The Perfect Outdoor-Indoor Brasserie - The Chophouse, Glasgow

The festive season is always one where I go absolutely nuts with my bank card.  Due to my itching to spend money, my reviews had sadly taken a backseat.  Now the cobwebs have been blown from my dusty little blog, I am pleased to be writing about a marvellous meal that I had this evening.

Steak is my favourite, hands down.  From my posts on Kyloe and John Carrigans you should know that it does take a lot to impress me on the red meat front.  Needless to say, my carnivorous tendencies had also been put on the back burner in aid of funding Christmas.  Not anymore.

My friend Stevie and I ventured into Glasgow city centre to The Chophouse.  Formerly known as Sizzlers, The Chophouse is one of the restaurants that inhabits the beautiful Merchant Square.  The website states that there is a 1920's feel to the restaurant - with the cobbled interior of Merchant Square, it's not difficult to imagine Gene Kelly dancing around to the chorus of 'Singin' In The Rain'.

The Chophouse in Merchant Square

Merchant Square is a beautiful collaboration of bars and restaurants.  Themed like a market square, yet cosily based indoors, it makes the perfect place to eat and drink without getting weather-beaten between eating and drinking.  You can find out more about Merchant Square here.

Stevie and I were seated in the 'outdoor' seating area, which was great as they had set up the main area of the square for New Years Eve.  There were Ariel silk acrobats practicing, a big net of balloons set up and the Christmas lights were like stars covering the sky.  It was almost like being outside on a Summer's night - just what you need in the middle of a December monsoon!

The menu offers a wide variety of favourites to start - mussels, pate, prawns and the like - and it really was a difficult choice.  Resorting to 'eeny meeny miney mo', my choice was made by the gods: smoked haddock and bacon fishcakes.  Stevie went slightly exotic on me, and opted for the Cajun marinated chicken skewer.

Cajun marinated chicken skewers

The chicken on these skewers was cooked to perfection.  It tore away from the skewer with ease, and the meat was mouth-wateringly succulent.  The smokey marinade had a slight kick to it, but not so hot that it would cause any discomfort (even to the most tender of palates).  Garnished with a side salad of crispy fresh leaves, plump cherry tomatoes, shredded carrot and sliced red onion, it really was an enticing dish.  It was big enough to satisfy our aching stomachs, but small enough to be a warm up for the main course.

Smoked haddock and bacon fishcakes
Well wasn't this a treat.  The fishcakes were served piping hot, and also with a dressing of sweet chilli sauce. The smoked haddock was very distinctive, however didn't overpower the whole dish.  The bacon pieces added their own unique flavouring, plus the fluffiness of the potato, laced with spring onion, really made these fishcakes delicious and different to what I have experienced before.  The sweet chilli sauce added that extra heat and bite that I really enjoy, and complimented the fish perfectly.  The side salad was the same as above, and added some extra freshness and juiciness to the dry texture of the fishcakes.

Medium rare fillet steak with mash potato
Stevie's chips
On to the main event! After watching the Ariel dancers twirl to what appeared to be false deaths, we tucked into a medium rare fillet steak each.  I'm not a huge fan of chips, but the waiter happily swapped the chips which come as part of the meal with some creamy, buttery mashed potatoes.  Stevie's chips came in a lovely miniature fry basket - super cute and also handy for keeping those pesky chips away from your sauce!  The steaks were absolutely perfect - seared on the outside with beautiful charcoal lines from the grill, then a stunning red centre.  We weren't given steak knives, however we didn't even need them;  The table knife slid through the steak like butter.  It was phenomenal.

  My favourite thing with steaks these days is the roasted cherry tomatoes - sweet, juicy and absolutely divine with steak.  Do beware though, those rascals tend to burst when you spear it with your fork - nobody wants a tomato juice burn...

Fried Onions
Pepper sauce & Coleslaw

Stevie and I decided that we would order a couple of sides to share, as we like to go hard when it comes to eating out.  The fried onions were served in a rice bowl, in their own glorious juices.  They were sweet and packed with flavour, which went amazingly with the meat and the strong pepper sauce.  The sauce was really peppery, which I really liked.  A lot of sauces tend to be cream based which can take away that kick of pepper, however The Chophouse have really got themselves a winner here.  The only downside is that they charge for sauce separately - £2 isn't a lot, but I prefer when the sauce is complimentary!  What I did not, and will not, stop raving about is their coleslaw.  I have honestly never enjoyed coleslaw more in my whole life.  It was perfectly shredded, and coated in a fantastic homemade mayonnaise that left a beautiful creamy yet sweet aftertaste in your mouth.  If you do visit The Chophouse, please order coleslaw.  You will not regret it!

Feeling full, satisfied and grinning like Cheshire cats, we felt like a glance at the sweet menu.  Well...

