Venachar Lochside, Nr. Callander

Every autumn OH and I visit The Trossachs just so we can see the amazing colour palette that adorns the trees before winter hits. The oranges, reds and yellows are an amazing sight and offer some wonderful photograph taking opportunities. Unfortunately today the weather decided to put a halt to any photo taking as I refused to get out the car in the rain to snap some landscapes. However, I did leave the warmth of the car to run into Venachar Lochside, a favourite restaurant of ours and one which I have written about many times before. Previously, my reviews have all been about the amazing food and IMAG0372abysmal service but today I had no complaints about the service but this could be because we were the first ones to arrive for lunch. Considering Venachar Lochside is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and there were no prior lunch bookings the place filled up quickly with hungry diners who had obviously heard of the restaurants good reputation.

We received water for the table and menus and I immediately noticed there was an increase in prices from our last visit. Cullen skink was now £10 and the main dishes were priced between £13 and £16. Soup of the day was Celeriac and thyme.

For my main I had difficulty trying to choose between the Ayrshire pork belly, butternut fondant, summer greens, black pudding and apple sauce or the Cod loin with cockles, summer greens, potatoes and pea puree. I eventually plumped for the Cod.

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Before

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After

The dish arrived in a bowl and then the waited poured over the pea puree.

The fish was beautiful and the cockles delightful. The potatoes were a little charred at the edges but this added a needed crunch as the vegetables were a little soggy. Overall the meal was gorgeous but I would have much rather have had it on a flat plate as it was difficult using a fork and knife in a bowl.

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OH had the Gressingham duck with bacon, baby gem, peas, potato rosti, red onion and cherry reduction. He loved his meal and although he said it was a little chewy he liked it and thought the bacon, peas and greens were excellent. The cherry reduction was not strong and there was not enough to really add to the dish.

After our dishes had been cleared I asked for the dessert menu and was told there wasn’t one but I could choose from the range of cakes on offer. There was berry and pistachio, chocolate porter, mocha cake, carrot cake, victoria sponge and coffee and walnut cake. I decided on the berry and pistachio and OH had another pint. IMAG0381The homemade cake was thick, heavy and yum. Of course OH helped me with the huge slice.

2 mains, 2 pints, a slice of cake = £44.85 (yes it was expensive)

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Penguin Parade, Broughty Ferry

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Penguin Paradise

OH and I had lunch in The Ship Inn, Broughty Ferry yesterday and it bored me. Over the last few food blogs I have realised that I am getting more and more fed up with bar lunch menus and the food that then appears in front of me.  I realised if I was going to write my usual blog the ‘highlight’ would be ordering Venison Lasagne and getting a beef one instead. You see? Boring. There’s nothing new happening unless you want to spend loads of money on lunch so I think I’m going to give blogging about bar lunches a miss for a while.

In fact, the only interesting aspect of lunch was the elderly woman (dressed in a multi-coloured,

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Captain Scott

striped jumpsuit) sat at the table next to us who had set her stall out for the day with a bottle of Rose wine in a cooler and a glass of lemonade. Over the course of our fish pie and beef lasagne lunch she steadily poured herself glass after glass of wine each time topping it up with the lemonade. Her husband was on the pints and was making loud conversation with 2 others in the bar, the kind of mundane chat that only locals can have. I could see why the wine was a must.

 

Filled up yet again with too many carbs we went along the waterfront to walk off all the potatoes and pasta we had just consumed and to do some penguin spotting.

Yes you read that right. Just now until the middle of September, Dundee and its surrounding areas are having a penguin parade.

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R2Dundee2

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Bonnie Dundee

As a way of raising money The Maggie’s Centre and Wild Art have produced 80 giant, individually designed penguin sculptures, which are scattered around Perth, Tayside and Fife and will then be auctioned off on the 24th of September. We had already seen the 2 that are in St Andrews but DD had said there was an invisible one in Broughty Ferry so we thought we’d try to find it.

As it turned out OH spotted it from the pub we were sat in so it wasn’t a hard hunt.

If you live in the area and are at a loss for something to do with the kids at the weekend I can recommend tracking down the penguins. There’s a map of them all here Maggie’s Penguin Parade.

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Absent Penguin

. btw king prawn starter, 2 mains, 2 pints and 2 cokes = £37.60

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Jolly Botanist, Edinburgh

OH and I were heading to Edinburgh to see Trainspotting Live at the EICC. Due to this we alighted at Haymarket (btw how many people see the sign ‘alight here for…” on a platform and read it as ‘alright’ instead?)

