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.

buns.

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

Braes
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).

taypark-2

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.

Hmmm.

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

Braes
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.

Mmmm.

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

Braes
Cafe Montematre
Sol Y Sombra
Wee Mexico

 


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Braes (Perth Rd Dundee)

August 28, 2016

The thing about doing reviews is that if you’re constantly positive or negative, and what you write starts to become ‘one-note’, then they lose their meaning.

If every restaurant review I did gushed about how amazing it was, then how would you be able to tell if a one restaurant is really better than the other?

So I’m glad to have found a local eatery that I can justifiably take issue with.

In this case it’s Braes on the Perth Rd in Dundee.

Braes Review: The Restaurant

Well, it’s not really a restaurant, it’s more of a pub that sells food, but suspiciously sticky floor aside, Braes is a pretty nice establishment. The chairs we sat on were very comfortable, the decor was nice enough and

Here's the Mac & Cheese Bites, the Crawfish Roll with Sweet Potato fries and a rather unattractive blob of mayo.

Here’s the Mac & Cheese Bites, the Crawfish Roll with Sweet Potato fries and a rather unattractive blob of mayo.

the view of the Perth Rd and the old University buildings was pleasant.

My only complaint is that the people of ‘We Want Plates’ wouldn’t have been happy with the strange pots and pans the food, cutlery and condiments were served in.

Braes Review: The Drink

We both went for a pint of lemonade each and that’s what we got. It was chilled, a nice flavour and accompanied the meal fine. And hey, if you’re thinking “All lemonade tastes the same” then I’ll simply counter that all wine tastes the same to me too. Same with beer. So there.

Braes Review: The Food

Now here’s the thing…

Braes has an excellent menu; it’s filled with the sort of food that I adore. From the various sharing platters to the multitude of burgers (including a Mac & Cheese topped burger which sounds amazing), chicken dishes and bbq style treats, this is heaven for diner who loves what the Americans would call ‘comfort food’.

I chose to go with the fried Crawfish brioche roll as it’s not the sort of thing that you usually find on menus in Dundee, plus I didn’t want anything too heavy.

Mhairi went for the flat mushroom wrap, which was described as containing mozzarella, chedder and a rich marinara sauce.

As you can see, the amount of crawfish in the roll compared to bread and salad left a lot to be desired

As you can see, the amount of crawfish in the roll compared to bread and salad left a lot to be desired

We both ordered sweet potato fries with our dishes and we also shared some Mac & Cheese Bites as a side.

The food certainly sounded like it would be great, but the reality was that it was merely ok.

My roll flattered to deceive. The crawfish was nice but there was so little of it. From a top down view it looked good but as you can see, the crawfish only lined the very top of a rather dry brioche stuffed with salad. It’s the food equivalent of getting a pint of lemonade from the bar and it being filled up with so much ice that there’s barely a half a pint of fluid in the glass.

Meanwhile, Mhairi’s wrap – although well cooked – had no mozzarella in it and the marinara sauce was laced with chilli heat. Had she known it would be a spicy sauce, she wouldn’t have ordered it. To me, a ‘rich marinara sauce’ is a tomato based sauce with garlic, onions and herbs as standard. If it’s going to be spicy, specify that.

The Mac & Cheese Bites were tasty enough, but to be honest also had a bitter aftertaste of the oil used to fry them.

But on the plus side, the sweet potato fries were quality.

Braes Review: The Vegetarian Viewpoint

As stated above, Braes has an excellent menu, and it would be fair to say that vegetarians get a huge choice of dishes, with no less than 19 items to choose from.

Braes Review: The Price

All in, for two main courses with sweet potato fries, two pints of lemonade and some Mac & Cheese bites, we were just over £20. Not bad, but not exceptionally great either.

The Flat Mushroom Wrap with Sweet Potato Fries

The Flat Mushroom Wrap with Sweet Potato Fries

Braes Review: Final Thoughts

Compared to both Sol y Sombra and Cafe Montmartre, Braes falls short in the quality department, but then I suppose it’s horses for courses. It is first and foremost a pub.

Although I was underwhelmed with what we were served today, the amount of food on the menu that we like means we will go again, but I’d certainly hope for a better experience.

 


Movies: The Shallows Review (or ‘The Shallow Movie. Lolz’)

August 25, 2016

I read a comment on Twitter today from a guy who said that The Shallows is easily the worst film he’s seen this year.