Chocolate brownie with mint ice cream

Stevie read that the brownie came with mint ice cream and was instantly sold.  The brownie was served warm, and the mint ice cream was melting, slowing infusing into the middle of the brownie.  Garnished with a physalis and fresh cream, the brownie was light yet rich, refreshed with the cold mint ice cream and the exotic edge from the physalis.  It went down a treat, and Stevie has confirmed that this has been our best meal of 2012!

Oreo Chocolate Sundae

Oreo ice cream, layered on top of fresh cream and brownie pieces, coated in warm chocolate sauce.  I absolutely adored this, and it was really light and cool to eat.  My only criticism is that there were barely any brownie pieces!  After having snaffled a piece of Stevie's brownie, I was so looking forward to chunks of my own - but to no avail.  The ice cream was sweet and there was plenty of the sauce (plus a physalis, which was a unique fruity change to the chocolate and vanilla combo) which soothed my disappointment.

The staff were polite and courteous, however not overly friendly and they didn't flutter around your table to check how you were getting on.  They were quick to serve, clear dishes and provide drinks, so no complaints there!

For four soft drinks (lemonade and lime, to cleanse the palate), two starters, two steak dinners, and two desserts, the bill came to just under £90.  I found this amazing value for money, especially due to the calibre of the food and the quality of the steaks we had.  The portion sizes were in no way modest, and I really feel like we got our money's worth.

If you fancy seeing a nicer side of Glasgow, I would definitely recommend a visit to Merchant Square and getting a steak from The Chophouse.  You will probably find me sitting out the front of the restaurant with the meat sweats, happy as Larry.

Contact Details:

The Chophouse
Merchant Square
71 Albion Street
G1 1NY

Tel: 0141 552 4200


Wheelchair access: Yes

Tongue Thai'd and Speechless - Chaophraya, Glasgow

I booked Michael McIntyre tickets a year and a half ago, and it was surreal when last night finally arrived.  As I still owed my sister something for her birthday, I offered to take her to a restaurant of her choosing for a slap up meal and some drinks before the show.  One that she had been eyeing, and that a friend had asked me to review, was Chaophraya.

In all honesty, Chinese and Thai food isn't my forte.  I have ordered the same thing every Saturday from my local takeaway and have been blissfully happy with my ignorance.  Chaophraya is a whole other ball game, and worlds apart from the food you would order at an average Thai restaurant.

Located in Nelson Mandela Place, Chaophraya inhabits a beautiful big building in central Glasgow.  Inside is so elegant and grand, decorated with cultural kitsch that doesn't even come close to cheesy - classy, reserved and utterly amazing.

Chandelier in the foyer
Elephant sculptures on the landing

The restaurant is up a flight of stairs, in a room named 'The Ballroom':  A vacuous space gracefully filled with tables, booths, a bar and kitchen.  To really appreciate the beauty and grandeur of this place, I urge you to visit.  

Strawberry and lime mojito

Siam Smile cocktail

The waitresses that served us were always smiling, very genuine and graceful.  We ordered some drinks whilst we perused the menu: a strawberry and lime mojito for Sharon, and a 'Siam Smile' authentic Thai cocktail for me.  Both were refreshing, delicious and beautifully presented.

All I can truly say about the menu is - in true Lanarkshire Scottish - OAFT.  Each and every starter, salad and main sounded truly tantalising   My mouth was watering at the descriptions provided for each, and we spent a good twenty minutes reading through everything, ooh-ing and aah-ing all the way.  I am quite a strong, decisive eater, and this menu had me stumped.  There were so many weird and wonderful ingredients that I was desperate to try, and so many combinations of flavours and spices!

We bucked up our ideas, shut out menus, and gave the waitress a long awaited nod - the decision was made.  To start, we ordered the Ruammit Satay Fondue for two: chicken, pork, prawn, squid and fish cakes all served on bamboo skewers, with a peanut satay sauce.  For the main affair, Sharon opted for the spicy seafood udon noodles, and I went for the lamb shank in yellow curry, with a side order of egg fried rice.

Ruammit Satay Fondue
A closer look...

I have taken numerous photographs for each dish, as I was simply in awe at the smells, colours and presentation.  In the first photograph, at the top left, we have:

The Thai fish cakes.  Rolled into little balls, these consisted of spicy cod and coley, blended with green beans, lime leaves and red curry paste.  These were really soft and broke apart easily.  There was a slight hint of lemon in the mixture, and a very light and refreshing fish taste.  The heat of the spice was minimal, and really complimented the dash of lemon and the mellowness of the fish.  These were actually my favourite satay items from the selection.

To the right of the fish cakes, we have the chicken satay.  The tender and juicy chicken fell off the skewer, and was so unbelievably flavoursome.  When combined with the chunky satay sauce (which was heated by a tea light underneath - very cool) this was an amazing mix and it went down a treat.

Below the chicken skewers we have the pork satay.  Each strip fell away easily and the coating of sesame seeds and Thai oils were really complimentary.   The meat was glistening with juices and it was sensational. I am a huge fan of pork, and these lean skewers of meat were literally perfection.

