Girl Versus Food

Reviews, recipes and thoughts from a Scottish food blogger

Tag: restaurant review (page 1 of 2)

Mono Edinburgh Review

Does Italian food automatically make you think of hearty, homely cooking; lasagne, Bolognese, pizza? The type of meal where you might need to undo the top button on your trousers afterwards? If you fancy trying a different side of Italian cuisine, I may just have found the perfect place!

Mono opened a few months ago and I’d heard really positive things so I was keen to try it out. It describes itself as ‘progressive Italian dining’ and walking in off the busy South Bridge, it felt like a serene sanctuary with tasteful, modern décor.

The three course lunch (£22) seemed like a good starting point and I added on matched wines at £15. Mono also do à la carte as well as a tasting menu. The lunch menu is concise, with three or four options for each course. The menu doesn’t give a lot of clues as to how the ingredients will be served, but that’s part of the excitement.

After a delicious beetroot and goats cheese amuse bouche and some hand made bread and olive oil, it was on to the first course. I opted for the baked ricotta whilst my friend chose the tuna tortellini. The ricotta dish had lots of colourful elements on the plate and was finished with a tomato consommé poured over the top. The baked ricotta and creamy ricotta mousse worked well with the other elements including the olives, tomatoes and what my friend described as the orange ‘pieces of coral reef’. The tuna tortellini was fresh, had a beautiful bergamot sauce and was topped with crispy onions.

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IMG_6009On to the mains and I had taken our waiter’s recommendation on the cod. A decision I did not regret! The fish was well seasoned and perfectly cooked. The accompanying mussels were a treat! My friend opted for the porcini risotto; probably one of the more traditional dishes on the menu but perfectly executed and the mushroom flavour came across well.

IMG_6016For the desserts we opted for the olive oil cake and the plum tart. This was my first olive oil cake and I was pleasantly surprised. It had a soft texture and wasn’t overly sweet but the honeycomb and ice-cream on the dish gave the right balance. The plum and chocolate tart was dramatically served with a puff of Laphroaig whisky from a perfume bottle.

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The staff in Mono were knowledgeable and attentive without being overbearing. They chose some really nice matched wines for us which I thought were excellent value at £15.

This was an all-round excellent experience and I confirm I there was no need to unbutton my jeans after lunch!

Keep an eye out for special events from Mono; the most recent one was an eight course Truffle Tasting Menu which sounded unbelievable!

I was invited along as a guest of Mono.

Review – Six by Nico Edinburgh

I’ve been a huge fan of Six by Nico since the Glasgow restaurant opened last year and I’ve made it along to check out nine of their menus! So when I heard that Chef Nico had decided to open an Edinburgh restaurant, needless to say I was a tad excited!

The new Hanover Street restaurant is very stylish with dark wood and grey walls with citrus highlights and marble table tops. The chefs are part of the dining experience; you can watch them in the finishing kitchen as well as get a birds-eye view of their progress on the wall mounted screen.image4

The concept is simple but genius; a new themed six-course tasting menu, every six weeks. The menus have taken inspiration from many corners of the world but have all been inventive and delicious. The menu is also very reasonably priced – £28 for the six courses and you can add matched wines for an additional £25.

The first themed menu that the Edinburgh restaurant ran with was inspired by the pinnacle of Scottish cuisine: The Chippie! But it was definitely not a greasy fish supper served in yesterday’s newspaper. This was a carefully executed meal, designed to bring the inspiration of the chip shop to your plate in unexpected ways.

I started my experience with an aperitif of Edinburgh Seaside Gin & Tonic garnished with samphire, while I looked over the exciting menu that would soon be arriving:

Chips & Cheese – parmesan espuma, crisp potato, curry oil

Scampi – Scrabster monkfish cheek, pea ketchup, herb pesto, bergamont

Steak Pie – Speyside beef shin, caramelised and charred onion, red wine

Special Fish – Shetland cod, beer emulsion, pickled mussels, confit fennel, samphire

Smoked Sausage – Ayrshire pork, salt baked celeriac, caramelised apple

Deep Fried Mars Bar – chocolate sorbets, orange, caramilla nougat

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The restaurant also had a vegetarian version of the menu, which I must say, sounded pretty delicious. It’s difficult for me to pick out highlights as I enjoyed the full meal but the beginning and end of the experience had elements of comfort food for me that gave those dishes an extra something.

