Eating Outside Glasgow

Glasgow You’re Slipping Out Of My Reach

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve felt terrible not saying anything on here about it but this morning I decided that the time has come… I’m leaving Glasgow!
By the end of the year I will no longer live in this amazing city and I’m feeling sad about it this morning. Being away from my friends & family up north finally pulled me back to Inverness when a job offer up there came about.

So that’s why things on here have been so quiet recently. Between painting and decluttering the flat, sorting out getting the flat on the market, working full-time & spending as much time with friends down here as possible, it’s been a busy month.
I have a bit of a backlog so I’ve still got some lovely meals to tell you about and the BBC Good Food Show Glasgow. To be honest I’m not sure how I’m going to live without Celino’s, La Lanterna and Tempo Tea (among others) so I’ll be up and down the road regularly for the first year at least to wean myself off these delicious addictions.

I intend to still blog on here whenever I’m down visiting folk so make sure you’re signed up for e-mail notifications. It will just mean relentless eating and drinking in a small space of time- I think I’ll manage!

Until then, keep reading what I’ve been up to recently and follow my second blog, Highland Foodie, as I begin this new journey.

I’m going to miss you more than words can say Glasgow.

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A Tuk Tuk In Edinburgh?

No, not an actual 3 wheeled tuk-tuk, a restaurant called Tuk Tuk. Although I’d love to see tuk-tuks going about Edinburgh streets. Someone should make this happen, this would be sensational as a wedding car. Anyway, back to Tuk Tuk the restaurant. We visited for lunch after watching the Commonwealth diving and by the time we arrived we were more than ready for a curry. The restaurant is right opposite the Kings Theatre so I am sure that it fills up pretty quickly around 5pm so we wanted to get in early. First impressions were good – modern, colourful decor with funky lighting.

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They have a BYOB policy for beer and wine but we stuck to soft drinks at lunch. For a casual restaurant I love the idea of BYOB and it would be ideal for larger groups not wanting to worry about how big the bill is getting. Since we were not drinking, I took it as an opportunity to try Thums Up ‘the cola of Bombay’. Coca-cola have conditioned me to think of their flavour as normal and any other coke as abnormal but I love a Barr’s every so often so thought I’d give this a go. I liked it and it reminded me of Barr’s.

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We did not know how many dishes to order as it is tapas style so the waiter helped us choose seven dishes plus rice and naan between the two of us.

We were told that everything might not arrive together and asked if that was okay. The quicker dishes start coming, the better in my opinion. The Bengali fish cakes (£4.95) were first to the table which boded well as they were a starter kind of option. I thought these were great and reminded me of little fish balls that we ate in The Maldives. The sauce was kind of minty and I would never normally put mint with fish, but with the spice going through the cakes it worked.

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The channa puri (£4.85) was delivered at the same time and we were also really happy with this dish. This is a dish that I like to order as a starter when out for a curry and Tuk Tuk do a fine example of it. It was creamy & rich but not cloying, and the fried bread was crispy enough to scoop the chickpeas into your mouth.

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Chicken 69 (£4.75) was the third pick – described as mouth watering chicken nuggets, an Indo-Chinese delicacy. On appearance it reminded me of something that you’d pick up from a takeaway and not big nuggets of chicken as we had expected. I didn’t enjoy the taste either. My tastebuds couldn’t work out what the flavours were and I could just taste a kind of sour taste. Maybe others like it but it was not for us.

left - chicken 69, red pan - lamb station curry, right - staff curry

left – chicken 69, red pan – lamb station curry, right – staff curry

The garlic naan (£2.20) that had now arrived was far more pleasing. It was thinner than a conventional naan bread, so was not as stodgy, and the garlic butteriness just right. We ended up trying the cheese naan too and it was also great. The cheese was sandwiched inside the dough and there wasn’t an overkill of cheese.

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My sister in-law always picks a lentil dish when we eat curry and I pick a meat dish but the tapas style eating at Tuk Tuk afforded me both. Daal Makhni (£4.95) is slow cooked lentils and kidney beans so they go kind of creamy and then are mixed with spices. Mr S had to sit this one out because of his nut allergy but I wanted to try it because the guy recommended it. I couldn’t eat the whole thing – definitely one for sharing – but it is a good dish for scooping up with naan. I will pass on the recommendation to my sister in-law for next time she’s in the ‘burgh.

