Reviews Section

February 29th, 2008

Review: The Cross, Kingussie, The Highlands Category: Reviews

For a special occasion, this is somewhere to go for a treat” This was how The Cross was described in the welcome booklet we found at our accommodation in Aviemore.

As you will know, we came to Aviemore to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and for a couple of weeks before I had been googling various ideas to find somewhere special to enjoy a meal. I had found a few ideas before getting up here but nothing that jumped out at me. So when I read the above review in the booklet I had to Google it and was very pleasantly surprised. The Cross entices you by telling you that ‘Dinners are served by an open fire in the stone walled and wood beamed restaurant. Menus feature carefully prepared fresh and seasonal produce and the wine list is one of the best in the UK‘ it continues ‘The Good Food Guide has rated The Cross as one of the six best places to eat in the Scottish Highlands and Trip Advisor ranks The Cross as #1 in the area. Recommended in all other independent guidebooks, including Michelin, The Good Hotel Guide, Scotland the Best (upgraded to two ticks for 2008!), Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, and Fromers

Further, it comments that ‘we use only the finest fresh produce, locally sourced where possible. Game from local estates, Highland beef, Shetland lamb, prime fish from Scrabster, and shellfish from Skye. Wild mushrooms picked locally, soft fruits from Alvie Estate and cheeses from Mull and Galloway

The only downside was that it doesn’t open on a Sunday or Monday and our anniversary was the Sunday, so whilst we went out for a nice meal on our anniversary itself we also booked a table for two at The Cross for Thursday evening.

When we arrived we were very warmly welcomed and thus started a truly special meal.

The whole service was provided by the owners who were assisted by a couple of chefs back in the kitchen. We started with olives whilst pondering the menu. The olives were the best we’ve tasted in some time, slightly flavoured with rosemary. We were then given some homemade sour dough bread and unsalted butter.

Whilst enjoying these nibbles we were enjoying the quiet surroundings and a warming log fire quietly crackling away in the background. There was only one other couple dining and a chap on his own who we thought may have been reviewing the food as he was scribbling in his notebook the whole time!
Next to arrive was the appetiser – a small cappuccino cup full of Jerusalem artichoke soup with a drizzle of truffle oil. It may have been small but it was truly delicious and warming – I could have enjoyed a whole bowl of the soup on its own and been a very happy lass but it just kept getting better…

Next was our first course. I had chosen the tian of kyle of lochalsh langoustines, avocado & vine tomato and Anthony chose the seared breast of scottish woodpigeon, date puree and goats cheese emulsion.

I really enjoyed the fresh langoustines and had a small taste of the woodpigeon and goats cheese emulsion, which just melted in your mouth. I dont think I could eat much of the pigeon myself, but Anthony really enjoyed every mouthful and said he would pick it again.

Onto the mains, we both chose roast breast of organic highland chicken, vine tomato fondue, leeks and peas with garlic mash. The chicken melted in your mouth it was just perfectly cooked. The tomato fondue was simple but the flavour was really rich. The garlic mash, again, just melted in your mouth – this is one mash I will by trying to recreate at home soon!

For dessert, Anthony had to try the hot chocolate fondant with chilli ice cream. He seems to have been craving chilli chocolate recently so this definitely put a smile on his face.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t resist the creme caramel, caramelised spiced bananas with creme brulee ice cream. Not being a huge fan of banana I was very pleasantly surprised, they were very lightly spiced and truly delicious. The creme caramel and crunchy creme brulee ice cream were really creamy.

The portion sizes throughout the meal were absolutely spot on. We both finished each plateful and as we finished the meal with coffee and petit fours we decided that we were just nicely full. And as I mentioned earlier, the service through out was just right. Food and service arriving just at the right time, food was introduced to us at each course and both proprietors knew everything about the food and where it came from.

At £45 per person we felt that we got extremely good value for money. The only down side being that the credit card machine didn’t have an option for service which we would have most gladly left. However the menu did state that the cost per person included service and tax. Either way we came away knowing that we will return at the drop of a hat next time we are up here, whenever that will be!