As we left the station the heavens opened and that damn Scottish ninja rain appeared from nowhere and made us dash into the first decent looking pub on our route. This just happened to be The Jolly Botanist on Morrison Street. As you can probably guess from it’s name it’s a gin palace so along with our menus for food we were given a gin menu, which was as thick as the current Yellow Pages.  As we got asked, maybe a little too quickly, what we would like to drink I panicked and plumped for a Hendricks and tonic. OH asked for a local ale.

The food menu was not huge – maybe a dozen items, 3 of which were vegetarian, which I prefer to an extensive menu as you know your food is going to be cooked to order. However, there was nothing jumping out at me as I either thought the dish was overpriced for something I could cook at home or it had a main ingredient I was not keen on. burgerI, therefore, decided on The Botanist Burger, which was beef, halloumi , smashed avocado and came with horseradish slaw and fries.

Yet again OH had not brought his glasses so he did what he usually does and just went with whatever special the waiter says out loud. This meant he went for the Jolly Pie of the Day, which wpieas chicken and leek (served with seasonal vegetables and hand cut chips).

Now, you might be able to see from the pics, but (like my fries) the pie came in one of those old fashioned, white with blue trim tin dishes. Like the ones your mum had to buy you if you were going on a camping trip with the guides because you needed an unbreakable plate. OH hates a filling with a pastry lid and always wants to pour the contents on to the plate rather than eating out of the dog’s dish. However, you will also notice the meals came on boards rather than plates. Hmm.

He soldiered on and liked what he had. He enjoyed the vegetables most of all, did not eat all his chips and left some of the pastry (which annoyed me because obviously that’s the best bit of a pie!)  If everything had been on a plate or if he had a beard, no socks and a waistcoat he would have enjoyed it a lot more.

My burger was great. The meat was thick, the roll did not collapse on me and the avocado worked well but the juices did run everywhere and made a mess of the leaf painted table. I liked the slaw too but the devil had sneaked into the kitchen and put celery in it. Now the fries. I loved the fries but the reason I loved them was that they came ready salted. I’ve been trying to reduce my salt intake as I have high blood pressure and since chips are rotten without salt I have been avoiding them. However, there was no avoiding these fries – they were hot, crispy, very salty and I ate the majority, much to my GPs probable disgust.

I have to mention the toilets. They were lovely, very clean and like something Drew Pritchard would have had a hand in. No – he wouldn’t have had his hand down the loo! He would have provided the wrought iron trestles the shallow, square sinks sat on, the piping for the plumbing on show and the industrial lights.  Someone had also hand painted the bottom of the toilets with a lovely blue leaf pattern.

On the way back from spending a penny I paid the bill, which came to £37.20 for the 2 mains and 2 drinks.

Incidentally, my gin was £6.50.

As soon as we left The Jolly Botanist it started to pour again so we ended up in Diane’s Pool Bar just a short distance up the street. Quite possible the exact opposite kind of place to our previous stop. OH bought the round. A gin and tonic and a pint. It was less than a fiver for both (therefore less than my 1 gin) and the pool table was only 20p. Obviously, we had to stay in there ’til the rain was well and truly off (5 games later).

Parenting Toddlers and Teens

I work with families who have troublesome teenagers. The teen’s behaviours usually include things like truanting and causing bother in school when they are there, offending in the community, being verbally abusive to their parents/carers, trashing their houses and usually drinking alcohol or taking substances with their negative peers. My job is to help the families change their anti-social teens behaviour often by changing their own behaviour. This is usually a huge stumbling block because carers seldom believe they need to change, after all they’ve been bringing up kids for years and have never had this trouble before.

So anyway, we’ve had our 2½ year old granddaughter, Teeny Mini-Me, staying with us for the last 5 days. She’s been no trouble at all but like most toddlers is always on the edge of a tantrum, is demanding and needs to be constantly supervised because she is into everything. Are you starting to see the similarities to teenagers?

I did but only after getting home from a particularly difficult day at work. Although I was shattered when I spoke to Teeny Mini-Me I noticed I used a soft tone, I gave her time and listened intently to how her day had been. To be honest, I didn’t understand everything she said but I appeared interested and replied with Really? Wow! You’ve had a busy day. She was happy with this and then wandered off to finish trying to force fir cones into her toy car.   When I was hanging out the washing I asked for her help but after she got bored with handing me pegs I didn’t complain that she was no longer helping but thanked her for what she had already done. When she wanted to spend time with me I put down my phone and played with her. After all, that funny meme on Facebook is still going to be there in half an hour. When she did something new or good we clapped and shouted hurrah. If there was anything she couldn’t do herself either me or OH would help her. We didn’t assume she could do it herself. We watched her constantly from a distance to make sure she was safe but at the same time giving her the freedom to learn for herself. Of course there were times when she wasn’t getting her own way and she’d start to moan and get stroppy or start to cry but we distracted her with other interesting things she could do. Obviously we used incentives to get her to finish her food – the usual finish your chicken and you’ll get a yoghurt; help me wash the dishes and then we’ll go to the park.

