I grew up in Kingussie and our teenage stomping ground extended up to Aviemore at the weekends. We would hang around the run down, faded, breeze block centre trying to sneak into Crofters, Aviemore’s ultimate NiteSpot so we could drink cider and kiss snowboarders. It had sticky carpets, eagle eyed bouncers and smelt of cider and broken dreams.
These days the centre has been knocked down and replaced with a big, over priced hotel chain complex and Aviemore’s dancing is now done in The Vault, all drinks promos, dressed up hen do’s and chart music.
Thank God then for The Old Bridge Inn. It’s the sort of place Aviemore should always have had, a brilliant pub serving good food and doing live music. My parents have moved away from the area but have a caravan just down the road so we spent New Year in the Old Bridge Inn, steamboats, loving how good Hector Bizerk and Mioux Mioux were.
This time we were just up for a weekend of walking (oh how I’m turning into my Dad) and booked a table for dinner.
I love the decor in the Old Bridge Inn, lots of dark colours with flashes of blues and greys, fairy lights, old wooden furniture, it’s classic and simple and fits really well with the surroundings. The busy, friendly, young staff all wear checked shirts as a uniform which is a nice touch.
Let’s get straight to the food. The Boy and I both ordered exactly the same thing, crab for a starter and Iberico pork cheek as a main.
The crab came almost alarmingly fast and tasted good. It was cold and fresh and served with a creamy avocado puree, crunchy radish and a couple of smears of red pepper ketchup which, in all honesty I felt the dish could have done without, it was sort of overpowering and there was a lot of it but if you just dipped the tip of your knife in it and added it to a forkful of crab and avocado it gave it a nice acidic tang.
Up next was Iberico pork cheeks with home made black pudding, seeds and nuts and some of the best roasties ever.
This was delicious, excellent ingredients and cooking, the pork cheeks were melt in your mouth soft with a rich, thick gravy. The black pudding was crumbly and moist and added serious depth and the seeds and nuts were a brilliant addition of surprising crunch. But those roast potatoes! I’ve been dreaming about them, everything a roast potato should be, big and crispy and brown on the outside and as fluffy as clouds on the inside. I would happily eat roasties that good for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A quick note on the service here, everyone that served us was friendly and professional and they dealt really well with the couple of hairs we found in our food (we each found one, the food was so delicious we didn’t care too much but they gave us our desserts for free). But we couldn’t help feeling a bit rushed. We knew we had to return the table by a certain time because they’re so busy but it felt like we were being slightly hurried through each course and when you’re paying this much for a meal you want to take your time over it.
After lingering over our main courses and savouring every bite we went for different puddings. He was on a caramel mousse with nuts, chocolate ice cream and shortbread which was light, tasty and super sweet.
And I went for a perfect melt in the middle chocolate cake with peanut butter brittle and really refreshing blood orange sorbet. So good.
We then went and sat outside where they’ve got a couple of couches and 2 pianos and enjoyed our drinks in the early evening with an amazing view.
I love the Old Bridge Inn, if you’re up in Aviemore make sure you head along, the food is seriously good, the surroundings are brilliant and the bar is cosy and friendly.
About £40 per person for 3 courses, drinks and service.
8 Hallion points
I make a lot of soup. A pot every couple of weeks, I always freeze a couple of freezer bags full in individual portions to take to work. And this is the one I keep coming back to. It’s tremendous, full on delicious. And really easy to make.
Two medium butternut squash
A sprinkling of cumin
2 chicken stockpots (or cubes)
1l of boiling water
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
Cut the top off the butternut squash and then cut them both in half lengthwise, from top to bottom. You’ll need a fairly sharp, big knife or it’ll be a total chore. Scoop out the seeds and weird stringy orange bits and fling them in the bin.
Put the 4 halfs on a baking tray, spray a bit of oil (or drizzle, or you can use a couple of knobs of butter) on them and sprinkle a bit of ground cumin over them (not essential if you don’t have it).
Cook them on the middle shelf of the oven for about an hour or until the flesh is caramelised and soft.
Take the butternut squash out of the oven and stick the kettle on.
