Bottoms Up

Rock Bottom BreweryNot quite time for food yet, but it’s always a good time for real beer. Getting a load of the home brews at The Rock Bottom Bar at King of Prussia.That’s a pretty cool name for a town in Pennsylvania. Temperatures are 90 degrees in the shade with humidity rising. Sinking a pint or two is the only way to get through it. Try the Kolsch if you get the chance.

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Grumpy Chef

ayr pavilion

Ayr Beach Pavilion on a foggy sunny day in March

Quick lunchtime jolly to Ayr today, ostensably to kick off the winter blues and grab some welcome rays from the sun by walking along the shoreline. Weird kind of weather on show. My camera failed to show the true picture; of bright strong sun shining through a thick fog that was rolling in off the sea. We could just about make out the water’s edge from the promenade. There was a fat chance of seeing Arran island today!

Lunch was taken at the Grumpy Chef on Cathcart Street. No sign of grumpiness I’m pleased to report. Restaurant was in a basement, but still managed to bright and airy, with smart decor and very comfy chairs. Starters were quite tasty and promised good things to come. The crusted salmon went down a treat, the veg were cooked to perfection and just the right side of al dente, and the mashed potatoes were what my mum would call ‘common or garden’ mashed potatoes and perfectly serviceable.

grumpy chef lunch

Parmesan crusted salmon

The one vegetarian option on the menu was vegetable pie. I don’t think I can be blamed for expecting this to be a pie, with vegetables in it can I? What it most resembled was a Linda McCartney Cottage Pie from the supermarket which had been nuked in the microwave, then artfully poured into a baking dish for a further few minutes in the oven. It would not surprise me if that is exactly what it was. For those not familiar with Linda McCartney vegetarian products they make copious use of veggie mince, a bit like Quorn Mince. The only vegetables in this vegetable pie were a few small carrot dice, and a handful of peas. What a disappointment. It was accompanied by sugar snap pease and a slice of white bread. Not a fan of bread with the main course. Can’t say I’ll be back in a hurry which is a shame, as they have everything else right. Bugger!

PS sign on the door says ‘children must be out by 9pm’ and ‘Cash Only’. Would be handy if they’d mentioned payment terms on their website.

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When the Moon Hits your Eye like a big Pizza Pie, thats a Supermoon

supermoon 19th march 2011

Supermoon viewed from Scotland's west coast 19 March 2011

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Saffy’s Bistro, Ayr


5/5 Excellent

Determined to eat somewhere a bit more upmarket than the local cheap and cheerful pub around the corner, we subtly steered our group towards Saffy’s across from the Ramada Hotel in Ayr.  You’ve got to hand it to Saffy’s for putting together a well-balanced vegetarian menu in addition to their regular pre-theatre/lunch and a la carte menus. It would appear that once again Tam Cowan, the Daily Record’s ubiquitous restaurant reviewer, had beaten us to it. That always happens!

Our welcome was suitably warm and we were quickly seated in a cosy corner on the upper level. The dishes we chose included curried chicken, haloumi with couscous, vegetable linguine, Thai salmon, fishcakes in a creamy leak sauce, freshly battered fish and chips, apple crumble, creme brulee and homemade shortbread. Every mouthful of every dish was oohed and aaahed over. The food at Saffy’s was full of flavour; chef really knows his sauces. We’re not usually so easy to please and there is always someone who will find fault with an aspect of the food, but today at Saffy’s was a rare exception.

Fresh Scottish salmon in thai curry sauce

The restaurant is an informal, no-frills kind of place with wood floors and tables. Saffy’s places the emphasis firmly on well prepared food using quality ingredients.

Checking out the ‘facilities’ is an important part of every restaurant visit. I’m pleased to report that the loo passed my stringent quality test with flying colours and was nicely appointed and squeaky clean.

Part of me longs to visit in the evening and sample the a la carte menu, but when it costs just £9.95 for the pre-theatre menu, its very hard not to opt for that bargain offer.  Save money and go lunchtime. It’s the Scottish way!

Sticky toffee pudding with ice-cream & hot caramel

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Old Loans Inn, Troon, Ayrshire

4/5 Excellent. More costly than some.

The Old Loans Inn is an 18th century coaching inn according to the official blurb. We managed to peruse the early bird deal menu on the website prior to arrival, but the a la carte refused to load from the link dammit. Maybe they thought better of sharing the main menu on the website in case the prices scared people off. They are indeed a bit more expensive than similar establishments locally!

We walked from the car park, through the spiffing beer garden with it’s posh umbrellas and outdoor seating, right into a large, busy and definitely 21st century modern pub restaurant.

The a la carte menu showed a bit more flare than most pubs and we chose our meals from that. I’m a sucker for freshly cooked beer battered fish and chips, and the Old Loans didn’t disappoint. The fish was fresh as you like, batter crisp, and the big fat chips were cooked to perfection. Big fat chips are often overcooked or undercooked and difficult to get just right. These were golden brown and soft in the middle. The whole plate of food was scrumptious down to the last mush pea! If I can be allowed one small niggle amongst the gushing praise, it was that the tomato sauce was clearly not Heinz but some altogether cheaper derivative and a bit of a let down on the taste front. Sort it out please!