Personally, I’d disagree. It’s not a bad film, it’s just that it’s…erm…I can’t believe I’m going for the pun this early…a bit shallow.shallows

Hey, I bet I’m the first person in the whole world to make that play on words.

The problem with it is that it’s a film about a woman who is attacked by a shark whilst surfing in a secluded bay in Mexico. That’s it. She goes out surfing, she’s attacked, she climbs onto a rock and stays there until making a break for it at the end.

There’s not much you can do with that without it being padded out.

And even though it only lasts 86 minutes, it did feel like it was padded out.

But to be fair, in spite of that I thought there were plenty of redeeming features.

As a visual piece, it was fantastic (and no lads, I’m not just talking about the sight of Blake Lively in a bikini, I’m talking about the scenic shots), the shark was menacing and most of all, it was genuinely tense.

I think overall this is a film that can be categorised as one to see on Netflix, on a plane or if you have an Unlimited Cinema ticket, but maybe not worth the entry fee alone.

Unless you really love Blake Lively though I suppose…


Eleven Questions Dundee United Fans Should Ask Themselves

August 24, 2016

You could say that it’s been a fun week to be a Dundee United fan.

Of course, whether you agree with that depends on your defining fun as witnessing civil war breaking out among the different factions of supporters, defamatory blogs being published and then rightfully retracted and accusations flying all over the place.

The reasons for Dundee United’s slump have been written about time and time again. The facts are that we’ve run at a loss for a long time and in spite of selling players for relatively lucrative fees, we’ve wasted a lotdufc of that on failed management teams and dreadful recruitment. We’re now at the point where we’ve been relegated and are trying to claw our way back up on a reduced budget while the chairman – who admits he’s made mistakes – is open to offers to offload the club.

Everyone knows this and everyone has had their say on it. We all want change. Unfortunately for as long as Stephen Thompson remains at the club they want to have their say on it over and over again.

But it’s boring. It’s just going round in circles to the point where most of us have switched off.

I’ve lost count of the amount of fellow Arabs who have told me they’ve had enough of it.

So I thought I’d jot down a few questions that we can all ask ourselves – about the state we are in and what might happen in the future – and maybe it will curb some of the blind rage that’s going about.

Question 1: Do you feel that the constant negativity and abuse directed at the club and those in charge of it…

  1. Encourages potential new investors to come forward
  2. Discourages them because they might think if they fall out of favour they’d be the subject of abuse and a lack or privacy
  3. Makes no difference one way or the other

Question 2: The received wisdom surrounding the club’s finances from those who claim to be in the know is that the club has very little in the way of cash-flow. If we assume that to be the case, do you think the best way to solve this problem is to…

  1. Sell a player who is far from a first choice pick in our weakest area of the squad for money similar to what Dundee received for their top scorer and then potentially use some of that cash to strengthen.
  2. Keep Harry Souttar and sign more players with money that we’ve just accepted is not there?

Question 3: Do you think it’s reasonable to be angry at the club for both operating at such a damaging loss and then not adding to that problem by spending even more money?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 4: What do you think the role of a football chairman is?

  1. To run the club in a financially sensible way and potentially perform less effectively in the league.
  2. Throw all his or her own money at it and hope for the best.

Question 5: If your answer to Question 4 was Option 2, would you think the same thing if it was your money?

  1. No
  2. Yes (but really, no)

Question 6: Do you agree with the statement “The sort of person rich and savvy enough to have the sort of money to be able to buy Dundee United is probably too rich and savvy to want to throw their money away owning a football club”

  1. Yes
  2. No; what about Eddie Thompson?

Question 7: If your ideal candidate for a new chairman is an Eddie Thompson type who – and let’s not forget how much debt he got the club into trying to achieve this – will happily throw his personal fortune at the club in the hope of buying success, don’t you think he or she would have tried to buy the club already?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 8: Do you think that it’s healthy to get so angry about the running of a football club?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 9: From the point of view of a fan, did Dundee United being relegated have any effect on your day to day life?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 10: Really?

  1. Absolutely, my life has been turned upside down.
  2. No

Question 11: Have you read all these questions and come to the conclusion that I must be some kind of Stephen Thompson apologist/stooge?

  1. No, I think you’ve raised some reasonable issues.
  2. Yes, you’re a prick and your blog is pish. Why don’t you stick to watching Dr Who you shitebag.

If you chose Option 2, then I guess you can resume sharpening your pitchforks…