Boat Brae, Newport-on-Tay.

We have tried to visit Boat Brae on several occasions since it opened but it’s always been fully booked. Today we were in luck and managed to secure a table with a fantastic view over the Tay (to be fair all the tables up the stairs have a fantastic view of the Tay). The white horses were aplenty today and the vista just added to the beautiful decor of the restaurant. Where we were sat I could see into the kitchen and OH could see the rail bridge.

We were given menus and told the specials – Butternut and Rosemary soup, Arbroath smokie pate with citrus creme fraiche and oatcakes and Sirloin of scotch beef was the roast of the day. I scoured the menu and decided I was having the pate to start and the Seafood Bourride – Chunky monkfish, squid, mussels, surf clams, tomatoes, potato, fennel, garlic aioli, sourdough for my main. When OH said he fancied the same starter we decided to share and he settled on the Peterhead Fillet of Sea Bass – Sweet potato, chilli, lime, sun-blushed tomato, green beans for his main. There were other offerings such as Pork Belly, Bone Marrow Beefburger and steaks for the meat eaters and for the vegans there was a pearl barley risotto and beetroot, fig and vegan feta filo tart. The full menu is >>> here

The starter was wonderful. The pate was deliciously smokey and for once there was just the perfect ratio of oatcakes to pate even if there were an odd amount and OH won at rock, paper, scissors. I know this is totally not a foodie thing to say but the little circles of pickled onion tasted exactly like pickled onion Monster Munch and were amazing.

My main came in half of one of the large kettles they usually serve mussels in and was swimming with large chunks of monk fish, squid and mussels as well as tomatoes, potatoes and fennel. The fennel was hardly noticeable and the squid was little white puff balls that weren’t in the least bit rubbery. I loved the broth and could have happily sat and ate it all but as the portion was huge, I knew I would regret it so picked out all the little clams and leftover fishy bits I could find from the leftover tomato and potato soup.

I was surprised that OH ordered fish but it just goes to show you I don’t know him as well as I thought. When OH’s bowl arrived (yes I know he hates a bowl but he didn’t moan this time) there were two large fillets of sea bass on top of green beans, sweet potatoes and zingy sun-blushed tomatoes. OH enjoyed it and said it was filling and the skin was crisp. I know the tomatoes surprised him a couple of times because his lips pursed.

When we were asked if we wanted a dessert (obviously) I asked for another glass of white and OH went for (and I am trying to remember because I didn’t take note at the time) a panna cotta on top of a rum infused pineapple with coconut, raspberry sorbet and frozen grapes (sorry it might have been the panna cotta that had the rum but I had wine!). I had a little taste and it just reminded me why I don’t order desserts but OH loved it and said it was a great palate cleanser.

OH also ordered an Americano, which came with a little bit of shortbread. I leaned over and whispered, “I’m totally not complaining but I think this is going to be our most expensive lunch for a long time.” He laughed and said, “I don’t care. It was bloody delicious.”

One starter, two mains, one dessert, two large white wines, 1 non-alcoholic beer, 1 americano = £67.00

The Kirklands Hotel and Restaurant, Kinross

For Sunday lunch we were out and about near Kinross and decided to visit the restaurant in The Kirklands Hotel. When we arrived we were given a table in the front of the building next to the bar but later realised we had entered a TARDIS as there was also a large restaurant through the back.

We were given menus and told the soup of the day was Red lentil and tomato and the 2 Sunday roasts were beef and pork. Our drinks order was taken and we were given water for the table.

The menu was full of things I liked so it was a hard choice. Even the macaroni cheese came with options of ‘with haddock’, ‘with ham hock’ or ‘with pulled beef brisket’. Different things that stood out were pumpkin and coconut curry, Tacos and there was small and large options of all of the mains.

I decided I was going to start with French Onion soup with Gruyere cheese crouton, which arrived with a warm Mediterranean brown roll and butter.

