restaurant

‘Babs

When I was in my twenties I could style out a hangover with the best of them but now not so much. This day I never even put make-up on because nothing was going to hide the 5am (or was it 6am? Who knows) bedtime. Four of us were meeting up for lunch and I knew that I wanted to try ‘Babs on West Nile Street.

Their Facebook page describes them as:

‘BABS is a modern gourmet kebab house located on West Nile Street, right at the heart of Glasgow City centre.

We strive to create great street food dishes using charcoal-fire grill that make the most of seasonal and ethical produce, while respecting kebab’s culinary Greek, Turkish and Levantine heritage.

I knew from the photos that it wasn’t going to be a Glasgow kebab house as some might think of them- this was one to enjoy when you can remember it, not one to drunkenly forget.


First appearances were positive, in all honesty I wanted to steal their lights because they are gorgeous. Another mention has to go to all of the tiling on the floor and tables.

Then the food arrived on lovely crockery and I was just keeping my fingers crossed that I liked the food as much as I liked where it was housed.
My lamb kebab was fantastic – juicy, pink lamb, creamy tsatziki, crunchy veg, pickled cucumber and great flatbread.


The other lamb offering looked just as good, with the only criticism being that the bread was a little hard.


In our hungover greediness, we had ordered some lamb chops on the side. It was a silly move given that most of us had lamb main courses and more than enough food, but the chops were so tasty that we didn’t care one bit. I could eat them all day long.

We ordered most of the sides that were on the menu and I liked the arancini the best. Bonus points for the fact that they change the arancini flavours regularly too.


‘Babs was a great location for our hungover girly lunch and I’ve even been back since.

I love how affordable it is but without compromising on quality. Another fantastic addition to Glasgow’s food scene, well done ‘Babs.

Roaming To Stravaigin

The first time I went to Stravaigin in Gibson Street was almost 7 years ago. I was there with Mr S and his family to celebrate his graduation & I remember thinking the menu was so adventurous. I had monkfish with risotto – I can barely remember things from last month but my brain carved out space for remembering that risotto. Recently we were in the West End and decided to pop in for dinner.

 

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Stravaigin is an old Scottish word that means to roam or wander so it seems appropriate for the food that is inspired by different places around the world. They have traditional Scottish dishes such as haggis, neeps & tatties and then they have things from further afield like nasi goreng and frittata.

We had not booked and, as it was a Friday night, it was heaving. We were told it would be about half an hour for a table – the perfect amount of time to enjoy one of their French Martini’s at the bar. Stravaigin is split into three areas. There is the more formal restaurant downstairs, the relaxed upstairs restaurant and the bar. I’ve heard that some of it is also dog friendly for those not wanting to leave the pooch at home.

 

I love the lights in the bar

I love the lights in the bar

 

We were sat on the mezzanine level in the relaxed upstairs part. This part of the place is very bistro-esque with a relaxed atmosphere and smallish, close knit tables. There were rumbling bellies so we ordered some bread and steamed west coast mussels, sweet chilli & coriander. We were glad we ordered the bread because the tasty mussel juices were begging to be mopped up.

 

Mussels £6.45, bread £1.95

Mussels £6.45, bread £1.95

 

Only then did we decide on our main feasts. Mr S opted for the seared featherblade and I was excited by the venison special. There seems to be a fashion for using tastier, non-traditional cuts of beef at the moment and Mr S almost always chooses this option. I’ve seen skirt steak and flank steak and I’ve heard of featherblade but this was my first time tasting it. These meats are always served red/pink because they go tough if they are cooked any longer. Mr S really enjoyed it & was also raving about the chunky chips and flatcap mushrooms that accompanied it. Good portion size too. After ordering dishes like this three times now it was rated as second best out of the three. He didn’t like the chimichurri sauce that accompanied it and I’d be inclined to agree. I don’t want an oily sauce to accompany steak and I’ve never been converted to chimichurri. For bread maybe but not steak. When it arrived we tasted the chimichurri then asked our waitress for some whisky sauce instead. Within five minutes we were back on track with a ‘want to lick the dish’ whisky sauce.

 

£16.95

£16.95

 

 

My venison haunch was served with carrot purée, rosemary sautéed baby potatoes and jerusalem artichokes and a neep relish. The dish looked good and I like a vegetable crisp on top of a dish for bite. All of the elements of the dish complemented each other well so credit to the chef who designed the dish. The venison haunch was tasty, if slightly more cooked than I would have liked (but I understand that everyone likes venison cooked to varying levels). My only real niggle was that there was a smattering of gravy/jus around the plate but nowhere near enough. The bites I took that had some were greatly improved by those that did not. I shared the whisky sauce (that actually went with the flavourings) but if that had not have been on the table I would not have enjoyed the dish as much.

