The Dory Bistro & Gallery, Pittenweem.

Looking for lunch not too faraway I opened up my laptop and did a search for nearby restaurants. A short browse led me to The Dory Bistro & Gallery in Pittenweem, a seafood restaurant in the East Neuk of Fife I had never visited before. I phoned up to book before we left as I wasn’t sure if it was a place you could just walk in. When we got there the room was full of empty tables but all with reserved signs on them so I was right to call.

Pittenweem is the most active harbour in the East Neuk and has a daily fish market a matter of metres from the bistro, which was obviously reflected in it’s menus. Along with the wine and lunch menu we were also given the specials menu, which the waitress read through. She was knowledgeable about where the fish was caught and had more detail about how the dishes came. Unlike last week’s menu in Room with a View there were a few meat dishes such as pheasant au vin and steak pie as well.

Initially, when we looked at the list of starters and mains we thought it would be an easy order but there was quite a bit of heeing and hawing around what starter would go with what main. I am a big fan of Cullen Skink but there was also a shellfish bouillabaisse as a main. Eventually we decided to share a starter of moules marinière with cream, shallots, white wine, parsley. We told the waitress we were sharing and she asked if we wanted them in 2 pots. Oh yes please.

The mussels were fantastic. Fat, big and juicy. There was no beards or barnacles and the creamy broth was fantastic – full of shallots and parsley and not salty. As well as the bread we were given at the start of the meal I used my spoon to try and get as much as possible – something I don’t always feel the need to do.

When OH was in Orkney he saw a family of locals ‘spooting’ – the art of catching razor clams, which spoot water up when you drizzle them with salt but didn’t get the chance to taste them even though they did offer him some still in their shells. Therefore, when he saw razor clams on the menu he decided he would have them. They were served with pancetta, cherry tomatoes, garlic, white wine and dill. It was an impressive dish when it arrived even if the clams did look like ridiculously large sperms (sorry mum but they did). I tried a bit of one and was glad I hadn’t ordered the dish. It was chewy and did not hold much taste. OH said he enjoyed the buttery sauce but felt the clams were a bit like squid. He struggled on. I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. This was not in any way a reflection on the chef but on the razor clam itself. OH said he was really glad he tried it but wished it had been a starter. I noticed he then turned into Mr Bean as he tried to hide his unfinished clams under the long thin shells.

I had decided on the pan-fried fillet of sea bass with smoked salmon risotto and pesto. This was a colourful dish with bright green pesto, saffron yellow rice and small green peas and at last I had found a crispy skin. I had been worried about the pesto being too strong but I needn’t have been. It was not like any other pesto I have had before (and disliked)…actually, now I am sitting writing I am wondering if maybe it was a wild garlic pesto? The tables all had wild garlic flowers in them but no leaves – could they have been in the kitchen in a pestle and mortar? Anyway, I loved my risotto. It wasn’t sticky, it had bags of flavour and the peas gave it another level. The fish with its crispy skin was spot on.

There were no desserts on the menu but there was a blackboard with a list of cakes. Almond and orange cake, Rhubarb drizzle, chocolate brownie, whisky and marmalade fruit loaf and scones. OH needed something to get rid of the memory of the razor clams so asked for the almond and orange cake. As the waitress warned it was not a sweet cake but tart and tangy. I’m guessing OH would have loved some custard or cream with it but enjoyed it nonetheless.

Service was great, the toilets spotless and the fish was excellent.

1 starter (£9.95), 2 mains, 1 cake, 2 bottles of craft lager and a coke £55.35

Incidentally, the Dory Bistro and Gallery is behind the white campervan in the top pic of Pittenweem.

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The Puffin, North Berwick

OH and I decided to go for a long drive today and ended up in North Berwick. As we wandered between shops we passed The Puffin, a wine bar and bistro. It looked lovely inside but empty. The menu on show in the window looked good and was a bargain – 2 courses for £10.  However, we decided to keep walking as it was still relatively early for lunch and carried on with our, scrap that, my shopping spree (OH just hovers around shop fronts). Not long after I could tell he was getting ‘hangry’ so I suggested we went back to The Puffin. OH was reluctant as it was empty and therefore not a good advert. “Well they need us to go and sit in the window then don’t they” I replied.