Often French onion soup can be hazardous and leave your tongue and chin burnt with long stringy cheese and rodent onions but the temperature of this soup didn’t need a health warning. It was delicious and tasty but if I had to make a complaint it was that the croutons weren’t crunchy and the plate wasn’t deep enough. If I’m paying £6.50 for a plate of soup I want it leaving me wishing I hadn’t ordered a main dish instead of wanting more.

OH had forgone a starter and went for a large plate of Katsu Chicken Curry – breaded chicken fillets & katsu curry sauce served with egg fried rice.

This isn’t a dish OH would normally choose as he isn’t a fan of breaded food but he loved all the tastes on his plate and said the fresh coriander, spring onion and side salad made the dish zing for him and he’d happily order it again.

Following my soup, I went for a small bowl of Moules Frites – steamed mussels with bacon, pine nuts and Parmesan sauce, skinny fries and crusty bread. Prior to my meal arriving I was given a finger bowl and dish for the shells so the restaurant was already given brownie points for the their fore thought.

The bowl was the same size as the plate of soup so wasn’t big at all but it was full of a thick creamy sauce and heaped with both red and spring onions. The mussels were fresh and all of them had burst open. The bacon bits were thin on the ground but there were plenty pine nuts and the crusty bread was soft and perfect to soak up the cream sauce. To begin with I had thought the onions were overkill but I managed to eat them all and was not complaining about them at the end. Often I can leave the broth in mussels because I am either bored or it’s too salty – not the case here, if there had been a pattern on the plate there was no evidence of it by the time I had finished wiping it clean. The skinny fries also managed to disappear without trace.

OH finished with a flat white so I ordered a small glass of wine to keep him company.

As were sat next to the bar I could watch the young waiter making up other’s drink orders and I could tell he took pride in what he was doing whether it was chilling a glass prior to pouring wine into it or putting a feather pattern on top of a coffee cup. Like the finger bowl it’s the small things that make a big difference.

A starter, 1 large main, 1 small main, 1 coffee, 1 non-alcohol beer, 1 large and 1 small glass of wine – £43. 90

The Ship Inn, Elie, Fife

As it was a horrible, wet and windy day OH and I decided to visit the Ship Inn in Elie for lunch as it isn’t too far from home and would have some fantastic views of any white horses in the Forth. Although we have had numerous drinks at the Ship before we have never ate there since it was done up a few years ago. We have however, dined at their sister restaurant in Ratho, The Bridge Inn, which you can read about if you click their name.

When we arrived we were seated in the corner of the room where OH could look out over the harbour and watch the water splash up over the deserted beer garden. Menus had been left on our table but there was no sign of any specials or a board. It did have catch of the day on the menu with the POA acronym next to it so I did ask and it was Sole and was £23.95. I also had to ask for a wine menu.

For starter OH decided on Beetroot Pesto vegetable crudites, heritage beetroot and toasted seeds. We did think about sharing it but I really wanted to try the Cauliflower Fritters harissa, crème fraiche and coriander, which came under the heading of Nibbles.

When it arrived it was nothing like I had expected as you couldn’t lift up any individual vegetable. That didn’t stop me trying it though and it tasted wonderful. The colours were vibrant and the tastes were fresh. OH said it was a large helping and filling. He also said he felt very healthy after it.

My cauliflower fritters were like little clouds of heaven. I loved them. The balance of deep fried batter with the crème fraiche along with the kick from the harissa worked so well I could have just kept eating.

OH and I could have probably left at this point as we already felt like we’d had a lovely meal but our main orders had been taken and it would have been rude not to stay.

To be honest, I was disappointed in the main choices considering the restaurant is right on the water as the only fish dishes were fish and chips or fish pie (obviously apart from the sole) so I opted for a small fish and chips and OH went for the fish pie. Other options were Bangers and mash, Butternut Squash Risotto and the Ship Inn beef burger.

The fish pie arrived in what OH called a meals on wheels container with the vegetables on top. He had trouble cutting his carrots and beans and complained (as usual) about food not on flat plates and the problems it causes. However, getting over that he said the pie had big chunks of fish, the vegetables had a bite and the sauce was really creamy. The piped potatoes on top were also thick and creamy. He says he would have it again but needs to remember and order it on a flat plate. I have been writing these blogs and going with OH to restaurants for about 6 years and he still forgets to bring his glasses to read the menu so I am guessing it will be at least another 6 years before he remembers to ask for a flat plate.

