Forage and Chatter, Edinburgh

I recently changed jobs and as a leaving present I was given a voucher for Forage and Chatter in the west end of Edinburgh. Therefore OH and I headed there yesterday to enjoy a spot of lunch on the hottest day of the year so far. Incidentally, when I phoned to book a table the restaurant was fully booked but they thought someone was going to cancel their booking so they took my number and phoned me back within 10 minutes to offer me a table at 1.45pm, which I thought was great and endeared me to the restaurant immediately.

We found the Forage and Chatter hidden down some stone steps at the end of Alva Street. Inside we were led to our table, which was basically out the back door of the restaurant in a covered over back yard. We were then given 4 menus – drinks, wine, table d’hôte and à la carte. The set menu was 2 courses for £14.95 and 3 for £17.95. Obviously, I opened the wine one first.

Not long after the wine arrived we were given two deep-fried dough balls along with some pesto and spiced butter.  Looking at the menus, I really wanted to order the Langoustine Bisque, mussels, leeks and fennel for starters but the restaurant was really hot as was I so the thought of soup became a no no. Instead I ordered Chicken liver parfait, prune, hazelnut and mushroom.

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The liver parfait was gamey tasting but not over powering.  The hazelnut was crushed over the top to give it a bit of a crunch but I felt it could do with another texture as overall everything was just too smooth.

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OH ordered Roasted Cauliflower, dates, capers and wild herbs.

He loved the date sauce and the chargrill flavour of the cauliflower.

For his main OH ordered Red Deer Loin, turnip, purple sprouting broccoli and mustard seed with a side of buttered new potatoes. IMAG9483OH really enjoyed his deer loin and felt the portion size was perfect, pointing out that as it was a strong meat he wouldn’t want to eat too much of it but it was enough to satisfy.

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I had North Sea cod, leeks, potatoes parsley and capers. I thought it was a bit on the salty side but I don’t know if I’m just noticing salt more nowadays due to trying to avoid it (yes i know I mention my low salt diet every blog – deal with it). The cod was lovely, big chunky flakes with a fabulous crisp edge.

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As is our norm nowadays, I stuck with the wine and OH had a dessert. Carrot cake, orange, pistachio, white chocolate, which visually looked more savoury than sweet but was well-balanced and a good end to the meal (the waitress brought me a spoon too). Although I didn’t try it all I can testify that the cake was light and spongy.

The restaurant has a quirky dining space with menus that make the most of local Scottish ingredients and I’m really glad my ex-colleagues made it possible for me to enjoy this hidden gem.

1 starter £8.50, 1 main £21.00, 1 side £3.50, 1 set lunch £17.95, 2 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc £45 = £95.95. (Yes 2 bottles of wine. It was really hot and the wine was really cold and moreish)

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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.

The Cellar Restaurant, Anstruther

Today marked 28 years of marriage to OH. Yes, I know. He could have committed murder and got less time but as long as I keep buying him lunch I’m sure he will stick around. Well, as long as he gets a plate every now and again he might ;p

So to celebrate this momentous occasion we decided to dine at The Cellar Restaurant in Anstruther. The Cellar is a Michelin starred restaurant hidden away in the East Neuk behind the Fishery Museum in Anstruther. As soon as you enter you know you’re in for a real treat. The restaurant is tastefully decorated with silver birch beams, real fish skin pictures and tasteful Scottish touches – none of your Bay City Roller tartan or thistle wall paper here.

We took a seat in front of the log fire and enjoyed pre lunch gin and tonics as we poured over the menus deciding between pigeon or crab and halibut or hogget.

It was a set menu with only 2 choices for each course (we were asked when I booked if there were any dietary requirements) As usual we decided to order different courses so we could try everything on the menu. Decisions made on courses and wine and we were taken through to the small restaurant area where there was

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seating for maybe 20 max? Certainly I could see why you need to book well in advance. Incidentally, there was an option to have wine paired with each course but we decided on a bottle of white Rioja that I hoped would fit in with both of our choices.

To start with we were brought an amuse-bouche of Smoked Haddock Mousse, Anster Cheese and Gherkin. It arrived balanced delicately on a box of seashells and looked exquisite. Well, it looked like cream cheese on a Pringle but it tasted way better – the smokey fish amused my bouche perfectly and the mix of crunch and cream worked well together.

