The Mull Chronicles: Mishnish Hotel, Tobermory

My stress levels had been at an all time high over the past few months.  Taking on several new things at once is usually great, until it all goes wrong at the same time too.  Being an emotional soul, I ranted at my sister one evening saying how I needed to escape people and basically my life.  Luckily, my pleas were heard, and my wonderful sibling booked us away to Mull for a spa break.

We both have a fascination with the islands, driving and general exploring.  Mull is perfect for all of these things if you find yourself nodding to the above!  Although we went in February and a lot of places were closed for the season, the views are breathtaking and we still managed to cram loads into two days!



After a merry jaunt over on the ferry and settling into our hotel, we decided that we would go out for some cuisine instead of eating in the hotel.  The two restaurants my sister had chosen were closed for the season, and hope was running low.  Luckily, I found that the Mishnish hotel in Tobermory was open for business.

We drove along, and discovered that the hotel is actually the yellow building on the seafront that Tobermory is famous for.  Upon entry, I was slightly disheartened by the place.  There was a pub to the right, and the restaurant in to the left.  The entrance way wasn't particularly welcoming or lavish to suggest good food.  There was one waitress working the place, who was lovely.  She showed us to our table at the window, looking out on to the seafront (not that we could actually see anything since it was pitch black!).




The menu for me had a few amazing choices, so I picked my meal fairly quickly.  One small observation is that their specials board is very small and we struggled to see what they had (picture above proves it).  Nonetheless, we managed to fathom out what was available to eat.

To start, Sharon and I both had pan seared Isle of Mull scallops...




What I love about being on an island is that all the food is fresh and in season.  These scallops were plump and meaty, coated in a delicious paprika and garlic cream sauce.  Nestled on a bed of crispy dressed salad leaves, this was a fantastic starter and really changed my perception of the restaurant.  The food was beautiful and presented very well too.

For the main course, my sister had langoustines in a garlic and herb butter...




Both my sister and I get freaked out by fish that still has its eyes.  Considering the utensils she was given in anticipation of this dish, we were both relieved when the langoustines came already opened with the meat bared and ready to delve into.  Sharon also got a cute little basket of fries to accompany this, as technically it was meant to be a starter from the special menu.  The langoustines were fresh and tasted delicious, although Sharon didn't taste as much garlic as she would have liked.

For my main course, I decided to have venison medallions with chive mash and a redcurrant reduction...





I absolutely loved this.  The venison medallions were cooked to order, so rare for me, and had not a lick of fat on them.  The redcurrant sauce was perfectly sweet to go with the rich meaty flavour of the venison.  The chive mash was slightly bland, but the meat was so good that I was actually not bothered.  The broccoli and carrots were served al dente and were nice and fresh.  I would definitely get this again; it was absolutely phenomenal.

Nothing goes with red meat quite like a glass of red too...



After two wonderful courses, we were full but intrigued by a dessert.  I decided to go for chocolate and drambuie mousse...




This was delicious.  The chocolate mousse sat atop the mixture of chocolate sauce and drambuie.  It was served in a teacup which I did find odd but I think any bigger a portion would have been too sickly.  I did really enjoy this dessert, but would have hoped that the drambuie was mixed into the mousse rather than it being separated.  Still amazing though!

Sharon opted for caramel apple pie...




This was a homely, sweet pie and was garnished with a summer fruits jus.  The caramel layer enveloped cooked apples and was on a bed of sweetened pastry.  Sharon absolutely loved this and I have to admit that it smelled beautiful.  A great twist on a classic!

Once we were both stuffed and officially satisfied, we decided to get the bill.  For the calibre of meal, we were expecting a fair whack of money: we paid just under £62, which is a staggering £31 a head!  For a three course meal and wine, that is amazing value for money.

Have you visited any of the isles and think there is somewhere to top this?



