Baking with Melanie Andrews

Making Tablet


Dinner at Stravaigin

Friday night and the 1st of my Michelin and Bib Gourmand reviews was Stravaigin in Glasgow.   Stravaigin is located in Glasgow's trendy West end near Kelvinbridge . Dont be fooled by the surroundings or nearby eateries that this is just another pub come diner - You would be very very wrong ! Stravaigin means to roam or wander about and the name derives from the Ulster /Scot generation of settlers. The Chefs here utilise their namesake in creating their imaginative menus using only the best and very freshest of Scotland's Larder. They even have their own small holding farm in Lochlibo , south west Glasgow where they grow and nurture some of their most unusual ingredients . Stravaigin is a sister Restaurant to the well known "Ubiquitous Chip" in Ashton Lane dating back to the days of Ronnie Clydesdale in the seventies. They are still a family run affair with Chef Colin Clydesdale at the helm. Anyhow i digress as usual , i was here for the food and i was not disappointed . You are led downstairs into a rustic dining setting, passing the Chefs pass as you enter the Restaurant . I absolutely loved the decor and informal dress code was a must , no pretentiousness here . Every single waiter and waitress that we met was charming , informative and eager to stress the love of working at Stravaigin. I started with quite possibly one of the best first courses i have had in a long time - Smoked Salmon Tartare . It had a very subtle horseradish mousse with hints of orange and crunchy pomegranate. I actually cant express how delicate and beautifully balanced all the flavours were - bursting with individuality . Superb. My main course was a snobs disdain with another fish course ( But its January -think of my diet ) and it was Sea Bream in a bean cassoulet . It was also excellent but the photographs would not have done it justice . The dessert course was separated with the most amazing lemon sorbet . Dessert was a Caramel tart with all components on the plate handmade ( As you would expect but don't always receive ) The apple and cinnamon ice cream was inspired .The Burnt orange jus was more than my taste buds could handle on the excitement level and a decorative milk crumb to garnish.I have to say i am not surprised that a Bib Gourmand rating has been given to this eaterie every year since 2012. What i actually loved the most, as a confirmed foodaholic, was the absolute relaxation to be able to enjoy food at this standard in a relaxed , unpretentious way and not overcharged for the privelage either. So onwards and upwards to the next -Slainte.

Afternoon Tea at Sherbrooke Castle

A glorious sunny afternoon in the middle of Autumn took me to the Stunning Sherbrooke Castle Hotel . The middle of November can sometimes be a weather catastrophe for driving in Scotland but not today . Sherbrooke Castle Hotel is a magnificent Baronial building sitting high up overlooking the leafy suburbs of Pollockshields in Glasgow. I was amazed at how you can be driving through a concrete jungle and motorway one minute and then seconds later in a very picturesque part of Glasgow. On entering this lovely building ( Which has ample parking hidden away at the back not to distract from the view of the Hotel) you are hit by the lovely scottish tartan flooring and wood which surrounds the grand reception area. Very welcoming staff then escorted us to our Table. The view from the table was just lovely and the staff discreet but efficient . Crisp cotton white tablecloths and highly polished and immaculate Teapots and crockery , just loved the attention to detail on the tables . For this Tea we recieved a glass of Prosecco along with choice Loose teas and a lovely display of Sandwiches , Cakes and scones. I have to say that the sandwiches were some of the best i have tasted to date , very very fresh and moist with a lovely salad garnish and roasted fried vegetables crisps. The second layer consisted of tiny little scones with a lovely jam and to my surprise clotted cream , again very good. The cakes were excellent ,fresh and a good selection. This was not the cheapest at a discounted price of £24 for 2 but i have paid double this for not nearly as good . I would highly recommend the Sherbrook Castle Hotel for Afternoon Tea and for an all round great experience in the heart of Glasgow

Knockderry House Hotel

Today was a wee breather in what seems like an eternity of torrential rain in the west coast of Scotland. I hesitantly ventured out around the Clyde estuary to a tiny little place called Cove and to the stunning Knockderry Hotel . Knockderry is situated on one of the most stunning sea lochs on the west coast of Scotland and boasts a 2 star rosette rating . It also has its own Marina for those long lazy days out sailing when you just need to anchor up and take in some shore time. This hotel is quite simply stunning and immaculately well kept. I absolutely love the tartan , open coal fires and authentic wood engulfing its every corner. The grounds overlook some of the best scenery in scotland and you could lose yourself just gazing out at the small boats and sailing yachts gently meandering by . Let me begin by tempering this review by stating that i I have eaten here in the evening about 5 years ago and the service and cleanliness again were outstanding as was the evening meal but i was here today to review the Afternoon Tea .

