The Old Course – the truth

Okay, you read my last blog (DBB at the Old Course). You want to know the truth?

Well yeah it was all good and that but the people that stay in these hotels are faking it and brilliant people watching.

The sommelier talked to us for a good 10 minutes about wines from Aldi – he totally recommended wines and whisky from the cheap supermarket and I think because we were chatty (and knew about Aldi wines) he outstayed his welcome enjoying the relaxed chat.

When we went to the bar at night it was full of amazing sights. A family of Asians all sat in silence welded to their phones/ipads. An Indian family all loudly falling out with each other and another family from (maybe) Hull who were their for New Year but trying even harder than me to fit in. The woman in her tin foil dress spent all her time trying not to show her knickers.

When we went back to our room I was mortified to find that the maids had been in cleaning up and had ‘fixed’ the room by remaking the bed, removing our empty wine bottle and washing the glasses, emptying the bins of our crisp packets and even putting the body lotion back in to the bog.

The next morning at breakfast I saw a man in a gawd awful turquoise and white trackie top trying to shoogle a piece of Italian meat from the fork on to his plate at the buffet and when he couldn’t he just ate it and put the fork back on the table!

Another women had a pair of hotel slippers on and they weren’t even from the Old Course hotel.

The women that was trying harder than me the previous night had on a black sweatshirt with the word Love written over it. Did you see King Gary on the telly recently? Well that. This women was the female version of Tom Davis in the sitcom.

So what I am trying to say is that visiting posh hotels aint all that and there is a funny side but me, like many others, are totally faking it.

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DBB at The Old Course Hotel, St Andrews

Just before Christmas I received an email from The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews offering dinner, bed and breakfast for £199. Now, considering to stay overnight is usually around £185, this was a bargain I could not ignore so I quickly booked a room for in between Christmas and New Year.

So off we popped to St Andrews. Prior to check in we decided we would try out their golf academy and whacked 100 balls on to the practice range. The experience was made more interesting with the little screens next to the tees that showed exactly how far the ball was hit as well as it’s trajectory and speed. I’m no Jack Nicklaus but I was pleased I managed 142 yards straight down the fairway.

We then drove down to the hotel to check in. The hotel’s Christmas decorations were beautiful and I was glad I had booked within the festive season. Our room was on the second floor and was large, spacious and very comfortable with the deepest bath ever – ideal for testing out all the complimentary toiletries and large fluffy towels. Unfortunately, the view was of the car park but it being winter (and me being Scottish) I wasn’t paying an extra £30 to see a golf course in the dark.

Dressed for dinner we paid The Jigger Inn a visit for a couple of aperitifs before heading back in to the hotel and up to the Road House Restaurant on the fourth floor. We were given a window seat but as we already knew, it was dark outside so unsurprisingly all we could see was the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, which was lit up at the end of the 18th. Unfortunately, it also meant our table was a little dark as there were no lights above us. Hence my rubbish pics – sorry.

As we were on the DBB deal we were given the set winter menu with 3 options for each course and I ordered a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc from the sommelier. It was not long before he was back allowing us a taste and chatting away about wine. As he blethered he continued to hold our bottle of wine in his hands. I started worrying about his hot hands heating up my cold wine especially as there was no wine cooler in sight. What was even more bizarre was that when our starters arrived he continued to chat away. Thankfully our starters were both cold…unlike our quickly warming wine. Eventually we were allowed to start our meal when the sommelier wandered off still holding our bottle.

For starter OH ordered the Sweet potato croquet, truffled goats cheese, pecan and apple. OH enjoyed it and it was gone before I remembered to take a pic and now it appears it didn’t make much of a mark on his memory either.

I had Duck presse, foie gras, smoked duck and clementines, which was lighter than expected with the orange segments giving it a refreshing tang.

For my main I had Red mullet, shellfish, pancetta broth, cocotte potatoes samphire and saffron nage. This dish was beautiful. The shellfish was plump, juicy mussels and hidden under the mullet, which was a lovely shade of red (not shown at it’s best in the pic). The potatoes were good but nothing special and the samphire could have had more bite but overall it was a lovely dish.

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What I am now starting to discover, since actively reducing my salt intake, is restaurant meals are starting to taste too salty to me so I did find it heavy on the salt but that might just be fish dishes and me nowadays.

OH had Pork belly, red onion marmalade, blackcurrant jus, baby carrots and haggis bon bons. OH felt the pork belly was too dry and chewy. There was only 1 carrot and the blackcurrant jus was just a smear on the plate which by the time OH got the plate it was baked on so there was no taste. Yes, OH was more than a little disappointed in this course.

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Throughout the meal different waiters topped up our glasses so I can only imagine a host of different bottles being kept in fridges and someone co-ordinating how they get back to the right diners. No easy feat but it appeared to work as we were never left dry.

For dessert OH went for the Chocolate and orange deluce, orange segments, caramel crumble and frangelico ice cream. OH says this was the best part of his meal and was just the right taste and amounts to finish off with.

