highland blog

Ed’s Diner

A few months ago one of the shops in the Eastgate Shopping Centre was boarded up and they started work on something new. Eventually signs went up that it was going to be a diner – exciting times. Often I’ll be shopping in town then want lunch around 3pm but many restaurants in town are closed between lunch and dinner so the idea of a diner in the shopping centre made sense to me. I’m all for more places opening up in town – now they just need to start a shorter 1 hour or less parking tariff and attract more people in. We’re getting there. 

  

Ed’s Easy Diner is a UK based chain with almost 50 outlets since the first one opened in Soho in 1987. I have come across Ed’s in other cities, mainly in shopping centres, but had never eaten there so a shopping day with Mr S presented the perfect opportunity. 

  

First impressions were good. We were met at the door by a manager who said that she would get a booth set up for us in five minutes. It was a busy lunchtime and I’d expected a longer wait so my belly was happy. 

Ed’s decor formula is the typical old style American diner look and I think it works for them. They continue the theme to the actual tables, where there are mini jukeboxes that play a range of funky tunes for 20p each. The money made from this goes to the charity Action Against Hunger. 
  

I spent a while looking at the menu before choosing a beef burger over a hot dog or chicken option. My thinking was that the beef burger is the mainstay for an American themed diner so it is what Ed’s should do best. They offer the option of a burger by itself or as a plate that also includes fries, onion rings and coleslaw. We both went for the cheeseburger plate option, one with American cheese and one with cheddar. It appealed to me that you can choose the type of cheese in the cheeseburger- little things that make a difference to my enjoyment. 

We didn’t wait long for our food and the jukebox distracted us anyway. There’s always the open kitchen to watch as well. 
  
On arrival the plates looked good. I had upgraded my meal to have sweet potato fries instead of regular fries because the look of the regular fries on other peoples plates that I had passed hadn’t appealed to me. This probably sounds pernickety but they reminded me of the chips they served in my old high school – which I enjoyed at the time but now expect a higher quality from a restaurant. Mr S said they were fine and I tried one and they were ‘fine’ but who wants that when they eat out? My sweet potato variety were much better – crispy on the outside and soft inside. The coleslaw and onion rings were pretty bog standard but I hadn’t expected homemade from a chain. 

The burger itself was of a good size (you can also upgrade to a large patty) with lettuce and tomato. A regular seeded bun pleases the masses – sadly my preferred brioche bun that holds the burger together better was not an option but I suppose this one is more in keeping with the old American style. The patty itself was a bit disappointing. It definitely did not taste homemade and the meat was too ground down. It just reminded me of a frozen burger that you’d buy in Tesco – flavourless. 

The cheeseburger plate costs £11.30, but due to my upgrade to sweet potato fries mine was £12.80. The location of Ed’s in the shopping centre, and therefore high rent for the business, was always going to bump the price up. On the other hand, diners should feel that they are getting what they pay for & I can’t justify that much money when the burger quality was so sub-standard. It might have worked in 1987 but burger places have improved so much since then & you have to move with the times. 
  

The crowning glory of the visit for me was my strawberry shake. It wasn’t cheap but it’s more of a dessert than a shake, thick with ice cream. It was served half in a glass and half in a steel malt & tasted delicious. The drinks menu also had other favourites of mine such as cherry Coke, root beer, Coke floats and Samual Adams beer. 
  
I was trying to weigh up my opinion of the place and it came down to alternatives for me. Nearby restaurants that offer burgers such as the Heathmount, Mcgonagall’s, Fig & Thistle and Cafe 1 charge around the £10 mark but Ed’s win points on location convenience & all day opening. I wouldn’t return for a burger but if I am in town with someone else who really wants to go to Ed’s then I’ll go back and try a hotdog. 

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I’ve Hopped! : North Hop 2015

You can read my before event piece on North Hop 2015 here if you haven’t already.

North Hop – a beer, gin, food and music mini festival – was THE event in my social calendar this August. It was a chance to go to an exciting, adult only event in Inverness that involved some of my favourite things and, to make it even better, I was going with some of my favourite people. The only fly in the ointment was my abstaining of alcohol due to the imminent appearance of my own little egg but I had taken plenty of tasters along and didn’t rest my feet until after the midnight hour. 

