scottish blogger

Glasgow is Italys Paesano  

  
Everyone has an opinion about pizza. Whether you are a self proclaimed ‘foodie’ that goes to the award winning restaurants, the one who has visited Italy, the student who eats them all the time or Joe Bloggs… you probably have an opinion on what a good pizza should be like. For me pizza was affordable as a student and I felt comfortable treating myself to dinner out at an Italian restaurant. It was a gateway into going out for dinner more, branching out and trying new foods. Topping combinations have got ever more inventive over the years too. Sometimes too crazy in my opinion – they lose sight of what the classic pizza is. 


My dad describes pizza in Italy as having big blown out doughy sides and minimal cheese and toppings. Quality not quantity. I should get to experience it myself next year but in the meantime a new kid on the block had opened in Glasgow claiming to do authentic Italian pizzas. All independent Paesano sell is pizza and a few sides – 8 pizzas to be exact. It’s now acceptable to only offer one thing – and minimal choices of – in a restaurant, on trend in fact. Some people may not like it but, if you’ve read other posts of mine, I’m an advocate of doing less things well. 
  
The restaurant inside has an industrial feel. It’s in a big building on Miller Street & the seating is wooden benches and canteen style tables. Urban chic if you will. Definitely not somewhere for you if you like a cushioned seat with a structured back. Dare I utter the words that this is a ‘young’ place. Oops, I might as well have said hipster. Please forgive my sweeping generalisation but here goes. I only mean that in the sense that most twenty year olds that I’ve encountered couldn’t care less what they sit on, how loud a place is and generally like a large social space. On the other hand, most sixty year olds that I know want comfy seating and to be able to have a conversation without having to raise their voice. I am 31 years old and I’ve started to care about it more and more! Luckily Paesano didn’t have music blaring and the seats were comfy enough to feed my bambino. 
 

White Anchovies

 
We had warmed our bellies up with some white anchovies and now it was all down to the pizza. It was lunchtime and they arrived quickly so this is the sort of place that you could come to in your lunch hour. 

At Paesano they pride themselves on proper imported Italian ingredients being cooked in a wood fired oven that comes from Naples. Initial impressions were positive – big blown out sides of fired dough with scattered toppings in the middle. They use fior di latte mozzarella (unless you upgrade to Buffalo), which I prefer to buffalo mozzarella as it has a creamier and less smoky flavour. 
  
You could tell that the toppings used were of a high quality, from the tasty cotto ham to the sweet tomato sugo. The pizzas had a delicious crispy sourdough crust that contrasted with the soft centre. 

The middle of the pizza was soft and might challenge what you are used to. On first thought the word soggy came to mind but I generally use that word negatively and this wasn’t a negative. Sure, it was the kind of pizza that is best eaten with cutlery but I think that we’ve just gotten too used to cardboard like bases on our pizza over here. I’ll be the first to admit that a pizza with a soft middle can put me off but this one was different. It was soft because the balls of fior di latte have a softer texture, because the sugo isn’t pumped with filler to make it thicker and because the toppings were chosen on flavour and not on moisture levels. 
  
The ice-cream bowls are cute and score points with me. I’m hoping they have a few short bowls for children because it’s a disaster waiting to spill in a tall dish. 

The soft ice-cream has that milky tone to it as opposed to overly creamy. Something that is important in Italian ice-cream from what I understand. Anyway, I liked it and the sauces gave it a retro feel. 
  
For fellow parentals, there is baby change and the staff were accommodating and courteous about the fact that I had a little baba in tow with pram and all that comes with it. 
We encountered waiting staff and management and found them all to be friendly and approachable. 

I’ll get my dad to visit next time he’s in Glasgow to see if they get the authentic seal of approval. He talks about real Italian pizza all the time so he’s my man in the know. 

It was a tasty pizza indeed and I enjoyed my experience. We went for lunch but it’s also the kind of informal place that’s ideal for a few friends post work to enjoy pizza and a beer. With my hearing it’d probably be too loud on a Saturday night but I’ll be back midweek with my own paesano. 

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Competition Time: Win Tickets For Edinburgh foodie Festival!

As I mentioned in my blog’s first birthday post, Girl Around Glasgow is running its first competition!