 

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Our three meaty curry dishes chosen were railway station lamb curry (£5.20), lamb rarah (£5.25) and tuktuk wallah staff curry (£4.90). There’s always a favourite curry that you all end up using to dip your naan into and the staff curry won that award. The chicken was moist and it had a deep aromatic piquancy without being too hot. I’d absolutely go back for one of these with naan and daal makhni for lunch.

 

The two lamb curries both had meat on the bone to pick off. In fact, all of our meat dishes were on the bone. That was an ordering rookie mistake from us because it was a lot of picking. We were probably just being lazy – usually we like meat on the bone because we know how much rich meaty flavour it adds. Anyway, on first appearances there was not much meat but we realised that you just have to get right in there with those bones.

The lamb rarah turned out to be a bit too spicy for me but Mr S liked it. The railway station curry was slightly milder but I could not pick out the individual tastes except from spinach.

 

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Due to the bring your own bottle policy, dinner at Tuk Tuk would only cost about £20 per head for a feast. That is pretty impressive and ideal being opposite the Kings Theatre. I thought that portion size was just right for sharing and price charged. As I said before, I’d suggest the staff curry and daal makhni with some naan but I’d like to further investigate the other dishes. Give the chicken 69 a miss and try something traditional.

 

Tuk Tuk Indian Street Food on Urbanspoon

 

I was invited to the restaurant for a complimentary meal. As always my views and opinions are my own.

Scran and Scallie

I’ve had The Kitchin restaurant in Edinburgh at the top of my most wanted list for a long time. They have a long waiting list (I’m not the best planner that far in advance) and it would need to be saved for a special occasion so we have not made it yet. Then I heard about The Scran & Scallie, a gastropub in Edinburgh owned by Tom Kitchin & Dominic Jack. They do not accept reservations so there was no real planning required except from getting there before peak dining time because I’d heard that they fill up pretty quickly.

There are a lot of 30th birthday celebrations going on this year and this was one of them. Therefore we arrived in Edinburgh later than planned as we took a gin and tonic detour! To set us up for the walk to Stockbridge we nipped into Harvey Nichols fourth floor Window Bar to enjoy a cocktail with that amazing view.

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It took us about half an hour to walk to Stockbridge but I enjoy looking at all of the old buildings and indulging in a bit of house lust. We arrived about 4.30pm but we were told that they don’t start serving food until 5pm (they also serve lunch earlier) so we could sit and have a drink until service starts. The bar area is quite small and appears to be more for people having a drink waiting for tables than an actual bar.

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Williams Bros £1.95 & Orkney IPA £2.50 (half pints)

Tables have to be back in an hour and a half in the restaurant area. To me The Scran & Scallie is not a pub because in a pub that does food they usually serve meals all day, you’d wouldn’t be told to give the table back so soon on a Wednesday and there would be more people using it as a boozer. It felt more like a restaurant. Not a problem but that is how it appeared to me. If we had arrived an hour earlier I would have been annoyed that the website did not state the food service times and table back policy. We’d come all the way from Glasgow for it- the least they can do in return is be upfront. That is not to take away from the place because the decor and feel of it is a delightful mix of Scottish and Scandinavian with simple furnishings and lots of wood. I really enjoyed our visit.

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Warm bread arrived in a mini sack and I had soon forgotten about our table wait.

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Their whole ethos is ‘from nature to plate’ so I knew that the squat lobster ravioli with asparagus would be freshly made. The three ravioli were in a creamy but fresh sauce and the asparagus was fantastic with it.

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Ox tongue on toast should be the new comfort food, it certainly ticks the rich and satisfying boxes. The bone marrow continued the theme with its jellied meatiness. And the egg, I’m not sure it was even needed, but I never question a soft egg on my plate. Especially a flavoursome, proper farm egg.