Along with 1500 others, we waited in the queue in anticipation then collected our branded North Hop glasses that came complimentary with your entry ticket. We were all rather confused why we had been given them at the start of the event and not at the end until we went through and realised that these were our tankards to use for the night to sample all the beer.
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We started off downstairs where the main music stage, a host of beer producers and some foodie stalls to feed you through the night were located. Beer could be bought in half pints or schooners (2/3 pint) to allow you to sample as many different ones as possible without ending up on the floor.

First stop was Cromarty Brewing Co as they had developed a special North Hop session IPA with raspberries – a glass of this was included in the ticket price. Mr S billed it as ‘surprisingly nice’ because he’s not usually a fan of beer with a berry type fruity flavour. For someone so serious about beer this is praise indeed. For the record, Cromarty’s beer bottles are regularly found in our fridge & Happy Chappy Pale Ale is one of my favoured tipples so look out for it around the Highlands and even further afield.

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Rock Rose gin from Caithness had also created a limited edition North Hop gin especially for the event. It had notes of strawberry and rhubarb and was delicious. They were selling this along with bottles of their classic gin – something I had seen in bars but not in any shops yet so I treated myself to a bottle for when I can indulge again.

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The world’s oldest brewery, Weihenstephan (Bavarian State Brewery), were at the event to extend the beer selection to further afield. The drinkers loved the tipple and especially how cold it was. At least two of our party said that it was their choice stand of the night.

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Barney’s Beer from Edinburgh was also a hit, especially the Volcano IPA.

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Thistly Cross cider company were there for those who prefer their beverages more appley than hoppy. I arrived prepared with a cider fanatic on hand to be my tester. She reported back that she liked them all and was very happy with the selection but wanted them colder next year (although she did say that was nitpicking and was raving about what a fab night she had).

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Aye Love Real Food was my first nourishment stop of the night because I couldn’t walk past the scotch eggs a minute longer. I chose one with black pudding and it came with a dollop of mustard mayo. The egg had retained its slightly soft centre and there was a substantial meat layer to keep me going – wonderful. It could only have been made better by slightly heating it up and I’m sure they’d sell more this way in the future.

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The Lochness Inn at Drumnadrochit were also there, selling Highland Crispy Beef. This was a hit with our party – tasty and as crispy as promised with the added crunch of veg. I tried some early on but when I went back later it had changed from beef to chicken so I got to sample both. After trying their fayre at North Hop, I’ll be making a trip out soon to sample their menu.
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The beer was in full flow and I even had a little sample of my favourite Drygate Outaspace Apple Ale – I can’t wait until I’m allowed a whole bottle of this again! As former Dennistoun residents, we are well acquainted with Drygate’s other offerings – Bearface Lager and Gladeye IPA – and if you haven’t tried them yet then you should. Preferably in their lovely bar/brewery in Glasvegas but anywhere would do really as long as they are cold.

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Wooha’s wheat beer went down well, as did St Andrews Eden Mill Bunker IPA, Six Degrees North, Loch Ness Brewery, Fyne Ales and all of Windswept Brewing Co’s lot.

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Fresh revolution were offering a few dishes on the night and my group tasted the Thai curry and the meatball sub. The sub was fantastic and the Thai curry was super flavoursome but needed more veg. My biggest regret of the night was not getting a mackerel fish cake, which I am sure would have been delicious.

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Upstairs had more of a feminine touch with tables decked out with gin centrepieces and the music stage hosting softer acoustic sets.
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I loved watching 10 Dollar Shake making up their selection of cocktails using the finest gins and they had even concocted some beer cocktails for the weekend. They adapted one for me into a mocktail and it was as lovely as it could be minus the gin!

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Later on I sampled another mocktail from Berry Good that was also tasty and served in a prosecco glass – bonus. Next year I’ll be drinking their mini bottles of actual prosecco with a straw!
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Also upstairs (but out on the balcony) were Aberdonians The Adelphi Kitchen barbeque-ing sausages to go with Angus & Oink sauces. The very spicy sausages were a hit with the boys, as were the sauces, but the white sliced bread and tortilla chips were strange accompaniments that could definitely be improved upon.

