The Riverside Inn, Dundee

Last weekend I was off call for work but on call for babysitting duties. The baby in question is our beautiful 1 year old granddaughter (yes, I know you didn’t think I was old enough ;p)

As it was a rotten day on Saturday we tried to think of somewhere indoors that would suit a nosey wee one but also keep our interest too. Therefore, we decided to head north to The Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre at Abernyte in Perthshire, which if you like wandering around old bits and pieces, perusing chic modern furniture, accessories and clothes and finally pick up some fancy cheese in a deli then it is the place to go when it’s raining. There really is something for everyone whether it’s an antique figurine, a brand new footstool or a cup of tea and slice of cake. The down side is that the restaurant area is a bit too upmarket to sit with a toddler. We, therefore, headed along the River Tay to The Riverside Inn in Dundee.

I had thought it was still called The Marmalade Pot but we discovered it had been refurbished and boasted a tv screen at every table and a free soft play area. Yes, I did say a TV SCREEN at every table. It’s anti-social dinning at it’s best. I guess you do have the choice of switching it off but as the waitress led us to our table I didn’t see any blank screens.

What I did like though, was that the table we were shown to had already been set for us with a babyseat and children’s menu. I had brought some food for the wee one so it was just OH and I that needed to decide. As we looked over the menu the waitress brought over some plastic cutlery and chatted with the wee one, which was nice. The menu was the usual pub grub but also advertised hanging skewers and a Build Your Own Burger section. Thinking the DIY burger was too much hassle OH decided to go for a 28 day aged 8oz Rump Steak with seasoned chips, petits pois, mushrooms, onion rings and roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine. I went for the Chicken fajitas with pan-fried peppers, red onions, tortillas, jalapeños, grated Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Whilst we waited I tried to feed our granddaughter but she was far too interested in everything that was happening around us. Other children running around, large groups arriving with presents and balloons and the waitresses passing by with platefuls. However, we soon had her full attention when our food arrived. 2015-02-21 14.26.41My fajitas were sizzling hot and made quite a racket when the dishes were placed in front of me. OH’s steak, although looking good just didn’t have the same pizzazz.    2015-02-21 14.26.48   When I saw the amount of spicy chicken and peppers there were I didn’t think I would be able to finish it all but oh boy did I manage, and enjoyed every drop.

OH made short work of his steak too and managed to lose a few chips to the wee one who preferred them loads more than the food I had provided. I’ve just asked OH to pass comment on his meal and he’s said “You can’t really go wrong with a steak – it was a good bit of beef done the way I asked without any sauce on it.”  So there you have it. 2015-02-21 14.26.34

After we’d scrapped our plates clean, I toddled after the wee one through to the busy soft play area where she spent 20 minutes trying to get everyone’s attention and I spent 20 minutes trying to get her attention to capture a colourful happy pic. We both failed but both had fun.

It’s not a place I’d go for a romantic meal or even a meal with another couple but with kids that arent teens yet (let’s face it teens wouldn’t want to be seen with you out anway)  it’s an ideal place to go and have good food whilst they watch tv and run around in their socks.

One pint of lager and a tin of juice – £4.93 (bought at the bar as we waited on our table) and 2 main meals – £18.98 = a total  of £23.91.

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Ben Lawers Hotel, Loch Tay

Valentine

As it was Valentine’s weekend and I wasn’t oncall I decided to have a browse online to see what offers were available. I happened upon a hotel on Loch Tay which was only opening for the Friday and Saturday and was offering an excellent rate for bed and breakfast AND it was dog friendly. Obviously I couldn’t resist and booked it for Valentine’s Day.

The drive there was stunning. Scotland never ceases to amaze me with it’s beauty, if you haven’t been already what’s stopping you? You won’t be disappointed. Anyway, when we arrived at the Ben Lawers Hotel we were shown to our room, which was ideal for our overnight stay and beautifully decorated.

2015-02-14 15.20.57OH asked where we could walk the dog and the warm and friendly owner directed us down a track to the banks of Loch Tay. We strolled as we were shown and the scenery was fantastic. I was glad I had brought my wellies as we spent ages wandering around the old ruined village and nearby graveyard.

2015-02-14 15.09.26When we got back to the hotel we enjoyed a couple of pints in the bar, which was full of hill walkers who had tried to climb the nearby Munro, Ben Lawers, the highest mountain in the Southern Highlands (1214 meters) and the peak the hotel is named after.

We booked a table for 7pm and enjoyed a game of pool pre dinner (I won just incase you’re interested ;p)

The owners of the hotel have a large family and all the kids helped out in the restaurant, supervised by mum. Given the ages of the children, they did a fantastic job taking orders and bringing out the food their dad had lovingly prepared. I was really impressed by their willingness to help and how polite and well mannered they all were.

