The Rockies Restaurant, Anstruther

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The view from The Rockies Restaurant

Totally by accident OH and his friend found The Rockies Restaurant in Anstruther, Fife. They had been looking to play a round at the golf course (that was a round not around!) and noticed that the menu in the club house looked pretty good. I didn’t need my arm bent behind my back to pay it a visit so OH and I dined there yesterday.

Although the actual restaurant is pretty basic it doesn’t really matter as the view of Anstruther takes your breath away. Any big outlay on decorations would be wasted as you spend the whole time looking out of the window either back inland to the picturesque fishing village on the Fife Coastal Path or out over the Forth where the Isle of May and the Bass Rock lie .

The lunch menu offered 2 courses at £10.95 and 3 for £13.95 and the soup of the day was lentil.

OH went for the Chilled Gala Melon with 2014-09-27 15.33.42local berries and raspberry coulis and I had the Chicken Liver with Thyme pate with oatcakes and red onion marmalade to start. I cleared my plate and loved the oatcakes and onion marmalade which accompanied the pate perfectly. The salad dressing ensured I also 2014-09-27 15.33.47finished every scrap of the salad too.   I’ve just asked OH what he thought of the melon and he said “it was very nice by the way.”

It wasn’t too long before our mains arrived. OH had decided on the Seared Sirloin Steak with sauteed onions, mushrooms, corn on the cob, fries and garlic butter. It had a £4.50 supplement, 2014-09-27 15.45.46something that OH always denies noticing when he orders ;p I had the Corn Fed Chicken Ballotine with Toulouse forcemeat stuffing with a tarragon and mustard cream sauce. OH raved about his steak and said that the addition of the corn on the cob really made the dish as the buttery sweetness from it complimented the steak beautifully. I enjoyed my chicken but a word of caution to others who haven’t just been to the south of France (;p)  – the Toulouse forcemeat is a strong taste that you may not be used to.2014-09-27 15.46.00

There was a menu of liqueur coffees on the table that OH had been eyeing during his lunch so instead of a dessert he had a Rockies Coffee – coffee and Glayva. It came with a shortbread biscuit and 2 little squares of peanut butter millionaire shortbread. I always like it when the non-coffee drinker gets a bit of sugariness too (yes I’m easy pleased!) .

The main meals could probably have been better presented but they were tasty and great value for money. The waiter and waitresses were charming and eager to help and I will definitely be recommending this hidden gem to others.

2 Starters, 2 mains + £4.50 supplement, a liqueur coffee, a pint and a coke = £34.15

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The Crusoe Hotel, Lower Largo

Another Saturday on-call meant another bar lunch in Fife so today we decided to visit Lower Largo.

Lower Largo is an old fishing village famous as the birthplace of Alexander Selkirk who was a Scottish sailor who spent more than four years as a castaway after being marooned on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean. Ring any bells? He was the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe so it will come as no surprise to you that there is a hotel called The Crusoe and it was here that we chose to dine today.  It was a lovely day to lunch outside, which you can, on the pier as well as on benches just outside the bar door but we chose to dine inside as it was quieter (and because Fife weather is as changeable as a teenager’s moods).

Crusoe-PANOThe menu was pretty standard with fish and chips, burgers, steak pie, chicken supreme and curry all around the tenner mark or you could fork out £21.95 for the 8oz ribeye steak. There was also a daily special menu however I decided to go for the Robinson Crusoe burger with grilled Monteray Jack cheese, chorizo, chilli, chips, relish and salad. OH went for the Curry of the Day which was Chicken Balti.

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The first thing OH said after starting his meal was “I think I just swallowed a clove.” I have to admit the look on his face confirmed it. When I asked him later how the balti was he said it was bland in places and the sauce was a bit thin but it was alright.

My burger was missing any sign of chorizo but otherwise was a decent burger and to it’s credit the roll didn’t disintegrate as they often do.  OH kindly finished off my chips for me as I got a bit bored with them.

The location of The Crusoe is fantastic and the food is good – not great – but good enough for a £20 bar lunch. I actually love the bar –  the way it’s decorated, the pool table and the 2 large screen TVs with Sky, which all make it a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon watching sport.  The outdoor seating area looks like a great place to waste some time with a cold bottle of white wine so do pay it a visit….Alexander Selkirk…and if you do make sure you take some time to wander along the road to see the statue of Alexander Selkirk and then keep walking so you can spend some time on the beach too.

 

 

Edit – Sunday evening 6pm. I’ve just cooked brisket with roast root vegetables for dinner and (completely unprovoked) OH said he liked it way better than his chicken balti.

Toulouse – Lasting impressions

So OH and I have been in Toulouse for 9 days now and everyday has been different. I was worried that I had been a bit over zealous when I booked the 11 day break in a city as I was anxious I would become bored quickly with the same sites. Thankfully I have been proven wrong and the reverse has been true. The longer you stay the more fun you have.

Bizarrely the same streets and bars look completely different during the day compared to at night and there really is enough to do to keep you occupied during a lengthier stay. I know the streets well now and could easily give a stranger directions. However, although I now have a feel for the city, we are only acquaintances and my French would have to be far better to claim anything more.

