Dine at 29, Dunfermline, Fife

Yesterday OH and I decided to head to Dunfermline for lunch. So after a wander around the new Abbey Church (not that new as it was built in 1819), where Robert the Bruce’s bones are buried (560 years after his death) and a look about the recently opened (proper new) and architecturally splendid library and museum

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we headed to Dine at 29 on Bruce Street. I had booked online the night before – because I could  not necessarily because it would be busy – however, when we arrived it was obvious there had been a recent Itison voucher deal as the majority of people in the restaurant were enjoying afternoon teas.

We were given 2  menus – a main menu and a lunch one. The lunch menu offered 2 courses for £12.95 or 3 for £14.95. The intriguing main menu, as well as other things,  offered Hot Rocks, which OH was interested in. When the waitress appeared to take our drinks order we got an explanation. For the price of £39 you both order the same thing – a steak (sirloin, rump, ribeye, fillet (£7 supplement); King Prawn Skewers or Venison, which you cook yourself on a 400° lava rock. You then choose 2 sides from the long list, which includes things like fries, onions rings, mushrooms, beetroot, bread and butter, sauces etc. Also included is a bottle of wine/pitcher of beer/cocktail pitcher or bottomless juice. Quite a bargain.

I’m not a fan of steak and as you both have to order the same thing, plus I was driving, I decided against the Hot Rock and plumped for the lunch menu.  However, you could order just one steak and 2 sides and pay a set price (minus the drink) and OH decided to do just that. When the waitress appeared I ordered a starter I thought we could share. Garlic Mushrooms – pan fried with garlic and white wine and topped with cheese.

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When it arrived it was apparent it was going to be tricky to share and although it was tasty and the sauce amazing, I would not recommend it if you are on a romantic date as the hot, stringy mozzarella made it difficult to eat without making you look like you’d never used cutlery before.

 

I followed this with Fish and Chips – battered and served with Crushed PeaIMAG9459s and Tartare Sauce. If you’re a regular here you will know that I have been moaning about a lack of actual mushy peas nowadays and how crushed peas seems to be the in thing. Well this menu stated it was crushed peas – not mushy – but when it arrived it was just peas, whole ones. not even crushed. I’m not complaining as I am more than able to crush a pea but I do miss mushy peas! Peas aside, the fish was lovely, fresh with a crisp batter, the chips were good, skinny with skins but the tartare sauce was uninspiring.

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OH’s steak arrived raw on a rock with little bowls of salt, pepper and butter as well as the sides he had ordered of seasoned fries and roasted beetroot. The waitress was on hand with instructions and was able to talk OH through the process, asking how he liked it and gave advice around turning it and cutting it up.

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She then left OH to it, who decided to cut off the fat and leave it on the rock to crisp up. The downside of this is that the fat spat everywhere – all over the table, my phone, glasses and me – I could feel the little pin pricks over my hands as I cut into my fish. It was gimmicky but entertaining. If you don’t want to do it yourself they will cook it for you in the kitchen but where is the fun in that? OH enjoyed it and the roasted beetroot was a highlight.

For dessert on the lunch menu there was cheesecake of the day, which was tablet, sticky toffee pudding, assorted ice creams and Eton Mess.

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OH decided on the cheesecake. I had a little taste and it was gorgeous.  Thick, sweet and tasted of tablet. Presentation was good and the accompanying berries, fat and juicy.

There was only one waitress but she done a fantastic job of looking after everyone and still managed to give a friendly, personal service.

One set 3 course lunch £14.95, one Hot Rock rump steak with 2 sides £22.95, 2 pints of Moretti £8.60 and a coke £2.40 = £48.90.

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Balgove Larder – Steak Barn, St Andrews

Today OH and I paid a visit to Balgove Larder, just outside St Andrews, to have a meal in their Steak Barn.

We have seen the blackboard signs advertising the farm shop along with steak and chips on numerous occasions but had never ventured in so finding ourselves hungry outwith normal bar lunch times we decided today was the day.

When you drive in you can see Balgove Larder in front of you and a large barn to the right. The barn is made from old potato crates and inside it is full of long, communal, hand made tables and benches.  At the back of the barn you can see the wood fired BBQ where the majority of the food is cooked on. No reservations are taken so when you turn up it’s where ever there is room. However, it was not that busy so we were seated at an empty table and given our menus. A list of specials, the regular menu and a drinks one. IMAG7352

Starters were approximately £9 each and looked like smaller portions of the mains although one that jumped out was pigeon kebab, strawberries and feta salad. The special mains were roughly £18 each and there were options such as sticky bbq pork ribs, mussels, chicken kebabs and  fish and chips(£15). The regular menu had burgers, sausages and steaks. The steaks, which were £19 (the fillet was £25) are all hung for 28 days and cooked to order on the BBQ.  There were only a couple of vegetarian options but then it is a Steak Barn and not a mushroom shed.

