The Grouse and Claret, Kinross.

After only managing to spend £4.50 yesterday we thought we’d treat ourselves to lunch at the Grouse and Claret today. So off we headed to Kinross to find it. Although there was a large sign advertising the restaurant we did wonder if we were on the right road as for one scary moment we thought we were going to end up among a heap of Perth and Kinross road grit. Along the road there were signs for a fishery but no more for the restaurant. We carried on regardless and were soon rewarded with a sign pointing the way to the restaurant car park.2014-05-25 14.27.40

The views from the car park were stunning as it looked out over one of the 4 fishing ponds that surround The Claret and Grouse.  We went in and hovered about in an entrance hall full of tat unsure where to go next. A man in a cook’s apron encouraged us to move further into the building. That person turned out to be the owner (and chef) who directed us through to the bar where more smiley, welcoming people waited to direct us through to an area with leather couches, chairs and nibbles. OH chose a sofa so he could look out on to the fisherman sitting around the pond. It wasn’t long before the waitress arrived to take our drinks order. Only once we had our drinks were we allowed to see the menus. The available dishes reflected the decor of the seating area and the nationalities of the owners – “local produce with hints of the orient”. After a while our food order was taken and then, after another short wait we were shown through to our table. Unfortunately, we were sat at possibly one of the only tables without a view.

For starter I chose Smoked Haddock Welsh Rarebit 2014-05-25 13.29.55and OH had Spicy Thai Pork Fritters. 2014-05-25 13.29.49My rarebit was fantastic. If anything there was too much and I wondered if I’d have enough room for the Twice Cooked Pork Belly in Hoisin sauce I had ordered for my main meal.  OH voiced the same difficulties saying his fritters were delicious with a clean, fresh taste to them but he wished there were only 2. For his main course OH had ordered Sea Bream which came on a raft (his word) of green beans and asparagus with a warm pesto sauce. 2014-05-25 13.44.48He managed all his fish but said the potatoes were boring and there were too many green beans. My pork belly was amazing! Sorry there’s no pic because my (lack of) photography skills didn’t do it justice. It honestly melted in my mouth and the rich hoisin sauce was perfect. Half way through I warned OH that if I couldn’t finish it I was asking for a doggy bag. This wasn’t required however as I managed to demolish the pork and only had to leave some of the rice.

Normally, I would finish the wine whilst OH orders a pudding but not today; today OH ordered a whisky and I sipped my coke because I was ‘Des’ and he was full up.

As we sat letting our meal digest (and because we didn’t have a view) we started discussing our surroundings. Although the building and scenery were great the internal decor looked as if it hadn’t been thought about since the 80s. White plastic curtain tracks, pine furniture, awful art on the walls and pasty linoleum made it feel like an old people’s home.  Saying that, considering we were at least 25 years younger than our fellow diners, maybe that’s how it should be. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, the toilets completely matched the decor.

I loved my meal, the surroundings, the service and the building. However, to make it a more enjoyable experience and worthy of the prices, I would completely change the decor, try to attract a younger diner and add a couple of sign posts along the road.

The bill came to £51.

2 starters and 2 mains = £40.50, Drinks £10.50

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Stunning views

The Kelpies, Falkirk.

Today we went to The Helix in Falkirk to see the Kelpies. You should too!

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This is how you get there

  • From Edinburgh – take the M9 towards Stirling, exit at Junction 5 for Falkirk/Grangemouth and take the first roundabout exit; follow the A9 to Etna Road Roundabout, where you will see the entrance to Helix Park
  • From Glasgow – take the M80 towards Stirling, exit at Junction 8 for M876 and join M9 , exit at Junction 6 for Falkirk/Grangemouth. Follow the signs to the A9. Turn right at Westfield roundabout to Etna Road roundabout and the entrance to Helix Park.
  • From Carlisle and the South – M74, M73, M80, M876,M9,  and follow the signs for Falkirk as above.
  • From Perth and the North – A9, M9 towards Edinburgh, exit at Junction 6 for Falkirk  as above

 

We went into the first car park we saw and managed to get a space quite easily but it was a cold, grey day and we arrived around 12.30. If it had been sunny or a tad warmer I think we would have been struggling. By the time we left people were queuing for spaces and with kids, dogs and ferrets (yes we saw a ferret on a lead!) running around it didn’t feel like a safe place.