My fish and chips were good, if a little boring. The batter at the tail end was a bit soggy but the further up the fish I worked the crisper it got. The crushed peas were exceptional compared to other bashed up peas I have had recently but I would still prefer mushy ones. The tartare sauce was unique with an ingredient I couldn’t quite make up mind what it was – maybe just the gherkin was pickled in something different but whatever it was, it was good. (Edit: my mum has text me to say it would be capers not gherkins) The chips were also good but I had to stop myself eating them all as I was fuller than the moon that was making the tide outside so high.

2 starters, 2 mains, 1 x 250ml of Argentinian Malbec, 2 x 125ml of house wine and a lager. £54.95

The Boat House, South Queensferry

After a visit to Port Edgar Marina, and finding there was an hour and a half wait for food at Scotts, we decided to head into South Queensferry and try The Boat House . We had seen the doorway often but had never ventured down to the restaurant at the bottom of the stairs before. Incidentally, on the window on the way in we saw a sign saying the restaurant was shutting at 4pm for the staff’s Christmas night out, which I thought was great. For a boss to close his business so the entire workforce can celebrate together says a lot about an owner and I really appreciated that.

When you enter the dining area the first thing to hit you is the panoramic view of the Forth (Rail) Bridge. Even though I live in Fife and frequently see it, the sight of it up close still catches my breath so it was great when we were offered a window seat.

We were given the chef’s specials and the daily menu and our drinks orders were taken. I decided on one of the specials, the prawn and salmon linguine with parmesan and garlic bread. I can’t remember what sauce it was in but I have a feeling it was lobster and prosecco but I might have made that up. Regardless, the dish was fantastic. The prawns were bigger than the garlic bread and reminded me of a Dr Who episode The Green Death (I shall let you google that if you can be bothered). However, these little monsters did not give me nightmares. They were thick, meaty and juicy. The salmon was smoked and abundantly scattered throughout the pasta dish. If I had any complaint at all it would the food was too hot – burny burny not nippy.

OH decided on the Seafood Curry – Chunks of fresh fish in a Malaysian style Coconut and Coriander curried sauce blend served with steamed Basmati rice and warm naan bread. When it arrived there was immediate disappointment as it arrived in a bowl with a knife and fork. If you’re a regular reader you will know OH hates this. There was also a small bowl of mango chutney in the bowl, which added to OH’s annoyance but that’s just him – it seems nowadays no-one wants their food touching. That aside though, it did not take him long to work his way through it. He thinks, as well as mussels, there was also salmon and haddock in the dish but he could be wrong. The sauce was mild and maybe not as spicy as it could have been but it did prompt him to ask if I could make the dish at home, which is a big compliment from him.

The dessert menu was a bit unexciting for me (sticky toffee pudding, profiteroles, panacotta) but the Chocolate and Orange Tart with Crème Fraiche appealed to OH. As I watched him chisel his way into it I could visualise it coating his arteries. He enjoyed it and used words such as heavy and sticky and tart but tasty. I also noticed it was on a bed of raspberry coulis, which would have balanced the tastes. OH then finished off with a lovely coffee and piece of tablet, which he offered to me but I declined and sipped at my large glass of sauvignon blanc instead.

Additional notes: Service was great, toilets were immaculate and although we both had seafood dishes there were a number of other meat and vegetarian options on offer.

2 mains, 1 dessert, 1 coke, 1 large glass of wine, 1 coffee = £50.15

Delivino, Auchterarder

It’s not often I make return visits to restaurants, preferring instead to write about new places but I loved Delivino‘s so much the last time I visited that when OH and I were looking for somewhere to go for lunch we decided to head back to Auchterarder, knowing we’d get good food. (if you’re interested about our last visit you can read about it here ).

