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

The Definition of Rustic Scotland - The Kilberry Inn, Kilberry

I have a couple of posts now based in and around Argyll.  My family and I visit Port Ban annually, as we have always done, for the entirety of my life.  It's one of my favourite places in the whole world, and as soon as I hit Inverary I get this overwhelming sense of calm, that only increases the closer I get to Port Ban and further away from the hustle and bustle of reality.

As a child, I remember visiting The Kilberry Inn and the owner would talk to my sister and I in a Daffy Duck voice.  Disappointingly, as a slightly older child, we did visit and the ownership had changed.  I ordered one of my favourite dishes, macaroni cheese, but was absolutely horrified to taste some type of wine flavour throughout it.  That was the last time we visited the place, until this year.


The Kilberry Inn is set just off a single track road en route to Tarbert.  It depicts a traditional Scottish inn, with the famous red telephone box landmark outside.  We went on a cold October's night, so I borrowed this picture from Trip Advisor to do it justice!

We were welcomed into the quiet restaurant, which has changed massively from what I could remember.



 It still had all the amazing structures visible, such as the beams and stone walls, but the decor was elegant and timeless.  It had a really cosy atmosphere, with a small fire burning and being peaceful.

We had discussed the menu prior to arrival, however the menu had slightly changed from what was online.  This made it so much more difficult to decide what to eat for each course.  After making deals with each other, i.e. "if you get that, I'll get this and we can swap a bit for a bit?" we had settled on our mouthwatering choices.

My dad chose Queenie scallops toasted with a herb and mull cheddar crust...



Served in their perfect shells, this was a beautiful starter and I would definitely consider ordering it on my next visit.  The scallops were soft and of a perfect consistency, whilst the cheese was melted but solidifying into a beautiful crust around the edges.  The combination of strong cheese, herbs and the fish was amazing.

My sister and I both ordered the crab cakes...



I usually am disappointed when I order anything to do with crab, because the portions are small and you just get a taste for it once it's over.  I was pleasantly surprised to get three decent sized crab cakes, served with a slightly spiced mayonnaise.  Crab meat is one of my favourites; salty but not too fishy that it gets sickly.  The cakes were lightly browned to add a crunch, but the mixture inside was still soft and easy to eat.

My sister's fiance didn't want a starter, so had olives...



Juicy, bitter and still containing their stones.  I do love olives, but I was too content with my crab cakes!

After the starters, we were raring to go for our main courses.  My dad ordered the shin of veal cooked in white wine with tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms and celery, served with buttery mash and gremolata.



I do love veal, although I don't agree with the whispers I hear about how it comes to be.  I tried a piece, and it was beautiful.  I do hope that it's journey from farm to plate was humane though!  The mash was as described, both smooth and buttery.  It really did taste amazing and my dad cleared the whole thing.

My sister and I both had the beef with porcini and red onion butter, parmentier potatoes and crispy gem salad...



I am a fillet steak kind of girl, as I like the meat to be as lean as possible.  The lovely owner assured me that because it was hung for so long, there was barely any fat in the meat.  I'm really glad I listened to him, as it was perfect.  I had mine cooked medium rare.  The butter on top of the steak was really tasty and complimented the juicy, tender meat perfectly.  Parmentier is a fancy name for the way the potatoes are done: cubed and shallow fried.  They were really nice though, and a nice change from the usual chips offered as a side.

Just on a side note, I've always wanted the coloured Laguiole cutlery... I took a wee snap of my steak knife because it was so pretty.  This place was made for me!



Mark had the pork belly braised with orange and cardamom, with a side of vegetables and caramelised macadamias.



The smell emanating from this dish was intense.  The pork was so tender it fell apart, and the rich sauce seeping into the meat created the perfect accompaniment.  A hearty main for a cold Autumn's eve!

Alongside our wonderful dishes, we ordered the following sides:




Top to bottom is Heston's cauliflower cheese, honey mustard parsnips and dauphinoise potatoes.  These were stunning and it was hard not to gorge myself on these on top of my hefty steak.  I would definitely recommend getting all of these sides.  You won't regret it!