Contact Details:

The Mishnish
Main Street
Tobermory
Isle Of Mull
PA75 6NU

Tel: 01688 302009

Website: www.mishnish.co.uk

Wheelchair access: Yes

Roadtrip Feast - Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Cairndow

January is infamous for being the most depressing month of the whole year.  The enticing thought (although highly cliche) of "new year, new me" wears off and you realise that, yep, you're the same person you were in 2013.

My foxy family had a bit of a low Christmas experience, so January rushed in without most of us particularly noticing.  Desperately needing to escape, my sister and I left the dreary realms of Motherwell and headed for the hills.

Loch Fyne is such a beautiful place, and we had always discussed going to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar which sits facing out into the loch and mountains.  





We were shown to our table by a very nice waitress.  The atmosphere is really idyllic, so you immediately feel relaxed and comfortable.  I loved the place mats that they had too:




Blogger is being annoying and not uploading the picture the way I took it, so sideways will have to do.  Basically, all the place mats had different quotes on them from famous stories, each to do with the sea and seafood.  Really clever and interesting idea!

The food was truly fantastic.  To begin, I had the salmon selection...



Two different types of smoked salmon fillet, simply served with a fresh lemon, capers, red onion and a salmon mousse.  I loved that the lemon came in a gauze pouch, meaning you got all that amazing fresh citrus juice without the worry of seeds and bits all over the meat.  The salmon mousse was my favourite actually, slathered on to bits of bread that we got when we were seated.  It was a light, fresh starter and the quality of the fish was incredible.

My sister decided to go for the chowder...



Thick chunks of haddock, potato and leek served in a rich and creamy sauce.  The bowl was also huge, to the point I'd to grab a utensil and help... and even I was at a loss.  It was so beautiful tasting: not too fishy, with a nice smoky undertone.  Be cautious if you are out for a big meal though, as this in itself is really comforting and filling.

For the main event, both my sister and I went for the Gigha halibut...




Now I'm not a big fan of chorizo, but this was amazing.  Chunks of chorizo mixed in with chickpeas in a tomato and basil sauce.  The fillet of halibut crowned the mixture, with it's own parsley butter garnish.  This was a really hearty meal and warmed me right to me toes - perfect for January!  It wasn't too heavy to eat either, so I felt satisfied when I finished it.  This was my first time eating halibut and I can definitely say I'll be eating it again - should it be to this standard, of course!

Loch Fyne is definitely somewhere you would go for a special occasion, or a blow out.  As the seafood is so fresh they are pricey, but I would say worth it.  For the two of us to have two courses each and a couple of drinks we were £70.  A delicious meal, but a big hit to the bank card if you're not prepared!



Contact Details:

Loch Fyne Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Clachan
Cairndow
PA26 8BL

Tel: 01499 600264

Website:   http://www.lochfyne.com/

Wheelchair access? Yes

Perfect 'Plaice' for a Chippy - The Ashvale Restaurant, Aberdeen

Have you ever been so hungover that it even hurts to think about physically moving?  I have.  This, my friends, is a short tale, of how a chip shop saved me from the depths of treacherous hangover that knew no bounds.

Picture the scene - your two best friends come to visit you in the Silver City. You stock up on snacks, champagne, wine and gossip to ensure they have a fabulous time.  You decide to visit numerous bars and clubs, drinking Jager Bombs like they are the elixir of life.  Rolling in the door at about 6am, a heavy drunken sleep bestows itself upon you.  Sounds great?  It was.  Until about 5pm.

My friends decided to leave for their journey home late afternoon, and I was suffering terribly.  I longed for a traditional fish supper from The Ashvale, which to this day is still the best chippy I've ever had.  I live on the same road as the chippy, however the thought of leaving my jammies was gut wrenching. So?  I had one delivered.




The very kind staff at The Ashvale understood my predicament, and even delivered the food free of charge to me.  The tangy smell of salt and vinegar hit my nose, and it almost cured me on the spot.

Fish wise, a standard fish supper is a massive fillet of haddock.  They do offer a jumbo haddock, and even one called "The Whale" however normal people would be happy with this.  A light, crispy and sweet batter encases the fillet of flaking fish.  The chips are absolute perfection: slightly crisped at the ends, but ultimately fluffy and saturated with vinegar inside.

