Ham’s Hame Pub and Grill, St Andrews

A lovely, sunny (but cold) Sunday afternoon saw OH, Mini-me and I venturing to St Andrews for something to eat. After walking along the side of the golf course we found ourselves in the very dog friendly Ham’s Hame, which sits right on the corner of The Scores and Golf Place.

The bar is a large, wooden floored room with lots of televisions showing sports. We were shown to a window seat and given menus for bar snacks and lunches. The soup of the day was Caramelised White Onion, which I immediately wanted as did OH. Also on the menu was Lentil and ham soup so Mini-me decided she’d prefer that. The soups arrived steaming hot and in lovely pottery bowls. My caramelised soup tasted charred, which initially was odd but the more I ate, the more I liked it. By the end of it I felt like I had been sitting in front of a very smokey fire. I tasted Mini-me’s soup and I thought it was missing a layer. Mini-me reckoned it lacked lentils and tasted more like barley.

For mains I ordered Beef Rigatoni – Steak mince bound in a rich tomato sauce, rigatoni pasta, fresh micro basil, Parmesan cheese & garlic bread. It could have been hotter when it arrived and unfortunately, I felt it was a bland meal with no intensity of flavour. I got bored halfway through and I’m pretty sure I’ve made better at home.

OH decided on Slow Roasted Pork Sandwich – Maple and Dijon mustard glazed, slow roasted stuffed pork shoulder, served on a focaccia bun, pork crackling, red cabbage & apple slaw, apple purée, mixed leaf salad & steak cut chips. I misread the menu and thought it was going to be pulled pork – it wasn’t, it was a thick slice of pork on a roll. He said he liked it but when I asked if he would order it again he hesitated and started to chose his words really carefully knowing I was going to quote him in this blog. Eventually he said he got exactly what was written on the tin.

Mini-me got adventurous and went for Haggis Scotch Egg – Lothian Haggis, soft boiled egg, bacon, roasted tomatoes, rocket salad & a whisky, mustard dressing. It looked lovely when it arrived and even better when she cut the egg in half as it was a runny, rich orange yolk. I tried a bit of the ham that was strewn through the salad and it was very dry. Thankfully I had wine to wash it down. Mini-me said the haggis was tasty and not too spicy and overall enjoyed her meal but said she would have preferred more iceberg lettuce rather than rocket. She also raved about the whisky and mustard dressing.

The toilets were clean with Molton Brown toiletries, service was spot on and it was good to find someplace to eat that is dog friendly.

3 soups, 3 mains, 2 pints of lager, a bottle of wine and a coke £85. 60

Advertisements

19th Hole, Earlsferry, Fife.

Yesterday OH and I went for a walk along the beach next to Elie Golf Course, it was a fabulous day and there were a number of golfers making the most of the links course. Of course, after a walk in the summer sun, the next sensible thing to do is go for a pint and it just so happened that next to the golf course is The 19th Hole.

We went in just for a drink but once in, we checked out the menu, the decor, the clientelle and decided to stay for something to eat.  The menu had the normal kind of bar food options such as burgers, steak pie, mac and cheese but with more local fish dishes than your average pub. However, what made it stand out were words like freshly delivered, made to order, artisan and East Neuk, which is the local area just in case you didn’t know.

OH decided on a Crab Salad and I asked for a starter size of mussels. As we waited, I looked around and noticed the coat rack was made out of golf clubs and the leg of the table was hidden in an old leather golf bag. There was tennis on the large tvs and also a fireplace to relax in front of. I nipped to the loo and the sign on the door was a lady putting, the door handle was a putter, there was another door with turf on it. Inside there was a display of golf balls under the sink. Yes they have taken the golfing theme to the nth degree but actually, it works.

IMAG9819

By the time I returned from the loo my mussels were already on the table and OH was tucking into his crab salad. Now, normally I’d be annoyed that someone had delivered my food when I wasn’t at the table but we were sitting in the bar rather than the restaurant as we had the dog with us. In the restaurant you are able to see the chef at work as it’s open plan and I’d like to think if he could see our table he would have held it back until I was there.

The crab was abundant on OH’s salad, which was good to see. He enjoyed it immensely describing it as light and fresh. Even the potatoes got a special mention.

IMAG9820

Along with my plate of mussels was a finger bowl and empty plate for the shells. My mussels were plump and very hot. The sauce wasn’t salty or gritty as can often happen. Instead it was creamy and the onions had a nice crunch. There was a couple that weren’t open and one had a beard but overall I enjoyed them. The accompaning bread was chargrilled and dunking it into the sauce was lush. I even asked for a spoon so I could sup the rest up.

