Venachar Lochside

On Sunday morning I woke up to a beautiful Autumn day, which just begged me to go for a drive around The Trossachs to make sure the oak trees had turned auburn. OH didn’t need asking twice so off we headed north. DSCN3855.JPG

The scenery is never disappointing and the views over the different Lochs were amazing.

Often when we are in The Trossachs we will pop into Venachar Lochside. If you’re a regular reader you may remember the last time we were here I raved about the food and criticized the service. We were hoping this would have changed since our last visit as we stopped in for Sunday lunch.

When we went in, the dining area was busy so when I asked for a table for 2 I wasn’t surprised to hear that we could either have the couches or sit upstairs. I hate bending over a low table to eat so we opted for up the stairs. We went up on our own and realised that the table with the best view needed clearing, which we did ourselves. We also wiped the table and helped ourselves to cutlery. Eventually, the waitress appeared with menus and asked us what we would like to drink. I went for a large glass of white wine and OH had a coke.  As ever the views were fantastic  – I mean this was our view for lunch —> 2015-11-22 13.52.19-1.jpgWhat’s not to like??

After another wait the waitress appeared to take our order. I decided on the Sunday Roast, which was beef done 3 ways with parsnip puree, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, winter greens, carrots and gravy. OH went for the Venison burger with Blue Murder Cheese and hand cut chips.

As we waited we admired the view.

As we waited, Mini-him phoned and OH went outside to speak to him as he couldn’t get a signal inside. He also went to the toilet.

As we continued to wait I realised the light was fading and queried if I would be able to go out and take some photos before it got dark. OH said go for it. I did. I took a number of photos and the food still hadn’t arrived by the time I got back.

2015-11-22 14.30.13When it did arrive I have to admit it was worth waiting for. My Sunday roast was amazing. The oxtail fell to bits and melted in my mouth. The textures, flavours and variety were so good. Honestly I couldn’t compliment it more.

Well, in saying that I did say to OH. “I’ve only got one complaint.”

He said, “it’s too much?”

Piggy me replied, “Nope, not enough gravy.” Oink, oink.

OH’s burger was good – nice and juicy but in contrast to me, he said it was far 2015-11-22 14.30.22too much for him. The added extra of strong blue cheese went well with the gamey taste and the generous sized chips were indeed, hand cut.
He said it was too much for him but he still managed to clear his plate.

Sitting back content after our filling lunch we stared at our empty plates and waited.

I had enjoyed my wine and often when OH is having a dessert I will plump for another glass of wine so I had already decided this was happening. When I put this to OH he said he’d just have a coffee as he (really) was full and would just like to sit and enjoy the view. So we waited.

and waited, thankful for the view.

Eventually, I went downstairs and, after waiting to speak to a waitress, ordered a coffee and another glass of wine. “House?” “Yes please.”

I went back up the stairs and we waited.

and waited…

and waited.

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Pic whilst we waited

After some time we decided to give up on ever receiving our drinks and  I went back downstairs to pay the bill. I cancelled the previous drinks order and did receive an apology, although I don’t think she appreciated the abysmal service we had received as they were still run off their feet. This isn’t totally their fault as being understaffed is just bad management.

Then I looked at the bill. “Excuse me, £8.95 for a glass of wine?” She looked at the bill and then at her till. “Er yes. I’ve never noticed the price before I just press the button.” When I got back up the stairs I checked the menu – she had given me the most expensive wine on the wine list so that was a lesson learnt the hard way.

The food is fantastic, the views unbeatable – if they could just sort out their service this would be the place to go every time you wanted to eat out.

However, considering how busy it was (and considering it was the same the last time we visited) I guess they are getting away with it so won’t think to change the staffing levels.

One ridiculously priced glass of wine, 1 coke, 2 main meals – £36.72.

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On the drive home I couldn’t resist another quick pic in Doune.