We took our seats just before 7 and checked out the menu and specials board. We decided to share a starter so we wouldn’t be too full for our mains and went for the Ham Hock Terrine with Melba toasts. The terrine was chunky, very tasty and beautifully made. For his main meal OH went for the 9oz2015-02-14 19.26.46 Mature Scottish Ribeye steak 2015-02-14 19.45.43with homemade onion rings, chips, tomatoes and a Stilton and walnut sauce. OH raved about his steak saying it was seared wonderfully and cooked exactly as he likes it (just chase a cow through a hot kitchen and he’s happy). He didn’t pour the sauce over as he said he wanted to taste all of the steak but instead dipped his chips in it and gave it the thumbs up.  I had fresh fillet of Scottish salmon topped with a mild delicate mustard butter and oven baked, accompanied by fresh vegetables and new potatoes. 2015-02-14 19.45.51It hit the spot and I cleared the plate without any difficulty. We gave dessert a miss although the menu tried very hard to persuade us.

After dinner we sat in the bar and chatted with other guests and the owners. It was a lovely evening and lots of real ale, whisky and wine was drunk.

The following morning we actually managed to make breakfast, which wasn’t an easy thing for us to do, having to drag our hungover asses out of bed. There was the usual offerings of juice, cereal, yoghurt, fresh fruit and toast as well as a cooked breakfast menu. OH went for the full cooked whereas I wasn’t quite as capable and just had scrambled eggs on toast. Again everything was cooked well and presented beautifully. There were definitely no complaints.

When we checked out I was pleasantly surprised by the bill. Dinner, bed and breakfast, a bottle of wine, numerous pints and whiskies came to £148.70.

The scenery is amazing, the owners and their family were fantastic, friendly and caring and the hotel was comfortable and cosy. If you’re looking for someplace to crash after a hill climb or just somewhere in the middle of nowhere for a romantic getaway I can recommend the Ben Lawers Hotel.

43 Main Street, Milton of Balgonie

It was a late start to our Saturday as we’d been having car and washing machine difficulties – trying to sell one and trying to fix the latter. With neither problem sorted to our satisfaction (car is still unsold and a new washing machine had to be ordered) we decided to go out for something to eat. It was already after 2.15pm and we had to stay in Fife as I was on call. Therefore, there were immediate restrictions on our options.

43 Main Street in Milton of Balgonie had been showing up on my Facebook timeline for a while as one of my friends had liked the page. The reviews were always positive and I could see it was a couple trying to make good of a new venture/refurbishment. I checked it served food all day and then suggested it to OH as an option. It wasn’t long before we were making our way there.

On entry, the restaurant and bar look modern and stylish. The decor is black and white with the odd sparkle here and there. It immediately reminded OH of our living room in the late 80s, early 90s. His memory was aided with the accompanying music, which included Visage, OMD, Men at Work and Modern Romance (Everybody Salsa – I knew you’d need a bit of a help with that one) to name but a few.

Obviously we hadn’t booked but the young waitress offered us a table and we sat down. Very soon after, we were asked to move tables by the owner as they had a large group coming in later and he was going to have to move some tables around to accommodate them. He explained he didn’t want to rush us and, to be fair, he sat us at a far better table, which wasn’t in front of the door to the toilets.

We gave our drinks order and studied the menu. There was no mention of specials or what the soup of the day was but the owner did say that there was no set lunch or dinner menu just a menu for all day. He also said something along the lines of ‘I’d rather offer 10 dishes done really well than 50 not so good’, which I’m all for.

Although I’m not normally a fan of pork I’ve had pork belly a few times when I’ve been out and really enjoyed it so I decided to order Crispy Belly Pork with Sweetcorn Succotash, Parmesan Croquettes & Rich Jus and OH, for some strange reason, decided to have Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffle & Parmesan. (He’s just told me it’s because he wanted something he doesn’t normally get at home. I could make a comment but I won’t).

Unfortunately, the waitress returned and asked me to re-order as they had run out of pork belly and although another batch had just been put in the oven it would be an hours wait. Sadly I took back the menu and tried again. Eventually I ordered the Battered Haddock, Hand cut Triple Cooked Chips, Mushy Peas, and Homemade Tartare Sauce.

As we waited the dinning room slowly emptied and the staff started moving the tables around. Every time someone passed us they told us our food wouldn’t be long. We were happy just siting trying to guess what song would come on next. I’m still waiting for Ultravox…

I have to say, our food arrived looking a lot better than in my pics, which don’t really do the dishes justice.  OH enjoyed his risotto but said he could have done with a large chunk of brown bread with it just for the different texture.  2015-02-07 14.53.58My fish was slightly greasy but not overly so and the tartare sauce was a bit thin but on the whole it was a good plate and the chips were amazing (they came in a separate basket pre-salted and skinny).2015-02-07 14.54.41  Once we had finished we were offered the dessert menu and told all the desserts were hand made on site but we were both stuffed and had to decline. Maybe next time.

The service was really good and you could tell everyone was trying to make an effort. My only concern would be the abundance of white wood, which looks great just now but as it will be prone to scuffs it will need regularly maintenance to stop it becoming shabby without the chic.

We were asked on our way out if we would return. I have no reason not to.

2 main meals, 2 pints of lager and a diet coke £33.