We crossed the road and headed back. It was still empty. Regardless, we went in and were surprised to be taken through to the back of the building (I was sure they would have sat us in the window!). The bar has 3 sections – I’m guessing the front is the wine bar whereas the rest of the area is for dining. I didn’t ask but the waiter said that the 2 course menu was usually only on during the week but we could have it if we wanted it. There was also another menu with litebites on it.  He added that the soup was white cabbage and paprika (or he might have said pepper).

As we browsed the menu we ordered drinks.  OH had a pint of ale and I had a large glass of white wine. I really liked the sound of the soup and it was definitely the weather for a hot bowl of something. However, there was prawn cocktail on the menu, which lead to a discussion on how it was making a comeback. As I have always avoided the taste of the 70s due to too many tales about frozen tails and soggy lettuce I decided to give it a go and OH plumped for the soup.

There was fish and chips on the menu and I noticed that it said it was half a fillet. Considering I was having a starter I thought this would be more than enough. (I also noticed that on the other menu fish and chips was £11 so I knew there was no way that we would be getting the same plateful on the 2 for £10 deal). The menu only had a few options so OH was allowed to break our rule and also order the fish and chips.

Our starters arrived (via a waitress) and OH’s soup looked too red for it to be white cabbage and anything and just had to be tomato. He tried it – definitely tomato. The waiter then passed and said “Oh, they must have changed the soup on me.” I’m glad I didn’t order the soup as tomato is possibly my least favourite and I would have been very disappointed. OH enjoyed it though but did say that they had heated his roll up in the microwave. It arrived red hot and went brick hard as it cooled. IMAG9087My prawn cocktail did not disappoint. The prawns were on the large side, the lettuce wasn’t soggy and the Marie Rose sauce was not over powering. I didn’t need the bread that came with it but it didn’t go to waste as OH used it to mop up his soup.

IMAG9088When our mains arrived I could see OH looking despondent. He hadn’t noticed it had said half a fillet and the tiddler in front of him was not what he had been hoping for.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic. You’ll just imagine a small battered fish, long hand cut chips with their skins on, some garden peas (not mushy) mashed together and quenelled on to the plate and a small dish of tartare sauce. The fish and chips came pre-salted with little crystals of rock salt all over it. I have to admit, I would rather have seasoned it myself as I’m trying to reduce my salt intake. The chips looked great but could have been crispier as they were a bit on the heavy side. The peas and tartare sauce had a crust on them so I think they had been under heated lights for a tad too long. The fish was tasty and the batter was lovely and crunchy. I reckon it was just the right size for me. Obviously OH would have liked a bigger portion but for the price of the menu I think it was ideal.

For another £3 you could have a dessert (or a small cheese board) but we decided against it and asked for the bill.

As we waited for it I nipped to the loo and thought they were so good they deserved a photo of their own.  Very clean and beautifully decorated. IMAG9090Service was great, the decor of the building fabulous, value for money was great but for me the fish dish could have been better as it felt like it had been cooked earlier and then left under heat lamps.

2 starters, 2 mains, a large white wine and a pint of ale – a bargain at £28.20

Le Bistro Beaumartin, Glasgow

Just for something different to do OH and I decided to head to Glasgow for a visit.

As the choice of restaurants can be pretty overwhelming we narrowed our choices by deciding to go French. I did a search through 5pm.co.uk to see what it had to offer and it threw up Le Bistro Beaumartin in Hope Street. Their offer was a 3 course meal for 2 with a bottle of wine for £45, which sounded right up our street.

When we arrived we wondered if the restaurant was actually open as it looked a bit dark. We ventured in and was met by a very friendly waiter. He offered us a seat in the window, which we gladly accepted. It would also have helped the restaurant look busier than it was – there was only one other table that was occupied. Not a great sign.

We were given the set menu and asked if we wanted red or white wine with our meal.2015-10-10 13.35.18 Red, obviously. The menu offered 4 starters but all I could see was French Onion soup. However, OH noticed there were other options and went for the Champignons au Roquefort  – Ragout of mushrooms in a roquefort cream.

When my soup arrived I have to admit I was disappointed. 2015-10-10 13.41.29The last time I had French onion soup was in Nice and I had to prize apart the roasted cheese on the top to get to the soup. In this case the cheese was in a little tin dish next to the soup along with some croutons. I emptied the dishes into the soup and waited for the cheese to melt. 2015-10-10 13.41.21The soup itself was okay but nothing special. OH’s starter looked like whole cup mushrooms covered in a dark cream sauce. He said he would have preferred the mushrooms to have been wild or at least mixed. He enjoyed it though and liked the roquefort sauce, which wasn’t too over powering.