We arrived without a reservation and a cheerful waitress happily offered us a table in the busy Italian restaurant on the high street in Auchterarder (less than 2 miles from Gleneagles). On the wall there was a full blackboard of specials and a happy relaxed buzz about the place. Given all the available menus, we took our time making our choices and ordered our drinks.

On the specials board there was a Ham hough terrine with sweet pickled vegetables and toast, which we decided to share as a starter.

Unfortunately, but I guess unsurprisingly for the 27th of December, the seafood linguine was off but rather that than unfresh mussels and prawns though. Instead, I opted for Truffled Mac and Cheese – Tallegio & smoked cheddar sauce with truffled breadcrumb topping, with garlic ciabatta because it’s not often mac n cheese sounds so good. Although, it was a hard decision as there were fantastic sounding dishes like the venison, juniper and redcurrant stew and seabass with fennel, chorizo and white bean cassoulet.

OH ooohed and aaahed between the risotto and the ravioli but then decided on the Penne Arrabbiata – Garlic, olive oil, chilli in a tomato sauce – as he didn’t want anything too heavy.

Now here is the clever bit about Delivino’s as they offer a small and a large portion of their pasta. I often get tired/bored with a large plateful so this is ideal for me. OH then (maybe I was a little too persuasive) also opted for the smaller portion size – perhaps I also mentioned we could order some Truffled Parmesan Wedges too and I might also have murmured that he could get a dessert if he ordered the smaller one. (I didn’t say out loud he could have had one anyway).

Our starter arrived between us and looked lovely. We were also offered more toast but declined. The pickled vegetables with the terrine were a highlight but it would be unfair to say the terrine came second as it was just as good. The chargrilled toast was a delightful addition to the well balanced starter.

Throughout our meal our waitress was extremely attentive, friendly and joked with us about OH having to have non-alcohol lager and a smaller portion, which we were having a laugh about.

My macaroni cheese arrived in a hot (please don’t touch the dish) plate and looked great. OH’s portion looked small and I immediately felt bad for suggesting it but he assured me it was a deep dish.

My mac n cheese tasted great with the topping being the best bit. However, the sauce was thin and for once I wanted my mac to be a bit more stodgy. The first slice of accompanying garlic ciabatta was great but by the time I got to the second it was a bit soggy and chewy. It didn’t stop me eating it though.

OH’s Penne Arribbiata disappeared and did not disappoint as the chili gave a nice heat and left a fresh taste. When I asked about the size of the dish he agreed it was the right size for him after overeating on Christmas and Boxing day. The wedges were also fantastic by the way.

Unusually, after watching all the women coming in and looking at the desserts on offer before sitting down, I decided I might try a sweet. I even took a pic of the dessert blackboard for you. However, there were no sorbets left so I decided to go without. OH asked for the chocolate orange mousse but annoyingly, when the waitress suddenly reappeared, it was with the news there was none left. He then also decided to go without and just kept his order of a coffee. Obviously, I was more than happy to finish the carafe of wine I had ordered as I wasn’t driving.

Our extremely attentive and friendly waitress then appeared with 2 spoons and a huge slab of chocolate brownie, which she placed between us. “I’m sorry. We can’t have you leaving with neither of you getting the dessert you wanted. Especially after the non-alcoholic beer and small portion. We need to fix this.” She then smiled and left us to gorge on the fabulous rich chocolate dessert, which was so nice I forgot to take a pic of.

The meal, ambience and service was fantastic and I am sure that any other day of the week they would have had a full menu. I’d highly recommend Delivino’s either in Auchterarder or Crieff. GO VISIT.

A shared starter, 2 small pastas, a side of wedges, a carafe of wine and a non-alcoholic beer £42.50

Golf Inn @ Ladybank, Fife

Recently, OH had heard the pub in Ladybank was under new management and was now called the Golf Inn. He’d also heard good things about it so we decided to give it a go. When we arrived we were offered a table in the dinning area next to the fire and shown the specials on the board.

The decor was fresh and clean with grey tartan checks and wood. Later when we went into the bar area there was a snug with comfy leather club chairs and a wood burning stove.