Whilst we were eating it was the chef that popped out to ask if our food was okay, which meant so much more than one of the bar staff asking.

The 19th Hole is a place you need to seek out as it’s well off the beaten path but I would definitely recommend it.

2 pints, a starter size of mussels and a crab salad = £24.40

Melrose Abbey and Barony Castle Hotel

Since it was my birthday midweek OH and I decided to celebrate it the weekend after and booked a hotel near Peebles – the near bit is important as there’s no way you could say it was in Peebles – it’s 5 miles out of the town! The wrongly named hotel was the Mercure Peebles Barony Castle Hotel. Before OH and I checked in we decided to go further south and visit Melrose Abbey as I had never been before. The abbey is beautiful and the complimentary audio tour is definitely worth listening to as it gives you all the history of the abbey, highlights all the nooks and crannies you’d want to see and gets you to look for things such as the bagpipe playing pig gargoyle that you’d probably miss otherwise. There are spiral steps up to the roof, which gives a fantastic view but they aren’t for the faint hearted and my thighs muscles are still sore from the climb so be warned. melrose-abbeyAfter the abbey we had a quick wander around the shops and then headed back up to Peebles.

As usual I had picked a dog friendly hotel so (for an extra £15) Amber could come too. The hotel is a 15th Century building with a mixture of old comfortable chairs and modern, stylish furniture. There is a spa and conservatory area as well so the hotel has done well to marry old with the new.

During check-in we were asked if we wanted to book a table in the restaurant but it would have to be later on as the hotel was fully booked and there were no dining room slots until 8.45. Being a Fifer, I have a 5 o’clock tummy so we decided to eat in the bar instead where there was a typical pub grub menu. I opted for Chicken fajita wrap with seasonal salad and fries £12.95 and OH went for the Beer battered haddock, peas, homemade tartare sauce, crisp salad and fries £13.95. Just in case you’re interested the restaurant menu has things like deer, duck, lamb and salmon.

When my fajita arrived I was surprised to see it was already rolled and not the usual DIY job I am used to. It left me wondering how I was supposed to put the sour cream, guacamole and salsa on to it. I then tried to pick up the tortilla and it collapsed fajitahsungracefully in front of me. So that was my problem solved as I then ate it with a fork and knife and added the sauces to it as I ate. Overall it was tasty enough but I’d have preferred a couple of tortillas and the chance to build it myself. I had no complaints with the accompanying fries as they were delish.

fishOH’s fish looked a bit small compared to other pieces of haddock he has had in the past but the batter was nice and crispy and although it looked like a bit of a tiddler OH said it was filling enough. Surprisingly, he also said he quite liked the tartare sauce as it wasn’t overpowering. This is unusual for him as he isn’t normally a fan. Of course he also loved the fries.

We spent the rest of the evening in the bar running up a large drinks bill. The décor of the bar again brought together  the ancient with the contemporary. However, some of the old chairs could do with a bit more padding. I’m pretty sure Drew Pritchard would be interested in buying and re-upholstering a number of the armchairs in the Blue Dug Bar.

The following morning we were woken by one barking dog and another whining. My best guess is that their owners had left them in the room whilst they had went for breakfast and they had set one another off. I have been to a number of dog friendly hotels before and this is the first time this has happened. Fortunately Amber didn’t join in the dog chorus. barony

The hotel breakfast was good and there was the usual vast selection of hot and cold stuffs on offer. After consuming as much of the buffet as we could we went for a walk in the grounds to see the The Great Polish Map of Scotland. << Click the link for more info but basically the map is a huge 3D map of Scotland, sculpted in concrete and measuring some 40m by 50m. It is a sight to behold and my pic really doesn’t do it justice. map

All in all, we had a fabulous time in the Borders and enjoyed our stay in the Barony Castle Hotel.

 

 

 

Thainstone House Hotel, Inverurie.

OH and I headed north to Inverurie last weekend. We haven’t been out and about much recently so thought it was about time we disappeared for for a bit.

First of all I checked the weather map and looked for the gaps in the rain clouds. From there it was onto the discount hotel websites to find dog friendly hotels and finally I narrowed down the search by looking for luxury at a bargain price and that’s how I found Thainstone House Hotel just outside of Inverurie.

OH hates hanging around so I knew we’d arrive early. I also knew that check-in wasn’t until 3pm so I had a quick search of the area to look for things of interest. Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle jumped out as something that OH would like (Inverurie has a lovely town centre but OH and shops just isn’t a thing). The stones were only 4 miles further up the road so we headed there first and parked at the small car park just down from them.

