Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Lochlands Mill (Dundee Rd, Forfar)

March 5, 2017

It’s been pretty quiet on the restaurant review front lately, for which I apologise.

In recent weeks I’ve spent more time going back to places I’d already eaten, so there hasn’t been much to talk about.

But today I ventured further afield to try somewhere new; Lochlands Mill, just outside of Forfar.

The Venue

Well it took us a while to get their thanks to my car’s shitty sat nav, which suggested I drive across a barrier on the A90, but once we finally – and quite by accident – ended up in the right place, we were met with a

The burger was superb

The burger was superb

nice restaurant.

Rather oddly combining as a pet rehabilitation centre and jewellery store, Lochlands Mill looks quite new and has a fresh design.

It’s not the biggest place in the world, and we were lucky to get the last available table, but once we were in it was clean and comfortable.

The waiting staff were pleasant and were happy to offer recommendations on what to get from the menu.

The Food

While Mhairi went for the Soup & Sandwich combo of Lentil & Vegetable soup and an Egg Mayo & Chive open sandwich, I took the waitress’s recommendation of their home-made burger with bbq sauce and onion rings served on a brioche bun ahead of the Roast of the Day or the Steak & Ale Pie.

She recommended well.

I like to think I’m a good judge of a burger, and sometimes I feel disappointed. There are some places that apparently specialise in their burgers – like Rascals in St. Andrews for example – that don’t actually make good burgers.  What they do is try to hide the bland and substandard flavour of their ready-made meat patty with all the wild and wacky toppings available, as if they are more important.

But this burger was different. I could tell that it was freshly made just before it was served, with its rough, uneven shape, and while I’ll be honest and say I’d have preferred it a little less well done, it had a robust

Apparently the open sandwich had the perfect blend of egg to mayonaisse

Apparently the open sandwich had the perfect blend of egg to mayonaisse

flavour. The onion ring was also well cooked and not greasy, which complimented it nicely along with the Applewood smoked cheddar.

Mhairi also enjoyed her food, with the soup being declared light to eat but filling, while the sandwich was considered to have the perfect ratio of egg to mayonnaise.

High praise indeed.

The Drink

Plenty of variety of soft drink, but it won’t come as a surprise to know I went for a lemonade. Shocking, eh? Mhairi veered off the well beaten path though and elected for an Irn Bru.

The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

It should be noted that both the Beer Kitchen and the Meat House in Dundee were considered for today’s lunch but had very little for vegetarians. While I’m sure that’s exactly the most shocking revelation from a place called The Meat House, it actually had far more choice than the Beer Kitchen.

Anyway, there were both light and main options for the carrot munchers at Lochlands Mill, so there were no complaints in that department.

The Price

All in, it came to £21.10, which isn’t bad at all. In fact, Mhairi’s meal only amounted to £6.50 which really is pretty good.

Final Thoughts

A top quality burger, a clean and comfortable venue and plenty choice for vegetarians means this is one place we’ll definitely be going back to soon.

I’d probably book a table in advance though as I think we were pretty lucky to get a table.

 

 


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.


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: The West Port Bar & Kitchen (St. Andrews)

November 9, 2016

The warning sign was there…

When I asked someone who works in St. Andrews whether or not The West Port Bar & Kitchen in the town was any good, the reply was ‘Meh, it’s ok I suppose’.

That pretty much sums it up.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The West Port Bar & Kitchen – The Venue.

To be fair to The West Port Bar & Kitchen, it’s a nice, clean building, designed in a style befitting the town of St. Andrews – i.e. quite posh.

The apparent 'Reuben'

The apparent ‘Reuben’

I could have no complaints about where we were sat, the noise levels or the comfort of the chairs. That was all fine.

But the service wasn’t great.

Though we were seated, had our orders taken and were served pretty quickly, the real letdown was that our waitress never bothered to clear our plates away when we were finished or ask us if we wanted dessert. Even when we put our plates to the end of the table in a mild display of passive aggression in an attempt to grab her attention, she just kept ignoring us.

What that did was turn us off our plan of getting desserts, so when a different waitress finally came to clear the table and ask if we wanted anything else, we’d decided not to bother.

So that cost them money in the short-term, and also put us off coming back.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The West Port Bar & Kitchen – The Food

Another aspect to mark it down on was the food.

Mhairi went for a Brie and Cranberry Sauce baguette, which you’d think would be simple enough to make work, but alas it was not to be. Essentially what she got was a baguette with salad and a bit of cranberry in

A lot of effort went into this Brie and Cranberry Sauce baguette

A lot of effort went into this Brie and Cranberry Sauce baguette

it, and then some slices of brie places on top. Surely when you order a baguette with a filling of your choice, you want your filling to ‘fill’ the baguette? She also felt that it could also have done with being served warm.

I meanwhile went for the Reuben Sandwich. You don’t get this American delicacy on the menu in too many restaurants in this neck of the woods, so it was the main reason I was happy to give the West Port a try.

And though the description didn’t follow the traditional style of the dish – in that replaced some of the core ingredients with pulled bbq beef, mustard and wholemeal bread – it still looked good on paper.

Alas it wasn’t well cooked. The beef was dry, the bread was just two pieces of toast without butter, the cheese was minimal and the mustard was non-existent. I had to smother it in mayonnaise to give it a bit of moisture.

The fries were also devoid of taste as well.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The West Port Bar & Kitchen – The Drinks

Again, it’s two lemonades, and they were fine.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The West Port Bar & Kitchen – The Vegetarians Viewpoint

The West Port Bar & Kitchen offers a wide range of vegetarian options, including a nice range of choice in their Healthy Eats range.

If you’re not a fan of the sausage, there’s plenty here to choose from.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The West Port Bar & Kitchen – The Price

All in all it came to £17, which is on the cheaper end of the scale. But then again we did just order sandwiches.

Stuart Reviews Restaurants: The West Port Bar & Kitchen – Final Thoughts

As we walked past plenty of other restaurants that looked great, we came to regret going to the West Port Bar & Kitchen.

It just wasn’t very good.

On the plus side, I was inspired to make my own Reuben Sandwich for lunch yesterday, and that was amazing.

So I’ll at least take some comfort from that…


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: 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.

Boom.

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

display.

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.