Next arrived Ox-tongue, Parmesan and Pickled Onion. This was an odd dish in that you couldn’t see the Ox-tongue. It looked like a bowl of white custard scattered with crispy bits. In the centre was t

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he skin of a pickled onion, which held a green liquid. Yes, I know I should have paid more attention when the waitress told me exactly what it was but I couldn’t take it all in! The creamy stuff was heavy, cheesy and thick then, when you dug deeper, you found the ox-tongue, which looked like Oxo cubes. The first one was really tasty and to me was akin to pork belly. The next one was good and more meaty tasting but then the 3rd one was too much. It was a really rich dish so probably half the amount would have sufficed. The crispy bits and onion skin gave it a much needed crunch but the after taste was like I had just finished a packet of cheese and onion crisps.

Soon after, our starters arrived. OH had Pigeon, Celeriac, Yeast Emulsion and Hazelnut

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(the waitress did describe it better). OH liked his pigeon and thought the hazelnut was a good contrasting texture and balancing flavour. The pigeon was not as pink in the middle as it is often cooked and he preferred it this way. He also liked the rooty celeriac addition to the dish. As it is such a strong meat he appreciated that there was only the one medallion.

My starter was Local Crab, Toasted Rice, Squid and Kelp Jelly. The crab had a perfect square of see-through jelly over it and the rice looked like little maggots

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escaping from its confines. However, it tasted amazing. The crab was fresh with a light, lemony zing and the toasted rice gave it a soft bite. I could easily have eaten more of it.

After a short break our mains arrived. OH had Hogget, White Cabbage, Wild Garlic, Mint and Lemon Thyme. The dish looked beautiful. The hogget was light to taste and served pink.

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The mint sauce was delicate and not overpowering and OH raved about the white cabbage and said this was his favourite dish of the day.

I went for Halibut, Baby Gem, Bacon, Mussel Juice and Charcoal Oil. Immediately I could taste the chargrill effect and loved it. The baby gem was crisp and the mussels

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fat and juice. I did get the occasional hit of salt but I think because I’m trying to reduce my salt intake I’m more attuned to it now.

For dessert OH went for the Apple & Sorrel, Bramble, Brown Butter Curd and Lemon Thyme. When it arrived it looked like lots

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of tiny red apples with green leaves resting on top of a raft, which was adrift on a white, foamy pond.

Of course, I went for the Scottish Cheese, Pickled Walnut and Grapes. To my credit I remember the waitress saying there was also pear jelly (the only additional thing I remember her describing although there were loads throughout the meal).

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I also asked for a glass of port to accompany the cheese board and OH requested a glass of Tokaji, Mad, which was the recommended dessert wine for the dish. Both drinks added a fantastic layer to the course. My blue cheese on a cracker, spread with pear jelly and accompanied with a mouthful of port was fantastic. If I had any complaint it would be that I’d have liked another slice of pickled walnut on the plate. OH enjoyed his dessert and couldn’t have been more complimentary about the wine pairing.

To finish off our meal we decided a couple of Irish Coffees would hit the spot and when they arrived they were accompanied with

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chocolate orange truffles, fruit jellies and, in a cinnamon box, some salted fudge. Anything chocolate and/or orange I need to give a wide berth to so my loss is OH’s gain. He says it was velvety, rich, dark and cocoay (is that a word?) The fudge was good but bad. I love fudge but this was really sweet, which was great but, again, maybe it’s me and salt just now, it had a funny after taste to it.

Service was impeccable. The time between dishes was spot on, descriptions of food added to the meal, napkins were replaced and glasses topped up whenever needed, to the point that all tasks were completed naturally and almost without being noticed.

The bill came to £142 2 set lunches @ £35 each, alcohol £72 (gin, wine, dessert wine, port, Irish coffees)

A fantastic wedding anniversary meal, which we won’t forget.