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Steak pie, hogget, steak pie, hogget? Choices, choices. I really wanted the ham and chips but I didn’t want us to order the same main. I had never tried hogget before so I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity. It is a slow cooked meat and had an even softer texture than lamb shank. Darker in colour, it is more intense than meat from a younger sheep. To be honest, I found it too strong in flavour for me. I liked the peas surrounding it but felt that some mash would not have gone amiss. I ordered a side of potatoes as well but they did not really match up with the dish and just notched the already expensive (£19) price up.

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The ham, egg and chips came with a side of contented silence. The presentation got top marks from us, the taste of the ham also got top marks. The homemade pineapple salsa is something that we’ve tried to recreate since but have never managed to get it exactly correct. In my opinion the egg did not need the breadcrumbs but that’s being pernickity. I hope that this dish never comes off the menu.

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As I mentioned before, the hogget was rich and I couldn’t manage the whole thing so took it home with me to give to Mr S. Bar my vaccum packed steak at Chez Bruce, it was the fanciest looking doggy bag I’d had.

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Apple crumble came with its own jug of custard. Great balance ratio of fruit to crumble with a slight crunch on top.

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I chose lemon curd and meringue & it came in an elegant champagne coupe. It was a cross between a lemon posset and lemon curd with a layer of biscuity crumble and then delicate piped meringues sitting on top. Lovely.

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It is undeniable that I was impressed by The Scran & Scallie. The food was all of a high standard and the presentation impressive. I still feel slightly confused by the marketing but maybe that’s just me. I won’t be back for three courses because I felt rushed at the end but the ham, egg and chips warrants a second visit.

The Scran & Scallie on Urbanspoon

prices: starters £9

mains £18/19

desserts £5.50/5.75

Heavenly Food At Passorn

Sawadee Ka!

I’ve recently done a post on our ladies weekend in Edinburgh but I decided that Passorn deserved their own post – the presentation was too good to only show a couple of photos.

 

I have eaten in a restaurant in the West End of Edinburgh once before & My Big Fat Greek Kitchen suitably impressed me. So when I was surprised with another visit to the area recently I had high hopes. This time it was to visit Passorn – a Thai restaurant that my mum had scouted out.

 

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We ordered three starters between five of us and we loved the presentation of everything served. Aob Chey was the first of the starters to arrive and this is thai chicken satay skewers. The chicken had a chargrilled effect and the peanut sauce really was heavenly. The cucumber sauce provided a sharper, cleaner option after the creamy peanut.

 

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The beef tenderloin salad was bursting with taste. The mint, kaffir lime and lemongrass provided freshness to cut through rich tamarind & chillies.

 

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The Puan Kan – Bangkok fish cakes – were delicately spiced and had just enough red chilli heat. We enjoyed the prawn cake & the fish cake, and the kaffir lime through them was a big hit.

 

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Pla Ma Now is a seabass dish with red chilli, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime and lime juice. The delicate fish just about held its own with the other ingredients and this dish had quite a kick. I think this was my favourite main course.

 

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The first of our stir-fry type dishes was Pad Med Hinmapan. We loved the cashews in this wok dish. The spring onion and peppers were tossed in the sauce of chilli and thai sweet basil with chicken.

 

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My choice of red thai curry with chicken is the nicest red thai curry that I’ve tasted, ever. The spicy and rich flavours smacked you in the face whilst the creaminess calmed it down. I loved it.

 

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I can guarantee that my mum will almost always pick a stir-fry style dish with garlic and ginger in a thai restaurant and her selection this time was Gratium Prig Tai. Alongside garlic and ginger, they had used black pepper and coriander to season the chicken.

 

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Pad Thai was full of nuttiness and came with chilli flakes and crushed nuts on the side. The chicken was moist and beansprouts provided crunch for the dish.

 

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Too stuffed for dessert, we went for cocktails instead. The fruity combos were cold and refreshing.

 

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My parents are big fans of Thai food so when I go for Thai it tends to be with them. I’ll be making an exception for Passorn though, and visiting again soon with whoever happens to be with me in Edinburgh.