I noticed on the drinks menu they did a Bloody Mary, which usually means it will be a good one so that was an easy decision.  The waitress asked if I wanted it spicy. Of course I did. The barman delivered it personally. Spicy was an under statement  it was rocket fuel and lush. OH had a pint of Eden Mill 19th lager.

For food I decided on the Balgove Beef Burger – steak burger, lettuce, tomato, relish, twice fried chips and salad leaves £8.95. IMAG7356The burger was easily an inch thick and the tastiest burger I have ever had. You could have added cheese, bacon or jalapenos for an extra £1.25 but I had it plain.

I hate when you have to commit to a burger because you know if you put it down you won’t be able to pick it up again in one piece. However, this bun did not collapse or slide and I was able to pick it up and put it down at will and enjoy the chips whilst they were still hot, dipping them in the relish.

OH had an 8oz Rib Eye Steak, which also came with twice fried chips and leaves. As you can see it was served on a board so of course OH had to ask with a deep sigh, “Why do we never get plates any more?”

IMAG7355OH enjoyed his steak and said it was melt in the mouth. Later when I was asking him to rate it against other steaks he has had in the past he said it was within his top 6 but what let it down was a lack of tasty vegetables alongside it. His leaves obviously didn’t impress. Like mine, his chips looked like chip shop chips but some how actually managed to taste better.

For dessert OH went for Eton Mess, which arrived as a lovely, messy dollop on a slate. IMAG7358There was plenty of everything – the raspberries were fresh and tasted home grown, the meringue was crunchy and chewy and the mess did not last long at all.

As OH was having a dessert and an Americano, which arrived in a paper cup (obviously they use the tin mugs to keep the cutlery in)  I decided to have a pint of Cairn O Mhor Pictish Cider, which made my mouth look like a cat’s ass.

As you pay your bill at the bar on the way out I asked the barman about the Bloody Mary and he said that he used special tomato juice that you can buy in the Larder that has a hint of clam to it. I couldn’t quite make out the name he said but I knew it started with a C so OH and I went over to the Larder to buy some. We searched the whole of the shop but could only find Big Tom. We spotted there was a make of soft drink called Cawston Presse and a gap in the line so I wondered if perhaps the tomato juice had sold out. Just then an older member of staff appeared so I asked if there was a Cawston tomato juice that might have sold out. She looked at me and said “I don’t stock it” and walked off without another word. And on that note we left without buying anything. Fortunately/unfortunately she was the only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth during my visit to Balgove Larder and Steak Barn.

2 mains, a dessert, 2 pints, a Bloody Mary and a coffee = £46.65

 

By the way, when I got home I googled the tomato juice and it was Clamato.

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)

Café Montmartre, Cupar, Fife

As usual OH and I were wondering where we could for go Saturday lunch. A friend had recently recommended a couple of restaurants in Fife so we thought we’d try one of them out.  After a quick look online I knew the one we had decided on wasn’t a large place so I phoned up and booked a table at Cafe Montmartre in Cupar for 1pm.

When we arrived there was only one other table that was occupied so I did wonder if I had needed to book. An elderly French gentleman welcomed us in and showed us to a corner table. It was easily the best table in the room, with a great view of the restaurant. The walls were covered in black and white photographs of famous French people and the music was a lovely mix of Mediterranean cafe songs. As I looked around I recognised an old work colleague siting at the other table – a good sign that it was indeed a good recommendation – after all, 2 friends of mine can’t be wrong ;p.

We were given menus and our drinks order was taken. There was a table d’hote menu – 2 courses for £15.95, 3 for £17.95 and a light lunch menu. The soup of the day was vegetable and the salad of the day was hot salmon and prawn.

I adored the  menu and struggled to chose what to have as I liked the majority of the dishes.

One of the starters was Moules Marinières au vin blanc – rope grown Shetland mussels, cooked with white wine, leeks and carrots.  If you are a regular reader you will know I had a bad experience with mussels the last time I was out. Since then I have learned you should only eat mussels when there is an R in the month i.e. mussels aren’t a good choice in the summer! Who knew?

