Movies – The Girl on the Train Review (or ‘Nobody Has Passwords Like That In 2016, Surely?’)

October 16, 2016

I’ll cut to the chase…

The Girl on the Train is a decent movie. While it’s initially a bit confusing, told as it is in a non-linear style with parts that don’t make any sense until they are revisited later, the end result is an enjoyable story girl-on-train-movie-posterwith some entertaining twists and a satisfying resolution.

Some of the acting is a bit dodgy though. Emily Blunt is fine in the lead even though she hams it up a bit while doing drunk acting, but some of the other players – notably Justin Theroux and Luke Evans – appeared to be made out of wood.

But anyway, I wanted to get those points across early and focus my review on two aspects of TV and Film that really bug me that were on display here.

1) When People In TV and Film Try To Guess Passwords

Now maybe I’m in the minority, but of all the multiple passwords I have for websites and computer logins, none are ones that anyone would be able to guess. In 2016 does anyone who feels the need to password protect their PC have a password that is either the name of their wife, ex-wife of child? Of course not. The whole point of a password is that it shouldn’t be guessable, and it should have a variety of letters numbers and/or characters.

And yet in the Girl on the Train – and in loads of other examples of TV and Film – those are the sorts of things people guess when trying – often successfully – to crack someone’s password.

It does my head in; I just don’t think that sort of thing happens in real life.

2) Villain Revelation Syndrome

The Girl on the Train also has that nonsensical moment when a character finds out that someone unexpected is the villain. Up until that point that someone has been acting nice and normal; there’s no reason to suggest he or she is the bad guy.

And yet the moment it’s revealed and we the audience are let in on the secret, the character suddenly starts to act like a proper bastard.

To me, that’s bad writing.

To be clear, within the context of the movie, this character doesn’t know anyone knows that s/he’s the villain, so why would s/he act differently?

It’s stupid.

Of course, those are only two aspects of TV and film that bug me; I wrote a series of articles on that very topic, starting with this one. You can find the rest in the article index.

But to go back to The Girl on the Train, it is – as I said above – a decent and entertaining movie.

Good enough to pay to see? Perhaps not, but one that you should try to catch up on at some point.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The Balgove Larder (near St. Andrews)

October 16, 2016

The Balgove Larder must be an absolute gold-mine for its owner.

When we went for lunch yesterday to their cafe, every table – and there are lots of them – was taken, with a long queue of hungry diners waiting to be seated the moment anyone left.

Add to that the Steak Barn and two shops that always have a constant bustle of people whenever I’ve stepped foot inside the place and you have one profitable business.

Anyway, this is the first time I’ve been to Balgove to eat, so I was hopeful that the level of busyness meant a good quality lunch.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The Balgove Larder – The Venue

If you’re planning on a quiet, intimate meal, Balgove is not for you. Its large open plan cafe seeks to fit as many people in as possible, and thus the tables are closely packed together to the point where getting up to have a look at the specials board required a full on plan of action. But it was comfortable enough.

Sat in the corner, we were in a great spot for people watching, as we could see families having tense lunches with one another and dozens of blokes looking like they’d rather be anywhere else.

It also meant that we could hear all the conversations at the tables around us, including a father and son engage in what could only be described as awkward small talk about light aircraft and a couple of 20-

Split Pea Soup and Meatloaf. The salad came with the bold - but not unwelcome - addition of pickled onions.

Split Pea Soup and Meatloaf. The salad came with the bold – but not unwelcome – addition of pickled onions.

something girls having a deep-and-meaningful. Well…one of them was having the deep-and-meaningful anyway; she didn’t pause for breath and went on non-stop for well over an hour while her friend sat there looking like she wanted to smash her head off the table. It was like our own personal free-entertainment, and for me the highlight was the girl saying “If a guy buys me a bar of chocolate, he can do anything he likes to me. I’m his”. So there you go guys, for the price of a Dairy Milk, you’re in.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The Balgove Larder – The Food

While Mhairi went for the Soup of the Day (Split Green Pea) served with a cheese scone, I opted for one of the meatloaf, which was a daily special.

Word on the soup was that it was tasty and filling, while the cheese scone was nice and soft but thankfully not dry. Having had a bit of the scone, I can concur with this assessment.

As for the meatloaf; I won’t pretend that I wasn’t initially disappointed. I had ordered it expecting a hot meal covered in gravy, but instead it was a cold terrine-like loaf served with bread, salad and coleslaw. While that was unwelcome news, it still turned out to be very nice and something I’d probably have again if given the choice.

And while both of us were full, there was still room for dessert, and this is where the Balgove Larder shone.

We ordered one hot brownie with chocolate sauce and ice cream to share and yet the waitress – no doubt thinking that we were delightful customers standing out from a crowd of mopey faced gits – decided to give us one each at no extra cost.