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Also with a prime balcony spot was La Tortilla Asesina, a local restaurant serving up freshly made paella. It’s one of my favourite places in Sneck so we had to have a bowl. We had actually already been to La Tortilla before North Hop as we used it as our meeting place. Warming up our tummies with boquerones and Estrella (Galacia 0,0% for moi) can never be a bad start to a night.
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With upstairs going for the decadent feel, downstairs was decked out like a barn with hay bale seats. This was a great way to make it feel outdoorsy without having to rely on Scottish weather for the night to go ahead. It also provided somewhere to listen to the musicians gracing the stage whilst sampling all the event had to offer.
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Not all the beer was for drinking on the night and a few breweries, such as Eden Mill, had take home packs. I wish I’d bought a few of these as presents now. North Hop should do a special Christmas event for me to get all of my presents for the grown ups!
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Brewdog kept us amused with their novel advertising ‘tattoos’ to brand us… something to make you smile the morning after. Along with their chilled Jack Hammer and Hop Fiction, they were a hit with my lot at the festival.

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Poporopo popcorn also stood out for my non-drinking-but-eating-everything-in-sight self and I sampled the lot. The sea salt and peanut butter flavours were my favourites from this luxury popcorn brand and I came home with the sea salt (not that there’s much left now, nom nom).

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Tipplebox were there showing off their mail order cocktail making kits that would be good for birthday presents. The stall was busy when we arrived so they are obviously going down well.
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The Storehouse at Foulis had a large selection of gin, vodka and other bottles for those thinking of taking home momentos or adding to their spirit collection. The skulls were attracting all the attention and I had to stop myself from buying everything.

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Rebel Tattoos had made the trip from Aberdeen and were selling custom artwork as well as chatting about their tattoo skills.
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Ovenbird’s ‘in coffee we trust’ slogan couldn’t have been more true for me as it gave me the energy to last the night. I stepped away from the decaf and the Foreigner (flat white) pinged me back to life like only a good coffee can. My tasters of the Bad Girl Bakery cupcakes said they went very well with the coffee. I’ll be looking out for the gin and tonic cakes next year as they’d sold out by the time I got to them.
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I liked that the event had enough people to create a buzz but that it wasn’t packed so full that you had to wait an age to get served and were squashed up like sardines. It was pretty much sold out and I think that the number of tickets allowed per session was spot on for maximum enjoyment.

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Our beer gaggle’s award for beer of the night was a tie between Cromarty Brewing Co’s AKA IPA, Six Degrees North Wanderlust Wheat and Weihenstephan’s ice cold Hefeweiss. A special mention also has to go to Brewdog’s guest beer, Mikkeller Pale Ale Swindle, for being so gluggable.

All of us loved the night at North Hop and the general consensus was that it exceeded our expectations. It was a refreshing change from the usual weekend events and I’d be a contented lady to see more like this in Inverness.  As long as it was well promoted to spread the word, I feel that there is a buoyant market for it. We left as Happy Chappy’s indeed.

Thanks for reading. To keep Highland Foodie going, you can support & follow this blog by clicking on the ‘follow blog by e-mail’ button for more Highland posts (I won’t send you spam and don’t post that regularly so won’t clog up your inbox).

More photos if you haven’t had enough-

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Thumbs up for the sausage roll but it would have been nicer warm

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Paella from La Tortilla Asesina

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The Adelphi Kitchen’s Spicy BBQ sausage

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Couper’s Creek Cromarty 


Cromarty has fast become one of my favourite day off drives since returning to the homeland. I originally fell for its quaint character and houses with tiny doors on the shore and then I was further drawn in by their eateries, gift shops, Cromarty Bakery and arty feel to the place. I just love it.

My ideal drive down this way involves lunch, the bakery and Rosemarkie beach on the way back – maybe even Chanonry Point for some dolphin spotting. 

Coupers Creek Cafe is right in the hub of Cromarty on Church Street, one of those tiny streets. If you are taking anyone with mobility problems then I’d consider dropping them off and then parking the car than the other way around. That applies to most places in Cromarty!

