Strathearn, Gleneagles

Last year I had a big birthday and BB and SiL gave me the fabulous present of a gift voucher for Gleneagles. Although I could have used it to do one of the many country pursuits they offer, OH and I thought we would rather have Sunday lunch. So, talking Mini-me into being a taxi driver for the day we donned our glad rags and set off for the 5 star hotel in Perthshire.

As ever, we arrived too early and decided to have drinks in the Century Bar first. I explained to the waiter I had a gift voucher and asked if it was okay to have drinks on it as well as lunch. I was told it was okay but he would have to transfer my drinks to the dining room. Therefore, with everything in hand I had a Bloody Mary and OH decided he fancied a pint. I have to say my Bloody Mary is one of the best I have ever tasted. Firstly it had a light sweet taste and then as it went down it gave a massive kick, which left your mouth tingling and demanding more.

At 1 o’clock a waitress took our drinks through to the Strathearn dining room and we were seated in plush surroundings reminiscent of 1920s. Gold trolleys were wheeled around by waiters and waitresses all who had their own role. We were given food menus and offered water by one and a wine menu from another. Then we were offered bread from a french waitress’s trolley. There were far too much to chose from so she offered to cut a selection of them. She then gave us butter with some Skye salt sprinkled on top.

The menu offered pre-starters of oysters and caviar blinis, which had hefty supplements. The menu then announced where to start with a box that described 2 different kinds of salmon. One from Dumfries, which had been smoked using beer barrels and one from Perthshire that had been oak smoked. Both came with capers, lemon, creme fraiche and shallots but if you wanted caviar there was another supplement. The salmon arrived on a gold trolley and was sliced thinly next to us. The waitress was amazing to watch as time and time again paper thin slices of salmon were removed from the large fish and arranged delicately on the plate. The salmon was delicious and the accompaniments really added to the taste.

Then there was the choice of soup, terrine, salad or crab. I went for the New Season Garlic and Potato Soup with sauteed leeks and girolle mushrooms and OH decided on the West Coast Crab, cucumber, pink grapefruit, white balsamic and hazlenut.

My plate arrived with the leeks and mushrooms deconstructed in the centre of the bowl and then the soup was poured from a jug around them. The soup was beautiful. Thick and creamy and garlicky with the leeks adding a very pleasant texture addition.

OH’s crab was a beautiful plate of colours. The grapefruit gave it a fresh citrus tang whilst the white crab meat was light to taste. The hazelnuts and cucumber gave the dish a crunch.

For my main, I had Seabass, roasted cauliflower, crushed potatoes, baby artichokes and champagne sauce. The skin on the fish could have been crispier and the cauliflower could have done with more colour but overall I enjoyed the dish particularly the artichokes, which I have been wanting again since enjoying them in Spain last March.

OH had Borders Lamb Rump, garden peas, confit shallot, fondant potato, roasted tomato and lamb jus. The lamb looked exceptional without a bit of fat insight and OH said it tasted just as good as it looked.

Throughout our meal the sommelier topped up our wine glasses with the sauvignon blanc we ordered and anyone passing would top up our water glasses. The service was impeccable. The ambience was added to by a three piece band who played a range of hits from people such as Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Amy Winehouse and The Clash but in the style of lift muzak.

After a short break we were given dessert menus. There was a list of ports with prices and a cheese trolley on offer with another supplement however, I went for a light and refreshing mix of sorbets. OH went for the sticky toffee pudding with a whisky and date puree.

My sorbets were the perfect way to end my meal. The mango, lemon and raspberry flavours going down a treat. The accompanying baked strip of loveliness wasn’t crisp as I had suspected but a soft, chewy affair.

OH’s pudding tasted of toffee and was sticky so ticked all the boxes. The date and whisky puree was a small dollop and I think he’d have preferred more.

When our plates were cleared we were offered coffee or tea and OH asked for a coffee, which arrived with 2 little sweets that looked beautifully wrapped in egg-shell blue and gold leaf. However, when I picked one up it immediately started to melt in my hand and I realised it was the chocolate which had been painted and not any kind of wrapper. The chocolate was rich and heavy.

Our meal was excellent and we both enjoyed all the food we had. The theatre of the dining room was stunning and it was great watching the waitresses and waiters give such fantastic performances.

After our lunch we returned to the Century Bar and mini-me joined us for a round of drinks. I then asked for the bill. Now this is when things went a bit awry. Our bill arrived with a whole bunch of drinks we hadn’t had and no mention of lunch. When I queried it, the original waiter appeared and I was told there was a difficulty because of our voucher and the drinks having to be transferred. Yes but those drinks still aren’t ours. I then had to return to the dinning room and explain to another waiter the issue. After a while he managed to clear it up and gave me the right bill minus the voucher. However, this was when I realised the smoked salmon and coffee were extras. This annoyed me because as I have been pointing out, it was clear everything was priced and it was highlighted where the supplements were. There was nothing on the menu that stated it was £25.50 extra for the salmon. Feeling slightly annoyed and a bit duped I paid the bill.

