Banner’s House Hotel, Markinch, Fife.

OH and I were babysitting for our granddaughter today (Yeah I know – I don’t know how I can be a gran either ;p). As a way of blackmailing my son to come out and meet with us in public I told him if he wanted us to babysit he’d have to meet us in Banner’s House Hotel in Markinch with his toddling bundle of fun. Of course, you can’t treat one without treating the other so MiniMe was invited too.

Therefore, I pre-booked lunch for 4 and a child. When MiniMe and I entered Banner’s (OH had to go pick up MiniHim and TeenyMe) they immediately asked what age the child was and then completely re-arranged the table accordingly. They couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. We were given menus and asked for our drinks order. With a quick look at the lengthy drinks menu MiniMe asked what their fruit smoothie was and after a quick dash to the kitchen and back was offered strawberry, banana and pineapple. She plumped for strawberry and banana and was happy with her choice. I wasn’t driving or on call so had a glass of red :D. We were eventually joined by OH, MiniHim and TeenyMe who gave their drinks order and we all perused the food menus. There was a set menu – 2 course for £12.95/3 for £14.95 or a brunch/lunch menu which offered sandwiches, burgers and baked potatoes as well as a few other main meals.

Whilst we waited TeenyMe was offered some crayons and paper. The waitress then returned with a child’s welly boot with crayons and some old set menus in it. Bonus points for some great recycling!

The set menu was a little odd as it offered slightly surprising dishes rather than the norm. The mains were smoked haddock omelette, jerk pulled pork baguette, Mediterranean vegetable spaghetti and fillet of coley. The kids struggled with it (I say kids, they’re both in their early 20s) so I was the only one that went for the set menu. I had Cauliflower Soup to start with and TeenyMe got a children’s meal of chicken strips and chips brought at the same time (this was the waitresses suggestion and it was a good one!) I liked the soup – it was nothing amazing but a thick and creamy dish. It came with a small doughy roll (no butter?!?) which tasted homemade. 2015-08-01 12.53.42-1

MiniMe ordered a BLT baguette and a portion of chips, OH went for the 8oz Chargrilled Ribeye steak with pepper corn sauce, homemade onion rings, chips and salad and MiniHim went for Jamican Jerk chicken burger – grilled spiced chicken breast, homemade bun, chips and salad.

I followed my soup with fillet of coley with herb crusted potatoes and a mussel and brown shrimp sauce. I don’t normally eat the skin on fish but this was amazing and I ate every last lovely drop of the dish2015-08-01 13.08.42-1. The mussels were consistently fat and fresh and although MiniMe was trying to get me to help her with her chips I couldn’t as my fish dish was satisfyingly filling.

MiniMe’s only complaint was that her plate wasn’t big enough as every time she cut into her baguette her bacon went flying.2015-08-01 13.07.47-1 2015-08-01 13.07.39-1MiniHim said his burger ‘wiz gid like’. Although he left some chips and salad there was no sign of the chicken breast or homemade roll so it must have been gid. OH said his steak was good but he thinks he’s starting to favour the Flat Iron cut as it’s a thicker more juicier steak. (As usual) OH was glad the peppercorn sauce came in a little jug which he didn’t pour over his steak.2015-08-01 13.10.07-1

Dessert time – MiniMe went for the Double Belgian Chocolate Brownie served warm with vanilla Ice Cream, which she said 2015-08-01 13.58.28was really chocolaty and she highlighted the fact that she couldn’t have ate it if it didn’t have the ice cream with it. OH fancied the Orange & Vanilla Rice Pudding with Dark Chocolate which was on the set menu so I ordered it for him and MiniHim was already starting to wain so I gave him permission to leg it. He didn’t need offered twice. As is my norm, instead of pudding I ordered another glass of red.

OH didn’t finish his pudding and disappointingly said it was really only rice pudding with orange zest on the top with a sprinkling of dark chocolate and he really wanted more chocolate and orange in the dish.2015-08-01 13.58.34

TeenyMe was given vanilla ice cream as part of her child’s menu – thoughtfully given in a dish with the cone separate. It got puddled about with. Not being used to taking a toddler for lunch, and with hindsight, I should have asked for an even smaller dish for TeenyMe or for an empty plate so she could get a bit  from all of our plates as she is at that awkward age between jars of food and kid’s menus. I will know the next time 🙂 Saying that, the chicken strips she got tasted great.