 

 

Price range: Starters £5.60 – £8.50, main courses £11.25 – £19.50, house wine £15.45 (bottle)

 

Passorn Thai on Urbanspoon

Afternoon Tea At Culloden House

Culloden House stands on the outskirts of Inverness, near to the Culloden Battlefield. Bonnie Prince Charlie even stayed there during the Jacobite Rising. It is close to my childhood home & was the setting for afternoon tea with some of my closest & longest friends for one of my birthday celebrations.

 

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The hotel stands on manicured grounds with highland cattle at the back. You could have a pre eating walk if you wanted to work up an appetite. It is now in a fairly residential area but it doesn’t feel like it.
You book afternoon tea so that the pastry chef has time to whip up the goods. I wasn’t sure what to expect since it’s quite grand but when we went inside we got the warmest welcome from the manager, Murray. He took us into a lounge and asked us whether we wanted the fire on. There were no other people in when we were, but I know other people who have visited when others have been in so we must have got a quiet day. It was off season so probably down to that but we loved having the place to ourselves.

He obviously knew his audience when he started talking about prosecco and we were only too happy to oblige.

The sandwiches were a crust off, traditional affair. Soft bread and tasty fillings so they got nods all round.

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Ahh, and the tea. Loose leaf complete with tea strainer and served in gorgeous wares. Murray also gave us a pot of boiling water in case it was too strong for us – little things make all the difference.

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It was time for something sweet to go with the tea. We all had our eye on something different, and I’m sure we all sampled everything else too. Mini scones with little pots of jam were warmly received. After a few of these afternoon teas, I realised that I can’t managed sandwiches then a whole scone then all of the cakes so the minis were designed for me.

 

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There were meringues filled with fresh cream and served with white chocolate cigarettes next to traditional shortbread rounds dusted in sugar.

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Gooey thin flapjack type delights were small enough to curtail the richness.

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My favourites were the chocolatey, caramel bites. So soft that they were like a rich mousse and I’m sure I could detect a saltiness. They were so good that Murray packed up the last one for me to take back for mum to sample.

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We were so relaxed in there that we asked to see some of the other rooms they use for dining and weddings. They were all so grand and beautiful.

I always wondered what the bedrooms were like and we were allowed to wander freely around some. They are currently refurbishing some of the rooms but what we saw can only be described as romantic.

 

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It was unintentionally fitting to visit Culloden House for a 30th birthday visit – we grew up around it but always thought it was so adult as youngsters. When we became adults I couldn’t tell you but surely by 30 we are there!

 

 

Afternoon tea at Culloden House is currently priced at £14.95 per person.

 

Many thanks to my good friend Iona for taking the food photographs. You can check out her photography here

 

 

 

Edinburgh: A Ladies Weekend

For my thirtieth birthday this year I had a few celebrations. I spent my actual birthday in London, then headed up to Inverness then back to Glasgow for more mini celebrations. Finally, a few weeks later, some of the Mackenzie ladies in the family went to Edinburgh for the weekend. Sticking with our surprise birthday tradition, I knew nothing about what we were doing. This made it exciting but my inner planner was going mad!

We met at the train station & got a taxi to a mystery hotel. When we arrived I found out that we were staying in the Marriott Hotel in Corstophine, which is near the airport. The location was near the zoo so it made sense for us. If you are staying here then Haymarket is closer than Waverley – about 10-15 minutes in a taxi. Staying in a Marriott meant that we had the luxury of a swimming pool with spa facilities. We arrived late evening on the Friday so went straight down for a swim, sauna, steam room & jacuzzi before a gin to begin our relaxing weekend. The bed was comfy with nice bedding and we all slept soundly.

The next morning we went down for the buffet breakfast after a quick swim. There was a great selection and fresh food was constantly being put out but the thing that we noticed most was the service. Our waiter (I wish I could remember his name) was friendly, jokey and spent time having a chat with you. I find that sometimes in a big hotel they lack personal service so it was terrific to see a member of staff giving the personal touch. Just as important, the link sausages were of a good standard (everyone has their bugbears & grisly, fatty sausages is mine).

 

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At breakfast I was told that we were spending the day at the nearby Edinburgh Zoo complete with a visit to the pandas. Edinburgh Zoo is in my top 5 days out in Scotland without a doubt. I try to go at least once a year but last year the panda visiting area was closed so I had not seen them yet.