We were given menus but the barman/waiter quickly removed the board and told us the soup was now lentil and not tomato, ale and cheese (?) I might be making the cheese bit up but it did have another ingredient. It also (I’m pretty sure) had smoked haddock and chips written under it.

The menu was proper bar lunch stuff. There was a range of starters including Cullen Skink and the mains were Steak pie, fish and chips, pasta, burgers, scampi and chilli. All reasonably priced. The back of the menu was dedicated to pizzas – obviously a speciality.

One of the main reasons we were out for food was that OH wanted a hot bowl of soup to heat him up so he went for the lentil soup followed by steak pie and I decided I would just have the smoked haddock on the specials board, which had now been rubbed out but my order wasn’t questioned.

As soon as the soup arrived OH dived in and I forgot to take a photo so just imagine there are 2 pieces of crusty bread with 2 bits of butter on top in the photo. The soup did not last long so I can assume it was just what the doctor ordered.

When my fish arrived I was a little disappointed to see it was just fish and chips. I had thought by ordering the smoked haddock from the board it would be a tad different but nope it was just fish and chips and when I say just, I mean just. There was no tartare sauce or peas! Saying that though, the dish was great. The batter was crispy, the fish (not smoked) was fresh and the chips were spot on. Yes, I did miss something to mix it up a bit and would have loved some mushy peas but I survived.

OH’s steak pie was laden with large chunks of beef and much to his delight the pie had a bottom, which is maybe why he didn’t complain about getting his pie in a bowl. He did say though, the meat wasn’t chewy and was falling apart in his mouth. In contrast to my dish, he had thousands of peas.

OH ploughed though his half cow in a pie but was now so stuffed he couldn’t manage a pudding but I did notice a blackboard with daily offerings from £3.95.

We went through to the bar area for another round of drinks and in the snug there was a large group of friends with children enjoying pizzas and pints with footy on the box and everyone looked very relaxed and comfortable. Sadly, there was no room in front of the fire but the atmosphere was warm enough.

All in all, service was friendly, food was great and it was exactly what you want when you want a proper bar lunch.

One starter, 2 mains, 1½ pints of cider and 2 soda water and limes = £32.

Trump Macleod House & Lodge, Scotland

Now I know a lot of you would never dream of giving Trump your money so the thought of staying in one of his hotels would not be on your list of things to do. However, I’m guessing you have probably wondered what it would be like. Therefore, knowing this, I selflessly decided to take one for the team and spend my birthday in Trump’s Macleod House this weekend on a DBB deal just so I could tell you all about it. (and because I got a great deal I could not resist!)

When we arrived we were met by a charming man in the car park who led us to reception where we were checked in and then escorted to our room, which was massive. Two dark wood Queen size beds adorned in gold and plush cushions monopolised the room to the point you hardly noticed the large wooden sideboard that hid the mini bar, held the Nespresso machine and offered a basket full of nibbley treats. Entertainment came in the forms of a large screen tv with all the Sky packages and a Bose sound system. The bathroom boasted Italian marble, underfloor heating, a large roll top bath, huge walk in shower and a countryside view. The complimentary toiletries were in abundance and covered every eventuality of our stay and more. Everything screamed American grandeur. Helpfully, the receptionist talked us through all the gadgets and showed us where all the hidden bits and bobs were.

Not long after she left a charcuterie board and 2 glasses of fizz were delivered as part of the romance package I had booked. The plate was large and full of different meats, cheeses, pickles and bread and was one of the best sharing platters I have had.

Later, dinner was served downstairs and for sake of brevity you can hopefully zoom in and check the menu out yourself. From the wine menu I chose one of the cheaper options at £35 for a young Rioja steering clear of the ridiculously priced bottles.

Disappointingly, the soup was lentil so that was given a miss and to start OH had Kedgeree, smoked haddock and egg, which he enjoyed because it was something he would not normally order. The rice was done perfectly and just like the dating app, there was plenty of fish. I had the game terrine with prune ketchup. It wasn’t an overly strong terrine but was a bit heavy as a starter. The prune ketchup was thick and rich and didn’t taste of prunes.