Next are the butterfly prawns.  They were juicy, firm and perfectly bite-size   Again, the peanut satay sauce was a blessing for this and gave a hint of spice, which I enjoyed with the prawns.  Finally there was the squid, which was lovely too.  I don't really wave the flag for squid, as I find it quite chewy and tough.  Surprisingly, this squid, although firm, was not rubbery and I did enjoy it.

Lamb shank in yellow curry

Isn't it beautiful?

The description of my curry did say it was served in a tagine - me thinking it would be a small, individual, little-old-me tagine.  No.  This was a full blown Masterchef tagine, filled with the most immense aromas and tastes I have ever encountered.  The lamb was so tender it fell off the bone with one touch.  With the lamb there were baby potatoes, onion, garlic, grilled pumpkin, broccoli and lady fingers (Lady fingers being 'okra', a green vegetable, kind of like mangetout.  Nothing sinister, I promise!).  All of this was coated in a turmeric curry sauce blended with cashew nuts, and seasoned with shallots.  This has to be one of the best meals I have had, ever.  Each mouthful was so unbelievable - a nutty crunch from a cashew, a sweetness like butternut squash from the grilled pumpkin, a homeliness from the potatoes, a hint of heat from the turmeric sauce.  The lamb was so tender and aromatic, it was the perfect dish and I cannot find one single fault taste, smell or appearance wise.  I was rather full with the rice too (which was fluffy, light and amazing!) so if I were to order this again, I would skip the side.  Apart from that, I would recommend, encourage and set fireworks off under you to get you to try this dish!

Spicy seafood udon noodles

Seafood delight!

My sister is a big seafood fan, so this dish was ultimately made for her.  Scallops, mussels, prawns and squid were laced through spicy udon noodles, tossed with bean sprouts, chillies, mushrooms and basil.  This dish was rather spicy, and there were full chillies, with seeds intact, hidden within.  The prawns and scallops were lovely and firm, and really added some really bold flavours to the dish.  The mussels were still in their shells, so they must have been fresh!  Sharon's eyes were running by the end of her main, but she said that it was truly phenomenal.

I am not usually one for dessert, however Chaophraya had made me question everything.  We decided to, although I looked about 7 months pregnant, order from the sweet menu.

Fresh fruit fondue with chocolate sauce

My heart swells just looking at this again...

Simple, light and refreshing, I give you the fresh fruit fondue.  An easy concept, taken heads and shoulders above the rest in Chaophraya.  The strawberries were sweet and tangy, then combined with the richness of the chocolate...words fail.  The melon was ripe and soft, the juices were dripping down our chins as we preyed on the pineapple and the grapes were coated in icing sugar, making them that wee bit more lovely to eat.  Combined with a small glass of rose wine (and a Malibu for Sharon) this made for the perfect end to a heavenly meal.

To summarise: two cocktails, one sharing platter, two main courses, one sharing dessert, one glass of wine and one Malibu - £85.  I feel like this is excellent value for money, considering the location, calibre of food, the presentation, the quality of the drinks and also the service.  Our waitresses were so humble and lovely, they really were a treat to deal with.

If you are looking for somewhere that is beautiful, romantic, friendly, grand, elegant, amazing value for money and will leave you failing for words at the brilliance - get yourself booked in to visit Chaophraya, and thank me by taking me with you!

Contact Details:

The Town House
Nelson Mandela Place
G1 2LL

Tel: 0141 332 0041

Wheelchair access: No

A Pain in the Boatswain - Bosun's Table, Largs

You should know by now that I am absolutely 100% the biggest fan of Buzzworks and their fantastic restaurants.  If you haven't read my reviews (shocking!) then you can read about Scotts at Troon here and The Longhouse in Kilmarnock here.

I received an email from Buzzworks notifying me a month or so back introducing their newest addition Bosun's Table, based in Largs yacht haven. A bit of nautical knowledge for you - a 'bosun' is the officer on the ship responsible for rigging, anchors and the smooth running of a ship, and also known as a 'Boatswain'.

Described as "a friendly and welcoming cafe", I was excited to see the Buzzworks magic inside a more casual setting.  When they have restaurants with such high quality, I was intrigued to see how they have incorporated that class, elegance and amazement into a casual and relaxed cafe/bistro.  My sister Sharon and I decided to take a day trip up to check it out, despite the hormonal weather.

Bosun's Table is a small, cosy affair with a lovely big conservatory stretching out into the centre of the square.  The conservatory, where we sat, was decorated with lovely nautical themed paraphernalia like schooners and quirky wooden signage.  Cosy and welcoming, so far they had lived up to their promise.

