Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Now, Geordie JT is the only person I know who doesn't like Gloagburn; it's too expensive, she says, "and I don't like queueing for me dinner". Personally I think that's a good sign, but you can't please everyone. She recommends Destiny at Perth Airport for cake, so I'll need to give that a try sometime. Watch this space.

She also recommends a certain restaurant beginning with Z in central Stirling. My dear friend HC had one of the worst meals of her life (and she's had a few stinkers) there last November. It was an interesting evening. We were having our regular rendevous in Stirling for the purposes of shopping and eating (yes, I know it's not exactly a heaving metropolis bursting at the seams with cool trendy shops and eateries but it's better than Perth).

We decide to forego our usual meal at the Barnton Bistro (more on that later) in favour of pancakes and coffee there in the afternoon and dinner somewhere else - somewhere new and exciting! With hindsight this was what is often referred to as 'a bad idea'. Come 6pm we start a long trawl of the mean streets of Stirling town centre for somewhere - anywhere - half-decent and relatively inexpensive.

To our dismay we quickly realise that this doesn't exist in Stirling town centre and that's why there's a queue out the door of the Filling Station. We actually consider joining this queue but I have to catch the last Park and Ride bus at 8pm so we decide to try this slightly posh-looking place along the road. At least it has free tables and a couple of veggie options.

Alas, the veggie option ordered by HC turns out to be one of the most unappetising-looking plates of food I've ever seen and she's ever tasted. It is, according to the menu, the Creole dish 'Jambalaya'. Unfortunately on this occasion cooked by someone who had never tasted and never seen Jambalaya before.

It arrives without any fuss or garnish - just a massive bowl full of watery rice with chopped tomatoes and green peppers through it. And HC doesn't like green peppers. And it's costing her £9. Oh dear. "I wish I'd ordered what you did", she says (burger and chips - not bad).

Now, HC's not backward at coming forward when asked by a waiter if everything's alright with her meal. Cue a lot of apologising by the (very sweet) young waiter (waiting staff always seem to be dead nice in Stirling, especially the young men), trips back and forth to the kitchen and offers of another main course, free coffees and desserts. But as we were pushed for time we pass. Regardless, he appears with a rose flavoured panacotta and asks us to try it for him and see what we think. Aww, ok then. And it's not bad, although we inform him it could be a lot more rose-flavoured.

Oh, I bet he was glad to see the back of us. So, it's probably an OK place - just don't order the Jambalaya. And we might even be back since it's one of the few options left now that the Barnton Bistro has CLOSED DOWN! I'm sorry, but why does this always happen? You discover a place which is cheap and does the best veggie burgers and breakfasts you've ever had (the fried eggs were always bang on), and then it goes and shuts down! It was such a nice wee hang-out and now it's gone. Bollocks.


Sunday, 17 May 2009

Herne Hill, London

Aah, London...
Love, love, love it - as long as I don't have to live there, of course. It's Saturday afternoon and we're hingin aboot in Herne Hill til we have to catch our train into town to begin our mammoth arse-achingly-long journey back to Scotland.

And what better way to spend a couple of hours than having lunch with the beautiful GC (while she's inbetween flea-pit flat viewings)? There was talk the night before of the Half Moon pub's pizzas (2 for 1 on a Monday but apparently so good we wouldn't mind paying full price on a Saturday lunchtime), so we decided to meet there.

However, drinks ordered and seats bagged, after half an hour there's no sign of a chef on the premises. And it's nearing 1pm. What do we do? Hotfoot it to Cafe Provencale next door or wait just a wee bit longer to see if he turns up? Well, knowing just how long it can take to get across London on a Saturday afternoon, we decide Cafe Prov is the answer.

And very nice it is too. It's had a nice wee makeover but they've still managed to retain a cosy, quirky and slightly ramshackle (that's a good thing) ambience. It's quite a small menu but it's to the point and they have some interesting specials if you're willing to push the boat out. GC opts for the smoked salmon omlette: it comes with garlic chips and she's being craving protein and chips lately being up the duff and everything. Me and Him go for the all day breakfasts - veg for me and meat for him, natch.