Chop the onion into wee bits and then fry until soft and golden on a medium heat. Scoop the lovely orange flesh out of the butternut squash and add it to the pan, keep on stirring and when the kettle is boiled pour just enough water to cover the squash and onion, try not to put too much water in because the soup will end up watery and thin. Add 2 chicken stock pots (veg ones will do) and stir, allow the mixture to come to the boil while stirring constantly, then take it off the heat and blend it to a smooth paste with a stick blender.
Serve while piping hot and, if you’re feeling fancy, stick a swirl of sour cream and a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds on the top.
Had a wee yen for something vaguely Mexican yesterday as it was Cinco de Mayo so decided to make a single wrap rather than going for the usual fajitas (too easy to eat too many). I love the salsa, guacamole combo and these are my take on them.
INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
Lime and Coriander Marinated Chicken
2 chicken breasts
The zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp coriander seeds crushed
Half a chilli deseeded and chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper
1 tsp cumin
A punnet of on the vine cherry tomatoes chopped into quarters
Half a small can of sweetcorn
A couple of radishes, thinly sliced
Half a red onion really finely chopped
The juice of half a lime
The leaves from a small bunch of coriander chopped finely
Salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar to taste
2 small ripe avocados
The juice of half a lime
The leaves from a small bunch of coriander chopped finely
1 tsp half fat creme fraiche
2 spring onions finely chopped
2 large white wraps.
Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces and put them in a ziplock bag. Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and then pour into the ziplock bag with the chicken. Squish the bag until the marinade covers all the chicken and then put it into the fridge for at least half an hour.
Meanwhile make the salsa and guacamole. With the salsa mix all the ingredients in a bowl with some seasoning checking the taste as you go along. You might need to add a wee sprinkling of sugar if it’s too tart. You can also mix it up – I use any of the following in any combination in salsa
red, orange or yellow peppers
Cover and put in the fridge when it’s made.
To make the guacamole mash the avocados with a fork and add all the other ingredients, again checking the balance of flavours as you go along. You can, of course, use soured cream instead of half fat creme fraiche. You can also omit the spring onions and add chillis if you like.
Take the chicken out of the pan and heat a griddle or non stick frying pan over a medium heat then fry until golden brown and caramelised on both sides.
Heat a large, dry frying pan over a high heat and quickly heat your big wraps on either side.
Assemble by putting guacamole, salsa, chicken and some grated half fat cheddar into the middle of the wraps, fold the ends into the middle and then roll over from one end to the other. Put them back in the pan with the seam of the roll facing down, this should seal it a bit and make the wrap hold together. Turn it over to crisp up the other side of the wrap a bit too.
Take out and serve with a big salad. Should come in about 600 calories.
I can’t afford to buy a house. Partly because I’m a self employed, first time buyer who’s much better at spending money on holographic pictures of cats than at saving it (and who has a spare couple of hundred grand lying around anyway?) But mostly it’s because I refuse to leave the West End. Every time The Boy mentions the 7 bedroom mansion we could buy on the (shudder) South Side for the price of a poke in the face in the West End I pet my lip and screw up my face and refuse to leave. Why would I? I can buy amazing coffee, organic vegetables, 7 types of burger and mung bean hoummus within a five minute walk of my flat. I’m not ready to give up my West End Wendy lifestyle to live somewhere where Roots and Fruits isn’t my corner shop.
And a big part of that is that Stravaigin is my local. I live round the corner and we’re in there a lot, whether it’s for some excellent, fat, crispy chips and a drink late at night (The Boy loves the Old Shipyard and I’m bang into the espresso martinis), a lazy Sunday brunch with bloody marys or a full blown 3 course meal. And I realised that, despite spending more time and money there than anywhere else, I hadn’t actually reviewed it.
We popped in on a Monday night for a quick bite to eat before heading out. I love the decor in Stravaigin, the bar has a couple of different rooms and a mezzanine decorated with fairy lights, mismatched chairs and quirky vintage touches. There are cosy little corners, a roaring fire and some old school sewing machine tables.