It was most definately one of the best meals we have devoured and would both heartily recommend it to anyone looking for genuinely good, well sourced food by people who obviously love it even more.

Ps. Again, apologies for lack of food pictures – I really wish we’d taken the camera with us.

January 14th, 2008

A rather busy weekend Category: Other Foodiness, Reviews

I cant believe it’s time for bed on Sunday night already. The weekend has flown by.

On Friday evening a made a rather enjoyable dinner of sole goujons with dill mayonnaise and a buttery jacket potato. It was surprisinglyeasy to make – the sole goujon recipe is from Nigella Express.

On Saturday evening we ate out at Est Est Est at the Albert Dock. We had reasonably high expectations as we spent 06/07 New Year’s Eve there & it was really nice. Unfortunately last night the staff & food let the lovely surroundings down. My porcini risotto was a very small portion, in the largest ever bowl & Hubby’s pizza came covered in mushrooms – which it did not mention on the menu but we were out for a friends birthday & having everyone together was really nice. Afterwards we just about managed to grab a seat at the Pump House pub as we seemed to finish the meal at the same time as Ringo & Co. who had officially opened the Liverpool Echo Arena next door.

Tonight we ate at my parents again as its my brothers birthday tomorrow – but unfortunately he has been poorly so we ended up enjoying a creamy chicken & tarragon pie followed by marmalade pudding without him :( (Happy Birthday for tomorrow Michael xx)

December 2nd, 2007

Highlights from the Good Food Show Birmingham Category: Other Foodiness, Reviews

As the title says, these are our highlights from our first Good Food Show:

Jamie Oliver in the Supertheatre

We were quite lucky with our seats – very central & not too far back considering the number of seats they cram in! Anyway, the show was great. Jamie was very funny & there was lots of crowd interaction. He made three dishes. The first was hot smoked salmon in the biscuit tin – the smell of the salmon cooking was really fabulous. He then went on to make a warm chicken Cesar salad which looked divine. To top this off he made a beef stroganoff with mushrooms with a little help from his mushroom hero Gennaro Contaldo.

We also came across Gordon Ramsay, Rachel Allen, the Hairy Bikers, Angela Hartnett, Matt Skinner and Brian Turner.
We went on a wine masterclass - by mistake we booked one held by the Ian Harvey of the Birmingham Post Wine Club when we had wanted to go to the Matt Skinner one – but it turned out well & we tasted six South American wines. Hubby enjoyed this bit the most. I think he see’s himself becoming a wine connoisseur.

Tasting highlights
These included a pork pattie care of Jimmy’s Farm. Coming from a not-really-a-meat-eater I have to hold my hands up and say it was delicious. And thanks to Jules we may just have to order some from the online shop.

I also tasted a veggie pie & mash from Blenheim House – this was nice but the gravy was delicious. And we both had a ‘Duo of rich Belgian truffle’ which didn’t last more than 60 seconds – hence the half eaten one in the photograph!
We sampled some of Walkers warm, freshly cooked crisps. You added you own toppings – salt, pepper, chilli & rosemary etc.

I’ve also found a soft spot for Sloe Gin. We will hopefully be purchasing some of this soon to make cranberry sauce.

It was also very nice to see Gordon & Macphail of Elgin at the show. The shop in Elgin is really lovely with a room dedicated to whisky and then a room full of wines and spirits and a third room with delicatessen type goods.

Overall it was a really lovely day out & we may have to go back another year.

September 30th, 2007

Eating Out in the Highlands Category: Other Foodiness, Reviews

As I have already mentioned we had a fab time when we went oop North. We stayed in a beautiful cottage at Tormore Distillery – whilst we were there we went on the look for dolphins, but the blighters didn’t keep to their appointments – twice we sat in the cold wind and for nothing. We also:

  • had a lovely walk through the Glenlivet Estate
  • saw snow on the top of Cairngorm (it was -4° one night)
  • Mr C played golf at Craggan and I was official photographer/videographer and scorekeeper
  • went on a horse trek through a forest
  • Mr C watched Elgin City beat East Stirling 6-0
  • visted two distilleries and one organic brewery
  • ate out lots

The first night we stayed over in Perth & went into town to eat – Mr C gave me a Pizza Express club membership so we headed off there. We both had dough balls to start and then I had my usual Fiorentina pizza & Mr C had a Pollo ad Astra.

