Believe it or not I’m not ALWAYS chained to the kitchen sink, or as I like to think of it, my white-noise base. Every once in a while I allow myself to be treated to the pleasure of having someone else cook for me. My dish-pan hands needs this to happen a tad more often… Sadly my purse could do with it happening a little less! 😦
Here is a round up of a few places I’ve dined out at over the past month:
- Steak at Stravaigin, Glasgow
We were lucky enough to take a romantic weekend away recently to the BEAUTIFUL city of Glasgow, it was a work thing combined with my birthday celebration and it also meant no children! Yes, we actually ate out after 9pm AND went for cocktails AND got a taxi back to the hotel! No dining and dashing, no designated driver. I wore stilettos and no one gave me a second glance, (if I haven’t been out for a while I have been known to don the highest heels I own and strut into the local village pub, only to feel ridiculously over-dressed and inappropriately heeled… we have a cattle grid at the entrance to our driveway. There is nothing graceful about getting 5 inch high spiked heels across slippery cylindrical tubes of metal with an ankle breaking gap between each one).
I digress… we spent the weekend walking about the city, admiring the sights and eating. I am a huge steak fan, it is my meal of choice on most nights out, always medium-rare, always with a sauce of some description. Stravaigin was such a fun place to be, it had a really lovely atmosphere, it was warm, (exceptionally important for me!),the menu was eclectic and the decor was charming, I SO want the stuffed head of a highland cow resplendent in fairy lights as a feature on our lounge wall, but I have been vetoed by just about everyone in our family. We had a fabulous evening, eating steak, drinking wine and reconnecting after Mr HDD had been working away for a while. I cannot recommend this place enough. The waiter who served us also recommended the Blue Dog cocktail bar where we proceeded to indulge in several retro cocktails, (I am a sucker for a Malibu based drink!).
*I may possibly have smelled slightly of garlic following this meal… but the steak cut like butter, delicious!
2. Late lunch at The Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow
The Willow Tea Rooms were recommended by several friends as a pit-stop for afternoon tea, as far as I can tell no trip to Glasgow would be complete without a visit here. The tea rooms were designed by the Scottish artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in an Art Nouveau style. The imposing high backed chairs reminded me of something used in the movie Beetlejuice (showing my age here, but if it helps this was a CHILD-hood favourite!), and the waiting staff wore Downton Abbey style uniforms, which certainly added to the air of austerity but we enjoyed the food very much and we were in a prime location for people-watching in the street below.
We didn’t opt for afternoon tea in the end: I was hooked in by the smoked salmon and avocado on toast, I just LOVE this combination, especially with plenty of sea salt and black pepper and we managed to share a slice of carrot cake to finish.
There is a shop attached to the tea room, where I bought some tea leaves, when I went to pay the lovely waitress asked if this was the tea I had been served, it wasn’t as I couldn’t find that option for sale, so she offered to make up a fresh tin for me with said tea leaves… I do so love good customer service, although not as much as smoked salmon and avocado!
3. Chaos and cake at Farrington’s Play Barn, Somerset
During the Easter Holiday myself and son#1 met some friends at the play barn. For those of you who live in the Bath and North East Somerset side of Somerset this place is not a closely guarded secret. This is where you go when you have young children, or it is raining, or you have young children AND it is raining, or maybe you just generally enjoy watching children turn near-feral in their quest to launch a plastic ball-pit ball at the face of some unsuspecting parent perched on the end of someone else’s wooden bench who is trying to melt inconspicuously into the background whilst breast feeding one child and pouring squash from a jug for another a screaming toddler that in 3 seconds flat will be upturned across the lunch plate of the family whose table they are pretending they aren’t attempting to appropriate… Yes, that’s right, its a soft play centre!
In my line of work I have honed the ability to white noise pretty much anything child based, so for me the play barn is perfectly doable. We even visited it on its opening day, when every man, woman and baby in a 50 mile radius attempted to do the same. But I know my limitations: two hours of ‘play’ maximum, your child WILL leave here with their hair plastered to their face in a halo of plastic-tunnel induced sweat; bring a friend for daughter #1, she will get bored particularly when the death-slide is shut, (which I believe happens for a portion of time every hour), if this happens she will sit at the already overcrowded table rendering gossip impossible; only take other adults with you who can cope with the melee, (under no circumstances does this include Mr HDD or worse still Grandad HDD!)