For my main meal I had Escalope saumon en papillote – fillet of salmon baked in grease-proof 2015-10-10 14.01.12paper, steamed rice, ratatouille, herb oil. It arrived still in the grease-proof paper and foil and looked fantastic. The rice was cooked to perfection, the salmon was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

OH surprised me by deciding not to have a steak! Instead he went for Supreme de Poulet au 2015-10-10 14.00.49citron – braised chicken supreme in lemon, sun-dried tomato and coriander with steamed couscous. I thought his chicken looked a little pale and he did say it was a bit tasteless. It was still on the bone and he felt it had been plumped up with water as if it was supermarket bought rather than from a reputable butcher. The taste of lemon was slight and not detergenty tasting, which I often think can happen with lemon chicken. He liked the couscous but felt he could have handled more than one sun-dried tomato.

2015-10-10 14.26.02For dessert I chose 2 different sorbets. Pink champagne and raspberry. I could also have chosen lemon but I was glad I hadn’t as the raspberry and pink champagne went well together and was a good finish to my meal. OH had Flamusse aux pommes – warm apple flan, 2015-10-10 14.25.55finished with rum, raisin and creme anglais. He loved it and says it was the best part of his meal.

OH and I have been at a number of French restaurants in Scotland and we’ve often felt like we’ve been whisked away to France for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, neither of us had that feeling when we left Le Bistro Beaumartin. The food was ok but nothing spectacular. The competition for diners is fierce in Glasgow and if they want to stay in the race they’re going to have to up their game.

3 courses for 2 and a bottle of wine £45.

Hotel du Vin and Bistro, St Andrews, Fife.

Birthdays are like buses. Nothing for ages then 2 come along at once, which can be a right nuisance. However, this week saw a proper birth day. On Friday Mini-me gave birth to Teeny Mini-him, which made OH and I very proud grandparents. In between visits to the hospital and taking Mini-me and new baby home I managed to shoe-horn in a birthday lunch for OH on Saturday.

Normally OH and I will make a last minute decision about where we’re dining but this time I had pre-booked lunch via a deal on 5pm.co.uk. This is a website that has offers on restaurants and allows you to then book a table through them. At the time I’d thought Mini-me would have already given birth so had thought pre-booking and paying for the meal would have been fine. Of course she went 13 days over her date, which then meant we needed to squeeze in the lunch and weren’t able to sit back and relax after our meal. As I’m a Fifer I refused to cancel the booking and reasoned with OH that we had to eat at some point…

Anyhow, the voucher I had was for the Hotel du Vin and Bistro in St Andrews. A champagne lunch for £29 – 3 courses and a glass of champagne each. IMG_20150913_165841On arrival we were greeted warmly and given the best seat in the house overlooking the North Sea, which was dark and choppy. The white horses galloped along outside as we sat in the warmth watching on.

The waiter brought us menus and asked if we’d like our champagne to begin with. Of course we did. The menu offered 3 choices for each course. The waiter had said the soup of the day was tomato and something but I couldn’t remember what the something was but as it was a miserable cold and wet day I decided the soup would be a good choice. The other starters were Bayonne ham and celeriac remoulade and Smoked salmon and horesradish crème fraîche, which is what OH went for. I think OH was a tad disappointed when it arrived as he had thought it would have been a bit fancier. 2015-09-12 13.14.26Saying that, although it looked boring he enjoyed it. I sneaked a bit and thought it was good. The salmon was thinly cut so wasn’t too fleshy and the horseradish had a perfect heat to it. 2015-09-12 13.14.49My soup however, didn’t taste like tomato and anything. It was peppery, had a thin but bitty texture to it and tasted more like a liquidized vegetable soup. When the waiter arrived to take our plates (a different guy from the one who gave us the menus) I asked what the soup was. It turned out it was sweet potato and red pepper, which made far more sense.