 

£18.95

£18.95

 

 

To end the meal we shared some homemade churned mint chocolate ice-cream with an Anzac cookie. The ice-cream had an amazing flavour and obviously used quality ingredients. I wouldn’t usually have chosen mint chocolate but it was the ice-cream of the day so thought we’d order it & it was a good move. It was quite difficult to eat melting ice-cream on a slightly warm plate instead of a bowl but it just made us eat quicker! We’ll know to ask for a bowl next time.

 

£5.25

£5.25

 

 

On another note, I want to mention that they do wine flights for you to enjoy with your meal because I love this idea. I am a slow drinker so a few smaller measures means I can try more.

We had a terrific impromptu meal at Stravaigin and I look forward to roaming back sometime soon.

 

 

 

 

La Lanterna

I have a list of restaurants that I want to try in Glasgow. In fact, I have a list of places that includes restaurants that I’ve been to before that I want to write about on here that I’ve raved to my friends about. As you can imagine, there’s not a small number of places on it but it gives me a feeling of satisfaction to cross one off. I love to tell people about places that I’ve enjoyed – my dad does this too & I think I’ve inherited his inability to keep information like this to myself. Out of all the restaurants in Glasgow the one that I rave about the most is La Lanterna on Hope Street. I love the place and hardly anyone my age seems to know about it so I spread the word. All the time!

It’s a cosy restaurant tucked down some stairs with old fashioned décor and white tablecloths. It’s a traditional Italian that makes their own ravioli & tiramisu instead of buying it in and closes on a Sunday. They recently won Scotland’s Best Italian Restaurant at the Scottish Entertainment awards & last year they won Best Italian Restaurant at The Glasgow Restaurant Awards so I am not the only person who has noticed how good they are. On a personal note, La Lanterna has lots of happy memories for me – many family gatherings, engagement celebrations, honeymoon choosing & anniversary dinners have taken place here.

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As soon as we sat down we were brought over our free glass of fizz that they give you if you book online via their website. We took ages looking at the menu – everything sounds nice and it is a big menu so difficult to decide. The complimentary bread and butter arrived to stave off hunger so we could take our time. Eventually we decided on starter pastas and then the chateaubriand (it costs the same as two steaks and is always to die for).

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Mr S went for the spaghetti with king prawns & lobster tail in white wine & cream sauce (£7.95). For a starter portion they were very generous with the lobster meat & prawns, and the sauce bound the dish together without being overpowering or cloying.

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I chose the venison ravioli in a red wine & rosemary jus (£7.95). Almost every time I go to La Lanterna I have ravioli of some description because it is always tasty. I can vouch for three of the ravioli flavours on the main menu too, having only missed out on the goats cheese one because I don’t eat goats cheese. There are only a few restaurants in Glasgow that I know of that make their own ravioli so I like to take advantage of it when I can. This visit was no different – perfectly cooked pasta parcels with a rich, meaty filling. Luckily I saved a piece of bread to mop up the leftover jus.

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I was so distracted by the ravioli that I forgot to take a photo at the start so apologies for the messy, part-eaten photo.

We asked Chris (the owner) about which red wine would suit the chateaubriand and he recommended the Nero Di Troia, which went perfectly. The wine list is as extensive as the menu, ranges from £14.95 to £195 a bottle and has a whopping 35 reds to choose from – the staff have always been helpful in assisting us in what to choose.

The chateaubriand arrived at the table on a big platter and is served in front of you. It comes with mushrooms, tomatoes, leaves, sauté potatoes & a generous boat of red wine and meat juice gravy. The meat was melt in the mouth and the gravy was rich – this really is a sublime dish. The sauté potatoes are crunchy but I notice that they do chunky chips and potato purée with a few other dishes so I must ask for one of them next time to try for variation.

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At this point we usually have tiramisu – it is made in house & is my favourite in Glasgow – but decided to share the cheesecake (£4.95) this time. I’m glad we did because it was creamy but fresh with the strawberries and as good as the tiramisu.

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La Lanterna will remain to be one of my Glasgow favourites for the foreseeable future and I look forward to more happy memories.