It was a short walk to where the Kelpies were and as we walked we noticed it was an ideal place for bikes, scooters, skates and buggies as the paths were all smooth and wide. A lot of the grounds are newly planted so it is still a little sparse just now but you can see the potential and how great it is going to be in 6 months. The bonus of the freshly sown grass is seeing signs that say “I Want To Be A Lawn so don’t stand on me”2014-05-24 12.40.43

When you see the Kelpies for the first time you just can’t believe your eyes. Yes they really are that amazing. Two 30 metre high steel constructions of the malevolent water-spirits that are reputed to inhabit the lochs and pools of Scotland.2014-05-24 12.47.28

2014-05-24 12.45.50Once you’ve drunk in the vision you then spend the next hour trying to take the most perfect photo of them but of course you can’t but it doesn’t stop you and every other single person around you trying.

There are plans for a visitor centre but in the meantime, next to the immense structures, there are 2 outlets where you can get things like venison burgers, fancy cakes and other refreshments. I think because they have added the word ‘gourmet’ it allows them to charge extortionate prices or maybe I’m just a typical Scot and hate paying over the odds for what ultimately is a
burger from a van. I mean, £2 for a paper cup of hot water with a teabag in it?2014-05-24 12.54.43  Mind you, the park is free to get in and there were plenty of people who had come prepared with picnics so next time I will definitely have a flask. And there will be a next time! I’m going to give the plants a chance to grow and then I shall return just so I can take the perfect photograph.  2014-05-24 12.56.29

One thing I’d recommend before you go is to have a good look at the website to see the layout of the park and other places you may want to go. The one thing I felt was missing today was leaflets with maps or a big sign showing the walks and cycle paths, which would have been really handy.

East Coast Trains, H10 Waterloo, Wahaca

So just as soon as I got over the delights of Glasgow I found myself travelling first class on the train down to London for a work conference. First class does give you more room, unlimited tea, coffee, water and juice; sandwiches, cake and crisps and it does feel special BUT apparently there is no wine at the weekend. This weekend rule is a bit crap surely they could serve it responsibly?  Thank goodness I bought a bottle of red before I jumped on the train at Kirkcaldy. Anyway, I arrived in style at Kings Cross having drunk my Asda bottle of wine for a fraction of the cost of the wine on board. A quick tube trip to the Elephant and Castle and then a short walk to the H10 Waterloo hotel brought me to check in and a complimentary glass of bubbles. Now that’s the kind of special feeling you want from a first class service instead of a dry cheese sandwich and a cup of tea. I was allocated a room on the 9th floor. The website had boasted views of the Shard and I had my fingers crossed I’d be facing that way. A small scream of delight allowed others to know I wasn’t disappointed. Clutching my champagne glass of welcome happiness I drank in the view of the Shard. Then looked around and loved the decor, the bathroom, the toiletries, the bathrobe and slippers. It had everything a good hotel room should have – including bathroom scales, which was maybe a step too far. I mean, who wants to be weighing themselves when they’re staying in a luxury hotel??2014-05-13 07.12.53 That evening my colleagues and I ate in Wahaca on the Southbank. The restaurant is made from recycled shipping containers and serves Mexican street food. The menu was very reasonably priced and varied enough for everyone to find something they liked, which really suited the mixed bunch that were sat around the table. There are a number of Wahaca’s dotted around London and I’d definitely recommend you pay one of them a visit. After a pretty full on day I retired to my room on the 9th floor with the view of the Shard ready for a good night’s sleep. Just as I was falling over the sirens started. It turned out that to the left of the hotel was an ambulance station and to the right, a busy junction with lots of traffic lights. It seemed that the combination of these 2 things together meant no ambulances were stopping at any red lights. Ever. So no matter what the time they’d hit their blues and 2s. The one time I did sit up and take note was 4.30am!2014-05-12 22.01.46 Breakfast almost made up for the broken sleep. Hotel breakfasts (especially when they are paid for by someone else) are hard to beat and this was no exception to the rule. There was everything you could think of and more. I mean, have you ever seen churros and chocolate sauce in a breakfast buffet before?? The conference I was attending was in Westminster2014-05-12 19.28.192014-05-12 08.42.55 Central Hall and what a wonderful venue it was. Conferences can often by tiresome but we were well catered for in every aspect of the word so the 2 day event wasn’t as much hard work as it could have been. The train journey north saw 4 of us in standard class so it was a quick dash to Costcutter for a bottle of white and one of red. It was a great opportunity for everyone to relax and discuss the conference. However, I think by York we had finished the wine so we decided to buy a little bottle from the trolley. It didn’t last long either so we tried to buy another but there was none to be had. East Coast Trains had ran out of red wine!!!! The absolute horror of it. The trolley man told me to try the buffet carriage so off I went in search of more liquid refreshment. It was a bit of a trek to then discover there was no wine there either as he had given his last 2 bottles to the trolley man! I had been sent on a complete wild goose chase, which was annoying to say the least. Unfortunately it was a pretty poor end to an otherwise great 2 day trip to The Old Smoke.