2016-02-06 12.56.46.jpg

Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle

The special thing about this 4000 year old stone circle is that it has a recumbent stone – a large monolith lying down lengthwise flanked by 2 other stones. It is believed that recumbent stones play a central part in moonlight rituals as they are aligned with the arc of the moon. This gives roughly a hour when the moon is framed by the 3 stones.

If you look at the pic the stone in the foreground is made from red jasper and has some amazing colours in it.

Culture box ticked we thought we’d give the hotel a try and see if we could check in early. We could!   Our room was lovely. Richly decorated, comfortable and lots of little extras such as chocolates, wine, toiletries, bathrobes and slippers. Not wasting much time we grabbed our swimsuits and headed to the spa.

We’ve been to a few spas in country hotels over the years and the majority of them have been a bit sad. Broken locker doors, manky grout, equipment not available/working etc but the facilities here were clean, well maintained and spot on. Pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms indoors and hot tub and sauna out too. There was also a gym and spa treatments available but I’ve been allergic to gyms ever since I found out they don’t have bars in them.

I decided I wanted to go to the outdoor hot tub first so OH and I separated and went into the changing rooms. I emerged grabbed a robe and slippers and ventured outdoors. I slipped into the tub and relaxed waiting for OH to join me. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to relax. 10 minutes later and there was still no sign of my errant Other Half. A staff member wandered past so I called him over and explained I had lost my man and if he sees him could he tell him where I am. “What does he look like?” Suddenly I was on the spot. I didn’t even think to describe his swim shorts all I could muster was “eh like Phil Mitchel but with a tad more hair.” The guy looked up for just a short while, nodded, smiled and left. It was then I thought I really should have said before he was an alcoholic. Of course 2 minutes later OH appeared.

After we had well and truly ticked the spa box we went back to the room and opened the complimentary wine and ate the chocolates.

I’m not going into great detail about the dinner but it was lovely. There was 3 extra courses between the normal ones. Haggis bonbons to start, a parsnip veloute between starter and main and a lemon sorbet palate cleanser after the main. There were 2 choices for each course so OH started with salmon and then had the beef, followed by pear tart and I went the opposite and had chicken, trout and rhubarb fool. OH and I enjoyed it all and any complaints would just be us trying to find fault.  The service was efficient (fast) and friendly and the whole meal surprisingly took us 2 hours. The time sped by.

After dinner we found “The Boys Room” which had a full size snooker table, a juke box and a retro games machine. In there, we met another couple also staying for the evening so for the the rest of the evening we played snooker, PacMan, Asteroid Wars and listened to music from 80s whilst making the most of the hotel bar in good company.

I always look forward t0 hotel breakfasts and there was nothing wrong with this one. There was all the usual stuff plus more. I had Cinnamon French toast with bacon and maple syrup and OH had poached eggs (maybe something to do with the previous nights wine and ale intake).

All in all, we had a wonderful stay and I’d heartily recommend Thainstone House Hotel if you’re looking for a short break with some proper Scottish hospitality. (oh and the dog liked it too)

 

The Kelpies, Falkirk.

Today we went to The Helix in Falkirk to see the Kelpies. You should too!

2014-05-24 13.29.23

This is how you get there

  • From Edinburgh – take the M9 towards Stirling, exit at Junction 5 for Falkirk/Grangemouth and take the first roundabout exit; follow the A9 to Etna Road Roundabout, where you will see the entrance to Helix Park
  • From Glasgow – take the M80 towards Stirling, exit at Junction 8 for M876 and join M9 , exit at Junction 6 for Falkirk/Grangemouth. Follow the signs to the A9. Turn right at Westfield roundabout to Etna Road roundabout and the entrance to Helix Park.
  • From Carlisle and the South – M74, M73, M80, M876,M9,  and follow the signs for Falkirk as above.
  • From Perth and the North – A9, M9 towards Edinburgh, exit at Junction 6 for Falkirk  as above

 

We went into the first car park we saw and managed to get a space quite easily but it was a cold, grey day and we arrived around 12.30. If it had been sunny or a tad warmer I think we would have been struggling. By the time we left people were queuing for spaces and with kids, dogs and ferrets (yes we saw a ferret on a lead!) running around it didn’t feel like a safe place.