A very decadent Sunday lunch consisting of a Bloody Mary, 2 pints, a ginger beer, a G+T, a bottle of wine and 2 3 course lunches with salmon and a coffee. £247.

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Ladies that Lunch

My cuz is over from the States just now. I say cuz but she feels more like a sister. Actually, I say sister but we’re nothing like one another – we’re polar opposites. She’s tall and blonde, I’m short and brunette. I’d describe myself as low maintenance (i.e. easy pleased) and I’m sure she wouldn’t disagree when I describe her as high maintenance. In fact, when (drunkenly on the way back from Edinburgh) we put our preference for Heroes’ in order they were exactly the reverse. I mean who the hell puts chocolate éclairs first and fudge last???
Anyway, we decided to have a day out in Edinburgh to have a day Shrinking, which, for the uninitiated, is a day out drinking loosely disguised as shopping. On previous shrinking trips we have managed at least 2 shops before hitting the bars and getting the last bus home.

So, knowing that we were off to the capital to be ‘ladies that lunch’, I asked Lusa (L-USA) what she fancied. Her criteria came back in quick fired messages as follows:
Lusa Cell: You can pick
Lusa Cell: Something nice
Lusa Cell: Nice rather than cheap (smiley)
Lusa Cell: No chinese
Lusa Cell: No seafood only
Lusa Cell: French sounds good
Lusa Cell: If you like it there
Lusa Cell: Or something new

So no pressure there then ;p.

I gave her 2 options La Garrigue, a French restaurant OH and I had visited before and enjoyed, or Twenty, a grill and smokehouse on Princes Street I hadn’t been to before but was on my list. She checked the menus and went for Twenty. I booked the table before she could change her mind.
On arrival at Twenty we were delighted with the beautifully elegant and spacious dining room, which had impressive views up The Bridges and over Princes Mall. It wasn’t overly busy but then it was 1pm on a Wednesday. The tables that were taken were all ‘ladies that lunch’ so, although we may not have liked it, we fitted in perfectly with the usual clientele.
We were seated and given the choice of 2 menus, an a la carte one and a Twenty Twenty one. The latter being one that offered 2 mains and 2 drinks for £20. To be honest, there were loads of dishes I could have chosen from the 20/20 menu so I was happy to stick to it and after asking the waitress a number of questions around the steak, Lusa was also able to chose from it.
I went for the 2014-07-09 13.25.43Togarashi marinated salmon fillet with enoki & shimeji mushrooms, seaweed, udon noodles & chilli broth and Lusa went for the 2014-07-09 13.25.58Josper grilled fillet steak sandwich with chimichurri mayonnaise and triple cooked chips.

Lusa is born and bred Scots but when asked how she wanted her steak done she replied Mead.Ee.Um and not how I would ask for it Meejum so now I know how Will.I.Am got his name ;).

We both decided to wash our dishes down with a bottle of Peroni (the house beer – yes really!)  Therefore, for £20 there were definitely no complaints and the service was impeccable. In comparison, and slightly disappointingly to the magnificent decor within the dining room and adjacent Juniper bar, the toilets were a bit plain and nothing special but they were clean, which is really what matters.

After lunch we wandered down to the Grassmarket and making the most of the Scottish sunshine we enjoyed a couple of drinks sitting in the sun at Biddy Mulligans and The Beehive. From there we ventured along the Cowgate to the The Three Sisters. Still wanting to bask in the unusual Edinburgh warmth we tried to find a bar on the Royal Mile to continue our sunny sesh but there were no free seats outside any of the bars on the Mile. Then we spotted that Gordon’s Trattoria had a couple of empty tables and with new found confidence (found in the bottom of a bottle) we ventured forth and asked one of the waiters if we could just have drinks. The cute silver haired waiter was very welcoming and beckoned us in. Although we only stayed for one drink it was a good laugh and I’m pretty sure we managed to turn the edges of the silver fox a little red before we left.2014-07-09 17.48.44-1

Just as a point of interest there is a plaque dedicated to Stephen Fry’s ancestors on the wall ;p

After the Italian’s we headed to George Street knowing that we were going to be getting a bus home soon. Again there were no free seats outside so we found ourselves inside All Bar One. Cocktails for £5? Oh ok, a Cosmopolitan and a Long Island Ice tea it is then….
….it wasn’t long until we were on a bus putting our preferences for Heroes’ in order.