We were very warmly welcomed into a beautifully appointed dininig/bar area where all the tables were dressed for lunch or Afternoon Tea in crisp white linen tablecloths . There was roaring coal fire ( July !! ) which was beautiful to look at and great for tourists but sweltering to eat in sadly. We were sat at an enviable location in the window overlooking the Loch. Our waitress was quick and efficient and we were soon served with our choice of bagged tea in a teapot and two stands of sandwiches and cakes. They looked absolutely beautiful as did the stunning stands . The sandwiches sadly felt like they had been made up hours beforehand and left to sit in a hot kitchen, hard on the outside and cheese rubbery on the edges. The sundried tomatoes were dried out to a crisp and unedible . the salmon sandwiches were nice. The plain scones tasted lovely with a crumbly texture and lovely flavour and the blueberry jam was devine . Sadly the sultana scones were raw in the middle and flat . The cakes were a mixed bag with 2 tiny slice of Ganache squares which just melted in the heat and really unless firmer would never really have worked. The macarons simply were unedible as soft and gooey and not at all like a Macaron ! The chocolate brownie tasted nothing like chocolate and nothing like a brownie .  The cakes that were brilliant were the shortbread rounds which just melted in the mouth , the sticky toffee cake which was one of the best i have tasted to date and the vienesse biscuits which were excuisite . So in short, although my arrival was announced beforehand ,this was not the best experience for Afternoon Tea i have had but for me the location , hotel , staff and simple traditional elegance here would make me return time after time .

Afternoon Tea Rosslea Hall Hotel

Hotel/Restaurant reviews

Afternoon Tea Rosslea Hall Hotel

Rosslea HotelAfternoon Tea for two today in Rhu was at the Rosslea Hall Hotel . This is one of my favourite places in the Helensburgh area, not least for its stunning views over the Firth of Clyde . This Victorian mansion is set on the shores of the Gareloch and sits in its own beautiful landscaped gardens. I have quite a history with this hotel so its difficult to right a biased review but here goes.

On arrival we were greeted by a polite and friendly waitress who showed us through to a small dining area already set up for Afternoon Tea and overlooking the Clyde. Fresh white linen tablecloths and lovely china crockery was set up on arrival. I was starving so when the stands arrived i was ready for the good selection of freshly cut sandwiches . Lovely chunky thick sandwiches with roast beef , tuna and ham nice and fresh . 20160624 125025 resizedThe small cakes were nice and fresh and a different selection to the usual Afternoon tea with Chocolate pots and Cranachan shots with shortbread. The scones were not to my liking being more like a crumbly biscuit texture than scone, but my associate liked them, so scones are obviously a personal choice .  We had ample butter , jam and cream served in silver domes which was a nice touch . The price at £11-95 was the cheapest to date and given the surroundings and service was extremely good value for money. Now onto my next Afternoon Tea ..............