I didn’t eat again for the rest of the day and was more than satisfied.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The Balgove Larder – The Drink

Two Sprites. Bob’s your uncle.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The Balgove Larder – The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

There’s a decent selection of food available for vegetarians, although – much to my amusement – they have to walk through a butcher’s shop to get to the cafe and see all the lovely parts of the dead animals on

One of our bowls of hot chocolate brownie with strawberry ice cream. Mmmm

One of our bowls of hot chocolate brownie with strawberry ice cream. Mmmm


Mmm…dead animals.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The Balgove Larder – The Price

All in it came to roughly £20, so I have no complaints.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The Balgove Larder – Final Thoughts

While it might have been nice to have a bit more room around our table, that perhaps would have taken away from the entertainment value of eavesdropping on those around us.

So I’ll give Balgove a hearty thumbs up. Good food, good service and a nice shop to buy groceries from afterwards.

We’ll be back to try the Steak Barn soon.


Movies – Deepwater Horizon Review (or ‘A Disaster Movie Without Distractions’)

October 5, 2016

The main strength of Deepwater Horizon – the movie based upon the 2010 explosion and oil spill at the rig of the same name – is its basis in reality.

What I mean by that is although I’m sure certain liberties were taken in the telling of events to make for a better story, there are no unnecessary sub plots about teenagers falling in love or an estranged couple deepwater_horizon_filmgetting back together because events have made them realise they can’t live without each other; this is all about the disaster and that’s it.

And that’s good; that’s what I want.

I haven’t seen Titanic since it was first on the cinema because I can’t be doing with watching two hours of unrelated nonsense with Kate & Leo before the good stuff happens. When I go to a disaster movie, I want it to actually focus on the disaster.

And that’s what Deepwater Horizon does with aplomb.

That’s helped by two other strengths. The first is the location filming – set as it is on what appears to be an actual working rig – which adds authenticity.

The second is the cast.

Though the two poster stars – Mark Wahlberg and Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez – are fine, the real MVPs are Hollywood veterans Kurt “I Suddenly Look Ancient” Russell and John Malkovic. Both are absolutely fantastic in their roles. And hey, it’s got Buddy Garrity  from Friday Night Lights in it too, which is always a good thing.

Running at 107 minutes, Deepwater Horizon moves at a brisk pace and thankfully never lulls or outstays its welcome. I really enjoyed it, and happily give it my seal of approval.


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Tonic (Perth Rd, Dundee)

September 27, 2016

Thanks to a change in my work schedule, I now finish on Sundays at 11am instead of 12pm, and that means one thing; the world of brunch is now open to me.

So this week, rather than a trip to a restaurant in the afternoon – and for those of you worrying that I’d missed a review last week, we actually went back to The Tinsmith for another pie – we decided to pop along to Tonic on the Perth Rd in Dundee for a mid morning meal.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Tonic – The Venue

Set very much in the heart of Dundee’s student territory, Tonic is a nice enough restaurant/bar with a mostly open plan. It didn’t stand out in terms of decor, but it was clean and the seats were comfortable so I have no complaints.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Tonic – The Food

Tonic’s brunch menu mixes the more traditional Scottish/English breakfast choices (bacon, eggs, black pudding, potato scone etc) with American favourites like pancakes, waffles, french toast and filled pretzel

Here's the banana and peanut butter filled pretzel bun. Why it's on a chopping board, I don't know.

Here’s the banana and peanut butter filled pretzel bun. Why it’s on a chopping board, I don’t know.


I ended up going for the Eggs Benedict Pancakes with a side order of hash browns, black pudding and grilled tomato (alas, the picture of it has been accidentally deleted and thus lost to time), while my fellow foodie Mhairi opted for the Banana, Nutella and Peanut Butter Filled pretzel.

Mine was good, but it certainly needed the extra side orders to make it filling, and though the savoury Eggs Benedict might not have seemed the right choice to go with sweet American style pancakes in theory, I found the flavours complimented each other well. It was nicely presented and tasted great.

Mhairi unfortunately ended up with just banana and peanut butter on hers as they’d run out of Nutella, and though she enjoyed it, it seemed quite dry without the missing ingredient.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Tonic – The Drink

As it was still morning, we opted for ‘fresh’ Orange juice. Alas it was orange juice made from concentrate, which I personally find totally unacceptable in 2016. How difficult is it to buy Tropicana or one of the other brands that deal in properly fresh juices?

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Tonic – The Vegetarians Viewpoint

With such a wide range of pancakes, french toast and waffles to choose from  – as well as  Vegetarian Traditional Breakfast – anyone with an aversion to meat would find plenty to eat here.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Tonic – The Price

Two meals and two drinks for £13.75.