And it's all good. Except for two things: My fried eggs (x2) were a tad underdone for my liking and a bit gelatinous in parts, but horror of horrors - GC's chips were NOT garlicky. At all. However, the staff are super-nice and it's overall a pretty cool place, and if it was my local eaterie I'd be in there all the time.

Incidentally, can I just mention Pizza Express in Tonbridge? Yes, I know it's just a bloody Pizza Express and it's not like they need the business but it was probably the best one we've been in, and we got to sit on the very lovely balcony area overlooking the river. Just the ticket.


Saturday, 9 May 2009

Bridge of Earn

Well, it's a rainy Saturday in May and like the weather I'm not feeling very spring-like. We are so disillusioned with going-out-for-lunch that we're staying in today to sample our own dodgy cooking.

Rewind to December 2008: it's a dark dank Wednesday afternoon and I'm suffering from a broken coccyx (don't ask). My sister's just accompanied me to casualty and is driving me home (I've brought my own cushion). To say thank you I suggest I take her to lunch at the farm shop/cafe outside Bridge of Earn.

"Been there before - not exactly gourmet dining but it's cheap and cheerful."
"Och, the very dab."

So, the car park's practically underwater but undeterred we park up, empty the damp dog and dump him in the boot. We head on in, oblivious to his howling, looking forward to our lunch.

We take a seat and are handed a menu. Quel surprise, it's changed since the last time I was in. And the prices have gone up. Good start. However, I am cheered up by the prospect of an all-day veggie breakfast with a twist - added fruit pudding! Well, we've never experienced this before so we both decide to go for it. The waitress takes our order (grumpily - I mean, I know it's not the most thrilling job in the world but can't you just pretend not to despise the customers for the 30 seconds it takes to take their order?). After she's gone I notice my cutlery and crockery is a bit grubby so I call her back to ask for replacements. She's so grumpy about it that I can't face calling her over again when the replacements are also dirty.

So, it's not shaping up well and to make matters worse my bum is killing me. But at least there's only a few other customers in and we don't have to wait long for our breakfasts. When they come they look suspiciously small and lacking....fruit pudding! So it's missing the one ingredient that we ordered it for. Brilliant. The waitress has disappeared and we're too scared by this point to complain anyway. So, we tuck in, and it has to be said it's pretty tasty but WAY TOO SMALL - gone in about 160 seconds.

Following our dessert (a couple of Christmas choccy-coated truffles which look like sausage meat on the inside and taste very strange indeed) I go up to the counter to pay.

"So - what happened to our fruit pudding?"
"Oh, we've changed suppliers and have just discovered that the new one isn't vegetarian."
"Right. Maybe somebody could have mentioned that when we ordered it, since it was our main reason for ordering it? And maybe the cook could have given us extra mushrooms or hash browns or something to make up for the fact that the plate was half empty cos it was missing it's main ingredient?"
"Yes, we'll have to rethink that..."

Yes, you bloody well will. And did I get charged the full whack? Yes, I bloody well did. I shuffle out in an even worse mood than when I shuffled in.

I've not been back.


Tuesday, 5 May 2009


Well, isn't that just typical? Just when you discover a wee gem some bright spark comes along and changes it. For the worse.

Case in question: one organic farm shop on the A913 between Abernethy and Newburgh. When we first ate here 9 months ago the food was great and reasonably priced. Example: smoked haddock stovies and oatcakes for about £3.50; a top-quality (he says) sizeable homemade burger with sides for about £5.95. All good.

So, there we are, it's a Sunday afternoon and there's next to bugger all in the larder (ie kitchen cupboard) for lunch.

"Why don't we pop along the road for lunch? Can't be arsed cooking anyway."
"Nice one."

The signs out on the road tell us that 'new management' has taken over. This makes me nervous.

I have to say the look of this place has always troubled me a wee bit. It's organic home farm credentials don't extend to the building which is made from hideous pink breezeblocks and sits in a massive tarmac'd car park. The interior is pretty dull and sterile and has zero atmosphere.