Mar Hall Afternoon Tea

 (Mar Hall teaAfternoon Tea was the order of the day and what better place to have it than the stunning baronial mansion that is Mar Hall . This stunning building dates back to the early 18th century and was recently renovated at a cost of around 15 million. The building was formerly Erskine Hospital but does not give a hint of this nowadays . The ground has a golf course and spa and it is classed as a 5 star wedding venue . On this count i can not argue. The long winding and immaculately kept driveway hides a stunning loch view until you turn a sharp left at the end and there is the reason this place holds a dear place in my heart . A view to die for and A couple of bronze stags welcome you to the grand halls . Inside the main Hall is the reception where you are courtesly greeted on arrival and shown into one of the most beautiful drawing rooms i have seen. Lovely tapestries on the wall and mostly all original features still remain here. Love the large wooden doors of all different sizes leading into different corridors and allowing a peek view of the stunning view outside and all around the grounds. Anyhow i was here for the Afternoon Tea priced at £22-50 each ( The cake stand pictured was for 2 people at a cost of £45 June 2016) . Now on my travels in the last 20 years this would not be considered cheap or even moderate so i was anticipating great things. We were seated at a table for two which was a great deal higher than the chairs making eating and viewing what was actually on your table a bit of a problem. In fact both myself and my guest had to stand up every time we wanted to see or move something on the table . This will be over looked i told myself when the Afternoon Tea comes. We were politely told our Afternoon Tea would not be long and neither it was . Out arrived one stand with 6 tiny sandwiches ( No garnish , dressing, or savouries) A middle plate with two rock hard scones and a tablespoon of clotted cream . The 1 strawberry which garnished the clotted cream sadly tasted of onion . The top tier was full of tiny little pastries which looked great but i would question whether they were all Baked on the premises . Sadly my experience was tarnished by the offering of the two tiny egg mayonaise sandwiches ( 1 for me and 1 for my guest ) They tasted of vinegar and quite obviously had turned in the heat of the kitchen or just not fresh . A second batch was brought to the table which were perfect and tasted of egg mayonaise but by this time i was feeling a bit queezy at the thought of what i had just eaten. There was no atmosphere in the large beautifully decorated halls where we sat and this is a shame . Overall i would say my experience here is not how i remember it from years gone by but for a wedding venue or overnight stay it would be hard to beat .

Oyster inn

Seafood Heaven at Oyster Inn

It was a beautiful September weekend and the sun was shining on my drive through the beautiful Argyll and Highlands countryside and onto Oban . This is always a stunning drive through Loch Lomond and onwards through Crianlarich and today was no exception . The Oyster Inn at Connel is absolutely brilliantly situated overlooking Loch Etive  and views to Mull , Lismore and Morven . The Restuarant is an ideal place to lose yourself and unwind with the views alone - but the food ........ ! On arrival at this small and cosy Inn you are greeted by wooden floors and creels and seafood memorabilia everywhere , no doubting this a place for good seafood . I absolutely loved the decor here and the bar was just fantastic full of character . The rooms are spacious enough and are set at the back of the building with all mod cons and spotlessly clean . This is a 4 Star Inn and the reason in my humble opinion is for the food . I had quite simply some of the best seafood and fish ever served to me in Scotland and not overpriced or over rated . This restuarant is not pretentious, but our young male waiter knew his job inside out and his knowledge not only on the food but the wine and surrounding area should be commended. An absolute credit to the hospitality industry and he should be a shining example on how to treat and serve customers in a dining experience . I digress , My associate had the biggest wooden slab of the biggest and juiciest Langoustines i have seen , whilst i had succulent sea bass served in a thai style soup with noodles . Excellent all round 3 courses were consumed and not rushed . I love love love this place and can not sing its praises high enough. I will be back very soon Oyster Inn at Connel .

Cafe Circa in Doune ( Last Assessed 2015 )

Cafe Circa in Doune is in beautiful Stirlingshire countryside and boasts a massive shopping area as its neighbour a few feet away as the  Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre. If you are looking for a day out whether its raining , snowing or the sun shining then look no further as this place has it all. My sole intention today was to Assess the Baking for Cafe Circa but ended up having lunch before the marathon session of Cakes. Cafe Circa is a very welcoming , friendly and relaxed Restuarant type cafe with big wooden table and chairs and stone walls. There is a wood burning centre piece in the middle of the restuarant which you can just picture in the dead of winter and beautiful pieces of Art displayed around the walls and sills. Anyhow i was served by a lovely bubbly and chatty man all dressed in black ( As were the rest of the staff ) and very knowledgeable about the food which was served here . You could tell before the food even arrived that this p[lace was well run. I ordered the Salmon Fishcakes and My associate ordered The Fresh Fish and Chips . Both dishes were served with a homemade tatrtare sauce in a lovely scallop shell and a basket of chips . The lovely salad was one of the best salads i have eaten , just full of so many different types of fruit and vegetables and cut in long spirals with a lovely dressing. For dessert i had Chocolate Brownie served with little hot marshmallows and icecream. Again Homemade and one of the best i have eaten - truly decadent . My associate had a Highland sticky toffe sponge with ice cream - light as a feather and all you would ask for in a fresh homemade pudding. What i loved about Cafe Circa was the owners hands on approach which is evident in everything about the place. The staff are always more clued up and attentive when the owners are working and have a presence. There is passion and care put into the food that was prepared and served. Customer service and great Homecooking at a great price is not achievable in Chain type restuarants and thats why places like this will go from strength to strength . I dont know how many times i have eaten in 4 or 5 star restuarants that cant make desserts like the ones i ate today . But dont spend all your money in this Restaurant as right across the pavement is one of the best shopping experiences around ( Purse emptied in less than an hour) . This is a day out so go on and spoil yourself at this suberb Centre and eat the best food around without it hurting your wallet. Slainte