For mains there were was a choice between rump steak frites with peppercorn sauce, poached salmon with heritage potatoes and hollandaise sauce and wild mushroom and barley risotto. No prizes for guessing OH went for the steak and chips2015-09-12 13.51.10The steak hung off the end of the plate and looked far more impressive than his starter. OH commented that it was a better steak than at Montmarte (last week’s meal) as it wasn’t as chewy. He raved about the tomato and was glad the sauce was in a pot so he could get the char-grill taste of the steak and dip his chips in the sauce.2015-09-12 13.51.16

I decided on the salmon and my only complaint was the potatoes. Heritage potatoes are known for their different colour and textures – purple, mauve and scarlet are just some of the colours that the various varieties come in. The ones that arrived looked like stones and when I cut into them they looked like a charlotte potato well past it’s best. They tasted dry and psychologically were just very unappealing. I did give them a good go but ended up giving up as they just weren’t doing it for me.  Everything else on the plate was great though.

The dessert menu arrived and again there was 3 choices. Bread and butter pudding with rum and raisin ice cream, 2015-09-12 14.26.23Rhubarb fool with ginger biscuits and Artisan cheese selection (£2.50 supplement). OH went for the bread and butter pudding and loved it. When it arrived I could see the steam coming off it and the ice cream slowly melting against it. OH said it was spot on – the rum in the ice cream wasn’t too over powering and the bread and butter pudding was better than his mum used to make. I decided on the Rhubarb fool and it’s only now2015-09-12 14.26.33 I realise I didn’t get any ginger biscuits! Whilst I was eating it I said to OH it could do with something crunchy sprinkled over it to give it a bit of contrast. Now I’m looking back at the menu I know why it was a bit lacking. The fool itself was great – thick and creamy and the rhubarb chunks still had a bit of bite and weren’t too tart.

It was a lovely meal and it would have been great to have ordered a bottle of wine with it and chill for the rest of the afternoon but we had to dash off and chauffeur little Teeny Mini-him home, which was obviously far better than any bottle of wine 😉  2015-09-13 14.54.08 copy

Two 3 course meals with a glass of champagne each, 2 pints of Bitter and Twisted = £40.22 with a voucher (should have been £70.22)

Cargills Restaurant & Bistro, Blairgowrie

Today OH and I decided to head North for lunch and ended up in Blairgowrie. After wandering around the shops we walked down towards the River Ericht in the hope there would be someplace 2015-07-11 15.45.06overlooking it we could eat. That’s where we found Cargills Restaurant & Bistro. It was set back off the road so no river view but it looked lovely with tables outside and then inside a large airy room decorated in red and green.

We were greeted warmly by the waitress and offered to take a seat. There was a board with specials aswell as an extensive lunch menu with a variety of options. The made to order quiches sounded great – you had to pick 3 ingredients – but I didn’t fancy waiting for it to cook so decided to go for the Venison Pie with Mash and Beetroot from the specials board. OH plumped for a small Arbroath Haddock, Chips and Peas as opposed to the large one, which was almost twice the price. Quite a few of the dishes offered a smaller version which I liked. We waited quite awhile on our meals arriving, which I don’t mind really as it means you’re getting your food freshly made but it did make me think I should have went for the quiche after all.

When I saw the venison pie on the board I had pictured maybe getting a segment from a large, round game pie with a nice thick, short crust pastry, possibly some beetroot salad on the side with a lovely creamy mash.What arrived disappointed me. A tin dish with a puff pastry lid, a beetroot cut in half and some mashed potato.2015-07-11 14.34.42

Earlier I had decided against having the chicken fillet with tomato and mozzarella sauce because it’s something I would throw together in the kitchen myself but the pie that arrived looked more like something I would throw in the oven when I couldn’t be bothered cooking at all. Pleasingly, it was full of meat and it melted in the mouth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough pastry to go with it. I also felt they had forgotten to salt the mash as it was a bit tasteless but OH argued that it would be a different type of potato than I’m used to. Regardless of the potato I felt the mash was bland.

OH enjoyed his small fish and for once wasn’t ‘stappit fu’ after his meal. I’ve just asked him what he thought of it and he said “it was just exactly as the menu said, a battered fish. You can’t go wrong with battered fish.” So there you have it.  2015-07-11 14.34.28

I nipped to the ladies before getting the bill only to find there was no loo roll in the first toilet. 2015-07-11 15.46.03Thankfully there was some in the next one but it’s little things like this that added to the disappointing experience.

Cargills had loads of potential – it had a lovely atmosphere, good service, nice decor and it’s on a good wee spot along the river – if only they had just used short crust pastry…..

A Magners, blackcurrant and soda, venison pie and a small battered fish – £24.60