The nautical conservatory

I have to comment however (and it pains me to have anything remotely negative to say) that I felt that the service wasn't up to the usual calibre.  When we first entered into the cafe, we were acknowledged, but stood around awkwardly.  Eventually a young man asked where we would like to sit, and then said to sit anywhere.  I feel that either you show customers to their seats, or as they enter let them know that they can sit at a table of their choice.  He then swooped away, and we sat down.  I was unsure if he was going to bring us a menu (on the website they advertise a bistro menu at weekends) so we casually checked the cafe menu, and nattered, as us women tend to do.

The cafe menu is full of lovely, homely foods that you would expect to order in a cafe: baked potatoes, sandwiches, home baking and a short list of comforting mains.  The menu was good, but I had really psyched myself up for some of the offerings on their bistro menu! The likes of the lamb shank and the haddock gratin had caught my eye.

A lovely young girl came to our table, and I enquired about the bistro menu.  She explained that the establishment closed at 5pm, so the bistro menu wasn't available anymore - devastated!  Nevertheless, the cafe menu still had a lot of tantalising dishes available, which I still struggled to choose from!  I decided to have the prawn cocktail to start; Sharon decided to have the crispy coated brie wedges with redcurrant dip. For my main, I went for the homeliest of home dishes - macaroni cheese.  Sharon went for a seaside classic of  battered haddock (you can also choose breaded) and chips.

Prawn cocktail with marie rose sauce

This is where Bosun's Table won me over again.  The prawn cocktail was chilled to perfection, and was unbelievably fresh.  The prawns were juicy and firm, coated in a healthy serving of sweet marie rose sauce.  The fresh lettuce leaves were tossed with sliced peppers and doused in a light balsamic vinegar dressing.  The leafy salad was perfect and gave a delicious crunch with the sweetness of the prawns.  Each cold and mouthwatering bite left me wanting more, and I can say that I was devastated to reach the end.  I have to highly commend all the Buzzworks restaurants I have been to - your seafood is second to none.

Crispy coated brie wedges with redcurrant dip and salad

This dish takes me back to my childhood visits to Islay, where my sister and I both ordered deep fried brie every night at the restaurants we visited - to the point where our regular haunt ran out (much to my grans horror).  The brie was perfectly melted inside an envelope of golden crumbs that were crunchy and delicious.  The cheese oozed out when you cut it open... it gives me tingles to think about it.  The redcurrant dip was sweet and sticky and beyond a perfect match for the star of the show.  I almost wish I had ordered two starters, as after one taste of this dish and I was envious for more.

Macaroni cheese with chips, salad and garlic bread.

Macaroni cheese is one of those dishes that is so simple to make, it can be over complicated and therefore disgusting.  I am pleased to report that this macaroni cheese was great, and tasty.  The macaroni shells were firm enough to spear, and the creamy sauce wasn't too thick.  A lovely melted layer of cheddar cheese is always going to go down well with me!  The garlic bread was fluffy on the inside, and toasted to a light crunch on the outside.  The chips tasted a little strange, but not so much so that I didn't eat them.  It's strange, but most greasy spoons that you get chips from have that strange fishy aftertaste and a soggy exterior, which I really don't like;  I prefer the chip to be somewhat sweet, crispy and fresh.

Battered Troon landed haddock with chips and salad

There is nothing better than a hearty helping of fish and chips on a stereotypical Scottish day.  The crispy batter was sweet and housed some lovely flaky white meat, which was delicious.  It was a beautiful big cut of haddock, and I really enjoyed the smidgen that I was lucky to try.  Again, the chips were a little bit disappointing, but as you know from previous posts I'm not the biggest fan of chips any way.  My sister said that it wasn't the best haddock she has had, but she still cleared her plate.

We sat with our plates cleared, our glasses empty and our stomachs comfortably full.  The waiting staff were flitting around, but did not remove our plates or glasses, nor did they offer the bill.  After another five minute wait, we approached the till where a woman was stood.  As we arrived, she darted away!  Eventually, we squared our bill.

For two starters, two mains and a couple of drinks, the bill was a lovely £25.  I was happy with the food, the setting and the variety of classics available to eat.  The only downfall, which really pains me, was the service. I know that Buzzworks have hired some of the most fantastic staff I have ever encountered in my years of dining, and it saddens me that the staff at Bosun's Table aren't quite up to that standard.  Perhaps the staff were there from a previous cafe that habituated that building (so my sister thinks) and I truly hope that they work to improve their customer service to that of Scotts and The Longhouse.

I haven't lost my faith in Buzzworks, and I know that I will continue to love their restaurants.  I think Bosun's Table just needs a bit of the Buzzworks magic to make it into a cafe that's worth raving about.

Contact Details:

Bosun's Table
Largs Yacht Haven
Irvine Road
Largs, Ayrshire
KA30 8EZ

Tel: 01475 689198


Wheelchair access: Yes

Strictly Average, If You Catch My Drift - The Boathouse, Kilsyth

I'm becoming a permanent fixture in Kilsyth these days.  I'm a huge fan of Chippy Mahal, which to this date still does the best chips and cheese I've ever experienced.  Although I won't be reviewing Chippy Mahal, I would recommend a visit.