 

 

 

You might also like: girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/glasgows-italian-kitchen/

 

La Lanterna on Urbanspoon

Allangrange Arms – Worth The Walk

For those of you who don’t know me, I was born & bred in Inverness and my family still live there so I make regular trips up the (dreaded) A9 for visits. In some ways not living there can have its benefits. I get to go home to mum and dad’s to be looked after, I appreciate the place more & I’ve lots of people to test restaurants for me so I know where is worth a visit. Last time I was up mum had chosen a secret place for dinner & all anyone would tell was that it was out of town. I learned in the car over that we were headed to Munlochy, which is just over the Kessock Bridge and up some windy roads. It’s an area that mum discovered out walking at the nearby Ord Hill, and I saw for myself a few days later the fantastic views over Inverness.

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View from Ord Hill

If you don’t know the area then I’d make sure that you have a map or sat-nav at the ready. Once you get to Munlochy though, The Allangrange Arms is on the main road so nice & easy to find. A plus with eating out of town is the plentiful free parking which we took advantage of. There were lots of outside tables that looked perfect for summer afternoon but this certainly was not a sunny afternoon so we toddled inside. It was quiet on the Monday night that we visited but where isn’t on a Monday? Especially up Inverness way, where most people seem to save going out for the weekends (trust me, everywhere is packed on a Saturday).

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We had booked a table anyway since there was five of us and a lovely table it was. All rustic looking with some cute candles and round the corner so we weren’t eating our dinner right in the middle of the pint supping lot. This is essentially a local pub for some people & I’m sure it gets its fair share of regulars. It seems like the sort of place that Mr S and I would take advantage of regularly if we lived up that way.

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Table candles

We settled in and were given menus and offered drinks. We enquired about their ales on draft and within the selection was Happy Chappy Pale Ale from the Cromarty Brewing Co. This was the moment that I realised that I liked this place – local (tick), delicious pale ale (tick) & supporting little brewers (tick). Pale Ale is my newest alcohol love and Happy Chappy just so happens to be my favourite so far. The Allangrange also does buy one get one free cocktails Monday to Friday so we’ll try them next time.

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As for the menu, there were more specials than staples, which I was hoping was a positive thing meaning fresh & seasonal ingredients. It was a hard decision with the starters because they had mussels, langoustines and scallops. In the end my sister and I shared the pan seared West coast scallops served with a chorizo, saffron and herb risotto. The scallops were obviously fresh and the risotto packed enough punch to deliver on taste but not drown out the scallops.

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Scallops & Risotto Starter £7.95

The Cullen Skink starter was a winter warmer, thick with flavour and chunks of fish. My dad kindly let me sample some and I’d easily polish off a bowl with some crusty bread. So far so good.

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Cullen Skink £5.95

Mum went for the smoked ham hock with apple & spinach salad which was served with wholegrain mustard and Highland Crowdie sauce. It was presented well on one of those slate plates and mum ate the lot saying it was yummy.

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Ham hock salad £6.45

We ordered a bottle of red wine with the main courses as we were all having red meat. Unfortunately they did not have our first choice of Montepulciano in stock but their wine list had just been changed so that is understandable. We had a fruity Shiraz instead that was a very reasonable £15.95 a bottle.

For main course three of us ended up having the burger and two of us had the lamb shank. There was a vast selection to choose from including lobster thermidor, Cromarty brown crab, veggie curry & surf n turf but the Cullen’s all wanted the same things. The burgers were huge & consisted of a beef patty, sliced chorizo, pulled pork, bacon, cheese and onion rings all crammed into a bun. They were served with chunky chips and beetroot salad all on a long wooden board. Personally I don’t like being given these boards because there is not much room for moving things & putting sauce on the side but I was having the lamb shank and the burger fiends didn’t seem to mind too much. The burgers brought a lot of praise to the table but they were all wishing that they had swerved the starters so they had space in their bellies to finish it. The quality smoky bacon was appreciated & it’s nice that it was not just an afterthought. One out of the three of them commented that it was too wet so the bun fell apart but it maybe just needed a sturdier brioche bun.

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Burger £12.95

The lamb shank was another homemade pub grub triumph in my eyes. The tikka masala sauce was rich and flavoursome, the meat was falling off the bone & the potato chunks were crispy. It’s the ideal dish that I want to be served in somewhere like The Allangrange. My only gripe is that I would have preferred mash with it but that is just my personal preference and I still loved the dish.

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Lamb Shank £12.50

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Lyonnaise Potatoes

We were full but with my sister & I spurring each other on we had some desserts anyway. I went for the chocolate brownie with vanilla ice-cream. Unfortunately the brownie was quite dry and more like a cake minus the icing. Brownie to me should be gooey but it just wasn’t.

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Brownie £5.50

She went for the creme brulee, which was flavoured with honey and white chocolate & served with homemade shortbread. I was dubious about the honey and white chocolate complementing each other but it was actually really nice.