2015-09-05 13.13.26 As it is now September I thought I’d get back in the saddle and give them a try. I was glad I did. They were delicious,  plump and juicy just as they should be. The liquor wasn’t too salty as is often the case and I loved dunking my bread in it. OH decided2015-09-05 13.12.50 on the Terrine de Canard – Duck and fig terrine, pistachio nuts wrapped in Parma Ham. OH said he really enjoyed it. I tasted his fig chutney and it was beautifully rich and tangy.

For my main meal I eventually settled on Jarret de Porc aux Pruneaux – Slow cooked pork shank with marinated prunes in cream sauce. I don’t often chose pork when I am out but the sound of this dish called out to me and it was just as delicious as it sounded. The meat fell from the bone in large tasty chunks. The rich creamy sauce and prunes complimented the pork perfectly and I would definitely opt for this dish again. 2015-09-05 13.37.45OH, true to form, had the Pavé de Boeuf Grillée aux Echalotes – char-grilled pave beef steak served with fine green beans, shallots and pomme frites with garlic butter. OH said his steak was nice and juicy but was a bit chewy compared to other steaks he has had recently. He added that the garlic butter over the green beans and shallots went well with the steak.

Normally I decline the dessert menu when offered but I have recently realised that when I have had 2 great courses I get greedy so I just had to have a pudding. 2015-09-05 14.21.37There was a choice of tarts – pear and almond, tarte tatin and cherry, there was also ice creams, and cheese but I went for the Coupe de fraises & pistache créme anglaise – strawberries topped with pistachio créme anglaise coulis.2015-09-05 14.23.35 It was perfect and I was glad I decided on having a dessert. Surprisingly OH just had an espresso and then insisted I take a pic of his giant hand with it.

When we first arrived in the restaurant I questioned the need to book a table but as we dined the place filled up around us, which created a lovely atmosphere. The service was great, the food was fantastic and what we found in Montmartre was a petite piece of France in Fife. Whether you like French food or not I’d recommend you make your way to Cupar soon and try for yourself the amazing Café Montmartre.

One 3 course meal, one 2 course meal, a coffee, 2 bottles of beer and a diet coke – £47.25

The Grill House, St Andrews, Fife.

When I’m on-call I have to stay within an hours drive of central Fife and have a good phone signal. Therefore, OH and I drove around Fife trying to think of somewhere we could dine. We drove through Elie first only to find it was the Elie Fair day and the cars were parked nose to tail along the pavements so we quickly gave up on the small east neuk village. Crail was similar with tourists swarming the streets. Since we had spent the morning on the golf range (yes I am still hitting balls) we even tried Crail Golf Club but the elitist club only serve food to members or people who have golfed the course so we left those pompous gits behind. It was with no surprise to either of us that we ended up in St Andrews. Over the years we’ve ate here a lot but had never tried The Grill House so we made our way inside.

The music and decor are Mexican and the menu also reflected a Mexican theme as there were fajitas, chili and enchiladas on it as well as a burger and char-grill section. There was a lunch menu, which didn’t finish until 4pm and it offered 2 courses for £7.95. However, I found it to be quite uninspiring and for once I struggled to order from it. Incidentally the soup of the day was split pea and mint (I hate mint in my food).

OH looked at both menus and couldn’t decide what to have. He then decided he was going for the Flat Iron steak on the à la carte menu. Well, he was until I pointed out to him that it was also on the set menu with a £4.95 supplement and even with the add-on it would still be cheaper and he’d get a ‘free’ starter with it.  One decision made he then struggled with what starter to go for as, like me, he found it difficult to chose between the soup, haggis fritter, Caesar salad and salmon goujons (also with a supplement). Eventually he settled on the haggis fritter, which came with onion chutney and salad..  2015-07-25 15.51.56  When it arrived it was a slice of haggis, which had been battered and deep fried. The haggis was greasy and not spicy enough. The salad was undressed and the chutney cold, which in turn made the haggis cold too.

For my main course I had plumped for Grill House Pulled Pork Chicken, which was char-grilled chicken breast topped with pulled pork, melted smoked cheese and hickory BBQ sauce. It came with the option of fries or chili fries.2015-07-25 16.12.27 It arrived covered in leaves with no other vegetables. I enjoyed it and ended up eating far too much of it. The sauce wasn’t too strong which can often be the case with BBQ sauce and there was heaps of melted cheese.

Just in case you don’t already know (I didn’t), Flat Iron Steak is cut with the grain from the leg. Apparently it produces a more flavoursome steak but can often be tougher than a rib-eye or sirloin. This is because it would normally then be sliced in half along an internal membrane to produce 2 thinner cuts instead of the thicker, Flat Iron steak that could still contain the gristly membrane (thanks wiki).