 

Tian Tian

Tian Tian

 

I have previously done a post on the Zoo so won’t repeat any information except that it is a great place to go.

 

My personal favourites - the meercats

My personal favourites – the meercats

 

We squeezed in another quick swim and sauna before getting ready for dinner. Again I did not know where we were going but it turned out to be Passorn, which is a Thai restaurant on Brougham Place in the West End. I’ve done a separate post on Passorn but I’d recommend it.

What did we do in the morning? Swim, of course. If there was a competition on how many times you can use a hotel swimming pool in two nights we would have done pretty well.

After all of that pampering we checked out before making our way into the city centre. There was some wandering around the shops before a cocktail at Harvey Nichols 4th floor cocktail bar. What a view – try to go at quiet times to get a window seat.

 

 

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We ended our girly weekend with afternoon tea at The Dome. Decadent at it’s best, this was one not to be missed. The building itself is grand (loved the toilets-bottom photo) and the food was of an extremely high standard.

Getting macaroons always improves afternoon tea for me but all of the cakes were moreish.

 

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I bid them farewell at the train station then continued with the 30th theme with one of my oldest friends whose birthday is 10 days after mine. Eilidh suggested a cocktail at The Balmoral and who was I to say no? We badly needed a long catch-up & we were joining the 30’s club after all.

 

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I’d never been to any of the places we visited (bar the zoo) and each one was a success. My favourite part of the weekend was spending time with the ladies but Edinburgh came a close second.

London Love At Barrafina

Almost three years ago when we got married a friend of ours got us a Barrafina cookbook as a wedding present. Since we constantly discussed food together it was a highly appropriate & lovely gift. I did some online research and found that Barrafina is a top tapas restaurant in London and dreamed of going ever since. Once the London flights were booked it was top of the ‘must visit list’ and we did just that.

 

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Barrafina is one of these ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ places – understated and off the main thoroughfare. Thank goodness for my trusty smartphone and google maps. Arriving as their lunch session was finishing we had planned to go for dinner but both being hungry we chanced our hand and were welcomed in.

Just in case you are planning to go I’ll tell you some things that I found out in my research. One is that they don’t accept bookings, two is that it is a teeny tiny place & three is that it’s likely to be packed to the rafters. I didn’t realise quite how small it was until we got there. Seating is all along the bar and there are no tables out with this. I’d guess there’s about fifteen seats in total and I’ve heard that there is a queue most days when they open for lunch and dinner. A ledge goes along the other side of the room and is used to rest drinks on whilst you are waiting for a table. It’s not the kind of place you linger in so it works & I can imagine it’s bustling and ever so Spanish at night.

 

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There were some quick decisions made because we didn’t want to keep them back at the end of lunch (luckily another table came in after us too). We ordered bread with olive oil and then a cold meat platter, which was sliced in front of us when we ordered. Salami, chorizo, jamon Iberico… so simple yet so so good. Quality trounces fancy ever time.

 

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So far the only disappointing thing had been that they did not have balsamic vinegar. And I had over two years of expectations so it was almost a miracle.

Ham croquetas had to be ordered because I’d never make them at home. Fiddly, fried & overindulgent should be kept for restaurants. These little orange balls were crispy and moreish with a hefty amount of bechamel. The ham was strong in flavour so cut through the rich creaminess.

 

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We decided to forgo the octopus with capers for the special fish of the day – seabream stuffed with herbs and lemon. All I have to say about this dish is that it was marvellous. When we returned home we realised that the recipe is in our book and we have made it at home twice now.

 

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Our last offering was a difficult decision. I narrowed the choices down to grilled quail, milk fed lamb and chorizo, potato and watercress. After choosing the former it occurred to me that we had also chosen the meat platter but I guess you can never have too much meat on your birthday. I’m confident that we would have raved about all of the above as much as we did with the chorizo.

 

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Next time I will leave space in my belly for the pears in red wine or Santiago tart. I say next time because I don’t want to imagine never going back here. I’m in love.