The next morning we headed North up the A9 – and after a detour to the small distillery of Glenturret (whose whisky is part of the Famous Grouse blend & is now branded as the Famous Grouse Experience). After a tour of the distillery we stopped for lunch in what appeared, I thought, to be a dull little restaurant – however we both had soup and a doorstopper slice of fresh bread and it was very tasty indeed.

Our next dining delight was the following day at Glenfiddich (anyone spotting a trend here?!). We ended up here earlier than expected during our week away as the weather was quite dull and it seemed to make sense. Last year we had enjoyed two fabulous baked potatoes here and we had both been looking forward to going back. So after another distillery tour (well, it is free & you get a dram) we stopped for lunch in the beautiful restaurant. We both repeat ordered our jackets – mine with smoked salmon and cream cheese, Mr C had Orkney cheese & ham. All I can say is they were delicious (picture to follow).

Tuesday was spent dolphin watching and as you already know they didn’t show. So after spending a few hours wrapped up like a pass-the-parcel we gave up, went ‘home’ & I made some delicious Yellow Split Pea soup.
(The day light was quite bright, so the sunglasses aided my water watching as I didn’t have to squint!)

The next day we had a lovely walk through the Glenlivet Estate. It was probably about 2.30pm when we’d finished the walk in the car park of Glenlivet distillery however after popping in to look at their lunch menu we decided to hop in the car back to Glenfiddich! This time we both had a sandwich – they make delicious food there so if you get a chance do go in and have a look.

In the evening we went to the Mash Tun in Aberlour. The food was nothing less than fantastic & considering the leaflet we had which classed the establishment as having boutique hotel accommodation we were surprised to find the meals were inexpensive. I enjoyed deep fried brie with an onion chutney and Mr C experimented with Haggis, Neeps and Tatties with a whisky sauce. His plate was clean in minutes – I think he really enjoyed it! For mains I chose the only veggie option which was Savoury Bread & Butter pudding with feta and roasted vegetables. I don’t think I would have instinctively chosen this but it was excellent – the portion sized beat me though and I had to leave some. Mr C opted for his all time favourite – a trio sausages (1 haggis, 1 wild boar & leek and 1 venison) served with mash and gravy. Doubtless to say there was another clean plate!

We tried to burn off some of the calories the next day walking around the golf course at Craggan – it was very, very windy but most enjoyable. I mean how can you not enjoy it with scenery like this…
, pOn Friday we went for a horse trek through a forest at Loch Alvie. Lucy, my horse may have been the slowest in Scotland but was very adorable. Mr C rode Murphy…

On Friday evening we took my mum & dad up to the sunset dining experience at Cairngorm which is 3600 feet above sea level – the highest in the UK. After arriving at the base, a funicular takes you up to the summit. Unfortunately it wasn’t the clearest evening for the sunset but the views were still fantastic – if you ever go I’d recommend taking a nice warm jumper or coat as its very windy at the top!

Its not the cheapest meal in the world but with the views and experience we would definitely do it again. I started with Mussels and Smoked Haddock with Orkney Cheese sauce and Mr C had Breast of Pheasant with pink peppercorn mousse , red onion marmalade and watercress salad. Mine was delicious but I did have a quick taste of the pheasant & it was divine – something we’ve never tried before but something I’d definitely have again.
For mains I had the veggie option – Spiced aubergine and lentil parcels with vegetable couscous. Mr C chose the Fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with rosti potato, asparagus and Ptarmigan whisky sauce.
For dessert we both enjoyed the Hot chocolate fondant with home made vanilla ice cream.

The next day was our last full day in the Highlands so the boys went to watch Elgin City and then we ended the holiday in true Anderson family fashion – with some of the best fish & chips ever and as we were in Scotland we had to have a white pudding too. We sat by the banks of the Spey to devour it and it was the perfect end to a perfect break.