So my top 10 tips for a trip to Toulouse are

1. Pack bold (not the washing detergent!)  Everyone is stylish and you will want to be too

2. If you’re a man embrace facial hair and trim it to perfection

3. Unless you’re a model don’t expect 2nd glances – everyone is gorgeous in Toulouse

4. Prepare to sit down at 8pm to eat and still to be sat there after 10pm – eating is something you do all evening

5. Bring plenty indigestion tablets – see above

6. Be prepared for discomfort as there is no such thing as a comfy chair in Toulouse – outdoor garden furniture is the norm

7. Don’t try to give up smoking whilst you are in Toulouse – you won’t manage. In fact, if you’ve already given up you will probably start again!

8. At some point take a bottle of wine down to the river, relax and people watch

9. Bring your art materials – you will want to  paints or draw or write

10. Book for longer than 3 days!

The main sites to see if you are visiting Toulouse are

IMAG3023Le Capitole: Right in the very heart of the city is Place du Capitole. All roads lead to the square and it’s extremely impressive building. The square is always busy whether there is a market on or not. It’s the place to be seen and the restaurants that surround the square are pricIMAG3358ey although it is worth paying that little extra to sit and people watch (my favourite pastime – especially with a glass of wine to hand).

You can go into the Le Capitole and wander around (for free). There is a room full of Henri Martins – an impressionist painter I hadn’t heard of before I arrived in Toulouse but his paintings of the banks of the Garonne are worth of seeing (if only to see how much the trees have grown along the side of the river!)

When you enter Salle des Illustres you take a sharp intake of breath as the paintings and colour overwhelm you. This room is now used for weddings and offiicial receptions and, although it’s no Sistine Chapel, it is impressive.

Unfortunately, you can’t get out on to the balcony but if you could you would be able to look down on to the 18m wide Languedoc cross outside, which is set into the square. Each point has one of the signs of the zodiac.

 

basilica Saint Sernin: This basilica was built in honour of a martyred saint, Saturnin. He died after being dragged through the streets by a sacrificial bull – what a way to go! Apparently in the 3rd century they didn’t sleep at night as they were too busy thinking up gruesome ways to kill people.

The other important thing about this building is that it’s part of the El camino de Santiago pilgrimage – if you have no idea what I’m talking about a good and light hearted way of finding out about it is to watch the film The Way. Oh and there’s crypts below you have to pay to go in and see but it’s only 2€.IMAG3186

At the weekends there is also a flea market around the building, which is worth a wander around too.

 

Église des Jacobins:

The Jacobins were another new research item for me (thank goodness for wikipedia!) The building is amazing and huge palm trees hold the roof up (I’m not kidding!) There is even a huge mirror surrounding one of the upright columns to save you straining your neck and looking up at it.

The cloisters were tranquil, even although during our visit a fantastic musician played the piano. My guess was that he was practicing for the Piano aux Jacobins, a yearly festival during the month of September held in the church.IMAG3416-EFFECTS

At night the gothic bell tower lights up and is more reminiscent of something seen in Blackpool during the illuminations than something you would expect from a church (Im not sure why either)

Marche couvert Victor Hugo:  This covered food market is a must see – all the food looks exceptional. They have however,managed to hide it under a multi-storey car park so look out for it. IMAG3287

Musee des Augustins: This is a beautiful building full of fantastic sculptures and paintings. It’s 4€ to get in and worth every cent. If you are the least bit arty, the artwork on display here will make you feel inadequate. The sculptures look like they could turn and speak to you and just yearn to be stroked (obviously you’re not allowed). The paintings are immense and tell painful stories in seconds that leave you queering the injustice.

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Jardin Japonais: It’s a bit of a walk to get to from the city centre but worth the effort (you could also get the metro). The Japanese garden is only one part of these extensive gardens but my favourite part.  The bridge, very like the famous one in Monet’s garden, is just screaming out to be photographed. IMAG3107If you work in the north east of Toulouse it seems it’s compulsory to eat your lunch here as every bench was occupied with workers with plastic forks and Tupperware boxes (told you they were stylish- no washed out plastic ice creams containers here!).  From the gardens we headed to the Canal du Brienne and followed it back into the centre. The Canal du Midi is another canal in the area popular with joggers, walkers and cyclists.IMAG3508

 

 

Pont Neuf: IT’S JUST A BRIDGE over the River Garonne – it’s there and you will see it but the the best thing about it is Le Filochard which is at the city centre side. Read about that here —-> Le Filochard

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Le Filochard, Toulouse

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Start of the night – looking totally unassuming

Wandering the streets of Toulouse one warm evening OH and I couldn’t help but notice a bar that was spilling out on to the streets. Boho chic and young at heart seemed to be the dress code. Dreds, bare feet, colourful stripey low slung trousers (or should I say pantaloons?) and bare brown shoulders were in. Me with my boring attire and sensible walking shoes were out. Or so I thought until we happened to be going past it again the following evening. It was a lot quieter then and we were able to get a seat at the bar. I watched on as the bar man made up a couple of mojitos for 2 guys sitting in the corner. They looked so good that when it was my time to order I couldn’t help myself. “Deux mojitos, s’il vous plait”. The barman said something about 4 and I nodded blankly. He explained in English that it was happy hour and 2 for 1. Woohoo!IMAG3224