I struggled picking a main as the fish dish didn’t appeal so eventually plumped for the beef cheek. Not being a big meat eater this was a completely new venture for me. The meat fell to bits, didn’t require much chewing and didn’t stick in my teeth, which gets extra bonus from me. However, the gravy, like the ketchup was rich and thick, and along with the buttery mash became too much and I could not finish the dish, already feeling (and looking) like a snake that had ate a pig.

OH had the venison stew and dumplings. He says it was exactly as described and tasty but nothing special. The fact the stew came in a bowl didn’t do itself any favours as OH hates that and believes forks and bowls don’t go together. Also, to be fair, the photo doesn’t do it justice and because of the lighting both our plates look like puddles of mud.

I couldn’t face a dessert but OH opted for the salted caramel apple crumble. A nice end to the meal he says unenthusiastically but probably because he would have preferred ice cream with the dish.

Delightfully, I was brought another glass of fizz as a birthday gift from the hotel, which was lovely. I have no idea what it was but it didn’t give me immediate heartburn so it was probably expensive.

Fast forward to the following morning and breakfast was served because obviously I was back to my snakelike self and needed feeding up again (yeah right!). As is the norm at good hotels the breakfast was lovely. A selection of fruit, yoghurt, meats, cheeses, salmon and pastries were on offer as well as cooked menu options. Just in case you are wondering, OH had Eggs Benedict and I had scrambled eggs and salmon.

As we had brought our golf clubs with us, after breakfast and checking out, we drove down to the Clubhouse to spend some time on the practice grounds. For £25 you can spend all day on the short course, putting green and driving range. It was bracing but dry so we managed to waste some time whacking balls and trying to stay out the bunkers. We then had a walk amongst the dunes and down on the beach where the surf roared and the sands were empty.

It was a fantastic birthday in plush surroundings with good food and phenomenal service. I am over the moon I got a great deal on our stay but I am not sure I would feel quite the same way if I had paid full price.

The Kinneuchar Inn, Kilconqhuar, Fife.

Last week after visiting Bowhouse Market we went for a drive and noticed that the Kinneuchar Inn in Kilconqhuar was open again (after being shut for 2 years) so we popped in. We chatted with Aletha Palmer who told us her and her partner, renowned chef, James Ferguson had come up from London to open the restaurant. After having a couple of drinks and a nosey at the menu we booked a table for lunch the following Saturday. And of course yesterday was that day.

When we arrived we were seated and given menus and the specials board was read out to us. The menu was confidently simple (thanks to my SiL for that description) but also a little disappointing. I had already known there would only be a meat dish, a fish one and a veggie option but the main meat was mince and tatties! And that was the exact description. I don’t think I am alone in making mince and tatties regularly at home so I was surprised to see it on a relatively fine dining menu as the only meat dish on offer. The fish dish was Shetland Mussels and Nduja (spicy pork paste) and the vegetarian option was Crown Prince Squash, White beans, Goats Curd & Gremolata. The only main on the specials board was a Chicken, Ham and Chanterelle pie, which was for 2 to share.

This made the menu difficult for OH who isn’t keen on mussels and (understandably) had ate mince and tatties midweek and didn’t want to pay £12 for it now.

After deciding on our mains we then worked backwards and chose our starters. On offer there was soup, brawn and red cabbage, a leek gribiche and on the specials board there was a squid dish and Smoked Trout, beetroot sauerkraut and horseradish, which I decided to have and OH went for the Spinach and Potato soup. When they arrived the colours were spectacular. OH’s soup was a vibrant green and my trout was bright orange, which contrasted with the purple beetroot sauerkraut. There was no bread with the soup and we realised too late that we should have ordered it as a side from the menu. OH enjoyed his soup, which was thick, heart warming and perfect for the breezy autumn day.

My trout was very smoked, the sauerkraut was a little acidic and the horseradish cleared my sinuses even though they hadn’t been blocked. It was a plate I wanted to finish even though it was challenging me and I had to take several breaks and breathe through the horseradish.