The amuse bouche definitely did not have the appearance of chips and cheese! The parmesan mousse was creamy and delicious and the crispy topping inside added just enough texture to the dish. Finishing with a rich, chocolately dessert might seem a bit much for a six course tasting menu but I just loved Nico’s take on the Deep Fried Mars Bar. The caramilla nougat was heaven on a plate!

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So what does Six By Nico have in store for us next? I am beyond excited to say it’s a Willy Wonka themed menu which will run from the 15th May until 24th June. The new menu is set to begin with a reverse cheese board and end with a Wonka Bar – I’m intrigued!! There are also going to be six golden tickets which diners can exchange for an extra special prize. You can book now via https://www.sixbynico.co.uk/edinburgh/

Review of the Italian Caffe and Ways to Spend £20 at the Merchant City Festival

The Italian Caffe Enoteca invited me to stop by this weekend and sample the delights of the restaurant while checking out the Merchant City Festival (30th July – 7th August).

The Albion Street restaurant is light, bright and I received a warm welcome from the team when I arrived for lunch. Enoteca is an Italian word which translates literally as “wine repository” and that is clearly reflected in the Italian Caffe’s extensive wine list. The list contains more than 34 wines from various regions of Italy and most of them are available by the glass. This is great news if, like me, you want the freedom of being able to match wine to your food without committing to a bottle.

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The Italian Caffe has a great selection of small plates to choose from including meat, seafood, pasta, pizza and risotto dishes (check out their Facebook page and Twitter for special deals). My dining buddy and I opted for two dishes each – langoustines, smoked haddock risotto, pork medallions and a parma ham pizza.

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I was pleasantly surprised at how generously proportioned the ‘small plates’ were; two dishes were enough for a filling lunch. The langoustines in garlic butter were fresh and perfectly cooked. The risotto with haddock and asparagus was creamy and the smoked fish flavour really came through. The individual sized pizza had a light base which was topped with lots of parma ham, rocket and drizzled with olive oil.

Staff were engaging and attentive throughout the meal and made sure to check back on whether there was anything else we needed. Oh and the toilets were spotlessly clean!  Overall I really enjoyed my visit and would definitely return for lunch or dinner and to work my way through more of that gorgeous wine list!

The Italian Caffe also challenged me to see what I could get for £20 at the Merchant City Festival. The festival is running from now through to Sunday 7th August and has a programme packed full of street arts, music, theatre, comedy, food & drink and family activities.

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There’s lots of fantastic market stalls selling everything from street food and sweet treats to hand made arts and crafts. It’s easy to spend an hour perusing the stalls while soaking up the festival atmosphere. So what did I pick up for £20?

  • A beautiful forest green scarf for £5. There were lots of lovely accessories to choose from!
  • Scottish cheese from the Inverloch Cheese Company, based in Campbeltown Argyll – £4.50
  • Lemongrass and Ginger Beard Oil from Twa Burds, a Glasgow based maker of artisan soap company – £6.99 This was a gift for Mr GvF and it smells devine!
  • Some greetings cards. I picked up a wedding day card for £3.50 on a stall featuring Scottish themed cards. I also got a cute ‘Belter’ card from the Marseille/Glasgow inspired pop-up PoundShop which has lots of quirky products priced at £1, £3 or £5.

My haul from the stalls

With the number of free events in the Merchant City Festival programme, you could have a great day out for nothing, but here are three more ways that I would choose to spend £20:

  1. Celebrate the music of David Bowie and Roxy Music with an evening featuring the artists they have inspired. Includes Bowie and Roxy Music themes karaoke and face painting. (Tickets £15.00 – Saturday 6th August) http://www.merchantcityfestival.com/vintage/Pages/Oh!-You-Pretty-Things.aspx
  1. Enjoy a guided walking tour of iconic Merchant City venues with Glasgow Music City Tours and learn about the history of the Glasgow music scene. (Tickets £10.00 Thursday 4th – Sunday 7th August) http://www.merchantcityfestival.com/Pages/Event-Info.aspx?k=d3b74de9-7a99-4ee9-b1a2-a63400a1058b Then stop by the Vintage DJ Bus on Bell Street for a refreshment at the bar while listening to some retro tunes (Saturday 6th August).
  1. Roll up, roll up, the circus has come to town! This circus variety show is set to dazzle with spectacular aerial feats and acts hailing from both sides of the Atlantic. (Tickets £12.00 – Sunday 7th August)  http://www.merchantcityfestival.com/Pages/Event-Info.aspx?k=fb5a793c-96d3-4641-8371-a63300bf7de6