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I went for the selection of artisan cheeses, truffle honey and black grapes. The cheeseboard was lush and I loved it and ordered a port (and extra crackers) to go with it. 4 good sized pieces of cheese all of which were tasty, plenty grapes and I love a cheeseboard with honey, which goes amazing on blue cheese. The truffle honey smelt and tasted highly of garlic but the sommelier (who popped over as he had noticed I had ordered port but not from him) assured us it was truffle oil. I honestly would have argued against this as it was very garlicky but still lovely with the blue cheese.

Breakfast the following morning was busy and often there were people having to wait for a table. They were asked to sit in the bar with complimentary tea and coffee whilst they watched over the links. Our timing must have been spot on though as we were immediately shown to a table.

Breakfast was good with a vast selection of items on offer. Everything from cooked meats, salmon and cheese to cereals, fresh and dried fruit and pastries. The hot plates offered bacon, sausage, lorne sausage, haggis, black pudding, scrambled egg, tomatoes, beans, potato scones and hash browns and on top of this you could order freshly prepared dishes such as eggs benedict, kippers and omlettes etc.

When we checked out our bill for the wine and port came to £42.50 (I had already paid the DBB rate of £199).

Overall, it was a fabulous night away and a great way to set myself up for a good start to the New Year.

And hopefully you are all ready for the new year too so with that in mind I wish you all the best for 2019 and thanks for taking the time to read my blogs over the years x

Fairmont, St Andrews

My mum treated OH and I to brunch at the Fairmont in St Andrews last Sunday. I hadn’t heard of this previously but apparently they have them on the first Sunday of each month – an all you can eat Sunday meal in plush surroundings at £32.50 per head.

Oddly, the International brunch is served between 1 and 4pm, which to me is more of a lunch time thing. This was also echoed in the food being served as there were no omelettes, no pancakes and maple syrup and no eggs Benedict, which I would have expected on a brunch menu (and would have loved). That aside however there was a myriad of other dishes on offer.

The waitress took our order of a bottle of white wine and explained how the buffet worked. We then wandered up and perused what was on offer.

The soup was Cullen Skink, which bizarrely I did not have.

At the starters section there was different kinds of slaws, pulses and nooddles (yummy). Some of the ingredients I had never heard of before and there was a lot I no longer remember but there was things like stuffed vine leaves (one of the favourites from my first trip out), brie, honey and walnuts, chicken terrine, blinis with cream cheese and caviar (I had a few of these), something like fera, beetroot and halloumi, quails eggs, a large variety of Italian cooked meats, smoked salmon, stuffed peppers, pickles, sauces and dips.

From the sea and on ice, there were langoustines (long with googly eyes), oysters, mussels (fat and juicy), prawn cocktails, roll mop herring (lush), anchovies and salmon. Next to that there was crispy duck, pancakes and hoison sauce and a whole host of savoury bon-bons.

In the centre of the room there was a variety of International main meals made with lamb, chicken, salmon, beef and vegetarian dishes so there were curries, rissottos and ragouts.

At the carvery there was roast ham and turkey (but no beef), Yorkshire puddings, pigs in blankets and gravy. At the back of the room there were dishes of buttery mash, roast potatoes, roasted root vegetables and a wealth of (not soggy) broccoli.

At the dessert station, which was like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there was an ice cream freezer where you could make your own cones, a chocolate fountain with strawberries, crispy cakes and sponge fingers (but no skewers or cocktail sticks to stab into the strawberries so you could hold it in the fountain – I dread to think how many dirty fingernails went into the chocolate). There were also doughnuts, individual cakes, muffins, crumble, profiteroles, chocolate sponge triangles, gateaux and pretty blackcurrant and chocolate smoothies.

Obviously, by the end of my multiple trips to the various stations, I was stuffed.

One of the main things I had been looking forward to was the Bloody Mary station. However, it turned out that there wasn’t one and you had to order them from Mathew at the bar. I checked with the waitress that they were included in the brunch and all 3 of us ordered one. I asked for extra spice. When they arrived they looked really boring – long tall glasses with brown liquid at the bottom and dark red at the top. There was no stirrer or straw but a small slither of celery sliced up the stalk and perched on the top of the glass.

My suspicions were confirmed when I tried the drink – it was heavy on Worcestershire sauce and lacking in any other taste. There was no cracked black pepper or celery salt or even any chilli flakes. I struggled through it and when the waitress asked how it was I told her my concerns. She said she’d tell Mathew how to make one to my specifications and I ordered another. It wasn’t quite as bad but as I had asked for a straw or a stirrer it arrived with 2 tiny black straws that would not even have reached half way down the glass. There was also a smattering of white and brown pepper on it, I’m guessing from the pepper shaker on the table.

Of course I soldiered through it (and my mum’s who couldn’t finish her own brown vinegary drink). With hindsight it would have been lovely drizzled over some toasted cheese.

After a coffee to finish off we asked for the bill. When it arrived it had 4 Bloody Mary’s on it at the cost of £11.50 each! An extra £46.

I queried the bill and the waitress took them off but honestly – £11.50 for the worst Bloody Mary I have ever had. I don’t think so!!!

The correct bill came to £130 for 3 Brunches and a bottle of wine.

Bloody Mary’s aside, the food was excellent and it was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Thanks Mum.