The Inn on Loch Lomond

Another Saturday, another lunch out. But where to go? Well yesterday we decided to go for a drive around Loch Lomond and stop at The Inn on Loch Lomond for something to eat. It’s not a hard place to find, if you’re heading North it’s on the left hand side and it is on Loch Lomond. Well, not right on, it is the other side of a fast road but you can still see the Loch. Parking was good and we just walked in and asked for a table for two. First off we were asked if we had a voucher. Eh no. (Damn! I hate it when I miss a trick) and then we were told to sit anywhere. On looking we could see every table was set for 4 and there was an empty one next to the window but it had yet to be cleared so we sat further up. Soon after we were asked for our drinks order and then when they arrived our food order was taken. No messing around. Very smooth service. I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the menu. There were burgers, sandwiches and soup, stuff from the chippy (you can get take-away too), curry of the day, steaks, a couple of veg options but nothing that stood out at all. I ended up having Cauliflower and Leek Macaroni Cheese with crisp leaves and chippy chips. OH decided to have the curry of the day, which was Chicken Balti served with scented rice, poppadum, spiced onions, mango chutney and spinach and plantain bhaji.

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We decided, as we waited, that it was a bit chilly where we were sitting (in front of an unlit fire) so we asked to move, which wasn’t a problem at all and soon we were sitting at the window with a cleared and a re-set table.

It wasn’t long  after our food arrived. OH’s looked impressive. However, it wasn’t until he mentioned it, I realised there was no plate to decant the rice and balti in together. He struggled on complaining that using a knife and fork in a bowl doesn’t work. With hindsight we should have asked for a plate as it did hamper his enjoyment of the meal. His only other moan was he missed having a dip for the bhaji.

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The good news is he liked that he could taste the chargrilling of the chicken and there were fresh herbs on top (even though he had to dump the rice on top of them).

IMAG9177My macaroni was delicious. I had asked for the optional bacon to be added and there was large lumps of gammon in it. I had thought the cauliflower would also be through it but instead there was a large floret on top. The crispy leaves had been fried and scattered over the dish. The chips were indeed chippy chips – I could taste the difference but unfortunately they got cold quick so I left the majority of them to concentrate on the very hot pasta dish, which I knew was gloriously unhealthy for me as it was laden with cream and cheese. It was a little salty probably due to the bacon bits but I really wanted to finish it but couldn’t because it was such a large helping.

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After our meal I nipped to the loo. They were tastefully decorated and nice and clean but there was no shelf for my handbag whilst I washed my hands so annoyingly I had to put it on the toilet floor.

2 mains, a half pint of lager and a medium glass of white wine = £32.50

Incidentally, I checked the voucher thing out. Itson are doing a voucher for a 2 course lunch for £19 instead of £42, which also means you get a different menu.

Old Chain Pier, Newhaven, Edinburgh

Today OH and I decided to try the Old Chain Pier for a spot of lunch. The Old Chain Pier is possibly a pub you have driven past on numerous occasions but have never stopped at. It’s on the waterfront just along Lower Granton Road.

We didn’t have a reservation but the harrassed looking waitress managed to find us a table with a view of the water. The place was busy and I noticed it was child and dog friendly. Childen were allowed in the conservatory and the mezzanine level but it looks like dogs werre allowed anywhere.

Since the waitresses were run off their feet, I went and helped myself to menus. There was the usual type of pub grub but with a bit of a lean towards fish dishes. Fish and chips, Cullen Skink, fishcakes, mussels, crayfish and cod all got a mention. There was burgers, sharing platters, chili, stew and sausages but nothing really jumped out at me so I was thinking about having fish and chips again. There was two sizes to chose from – small at £8.95 or large at £11.95. Incidentally the fishcakes came in different size too – small was 1, medium 2 and 3 for the large helping.

As we made up our minds we ordered drinks. I had a mixed fruit cider and OH asked for a soda water and lime. When they arrived OH plumped for the Mexican 6oz Burger – chili beef, jalapenos, cheese, sour cream and guacomole at £10.95 . The waitress asked if he wanted chips with it – of co

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urse he did.

As you can see the burger looks great. However, OH found it to be a logistical nightmare. He couldn’t lift it whole and when he cut it in half the chili leaked out so it became messy. As you know, OH hates not getting a plate so the board annoyed him too. Saying all that, he really enjoyed it, even though he used his knife and fork throughout. He liked the mix of flavours and said it was a good, thick, meaty burger and chili wasn’t too hot, just spicy. The chip bucket seemed endless and he even left some as there were that many.