Food for a fiver in Edinburgh

With its posh shops and upmarket bars and restaurants, George Street might not be the first place you’d think about for reasonably priced food in Edinburgh. So I was surprised (in a good way) to find out there’s somewhere on George Street where you can get a main course and a drink for less than a tenner! Where is this hidden gem, you ask? It’s Candybar which I’ve been to for cocktails plenty of times before but never thought to eat there. It turns out that Candybar has all food priced at £5 every day and a range of other deals like fajitas and a margarita for £9 on a Wednesday. Surely there’s a catch, I thought? Candybar recently invited me along to check the place out for myself and here’s what I thought….

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Candybar, at the west end of George Street, is at basement level but there is also some outdoor seating at pavement level (which you can’t miss due to its fluorescent green colouring!). I visited on a Wednesday evening and the place was really busy and there was a buzzing atmosphere. The clientele seemed to be mainly small groups of friends enjoying mid-week catch ups.

The menu had loads of tasty options and I was torn between starting with the pulled pork nachos, mac ‘n’ cheese fritters or the coconut chicken. In the end, my macaroni cheese obsession won and I opted for the fritters. This was a good choice if I do say so myself; crispy golden breadcrumbs, hot gooey macaroni on the inside and a delicious spicy sriracha sauce to dip them in. Yum!IMG_9553

Next, I was in the mood for a burger. Looking down the menu, the #PBB caught my eye. A homemade Scottish steak burger on toasted brioche with crispy maple cured bacon and peanut butter. Peanut butter on a burger? That was a new one on me and definitely something I had to investigate. My friend also fancied a burger and went for the Chicken Katsu Burger. The burgers were served on a mini tray and came with salad and skinny fries which were crispy and nicely seasoned. Both burgers were delicious and the peanut butter totally worked!IMG_9556

After that, I had no room for dessert but decided to finish the evening with a cocktail from the extensive Candybar list (there’s over 100 to choose from). I also clocked the decent selection of craft beers and made a mental note to inform Mr GvF of this!

I really enjoyed the food and drinks in Candybar and I think this is the perfect venue for a midweek get-together or dinner before a gig or night on the town. If you are planning some Edinburgh Festival fun this summer, Candybar would be a great option for keeping costs down and still enjoying some delicious, good quality food.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Monachyle Mhor and Mhor84, Balquhidder

Balquhidder is 35 minutes drive north of Callander but feels about a million miles from anywhere. Peace, tranquillity and beautiful surroundings. The Lewis family have two venues in the area – Monachyle Mhor and Mhor84. Monachyle Mhor is a 14 bedroom boutique hotel set in a 2,000 acre estate on the shores of Loch Voil. Our budget didn’t quite stretch to the Monachle room rate so we opted for two nights in sister venue, Mhor84. The motel opened two years ago and has seven simple rooms and a restaurant and bar.

We were greeted warmly by staff on arrival and had a lovely surprise awaiting us; a glass of fizz that a friend had arranged to welcome us with. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the £80 room but I was suitably impressed with the Scandinavian-chic minimalist room.

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On our first night we had dinner in Mhor84. The dining room, like the rest of the motel was quirky and relaxed.

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To start with I went for the haggis croquette with turnip, potato and whisky sauce while my husband opted for half a dozen Loch Creran Oysters. Both got a big thumbs up. The oysters were fresh and the haggis had just the right amount of peppery kick.

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For our mains we both opted for venison; I went for the venison curry while Mr GvF chose the venison haunch. I think the venison haunch just won the battle of the mains. It was perfectly cooked and the anchovy mustard was delicious. The venison curry with cashew nuts and saffron rice was really flavoursome but the meat could have been a little more tender to make it even better.

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On to the desserts. With my sweet tooth I opted for the chocolate brownie with ice cream. It was so rich and fudgey and definitely one of the best desserts I’ve had this year! The cheese board was fine but I noticed there wasn’t as much emphasis on provenance as there had been with the rest of the meal.