It was good to see a number of vegetarian options on the menu, though my heart does sink a little when those veggie options seem a bit too predictable and workaday; like a penne pasta with sauce or veggies with puff pastry. Perhaps I am doing them a disservice in saying that, as the chef clearly had some talent if what I saw coming out of the kitchen is anything to go by. Having been to David Bann’s smart veggie restaurant in Edinburgh I judge all vegetarian meals by that standard. Lets face it, no pub is gonna beat the food at David Bann anytime soon, but it’s lovely when they make a bit of an effort!

So yes I would happily go back to the Old Loans Inn on the edge of Troon. An easy 40 minute jolly jaunt down the M77 motorway from Glasgow, it was smart rather than sophisticated, warm, welcoming and informal. Highly recommended and a firm thumbs up. Tally ho!

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Tony Macaroni in Glasgow. Loopy Name Lovely Grub

Cheesecake and icecream? Don't mind if I do thanks.

4/5 Superb value for money informal dining.

If you could choose any place in Glasgow’s West End for lunch I bet you wouldn’t dream of setting foot in an Italian joint calling itself  Tony Macaroni. Call me a sceptic, but just because a restaurant is on the Byres Road that mere fact does not automatically endow it with foodie mecca status. The name alone should be enough to put most newcomers off, surely?

Fair enough it was not my turn to choose the venue, so off we toddled to Tony’s, me reluctantly bringing up the rear and stopping to peer forlornly through the window of the much hailed Number 16 Restaurant, before summoning a smile and walking through the doors to some inevitable culinary  disaster. The greeting was warm enough and a rather handsome bloke of latin parentage showed us to our table in what turned out to be quite an attractive room at the back.

I opted so sit on the banquette and had the best view in the house for a spot of people watching. Hmmm, well at least it looked quite smart and whoever thought of putting a flat screen tv on the wall of the very stylish loos was a genius! Listening to the 24 hour news broadcasts while spending a penny is something everyone should try at least once.

As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more cock-a-hoop that it was my turn to stump up for lunch.  All the main courses were £4.95 including any large pizza. Decision made – one pizza with loads of veg, one homemade burger, fries and salad, one grilled steak sandwich with red onion and goats cheese plus a bowl of minestrone soup, and another steak sandwich with bowl of the soup of the day. This would have been a bargain if even fifty percent had turned out to be rubbish. As it happened the food was all of excellent quality. Two of our group insisted on going the whole hog and having dessert, though I could only manage a coffee which came with a nice little italian biscotti.  Their own quirky take on home-made doughnuts italian- style looked impressive and took three people to demolish it and the little dipping cups of chocolate sauce and caramel sauce. The strawberry on top made it feel just a tad healthier!

I patently shouldn’t jump to conclusions on the basis of a restaurant’s slightly daft name. Tony Macaroni’s might just make it onto my Favourite Wee Places list!

Deep fried battered italian worms/doughnuts with choc and caramel dip

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Breakfast at Radisson Blu Glasgow

Are you my mummy? *Comes out as Dr Who fan*

4/5 Highly recommended central hotel with great breakfast.

I pitched up at the Radisson Blu alongside Glasgow’s Victorian Central Station for a stay, and it would appear that breakfast is included in my rate. Quelle surprise! That doesn’t usually happen when I try and squeeze the cheapest price out of a hotel by fair means or foul. Not sure of this hotel’s rating, but I give it a solid four stars and no more. My breakfast was of the help yourself buffet variety, and I got well and truly tucked in, as there was no-one to show me to a seat or point me in the right direction. Pity I didn’t wait a wee bit longer actually.

I discovered on getting seated, with self served food in hand, that ‘if you can’t be bothered to go to the buffet’ we will bring the full scottish breakfast of your choice to the table. That comment on their table menu sounds a bit bloody withering if you ask me, but ho-hum the breakfast was very nice indeed.

Helped myself to all the hot stuff that veggies possibly can; tomatoes, mushrooms, hashbrowns, beans, scrambled egg. Skipped yoghurt, cereal and toast – heck you can get them at home every day of the week. Also I didn’t overindulge the American way in breakfast pastries, as scrumptious as they looked. It’s just not natural to have cake for one’s breakfast.

Pot of tea was very good and hot. Top marks for having freshly squeezed orange juice on tap and proper linens on the tables. On my best behaviour I managed not to spill anything on the tablecloth – a first. Finished off the fry-up with a wee bowl of fresh fruit salad. Gotta have a bit of Yin with my dietary Yang.  Note to self; even if the Independent newspaper is a freebie and a size that dainty female hands can handle, don’t bother. It’s a yawn-fest.

I briefly inspected the hotel’s swimming pool facilities by way of a veiled threat to my body. As exhilarating as it may be to to ford a path to the pool through a shedload of buffed guys at LA Fitness pumping iron, I thought it might be  all a bit  much. I decided to give the swimming a body swerve. Wouldn’t want to go to dinner with the smell of chlorine in my hair. You can never wash that stuff out.

You have to hand it to the rather stylish Radisson Blue (utilitarian gym and swimming pool excepted) it’s got a lot going for it: comfy beds, friendly staff, very convenient location for the city centre, public transport, restaurants and nightlife, cheapreal-ale pub across the road, and excellent soundproofed windows. I really didn’t hear a peep out of the morning rush hour that gridlocked the road outside my window. Slept like a baby.

and now the healthy bit

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