 

 

Barrafina on Urbanspoon

London – A Food Lovers Paradise

I was determined to see the last days of my 20’s out in style so where better to do it than London. We decided to go down the foodie route with a bit of sightseeing on the way.

We flew with British Airways because they had a deal on flights. They let you take a handbag plus hand luggage for free so it meant I could fit everything into my little case. I was relaxed as soon as we got on the plane & were offered a complimentary drink…London Baby!

The first two nights were spent staying with friends in Wandsworth, where we had Sunday lunch at the Michelin starred Chez Bruce (read about that here).

On the Monday we arrived at our hotel in Holborn for a three night stay. I chose The Morton Hotel due to the location and because it was relatively small.

 

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The rooms also looked lovely and were fairly recently decorated because it only opened last year. We were not disappointed. Our room was gorgeous (loved the cushions) and the bed was really comfortable.

 

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We didn’t have much of a view because we were at the back of the hotel but I’d rather that than any street noise we would have got at the front. It was a powerful shower and I enjoyed using my bathrobe that they’d supplied to keep warm whilst getting ready in the morning. It was in walking distance of most places we wanted to go and right next to a tube station for anywhere further afield.

We spent much of the first day wandering around Covent Garden, the fancy shopping bit & Soho before a late lunch at Barrafina. This dinky Spanish restaurant is too fantastic to not get a post on it’s own so you’ll find that here.

 

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On my birthday I wanted to do some touristy things so we walked around, taking in sights like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace & Westminster Abbey. Then we got the tube to Notting Hill & caught the end of Portobello Market.

 

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At night we met friends in Soho & had dinner at Burger & Lobster. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Burger & Lobster is a restaurant that sells only those two things. You can choose from half a lobster, a lobster roll or a burger with chips and salad for £20. In addition to this, they have a board with weights and prices of bigger lobsters that you can share. Since it was my birthday we went all out and bought a big lobster between four of us. It cost almost £10 a head more but there was much more meat.

 

6 pound 12 ounces lobster

6 pound 12 ounces lobster

 

As you can see it was a big ol’ lobster so it took us a while to get through. Thankfully they had a refreshing cocktail – ‘winter in the city’ to wash it down with.

 

The London Eye was the morning plan so we were up and out early-ish. Luckily the weather was favourable and, being midweek, we hardly had to queue. I’d say this is a must for visiting London and make sure you buy a 360° guide to you know what you are looking at.

 

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Back to Fitzrovia for lunch at Bubbledogs, the hotdog and champagne place that kept springing onto my radar. Glasses of champagne start at £6, they all come from small champagne houses and we needed to get the full experience so we couldn’t not. Between the three of us we ordered three hotdogs (the breakie, a mac daddy and a date dog), two tots and one sweet potato fries. If you are going there my top tip would be that you don’t need a side each. We never finished the three but the tots were the favourite from the sides. All of the dogs received positive feedback and were perfect to sort our the hangovers, along with the bubbles for hair of the dog. The hotdogs cost between £6 and £8 so a very affordable meal in that area. The concept is different and they pulled it off.

 

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After much exploring of the city on foot that afternoon, we went back to the hotel for a quick change before being taken to The Shard. Having a London local with us meant that we had insider information that we could have a drink at the bar on the 33rd floor without paying the hefty entry fee. A view over the city at night is something special and the cocktails were delicious.

 

View from Hutong Bar at The Shard

View from Hutong Bar at The Shard

 

We ended the night at Pizarro, owned by Josẽ Pizarro who is a renouned chef that you may have seen on Saturday Kitchen. We had the most extraordinary pork presa – I’ve never had this before but it is like a pink fillet steak but with a flavourful pork taste like one that you’d get from Iberico. It was cooked so simply and served with meat juices & it could not have been beaten for our last London dinner.

 

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Checking out the next morning we had glum faces as we did not want the trip to end (although I’m sure my bank did). Our final treat before flying back was lunch on Bermondsey Street at Casse-Croûte. This street is a foodie paradise and also hosts Pizarro, Jose and Zucca among others. You can read about our lunch here.