A fish supper of the standard size is just over £7, which I think is excellent considering the high quality fish fillets used for each and every meal.  There are chippies all over the place that serve up flimsy fillets of cheap, 'matured' fish, shall I say, which they will charge the same price for.

What's more, you can sit in the restaurant too if you decide not to be a reprobate such as myself.  The staff are friendly, but even better is that the service is superbly quick.  My dad treated me to a sit down chippy when he visited and we were definitely not disappointed.

I believe that the fact The Ashvale has won awards (for 25 years!) speaks for itself, and it's just got the double thumbs up from Foxy.  Definitely one to get on your hit list.




Contact Details:

The Ashvale Restaurant & Takeaway
42-48 Great Western Road
Aberdeen
AB10 6PY

Tel: 01224 596981

Website: http://www.theashvale.co.uk/

Wheelchair access: Yes

The Perfect Casual Sunday - The Tullie Inn, Balloch

Although I've moved to the East coast, I'll always be a West coast fanatic.  The air & atmosphere is just different there, and I almost feel like a different person as soon as I cross the Erskine Bridge to head towards Loch Lomond and beyond.

My sister and I, when we were both students and money was no object, used to go for lunch and discover new and amazing places when we were off.  We had been in talks about "the good old days" and decided to go for lunch and drive around to relive those amazing days.  

The Tullie Inn is based in Balloch, and is a hybrid of old and new.  The building has undergone refurbishment, and I have to say it's right up my street.  The outside has an amazing glasshouse which lets patrons gaze out at the world, yet the building has still retained the older style, traditional inn whitewash stone with black beams.  Inside, everything is coastal themed but not too kitsch.





Our waitress was friendly, but quite slow to pick up what we were saying.  It wasn't necessarily bad service, just a bit annoying when you have to repeat everything to her twice over!  Bless her.  Luckily, she got our orders all correct.

To start, I wanted something comforting as it was a freezing cold day.  What better than tomato, red pepper and chilli soup with crusty bread?



I loved this soup.  It was really flavoursome, although there wasn't a great hint of chilli in the soup.  The tomato and red peppers were really prominent and it still made a delicious, rich tasting soup.  The bread was fluffy and perfect for dipping.  Still, it is recommended.

My sister decided to have soup too, but went for the chicken noodle one instead...



Thick, soft noodles bathed in a rich chicken stock.  warm, crusty bread served at the side for dipping.  Two simple starters that were perfect for a freezing Scottish afternoon!

I am a huge macaroni cheese fan, and I am not easily pleased by it.  I thought I would sample how the Tullie Inn did...



Served in a coastal dish, this macaroni cheese was spectacular.  Creamy, very cheesy and mixed with nutmeg, this had a very unique taste that can only be described as luxurious.  The crispy breadcrumbs on top were a nice touch to change the texture up, and the garlic butter toast was a helpful scoop to get all that wonderful gloopy sauce off the dish! 

Sharon decided to go for the mussels in a garlic and cream sauce...



The picture doesn't show how saucy these were, but I can assure you there was a perfect soup underneath the mountain of mussels!  Served with chips, this is a quirky alternative to the standard fish and chips we all know and love!  The mussels were meaty and they were also really big inside the shell, so it was a wealthy portion!  Definitely a must have for the fish fans.

For two starters, two main courses and a couple of drinks, the bill was just over £25.  This is fantastic value considering we were stuffed, the portions are phenomenal and the quality of the food is so high.

 Plus, you are only about a 5 minute drive from Loch Lomond...




Man, I love Scotland.



