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…


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Café Montemartre (Perth Rd Dundee)

August 22, 2016

They say you can tell the quality of a Chinese restaurant in Scotland if it attracts a lot of Chinese customers.

Well operating on that basis, I was encouraged to walk into one of Dundee’s newest restaurants – the French bistro Café Montmartre on the Perth Rd – to see a table full of French diners.

We had actually planned on going along for their light bites menu, which includes such delights as a Steak Baguette and a Spinach and Gruyère filled crepe, but as it’s Sunday they had their set menu on instead.

So it turned into a bigger lunch than anticipated.

Was it any good though?

Café Montmartre Review: The Restaurant

Cafe Montemartre 1

Cream of Pea Soup

As you would expect from a newly opened restaurant, Café Montmartre looked spotless. It has a reasonably formal look, while maintaining a certain cosines. As you might expect, pictures of Paris and other typical French things decorate the wall.

Most importantly though, there was plenty of room between tables and the chairs were comfortable.

Café Montmartre Review: The Food

The Sunday set menu offered a reasonable amount of choice, with five starters, five main courses and four desserts to choose from, along with some daily specials.

I chose to go with the  Tarte aux Epinards (Goats Cheese & Spinach Tart) for a starter and the Jarret de Porc aux Pommes (Slow cooked pork shank with rosemary, apple & cider, in cream sauce) for main, while Mhairi elected for the Soup of the Moment (Cream of Pea Soup) to begin with, followed by Pappardelle aux Aubergines (Pasta with Aubergines in a tomato sauce).

Wow.

The quality of the food was sensational. As you can see by the pictures, the presentation was excellent but it was the taste that set it apart. The richness and depth of flavours – which might be too much for some people but absolutely hit the spot for us – exceeded any meal from any restaurant food I’ve had in a long, long time.

The Tarte aux Epinards in particular will have me drooling for a while to come yet.

Cafe Montemartre 4

Spinach & Goats Cheese Tart

Having also dipped a bit of bread into Mhairi’s soup (I know, I know, what an animal I am, eh?) I can also verify that it was also joyous, which is a surprise considering it sounded like it would be quite bland.

By the time we finished our main courses – and by the way, the pork just fell off the bone, which is exactly what you want – neither of us could even consider a dessert. As Mhairi put it “I’m so full, but don’t want to stop eating”. I was in full agreement.

The only thing I would mark the main course down for was that the Dauphinoise  potatoes my pork came with was slightly peppery for my taste, but that’s a very minor issue.

First class.

Café Montmartre Review: The Drink

This is the one aspect of the meal that was a let-down. Neither of us drink alcohol so we stick to the softer stuff and in this case both asked for a lemonade.

We were presented with the tiniest bottles of Schweppes lemonade imaginable, at room temperature.

Cafe Montemartre 2

Pappardelle pasta topped with aubergines Provençal

Suspecting that they were probably not going to be cheap – and at £2.45 each we were right – we both felt as though we had to make them last.

I suppose we could have asked for some water, but still, I do expect more bang for my buck when it comes to drink.

Café Montmartre Review: The Vegetarian Viewpoint

For all you carrot munchers out there, the verdict was that the set menu offered plenty of vegetarian choice (three out of five dishes were suitable for your dietary needs) and though there was only one main course option, one from five seems a reasonable trade-off.

And it went down a treat.

Café Montmartre Review: The Price

The set menu offered two courses for £17.95 or three for £20.95.

All in – including drinks – it cost £40.80.

Cafe Montemartre 3

Slow cooked pork shank with rosemary, apple & cider, in cream sauce

We left there just as full as we did Sol Y Sombra for £10 less.

While the drinks may not have offered value, for the quality of that meal, we were more than happy.

And neither of us really ate again for the whole day.

Café Montmartre Review: Final Thoughts

Nicely decorated, excellent food and  – and I’ve yet to mention this but feel I have to – a very polite and friendly proprietor result in Café Montmartre being another top class dining establishment in Dundee.

We’ll definitely go back.


Movies: Nerve Review (or ‘I Didn’t Fall Asleep!’)