It was a short walk to where the Kelpies were and as we walked we noticed it was an ideal place for bikes, scooters, skates and buggies as the paths were all smooth and wide. A lot of the grounds are newly planted so it is still a little sparse just now but you can see the potential and how great it is going to be in 6 months. The bonus of the freshly sown grass is seeing signs that say “I Want To Be A Lawn so don’t stand on me”2014-05-24 12.40.43

When you see the Kelpies for the first time you just can’t believe your eyes. Yes they really are that amazing. Two 30 metre high steel constructions of the malevolent water-spirits that are reputed to inhabit the lochs and pools of Scotland.2014-05-24 12.47.28

2014-05-24 12.45.50Once you’ve drunk in the vision you then spend the next hour trying to take the most perfect photo of them but of course you can’t but it doesn’t stop you and every other single person around you trying.

There are plans for a visitor centre but in the meantime, next to the immense structures, there are 2 outlets where you can get things like venison burgers, fancy cakes and other refreshments. I think because they have added the word ‘gourmet’ it allows them to charge extortionate prices or maybe I’m just a typical Scot and hate paying over the odds for what ultimately is a
burger from a van. I mean, £2 for a paper cup of hot water with a teabag in it?2014-05-24 12.54.43  Mind you, the park is free to get in and there were plenty of people who had come prepared with picnics so next time I will definitely have a flask. And there will be a next time! I’m going to give the plants a chance to grow and then I shall return just so I can take the perfect photograph.  2014-05-24 12.56.29

One thing I’d recommend before you go is to have a good look at the website to see the layout of the park and other places you may want to go. The one thing I felt was missing today was leaflets with maps or a big sign showing the walks and cycle paths, which would have been really handy.

The Espy – Portobello

2014-05-03 14.47.18

Yesterday when OH and I were out with the dog in Elie we had a clear view of the 2 Cockenzie Power Station chimneys across the Forth from us, which made us start talking about heading out that way for Saturday lunch. I had looked up The Espy in Portobello a while ago and knew it was dog friendly so we decided we’d take Amber for a walk along the beach and give it a try.

Although it was a bit of a grey day the beach area was busy and you could just imagine it heaving in the summer. Seaside towns always look a little sad when it isn’t sunny but Portobello was a happy smiley place – nearly everyone we passed on the esplanade acknowledged us with a friendly nod.

After working up an appetite we ventured into The Espy and found it very busy. I hadn’t bothered booking a table so I was a little anxious that we wouldn’t get a table.  I looked to one of the barmaids and pointed out our dog she smiled broadly and motioned for us to go through to the back where there was couch table just being cleared  (we realised later that the back of the bar is the dog friendly bit).

The leather couch was covered in cushions and comfy. It sat next to a low wooden table already set with a water jug, glasses and cutlery. Amber lay under the table wondering what the hell was going on – visiting a restaurant was a completely new experience for her but she behaved really well. The waiter handed us menus and told us the soup was Butternut Squash with fennel and ginger.

I have to admit I hate sitting at low tables to eat – it gives me indigestion and I did say to OH that we could ask to be moved but he said he had settled in by this point.

The Espy is a cluttered, homely, child and dog friendly bar. Every space on the walls is covered with photos, album covers and movie posters. Nothing else could have been squeezed above the bar as it already had a giant pint of Guinness, an inflatable alligator, a skeleton, a treasure chest, a ….honestly I could go on and on with all the clutter. It would take a good few visits before you had seen everything that was on show in the bar. If you did get bored admiring the decor there was also games and newspapers to keep you entertained.

From the menu we were given, I ordered Trout but as it came with minted potatoes I asked if I could have them without mint or chips if the potatoes had already been minted. The waiter insisted that he went to check and would be right back to let me know. I told them there was no need as I’d be happy with either but he was determined to keep me well informed. True to his word he returned with news from the chef. The news was that he had given us the wrong menu and there was no trout with or without minted potatoes. The waiter could not have been more apologetic.2014-05-03 14.03.14  On second look I chose the Pan fried chicken supreme with prosciutto and sage with a cracked pepper sauce, green beans and gnocchi. OH had Baked hake with chorizo and smoke red peppers – the menu description was loads better but neither of us can remember what it was – mind you, maybe if OH had paid more attention he would have realised that his dish was going to have a Spanish feel (not a favourite taste of his) and he should have probably chosen the Lamb instead.  My dish was really tasty but I just don’t get gnocchi – it’s got an odd texture which sticks to the top of your mouth and you can feel it coating your ribs on the way down.  I must remember not to order it in future.

During our time in The Espy numerous dogs came and went. Some barked, some sniffed. Numerous children came and went. Some screamed, some ran about. There was never a dull moment.

My overall view of The Espy is positive and if you’ve got kids and a dog I’d definitely recommend it – if you have neither Id wait until you do.

2 mains plus drinks came to £30.50 2014-05-03 14.35.02