I love the menu here, it’s a great mix of dishes from around the world. If you’re playing safe (or hungover) you can go for fish and chips or a burger, both massive portions to get your chops round. If not there’s plenty of choice, usually including a couple of really tempting sounding specials. There’s a curry of the day and the spicing on any of the hotter dishes is always spot on.
A lot of the dishes come in both large and small portion sizes and, as we’re big fans of sharing we chose 2 starters and 2 small sized mains.
There was a really pink, subtly hot smoked slab of salmon with fennel and neep relish, first time I’ve had turnips in that form and it worked a treat. And another starter of a ridiculously tasty potato and seaweed rosti with wild garlic, a perfectly cooked poached egg and a moreish hazlenut dressing.
Sometimes having to share food becomes a problem, particularly when a really good plate of haggis neeps and tatties with whiskey sauce is sitting right in front of you. I think I managed to get at least 6/8ths of it before he realised what was going on.
We also got tucked into some pillowy gnocchi with a deep, sweet butternut squash puree and charred lettuce. All four of the dishes were top notch, we were almost ashamed when the waitress came over to collect sparkling clean plates.
While on the subject of waitresses – the service in Stravaigin is always spot on. Doesn’t matter how busy they are the staff are always super friendly, efficient and down to earth.
We decided we just about had time to squeeze in a pudding and both went absolutely nuts for the caramel ice cream and dark chocolate sponge sandwich of joy we got with two spoons. It was like the best childhood dessert ever with smears of peanut butter, chocolate crumb and peanut tablet liberally sprinkled on the plate. Another occasion where perhaps sharing wasn’t the best option.
Good value for money too, for 4 small plates, a dessert between two, coffee for one, a gin and tonic each and a tip it came to £25 each. Here you can eat proper high end food that won’t break the bank.
Stravaigin is a West End institution, if you haven’t already tried it I recommend you go for a lazy Sunday afternoon brunch. Get the Nasi Goreng or the fish and chips and, when your hangover improves enough top yourself up with espresso martinis and bloody marys while friends come and go.
Best local ever.
9/10 hallion points.
I’ve been quite into making fritters recently, had some beetroot ones with hot smoked salmon a couple of weeks ago and sweetcorn ones are always good with a bit of salsa. Since the weather was so nice this week I needed picnic food so I played around with the mix for this until it was right and then made them two nights in a row because they were so good.
I made a batch to take to a park picnic and left the lid off to let them cool, while I was waiting for my pals to arrive I spotted some other friends nearby and went to chat. Big mistake. Turns out big ginger dogs love sweet potato fritters too, this particular dog pegged it from halfway across the park to taste mine. Gutted. Managed to wrestle him off then shut the tupperware and forgot about it. Until yesterday when The Boy told me that when he’d got in from the pub steaming he’d thoroughly enjoyed ‘the leftovers from your picnic’. It took me 5 minutes to stop laughing enough to tell him what he’d eaten.
Anyway, as long as a dog doesn’t eat yours you’ll probably enjoy them.
You should be able to make about 8 fritters and if there’s bacon in them they’ll be 76 calories each, without bacon 66 calories each.
1 medium sweet potato
Half an onion
3 eggs beaten
1 tablespoon coconut flour (or 2/3 of plain flour)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper
2 rashers streaky bacon (optional)
Peel and grate the sweet potato and onion. Using the food processor is the easiest if you’ve got one if not a box grater will do.
If you’re including the streaky bacon snip it into wee strips and fry it till it’s crispy
Mix the sweet potato, onion, bacon and all the other ingredients together in a big bowl. Make sure you season it well because I’ve found the main problem with fritters is they can be a bit tasteless if you don’t put enough in them.
Heat some oil in a non stick frying pan on a medium heat (I use coconut oil because it has a high smoke point but it can make the overall taste a tad coconutty sometimes, especially if you’re using coconut flour, I like it but The Boy isn’t so keen, specially when mixed with dog slevers)
Take out small handfuls of the mixture and squeeze them together with your hands, they won’t form patties or anything, you’re sort of dropping them into the pan as little piles.