August 19, 2016

When you’re a 33-year-old man who gets up early every morning for work, going to a cinema showing that starts after 8pm night carries with it the risk of falling asleep. That’s what happened to me a few weeks ago when I went to see the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie; I saw so little of it that it wasn’t even worth writing a review.

So I wasn’t holding out much hope when I went to a 10pm showing of Nerve – a movie about a girl who takes part in a social media game where increasingly risky dares are rewarded with sizeable cash prizes by thenerve people watching her play online – that I would stay awake.

And yet I did.

Running at only 96 minutes – and therefore never outstaying its welcome – Nerve kept my full attention the entire time.

Why? Because it was something a bit different.

Relevant to the age in which we live, Nerve told a fast paced and interesting story that was both well acted and directed.

My main take-home thoughts from it though were two-fold.

  1. While 25-year-old Emma Roberts could just about pass for a 17-year-old girl, 27-year-old Orange is the New Black’s Kimoko Glenn absolutely could not. It was a bizarre piece of casting. Why directors can’t just hire age appropriate actors – especially for supporting roles – I do not know.
  2. The ending was a bit naff.

Now if you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading from here on in…

My problem with the ending was that in a bid to make a statement about the way people behave on social media, it made it seem very worthy and unrealistic.

Yes, people can act like voyeurs on the internet and have a certain level of dissociation with that they are watching so that they find humour or entertainment in the misfortune of others, but if they were really given the option to decide whether a 17-year-old lives or dies then they would click ‘No’.

For everyone to decide that Emma Roberts’ character should be killed off was ridiculous, just like it was ridiculous that they only realised the error of their ways when an icon came up onto their phones saying that they were accessories to murder.

Are the general population that psychotic and stupid? I doubt it.

So that ruined the ending a bit, but still, apart from that I really enjoyed it and would happily recommend going to see it.

It’s definitely worth your time.


Movies – Finding Dory Review (or ‘Enjoyable Without Making Waves’)

August 12, 2016

If I didn’t criticise Finding Dory for the scene where an Octopus drives a lorry into the ocean, I’d be a hypocrite. After all, that was one of my main points of order in my review of the decidedly bland Secret Life of Pets.

The way I see it, you can only suspend your disbelief so far, as churlish as that sounds. For all the misadventures these various forms of sea-life got up to, that was one step too far.dory

Still, that aside, I thought Finding Dory was enjoyable.

Unlike the aforementioned pet movie, this was actually funny, heartwarming and had a solid narrative from beginning to end.

In particular, I liked the bits with the seals and when Nemo and Marlin were stuck in the tank with the clam.

The voice acting was also very good, with Modern Family’s Ty Burrell standing out as Bailey.

Of course, it does follow exactly the story you’d expect from a Disney film seeing as they now all essentially have the same plot of someone getting lost and then finding their way home, but you gets what you pays for.

It’s good, but not especially so.

And that’s pretty much all that needs to be said.

The only thing I’ll add – and it’s par for the course for my reviews of Disney movies – is that the pre-movie short was once again superb. In this case it’s a short animation called Piper about a sandpiper bird encouraged by its mother to go out to feed itself on the beach for the first time.

Without hyperbole, it’s the best quality animation I have ever seen in my life. It looks real. It’s utterly incredible.

The story is heartwarming too, but wow, if that’s the future of animation I’m blown away.

It was worth the admission fee alone.


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Sol Y Sombra Tapas Bar (Broughty Ferry, Dundee)

August 11, 2016

According to TripAdvisor, there are 280 restaurants in Dundee, 262 of which have reviews and scores.

Propping up the pile is Pizza Hut, with the tagline “Abusive, bullying staff”. They finish just behind the Mazaydar, which apparently has a “shocking Tikka Masala” and the China Palace, which one reviewer states is “ONE OF THE WORST TAKEAWAYS IN DUNDEE”.

So I know where I won’t be eating then…

But on the flip side, king of the hill is a restaurant that’s mere mention to locals will get a knowing nod of approval and either “Oh, that place is amazing” or “Oh, I’ve not been but I’ve heard that place is amazing”.

