Stuart Reviews Restaurants – Jessie’s Kitchen (Albert Rd, Broughty Ferry)

January 8, 2017

If you know me and you’ve spoken to me about food and where I like to eat, then you’ll know I love Jessie’s Kitchen.

But I’ve never reviewed it.

So now I will.

Expect compliments.

The Venue

Jessie’s Kitchen is situated in a converted mansion in Broughty Ferry, alongside Turriff’s Garden Centre.

It’s one of these places – especially in the summer – where you can sit, look out the window at the view across the Tay and think to yourself “If this was London, living here would cost

The Tuna Melt. It may look unremarkable but it certainly doesn't taste that way.

The Tuna Melt. It may look unremarkable but it certainly doesn’t taste that way.

millions”. Really, it’s lovely. And the inside is nice as well, with three open, clean and airy rooms with comfortable chairs.

But it isn’t without its problems if I’m being fair. For one thing, if you accidentally end up in the kids friendly room then it’s a bit of a nightmare. That’s not a problem with the venue, but rather the kids. I suppose though it’s good that they at least try to isolate the screaming toddlers to one area.

The other issue is that because of the large bay windows, it can be a bit of a sun-trap, and if you’re unfortunate enough to be at one of the tables where the sun shines straight down on you, it can be mildly uncomfortable.

Those are minor issues though.

I should also mention that the staff are very friendly and always look after us well. When we go, we know we’ll be given good service.

The Food

Jessie’s Kitchen doesn’t try to compete as a high-end restaurant with Michelin star food. Instead it’s a nice lunch spot, where you can get hot and cold sandwiches, baked potatoes and that sort of thing. But it does it very well.

Over the course of the last year, I think I’ve tried almost everything they have on the menu and it’s always good. My personal favourite dish is the tuna melt wrap, which is just brilliant.

The Egg Mayo Baked Potato (and of course the side salad which is part of the appeal)

The Egg Mayo Baked Potato (and of course the side salad which is part of the appeal)

It’s so good it’s frustrating because – and I say this as someone who knows his way around the kitchen – for the life of me, I just cannot make a tuna melt like it.

The same goes for the orange slice, which is my personal pick from their wide selection of cakes and traybakes available to have there or to take away.

Mhairi meanwhile went for the baked potato with egg mayonnaise baked potato. The official word on that was that the potato was well cooked, with a crispy – but not overdone – skin and the egg mayo was extremely tasty.

So we were both happy.

One thing I will say about Jessie’s Kitchen that flies under the radar is the quality of their side salad. In most venues, it’s just a lazily thrown together garnish that adds nothing to the quality of the dish, but at Jessie’s it’s part of the dining experience. Effort goes in to making a salad that is actually tasty and so it’s worth mentioning; who’d have thought it.

The Drink

As usual it was lemonade. No complaints. No massive praise either.

The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

There’s plenty for veggies at Jessie’s Kitchen and even for – whisper it – vegans. Fill your boots, carrot-munchers.

The Price

It’s fair to say that Jessie’s Kitchen is quite pricey in comparison to venues with similar lunch menus. But on the whole – for reasons listed above – it’s worth it.

The only thing I would be critical of is the price of a slice of cake. The traybakes I have no problem with, but the cakes are more expensive and the size of the slice you get can vary wildly from day-to-day.

Final Thoughts

For around three or four months last year – before I started the restaurant reviews – we’d go to Jessie’s Kitchen every Sunday for lunch. And while we like to try different places now, we know that Jessie’s is there and will always have quality food whenever we go back.

If I’m asked for one single recommendation for somewhere to eat lunch in Dundee, Jessie’s would be my pick.

If you’ve not tried it yet, you should.

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Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Al-Basha Mediterranean Restaurant & Shisha Bar (Dalgleish Rd, Dundee)

December 24, 2016

Every year on December 23rd, I go out for a big Christmas meal with my friends.

And while the company is always good, the food usually isn’t.

Trying to find somewhere to suit a large group that includes vegetarians, fussy eaters, a guy who “winna eat anything frae the grund”  (to non Dundonians, that means he doesn’t like vegetables) and a large number of people who’ll be drinking and therefore don’t want to take a taxi too far from the city centre can be difficult and it’s meant that in the past after all the exciting suggestions have been shot down, we’ve gone to dreary Italian restaurants like Don Michele or bang average ‘Jack of All Trades’ eateries like Papa Joes.

But this year, much to my amazement, there was a consensus to try somewhere a bit different.

We went to my personal favourite Friday night takeaway spot – but a venue I’ve never sat in to eat at – Al-Basha Mediterranean Restaurant & Shisha Bar on Dalgleish Road.