The description of my dish was (small) Beer Battered Angel Cut Welch’s Haddock with Mushy Peas, Tartare Sauce and Hand Cut Chips.

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I have to say the fish was fantastic (so much better than last weeks). The batter was crisp and lush, the fish was right out the fryer and was fresh, light, tasty and fell into large lovely flakes. The chips were good and the tartare sauce was okay but nothing special. Disappointingly, (again) the mushy peas weren’t mushy peas but mashed up garden peas. What’s happening? Is this a new trend? If it is I don’t like it – I want proper marrowfat mushy peas with my fish please!

Neither of us fancied a dessert so we just asked for the bill, which never appeared so I went up to the bar to pay the bill. This was when I realised that the chips were an extra £3.50. This annoyed me, not because of the cost but because I felt conned. Come on, burgers should come with chips. Obviously, I have since checked the menu and the burger descriptions don’t mention chips and it does say to add a side but still……

If you have driven past The Old Chain Pier before and never ventured in I’d recommend stopping for a change.

2 mains, a side of chips, a bottle of flavoured cider and a soda water and lime – £29.15

The Puffin, North Berwick

OH and I decided to go for a long drive today and ended up in North Berwick. As we wandered between shops we passed The Puffin, a wine bar and bistro. It looked lovely inside but empty. The menu on show in the window looked good and was a bargain – 2 courses for £10.  However, we decided to keep walking as it was still relatively early for lunch and carried on with our, scrap that, my shopping spree (OH just hovers around shop fronts). Not long after I could tell he was getting ‘hangry’ so I suggested we went back to The Puffin. OH was reluctant as it was empty and therefore not a good advert. “Well they need us to go and sit in the window then don’t they” I replied.

We crossed the road and headed back. It was still empty. Regardless, we went in and were surprised to be taken through to the back of the building (I was sure they would have sat us in the window!). The bar has 3 sections – I’m guessing the front is the wine bar whereas the rest of the area is for dining. I didn’t ask but the waiter said that the 2 course menu was usually only on during the week but we could have it if we wanted it. There was also another menu with litebites on it.  He added that the soup was white cabbage and paprika (or he might have said pepper).

As we browsed the menu we ordered drinks.  OH had a pint of ale and I had a large glass of white wine. I really liked the sound of the soup and it was definitely the weather for a hot bowl of something. However, there was prawn cocktail on the menu, which lead to a discussion on how it was making a comeback. As I have always avoided the taste of the 70s due to too many tales about frozen tails and soggy lettuce I decided to give it a go and OH plumped for the soup.

There was fish and chips on the menu and I noticed that it said it was half a fillet. Considering I was having a starter I thought this would be more than enough. (I also noticed that on the other menu fish and chips was £11 so I knew there was no way that we would be getting the same plateful on the 2 for £10 deal). The menu only had a few options so OH was allowed to break our rule and also order the fish and chips.

Our starters arrived (via a waitress) and OH’s soup looked too red for it to be white cabbage and anything and just had to be tomato. He tried it – definitely tomato. The waiter then passed and said “Oh, they must have changed the soup on me.” I’m glad I didn’t order the soup as tomato is possibly my least favourite and I would have been very disappointed. OH enjoyed it though but did say that they had heated his roll up in the microwave. It arrived red hot and went brick hard as it cooled. IMAG9087My prawn cocktail did not disappoint. The prawns were on the large side, the lettuce wasn’t soggy and the Marie Rose sauce was not over powering. I didn’t need the bread that came with it but it didn’t go to waste as OH used it to mop up his soup.

IMAG9088When our mains arrived I could see OH looking despondent. He hadn’t noticed it had said half a fillet and the tiddler in front of him was not what he had been hoping for.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic. You’ll just imagine a small battered fish, long hand cut chips with their skins on, some garden peas (not mushy) mashed together and quenelled on to the plate and a small dish of tartare sauce. The fish and chips came pre-salted with little crystals of rock salt all over it. I have to admit, I would rather have seasoned it myself as I’m trying to reduce my salt intake. The chips looked great but could have been crispier as they were a bit on the heavy side. The peas and tartare sauce had a crust on them so I think they had been under heated lights for a tad too long. The fish was tasty and the batter was lovely and crunchy. I reckon it was just the right size for me. Obviously OH would have liked a bigger portion but for the price of the menu I think it was ideal.

