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
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
ML12 6PZ

Tel: 01899 220950


Wheelchair access: No