The Playbarn has a cafeteria style menu, for the more discerning foodie you can visit the farm shop opposite, as well as the many other lovely shops that make up Farrington’s emporium. We tend to always go for the same: bacon sarnie for him, toastie for her and chips and mayo for me. Chips and mayo are my ultimate comfort food, interesting that the comfort food becomes de rigueur for me when I am at the Playbarn… I find the service is always speedy here and the food always does what you would expect it to: it is simple and satisfying. Just don’t forget to check your table number before you queue to order. Countless times I have resorted to gesticulating wildly across the heads of diners in an attempt to get the attention of someone sat at our table before bellowing desperately “What table number are we? Table number? What table? NUMBER???”, by which time I abandon my post at the front of the line, march over to the corner of the table, register the number and skulk back to the end of the queue again.
* It may not entirely sound like it but I actually have a real fondness for Farrington’s, both the farm shop and Playbarn, (there is also an outdoor Cowtastic Farm Park) and I will mourn the day that my children are no longer interested in visiting there, step son #2 stopped coming with us around the time he turned 14 and could no longer feasibly fit down a spiral tube slide!
4. After school treat at The Real Italian Ice Cream Company, Bath
Another recommendation from a friend and a Groupon special, I bought a voucher for here over the Easter holidays but we never made it so as a special treat and instead of the usual Thursday evening play date, (Thursdays have become our only extra curricular club-free night), we decided to head here to celebrate the almost end of the first week back after the holidays.
I had bought a voucher for four people as the option was for two or four, which included a crepe or waffle with up to three toppings and a hot or cold drink. All three of us went for a crepe, I went relatively standard with banana, maple syrup and banana ice cream, and opted for a cold canned drink as per the recommendation, (I think the recommender may have slightly overdosed on chocolate with a chocolate themed crepe and chocolate based hot drink). Our pancakes were scrumptious, just the right side of a sugar-high and well worth the 36 mile round trip! The very friendly chap who served us offered to make us a fourth portion to take home, which of course I did, for Mr HDD you realise and not as seconds for myself. I took him home a waffle with Nutella, marshmallows and Mars bar chunks as I thought this would warm up nicely in the oven. And it did!
Here’s a link for the Groupon voucher if you are at all tempted… Go on, you know you want to! https://www.groupon.co.uk/deals/the-real-italian-ice-cream-company
5. Reaping the rewards at The Hope and Anchor pub, Bath
There are many lovely walks and cycle paths in and around Somerset but one of the most iconic is the Two Tunnels greenway which opened in 2013. It is a 13 mile circular route which can take you from central Bath, through the two tunnels, over a viaduct, alongside the River Avon and back into Bath. The two tunnels have been converted from a disused railway line, the Combe Down tunnel is just over a mile long, and cycling or walking along it is such a great experience for adults and children alike. The tunnels are quite dark and chilly which adds to the historical atmosphere and partway along the longer tunnel you will come across an audio-visual installation called ‘Passage’.
Check it out here: www.sustrans.org.uk/route/bath–two–tunnels-circuit
Myself and the bestie decided recently to give the Pendletons an outing, me: mint green, her: blue. Bestie’s blue bike has been pimped with a wicker basket to house the refreshments, (she has a pannier on order… Surely that’s a loaf of bread?!), but I provided the much needed transportation and took our rusty old van for a spin with the bikes in the back. It takes something pretty special to give me the impetus to drive such a terrifying contraption, just getting out of the driveway almost saw me reaching for my inhaler, but the opportunity to spend some time with one of my oldest and dearest friends, setting the world to rights whilst getting some much needed exercise in the sunshine warranted the effort! Especially as we stopped off for lunch at a lovely pub called the Hope and Anchor at Midford, it comes shortly after the longer Combe Down tunnel. I had Deep Fried Camembert with Onion Marmalade and ‘Bestie Blue Bike’ had Smoked Paprika Hummus and Olives. We also treated ourselves to cheeky chips, natch! To my delight they were chunky sauté style, my favourite! This is such a lovely day out for the whole family, I propose any readers living in the near vicinity try it out on a sunny day, I just might see you there!
Have a great week and wherever you eat, be at home or out and about, enjoy!