We were full, however as we had decided to have a gourmet weekend, it was only customary to have a look at the sweets menu.  Needless to say, one thing led to another...



Myself and Mark had the mocha walnut cake, served with chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce and fresh raspberries.  This was a really nice cake and it was nice to not have a chocolate fudge cake option, which is very common & a safe option for restaurants.  The fresh raspberries added a fruity tang to each bite, and I could have done with some more as I enjoyed the combination so much.  The chocolate ice cream was rich and moistened the cake up too.  A delicious dessert, and something a bit different.

My dad ordered sticky toffee pudding, a favourite of his...



Look at that cake glisten!  Enveloped in a sticky, melted toffee sauce, this cake was super sweet.  Served with a dod of vanilla ice cream to add a bit of mellow, this was again scoffed and not a trace left on the plate.

My sister ordered panna cotta for her dessert...



Served with a deep fruit coulis on top and a biscotti for dipping, this was a light dessert, perfect for rounding off a luxurious meal.

What is a luxurious meal though, without a glass of vino?!



A light, sweet zinfandel that matched the fish in my starter, the beef in my main and the nuts in my dessert.  It was a perfect all rounder, considering I'm not a wine connoisseur!

Once we had finished our meal, we asked for the bill.  It was a total of about £250, which works out at around £60 a head.  Considering that we had a three course meal each, including wines and beers, I do feel that it was a decent amount to pay.  It's not something that you would pay just off the cuff, but it's a great place for special occasions, or if you want to treat yourselves (like we did).

So, here is the plan:
1) Book a caravan at Port Ban.
2) Book a table at The Kilberry Inn.
3) Phone me to let me know when we are going.

Cheers!



Contact Details:

The Kilberry Inn
Kilberry
Tarbert
PA29 6YD

Tel: 01880 770223

Website: www.kilberryinn.com

Wheelchair access: Yes


A Comeback Post - The Caledonian Thistle Hotel, Aberdeen

I'd like to start off by apologising for my lack of posts.  I was always told you should never start anything off with an apology, but I feel like I owe it to you all.  I've just started a new job, I've moved out into my own flat, I have no internet... first world problems, eh?

I am now a resident of the 'Granite City' so I thought I'd do a post about the food I was getting in the hotel I lived in whilst finding my flat.  The Thistle Caledonian is smack bang in the centre of Aberdeen, literally 50 yards from Union street and overlooking the beautiful gardens on Union Terrace.

So, as I did with my last hotel food post, I shall do a reel of pictures with descriptions for you to gaze upon and lust for - enjoy!



King prawn linguine with garlic bread.  Juicy prawns served in a slightly spiced tomato sauce with sliced vegetables tossed throughout.





Starter: Scallops served with asparagus spears in a lemon & herb dressing.  Three perfectly cooked scallops sat on a bed of mixed beans, and three aldente asparagus sticks.  This was beautiful, and ordered from the Market Menu.  For my main, I had a medium rare fillet steak with peppercorn sauce - slightly overcooked for my liking though.




Peri peri chicken burger with cheese.  This was quite dry, so I slathered it all in mayonnaise.





Lamb cooked medium rare, served with a red wine jus and moroccan cous cous.  This was beautiful, although some of the lamb was fatty, which I don't like.  For dessert I treated myself to the chocolate trio - milk, white and dark chocolate mousse with chocolate wafer balls on top, and a chocolate centre filling.  Beautiful!




This was grilled salmon in a ginger and black soy sauce, served with udon noodles.  This was my favourite dish of my whole stay - Packed with flavours, but really healthy and filling.





When you order a steak and cheese hoagie, you would presume it would be a bit lighter than most.  This was flakes of steak, drowned in sauce on a bed of caramelised onions and a blanket of melted Emmental cheese.  Served with a crisp side salad, french fries and a side order of perfect onion rings.