For another £3 you could have a dessert (or a small cheese board) but we decided against it and asked for the bill.

As we waited for it I nipped to the loo and thought they were so good they deserved a photo of their own.  Very clean and beautifully decorated. IMAG9090Service was great, the decor of the building fabulous, value for money was great but for me the fish dish could have been better as it felt like it had been cooked earlier and then left under heat lamps.

2 starters, 2 mains, a large white wine and a pint of ale – a bargain at £28.20

Fairy Walk, Doon Hill, Aberfoyle

There is a mystical walk you can do if you ever find yourself in Aberfoyle on a clear day.IMAG8296 Doon Hill is on the outskirts of Aberfoyle and said to be home to the fairies. It’s a easy route (I know because I managed it and I hate going up hills) and has some stunning views from the top. It’s not for buggies or wheelchairs but I think most children aged 4 and over could manage it.

When we did the walk we parked in the Woollen Mill car park (at the opposite end from it). We then walked over the stone bridge and along past houses on our right and a couple of snorting pigs on our left. Next on the left is an auld kirk where there is a gravestone for IMAG8301Pastor Kirk who was fascinated by fairies and folklore. So much so he wrote a book giving away the fairies secrets, which annoyed the fairies so much they kidnapped him and imprisoned his soul in a pine tree on top of Doon Hill.

After the kirk we followed the road round and into the start of the woods. There is a sign that says there is a fairy trail but to be honest it isn’t that well sign posted although further up there are marker posts. We followed our noses and at the bottom of the hill went left and followed a path up. Thankfully I had on my wellies as it was pretty muddy. 20171111_135932-COLLAGEAlthough you have to watch where you put your feet you should also look out for signs of fairies – there is evidence everywhere.

The climb is steep in bits but nothing too demanding.

On top of the hill you will find the fairy treeIMAG8312.jpg covered in ribbons. In the past it was said if you wrote your ailment on to a cloutie (rag) and tied it to the tree as the words faded so did the ailment. Unfortunately, nowadays though it looks more like just ribbons without writing and plastic tat  on display, which will take forever to fade. IMAG8315

If you wander around the top of the hill you are rewarded with some amazing views.

Next to the path you came up, just to the left, there is alternative route down. This takes you down far quicker and past some more fairy houses. You will know you are on thIMAG8319e right path if you see this handsome Green Man smiling at you.

At the bottom of hill we retraced our steps back to the car park. However, there is another route you can you take if you turn left, which circles back in to Aberfoyle following the old railway line and which ends up behind the Woollen Mill. However, we didn’t do that and instead headed straight for a bar lunch in town.

 

 

 

The Kingarroch Inn, Craigrothie, Fife

I’ve been on call this weekend so I’ve done nothing more than wait on my phone to ring. To make sure a whole weekend didn’t go past without doing something OH and I decided we would go out for Sunday lunch.

Years ago we used to visit The Kingarroch Inn in Craigrothie and loved it. However, it had a fire, which pretty much demolished the place and then, when it eventually re-opened, it was an Iberian Smokehouse. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of pig and cow based menus so we steered clear. Hahaha – did you see what I did there?  Oh you did…

Today though, I thought I’d have a look at their website and I was delighted to see they were now a gastropub and there was no mention of Iberian Black Pig anywhere. As I was online anyway I booked a table through their page and it wasn’t long before we had received our confirmation and we were on our way to the little Fife village of Craigrothie.

Parking was tight when we arrived so I knew it was a good job we had booked. On entry we were shown to our table and although it was busy the tables are spaced in a way that it did not feel crowded at all. We got our menus and were told the roast of the day was stuffed chicken but they could also do venison. The menu was short (which is a good thing) and offered 4 choices for each course.

Obviously it was a lot more wordy but basically –

Starter – Pate, soup, mussels (supplement) or an antipasti platter

Main  – Roast, fish, steak (supplement) or chickpea fritters

Dessert – Brownie, cheeseboard, Ginger pudding or lemon meringue.

IMAG8196After ordering a pint of Crail Ale and a soda water and lime (I’ve already told you I was on call!) we made our food orders.