OH’s asked for his steak rare as usual and it arrived with a with a red wine and thyme sauce and a pile of rocket leaves.The sauce came in a cute, little saucepan on the side and I was shocked when, half way through, I saw him pouring it over his steak (OH hates it when the sauce is all over his steak). 2015-07-25 16.12.19When I queried this I was told it was really nice with a lovely hint of the wine and thyme and it went great over his mediocre steak. “Mediocre?”  “Yes, it’s alright but I’ve had better.”  Of course this has to be true, with no disrespect to this steak, as he has had many fantastic steaks over the years.

OH had 2 ales from the St Andrews Brewing Co. to wash down his meal – considering our earlier drive I’m not sure if it was coincidence or not that one was called Neuk and the other Crail.  2015-07-25 16.39.17Overall, The Grill House was enjoyable. They have very reasonable priced cocktails, the service was good and  the toilets clean and although the starter wasn’t great, if you like your food sizzling or deep fried then this is the place for you.

One set 2 course meal with a £4.95 supplement, one main, 2 ales and 2 diet cokes = £40.55.

Chez Acchiardo, Nice, France

On holiday on the Côte d’Azur, OH and I had been wandering around Nice taking in the sights and smells of the old town, which are dramatically better than some old towns in Scotland. It was too early for us to eat but I happened to look through the window of a restaurant and decided straight away that was where we were going to dine that night. The interior just looked like a good French restaurant – lots of dark wooden tables, white walls, stone arches and bottles of wine everywhere.2015-06-18 19.16.05

It didn’t open until 7pm and when we returned I was surprised to see there was a queue to get in. Fortunately, they could  squeeze us in – when I checked Tripadvisor later every reviewer stated that you had to book so we were lucky, not only to have happened upon it but also to get a seat.

Service was fantastic with good looking waiters and waitresses eager to please and with better English than most tourists. However, that didn’t stop me practicing my French and they very patiently tried to interpret all the French nouns I attempted. The policeman from ‘Ello ‘Ello comes to mind.

We passed on starters today and went straight for the mains. OH had a steak with basil butter (I won’t try to show off with writing everything in French just trust my translation). There was a choice of accompanying side dishes – salad, green beans, chips or a chickpea thing. 2015-06-18 19.25.542015-06-18 19.25.41OH decided on the green beans and I had chips with my duck and fig sauce. I tried some of OH’s rare steak and it did indeed melt in the mouth as he promised. I’m not a big fan of steak but I enjoyed the bite I had. My duck was delicious and the sauce was rich and glossy and didn’t over power the tender meat. The chips were incredible but I passed on OH’s green beans because I hate when they squeak against your teeth. He assures me they were great though. 2015-06-18 19.16.16We washed it all down with a bottle of red and when offered the dessert menu we couldn’t resist. OH had 2015-06-18 20.21.50chocolate mouse with cream and I had vanilla, meringue and hazelnut ice cream, which was bliss. OH finished off his meal with a coffee as I of course, finished the wine.

It was a lovely dining experience – very French, very friendly and very affordable.

2 mains, 2 desserts, a bottle of wine and a coffee came to a very reasonable €65.

Chez Acchiardo, 38 Rue Droite , 06300 Nice , France.  33 4 93 85 51 16

The Riverside Inn, Dundee

Last weekend I was off call for work but on call for babysitting duties. The baby in question is our beautiful 1 year old granddaughter (yes, I know you didn’t think I was old enough ;p)

As it was a rotten day on Saturday we tried to think of somewhere indoors that would suit a nosey wee one but also keep our interest too. Therefore, we decided to head north to The Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre at Abernyte in Perthshire, which if you like wandering around old bits and pieces, perusing chic modern furniture, accessories and clothes and finally pick up some fancy cheese in a deli then it is the place to go when it’s raining. There really is something for everyone whether it’s an antique figurine, a brand new footstool or a cup of tea and slice of cake. The down side is that the restaurant area is a bit too upmarket to sit with a toddler. We, therefore, headed along the River Tay to The Riverside Inn in Dundee.

I had thought it was still called The Marmalade Pot but we discovered it had been refurbished and boasted a tv screen at every table and a free soft play area. Yes, I did say a TV SCREEN at every table. It’s anti-social dinning at it’s best. I guess you do have the choice of switching it off but as the waitress led us to our table I didn’t see any blank screens.

