Girl Versus Food

Reviews, recipes and thoughts from a Scottish food blogger

Month: June 2015

Dublin: Irish Whiskey and Fine Dining

Can you believe I went to Dublin and found a bar with locals in it? Quite an achievement when the city gets more than seven million visitors a year! The Palace Bar is a wee gem just a five minute walk from the tourist throng at Temple Bar. The traditional Victorian pub, located on Fleet Street, has an excellent range of Irish whiskeys which reflect the recent resurgence in the industry which had all but died out. Walking into the pub, I got the feeling that the world had been put to rights here many a time. This was a talking pub. Where generations have met and tall tales have been told.

Palace Bar

We were served by Willie Ahern, whose father owns the bar. Willie’s grandfather bought the bar in 1946 and it has stayed in the family since then. One of the things that makes The Palace Bar stand out is that it boasts its very own whiskey. In years gone by, it was common place for bars to distil their own spirits.  My husband is a whisky fan, so between pints of Guinness, he tried out Palace Bar Whiskey. The 14 year old single malt (which contains malt of up to 21 years in age) got a big thumbs up and compared favourably to some of his favourite Scotch. In fact, it was so good he had to have a second nip to be sure he really liked it. There are only 1,000 bottles being produced in this run and you can pick it up online here.

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After checking out a few of the city’s bars, it was time to cross the river for dinner at Chapter One restaurant. The restaurant is one of five Michelin star eateries in Dublin and I chose it based on a recommendation from a friend. The restaurant is very popular, so booking is essential.


Upon ringing the bell, we received a warm Irish welcome from co-owner and maître d’, Martin Corbett. The basement level restaurant is still surprisingly bright with a minimalist feel and some beautiful pieces of art.

From the Wicklow lamb to the Kilkenny veal, it was clear from looking at the menu that the restaurant had put a great deal of thought in to using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The pre-theatre menu is fantastic value at £27 (€37.50) for three courses. At our request, the wine sommelier chose some excellent wines to accompany each dish for us.


To start, I opted for Parmesan ravioli with asparagus and a lemon emulsion. My husband went for the carpaccio of rose veal which was served with black beluga lentils. Both dishes were beautifully presented. I was pleased to see the chef had taken advantage of the relatively short asparagus season; my pasta dish tasted like summer on a plate.


For our mains, Mr GvF chose the loin of pork with cabbage and smoked buttermilk mash, while I went for the short rib of beef. The beef was slow-cooked to perfection and came with a side of the best cheesy gnocchi I’ve ever tasted. I literally could eat that gnocchi every day; the best comfort food ever!

Pork loin

Rib of beefGnocchi


To finish we went for the organic ice cream with honeycomb and the chocolate mousse. The desserts were indulgent but not overly heavy and there was a lovely variation in texture and flavour.



From start to finish, the Chapter One experience was a delight. The personal, knowledgeable service and the wonderful food mean that the restaurant is definitely in my 2015 dining highlights. It is also, without doubt, the best value Michelin star restaurant I’ve visited!

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With proprietor Martin Corbett


17 reasons to visit the Royal Highland Show this weekend

The Royal Highland Show showcases the very best of food, farming and rural life. Here are my top 17 reasons to visit the show this weekend 19th – 21st June.


  1. It’s not just for farmers. Show Manager, David Jackson, explains: “42% of visitors come to the Royal Highland Show to enjoy the food and drink.” This year the foodie aspects play a major role while the show still stays true to its agricultural roots.
  2. There’s live music. Have a boogie to Ceilidh Minogue! Yes, that really is the name of a band.
  1. It’s easy to get there. There are buses are running regularly from Edinburgh city centre. Check out the travel page for more info Leave the car at home and enjoy some samples (see no.10)
  2. The people. Visitors come from all over Scotland and further afield giving the show a buzzing, friendly atmposhere.
  3. You can be confident about grabbing a bite to eat. The food outlets throughout the show park have passed the Year of Food and Drink Food Charter. So whether you fancy an ice-cream or a burger, you can rest assured that it is responsibly sourced and, where possible, bought locally.
  4. The livestock. Not just sheep. You can also see highland cows, donkeys and tiny ponies. Cuteness overload!RHS Grand Parade
  1. Scotland’s Larder Live is foodie heaven, featuring over 120 producers and showcasing the very best of Scottish produce. There’s samples galore so it’s the perfect opportunity to try something new. Also lots of the stands have special show prices and offers so you can pick up a bargain.
  1. There’s tonnes of fun activities for kids. Your Mini-Me’s can find out what it’s like to be a bee keeper, become a super sleuth for The Soil Association or watch the Clan Cycle Stunt Team perform daredevil tricks.RHS Young Exhibitor
  1. You could witness a new Guinness World Record! On Sunday, two butchers from different parts of Scotland will attempt to set a world record for the most sausages created in one minute. Sausage-tastic!
  1. Gin! Lovely Scottish Gin. Strathearn, NB Gin, Pickerings, Eden Mill and Edinburgh Gin are all in Scotland’s Larder Live. Have a wee sample and find out which is your favourite.
  1. Check out demonstrations of forestry skills like chainsaw carving and pole climbing. Do not try this at home!RHS Climbing Pole
  1. You might see some royalty. The Queen has visited the show three times, most recently in 2009.
  1. Get some top tips from celeb chefs in The Cookery Theatre. You can see chefs such as Neil Forbes, Paul Wedgwood, Craig Wilson, David Haetzman and Fred Berkmiller. There are opportunities to ask questions and sample what the chefs have cooked up.DSC_0882
  1. See some very well trained animals at the falconry display and gun dogs in the Countryside Arena.
  2. You can watch talented sportsmen and women compete in activities like show jumping in the main arena.
  1. You could become an internet sensation – this year’s show is being streamed live online here
  1. It’s an institution. This is the 175th year of the Royal Highland Show so if you’ve never been, make 2015 the year to be part of this unique and iconic event.