I went for the Freshly made Wild Mushroom, Crème Fraiche, Truffle oil Soup, which makes for a really boring photo but tasted lovely. However, it was heavy on the garlic so I apologise in advance to my work colleagues who will no doubt suffer for it tomorrow. I should have said, prior to the starters arriving we were given 2 types of bread and some smoked sea salt butter,  which was great but would have been better if the bread was warm.

For a starter OH decided he’d pay extra and have a IMAG8195Pot of Scottish Mussels, Spicy Chorizo, Garlic and Shallots. When they arrived in their little pot and the lid was lifted OH wondered if he had made the right choice as he got a blast of salty sea air in the face and he also remembered he isn’t a fan of chorizo (duh!) but then his face lit up as he started to make his way through them. The mussels were the largest I have seen and looked plump and juicy and I noticed he emptied the pot, even using his spoon to finish off the remaining broth too. They were definitely a hit but then he wondered if he would have room for his next course as it was such a big helping.

IMAG8197When it came to our mains something odd happened – we both decided on the fish.  Usually we have a rule that we aren’t allowed the same thing from the menu but today OH gave a good argument against it. 1. He wants to avoid too much red meat 2. He isn’t a vegetarian and 3. He could have roast chicken or pheasant anytime (he is a good shot but obviously a crap fisherman ;p)   plus 4. it wasn’t an extensive menu (again this isn’t a complaint as I would always rather choose from 4 fresh things than 30 frozen things) So anyway this is a long way of saying we both had Herb crusted Hake, New potatoes, Pancetta and Leeks.

To say the dish was rich is an understatement. The leek and pancetta sauce overtook the mild tasting hake. Even the herb crust struggled to stand out next to the oil surrounded creamy sauce. If the crust had been a bit more crunchy or the herbs a bit more perceptible it would have helped the dish balance more.  Saying that, I still cleared my plate, even though throughout I was wishing I had a cold crisp class of Pinot Grigio to cut through the creamy, decadence of the dish. When I looked over to OH he had left an oily yellow puddle of cream, leeks and watercress. He clearly has more ability to stop eating unlike me who has been known to try and lick a pattern off a plate.

Although the desserts sounded awesome, feeling more stuffed than the roast chicken, OH  decided to give them a miss.

As OH paid, I visited the bathroom, which gained bonus points for having a nice, clean baby changing area, hand cream, a posh sink and lovely smelling, reed diffusers.

A pint, soda water and lime, 2 starters, 2 mains came to £40.20

Norms La Cienega, California, USA

I’m currently over in the States visiting Lusa and having a fabulous time. As we were being arty today and going to the Museum of Modern Art to see Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A., we were in West Hollywood at lunch time. Lusa pleaded with me to go to Le Pain Quotidien, a chic French restaurant that boasts a largely organic menu and dishes such as Roasted Pear and Spinach Salad and Quinoa Taboulé but I insisted she took me to a diner so I could eat like an American. So Norms it was – a diner that has been around since 1949 and was only a short walk away.

Opening the door we walked into the opening scenes of Pulp Fiction (not really as it was filmed in Panns but we’re going there for breakfast one morning soon). The diner was exactly as you would expect with people sitting at the counter and others in booths. The menu was large, laminated and had lots of photographs. There were also daily specials and Thursday’s was ‘Pick a Pair’, which I ended up going for. Soup, salad, potatoes (mash/fries/baked) and 2 items from the list – steak, fish, shrimps or chicken. The soup was Gumbo (okra, celery, peppers, onions, chicken, sausage and rice) and I had 6 fried shrimps and hand battered fried haddock strips along with it as well as the salad and fries. Yes I was eating like an American, an extremely overweight one with eyes bigger than their belly. IMAG7710Lusa decided on a Tuna melt sandwich with fries that looked tiny in comparison to my edible extravaganza.

My soup was nice and spicy and tasted like one I would make from Sunday leftovers (I mean that in a good way). IMAG7709The salad was just like you get at home (a bit boring) and the deep fried fishes were very tasty if a bit greasy. Try as I did, I couldn’t finish them all – even with Lusa helping me. Lusa left some of her sandwich too and told me later she had food regret as she threw back a Tumms. IMAG7713

Our (very beige) American dining experience came to $22.70 (£16.71) plus tip. The portion size also meant I did not need to eat for another 24 hours, which made it even more of a bargain.