The Bon Accord, Kelvingrove and Cirque du Soleil

I’ve had tickets to see Cirque du Soleil for ages and have been waiting patiently for May to come along so we could see for ourselves the stage show that’s supposed to leave you amazed. Our tickets were for the Hydro in Glasgow so I booked us in for an overnight stay at the Hilton Garden Inn to save us having to drive home afterwards.

When we checked in we were given a riverside room which was lovely. Not that the view was any great shakes but OH loved sitting watching the Clyde flow by whilst I used the i Mac to Google the route from Finnieston Quay to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. YES! There was a flipping computer in the room! It was also a tv and music player. It was great!2014-05-10 12.44.57

Moving swiftly on, the Bon Accord is a great pub on North Street which I’ve been to a few times already. It has a good atmosphere and serves an excellent pint of Guinness. OH and I have been toying with the idea of hiring a Harley Davidson and riding Route 66 next year so, as the pub is next door to a Harley Showroom, we decided to head that way for a quick pint and a bit of bike spotting.

I had planned to eat in Ashton Lane but when we arrived in North Street OH was too hungry to make it all the way around Kelvingrove Art Gallery and then up the Byres Road so we decided to eat in the Bon Accord. The menu was good old fashioned pub grub and very reasonably priced. I went for the2014-05-10 13.40.54 lasagne and OH had a Rib eye Steak (rare). 2014-05-10 13.40.412 meals and 2 pints was under £23 so there were no complaints on price. OH enjoyed his steak – I thought it looked a bit thin but apparently I know nothing. My lasagne came with salad and garlic bread and hit the spot. Saying that I wouldn’t have minded some chips with it too but then I’m probably just being greedy.

From there we headed along Sauchiehall Street to Kelvingrove Art Gallery. OH had never been in before so he was taken aback by the amazing building and its contents; his highlights being the Spitfire and Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross. If you’ve never been before put it on your Things to Do list.2014-05-10 14.42.36

Across from the art gallery is a Brewdog Bar. So, thinking that it would be a good thing to do, we popped in for a drink. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a Brewdog Bar before but it’s a tad confusing as all the pumps boast the same blue Brewdog logo sticker and look the same. Plus, there’s nothing you would recognise like Carling, Guinness or Magners. There is however, a large blackboard behind the bar with a list of the beers on offer. I stood and tried to study the board as a very disenchanted barmaid waited impatiently for me to make my choice. I looked at her for some guidance and she looked right through me. I looked at OH for some suggestions but he was busy trying to make up his own mind. I got pissed off and asked for a red wine. OH had a pint of Fake Lager and thought it was rank.