Fry them in batches of 2 or 3 in the pan at once. Try not to move them at all once you’ve put them in there, you need that lovely golden crispiness to form in order to hold them together. It’ll take about 3 or 4 minutes to get that golden brown crust and then you can flip them over and do the other side. I like to make mine really brown and crispy but it’s up to you how well you cook them.
Serve them hot with a big salad or take them to the park cold in a box with vietnamese dipping sauce or sweet chilli sauce. Just don’t leave the lid off…
I’m a huge fan of a fritatta, they’re so vesatile, I often make one at the end of the week when I’ve got a bunch of veg left over. They’re one of those dishes that actually taste even better cold the next day, I like to make one for dinner then have it for breakfast the next day too. This bacon, mushroom and onion fritatta is extra delicious because of the bacon and comes in at just 248 calories per quarter. Serve it with a massive salad and a bit of low fat mayo.
6 free range eggs
4 or 5 chestnut mushrooms sliced (though you could use any kind)
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon cut into small strips (I like to use scissors)
A handful of grated parmesan
Fry the onions on a medium heat till they’re starting to turn brown then transfer them to a plate or some kitchen roll
Spray a wee bit of oil into the same pan and then fry the bacon and mushrooms until golden brown.
While they’re cooking beat the eggs and some pepper with a whisk or fork in a jug.
Put the onions back into the frying pan then pour the eggs over and move the pan about so they are evenly distributed.
Turn the heat down to low.
Cook for about 10 minutes until it’s starting to get solid round the edges
Turn the grill onto medium, sprinkle the parmesan, some salt and some fresh herbs (I used chives here but parsley or dill would both work too) over the top and then put the pan under the grill for about 5-10 minutes until the top is cooked and golden brown.
Chop into quarters and serve.
You can make a tortilla with all sorts of stuff, I really like roast butternut squash, tiny slices of potatoes and onion.
Or tenderstem broccoli, courgette, peas and spinach.
Obviously change up the cheese if you fancy, you can stick in cubes of feta or grate over whatever sort of cheddar etc you have.
Made this for dinner last night and it was so super delicious I thought I’d better share the recipe. I’m afraid I didn’t weigh out my ingredients, I do it all by sight usually so there’ll be a lot of handfuls. Best bet is to see if it looks balanced and then you’ll be OK.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 medium butternut squash
1 clove of garlic
Knob of butter
Half an onion
Sprinkle of sugar
Handful of grated parmesan
3 rashers of streaky bacon
A scattering of pine nuts
4 or 5 walnuts
A sprinkling of bread crumbs (I’ve got a tub of pre made ones in the cupboard because I don’t often have bread about because I like it far too much, they’re fine to use because you’re just looking for a bit of a crust on top but if you want to make your own you can either grate a bit of bread or whizz it up in the food processor)
Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees celsius, chop the end off and then cut the butternut squash in half straight down the middle, scoop out the seeds and pop it on a baking tray. Stick a knob of butter in each cavity and finely slice a clove of garlic then put half in each. Season with salt and pepper and then stick in the oven. It’ll take between 45 mins and an hour for it to roast completely so while that’s happening you can caramelise your onions.
Slice the onion and put a bit of butter in a non stick frying pan on a low heat, once the butter is melted stick the onions in, the low heat is important. Once the onions have started to colour add about a teaspoon of sugar to help them caramelise. Make sure you stir them fairly often to stop them sticking to the pan and slowly, over about half an hour they should go really lovely and sticky and soft.
Chop the mushrooms into small chunks and the bacon into little pieces. When the onions are ready put them into a mixing bowl and in the same pan fry the mushrooms and bacon until they’re golden brown and the bacon is crispy. Tip these into the mixing bowl too.
In the same pan throw a small handful of pine nuts and toast them, keep an eye on them because they can go brown really quickly, when they start to smell delicious they’re done. Give them a creepy sniff.
When the squash is caramelised on top and soft take it out of the oven, pour the lovely garlicky juice into the bowl, scoop out most of the flesh but leave a layer attached to the skin so it holds together.
Put the flesh into the mixing bowl with all the other ingredients then add a handful of grated parmesan and the walnuts. Mix it all together and then pop it back into the squash skins. Sprinkle a bit more parmesan, a crushed up walnut or two and some breadcrumbs over the top and then put back in the oven for about 10-15 minutes till golden brown on top.