4 hotels and a holiday

As you may have noticed I have been on holiday for the last fortnight. If you haven’t, you really need to go back and read about Me, my mum and Amsterdam to catch up ;p

Over the last couple of weeks I have managed to check into 4 different hotels. This isn’t my norm – I usually book a self-catering apartment for the duration but as I spent my first week with my mum, my second with OH and the weekend in the middle with both of them, my brother and his wife, it just kind of happened that I became a hotel bed hopper.

I view myself as pretty easy pleased. I don’t need fancy stuff to keep me happy or so I thought. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to turn me into a hotel room snob. Previously, I’d have maintained, a hotel room is solely a place to sleep in between wining and dining. That was was no longer true! I was running around like a demented sniffer dog, checking out if there was hand lotion, a sachet of hot chocolate, a complimentary biscuit and a mini-bar. If there was a free sewing kit I was ecstatic.

On one occasion it was “hurrah” there’s free biscuits – swiftly followed by “lemon f’ing curd biscuits?!?” On another it was “I can’t believe there’s no mini-bar!” This is highly telling of my new found hotel room pretentiousness as, of course, I’d never purchase anything from a mini-bar anyway. I’m far more inclined to smuggle in a packet of jelly beans, a tube of Pringles or a bottle of wine (I say inclined, I mean always) rather than paying something silly like €2.50 for a Mars Bar. By the way, who does pay that for a Mars Bar?? I mean, I totally get that someone might in Amsterdam but no stoner with the munchies is going to be staying in a hotel with a mini-bar…see told you I was utterly pompous.

So, I was in 4 hotels and they were the NH Amsterdam Schiller, the Malmaison Edinburgh, a big old country house in Co Durham and Aldwark Manor Golf and Spa Hotel near York.

You may wonder what one was the best but really they all had their own idiosyncrasies. The hotel in Amsterdam had all the toiletries (and a free toothbrush from reception because like a total twat I had forgotten mine). It was original Art Deco and it’s bonus ball was Tom Jones live in the brasserie (if you don’t already know this you didn’t click on the link above – go back! ;)).

The Malmaison lost points due to the lemon curd biscuits but it did have a lovely large room and the Rangers squad staying overnight prior to the Hibs match. I like to think my loud snoring kept them up all night and my intimidating chat in the lift with the RFC suit lead to Hibs beating their asses 2-1 the following day. This stay also followed on from an eating experience at The Kitchin where I was able to watch Tom Kitchin in the kitchen so, as you’d expect, most things fall into insignificance after that and sadly, the Mal’s breakfast did just that.

The hotel in Co Durham’s jacuzzi wasn’t working but it’s redeeming feature was Scarlett from Gogglebox was in the pool when OH and I tried to lose some wine pounds in the spa. She’s a lovely girl and even though OH had a million questions for her (thankfully he only asked about 100) she was adorable and chatted away with a genuineness that made her even more appealing that she already is. As soon as I got back to the room I messaged Mini-me to let her know who I’d been swimming with. She was extremely impressed (she didn’t rate Tom Jones and was only mildly amused by the Rangers squad) She immediately asked if I told her she was my favourite (because she is – closely followed by Gyles). I admitted I hadn’t because I didn’t want to be gushy or impose on her. However, OH did and her stories in the sauna of Jonathon Ross’s Halloween party were great.

Finally, the hotel near York, as well as the toiletries, huge bedroom and working jacuzzi also had a golf course. Fortunately, the kind chap in the golf shop let me borrow a golf bag he brought in specially from home for me. Due to golf etiquette I wasn’t allowed to share one (and I thought I was posh). This enabled OH and I to have a round of golf. Well, it enabled us to start a round of golf…turns out my brand new pair of golf shoes started to rub around the 2nd…by the 6th I couldn’t bare to walk any further and I made poor OH take me back to the 19th hole.

So to summarise – it doesn’t matter if you have hand lotion, a shower cap or a lemon curd biscuit in your room. What really makes a holiday is the people you meet on it and we met quite a few special people. What was even better was being able to spend some real quality time with my family, which can’t be beat.