With just the right amount of time between courses our mains arrived. OH had eventually decided on the veggie option and unfortunately it came in a bowl (OH hates food in bowls unless it’s soup). Sounding quite surprised, OH said his meal was tasty, everything worked well together and it wasn’t a dry boring dish (how he usually views veggie dishes). However, he couldn’t finish it and felt there were too many beans, which had bloated him. He also said he was all cheesed out by the end.

I had went for the mussels. They arrived with a piece of toasted sourdough bread precariously balanced on the side. The mussels were huge, fat and orange. The broth wasn’t too salty and the Nduja tasted a little like chorizo. There was nothing wrong with the meal but I could have done with a spoon, a side plate and a larger bowl for the shells as I had to start carefully positioning them like backwards Jenga, constantly in fear they would topple. The accompanying bread was spread with loads of garlicky butter and I loved it but it kept falling into the broth and by the end of my meal my fingers were a sticky, fishy mess and there as no finger bowl.

OH, who usually never passes up the chance of a dessert, declined to look at the menu as he was too full of beans and cheese. However, I know you really want to know what the options were so I took note – there was a treacle and walnut tart with creme fraiche, blackcurrant ice cream with a golden syrup biscuit or Hebridean Blue Cheese.

As I waited on OH finishing his pint I noticed a couple of elderly diners at another table had ordered the pie to share. It arrived in a large dish with 2 plates and a spoon. The pie wouldn’t have disappointed Desperate Dan it was so big and hearty. I watched on as the female of the couple then tried to cut into the pie whilst trying not to burn herself on the dish. The spoon was far too small and the operation looked like a disaster in the making. The male obviously loved the pastry and spent quite a bit of time chiselling down the sides of the dish to try and get to the crust and he did burn his finger. I just felt that initially one of the waiting staff could have helped serve the dish rather than just plonking it down and leaving.

I also noticed another diner got a piece of lemon with their smoked trout. Where was mine? Another colour on my plate would have looked awesome.

Overall, the food was beautiful with a locally sourced menu that tries to use every bit of the animal but there could be more thought put into how the dishes are served to make it a bit easier for the diner.

2 pints of Czech lager, an apple juice, 2 starters and 2 mains – £50.30

Cafe Circa, Abernyte, Perthshire

There’s an antique and arts centre in Abernyte, which is on the road between Perth and Dundee that OH and I often visit on wet weekend days. It’s a big building full of different antique dealers, new furniture, clothes and a kitchen/deli section. Yesterday, after checking the weather forecast, we decided it was one of those days to visit.

As we wandered around we were stopped in our tracks when we spotted a beautiful chaise longue that would go really well in our living room. It was a good price and it’s a piece of furniture I have always wanted but did I really need one and did I really need it right now? We decided to have something to eat at Cafe Circa the restaurant in The Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre to discuss and mull it over.

The menu was in sections Breakfast, Light Lunch, Mains, Cakes and Bakes. There was also a special boards. In the mains sections it was listed as a set 2 or 3 course meal and didn’t have individual prices so a set 2 course lunch it was. Smoked Haddock Chowder with baked seeded crusty brown bread and butter jumped out from the list of starters, which included tomato, mozzarella and parma ham, salmon bon bons and salad.

The chowder was far too hot but tasted fabulous. It was so thick and creamy you could stand your spoon up in it. It was jam packed full of fish, peppers, potatoes and sweetcorn and the smoked haddock pieces were so big I think I had a whole fillet in my bowl. The bread was also far too tasty and I really wanted to eat both slices but I knew I was already going to struggle with my next course as the chowder was so filling but ever helpful OH didn’t see it go to waste.

For my main I had Tempura Battered Sea Bass and King Prawns
on a rocket and pea shoot salad with lemon and thyme potatoes. The plate arrived with half a field of potatoes and a jungle of green.