When you’re trying to be a new and exciting bar you’ve got to have bar staff that are friendly and willing to help all the customers not just the young trendy ones. What could have been a great experience turned out to be crap and we won’t be back (and don’t you go there either!).

After the downer we walked up Byres Road and along Ashton Lane. First off we went into the Grosvenor for a drink and then into Jinty McGintys for another couple. They were both great but to be fair anywhere on Ashton Lane is brilliant.

We knew we had to head back to the hotel to get ready for Cirque du Soleil and I also knew I needed to eat something if I was going to see any real acrobats that night.

It turns out there is a lovely chippy on the Byres Road and they do a great haggis supper. There is also a handy step to sit on that the sun hits just right on a late afternoon in Glasgow. Pure class. Yes I know, some people strive for it and some are just born with it.

Haggis and chips devoured we hailed a taxi and headed back to the hotel. I won’t bore you with the taxi driver’s referendum chat but suffice to say he was a No.

I had been told that Cirque du Soleil is something to see before you die and therefore a definite on your bucket list. However, If you’ve only got room for another 1 on your list and you’re deciding between Cirque du Soleil and a trip to Ashton Lane on a sunny day – don’t go for the paid performers.

Don’t get me wrong – it was great. My highlights were the trampolinests (is that a word?) and the patsy from the audience.  The acts were so talented, strong, precise and lithe it was hard not to be impressed but I thought I wasn’t going to know where to look as there would be loads happening all around and above me but that wasn’t the case. I think maybe I had over hyped it in my head so do go and see it just don’t get too excited about it before you go.

What was fantastic about the end of the night though was walking back to the hotel, having a drink in the bar before retiring to bed with a glass of wine and sitting with the windows open so we could both watch the Clyde flow by.

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The Espy – Portobello

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Yesterday when OH and I were out with the dog in Elie we had a clear view of the 2 Cockenzie Power Station chimneys across the Forth from us, which made us start talking about heading out that way for Saturday lunch. I had looked up The Espy in Portobello a while ago and knew it was dog friendly so we decided we’d take Amber for a walk along the beach and give it a try.

Although it was a bit of a grey day the beach area was busy and you could just imagine it heaving in the summer. Seaside towns always look a little sad when it isn’t sunny but Portobello was a happy smiley place – nearly everyone we passed on the esplanade acknowledged us with a friendly nod.

After working up an appetite we ventured into The Espy and found it very busy. I hadn’t bothered booking a table so I was a little anxious that we wouldn’t get a table.  I looked to one of the barmaids and pointed out our dog she smiled broadly and motioned for us to go through to the back where there was couch table just being cleared  (we realised later that the back of the bar is the dog friendly bit).

The leather couch was covered in cushions and comfy. It sat next to a low wooden table already set with a water jug, glasses and cutlery. Amber lay under the table wondering what the hell was going on – visiting a restaurant was a completely new experience for her but she behaved really well. The waiter handed us menus and told us the soup was Butternut Squash with fennel and ginger.

I have to admit I hate sitting at low tables to eat – it gives me indigestion and I did say to OH that we could ask to be moved but he said he had settled in by this point.

The Espy is a cluttered, homely, child and dog friendly bar. Every space on the walls is covered with photos, album covers and movie posters. Nothing else could have been squeezed above the bar as it already had a giant pint of Guinness, an inflatable alligator, a skeleton, a treasure chest, a ….honestly I could go on and on with all the clutter. It would take a good few visits before you had seen everything that was on show in the bar. If you did get bored admiring the decor there was also games and newspapers to keep you entertained.