All of these responses were natural and not put on at all. It’s what you do as a parent of a toddler or in my case, a granny.  It was all the stuff I had been telling my families to do that day at work.

Suddenly it dawned on me. What I needed was for my families to treat their teens like toddlers. The mums, dads, grannies, granddads, aunties, uncles and  other carers need to go back and do what they used to do 12 years ago. Back when it felt like the kids were so much easier to deal with. When you think about it, stroppy teens need the same kind of attention that toddlers need. They need spoken to calmly, listened to intently, spent time with, praised and appreciated, given choices and constantly supervised.

However, can you actually imagine treating your teen like a toddler? Chances are they’d think you were taking the piss, feel patronised and then revert to form, swear, stomp off and slam some doors – leaving you feeling like you’re the bad one. If you speak to anyone like a child they will act like a child, which obviously is fine with toddlers but with a teen you want them to act like adults. And don’t tell me you don’t because you’re constantly telling them to grow up! No, what you have to do is treat them like toddlers but speak to them like adults.  So be consistent, no sarcasm, no shouting, answer them when they ask a question and don’t tell them 2 minutes when you really mean half an hour.

So I’ve got a new meme for Facebook. It’s going to be my new mantra. I’m going to patent it and make posters and fridge magnets.

Stroppy Teenagers: Treat them like toddlers, speak to them like adults.

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The Dairsie Inn aka Rumbledethumps Restaurant, Fife

You know that pub you keep driving past? You see the signs offering meals and a warm welcome but you never ever stop and go in for no other reason than you just don’t. Well, yesterday OH and I stopped at that pub. In this case it was the The Dairsie Inn on the road to St Andrews. Rumbledethumps is the restaurant inside the inn. I had to google rumbledethumps to find out that it’s a traditional Scottish borders meal incorporating potato, cabbage and onion –  a bit like the Irish colcannon. Why it’s now the name of a restaurant in a wee pub in Fife I have no idea.

Anyway, when we went in it was 1.45 on a Saturday afternoon and they stopped serving food at 2. However, the barmaid said this was not an issue and showed us to a table in the conservatory. There was only one other couple in the room, who we reckoned were mother and son. The son being in his late 60s.

The menu was pretty run of the mill for Scottish pub food – my dad would have loved that he could have ordered most things on it but would have still went for the Steak and Ale pie. I eventually plumped for the Pan friend garlic chicken (dad would have hated the garlic aspect) and OH went for the Spicy Beef Sizzler, which stood out on the menu like a Mexican at a ceilidh.

When OH’s dish arrived it was as dynamic sounding as it looked.2016-01-09 14.07.20 It hissed loudly and spat at it him as it was laid on the table. The spring onion that adorned the dish, which had been transformed into a palm tree, looked innocent until he tried to eat it. It then turned into a snake that bit at his lip, making him take his time and cut the tree down before trying again with a smaller branch. Saying that he enjoyed his hot and spicy dish and I was a tad envious looking at him devouring his burger, which was hidden underneath cheese, onion, mushrooms and peppers (no bun in sight).

2016-01-09 14.08.22In contrast, my chicken was boring. It was exactly as described on the menu – breaded breast of chicken with garlic butter, side salad and chips so really I have no complaints but it had no vavavoom whatsoever. It was just a big lump of chicken in some soggy breadcrumbs. Of course I still finished it because, to be fair, there was nothing really wrong with it.

We were offered the desserts menu but declined (mainly because I stuffed full of chicken). However, I do have to mention to Lusa – if you’re reading – there was apple pie and CUSTARD on the menu!

We have no need to stop at Rumbledethumps again but I’m glad it’s now ticked off the list.

2 main meals, a diet coke and a pint = £24.65.

 

 

 

The Crusoe Hotel, Lower Largo, Fife

I don’t normally blog about the same place twice but OH and I had such a good lunch today, I’ve just got to let you know about it.

We had been thinking about places we could go for something to eat that wouldn’t be hard to park at or be stupid busy just because it’s Christmas Eve.  We eventually plumped for The Crusoe as it’s out of the way, has great scenery and we have never had a bad meal there before.

When we arrived in Lower Largo the river, which runs next to the car park of the hotel was almost overflowing on to the car park. The wind whipped my hair around my face as I clambered out the car and the waves were stunning as they crashed against the harbour walls. We ran inside to find it almost empty so getting a table was no touble. It looked like we had chosen well. 2015-12-24 13.55.48As we looked over the menus I also kept an eye on the boat outside, which looked ready to make it’s way on to the car park.