The batter was light and crisp and the sea bass and prawns were obviously straight from the fryer. The accompanying soy sauce dip was the coldest thing on the plate so it immediately cooled the king prawns, which were chunky and tailless (that’s a good thing btw, the contrasting cold dip not so much). Unfortunately, the abundance of potatoes were on the hard side and the jungle was in such a tangle there was no delicate way of eating it so both were left on the plate. This was not really an issue though as I was needing an excuse not to eat anymore.

OH had Pulled Beef and Wild Mushroom Wellington
with port gravy, roast potato, green beans and mashed turnip. The pastry was golden and crisp (he says there was no soggy bit, which is my favourite bit ) the mushrooms were under the pastry and around the pulled beef, which melted in the mouth. He had no complaints about his potatoes, which were roast and the veg went well with the dish. He too was struggling to finish (and remember he’d also had a piece of my bread) but to his credit (and thickening waist line) he managed.

There was a dessert menu but for once OH didn’t even want to look at it. However, what jumped out was a Chocolate and Cherry Tartlet with creme fraiche sorbet, which sounds divine.

I would definitely go back but next time I would only have the chowder….and maybe a sandwich.

Two 2 course set lunches, a bottle of locally brewed Abernyte Festbier and a Ginger beer – £40.80.

And in case you are wondering. We didn’t buy the chaise longue.

The Allanpark Hotel, Stirling

Having bought tickets for Bloody Scotland, yesterday OH and I headed to Stirling to see crime writers Denise Mina and Louise Welsh chat with Janice Forsyth and then Mark Billingham chew the fat with Richard Osman in the Albert Halls.

A friend at work had advised us to park at the Vue Cinema and walk over the bridge into the middle of town, which turned out to be a great idea rather than driving around trying to find a place to park in the busy city centre. She also suggested the Allanpark Hotel for somewhere to eat, which also turned out to be a great piece of advice.

The Allanpark Hotel is off the beaten track and hidden at the end of a street not far from the Albert Halls. When we went in we were seated in an already busy room. I could tell by looking around that other diners were also there for Bloody Scotland as I spotted a number of programmes being read.

Soup of the day was Potato and garlic, which meant OH had already chosen his starter. The menu offered a lot of light bites, sandwiches and soup, sharing platters, pizzas and afternoon tea. The mains were things like fish and chips, burgers, stuffed chicken and macaroni cheese, which does sound a bit dull but I could see the dishes being taken to other tables and they looked good.

OH’s soup arrived quickly and was accompanied with some home made bread from the Bavarian Bakehouse. The soup was the perfect temperature and meant all the different flavours could be tasted. It was smooth with a little kick to it and went down a treat.

For main, I decided to go for the Seafood Tagliatelle w/ Tomato, Basil & Mascarpone – King prawns, squid, clams, chorizo, samphire, tagliatelle, Parmesan, garlic ciabatta. The prawns were huge and firm and the sauce was perfectly balanced. The samphire gave it a crunch and the chorizo was well cooked and not over powering. Overall the dish was great, just the right amount of pasta and all the ingredients complemented one another. Looking back though, I can’t remember tasting any squid or seeing any clams in the dish.

OH had a Super Food Bowl w/ roasted Chicken breast – wholemeal cous cous, lentils, kale, sun-dried tomato, roasted beetroot, artichokes, pesto, micro-herbs. OH enjoyed it but said there was too much and by the time he ploughed through it the dressing became too acidic as it had all pooled in the bottom of the bowl. The bowl also annoyed him and he would have preferred a plate but then they would have to change the description.

When we were asked if we wanted dessert, I stuck with the Pinot Grigio and OH decided to have the Classic Crème Brûlée – set vanilla custard, brown sugar, home-made shortbread, which I thought was a boring choice but when it arrived it looked amazing. The whole dish was sweetness in different forms. The caramlised brown sugar snapped into brittle shards and clashed delightfully with the soft creamy custard and OH loved every single calorie of the dish.

The service was exemplary. Everyone was cheerful and friendly, the food arrived quickly but with just the right amount of time between courses and when the bill arrived in a little Wind in the Willows book the waitress immediately brought the card machine.

1 starter, 2 mains, 1 dessert and a bottle of wine = £57