Overall, the food at the Thistle was good.  There were a few mishaps here and there, but overall it was a wonderful hotel with a great variety of food to suit all moods.  My only gripe was paying a £5 tray charge for room service... what about delivering a tray costs £5?!




Contact Details:

Caledonian Thistle Hotel
10-14 Union Terrace
Aberdeen
AB10 1WE

Tel: 0871 376 9003

Website: www.thistle.com/The-Caledonian

Wheelchair access: Yes

The Fox Meets Burger Meats Bun - Burger Meats Bun, Glasgow

I think I've made it abundantly clear throughout the life of this blog how big a fan I am of burgers, steak and red meat in general.  Wherever there is steak or burgers, you can bet your boots you'll find me there.

After a day at the wedding show in Glasgow's SECC, what could be better to fill rumbling stomachs than a juicy burger and some delicious sides?

Burger Meats Bun can be found on West Regent Street, right in the heart of the city centre.  It occupies the basement of the building, so just be careful you don't stroll past!



Inside, I found the decor really comical and fun.  The booths are separated by wooden walls, but each wall is about elbow height.  The space in between is filled with fake grass and has little plastic cows grazing!  I thought it was really unique and instantly fell in love with the place.

We wasted no time and got down to business.  The menu is small, but very effective...



To start with, we had macaroni croquettes...




Breadcrumbed croquettes packed full of macaroni pasta and melted cheese.  I did like these, however I would have preferred them a little more creamier!  As a massive macaroni cheese fan, I suppose I'm slightly biased because I prefer a massive dish to eat that's doused in sauce.

We also ordered the seoul chicken wings...



Tender chicken that fell off the bone, coated in a Chinese flavoured sauce with a slight kick to them.  These chicken wings were amazing, and if it weren't for my fantastic burger I'd have devoured the lot.

On to the main event!  I went for a fiery "The Beef" burger...





An amazing home made patty, topped with Toma Raschera, chipotle mayonnaise and jalapenos.  The burger meat was perfect and incredibly juicy, without being greasy.  There was a dollop of beautiful melted cheese (that's the Toma Raschera) and the jalapenos added that wonderful spicy kick to each bite without overpowering it. Served in a slightly toasted brioche bun, this was a pleasure to eat.

My mother went for The Big Cheese...



I wanted to order this, and I feel that I'll have a tough time of choosing between these when I return!  Again, a juicy homemade beef burger topped with cheddar cheese and a dollop of Burger Meats Bun burger sauce.  Delicious!

My sister had the hot chic burger...



This is along the same lines as my fiery beef burger, except with a crispy chicken breast instead.  I do love a chicken burger... making the decision even tougher.  As a burger maniac, I'm already wishing that I was stuffing my face just looking at this picture.

Finally, Mark ordered the special burger...



This burger included a hunk of beef, topped with a mushroom and Burger Meats Bun sauce.  As I'm not a fan of mushrooms this didn't particularly interest me, however I can assure you mushroom fans that it went down a treat.

Whilst munching on all of this burger finery, we also had sides of Thai chilli cheese chips...



Triple cooked chips which were so incredibly soft, coated in melted cheese, jalapenos and spring onions.  There was also a spicy tomato based sauce on these, and they were INCREDIBLE.  You'll know I don't really fancy chips, but I couldn't stop picking at these.  So much cheese...I knew I wouldn't be able to resist.

I was absolutely stuffed (especially after those cheeky samples at the wedding show!) and thus forfeited dessert.  I vow to return and try them though, as I've heard the most wonderful things.  We got our bill from the friendly waitress, and it came to a total of £53.  That included a milkshake, multiple cokes and juices, four burgers and three sides.  Not bad eh?!

Please, do yourselves a favour and get into Burger Meats Bun.  Fantastic burgers, wonderful sides and friendly staff.  Who could ask for more?



Contact Details:

Burger Meats Bun
48A West Regent Street
Glasgow
G2 2RA

Tel: 0141 353 6712

Website: http://www.burger-meats-bun.co.uk/

Wheelchair access: No