Foodies Festival is back in Edinburgh’s Inverleith Park on Friday the 8th, Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th of August. It is the biggest celebration of food and drink in the UK and I can’t wait to go as one of their official bloggers (and write about it afterwards). Inverleith Park is half an hour walk from Waverley station or a short taxi journey if it rains.

 

I won’t be taking part in the chilli eating contest but I will check out the (mild section of the) chilli food market and you’ll find me boogie-ing it on down at the vintage tea tent dances. Then I definitely won’t miss the real ale & cider farm. The feasting tent and BBQ area will be where I spend most of my time, no surprise there. Finally, street food avenue with its foods from around the world sounds fantastic.

 

Running for its eighth year, chefs will include MasterChef the Professionals runners-up Adam Handling and Scott Davies, Great British Menu’s Jacqueline O’Donnell of The Sisters, Mark Greenaway of Bistro Moderne, TV Chef Tony Singh, The Pompadour by Galvin Head Chef Craig Sandle, Café St Honore’s Neil Forbes and Glasgow’s The Three Sisters bakers Gillan, Nichola and Linsey. Catch them all at the chefs theatre cooking up their favourite dishes.

 

Courtesy of those generous Foodie Festival folk, I am giving away 5 pairs of day tickets. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is follow this blog by e-mail. You can do this at the right hand side of this page near the top. On a mobile device just scroll down the page and under categories it says ‘follow blog by e-mail’ and fill your e-mail in. Once you have done this, head over to your email inbox where there should be an email from WordPress waiting for you. Click on it to confirm you want blog emails. If you already follow my blog by e-mail then like this post on wordpress or comment on it to be in with a chance of winning.

 

I will announce the winner on Tuesday the 16th of July. Good luck!

If you don’t win then Foodies Festival are giving all of my readers 2 for 1 tickets if you quote FOODIES241 when you book.
I can’t wait to hear what you thought & tweet me (@girlaroundglasg) with any photos.

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.

Ale Glorious Ale

I have previously mentioned my newfound love of beer and ale that opens up a whole new world for me. Instead of ‘where serves a good gin’ I’m finding myself thinking ‘where has a good selection of beer that I’ll like’. I admit that I’m still getting used to it and, at the moment, I prefer my lager tops to curb any bitterness. I do like a pale ale and I’ve been trying out a few.

Then I was sent a box of Isle Of Skye Brewing Co ales to try and I felt a post coming on.

 

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The brewery is relatively young and originated from a chat in the pub in 1992 regarding the lack of good beer in Skye. Everyone knows that all the best ideas come from a pub session! It was the first time that I’d tried their beer so I wanted to save it for a night with my more knowledgeable dad.

The brewery has recently rebranded all of their products so there have been a few changes – Red Cuillin’s name change to Red Skye being the main one. I found the new bold labelling to be a good thing – at least I’ll never open the wrong one and will easily pick it out in a shop.

 

Skye Gold (the yellow one) was my first pick because pale ale is one of my favourite things right now. This one is made with the addition of porridge oats and, whilst I couldn’t really taste oats, I could smell them and there was a definite twist to it. It was refreshing and a good new addition to my IPA style collection.

 

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L to R: Skye Red, Skye Gold and Skye Black

 

Skye Red is the Isle Of Skye Brewing Co’s baby as it was the first beer they brewed back in 1995. This is the one that used to be called Red Cuillin and is award winning. I thought that it was lighter in flavour than a lot of red beers that I’ve tasted and my dad agreed. It still had a nice fruityness to it with a slight bitter aftertaste. We thought it could be a perfect session ale for someone who likes red ale due to the lightness.

 

We left Skye Black to last so that it did not cloud our tastebuds for the others. It smells malty and slightly smoky and I was unsure about whether it would be too dark for me. It was too dark for my taste but my dad enjoyed it more. We agreed that it was not as bitter as some dark ales due to the addition of honey but it still had smoky tones to be in-keeping with a darker, stronger tasting ale.