I think that’s the cheapest yet, but drinks aside, it didn’t taste ‘cheap’.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Tonic – Final Thoughts

Only let down by the lack of chocolate spread in Mhairi’s pretzel bun and the quality of the ‘fresh’ Orange juice, Tonic provided us with a nice meal that kept me filled up until night.

I’d go again.

Check Out My Other Restaurant Reviews

Cafe Montematre
Sol Y Sombra
Taypark House
The Tinsmith
Wee Mexico

Movies – Don’t Breathe Review (or ‘Like That Episode of Arrested Development Without the Laughs’)

September 14, 2016

There are two reasons why I couldn’t take Don’t Breathe seriously.

The first is that the entire movie reminded me of that episode of Arrested Development where Tobias goes undercover, spying in the ‘blind’ lawyer’s house. Really, that’s all this movie is; it’s a bunch of youths tryingdontbreathe to evade a blind man who they are burgling. Neither is scary, but this one isn’t funny either.

The other reason is that there was a bloke sitting in my row who just kept loudly shouting “What happened” every time something major occurred in the plot. Now sure, I think he might have had learning difficulties, but I’m convinced that he also had some fantastic comic timing. At one point a character got shot, the entire cinema went deathly quiet and then he piped up again with “What happened”. Superb.

But if I was to put those issues to the side, Don’t Breathe still wouldn’t be worth praising.

Most horror movies are pretty light on substance, but this one started repeating itself after half an hour. Even though it only lasted 88 minutes, it was still a good 25 minutes too long; after all, how much plot can be extracted from a blind man walking round a house looking for burglars?

The other thing is that nobody in this movie is a good person. The blind guy is a psychopath, and any notion that we should feel sorry for him was blown away by the stuff that happens in the basement (I won’t spoil it), while the kids robbing his house are just petty criminals. They all deserve everything they get.

Really, the only aspect of the movie that deserves any credit is the direction, which at least supports the format well.

Apart from that though, it was 88 minutes of my life I could have spent doing something more productive.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Taypark House (Perth Rd, Dundee)

September 11, 2016

Another Sunday and another restaurant to review.

This time it’s the ‘Boutique Hotel, Cafe and Gin Bar’ off the Perth Rd in Dundee, Taypark House.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Taypark House – The Restaurant

Based in an old manor house – and what I’m led to believe was once part of the University of Dundee’s Medical School – it’s fair to say that this is a nice looking restaurant/cafe.

The decor is swish, the seating comfortable and – and this is not something I’ve ever felt the need to comment on in any of my previous restaurant reviews – the toilets were very clean.

Put simply, it looks great, but that’s far from the most important aspect an eatery should be judged upon…

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Taypark House – The Food

When I was chatting to someone earlier this week about my restaurant reviews, they made a very sage point…

They said that when they go out for something to eat, they expect to get something better than what they could quickly make for themselves in their own kitchen.

As you can see, the Ciabatta looks quite dry. Serving it with ready salted crisps didn't help either.

As you can see, the Ciabatta looks quite dry. Serving it with ready salted crisps didn’t help either.

That’s exactly right.

If I go to Jessie’s Kitchen for example, I can order a Tuna Melt and know for sure that I’ll get a better quality dish than I could rustle up at home, even though a Tuna Melt in theory is quite a simple dish. The chef at Jessie’s shows that there’s more to it than just tuna, cheese and bread.

With that in mind, today at the Taypark House I ordered a Steak Ciabatta with caramelised onions, and I can honestly say that I could make a better one myself. In fact, I’ve had a better one this week.

And that’s disappointing.

I love a good steak sandwich, but if I order one in a restaurant I want it to be special. I want the steak to be perfectly cooked, for the bread to be of a higher standard than I can buy in a supermarket and for it to almost melt in the mouth.

This didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, it was decent enough and was made with good quality steak, but it was quite dry on the ciabatta and lacked anything to set it apart from something I could make myself in five minutes.

Mhairi meanwhile ordered the Breaded Halloumi Flatbread and reported back that she enjoyed it, but longed for last week’s Tinsmith pie.

So did I.

We also got ourselves a couple of takeaway traybakes but unfortunately once again, they weren’t up to the standard set by Jessie’s Kitchen (which I’ll review at some point soon).


The Breaded Halloumi Flatbread

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Taypark House – The Drink

A pint of draught lemonade for £2.30.

Absolutely no complaints on that score.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Taypark House – The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

Choice for the Shallot Scoffers was actually quite limited.

The Halliumi Flatbread was the one sandwich that catered for vegetarians and the only other choices were a Goats Cheese Salad, Mac & Cheese and a Mezze selection.