From the menu we were given, I ordered Trout but as it came with minted potatoes I asked if I could have them without mint or chips if the potatoes had already been minted. The waiter insisted that he went to check and would be right back to let me know. I told them there was no need as I’d be happy with either but he was determined to keep me well informed. True to his word he returned with news from the chef. The news was that he had given us the wrong menu and there was no trout with or without minted potatoes. The waiter could not have been more apologetic.2014-05-03 14.03.14  On second look I chose the Pan fried chicken supreme with prosciutto and sage with a cracked pepper sauce, green beans and gnocchi. OH had Baked hake with chorizo and smoke red peppers – the menu description was loads better but neither of us can remember what it was – mind you, maybe if OH had paid more attention he would have realised that his dish was going to have a Spanish feel (not a favourite taste of his) and he should have probably chosen the Lamb instead.  My dish was really tasty but I just don’t get gnocchi – it’s got an odd texture which sticks to the top of your mouth and you can feel it coating your ribs on the way down.  I must remember not to order it in future.

During our time in The Espy numerous dogs came and went. Some barked, some sniffed. Numerous children came and went. Some screamed, some ran about. There was never a dull moment.

My overall view of The Espy is positive and if you’ve got kids and a dog I’d definitely recommend it – if you have neither Id wait until you do.

2 mains plus drinks came to £30.50 2014-05-03 14.35.02

Elie and The Shorehead Cafe

 

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Elie Lighthouse

Since I’ve been working like a wee Trojan this week and been doing some crazy hours I was able to take some time back this afternoon so OH and I took the dog to the East Neuk and went for a dander along Elie beach. We drove down towards the Granary and parked up so we could walk along the beach towards the lighthouse.  It turned out to be a cracking afternoon with blue skies and sunshine and Amber loved it.

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Amber

Although the outdoor seating area across from The Ship Inn had been deserted when we drove past by the time we had walked up to the Light House and along past the Lady’s Tower and back into Elie it was starting to fill up. OH took the dog and grabbed a seat overlooking the beach and I ventured in to buy some drinks. I asked for a pint of Guinness and a half lager and waited patiently for the Guinness to settle. I was then given 2 half glasses.

Oh. It was a pint of Guinness I ordered.

Oh sorry.

She tipped the half into a pint glass and topped it up with no settling time. It over flowed the glass and it was still dripping down the side when she handed it over.

Ever polite I didn’t say a word (I’m such a sap) but looked around for a napkin to wipe the glass. Seeing my obviously perplexed face she kindly ran from behind the bar and opened the door for me.

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Guinness not the Best

I picked up the sticky glass and a half and walked back outside into the sunshine.  To add to my dismay of the badly poured pint imagine my horror when I saw the glass she had given me it in!

 

Saying that, sitting in the sun supping was superb!

 

 

OH and I couldn’t decide what to do for eats so he suggested going to the Shorehead in Leven for a sit in fish supper (yes it was his turn to pay). The Shorehead is one of those places that has been around for years, In fact, I can’t remember a time it wasn’t there and Im fairly positive it’s still the same woman behind the counter as it’s always been. When we arrived we discovered it’s now called the Sorehead Cafe.2014-05-02 17.21.08-1

I had a red pudding supper – yes, I said red pudding. For all you people out there that have no idea what I’m on about you need to visit Fife and taste one to find out. For those of you who do know, The Shorehead do a damn fine one!  OH had fish and chips. We had 2 rounds of buttered bread and 2 mugs of tea and it came to £12.80.

When the plates arrived it did look the portions were a bit sparse but, with hindsight, I have to say there was exactly the right amount of chips. OH said everything was really nice but the amount of grease left on his plate was a bit ewww but he says that’s because the grease would usually be left on the paper, which you wouldn’t normally see. He’s adding he really enjoyed it and the white bread was definitely spread with butter and the batter on his fish was crispy and it was braw!

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Suppers