Serve with a lovely side salad.
Obviously if you’re a veggie you can leave the bacon out
You could replace the parmesan with other types of cheese, gruyere, feta etc would work really well.
You could also switch in the pine nuts for pumpkin seeds and the walnuts other nuts.
I haven’t tried it yet but I reckon you could mix a spoon or two of cream cheese through it before you put it back in the oven and that would make it even richer.
Comment if you try it!
They’ve got valet parking at Gleneagles. I know this fact because when we arrived at Gleneagles we actually got them to valet park our manky Honda Jazz with a broken boot. I like to think the guy that was parking it enjoyed the challenge of driving a car that wasn’t a 4×4 or a Mercedes. Or that the novelty of a car without a private number plate made him chuckle that day.
Gleneagles is faaaaannn-ccccyyy. It’s total fancy pants, 5* luxury with hunners of staff, beautiful grounds and exceptionally well appointed facilities. This was my Christmas present from The Boy but it turned out to be pretty much the best gift ever because HE COMBINED IT WITH A PROPOSAL! WOOP WOOP! YASSSSSSS, WE GOT ENGAGED! SPARKLY THINGS ON MY FINGER! GETTING MARRIED FOREVER AND EVER! etc.
When we first got there we got out clutching a purple bag full of home made hoummus and pitta bread and went for a wander, despite some slightly unfriendly signs warning us off picnics we found a really lovely little jetty next to a boating pond in the sun, scoffed our lunch and totally got engaged. Which obviously meant we had to make the absolute most of our opulent surroundings as a celebration.
After a dip in the pool, (which is incredible, there’s a hot tub outside bit) a bottle of room service prosecco and the obligatory double robe selfie we got ready for our 2 michelin starred dinner at Andrew Fairlie’s restaurant.
This is, beyond doubt, the swankiest place I’ve ever been. There were about 8 staff hovering just out of view ready to top up our water every time a sip was taken or move the table out of the road when one of us needed to go to the bathroom.
Since it was a celebration we went all out and ordered the degustation 8 course menu with matching wine flight. And I’m so glad we did, I think when you’re spending this much on something the best bet is to maximise the experience.
So here’s what we had
First up was duck Foie Gras with a clementine mousse and brioche toast. It was also served with a little savoury bon bon, our waiter warned us it had a liquid centre. That didn’t stop me popping it in my mouth and a jet of viscous pate shooting out and all over my cleavage – prompting a fit of entirely inappropriate giggles and some serious napkin dabbing. I’ve never had foie gras before but this was spectacular, the rich smoothness would have been almost too much if it wasn’t for the refreshing clementine mousse it came with.
The thing about dining like this is that half the time you haven’t tried what’s on the plate and the other half you can’t remember what all the little bits were (especially after a flight of wine). I don’t really remember what came with the hand dived, roast scallop, I know there was crab and little seaweed bits and I also know it was seriously good. The sea bream that followed was equally tasty, falling apart soft with crispy skin and a little nugget of roast cauliflower.
The next two courses were two of the best things I’ve eaten. Hands down. Which they really should be given the price, the reputation and the ingredients. There was a soft, thin ravioli filled with the most mushroomy of mushrooms and intense truffle in a silky soft asparagus veloute and a sweet, beautifully smoked lobster and tarragon which I wanted to go on forever.
Confession time – up till now I’ve only ever had the sort of duck you get with pancakes and spring onions, the thought of it being like a fatty chicken has always put me off. This was probably the best place to give it a proper try, it was perfectly cooked, meaty and rich with the kind of sauce you want to finger lick off the plate afterwards and an incredibly tasty little filo pastry filled with confit duck leg.
The only dish I wasn’t keen on was crowdie with rhubarb and a fennel granola. I think that was more because I just don’t like crowdie though.
By the time pudding rolled around we’d drunk 7 wines, the sommelier was amazing, great explanations for each course. Unfortunately I lack the vocabulary when it comes to wine and after each one she’d ask us how it was – I’m not sure ‘very tasty’ or ‘winey’ were particularly good answers.