Gin Foraging Event, Glasgow

I’ve decided that Bear Grylls has it all wrong. Drinking reindeer blood and snacking on bugs to stay alive? Nah, I’ll pass! Foraging for gin garnishes, on the other hand? That sounds right up my street! So I was super excited to hear that The Glasgow Gin Club have teamed up with The Botanist Gin to hold a foraging event on the 4th of July 2015.

The Botanist is one of my favourite gins. It’s made on Islay from hand-foraged botanicals and has a clean, citrus flavour.

Over the last year in particular, I’ve noticed a trend for more interesting gin garnishes. In parallel to the rise of craft gins, people have become much more adventurous when it comes to finding great accompaniments. Why limit yourself to lime or cucumber when there’s a whole world of possibilities out there?

What I love most about the idea of foraging for botanicals is that it means your G&T will change depending on the season and what you’ve been able to find that day.

The event will start with a scenic walk from the Botanic Gardens to Kelvin Grove Park and along the way there will be an opportunity to learn about botanicals that can be found growing wild in the area. Then it will be on to the Kelvingrove Café where there will be the chance to participate in a drinks workshop and try out The Botanist with a variety of foraged garnishes, syrups and tonics. The day will end with nibbles and a delicious cocktail made by the professionals. All in all, this sounds like my perfect Saturday afternoon!

The Glasgow Gin Club hold monthly events which are a great chance to meet like-minded gin lovers! You can buy tickets for the foraging event here

Hope to see you there!


La Sala, Puerto Banus

One of the highlights of a recent holiday to Marbella was dining out at La Sala bar and restaurant. We were a group of nine girls, including a few slightly fussy eaters, but we were all really impressed by the fantastic choice of food available on the menu. There was seafood, steaks and salads galore. There were also a number of Asian influenced dishes on the menu which added an interesting twist.  The wine menu was probably the most reasonably priced I seen during my Marbella trip with bottles starting at 16.95€.

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There was a buzzing atmosphere in La Sala with a mixed clientele that included groups and couples of all ages. I got the impression that La Sala is frequented by ex-pat community as well as tourists which I always take as a positive sign. The live music really added to the ambiance and I noticed that La Sala often have tribute nights too. We visited on a Friday night and everyone was dressed to impress, making it the perfect place to people watch.  But don’t worry, if people-watching isn’t your thing, you could ask to be seated at a table with this gorgeous view out over the hills.image10

The starters we opted for included Pil Pil prawns, duck spring rolls and chicken liver parfait, all of which got a big thumbs up from the group.



On to the main courses and another varied selection of dishes arrived at our table. Our choices included scallops in a cream and mushroom sauce, fish and chips and seafood pasta. Spain has a reputation forcooking beef very rare so when I ordered my fillet steak to be cooked medium, I was a bit worried it might still be mooing at me when it arrived. I needn’t have worried as my steak was cooked to perfection. It was topped with garlic butter and came with a Béarnaise sauce on the side.




The starters and mains were generously sized which meant we had no room left for desserts but there was a good selection available. The meal was excellent value, coming in at 50€ per person which included two courses plus wine. If you’re visiting Puerto Banus soon and fancy a lovely evening out, I would definitely recommend a trip to La Sala. The place is open until 3am on weekends so you can keep the party going with cocktails and dancing after your meal.


The London Gin Club, Soho

A visit to London for my 30th birthday was always going to involve gin! After a bit of online research, I stumbled across the London Gin Club. The bar stocks 130 varieties of gin and is in a great location in Soho.

The website recommended booking a table and I’m glad I did as the place was really busy when we arrived on a Friday evening. I loved the quirky décor with vintage signs decorating the walls. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on the steep stairs down to the toilets. I can imagine these being a little tricky after a few drinks! The menu made it perfectly clear what kind of place it was:image1

There was an excellent list of gin cocktails but we both opted for a blind tasting which was £26 each and included four different gins for us to try. My attention has been very much on Scottish gins recently so this was a great way to sample some new gins without being biased towards the homeland! The waitress brought over the gins along with Fevertree tonic and a selection of garnishes. She suggested tasting the gin neat, before adding some tonic and tasting again and then choosing a garnish.



I absolutely loved tasting the four gins with no preconceptions and choosing which accompaniments I thought went best. The garnishes included orange, lime, raspberry and thyme. Mr GvF and I had some great discussion about the gins and ended up going for totally different garnishes. They great thing is, there’s no right or wrong answers; you choose what you think goes well together.

As they change the gins on the blind tasting menu regularly, I can reveal the ones I tried without ruining the surprise for you!

Brokers – a 40% English gin

Chilgrove – a 44% English gin

Berkeley Square – a 40% English gin

Da Mhile – a 42% Welsh gin

Each gin was very different and it was difficult to choose a favourite; I would have been happy to drink any of these again. However, I think the Da Mhile just edged it for me. It has notes of pepper and I opted to garnish it with thyme which I think was a great combination. I’ve since read up on it and discovered that it is one of very few organic gins produced in the UK and is very reasonably priced at £30 for a 70cl bottle.

The London Gin Club is a must visit attraction for gin lovers and makes a great date night. I’m looking forward to visiting again the next time I’m in the capital. Cheers!

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