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The presentation throughout was good, portion size was generous and staff were friendly. Overall, an excellent meal which came in at around £80 including drinks. The bar was a lovely place to relax afterwards for a nightcap though being a gin-enthusiast I’d love to see a wider selection of Scottish gins next time I visit.

Breakfast at Mhor84 was fantastic and featured fresh sour dough bread from the family bakery in Callander. I went for scrambled eggs on sour dough toast while my husband opted for the full cooked breakfast. A great start to the day and just look at that view from the breakfast table!

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Guess what else they have at Mhor84? Cakes! Delicious, homemade cakes! The weather was quite wet during our break so after a visit to Loch Katrine we retreated to the lounge area for a game of Monopoly and a huge chocolate hazelnut meringue. Bliss (apart from the fact I was thrashed twice at Monopoly)!

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Our second night in Balquhidder featured dinner at Monachle Mhor which has a set price of £55 per person for three courses. Next time I visit, I’d love to see an option with matched wines for each course. We enjoyed a glass of champagne as an aperitif with some delicious amuse bouche while browsing the menu in the bar.

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We were then taken through to our table, where I tried my first ever oyster, courtesy of the chef, which was in a shallot and 10 year old Glengoyne whisky dressing. And what views to enjoy my first oyster; breath-taking even on a dreich Scottish evening!

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For starters, Mr GvF chose the monkfish tail with Parma ham and cauliflower while I went for west coast crab with black pudding. Both dishes were well-presented and did not disappoint in the flavour-stakes.

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Our mains were outstanding – lamb for me and duck for my husband. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and the accompaniments were perfectly matched.

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Our deserts were a pineapple tarte tatin topped with homemade ice-cream and another chocolatey one for me! The chocolate ganache with coffee ice-cream was really good but I think the chocolate brownie at Mhor84 was still the winner for me.

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Whilst both restaurants used high quality, locally-sourced ingredients, we noticed a step change in the level of complexity and presentation at Monachle Mhor. Monachyle is definitely in the fine dining category but this doesn’t take anything away from Mhor84’s relaxed gastro-pub feel. Both venues are truly an escape from everything and I’m looking forward to a return visit to Balquhidder; next time we may even have saved enough for a night away in a gorgeous room at Monachlye Mhor!

 

Girl Versus Food

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Review of Moonfish, Aberdeen

I was glued to ‘MasterChef The Professionals’ which finished just before Christmas. The main downside to watching it was that each episode left me starving and I found myself rummaging in the cupboards to complete my own invention test! I enjoyed the show even more this year because local lad (and friend of my husband) Brian McLeish made it all the way to the final with his incredible cooking.

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No surprise then, that a visit to Brian’s restaurant in Aberdeen was on my Wish List to visit for 2015. Moonfish specialises in seafood and gin – clearly a match made in heaven! We visited the restaurant with two good friends who moved to Aberdeen last year. The place isn’t massive so it’s important that you book in advance, especially if you’re visiting on a Friday or Saturday. The interior is light and airy and made me feel instantly relaxed.

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First of all, I was really excited about the HUGE list of gins available! Lots of lovely Scottish craft gins including a number I hadn’t come across before. Secondly, I was really surprised at how reasonably priced the menu at Moonfish is – £35.95 for three courses. This has to be one of the best value, high quality menus in Aberdeen! The menu is changed every four weeks to keep the emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. However, we were in for an extra treat as Head Chef Brian McLeish had designed an eight course tasting menu for us!

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If you fancy trying out a Moonfish tasting menu for yourself there is a special night coming up on the 4th of July. It’s a seven course tasting menu with matched wine and champagne on arrival. Places are limited and priced at £120 per person, give the team a call to get booked in on 01224 644166.

So… onto the meal itself, or should I say FEAST! My mouth was watering when we were presented with this amazing menu…

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First up was crab accompanied by a ‘Sweet Corn Royale’ which was like eating a delicious little cloud, so delicate and fluffy! A light vegetarian dish followed with courgette, yellow peppers and tomato accompanied by the creamiest of feta cheese. The presentation throughout was stunning; vibrant colours and contrasting textures.