My friend Craig and I decided to go to The Boathouse in Auchinstarry, just outside of Kilsyth.  Situated next to a marina full of canal boats in a very modest setting, The Boathouse looks very quaint and welcoming;  Catch it on a sunny day and you're in for a treat.

The Boathouse

This wasn't my first visit to The Boathouse, and I really enjoyed my time there so I was happy to return.  The staff are warm and welcoming, the setting is tranquil and as a four star hotel and restaurant, I maintained my high expectations.

There was a set menu on offer, two courses for £9.95.  The menu wasn't very extensive and there was not much on the menu that tickled my fancy, so we decided to go a la carte and have a splurge.  We shared a starter of haggis bon bons in a whiskey cream sauce.  For seconds, I opted for the barbecue pulled pork sandwich (with a side of onion rings, naturally) and Craig chose the Texan burger with fries.

Haggis bon bons with a whiskey cream sauce

I was rather disappointed with the size of the haggis bon bons.  I didn't think they would literally be just about the size of an actual penny-sweet bon bon!  The haggis inside was hot and creamy, with a lovely spicy kick.  The breadcrumb crust was crispy and light, so it was delicious.  The whiskey cream sauce was really delicious, but I would have liked a bit more of it as you could barely taste it due to the strong flavour of the haggis.  The phrase 'less is more' should not apply to food!  Bigger bon bons, more sauce, happier customers.  That, my dears, is a fact.

The Texan burger with fries

I absolutely loved that the burger came out on a big slate.  The chips were seasoned with flakes of parsley, and the burger was stacked high and bursting with ingredients.  The burger was juicy, the bun was toasted and it smelled divine.  The Texan burger is a juicy beefburger, topped with smoked bacon, melted cheese, barbecue sauce and a crispy onion ring, all based on a warmed bun and a bed of salad.  On my last visit I did order a cheeseburger, and I can confirm that they are truly delicious!  Both Craig and myself were rather let down by the chips, which were a bit soggy and depressed looking.  For just over £11, you would have hoped for fresh chips - crispy outside, fluffy inside, that kind of thing - but these were limp and reminiscent of  the chips you would have got from Wimpy...just before they shut down.

Barbecue pulled pork sandwich with fries and onion rings

Oh my god, this sandwich was the best thing to happen to me that day.  The pulled pork was so tender and sweet, and melted in your mouth.  The barbecue sauce was rich, but not overpowering, and slightly smokey. The flour bun was warm and soft, and it was so easy to eat.  It looked as though it would be a challenge and quite messy, but it was perfect.  As mentioned above, the chips were soggy and quite pathetic looking.  I did try some with my portion of mayonnaise (which surprisingly was free) but they were too far gone to be saved with a condiment.  I was also pretty disappointed in the onion rings.  I almost lost my teeth to the cause, they were so hard.  We came to the conclusion that they were reheated and the batter had solidified into what can only be described as an onion hula hoop, and not even the crisps - the plastic hoops you can swing round your hips.  You would have to have pretty small hips for these ones, in all fairness.

We did mention to the waitress when she came over that the onion rings were ludicrously hard, and she was sympathetic.  They still appeared on our bill though, and at a pound for four, two of which were untouched, I was a bit miffed that I was being charged for them.

For one starter, two drinks and two mains, the bill was just over £32.  I'm usually happy to pay this, but considering the calibre of food was below the standard I am used to I grudged handing over my bank card.  The staff were so lovely, but when customers plates are taken away with pretty much all the chips untouched and a gripe with the quality of food, surely that would be a sign to perhaps not charge them the full amount?

I would like to return to The Boathouse, because I know that they can serve fantastic food - I have witnessed it first hand.  I'm hoping it was an off day, and perhaps the chef just wasn't up for frying fresh chips or onion rings and opted for a cheeky microwave session.

At least I know that Chippy Mahal is only just up the road, should I ever crave some damn good chips...

Contact Details:

The Boathouse
Auchinstarry Marina
G65 9SG

Tel: 01236 829 200


Wheelchair access: Yes

A Diamond in the 'Rough' - Artisan, Wishaw

As I sit in my tiger onesie sipping on a cup of tea, I truly appreciate how good life is.  Having also just returned from an amazing meal just up the road, my level of contentment is through the roof.

My father called me earlier this evening to let me know he was going to be late home to make the dinner - then comes the ultimatum...
"You can cook yourself something, or just go out for dinner."  Really, father?  As if that question needed thought.  Needless to say, fate brought me and my friend Suzanne to the Artisan restaurant in Wishaw.

Artisan is based on the main street - if you have ventured up there recently, it looks like a small scale version of the Edinburgh tram works.  Do not fear, as cleverly crafted walkways allow you to still reach this small haven with plenty of parking available nearby.  I do realise that Wishaw isn't the cheeriest of places, but I can guarantee you that not even the neds will wipe the smile off of your face after a visit here.