I’m very excited about being engaged. So excited in fact that I was telling everyone we came into contact with. Everyone. Mostly greeted with a polite smile, ‘how lovely’. I have a feeling every second couple at Gleneagles has just got engaged. Thank goodness I got some squiggly chocolate congratulations on my dessert or I might not have felt special enough… The pudding was bang on with all the bits I love in dessert, crispy bits, creamy bits, chocolate bits, peanut bits, gold bits. All the best bits.
We took our coffees to the bar where it became apparent we were both pure steamboats off the back of the 8 samplers of very tasty winey wine. We spent £20 on two rum and ginger beers, took them upstairs and fell asleep. In the morning I genuinely considered decanting them into my water bottle to take home and drink that night…
All in all Gleneagles was the most amazing experience. The food was out of this world and it was like living in a different, fancy alternate universe with soft fluffy bathrobes and too many staff. It was an incredible way to celebrate an incredible event but I’m way more at home somewhere where you move the table yourself when you want to go to the bathroom.
Did I tell you I got engaged?
10 Hallion points for the weekend of the century.
I don’t usually go out on a Monday. Mondays are generally for fast days and gym trips and then watching endless episodes of whatever Netflix box set we’re firing through in our pyjamas. Not this Monday though, this Monday was about brewing and distilling at one of Burger Meats Bun’s Meat Ups. This was my first visit to BMB but I’d heard good things about the food and about the Meat Ups specifically. And I was definitely glad I clambered out of my Jammies and ventured out. Please excuse the bad picture quality, had some camera issues so had to use the I phone.
Burger Meats Bun has a relaxed feel to it, the walls are decorated with fun cartoon pictures of burgers and all the staff are super lovely, like properly friendly and knowledgeable about the food. As with a lot of modern burger joints the food is served in wrappers or boxes with a handy spool of kitchen roll for mopping up when you inevitably sauce up your face.
First up was a fresh, tart Edinburgh gin and grapefruit bitters.
This came with a super pretty starter of pickled herring with pink grapefruit, slivers of pickled vegetables and a surprisingly spicy wee deviled quail egg.
This was delicate, light, refreshing and pretty and went perfectly with the pink grapefruit tinged gin. It was a far fancier starter than I’d ever expect to be served in a box and, luckily, tasted as good as it looked.
Next up was a flight of 3 West Beers, I know nothing about beer but I think we had a lighter lager, an unfiltered St Mungo type and a darker brown stout. I’m more of a cider girl but actually really enjoyed the two lighter beers.
Alongside the beer came Smokin’ Bacon. A steak burger with burnt onion, rarebit and bacon jam.
I’ve been sort of aff the burgers recently, too much of a good thing and all that but I was glad to fall of the wagon and onto this smokey, meaty bit of goodness. It held together really well from first bite to last, the burger itself was perfectly cooked and I thought the toppings were just bang on. Savoury rarebit for that cheesy hit and the rich, deep, meaty notes from the bacon jam and burnt onions.
Served with it were a couple of potato fritters with garlic mayo and a bit of fun with a shaker containing salt and vinegar mixed together in powder form.
These had a bit more tattie and a bit less batter than you get in the chippy but tasted just as good and were a welcome alternative to fries. I loved the fun little salt and vinegar shaker and the powder was great with the fritters.
After two courses and the beers we were both stuffed to the gunnels, dessert seemed like a pipe dream. And then they brought out an old fashioned cocktail and a slab of bread and butter pudding with soaked raisins through it, little cubes of alcoholic jelly and BEETROOT MOUSSE.
The beetroot mousse was utterly delicious. I’m sort of obsessed with beetroot right now and, other than overwhelmed by a cake, I hadn’t had it in a dessert. The bread and butter pudding was one of the lightest I’ve had and the mousse was the perfect accompaniment, creamy and sweet but just with a slight hint of earthiness.
I’m so glad I hauled myself out of my pjs on a Monday and headed along to the Meat Up, we left feeling full, happy and decadent and I’ll definitely be back to Burger Meats Bun again to try their normal menu.
8/10 Hallion points.