 

Our London trip could not have gone better and I’d recommend all of the places we visited. I used several London blogs to help me choose where to go and they never let me down. I left feeling younger than my 30 years!

Casse-Croûte – A Slice Of Paris In London

During our time in London we were meeting friends that work in Bermondsey. On our last day we decided to meet them for lunch and when I was researching where to go in the area I came across a little French restaurant called Casse-Croûte. It immediately interested me because they don’t have a menu as such – they just update a blackboard with that days offerings and there’s only three starters, three mains and three desserts to choose from. Fresh & seasonal, I like. Sometimes no menu puts me off because I like to get a feel for a place before going, but Casse-Croûte update their Twitter with the days menu every morning so I could pour through past days food. How I wish that restaurants would use their twitter more to display daily specials. Anyway, I mentioned Casse-Croûte to our London locals and they said that it’s a great choice and near their work. The last lunch had been decided!

 

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Casse-Croûte is very small and booking is highly recommended. In that traditional French way the tables are close together and there are no low fat labels in the kitchen. It reminded me of the cute places in Paris. The menu is in French and our waitress was French but she kindly translated everything for us without asking.
We tried everything on the menu between us but I could have enjoyed any single dish that they were serving.

There was a classic tomato soup – blitzed so you get no pesky bits and with a slight acidity.

 

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A starter of smoked haddock with leek and a soft egg was another demonstration from the chef of classic cooking done well. What I would do right now to be sitting there eating this dish again!

 

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The third starter on the menu was cheese soufflé. For some reason I am always suspicious of soufflé. Puffed egg with a side flavour, I’m not too sure about this. And what if I get bored of egg halfway through and have to leave it. I tried a bite of someone else’s and clearly I’d misjudged this soufflé. I can’t speak for other soufflés because I never choose them but this particular one definitely made me rethink my self imposed soufflé ban. It was light with a crunchy outside and had just the right cheese level.

 

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By now I was feeling smug with myself that I’d spent so long researching London blogs & found Casse-Croûte. For my main I chose the baked ham with potato purée and mustard sauce. Next time I am choked with the cold this is what I will be dreaming about. Comfort food of the highest order.

 

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A simple dish of sole in a buttery and caper sauce arrived with a couple of steamed potatoes but lacked any other vegetables. It still got the thumbs up from the two gents at the table.

 

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The creamy veal stew was served with rice & was another wintery dish with great flavouring.

 

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Ordinarily we would not have eaten dessert but because this was the last London meal (and the last time we’d eat in a long time!) we had to try them. I had the Pavé De Faubourg, which was a slice of chocolate cake with mandarins in the middle & a drizzle of mandarin & black pepper sauce. I liked the idea of the dessert and the mandarin element was tasty but the cake itself was lacking in moisture for me.

 

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The tarte tatin on the other hand, was simply terrific. The apples were not hard nor sloppy and the pastry was not too thick. The sweetness level was perfect and the dollop of cream was just enough.

 

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The final dessert was visually one of my favourite things that I had been served in a long time and it also delivered on taste. The Saint Honoré started with thin pastry then there was a sturdy crème pâtissière (crème chiboust I presume) and a choux ball filled with cream and dipped in caramelised sugar on the side.

 

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Casse-Croûte was the perfect way to end our London gastronomy trip for my 30th birthday. It has a buzzy atmosphere and fine solid cooking that took me back to my Paris trip. The presentation was of a high standard and I like the personalised plates. The service was superb and speedy for those going back to work. I love the vibe that I got from the place – it was such a strong ‘this is what we are, like us or not’ with the menu and such. There were a couple of niggly negatives but the whole experience made up for them and I will certainly be back here.

 

Casse Croute on Urbanspoon

You can read more about my trip to London in other posts here:

https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/chez-bruce/

 

 

Chez Bruce

Those who follow me on twitter or Facebook will know that I went to London last month for my 30th birthday. And what a birthday trip it was! I have always wanted to go to a Michelin starred restaurant, even more so when I spotted Chez Bruce on a previous visit. We spent our first two nights in Wandsworth with friends and my birthday was a good excuse to go to Chez Bruce for a decadent Sunday lunch.