What I did like though, was that the table we were shown to had already been set for us with a babyseat and children’s menu. I had brought some food for the wee one so it was just OH and I that needed to decide. As we looked over the menu the waitress brought over some plastic cutlery and chatted with the wee one, which was nice. The menu was the usual pub grub but also advertised hanging skewers and a Build Your Own Burger section. Thinking the DIY burger was too much hassle OH decided to go for a 28 day aged 8oz Rump Steak with seasoned chips, petits pois, mushrooms, onion rings and roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine. I went for the Chicken fajitas with pan-fried peppers, red onions, tortillas, jalapeños, grated Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Whilst we waited I tried to feed our granddaughter but she was far too interested in everything that was happening around us. Other children running around, large groups arriving with presents and balloons and the waitresses passing by with platefuls. However, we soon had her full attention when our food arrived. 2015-02-21 14.26.41My fajitas were sizzling hot and made quite a racket when the dishes were placed in front of me. OH’s steak, although looking good just didn’t have the same pizzazz.    2015-02-21 14.26.48   When I saw the amount of spicy chicken and peppers there were I didn’t think I would be able to finish it all but oh boy did I manage, and enjoyed every drop.

OH made short work of his steak too and managed to lose a few chips to the wee one who preferred them loads more than the food I had provided. I’ve just asked OH to pass comment on his meal and he’s said “You can’t really go wrong with a steak – it was a good bit of beef done the way I asked without any sauce on it.”  So there you have it. 2015-02-21 14.26.34

After we’d scrapped our plates clean, I toddled after the wee one through to the busy soft play area where she spent 20 minutes trying to get everyone’s attention and I spent 20 minutes trying to get her attention to capture a colourful happy pic. We both failed but both had fun.

It’s not a place I’d go for a romantic meal or even a meal with another couple but with kids that arent teens yet (let’s face it teens wouldn’t want to be seen with you out anway)  it’s an ideal place to go and have good food whilst they watch tv and run around in their socks.

One pint of lager and a tin of juice – £4.93 (bought at the bar as we waited on our table) and 2 main meals – £18.98 = a total  of £23.91.

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.

Le Point D’Ogre, Toulouse

OH and I had looked up some restaurants before we left for Toulouse and one of the ones that stood out was Le Point D’Ogre, which is located on an easy to miss street off Rue de Metz in Toulouse.

The restaurant, like the majority of French restaurants, doesn’t open until 8pm and we arrived shortly after it opened. Probably because it was a Tuesday night it wasn’t busy and they were happy to seat us without a reservation. The first thing we noticed was the ‘Ogre’ in front of his stone oven ready to grill whatever we ordered. He smiled unfiercely.

The menu wasn’t extensive but did offer duck, beef, salmon and pork and it was explained to us that there was no choice for the starter. I decided on the duck confit and OH just had to have the steak.

As we sat we could see the Ogre take out a huge fillet of beef and cut it into 3 sizable steaks.

2014-09-02 20.38.15-1When our starter arrived we were amazed. The waitresses proceeded to place in front of us a beautiful basket with a red and white checked towel in it. On top of that was fresh cauliflower, carrots, radishes and 3 types of sausage. There was also cold carrot and orange soup, bread, some cured ham, ailoli, onion marmalade and tapenade. We also got our own chopping board and sharp knife.2014-09-02 20.39.27 (2) Everything tasted fresh and it all went well together. OH and I crunched and dipped and sliced and spread to our hearts content but I was also wary of eating too much in case I couldn’t manage my main meal and I’d have hated that!

2014-09-02 21.00.48 (2)Starter over, I watched on as the Ogre cooked OHs steak on the charcoal grill. It was obvious he was proud of his work and when the large slab of beef had rested to perfection he presented it to OH with a flourish, bowing proudly at his work. We both applauded. 2014-09-02 21.03.38The steak looked magnificent and covered the majority of the plate leaving only a little room for a roasted garlic clove. In a separate plate was an orange and olive salad (OH didn’t want potatoes as he is watching his figure ;p). My duck confit, which ordinarily would have looked fantastic, paled into insignificance next to the mighty piece of beef. It was however excellent and I was glad of my choice, not being a big meat fan. The duck melted in the mouth and was delicious.  2014-09-02 21.03.54 (2)

Evidently no longer watching his figure, OH decided to have a dessert and when he queried the profiteroles the waitress disappeared and returned with something that didn’t resemble anything we would recognise as a profiterole but looked eminently better.She then demonstrated it being cut open and filled with cream. OH was sold.2014-09-02 21.33.00 (2)

The meal was amazing, the staff were very friendly and the decor was perfect. It was a little pricey compared to our normal budget (the steak was 36€) but considering OH had the best steak of his life I am glad we went that little further and gained the experience and fantastic evening we did.

If you are ever in Toulouse and love steak then make sure you pay Le Point D’Ogre. C’est formidable!

 

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.