OH took TeenyMe out for a walk and I asked for the bill. It arrived in half a coconut with some jellybeans – the kid in me loves that! Unfortunately, when I checked the bill my set menu had been rung up separately so I went to the bar to get it sorted out. The good looking waiter apologised immediately saying it was his error and changed the bill for me. I then gave him my card to pay and punched in my pin code. I’m not quite sure what happened next but very quickly it resulted in my card getting blocked and me having to get OH to pay for the meal. I’m guessing it was a combination of him giving me the machine without pressing a button first and me putting in my number and hitting enter without reading the screen. Oh well, at least he had the beauty…..

Anyway, a quick visit to the bank and being told all I had to do was put my card in the hole in the wall, put in my pin, select other services, then pin services followed by unlock pin rectified the muck up. (that’s a top tip btw).

One set 3 course meal, 1 child’s meal, 1 steak, 1 burger, 1 baguette, 1 dessert, 2 glasses of wine, an Irn Bru and a soda water and lime (in other words a lunch for 4 and a toddler)  = £77.85

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Ducks Kilspindie House, Aberlady

If your name is Duck then you either change it by deed poll as soon as you can or you embrace it wholeheartedly and open a hotel called Ducks with a bistro called Donald’s and you fill the place with ducks at every point whether it is ornaments, pictures or shower curtains.

As tacky as that may sound it really isn’t. Duck’s was a lovely last minute find.

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As soon as I knew I wasn’t on-call and off on Bank Holiday Monday I checked the weather forecast and then did a search for dog friendly hotels down the east coast where it was going to be sunny and breezy and bright. And that’s how I happened upon Duck’s Kildpindie House in Aberlady.

We booked in for bed and breakfast and then when we go there we decided to dine there too.

The room was basic but comfortable and had everything you would need for an overnight stay. We had been given a room at the back of the hotel, which took a bit of getting to as the hotel surrounds a courtyard. However, this worked out to be ideal for us as there was a back entrance that allowed us straight in and out with the dog and saved us having to trail the dog through the hotel. 2015-05-03 17.53.17

After a fantastic walk around the bay we had a quick drink in the bar before dinner. As Aberlady (just like a lot of the villages on the east coast of Scotland) is a golfing village it was no surprise that the bar had a golfing theme. Golf pin flags festooned the roof and other golfing memorabilia decorated the walls.

With a healthy appetite we wandered through to Donald’s Bistro, named after the owner’s father. 2015-05-03 18.16.07As soon as I was told the soup of the day was French onion I didn’t pay too much attention to the rest of the starters. 2015-05-03 18.28.13OH decided on ‘Sauteed mushrooms on toast, highland blue cheese, poached egg’ as he thought it was a great combination that he hadn’t thought of putting together before. It was an inspired choice as he loved it and is now going to try and make them himself for a breakfast some weekend. (I won’t hold my breath though). I was a tad disappointed when my soup arrived and looked like no French onion soup I had ever seen before. It was butternut squash! 2015-05-03 18.28.46 I would have complained and sent it back but fortunately my second favourite soup is spicy butternut squash. It was good. Nice and thick with a little bit of heat about it.

For main I had ‘Twice cooked pork belly, Stornoway black pudding, apple fritter, Belhaven Best Yorkshire pudding, cider jus. OH chose ‘Roast saddle of lamb with confit shoulder, Belhaven Best Yorkshire pudding, mash, Stornoway haggis’.

2015-05-03 18.40.58We both enjoyed our courses. The pork belly melted in my mouth and the black pudding complimented it beautifully and OH loved the confit shoulder. However, neither of us managed to clear our plates. Whether we had pigged out on our starters or it was just too big a portion we’re not sure but our loss was the dog’s gain 😉 2015-05-03 18.40.35-1

Of course OH still had room for a dessert. He maintains that ice cream settles his stomach but I’m not sure if this is just a ploy to get a pudding when he hasn’t ate all his meat. Saying that, he did go for the ‘Vanilla ice cream with marinated berries, honey & whisky.’
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Dinner, bed and breakfast for 2 and a bottle of wine = £113.50. It was great value for money and worth a visit if you are in the area and looking for cheap and cheerful. The staff were very friendly and welcoming, especially the owner Malcolm, his son, Malcolm, and the barman, Jamie who unfortunately is set to leave and I bet, will be a sad lost to the Ducks.

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.