A sudden clang beside me made me turn and watch as 6 empty kegs were rolled out from under a nearby bench. Then a large hinged piece of wood appeared. Before my eyes a stage was being built and just as suddenly a band started to set up and the bar started to fill. IMAG3237

The heady mix of the bar, the cocktails, the friendly staff and chic clientele added in with our unique Scottishness made OH and feel very special and welcome. Before long we were chatting to lots of different and interesting people – they were buying us drink, we were buying them drink, the band played, strangers asked me to dance, I whirled, I drank and I spun from partner to partner. It was a great night.

You know those evenings when you think you’re just having a quiet night but end up having the best night ever – well that’s what happened the night OH and I visited Le Filochard.

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End of the night – no longer quiet at all!

I entered the bar feeling like an outsider but left it feeling younger, a bit boho and a lot sozzled.

Le Point D’Ogre, Toulouse

OH and I had looked up some restaurants before we left for Toulouse and one of the ones that stood out was Le Point D’Ogre, which is located on an easy to miss street off Rue de Metz in Toulouse.

The restaurant, like the majority of French restaurants, doesn’t open until 8pm and we arrived shortly after it opened. Probably because it was a Tuesday night it wasn’t busy and they were happy to seat us without a reservation. The first thing we noticed was the ‘Ogre’ in front of his stone oven ready to grill whatever we ordered. He smiled unfiercely.

The menu wasn’t extensive but did offer duck, beef, salmon and pork and it was explained to us that there was no choice for the starter. I decided on the duck confit and OH just had to have the steak.

As we sat we could see the Ogre take out a huge fillet of beef and cut it into 3 sizable steaks.

2014-09-02 20.38.15-1When our starter arrived we were amazed. The waitresses proceeded to place in front of us a beautiful basket with a red and white checked towel in it. On top of that was fresh cauliflower, carrots, radishes and 3 types of sausage. There was also cold carrot and orange soup, bread, some cured ham, ailoli, onion marmalade and tapenade. We also got our own chopping board and sharp knife.2014-09-02 20.39.27 (2) Everything tasted fresh and it all went well together. OH and I crunched and dipped and sliced and spread to our hearts content but I was also wary of eating too much in case I couldn’t manage my main meal and I’d have hated that!

2014-09-02 21.00.48 (2)Starter over, I watched on as the Ogre cooked OHs steak on the charcoal grill. It was obvious he was proud of his work and when the large slab of beef had rested to perfection he presented it to OH with a flourish, bowing proudly at his work. We both applauded. 2014-09-02 21.03.38The steak looked magnificent and covered the majority of the plate leaving only a little room for a roasted garlic clove. In a separate plate was an orange and olive salad (OH didn’t want potatoes as he is watching his figure ;p). My duck confit, which ordinarily would have looked fantastic, paled into insignificance next to the mighty piece of beef. It was however excellent and I was glad of my choice, not being a big meat fan. The duck melted in the mouth and was delicious.  2014-09-02 21.03.54 (2)

Evidently no longer watching his figure, OH decided to have a dessert and when he queried the profiteroles the waitress disappeared and returned with something that didn’t resemble anything we would recognise as a profiterole but looked eminently better.She then demonstrated it being cut open and filled with cream. OH was sold.2014-09-02 21.33.00 (2)

The meal was amazing, the staff were very friendly and the decor was perfect. It was a little pricey compared to our normal budget (the steak was 36€) but considering OH had the best steak of his life I am glad we went that little further and gained the experience and fantastic evening we did.

If you are ever in Toulouse and love steak then make sure you pay Le Point D’Ogre. C’est formidable!

 

Toulouse – first impressions

OH and I arrived in Toulouse on a bright, sunshiney day and I already knew I had packed wrongly. Not just for the weather but for style – not that I could have packed all that differently considering my wardrobe. Looking around in the airport I already felt dowdy and very British. How come we can’t look as good as the French? They just ooze style and class whereas we just ooze – especially in this heat!

Anyway, the trip from the airport on the shuttle bus to the centre of Toulouse was completely hassle free and a bargain for 10 . Particularly because the bus driver called to us and alerted us to our stop – homme charmant!

We found our apartment with ease and the  owner was there to meet us and show us around the one bedroom flat – approximately a 2 minute walk from Le Capitole – talk about central! This would be the equivalent of getting a holiday home on Oxford Street in London.

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Our Toulouse pad

 

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Le Capitole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It didn’t take us long to be out and wandering the streets of Toulouse. It really is a beautiful place. Toulouse is in the Midi-Pyrenees region of France (bottom left hand corner if you’re looking at a map) and its situated on the banks of the  River Garonne.

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Obviously walking is thirsty business so our first port of call was the picturesque Cafe des Artistes where we sat and watched the world go by and drank in the sun and some local wine, our first of many no doubt!2014-08-31 15.55.17

 To be continued…