That’s not too bad but other establishments offer a wider selection.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Taypark House – The Price

All in for two main courses, two drinks and two traybakes it came to £25 or thereabouts.

That’s £7 more than last week’s trip to The Tinsmith.


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Taypark House – Final Thoughts

In isolation, Taypark House would probably be considered a decent place to eat.

However, I’ve become quite the gourmand in the last couple of months and have tried many local restaurants, pubs and cafes. With that comes a higher level of comparison and scrutiny.

And unfortunately for Taypark House, it means that I must consider it a disappointment.

If you’re looking for somewhere to have a nice bite to eat in Dundee, there are better places out there.

They might not look as nice, but the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the tasting.

And I’ve tasted better,

Check Out My Other Restaurant Reviews

Cafe Montematre
Sol Y Sombra
The Tinsmith
Wee Mexico

Stuart Reviews Restaurant: The Tinsmith Review (Westport, Dundee)

September 4, 2016

As part of the legendary pub quiz team ‘Buster Hymen & The Penetrators” many a Tuesday night was spent in my university-era pub of choice, Tallys.

But a combination of leaving university and not drinking alcohol meant I’ve not been there in years, and I only recently realised that not only has Tallys closed down, but it has reopened and been refurbished as The Tinsmith.

And today I went along to try out their food.

Stuart Reviews Restaurant: The Tinsmith Review – The Restaurant

Well it’s a pub, not a restaurant, but I was taken aback by how much the interior has changed. The bar has moved to the middle of the floor, the wall has been knocked in so that it’s more open plan than before and

While the food tasted great, the presentation wasn't the best

While the food tasted great, the presentation wasn’t the best

– in a way, sadly – the seating has all been changed, which means that ‘our’ booth by the window has gone.

But I made a point of sitting in the part of the room where our booth was.

I’m nostalgic that way.

It was all very nice though, so I have no complaints on that score.

Stuart Reviews Restaurant: The Tinsmith Review – The Food

Much like Braes – which I reviewed last week – this has a menu where almost everything on offer is something I would enjoy, so I was spoiled for choice.

Unlike Braes, what we ordered was actually really nice.

Both Mhairi and myself went for one of the homemade pies – I went for the Pulled Pork & Smokey Beans, she went for the Butternut Squash & Feta – with onion gravy and sweet potato fries and veg.

What’s good about it is that you get a choice of pie filling (Peppered Steak & Ale, Chilli & Cheese, Jamaican Chicken Curry and the two mentioned above), potato (Sweet Potato Fries, Creamy Mash or regular chips) and vegetable (fried onions, mushy peas or a variety of boiled veg) which suits most tastes.

And I’ve got to say, it was very tasty.

The pastry to filling ratio was spot on and the way the fries were drenched in the gravy meant that it was almost like ordering Poutine.


Any complaints? Well the presentation wasn’t the best – as you can see in the pictures – and I’d sooner have had my food on a plate, but you can’t have it all.

Mind you, can Mushy Peas be presented as anything other than a bowl of green sick?

Mind you, can Mushy Peas be presented as anything other than a bowl of green sick?

If I wasn’t so full, I’d also have tried the Deep Fried Mars Bar with Irn Bru ice-cream.

Next time…

Stuart Reviews Restaurant: The Tinsmith Review – The Drink

As usual it was a pint of lemonade, and as lemonades go, this hit the spot.

Like I said last time, if anyone is reading this and thinking “All lemonade tastes the same” then I’d respectfully point out that you’re off your head.

Stuart Reviews Restaurant: The Tinsmith Review – The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

Loads of choice for the carrot munchers among you.

They’ve even got a Halloumi  Burger, which I’d love to try.

Stuart Reviews Restaurant: The Tinsmith Review – The Price

I accidentally cut my pie open before the ceremonial taking of the photograph. Oops.

I accidentally cut my pie open before the ceremonial taking of the photograph. Oops.

All in for two main courses and two pints of lemonade, it came to £17, which is the cheapest of any of the restaurants I’ve reviewed so far.

It’s also cheaper than any of the other places I’d regularly go for food before I started doing these reviews, including the likes of Jessie’s Kitchen, Rascals Bar in St. Andrews and Duke’s Corner.

Not too shabby at all.

Stuart Reviews Restaurant: The Tinsmith Review – Final Thoughts

I said last week that the quality of the menu at Braes meant I’d probably go back and try again. Now I’m not so sure.

The menus of both Braes and The Tinsmith are comparable in terms of food I’d like to eat, but the latter was both nicer and cheaper.

Out of the two, I know which one I’d go back to sooner.

Check Out My Other Restaurant Reviews

Cafe Montematre
Sol Y Sombra
Wee Mexico