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

Website: http://www.artisan-restaurant.com/

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

Website: http://www.thegreygull.co.uk/

Wheelchair access: Yes