

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The question that most people ask is what did we do all day but there are numerous things to do and time really does go quickly in the Maldives because everyone is so chilled out. A typical day could be book dinner restaurant, breakfast, snorkelling, shower, lunch, walk along the sandbank, quick cocktail, nap, watching stingray feeding, dinner then drinks watching a live band. For those wanting activity there is football, tennis courts, a gym, table tennis, 2 swimming pools, table football, diving courses, aqua sports, nature walks but we were just fascinated by the island itself, favouring walking round exploring over those things. The spa is fantastic and some treatment rooms look out over the Indian Ocean.

 

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For those who are planning a Maldives holiday, your must haves are short dresses to throw over your bikini (it is too hot for long dresses even at night), strong mosquito repellent, US dollars for tipping, a credit card to settle your room bill extras, flip-flops, sunglasses and plenty of camera batteries. Don’t bother bringing high heels or really fancy clothes because you’ll never wear them. In my opinion the only people that the Maldives would not suit is people that are scared of water.

Not it is back to dreaming about going back again. Off to buy a lottery ticket!

 

 

 

Thanks to my brother in-law for his fantastic go-pro photos and to Paula from Holidays Please for all her knowledge & help with booking this amazing trip.

 

 

 

The Delightful Fish People Cafe

I wrote about The Fish People Cafe last year here: https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/the-fish-people-cafe-a-restaurant-with-sole/

I am not going to do a full review on my visit to The Fish People Cafe this time because it doesn’t seem that long since the last time. I am going to post photos to show off the food and make you want to go there. It is safe to say that I loved it as much as last time.

To start I had a special from the blackboard – shell on crevettes, garlic, thyme and blackbean butter. This was my favourite dish of the night.

Crevettes special

Crevettes special

The other starter was shrimp cocktail with puy lentils, tarragon and lime.

Shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail

I then had baked fillet of grey sole with caper and dill creme fraiche and chips.

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I suspect the wonderfully crispy chips were triple cooked.

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There was a heroic plate of hand dived barra scallops with apple salad, honey, ginger and lime.

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We went for ice-cream desserts looking for something lighter but we got some special desserts indeed.
The toasted coconut ice-cream with roast pineapple, mango and lime was like a caribbean dessert cocktail.

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Thorntonhall cream ice-cream with puff candy and bitter chocolate sauce was the perfect end to my meal.

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What a wonderful place The Fish People Cafe is – it makes it into my top 5 favourite Glasgow restaurants.

Fish People Cafe on Urbanspoon

A Wee Film At The Grosvenor

It was Valentines weekend, the in-laws were down and we had the Saturday free. They’ve been to most of the touristy stuff down here now and the weather was not on our side so we decided to go to the cinema. We had been meaning to try out The Grosvenor cinema on Ashton Lane for a while so we booked tickets online and ventured west.

The cinema is well placed and surrounded by bars and restaurants on the lane and Hillhead for pre or post movie indulgence. It is also two minutes walk from Hillhead underground making it convenient for those who can’t afford to live in this swanky area.

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I love the look of this place and it’s so nice to see a cinema not from a big chain. The entrance foyer is tiny but crammed full with sweeties, crisps and drinks. They even sell a wide range of alcohol for you to sup whilst enjoying the movie. When we were queuing I noticed that there is a door attaching it to it’s sister venue The Lane and they do cinema, wine and dinner deals where you can take your wine from the bar through to the cinema afterwards. I found the whole experience more relaxing and ‘west end-y’ I guess. There was a bit of a wait to collect the tickets that we’d booked online because two films were starting close together and the same tills are used for tickets as they are for food and drinks.

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Price-wise I have done a comparison with nearby cinemas to check value. Based on an adults ticket on a Saturday afternoon Cineworld on Renfrew Street costs £9.10, Odeon at the Quay is £9 and The Grosvenor is £9.20. Not bad for an independent cinema in the West End.

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We went to see Dallas Buyers Club (emotional with Oscar worthy performances from McConaghey and Leto) and this was in screen two. Walking to the screen I felt like I was going down secret passages out of a scene of the Burrowers. It amazed me that there is so much space back there considering it backs into the shops and restaurants of Buyers Road. Screen two was a small room with comfy leather seats. In between every two seats there was a narrow shelf table to put drinks onto. The back row of the cinema has sofas all along it which you can pay a bit extra for (£16pp ticket price). This is my kind of cinema – a comfy sofa to lounge on, a glass of wine and a blockbuster.

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I was trying to take a few sneaky photos at the end of the film once everyone else had left so I could give a better idea of size and the seats so forgive the terrible photos.

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I found it a pleasant place to sit and watch a movie except it was a tiny bit cold for my liking. I will certainly be going back – I can’t believe that I’ve missed out on going here all my years so far in Glasgow. In addition, supporting an independent cinema felt good and it seems to be much loved by the locals. Long live The Grosvenor.