So how did we get on?

The Venue

Al-Basha is a spacious, well-lit restaurant that is part of Dundee’s Carlton Hotel. I can’t say the venue blew me away as being particularly amazing, but at the same time it was nice enough.  The staff were friendly and attentive, which makes such a difference.

The only thing I would mark it down for was that there was a toilet brush in the men’s lavatory which put me off using it.

Unlike The Bach, it also has easy disabled access.

The Food

You get a choice of a regular menu (which is what we order from when getting our takeaway), but we went for the Tapas menu where they just bring more and more food out.

Just a sample of what we were given.

Just a sample of what we were given.

And boy, did they ever.

It came in the following order.

Round 1: Fruity and Spices Breads with oil, dips and cold cured meats.

Round 2: Flatbreads with a variety of dips including hummus, baba ganoush, artichoke, some kind of coleslaw, a dip with capers and sweet potatoes, and red pepper.

Round 3: Items like garlic mushrooms, fried halloumi, lamb samosas, meatballs in tomato sauce, cauliflower pakoras, chicken rice, spiced potatoes, stewed okra and lamb rice.

Round 4: The vegetarians were give their own massive plates of veggie food that included stuffed vine leaves and peppers, among other things, while the carnivores were given a large amount of meat (kebabs, lamb chops, chicken etc) to wolf down.

Round 5: Dessert in form of grapes, dates, Turkish Delight and some joyous baklava.

Round 6: Quality Street.

Now I suspected we’d be given a lot of food, so I tried to pace myself, but I was stuffed by Round 3; we all were. To get that fourth round was almost a bridge too far, but we soldiered on.

And let me say now, the food here was superb. Everything was well cooked, full of flavour and added to the experience, and as one of our group said “There hasn’t been a single thing here I haven’t loved”. The lamb rice especially is something you have to try.

Honestly, this place is amazing, and it’s also very nice to be exposed to trying new foods and flavours.

But you do have to pace yourself or you’ll end up like Mr Creosote.

The Drink

For me it’s always a lemonade, and I had no complaints on that score. Most of the group consumed copious amounts of wine that seemed to go down well, and to top off the night they tried some sort of exotic shot that smelled like it would strip paint. But they liked it so who am I to judge.

The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

As you can tell, there was plenty for vegetarians to get their laughing gear around. No complaints at all on that score from them.

The Price

Here’s the best part; for all that food it was £20 per head. Absolutely sensational. That doesn’t include the drinks of course, and while I can’t attest for the value of the alcohol, I’m happy to report that from my perspective it was tremendous value for money.

Final Thoughts

When I’ve mentioned Al-Basha to people over the last few months, the most common response is “Oh, where’s that?” because it’s slightly out-of-the-way and not somewhere that will likely get much foot traffic. But more people need to know about it and understand just how good it is.

I loved the meal last night, and I think everyone else did too (though the guy who doesn’t like vegetables wasn’t there and I think it might have been a little too different for his tastes).

Great value, so much food and nice staff means this is a place you have to try.

But just remember to pace yourselves.


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Empire State Coffee (Nethergate, Dundee)

November 8, 2016

I love pizza, but I’m very picky about them.

My brother makes tremendous ones, with dough made from scratch and high quality ingredients for toppings. What that means is that most pizza restaurants just don’t cut the mustard for me.

Why would I pay to get something that’s not as good as what I get for free at least once a week?

But that’s not to say I won’t give a pizza restaurant a try, which is why I was happy to go along to Empire State Coffee in the Nethergate.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Empire State Coffee – The Venue

It’s a nice, informal cafe/restaurant set over a couple of floors.

This Pizza is a work of art

This Pizza is a work of art

The tables were spaced out enough, the seats were comfortable and the pictures of New York scenery all over the walls was suited what the name.

What I loved about the place though was the relaxed atmosphere. Of the two other occupied tables, one had a bloke doing work on his laptop while the other played host to a table full of people enjoying a game of Dungeons & Dragons or something similar. There’s just something about that vibe that I like.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Empire State Coffee – The Food

Empire State Coffee offer a wide range of Paninis, Focaccias, Tostatis and Pizzas. In fact there are 31 set pizzas to choose from – including the option of turning any of them into a Calzone – and of course the ability to add toppings or build your own.

And even for a picky person like me, I’ve got to hold my hand up and say I thought they were really nice.

No sauce on this 4 cheese pizza. That's a good thing though

No sauce on this 4 cheese pizza. That’s a good thing though

I went for the Popeye – Olives, Anchovies and Spinach – with Buffallo Mozzarella and Tuna as extra toppings, while Mhairi went for the Brie,Mozzarella, Gorgonzola and Parmigiano one. What was interesting about her’s was that it wasn’t served with a tomato sauce. That allowed the cheese to melt directly into the base, allowing for a better taste, although a drier one.