September 2nd, 2007

Il Forno Category: Reviews

Yesterday we went out with my friends for my birthday meal – a week in advance of the big day. As I’m going to be 30 I wanted to go somewhere nice but without spending a fortune.

Italian food is one of my favourites and Liverpool has quite a few Italian restaurants but I was yet to find one that was traditional but didn’t have plastic red and green check table clothes. So a bit of googling later we came across a restaurant described as “One of the Top 10 authentic Italian restaurants according to The Times Knowledge magazine, Il Forno is a slice of Italy situated in the heart of Liverpool city centre”.

The reviews on onionring seemed quite good so I booked us a table.

The booking was made for 7.30pm as they were fully booked for later slots – 2 1/2 weeks in advance. I was surprised then when we ended up staying in the restaurant for 3 hours – not rushed once by the friendly staff.

The food was fantastic. We shared some focaccias to start and then I tucked into a Garganelli al salmone fresco e funghi – Garganelli with fresh salmon mushrooms and a dash of cream. The bowl was huge, the portions definitely on the generous side and it was beautiful. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce coated the pasta just enough. At a cost of £7.50 for a main it was most definitely value for money.

For pudding, well it is my birthday!, I had ice cream with a dash of baileys poured over the top. My friend also ordered this & we took one mouthful and just looked at each other as the delicious ice cream melted in our mouths. It was fantastic.

Its just such a shame we forgot the camera so there are no pictures to tempt you all with.

Hubby & I will definitely be going back & I just hope its sometime soon as there was such a good choice on the menu it really was difficult to choose.

And not one tacky table cloth in sight. The restaurant was modern, bright and really vibrant. A real breath of fresh air indeed.

So if you are ever in Liverpool in search of a good meal I’d most definitely suggest il forno

August 5th, 2007

Our trip to Nottingham Category: Other Foodiness, Reviews

This post is a bit late!

Was a lovely one. We went away for a few days this weekend for a bit of r&r.

Hotel – QHotels – We’d never heard of them until I came across what appeared to be a cracking deal on a website I simply fell upon – (I would recommend this website, it gave us a much better deal than expedia would have). Back to the hotel, it was fab, gorgeous, comfy, friendly. I haven’t a bad word to say about them at all. Room was very spacious, very modern, bed was very comfy & the bed linen lovely & soft. The bathroom was also spacious – a bath with shower over and a stand alone shower. It gets a full 5 stars from me.

Nottingham – it was surprisingly large and very nice. We spent most of Saturday morning wandering around and came across a shop called Chocolate Utopia (they do mail orders!) where we sat in with a coffee and mocha and sampled some of their delightful chocolates. Mmmm. We came away with a milk chocolate bar & small dark chocolate bar for us and a dark chocolate bar for a gift. Including the chocolates & coffees I think we spent about £8 in there – much better value for money than Hotel Chocolat (which is where we were going to buy the gift) & just as delicious.

The first night we ate at the hotel which was tatsy. We had taken up a bottle of champagne as it was our official ‘getting together’ anniversary. Very nice.

On the second evening we went to the Hard Rock Cafe! Not our usual dining experience but we’d never been to one and finding myself with the chance to sample some of Joe Perrys Mango-Peach Tango hot sauce, how could I resist?

The grub was your usual American fare & being a fussy meat eater I nearly always choose the veggie options – I did however, have to have the Chicken Quesadilla to sample Joe Perrys sauce.

The dish consisted of chicken & pineapple (of which I’m not a big fan) – but I have to say I actually quite enjoyed it. For the main the only veggie option was a burger. It was huge, even by my mammoth portions and I never seen so much cheese!

Again it was tasty but I actually think I enjoyed the Quesadilla slightly better. Washed down with two glasses of wine I was a happy but very full bunny.

Mr C’s Burger & Chips

Coming back home on the Sunday we took the scenic route via Bakewell & picked up some of their traditional puddings. Mmmmmm.

Here’s some other pics from our weekend…

Robin Hood

The Ducks enjoying the warm sunshine in Bakewell