Crab and Sweet Corn Royale

Confit tomato, feta and courgette

 

Next up was a mackerel dish and my first time trying seaweed (salty and tasty FYI!). The fish was cooked to perfection. The subsequent sweet potato curry which had a runny egg hiding underneath was one of my favourites and I couldn’t believe it when the Chef told us later that he had whipped this course up from things he had to use up in the kitchen. Ingenious!

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Sweet potato curry

 

Is it weird to look at lambs frolicking in the fields and think “Oh, you look tasty”? If so, I’m weird. The Moonfish lamb came three ways; belly, loin and kidney. The kidney was a wee bit rich for me but Mr GvF wasn’t slow in finishing it off on my behalf! The lamb was in good company with a lovely broccoli puree, a rich jus and an anchovy. It was back to fish for the final savoury course and the halibut with swede puree, fava beans and truffle was to die for. Another set of clean plates all round.
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Then it was time for desserts. TWO desserts, happy days! First a light blancmange topped with raspberries, mini meringues, beetroot and basil dust. An unusual combination, but definitely one that worked. Finally, it was the piece de resistance; the Chocolate Pave with malted nuts and white chocolate fudge.  I kid you not, I would happily eat this dessert every day for the rest of my life and I’m fairly sure that Chef Brian must get proposals after dishing up this treat!

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Chocolate Pave

 

So, full of delicious food and gin, there was only one thing left to do…. time to take a CHELFIE!

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All in all, Moonfish has been my favourite dining experience of 2015 so far. The food tasted amazing, was beautifully presented and excellent value. While the staff were friendly, welcoming and not at all pretentious. If you’ve not been to Moonfish yet, what are you waiting for?

 

Oh and in other exciting other news; you can win a dinner for you and five friends, cooked by Brian McLeish and three more MasterChef finalists and winners. The dinner is to raise money for ABF Soldiers Charity and you can enter by sponsoring the fundraising team here https://secure.soldierscharity.org/registrant/TeamFundraisingPage.aspx?TeamID=63144#&panel1-2 What a great cause and a fantastic prize!

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Review of The Scran & Scallie, Edinburgh

The Scran & Scallie in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge was high on my wish list of restaurants to visit in 2015 and this month I finally made it! Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack are chefs well-known for their fine dining menus but at The Scran & Scallie they’ve teamed up to provide a more casual eating out experience while still focussing on locally sourced, quality ingredients.

The restaurant only take reservations on half of their tables and when I called to book a few days in advance, there were none available. Bummer! So we decided to take a chance and arrive at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, in the hope that choosing a time in between lunch and dinner would mean we’d get a table. Thankfully, the ploy worked and they were able to accommodate my husband and I with only a ten minute wait. This gave us time to get a drink at the bar. I was super impressed by the enthusiastic barman who suggested I try a Rock Rose gin with tonic and some toasted rosemary. This particular combination is easily in my top three gins! Mr GvF was delighted to see a great selection of ales available by the bottle and on tap.Delicious Rock Rose gin

We headed through to our table in the dining room and poured over the menu which had a range of poshed-up pub classics like sausage and mash, as well as more unusual dishes like roasted quail. My dining partner started with Beef Tartare and Bone Marrow Toast. The tartare was served with an egg yolk on top and I knew it must have been good due to the lack of conversation as he tucked in!

Beef Tartar

I enjoyed some of the fresh complimentary bread and held out for my main of Monkfish with Pancetta and Puy Lentils. Mr GvF went for one of the specials for his main which was Squid Ink Pasta with Seafood. We were both chuffed with our mains, the monkfish was cooked to perfection and the impressive jet black pasta was packed with loads of tasty seafood.

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Squid ink pasta

Regular readers will know that I find it very difficult to pass up a dessert and this was no exception! I chose a rich chocolate brownie served in a skillet with popcorn and the creamiest of ice-cream!

Chocolate brownie

We had two courses each as well as a good few drinks and the bill came in at roughly £80. I loved the relaxed atmosphere in The Scran & Scallie and it was great to see young families out enjoying a meal together (there is even a small playroom for kids). The service was excellent, both in the restaurant and the bar and the ‘From Nature to Plate” ethos really came through in the quality of ingredients and the flavours. I would highly recommend checking out ‘The Scran & Scallie’ next time you’re in Stockbridge.