 

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They change their menu all the time so I was eagerly checking it every few days in anticipation. I couldn’t even decide then what I’d have so it was not a quick process on the day. We arrived at noon and were seated at a table at the back of the restaurant. This helps me in social situations – my hearing aids don’t pick up background noise so I can hear who I want to hear better. After being presented with the menu and much chatter about what to eat we all picked the same main course. A bit of a cop out maybe but I had read so much about the chateaubriand that we couldn’t not.

We ordered food and a full bodied white to go with our fish starters. At some point before ordering we were given a little hors d’oeuvre or nibble that I can only describe as a cheesy biscuit. This massively downplays it because it was the best cheesy biscuit I’ve ever had the delight of sampling. It was melt in the mouth, buttery and strong with cheese but in a soothing way. It did exactly what it was meant to – left us wanting more.

Then they gave us a bread basket that had (if I remember correctly) focaccia, sourdough and a nut bread. When Mr S enquired about nuts in the bread and told them of his allergy they came over with a nut-free bread basket just for him & a nut-free version of the menu. Excellent service. They could have just given him the focaccia because he raved about it, as did the rest of us. By this point we were laughing about how many ‘this is the best (insert food here) I’ve ever had’ sentences were going to be said during the meal.

A starter of turbot fillet, black rice, squid, chorizo, aioli & basil oil did nothing to quash our enthusiasm. Saltiness from the squid & chorizo blended with the freshness of the fish with ease. The table was happily silent.

 

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Sticking with fishy starters, the normally drab cod was brought to life with an anchovy hollandaise, samphire and roasted garlic. Such a rich dish but perfectly so. The naturally salty samphire & anchovies, the crunchy garlic slivers bounced off the poached egg and cod with precision.

 

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And then there was beef. A man portion of beef at that, none of this dainty portioning on this dish. Medium rare so it still retained the flavour, or practically still mooing as my (well-done) dad would say. The accompaniments weren’t an afterthought either. The chips were a cut above, the green beans had a crisp bite and the stuffed mushroom could have been served as a meal on its own. A lightly caramelised onion held its own among the peppercorn jus which I barely used because the meat was so juicy. Celeriac provided the last non essential but utterly delicious piece of the puzzle. The meat itself was nothing like I’d ever tasted before – it was ten times better. We were dining with friends who work in wine so we left them to choose what would match. The Chateauneuf De Pape that the sommelier had helped select was wonderful.

 

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Unfortunately I started to feel faint at the end of the main course. A combination of the hot dining room, a busy week & a food and drink extravaganza the day before finally caught up with me. Nothing was going to stop me having dessert. After a breath of fresh air, we carried on like troopers.

Chez Bruce has an array of cheeses that you can see from the window that had been taunting me every time we walked past. A cheese plate was ordered between the four of us & the array was brought to our table. Moments like this are why I am not a waif, and why I smile so much. What struck me is how knowledgable the cheese man was; it was an art and vocation to him, not just a job. Seeing passion like that brings me into the fold & make me feel in safe hands.

We reached dessert. The citrus fad that I’m currently going through was satisfied by the blood orange sorbet. Bitter yet somehow sweet, it was a great palate cleanser to end the meal. I had ordered it on the basis of it being light but it arrived with not one but three accompaniments. There was a citrusy soft Madeleine, a rolled brandy snap and an almond biscuit. It was like they knew what I wanted without me knowing.

 

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A traditionally rich creme brûlée did it’s job – it was unapologetically typically French with no messing about with added extras.

 

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And then there was rhubarb. Stewed rhubarb with citrus notes, an almond cake for texture then silky natural yoghurt sorbet to freshen the dish.

 

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Finally, a chocolate pudding with praline parfait was drenched in shiny chocolate sauce like a present being wrapped.

 

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Even the homemade truffles that arrived with coffee were the best truffles I’ve ever had.

It’s fair to say that I thought Chez Bruce was incredible – the service, the food and the whole experience. I was also struck by how unpretentious it was. So much care and passion went into every aspect. The perfect start to my 30th birthday trip.

 

 

Sunday lunch at Chez Bruce is £35 for 3 courses.