Knockendarroch House Hotel- Pitlochry

Restaurant reviews

Knockendarroch House Hotel

Knockendarroch HotelThis weekend i had the privilege of staying at many beautiful Hotels ,none more so than Knockendarroch House Hotel in Pitlochry . This beautiful Hotel was once the home of an Aberdonian lawyer back in 1880 . It was sold in the early 1900s to a jeweler - James Robb who then sold it on to the newly formed Pitlochry Theatre Company . In recent times a new family - McMenemie took the home over and turned it into todays finest Hotel in Pitlochry. The Hotel has a 4 star rating and most certainly has earned it with its majestic views alone , overlooking stunning countryside from an elevated and enviable position in Pitlochry. I stayed here one night only and will certainly return. From the moment i entered the welcome was unobtrusive and  friendly , just the way i like it. My room was quite simply breathtaking with views from large glass windows on two sides of the room. Very clean , quiet and well equipped . The most pleasing reason for my review however was the dinner and breakfast which was served in informal surroundings , but just excellent. From the onset i had canapes in the lounge before making my way through to the small but atmospheric dining area. My choice this evening was seared scallops on a bacon mash which were cooked brilliantly , piping hot and a work of art on my plate- too good to eat ! 20150719 190012Pork medallions and to finish a strawberry shortcake. The breads were all homemade and actually the best bread i have eaten to date in any restaurant . The oatcakes served with the cheese were also homemade and excellent. I can not rate this location ( 2 Min walk to village of Pitlochry) , Food , Service and all round Hotel highly enough and will most certainly return for a longer stay in the very near furture.

Linwood Farm

Hotel/Restaurant reviews

Linwood Farm

linwoodA rare day off today was spent with my Mother and sister whilst waiting for my car to be serviced. Our original lunch destination in Renfrew was closed so we headed to Linwood on a recommendation i had heard about via the website- Linwood farm. Linwood farm is actually not a farm strangely , but a division of Greene King - Farmhouse inns . On arrival i had the usual " judging a book by its cover moment" and thought i may have been sold a bogey by an anonymous web nomination . On entering we sat ourselves down and wondered how the whole thing operated - do we go to the counter or does someone come to you . In the end we asked how we ordered food and were told we had to go to the bar after looking at our menu and remembering our table number. This seemed easy enough ( Even for me ) We met a lovely lady from Greenock who told us how to order wisely ....... Armed with this information i proceeded to order a lunch carvery . I was then given a ticket a few minutes later and told to go the end of the queue and wait. My wait was not long and the choice of the carvery was one of the best i had seen in awhile. I had everything and all crammed onto a tiny plate . Roast beef, cooked ham, mashed potato , roast potato , all sorts of vegetables , gravy , sauces, onions in red wine, yorkshire puddings, cauliflower cheese ( My favourite and boy could you taste the cheese ) and so much more - very impressive, but the most impressive thing for me was at 2pm (Which is when  the carvery ends abruptly ) the food was still piping hot and fresh . Yes i will be back for this carvery . The cakes which are indeed impressive as you enter , mainly for their size , (felt like you were in Gullivers travels ) were the next on our list . My mother had a roulade which would have fed at least 6 and was impressive in size which pleased her sweet tooth. I had the Chocolate Fudge which was just ridiculously huge ( even for my apetite) . I can see the appeal for people and i like the brand regarding the cakes but in my humble opinion they were not as good as they looked. They were all size and no substance. They were also a great price and you could takeaway . The staff were regimental and lacked warmth albeit efficient. Would i recommend - yes i would certainly for the carvery and for the wow factor with the size of the cakes. See you soon Linwood Farm.