Contact Details:
The Tullie Inn
Balloch Road
Balloch
G83 8SW

Tel: 01389 752052


Wheelchair access: Yes 

"Great Pub Serving Grub" - The Mill Inn, Coulter

When I'm feeling distressed or the need to get away, I always find myself drawn to little villages that remind me of traditional Scotland: cottages, lots of greenery and tricky back roads.  There always seems to be a smell of smoke in the air in these villages, as if someone is burning wood in a dimly lit fireplace.  It makes me feel nostalgic and a little more cheerful.

A friend of mine has been having a tough time, so we decided to get in the car and remove ourselves from it all.  I'd received a recommendation for The Mill Inn at Biggar, and once the menu had been checked online I was sold.  I loved their slogan, which I made the title of this post.  Simple yet catchy!



The Mill Inn is a beautiful old building, set with a backdrop of trees and hills in Coulter, a village just outside Biggar.  Inside, the carpets are a deep, rich tartan pattern and the staircase is lined with column candles.  We were led to the seating area upstairs, and sat at a nice table for two at the back of the room.  There were paintings and little lanterns on the walls, and all the beams on the ceiling were visible too.  The atmosphere is really cosy and relaxed, which was perfect for two stressed (and one hungover...) people on a Saturday afternoon.

Reading the menu, both Matthew and I were at a loss.  Each dish for all courses sounded amazing, and I did considering ordering everything I wanted so we could have a grand-scale tapas like starter.  It was difficult, but we made our choices.

Matthew went for "Morag Dubh"...



A Portobello mushroom used as a bed for Stornoway black pudding, topped with Scottish goats cheese.  There was also a refreshing side salad and rich home made tomato chutney.  Now, we know I'm not a mushroom fan, but I tried the black pudding with the goats cheese... wow.  The slightly spiced black pudding mixed with the mellow, smooth cheese was mouthwatering.  This was a really great starter and a great sized portion too.  Stornoway black pudding is THE best you can get, and Matthew's cleared plate is the proof that this was a miraculous combination.

I went for Howgate deep fried brie...



Two big slices of molten brie, encased in a crispy breadcrumb coat.  The cranberry and port jelly was sweet and we all know how perfect fruit and cheese are as a couple.  Hot melted cheese oozed out with every cut, and the sweetened cranberry jam was packed with flavour.  Again, the side salad was crisp and delicious and lightened what could have been a rather sickly starter.  I cannot recommend this starter enough, and I wouldn't hesitate to get this again.

The main courses, again we struggled to pick.  Matthew decided to stick with comfort food and had macaroni cheese...



This was incredible.  I consider myself to make the best macaroni cheese sauce, but I think that this may have topped it.  There was also a layer of melted cheese coating the pasta, so it was really rich and not bland at all, which some sauces can be when they are cream based.  Served with triple cooked chips, a side salad and a portion of home made coleslaw, Matthew was fit to burst but content.

I decided to go for the Coulter Venison burger...



I am a huge fan of venison.  It's very difficult to get right, as if it's overdone then the texture changes and it loses that distinct flavour.  Luckily, this burger was cooked medium and topped with a couple of cheddar cheese slices slowly melting over the meat.  I loved the bun that this came in too, it was incredibly soft and easily broke apart so I didn't have to attack the whole thing like a wild animal.  It was served with Ploughman's pickle as a garnish and I actually really enjoyed the pickle with the venison and cheese.  The chips were soft & fluffy, with a slightly crisped outer shell.  Definitely an order for meat fans!

We were tempted to get dessert, however I couldn't even finish my main course as the portion was so hearty.  The towel was thrown in, and we asked for the bill instead.  For two starters, two mains, two apple juices (my hangover curer) two pints of lemonade and blackcurrant, our bill was just about £50.  It's not a price I could pay every week for lunch, but the food and the setting are very special.  I would recommend this place for anything from a catch up to a special occasion.  

It's a great drive out, thanks to Scotland's ever picturesque setting and at least you know you're going to get quality food from friendly staff.  Do yourself a favour and try it!



Contact Details:

The Mill Inn
Coulter
Biggar
ML12 6PZ

Tel: 01899 220950

Website: www.themillinncoulter.co.uk

Wheelchair access: No