I feel the need to confess something here. This isn’t my first visit to Ox and Finch. It’s not even the third time I’ve been. IT’S THE FIFTH. I’m a decadent, greedy hallion that likes to fill her boots with delicious foods and I would venture the statement that nobody in Glasgow is in a better position to do that than Ox and Finch. This is essentially a love letter to my current favourite restaurant.
Looks-wise Ox and Finch ticks all the boxes, it’s modern and stylish without being try hard. The colour scheme is in a lovely palette of greens and greys, the open kitchen allows you to gawk at the magicians at work and there’s plenty of elbow room around the tables, particularly important when you know how many dishes you’re going to be ordering.
The menu is contemporary tapas with dishes ranging in price from the cheapest (organic bread and butter) at £2.75 to the most expensive (seared scallops, ramsay’s black pudding, cauliflower and cider vinegar) at £9.50. It’s divided into several sections – snacks, raw cured and cold, seafood, meat, vegetables and desserts. I was a bit gutted to see that two of my favourite dishes from previous visits (the crab and avocado on sour dough with pink grapefruit – I still dream about it sometimes and the peanut butter parfait with cherry sorbet, mmmm) had been taken off the menu but there were so many other things to sample it made no odds. It was my mum’s birthday so there were four of us out and we decided to choose 2 dishes each and a couple of sides, the idea being that we would all share everything.
The first dishes to arrive were a spectacular sour dough with a cumin heavy beetroot dip and an earthy, unbearably pretty looking beetroot, orange and goats cheese dish with little, joyful pecans. ‘Mon the beetroot.
Next up was oak-smoked scottish salmon with wasabi yoghurt and granny smith. I was super glad that two of us had ordered this because it was light, perfect and moreish, the wasabi was subtle enough to let the apple/salmon combo shine through.
I’m not usually that into fish, love shellfish but slabs of actual fish can leave me a bit cold. Not so these two dishes; there was a meaty hunk of roast coley with spicy chorizo and an-almost-too-bitter-but-not-quite piece of chicory. And then a bit of sea bream with perfectly crisp skin that came with a seriously refreshing, tangy thai salad which had us fighting over the last lettuce leaf.
Onto the meat. The star of the whole show was the venison, pancetta and neep scotch pie. I loved everything about this dish, the venison was so soft and slow cooked it pretty much melted in the mouth and the gravy it was in had me close to licking the plate. My only regret was that it had to be shared four ways.
There was also rich, soft, braised ox cheeks with creamy celeriac and the most amazing crispy hit of bacon gremolata sprinkled on top for crunch. And a bavette steak cooked pink with jerusalem artichoke and shitake mushrooms which The Boy was in raptures about.
Special mention must also go the chips. Luckily my mum was sensible enough to order two portions of the chips with truffle salt and roast garlic aioli because they were basically some of the best chips I’ve ever had. And that’s saying something because I’ve really eaten a lot of chips in my life. All the right things, savoury from the truffle salt, perfectly crisp on the outside, so hot on the inside that you have to do that weird blowing on something that’s already in your mouth thing and utterly fluffy.
Then finally, almost full to bursting, was dessert. In the absence of the peanut butter parfait they used to do (why why why do more restaurants not do peanut butter desserts? They’re the absolute best) I went for a slightly bizarre looking slab of chocolate and blackcurrant torte, one of my friends had said the appearance made them think of pate and I could see what they meant. I’m not always a massive fan of a fruit/chocolate combo and didn’t love the torte but was blown away by the honeycomb ice cream with cornflake crumb. I also got to try the lemon and earl grey baked alaska which was totally delightful, really light and fluffy with a biscuit base that elevated it into proper grown up dessert territory.
We left utterly satisfied and talking about what we’d eaten for a good while after. Price wise for 2 dishes each, a couple of side orders, dessert, coffee and wine it came to about £150 for the 4 of us. Considering how good it is I think it’s excellent value for money. The service is spot on too, professional, friendly and attentive.
Ox and Finch. I love you. If you haven’t already been get yourself booked in and fill yer boots. I’m going to keep going back till I’ve tried everything on the menu. Or get embarrassed trying.
10/10 hallion points.