The Artisan Facade

Entering Artisan is almost like coming in to a country pub, with the reception/bar area cut into the wall.  There is a small seating area to the right, next to the bar, and a small staircase up to another level on the left for the peak times.  The smaller seating area was where we were seated.  I was going to try and take a picture for you all, but I didn't want to give the other diners a complex by randomly snapping photographs of their heads - the walls are shelved, and each shelf is packed with what I can only guess to be at least 200 different types of whiskey.  It gave the restaurant a very comfortable and patriotic feel, and it's something you should see for yourself!

The waitress who served us (I believe her name was Jennifer) could not be faulted.  She was really lovely, and served the patrons of the restaurant single handedly, without ever looking bored or irritated.  She gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu, and offered us a lovely appetiser of warm bread with a serving of 'chimichurri' (South American dip for breads).  It was a lovely thick paste, which tasted like tomatoes, chilli and onions blended.  It was delicious, and it has only just occurred to me that I forgot to purchase a bottle before I left! Such a bargain at £1.95 as well...

Warm baguette bread with Chimichurri

The menu on offer was a set menu with 2 courses for £12.95, or 3 courses for £15.95 running Sunday through Thursday.  The food is all based on good Scottish ingredients, such as black pudding, haggis, and salmon.  I chose the Orkney smoked salmon resting on a bed of dressed leaves to begin with, followed by a medium rare fillet steak (surprised?) and a side of onion rings.  My dear companion Suzanne opted for the homemade chicken liver pate served with dressed leaves, onion jam and toasted bread, and of course followed by a fillet steak.

Homemade chicken liver pate

The portions in Artisan are really amazing value for money, and Suzanne was set with a slab of pate.  It was really something beautiful, with a strong meaty flavour and a fantastic smooth texture.  The onions were caramelised, so added a lovely sweet tone to each bite.  The toasted bread was crunchy on the outside, yet warm and doughy in the middle.  Balsamic vinegar dressing is always a pleasure, and the lovely leafy salad was coated in the stuff.  Pate is always a popular starter, and for this restaurant I would strongly recommend that you get this!

Orkney Smoked Salmon

I love smoked salmon, with a capital L-O-V-E.  The meat was thinly cut, and heavily layered over a leafy salad, dressed with my favourite balsamic vinegar dressing.  The salmon was fresh, smoky, light and downright delicious.  I love squeezing fresh lemon over my salmon, and the massive wedge I got was the perfect accompaniment to add a lovely bitter sting to the mellow salmon and the sweet dressing of the salad. I would highly recommend this salmon to all fish lovers!

Medium rare fillet steak on a bed of fried onions, served with thick cut chips

You will know by now that steak is my vice.  I am willing to pay through the nose for a decent cut of beef, and considering there was only a £5 supplement for this piece of heaven, I feel like Artisan is a revelation.  The meat was perfectly ruby red inside, and so incredibly tender that the steak knife really had no purpose.  The juices from the steak were flowing and made this an absolutely incredible, mouth watering, miracle piece of steak...dare I say it has been the best?  I am tempted.  The chips were soft and fluffy and incredibly thick, and I love mixing a cut of the roasted tomato with a chip for a sweet and savoury taste.  The fried onions with the steak gave the meat a spectacular flavour without overpowering the meal, and of course I had my side of onion rings.  Suzanne and I sat in silence for a good 5 minutes (a rarity in our friendship) at the pure elation brought on by this meal.

Onion rings!

Served with a side of creamy garlic mayonnaise, these onion rings were absolutely massive both in size and in portion.  The light batter was crunchy, although I do prefer mine a little softer than most.  Nevertheless, they were delicious and I wouldn't have an issue with ordering them again.

Cracked black pepper and brandy sauce, and the vegetable sides

With the steak came a massive sauce boat filled with a delicious creamy cracked black pepper and brandy sauce.  The vegetables were boiled potatoes, mangetouts and red cabbage.  Personally, I really don't like boiled potatoes - I think they are the most boring way to prepare a potato and it tastes bland!  This in no way reflects the culinary genius at Artisan, and due to my strong opinions on boiled potatoes, they were left untouched.  The mangetouts were crunchy and the cabbage was slightly vinegary but lovely.  The vegetables were perfect to go with the steaks, and they were a nicely sized portion considering the heap of chips we got and the mountain of onion rings!

After attempting to conquer the feast, sadly both Suzanne and I had to hang up our napkins, and put down the cutlery.  Jennifer kindly offered to give us the onion rings away with us, but I was close to bursting and knew that I would nibble on them all the way home.