Well, to our dismay, it now has a menu to match.

No sniff of my beloved smoked haddock stovies. Only a teensy wee single page menu of the usual generic suspects: tuna mayonnaise baked potatoes and their boring friends. I mean, we can get this sort bland, unimaginative nonsense anywhere - do people really want to be going out of their way to sample the organic version?

They should take a few tips from our beloved Gloagburn who manage to be interesting and consistent; ok, so they're not perfect - mains portion sizes could be bigger for the price and charging 80p extra for cream on your puddings is taking the proverbial. Everything else pretty much hits the mark.


p.s. We had quiche. Tolerable.

Pollockshaws, Glasgow

On reflection the last blog might have come across as a tad negative - but the weekend wasn't a total culinary washout.

Our dinner at the Bier Stube on Kilmarnock Road with the lovely H&P and L&L was ace and the place deserves a medal for offering 2 for 1 pizzas on a Saturday night. Proper superskinny base pizzas with interesting toppings too. And the chips rocked.

Less than a tenner each including beers and a tip - doesn't get much better than that on a budget night oot in Glasgow. And as far as I know it's not owned by the G1 Group so I'm all for it. So who cares if the staff were right arsey from the off and the bogs were a bit manky? I've seen a lot worse when paying a lot more.


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Bridge of Allan

Well, another day, another disappointment in my quest to find a good quality, reasonably-priced eaterie in Scotland with a bit of imagination. After a much-needed night out in Glasgow followed by a lovely afternoon wandering around sunny Kittochside with 2 of our favourite people, L&L, we reluctantly set off home up the A9. Time was passing and we needed to find somewhere for a late (4pm) lunch.

Me: "What about that deli/cafe in Bridge of Allan along from the Westerton Arms? Rhymes with Jive Bamsey. It's had good reviews and we got a rather tasty panini from the deli when G&T got married..."
He: "That is a cracking idea doll."

So there we are, having been grudgingly seated by the young surly waitress. The place is half empty but what feels like an age later (we've both been for cludgie visits in the meantime), she ambles over to ask what we want. Doesn't manage to raise a smile at any point.

Me: "I'll have the Vegetarian Sandwich please. And a fresh orange juice."
He: "Can I have the Smoked Ham and Cheese Sandwich please, and a sparkling mineral water."

At this point I have to tell you that, as you may have guessed by my order, I don't eat meat or poultry. It's a choice I made 18 years ago and I make no apology for it; I personally don't find it necessary to eat meat; neither do I feel the need to tell other people what to eat. I'll eat most other things, including fish (yes, one of those vegetarians who isn't really a vegetarian but who quite often has to opt for the desperately boring and unimaginative 'vegetarian option' when eating out).

So, back to lunch; on the menu my veggie option sounded relatively promising: avocado, rocket, tomato with a basil-based dressing. Thinks: "Could be a nice wee sandwich. Ok, so it's £5.95 but if the avocado's nice and ripe and it comes on a fluffy piece of homemade bread, then I'm happy with that. Could be a winner."

It wasn't. Firstly, it wasn't even a sandwich. It was a roll. It was what tasted like a crappy shop-bought morning roll. But oblong. Basically crusty air. The filling was worse. Unripened, discoloured avocado, tasteless rocket, scant dressing. All bad enough but worsened by the overriding taste of the inch-thick wedge of cheap margarine. Yum.

His wasn't much better. Both side salads oot of a packet.

And the orange juice tasted like Morrison's concentrate. Not really my idea of fresh but there you go.

Bill: Eighteen Quid.
I have to tell you, we didn't leave a tip for the first time EVER. And we didn't even feel guilty about it. I mean, is it really so bloody difficult? If you can't make a bloody sandwich then just don't bloody bother. And don't charge six quid for it either. The decor wasn't even appealing and the hideous cartoon Vettriano paintings were enough to put you off your lunch altogether. This place might have had a good write up in the Herald two years ago but that was two years ago. This is now and it's not good. It's bad.


p.s. Will everyone please stop putting raw onions in salads? Raw onions are not good for the tum tum. Not even the red ones.