 

It has inspired me to do a Scottish beers post so no doubt my instagram will be full of beer related photos over the next few months. My dads favourite was the Skye Red and I liked the Skye Gold so I’ll be looking out for it on tap in Glasgow now. The ideal situation would be to take another trip to Skye and drink it practically from the source – whilst eating some fresh fish after a walk on the coral beach but this will do for now. After a gander on their website I have seen that they also sell Skye Blaven, which is a stronger brew than the others. That’s part of my fathers day present sorted…thanks Skye Brewing.

 

Eat Local, Drink Local!

 

I want to extend my thanks to Ewan MacGill at Wire, along with all at Skye Brewing Co for sending me beer and alerting me of its presence.

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.

 

 

 

 

Brel Brilliant

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

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

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

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£6.50

 

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

 

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£11.95

 

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

 

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£12.95 (comes with potato dauphinoise)

 

 

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

Brel on Urbanspoon

Cook Or Be Cooked For?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Vittoria’s

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

 

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

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

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

 

Arancini £5.45

Arancini £5.45

 

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

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

 

Hawaii Pizza £9.95 & Tagliatelle Vittoria £10.50

Hawaii Pizza £9.95 & Tagliatelle Vittoria £10.50

 

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

 

 

 
Vittoria on the Bridge on Urbanspoon

Our Return To Kuramathi: Could It Get Any Better?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Good Morning Bernard

Good Morning Bernard

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

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

 

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

 

Laguna Bar Jetty

Laguna Bar Jetty

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Princes Squares Spanish Gem – Barca

If you’ve read my other posts, you’ll gather that I am a fairly loyal customer once you’ve got my attention. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the excitement of a new place, but going somewhere that I know what to expect leaves me feeling content. If we don’t go back to these places then they won’t be there to go back to so it is important as well. On one of my many Christmas shopping days I met Liz (loves good food & gin) and we were looking for somewhere near the shops in the city centre to eat. We went through the usual “Greek?”, “I don’t fancy Greek”, “I don’t fancy Indian” rigmarole and decided on tapas so made a beeline for Princes Square. I always know that Christmas is coming when I go into Princes Square because the decorations feel so magical. I miss the old traditional decorations they had but the new ones still do the job. Even although Princes Square is a shopping centre, it plays host to some fantastic eateries. None of this school dinners style malarkey-more cocktails, rib-eyes & macchiatos. Barca has been there for a long time and I first went about five years ago. It covers three of my needs – near the shops, cheap enough for a spur of the moment and tasty food. They do a few deals online so I tend to book through an external site but forgot this time.

 

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It was fairly quiet when we arrived so there were seats left on the balcony but this area busies up quickly so I’d specify it when booking if you really want to sit there. We ordered some beers to kick us off – a Sagres for her and a Desperados for me – then a selection of dishes from the a la carte menu.

We ordered barra gallega con salsas (£4.50) – crusty bread that comes with aioli, extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar, red mojo sauce (tastes like paprika) and green mojo sauce (tastes like coriander) because we were hungry and wanted something immediate. The dips are worth the extra money – so moreish!

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Shortly afterwards our food started arriving with my gambas pil pil (£5.95) coming first. It is such a simple dish but one of my Spanish favourites and their addition of paprika only makes it better. My only suggestion is that I’d love more garlic slivers in the pan to mop up with bread.

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Liz’s manchego frito (£4.75) was the ultimate treat dish of Spanish manchego cheese in a crumb with a spicy tomato dip – all gooey and cheesy, yum.

 

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Chuleta de cordero (£7.95) came as two big lamb cutlets with a sweet fig and honey sauce – another one to mop up with bread as you can see in the photo!

 

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As a special they were doing turkey and cranberry croquettes (£5.95) so we thought we would try them out. They were really nice and I’d love to see them on the menu even although it is a festive filling.

 

Since I have an infatuation with garlic and olive oil, I also chose champinones al horno (£4.95), which are flat cap mushrooms baked with the aforementioned. The dish had been executed well – the mushrooms still had a slight firmness and weren’t drowned in the garlicky oil.

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Patatas bravas (£3.75) completed our spanish feast and added on some little needed carbs but were enjoyable all the same.

 

It was meant to be a quick dinner but we ended up sitting chatting for a few hours in the nice surroundings. Our waitress was friendly and did not seem to mind as it was quiet. The perfect post-shopping unwind.

 

 

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