For an appetiser, two wonderful starters, two fillet steak main courses and a side, the bill was a jaw-dropping £39.40.  I would have paid just about that price alone, had I visited a steakhouse for this exact meal.  The bottom line is, if you stay in the Lanarkshire area, and you're craving a steak, a pragmatic solution is to go to Artisan.  Amazing food, lovely interior, fantastic staff, belter prices.

Contact Details:

249 - 251 Main Street

Tel: 01698 373893


Wheelchair access: Yes

Raving About Riva! - Riva, Bothwell.

Celebrating a birthday is always fun, regardless if it's your own or not.  For my dear sister Sharon's birthday, she decided that we would try Riva in Bothwell.  Having never eaten there myself, I was intrigued to see what they had to offer.  I usually check out a menu before I go to a restaurant, however I chanced this and went blind!

Riva is on Bothwell main street, with a beautiful glass facade that lets you have a look in to the warm and cosy setting that is the restaurant.  They also have a beautiful mezzanine level for private functions.

The restaurant itself is very classic inside.  Mahogany tables and chairs all neatly slotted in, and also some comfortable booths that had their own air of privacy about them.  As there is a lot of glass both on the facade and the side of the building, the restaurant feels very open and spacious, yet cosy at the same time.  It's a very nice effect that gives the restaurant an elegant feel to it.

The waiting staff were very polite and friendly, but not too over enthusiastic, which I like.  They gave us plenty of time to peruse the menu (trust me, you will need at least ten minutes to decide!) and get our drinks served.  My mother enjoyed a long vodka, whilst I went for a good old glass of rose wine.  The food offered on the menu all sounded incredible, and I am not exaggerating when I say that we needed time to decide!  To have a look at the menu, click here.

My mother decided to have the 'zuppa del giorno' which was beetroot and onion soup (the soup of the day).  Following this, she chose to have the 'branzino alla griglia' - sea bass with creamy chive potatoes and a pesto drizzle.  I opted for 'mozzarella e peperoni caprese': fresh mozzarella with grilled peppers and a pesto oil dressing.  For my main, I went for 'risotto alla giardiniera', a risotto laced with garden vegetables in a tomato and garlic sauce.  The birthday girl decided to start with the 'pesce cocktail' which was a salmon and prawn cocktail.  She also decided to have the sea bass with my mother.  Finally, my sister's other half Mark chose the 'pollo e chorizo' skewers - chicken and chorizo skewers with an aioli dip and salad; For his main course he went for 'campagne insalate', or to the common Lanarkshire dweller, a goats cheese salad.  

Beetroot and Onion Soup

My mother let me try the soup, and I was surprised.  After a stint working in a supermarket and having dropped a couple of jars of pickled beetroot, I expected this to taste like vinegar.  Surprisingly very mellow and peppery, I would have willingly ate a bowl of this soup.  It is also a lovely shade of pink, don't you think?

Chicken and Chorizo Skewers with Aoili dip

The strange thing about the chicken and chorizo skewers was that they didn't actually come on a skewer.  This is not a big deal, but I did find it slightly odd!  Nevertheless, the plate was cleared and Mark thoroughly enjoyed his starter.  The chicken was tender and juicy, and it did smell amazing.

Salmon and prawn cocktail

When Sharon's salmon and prawn cocktail was put down, I knew instantly that I wanted it.  There was literally a heap of fresh smoked salmon, stacked into neat thinly sliced layers.  The prawns were already coated in a seafood sauce, and bundled on top of the salmon.  I was lucky enough to snaffle a taste of the salmon, and it really was fantastic.  It was so fresh and literally tore apart with no force.  I never tried the prawns, however a clear plate speaks a thousand words!

Mozzarella and grilled peppers

Having a few issues still with food (heartbreak will do that to you!) I decided to go for something lighter and easy to swallow.  The mozzarella was fresh, creamy and light.  Grilled peppers added to this mix made for a light taste and it went down easily.  The pesto drizzle was a nice added touch and did really give it a unique flavouring.  It was slightly bland, and as a fan of rich foods it hasn't been my favourite starter.  I did enjoy it though, and ate most of it.  Upon return however, I would definitely go for the salmon and prawn cocktail!

Risotto with garden vegetables in a tomato and garlic sauce
The risotto. Oh my.  Delicious.  Laced with al dente peppers, soft and sweet cherry tomatoes and tiny broccoli florettes, it was the perfect comfort food.  The tomato and garlic sauce was rich and flavoursome, and the risotto rice was thick and cooked to perfection.  It really was a beautiful dish, and surprisingly for me a vegetarian one! As always the portion was massive, so I was unable to finish it.  I do recommend that if you order risotto, make sure you are asking for a half portion to avoid waste!

Goats cheese salad
Mark is to goats cheese as salt is to the sea.  Funnily enough, even with this salad he said that there was a bit too much goats cheese for him.  Did he clear it? But of course!  Soft and creamy goats cheese on a bed of lettuce, red onion and tomato and drizzled with a balsamic vinegar dressing.  Simple yet satisfying.