It’s the restaurant most people refer to as “That tapas restaurant above the pub in the Ferry” (even though it’s now taken over both floors); it’s the Sol Y Sombra Tapas Bar.

And we went last night.

Sol Y Sombra Tapas Bar Review: The Restaurant

Because the restaurant is quite small and is very popular – especially on weekends – it can be quite difficult to secure a table and so they now offer the choice of sitting upstairs in the actual restaurant or downstairs

Rounds 1 and 2

Rounds 1 and 2

in the bar. We chose the restaurant.

It’s a cosy little establishment that’s nicely decorated and comfortable.

I’ve been before and must admit that if there’s a table full of loud or boisterous people seated at the same time, it can be quite difficult to hear your own conversations, but last night there were no such issues.

The waiting staff are mostly Spanish, which lends a certain authenticity to the experience, and with each dish they bring to you, they explain what’s in it and at times what region of Spain the dish is from.

They were also very friendly, which – as shown by the TripAdvisor review of Pizza Hut – is important.

Sol Y Sombra Tapas Bar Review: The Food

Sol Y Sombra offers no set menu. Instead, they’ll ask you if there’s anything you don’t like or if you have any dietary requirements, and with that in mind will just bring out plate after plate of food for you to devour. I personally asked for no mushrooms while my girlfriend Mhairi is a vegetarian and obviously wanted no meat.

From memory, what we ended up getting was…

Round 1: Olives and Nuts
Round 2: Bread with Aioli, Peppers stuffed with cheese, a variety of other cheeses, spreadable chorizo (for me), almonds with quince jelly (for her, although I still took some for myself) and a sliced baguette with fig and goats cheese.
Round 3: Kebabs (meat on mine, halloumi on hers), Prawns in garlic butter, a sort of black pudding spring roll, vegetarian and non vegatarian paella, Spanish potatoes, Asparagus with aioli, pan fried fish, pork belly with mango, mushrooms (for her obviously), some kind of blue cheese and vegetable croquette, a bruschetta, a Spanish egg tortilla, some chicken stuffed in a pepper and a Spanish form of breaded chicken,

Round 3: Part 1

Round 3: Part 1

There was probably more in there too, but for two people, that’s an epic feast. You can see that from the pictures.

We tried our best to finish it but we couldn’t. That’s not a problem though; it’s better to end up with too much than not enough.

And there’s absolutely no question that the food was of the highest quality. It was awesome, and well deserving of its place atop the TripAdvisor pile.

We were offered desert (a choice of cheesecakes or sorbet) but could barely move, let alone take in more food.

Sol Y Sombra Tapas Bar Review: The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

Vegetarians are awkward types aren’t they? You try to go out for a meal in a group and there’s always one lone voice saying “We can’t go there; they only have one vegetarian dish on the menu and I don’t like it”. Either that or they martyr themselves and say “It’s ok, I’ll just get chips” and make you feel terrible as you tuck in to your barbecue feast while they roll their eyes and look like they are having the worst time imaginable.

Don’t get your knickers in a twist you carrot munchers, I’m only kidding.

Or am I…

Anyway, to be serious, my girlfriend and fellow gourmand Mhairi is a vegetarian and so it’s important that when we go out there is stuff for her to eat.

Here’s her take on how Sol Y Sombra caters for vegetarians…

“I was really impressed with all the meat free dishes at Sol Y Sombra. A lot of thought and effort was put into each one and there was just as much of a selection as there was for the meat eaters. And shut up

And the food just kept coming....

And the food just kept coming….

Stuart, vegetarians are not awkward!”

Sure they aren’t Mhairi; sure they aren’t…

Sol Y Sombra Tapas Bar Review: The Price

For all that food, along with two lemonades and two glasses of orange juice (oh and if I’m going to mark them down for anything it’s that the glasses of orange juice were barely half full) it came to £52. I believe £44 of that was the price of the food.

That’s terrific value, especially for the quality of fayre.

Sol Y Sombra Tapas Bar Review: Final Thoughts

A nice ambience, friendly staff and most importantly, superb, plentiful food at a fair price, Sol Y Sombra gets my highest recommendation.

The Stuart Reviews Restaurants Seal of Approval.

5 Stars.


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