Review of Porter & Rye, Glasgow

A nice big, juicy, steak. Is there anything better? That’s exactly what you can count on at one of Argyle Street’s newest restaurants, Porter & Rye. With all the redevelopment in Finnieston, this area of Glasgow is now more popular than a Primark sale. There’s a great selection of bars and restaurants to suit every taste.  We started our evening off with a G&T in The Finnieston which is a nautical themed bar right next door to Porter & Rye.

Porter & Rye specialise in fine aged meats which are sourced from Gaindykehead Farm in Airdrie before being dry-aged on the premises for up to 28 days. Booking ahead is a must; I visited with Mr GvF and another couple on a Saturday night and the place was choca. The restaurant is set over two levels and on our way upstairs to our table we got to eyeball the beef as it hung (vegetarians please scroll past the next picture quickly).

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There was an inspired selection of starters to choose from with a Heston-esque flair. After some deliberation, I went for the braised lamb shoulder, served with a lamb cutlet, pea puree, charred leaks and mint foam. One of my dining buddies went for the ham hock which came in the cutest little ring-pull tin and was served with a candied apple and apple caviar.

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I was a bit nervous before visiting the restaurant as the online menu didn’t specify the price of the steaks. Would I need to remortgage the house to cover the price of the meal? I was delighted to see that there was a wide range of cuts of beef available, starting from around £16. However, we opted for the other end of the spectrum which was a huge Porterhouse sharing-steak for two people. The steak was cooked to perfection and was literally melt in the mouth. We chose bone marrow mac ‘n’ cheese and truffle salt fries as accompaniments. These were included in the price of the steak along with our choice of sauces. The sauces we chose (a smoked oyster emulsion and a pink peppercorn sauce) didn’t overwhelm us with flavour but with steaks as good as this, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the sauce! The sides were delicious and even after polishing of that beast of a steak, we couldn’t stop nibbling at the mac cheese and fries.

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Amazingly we decided there was still a tiny bit of room left for dessert! The duo of crème brulee with a chocolate chip cookie was a popular choice at my table and I loved that it arrived flaming! “Please continue to stay on fire while I take a picture, thank you very much!” I’m a sucker for anything peanut butter and so naturally went for the peanut butter ice cream served with banana, toffee sauce and almond crumb.

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The bill was roughly £55 per person for three courses including wine. In summary, this was a brilliant meal and the hype is very much justified! Porter & Rye should definitely be added to your dining list for 2015.

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Review of The Metropolitan, Glasgow

The Metropolitan is to Glasgow venues what the mullet is to haircuts. The party, in the case of the Metropolitan, is on the ground floor where a DJ plays until late on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Upstairs is a classy piano bar with live music on the weekends and the Balcony Restaurant which provides the perfect opportunity for people watching with views over the 19th century courtyard under a twinkling sky of fairy lights.

Merchant City has such a selection of restaurants and bars that sometimes it’s easy to focus on the shiny new venues and forget about established places like The Metropolitan which has been around for a decade. I hadn’t checked out the menu for a while but when I did, I decided it was definitely time for a return visit!

I was delighted to see an excellent selection of fish and meat dishes including mouth-watering lamb, duck and red mullet options. I was really tempted to start with the scallops with sweet potato puree and pancetta but in the end opted for the pan-seared pigeon breast which was butterflied and served on a bed of puy lentils for my starter. The pigeon was tender and the lentils in red wine jus had an after-taste of aniseed.

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For my main I opted for venison loin served with parsnip puree, smoked beetroot, blackberries, parmentier potatoes and red wine jus. The venison was lovely and pink in the middle and the smoked beetroot and blackberries were the perfect accompaniment, complementing the gamey flavour to a tee.

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I can highly recommend finishing your evening with after-dinner drinks in the piano bar. There’s an extensive selection of cocktails to choose from with all the classics plus a number of inventive creations. The menu also invited you to ‘Challenge Your Bartender’ to come up with a mix tailored to your tastes. I managed to resist asking for a bacon and cheese themed drink and opted for the name-sake ‘Metropolitan’ cocktail; a delight to the taste buds containing Black Raspberry Vodka, Crème de Casis, blackberries, raspberries, cranberry juice and lime. Cheers!

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