For me, the pictures tell the story. You can see that those are good pizzas.

On the way out, we also got a Peanut Butter Brownie to share, and that too was top-notch.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Empire State Coffee – The Drink

Unusually, there was no ‘proper’ lemonade, so we had to go for some kind of Artisan raspberry lemonade stuff.

It was decent, but I’m even more picky about my drinks than I am my pizzas.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Empire State Coffee – The Vegetarians Viewpoint

It’s a pizza/sandwich shop. What are you expecting me to write?

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Empire State Coffee – The Price

All in it came to about £20. Not bad.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Empire State Coffee – Final Thoughts

We both thought it was great.

For those of you who don’t make your own pizzas, Empire State Coffee comfortably makes the best ones I’ve had in Dundee.

And yes, that might be controversial considering everyone seems so enamoured by the admittedly decent Pizza NY, but for me, this was better.

Give it a try.


Stuart Reviews Restaurants – The Bach Review (Exchange Court, Dundee)

October 31, 2016

I’m a little bit behind on my restaurant reviews, so I must apologise. I can only imagine those of you holding your breath have died of oxygen starvation…

But next on my travels round the eateries of Dundee is New Zealand restaurant, The Bach (pronounced Batch, which you should know to avoid any embarrassing social faux-pas in the company of Kiwis) in Exchange Court, Dundee.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants – The Bach: The Venue

The first thing to note about The Bach is the venue itself, situated as it is on the top floor of an old flour mill.

A Pretty Daunting Set Of Stairs.

A Pretty Daunting Set Of Stairs.

As far as I can see, there’s no obvious disabled access and a quick google search comes up with a line on their Facebook page confirming that.

Unless they’ve installed a lift since they wrote that, it means that the only way in is to climb the steep flight of stairs to the entrance shown in the picture. That not only precludes those who require disabled access, but also anyone with trouble climbing stairs.

Put simply, unless you’re fit, you’re not getting into The Bach.

Once you get in, it’s a nice enough looking venue with a purposefully minimalist style. The seating was comfortable but the lighting at the table we were sat at left a lot to be desired.

At one side I sat under a bright spotlight, while at the other, Mhairi was almost in complete darkness. I felt as though I was being interrogated.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants – The Bach: The Food

We came for brunch on a Sunday, so the menu was different to what you would expect during the week or if you’re coming for lunch or tea.

Having said that, there was still a decent amount of choice, and though they didn’t have what I had specifically come for – The Mexican Breakfast Burrito – I was pleasantly surprised by their off-menu alternative of mince on toast covered in a poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

I say pleasantly surprised because it’s nice to have the choice of eating something a little bit different.

The dish itself was reasonable enough, but I think they added extra pepper and a hint of chilli to the point where the intended flavours were overpowered.

Mhairi meanwhile went for Gingerbread Waffles with Strawberries and Maple Syrup. She thought they were great, and having convinced her to let me try a bit I can confirm that was the case.

Mince on toast covered in eggs benedict. It was...interesting.

Mince on toast covered in eggs benedict. It was…interesting. Notice the wonderful lighting from the intense spotlight I was sat under.

I think I’d rather have had that than what I ordered.

As a takeaway treat, we each bought a brownie to go.

Now I’m a fair man and believe in only giving honest feedback, otherwise the reviews lose their merit, so I apologise to the chef in case he reads this when I say…

We both agreed that what we got was possibly the worst brownie we’d ever tasted.

Honestly folks, it was just grim. A dry, crumbly husk with dark chocolate chunks that made it bitter.

A brownie should be soft and chewy, perhaps even gooey. This was the opposite.

Thumbs down.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants – The Bach: The Drink

Fresh Orange juices for us both, and thankfully it wasn’t from concentrate.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants – The Bach: The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

Almost everything on the menu with only a few exceptions was suitable for vegetarians and there were also plenty of items for vegans too.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants – The Bach: The Price

All in, it cost £25.50. That’s almost double the price of brunch at the superior Tonic and is more expensive than the vast majority of the places I’ve reviewed.

Let’s be honest, this wasn’t great value.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants – The Bach: Final Thoughts

The only major success story from The Bach was the gingerbread waffles. My food was interesting in theory but not particularly tasty, and brownies were awful. When you add that to potential issues with access, the relative lack of value for money and the discomfort of sitting under a bright light as if I was being interrogated, I just can’t recommend The Bach.


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


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