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Creme brulee £5.50

The favourite of the desserts was the millionaire shortbread cheesecake (£5.50) – it was just delicious and I was tempted to order one to take home. Unusually it arrived as a pile in a bowl as opposed to in a cake slice form and it was a gooey loveliness.

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Cheesecake

You’ve probably gathered from what has been written that I liked The Allangrange Arms a lot indeed. In fact, I wish that we had a pub near us that served food as nice as they do because I find most pub food to be rather disappointing. I found the location both endearing and inconvenient – endearing as it is a gorgeous spot but inconvenient because someone has to drive. I’m looking forward to my next trip up so that we can go back and wile away a Sunday afternoon next to the fire trying out their roast dinner. For The Allangrange is no longer a secret to me, and I plan to make the most of that.

The Fish People Cafe – A Restaurant With Sole

As you can guess from the name, this is a very fishy place – or plaice…apologies, the fish puns are now imbedded in my head. It was opened in August 2012 by the owners of the fishmongers next door in Scotland Street. It excites me to see a fish restaurant being opened by a fishmonger because it makes me think that the fish will be exceptionally fresh.

This tiny restaurant is in a strange location – conveniently next to Shields Road underground station but inconveniently far away from other bars, restaurants and free parking. Regardless of location, this place is fully booked most days and nights so it obviously hasn’t deterred diners, even in this penny pinching recession. This was my second visit to the cafe, with my first in the opening few weeks and the gas went off. Bad luck but it didn’t put me off & it was only my lack of planning that caused such a long delay because you have to book in advance.

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Exterior

First things first – don’t expect your taxi driver to know where this place is. Just ask to be dropped off at Shields Road underground then walk the ten metres towards the blue sign. It’s teeny inside and I’d estimate that it sits about 30 people on tables then another 10 on bar stools. I love the interior with the marble & black bar oozing class and the seats & bar stools bringing cushioned comfort.

The starters all sounded appetizing but I have been wanting to try sardines for a while now so when I saw them on the specials menu with lime & black bean I made an immediate decision. The other two were swithering over which starters to have so we decided that we’d share the sardines along with a fish cake and squid.

The Shetland squid was wok fried with sugar snap peas, garlic, lime & black beans. It was so flavoursome that I kind of want to go back and order some for lunch with bread. I have never tried black beans with seafood before but it managed to accentuate the fresh flavours and bring a salty soy dimension.

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Squid £7.50

The fish cake had a different aspect to it with masala spices and was served with a chilli, lime & coriander mayo. Again it was delicious and we enjoyed the departure from a normal fish cake.

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fish cake £7.00

Only one out of three of us at the table had ever tried sardines so I can’t really draw any comparisons on how well the dish was executed. I liked the flavours and the fish tasted fresh but, I admit, the bones put me off a little. This is apparently how they are served in every restaurant so not a reflection on The Fish People Cafe but I would prefer the fish with less bones.

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Sardines

We ordered a bottle of the Picpoul De Pinet, a crisp french wine that should pair well with the fishy main courses. The wine list is reasonably priced for a seafood restaurant & centres around whites to go with the fish. Bottles of wine range between £16.50 and £30 with our bottle coming in at £20.

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Vino

On to main courses and no-one had even entertained the idea of ordering the lonely non-fish dish on the menu. Instead, there was chunky fish stew, shellfish linguine and hake that went down a treat.

Having tasted them all I would say that the seafood linguine with coriander, chilli & rocket was my favourite. This was recommended by our waiter so it’s nice to know that the staff have tried the food.

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Seafood Linguine £13.50

The fish stew was full of fresh fish & seafood in a tomatoey broth. A little fiddly to eat but well worth it.

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Fish Stew £14.00

It was served with little toasts, a pot of gruyere & a pot of saffron rouille.

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Fish Stew Accompaniments 

My baked fillet of Tarbert landed hake came on a stew of tomato, chickpeas, chorizo, roast peppers & lemon. I enjoyed it but I should have picked something more fishy from the menu because the chorizo & tomato dominated the dish. It would be good for someone who is still experimenting with fishy dishes because of the other flavours.

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Hake £13.50

I was far too full for dessert, as was everyone else, so we had some coffee to round off the meal. It was served with some melt in your mouth tablet, almost as good as my Auntie Lou’s and that’s a big compliment.

I am so glad that we found this restaurant, especially as it seems so seldom known about. It is now on the list of where to take any Inverness lodgers that appear at my door – if they are fish lovers.

 

 

 

 

You might also like: https://girlaroundglasgow.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/sweet-number-16/

Fish People Cafe on Urbanspoon

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

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

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)

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