 

Banner’s House, Markinch, Fife

Looking for a Sunday lunch OH and I decided to visit Banner’s House in Markinch, Fife today (just across from the train station).

I phoned to book just in case it was full as we intended to walk there and back but they were happy to accommodate us and just wanted a rough time for us to appear by. When we arrived we were given a lovely little booth within the dinning room and handed a Sunday special menu, the general menu, which had all the menus and the drinks one. I have to say the breakfast menu looked good as did the Afternoon Tea one. However, we were there for lunch so I had to focus.

First off the drinks menu. I ordered a bottle of house white – having noticed the house wine was £17.50 and OH ordered a bottle of German beer because I had just made him walk for 45 minutes for his lunch. However, when I said house wine the waitress thought for a bit and asked if I liked Sauvignon Blanc. I did. She said she could recommend it. I nodded happily. Later when the wine arrived I checked the wine list and it was on there but the price was £22.50. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the wine and it was probably loads better than the house but I did ask for the house. Anyway. We then ordered.

None of the starters really jumped out – although I did fancy the fish broth but the price made me think it would be too filling as a starter. Their soup of the day was red pepper and carrot and the rest of the starters weren’t really my thing or the kind of dish you could share so I went straight to the mains.

I said, before OH got the chance, that I was having the Seared Sea Bass, orange braised IMAG7550fennel – mussel, coconut, tomato and new potato chowder. He was immediately annoyed because he said that was what he was going to have it. (We’re not allowed to order the same thing in case one of us hate’s our choice and wants to swap). I prompted him to go for the brisket as it sounded so good with it’s rich gravy, onion mash and buttered kale. However, he surprised me and went for the Indian inspired Lamb red pepper curry with coconut rice and flatbread (I hope I’ve got that right because I didn’t pay too much attention to the specials menu after deciding on the fish).

Our dishes arrived and both looked fantastic so 10/10 for display.  My fish dish tasted lovely. The coconut wasn’t overpowering and neither was the orange in the braised fennel but they still  complimented each other perfectly. The mussels were large and plump and all of them passed muster (how many times do you get a disappointing mussel in a dish??) The sea bass skin wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked but overall the dish hit the spot. I cleared the plate and even tried to wipe the salt from the sides of the cast iron pan (1. It wasn’t salt it was a pattern and 2. The pan wasn’t cast iron.) IMAG7549One thing I also noticed was that when I dropped my knife into the dish it didn’t go under the chowder so the cutlery to dish ratio was perfect!!!! Extra points.

OH’s lamb curry was spicy and creamy, just as suggested on the menu but what wasn’t mentioned was the heat that it would induce. I tried the sauce and had to take a couple of minutes before I could speak. However, the taste made me want more so I tried it again and loved it. Thick, creamy and with a punch that takes your breath away, the curry was a meal not for the faint-hearted. OH dabbed his forehead with his napkin as he devoured it.

As per my usual, I decided against a dessert and finished the wine whilst OH chose Marmalade Caramel Crepes with Chocolate Ice Cream. Again the dish looked good when IMAG7554it arrived. I hate orange and chocolate so didn’t give it a go (I must have had a bad experience with a Chocolate Orange one Christmas) but OH assures me it was “a good balance between sweet and tang” and polished it off.

There was lots of lovely decor bits in and around the room. Lots of doors, bare lamp bulbs and odd chairs. There may have been a small amount of confusion around the (clean and tidy) toilets as a bloke walked in when I was washing my hands. The doors had old fashioned adverts on them instead of the norm wording for ladies and gents on them but then I managed to find the right one! Some people shouldn’t be allowed out alone ;p

However, the bit of décor that did make me smile was this sign I was totally unaware of until we left . And there was me thinking he had just been being nice…IMAG7555

I have  to admit I did feel the bill was a bit steep compared  to other meals we have had recently at £58 for 2 mains, a dessert, a bottle of wine and a pint of lager but it was a great atmosphere, the service was impeccable (the Hungarian waitress was lovely)  and the food was good so I am not complaining.