OH chose from the Christmas menu and had the Traditional Roast Turkey with Seasonal Trimmings. Whereas, I went for the day’s menu and had Braised Collar of Pork – buttered cavolo nero, pearl barley, root veg, haggis bon bon. (btw cavolo nero aka black kale ;))

2015-12-24 13.01.42My meal was superb. The pork fell to bits as soon as I cut into it. The barley had bite to it and the root veg were neatly diced up among it. The butter from the kale mixed well with the barley and although the kale was cold, I forgave this small issue as everything else was spot on. I often hate big lumps of meat as I get bored with it but this tasted great and was no effort to eat. In fact, I cleaned the plate and only realised afterwards that there had been string around the collar. Oops.

OH’s only complaint was that he would have enjoyed another slice of turkey on his plate as like me, he cleared his.2015-12-24 13.01.34 I asked him for more specifics but he only said he really enjoyed it. So I pressed – were the sprouts over cooked? No, they were good. What about the pigs-in-blankets? There was only 2 of them so that was fine as I’m not fond of them (heathen). He’s now mentioned the cranberry sauce was a good accompaniment to the turkey. Oh, and he now wants more roast potatoes but has pointed out he’s not complaining at all because ‘as I said I ENJOYED IT’.

2015-12-24 13.31.09OH went on to choose the Vanilla Creme Brulee with Warm Toffee Bananas and Ice cream from the Christmas menu. I wasn’t driving so I ordered another glass of Pinot Grigio ;p.

His dessert arrived looking fabulous. I managed however, to say no to the extra spoon that was politely offered. OH said he also enjoyed this but added, unprovoked, he particularly liked the crunch of the caramelised sugar, there was just the right amount of bananas so they weren’t sickly and the tang of the raspberry and orange slice cut nicely through the sweet toffee. I’m thinking puddings are his forte.

Before we left, I paid a visit to the ladies, which are in the restaurant (we were eating in the bar) and could see the waves almost hitting the windows there. The white froth looked great as it raced up the gap between the hotel and the house next door. It would have be thrilling to sit there (in the restaurant not the loo) sipping a malt whisky whilst waiting to see if the windows would hold up, if you were so inclined.

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1 main, 2 courses from the Christmas menu, a coke and 2 glasses of white wine = £33.60.

Fisherman’s Tavern, Broughty Ferry

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The water front at Broughty Ferry

Trying to avoid the Christmas crowds OH and I headed for Broughty Ferry this weekend to wander aimlessly around the unique shops and boutiques. After visiting the Eduardo Alessandro Studios – one of my favourite galleries and various other little gift shops we headed to the Fisherman’s Tavern to see if they had a table for two going begging. Thankfully they did.

When you first enter the pub there’s the unmistakable smell of fish, which could be a tad off putting for some. However, once you’re in and see the menu it’s very much the case that you just have to order fish as the dishes sound so good. Not there is just fish on the menu there is all the usual pub grub as well a blackboard above the fire with the day’s specials.

The waiter pointed to the specials board and recommended the Arbroath Smokie Pie on it and also mentioned we couldn’t go wrong with the Battered Haddock.  Drink order made and coke and Festive Cask Ale received we then gave our food order.  OH went for the waiter’s choice of the Arbroath Smokie Pie and I chose the fisherman’s platter, also off the specials board. The platter being battered haddock, breaded scampi and panko coated squid rings with chips and salad. If you’re anything like me you’d also have asked what panko is. The answer is a Japanese crumb made from bread without crusts. And yes there is a difference. The squid rings were amazing. Not chewy but tasty and the crumb crunchier and far superior to the breadcrumbs on the scampi.IMAG6412

OH was jealous of my plateful and I was happy to tell him that he was right to be. It wasn’t greasy, the squid rings were lush and the haddock and batter simply melted in my mouth.

Unfortunately for OH (others wouldn’t mind at all) he felt his cholesterol would need checked after his fish pie just with sheer amount of cheese on top of it. He also highlighted he had double carbs – mash on top of the pie and chips when he’d have preferred a different vegetable to accompany his peas. However, all that said, he did enjoy iIMAG6409t as there was plenty smokey flavoured fish in it and a couple of bones just to prove it was indeed made with Arbroath Smokies.

In stark contrast to my last blog post, the service here was spot on. The food came without a lengthy wait and the waiter was attentive and friendly. In fact, the only thing wrong with the place was the Ladies. Actually, I should say Lady as there was only one cramped tiny toilet, which had been shoehorned into a corner next to the bar.

2 mains, a coke, 2 pints of Cask Ale and a malt of the month came to £31.