Incidentally, on the way home we decided to take a detour and visit Staithes – a small, picturesque coastal village in North Yorkshire. I didn’t know before we got there that Old Jack’s Boat was filmed there (for those of you that aren’t grandparents it’s a kids program with Bernard Cribbins in it) OH took a pic of me there claiming it was yet another star spot… Staithes

For more pics of my holiday you can check them out on instagram here 😉

Me, my mum and Amsterdam.

I took my mum to Amsterdam last week. To be honest, I used emotional blackmail to get her to come on holiday with me. OH had no holidays left, Mini-me now has Teeny Mini-him to look after and I didn’t fancy toddling off on my own so I managed to get her to agree to chum me on the promise of a cultural city break. Her friends thought it was great her daughter still wanted to go on holiday with her but she was quick to disagree with them and told them I was only taking her because she was fourth reserve. Not true really (second maybe :p). We’ve been on holiday a few times before, just me and mum. We’ve been to Rome and Dublin and both times were a good laugh. Dublin especially as we managed to pick up a random Irish guy who took us out for the day in his bright red sports car. What a hoot that was!

To me, mum is ageless. In my head I’m still in my twenties so obviously she has to be in her forties. The only thing that IMG_20151029_170344gives away her age is her inability to cross a road. In Rome she was horrendous and kept dithering in the middle of the road – mopeds darting either side of her. Before we left for Amsterdam we were well warned (by my brother) to watch out for cyclists. Beware the silent traffic – look in every direct three times before you cross!

So heeding all warnings we arrived safely in Amsterdam and checked into our hotel. It turned out that a famous Dutch chat show was filmed in the hotel and they were expecting Tom Jones that week  (RTL Late Night). Surprisingly, Mum wasn’t impressed and didn’t jump at the chance to thrown her knickers at him. A whole host of famous people were in and out of the hotel – not that we knew any of them apart from Tom.
imageWhen we weren’t waiting to cross a road, we spent our time wandering around canals, visiting art galleries and museums, drinking wine and spending our euros in beautifully quaint shops. The restaurants we visited all had their good points and we didn’t have a bad meal. Mum’s favourite meal was in De Duvel in the Pipj district where she had belgisch vispotje. When it was described to us the waitress said it was fish something – it sounded like buttz. I asked if it was fish pie. Nope but this time it sounded like fish puttz. I asked if it was fish cakes. Again nope. Mum ordered it anyway and when it arrived she decided it was fish bits the girl had been saying as it was crammed full of different bits of fish. Mum loved it. Now that I am home and have just looked it up I have discovered that it was Belgian Fish Stew.

My preferred dish was duck with honey and apricots, which we had in a french restaurant called Restaurant Bonjour. It had a cinnamon pear and chestnut flavoured mashed potatoes to accompany it and it was heaven.

We both loved the ambiance and service in Van Kerkwijk where there were no menus just a cute waiter to describe the dishes, making them all sound fantastic.

IMG_20151026_192603One evening we did a candlelight canal tour and on our way back I insisted that we walk through the red light district -assuring my mum it was one of the must do things in Amsterdam and any cultural visit wouldn’t be complete without it. Initially she said that it wasn’t too bad. We were walking past windows full of sex toys and saucy outfits at the time. I therefore, veered her down a side street where I could see red lights above some of the windows. She didn’t like that bit at all. She was surprised at how good looking the girls were and thought it was sad they had to be selling themselves. No amount of explanations around free choice, licences and the girls being in control dissuaded her. To her it was still someone’s daughter. And at that point her own daughter was dragging her 71 year old mum around the red light district. Needless to say, we went back straight back to the hotel.

I forget how old she is. To me she is just my mum. I don’t see her getting older.

I’m glad she came with me to Amsterdam. We had a great time. Even if she wasn’t impressed with what her daughter was doing in the Red Light district (dragging her around – not working!)