Sea Bass on a Bed of Mash
Sea bass on a bed of creamy chive potatoes, served with seasonal  vegetables

The sea bass was an absolute delight, and again I want to order this upon my return.  The fish flaked off easily, yet the skin was cooked to a beautiful golden crust infused with a buttery flavour.  The creamy mashed potatoes were infused with chives, and really were an asset to the flaky fish.  The medley of vegetables were glistening in a sweet finish and smelled absolutely divine.  This made for one happy birthday girl!

With full tummies and a slight warmth from my two glasses of wine, we decided against desserts (although they all sounded mouth watering) and asked for the bill.  For two glasses of wine, a long vodka, two cokes, four starters and four mains, the bill was amazingly just around £90.  The food was delicious, the staff were lovely and the prices are pretty good for a restaurant somewhere as upmarket as Bothwell.  I do recommend a visit to Riva, as long as you plan to take me with you.

Contact Details:

1 Main Street
G71 8RD

Tel: 01698 850888

Wheelchair access: Yes

Every Cloud Has A Grey (Gull?) Lining - The Grey Gull Inn, Ardrishaig

Suffering from a virus and breaking up with someone at the same time should definitely fall into the 'multi-tasking' category.  Feeling a little sad, alone and unwell, my father very kindly arranged for me to be in quarantine in the picturesque Port Ban (where I visited every summer for twenty two years).  You can learn more about them here.

If this view doesn't sell it to you, nothing will.

The Grey Gull Inn is a beautiful white building, situated on the shore of Loch Fyne, and a simple stones throw away from the Crinan canal.  Even in the torrential rain this place is stunning, however my wee rain jacket was soaked inside and out, so I found a sunny photo for you:

Courtesy of Travel Scotland

As I could still be deemed as 'contagious' and have to limit the amount I talk, I required an eating establishment that was modest, quiet and relaxed - the Grey Gull Inn was perfect for me on a rainy Monday evening.  It's also the first time I've ever eaten out alone, so the tranquillity of the restaurant created the perfect atmosphere.

The menu serves a whole host of different treats, but what really caught my eye was the two courses for £15 menu.  The food available on this menu is popular (soup, garlic mushrooms and steak pie for example) but can be very easily messed up.  I'm pleased to confirm that not only was the food phenomenal, but the overall experience was outstanding.

In need of something familiar and comforting, I ordered the pate de campagne with oatcakes to start, and the macaroni cheese with garlic bread for my main.  I would expect the portions to be decent for the price paid, considering in Di Maggio's I can get two courses for £9.95. Well...

Campagne pate with oatcakes and chutney

The portion sizes are quite clearly adequate!  Campagne pate, or 'country pate' is a blend of both chicken and bacon into a smooth pate.  It was bursting with a rich meaty flavour and a hint of spice.  Usually, I'm not a fan of oatcakes, but these were really something.  There was a slight nutty taste with the crunch, and combined with the smoothness of the pate and the sweetness of the chutney, it was an absolute winner of a starter. The menu doesn't specify what the chutney is, although it tasted like ginger.  What I loved about the salad was that it was very fresh and crisp, coated in a light vinaigrette dressing.  There were slices of red and yellow pepper, which made it a bit more exotic than most side salads.  I was ultimately very pleased with the size of the portion, and recommend that if you do take a visit, to try it!

Macaroni cheese with garlic bread

The main. Oh my. Well, the dish that it was served in was just about a foot in length!  The macaroni cheese was laced with red onion, topped with sliced tomato and a layer of melted cheddar cheese crisped on the top.  Served with another beautiful salad, and two slices of home made garlic bread, this was really not what I had anticipated!

The home made cheese sauce was thick, creamy and delicious.  Giant macaroni shells were coated in the sauce, and shared a bed with the sweet and juicy chunks of red onion.  The cheddar layer was gloriously golden and strong flavoured; When combined with the roasted tomato slices, it was heavenly.  A baguette sliced into two bits formed the garlic bread, and had a delicious crunch to it.  Toasted perfectly to a rust colour, the loaf absorbed the glorious garlic butter.  If you order this, dip it into your cheese sauce - thank me once you've done it.

I was so devastated that I couldn't finish my meal, but the portion was literally so big that even if I went with an empty stomach I would still have rolled out.  The bill came to a total of - wait for it - £15!  This 'single' malarkey is proving to be a lot easier on my bank balance.

The waiting staff were friendly, kept their distance until necessary and were always visible if you needed another drink, or anything at all.  The bill, needless to say, won't allow the moths to inhabit your wallet/purse and the view from the hotel is stunning no matter where you sit, and no matter what the weather is.

In all my twenty two years of heading west, this was my first visit to the Grey Gull Inn - I can be certain that it will not be my last.

Contact Details:

The Grey Gull Inn
Glenburn Road

PA30 8EU

Tel:07920 409051


Wheelchair access: Yes