We settled at one of their cute tables and both ordered teas. I’ve had Suki Tea before and really like it – you can’t beat a nice cuppa and a catch up.

The first food to arrive was a peri peri roasted chicken panini with Swiss cheese and sesame mixed greens. I never tasted it but, judging the contented noises across the table, I’d say it was a positive report. A clean plate at the end further emphasised this. £7.50 is not cheap for a panini and salad but the portion was on the large size and they seem to use quality ingredients – I’d much rather pay a little bit extra for this than get something substandard.

My lunch choice was a panini filled with Tain cheddar and seasonal chutney with watercress (£5). The cheese was gorgeous, a proper cheddar loaded with flavour and the chutney was equally tasty with sweet and tangy notes. The accompanying salad (maybe they were out of watercress?) had a lovely sesame oil dressing on it to liven up the leaves.

My lunch date selected a lemon and lime cake from the daily specials cabinet. I was reliably informed that it goes well with a cuppa.

I was eager to try their ice-cream and ended up with the toffee and tablet sundae. They had overdone the skooshy cream on top so it took a while to get through to the good stuff – but when I did it was very good indeed. I’d recommend it if you have a sweet tooth.

After our relaxing lunch we perused the local gifts that they have on sale and bought a couple of wee things before a wander around Cromarty.

I’ll definitely be back to Coupers Creek & have visited their sister venue, Sutors Creek, too. Both of them are worth a visit if you’re in the area or would even warrant a drive down that way.

Culloden House Afternoon Tea

 


Back at the end of February, we went to Culloden House Hotel for afternoon tea as part of a girly day ahead of my sister having her baby. We had been to see Laura Sim at The Gallery for pedicures beforehand so were feeling all relaxed & ready for food. 

I’m not doing a lengthy review on our afternoon tea at Culloden House Hotel but couldn’t not do a quick post with some photos as it is my favourite place in the Highlands for it. 
 

 

Hats off to their patisserie chef – what a talented individual. They always present us with the freshest, tastiest dainty treats that look so pretty. 

We started with the traditional sandwiches (no crusts here!), which were a selection of roast beef, ham & egg if my memory serves me correctly. This was swiftly followed by a scone that is served with jam and cream. The homemade cream-filled meringues were delicious and set us up nicely for the work of art that was a chocolate caramel slice. It was delicious. 

By that point we were onto the gluttony stage but the top layer was still to be tackled and we weren’t leaving without a fight. Tea was refilled & toilet trips taken – you could easily get lost in the wonder of the venue with its grand decor when returning. It is a beautiful place to visit & they encourage you to walk round the gardens when the weather is nice. They have even shown us some rooms before so don’t hesitate to ask. 

Back to the matter in hand, their little flapjack style nibbles are tremendous & have the perfect gooey but still holding together balance. Finally, a raspberry mousse was sweet yet tangy and the perfect finish. 
 

 

If you are doing the tourist trail, you’ll find the hotel near to Culloden Battlefield & Clava on the east of Inverness. It also can be reached by bus or ten minutes in a taxi. Afternoon tea must always be booked ahead so that they can make the delicious cakes. 

I sound like I’m doing advertising for them but I can assure you that I’m not affiliated with the company or have received anything for this! I want the place to do well because I’d be very sad if it was no longer there to visit & because it’s often overlooked due to being further out of the centre. 

Not long before my pre-baby afternoon tea will be due and I’ll be enjoying every minute of the peace and relaxing while I can. 

You can read about a previous visit to Culloden House Hotel for afternoon tea here on my other blog, Girl Around Glasgow. 

The Classroom Bistro In Nairn 

For me, moving back to Inverness had some clear positives. One of these is that there are some beautiful beaches within half an hours drive to spend days off at and Nairn fits this bill perfectly. From the *squeaky voice* cute fishermans house with tiny doors to the play parks along the front, Nairn is somewhere I’ve spent many a day running around sand dunes, braving the chilled Scottish water, trying not to drop my ice-cream on the zip line, browsing little shops and finishing the day with a beachfront chippy from Friar Tucks. I’m not sure if my sister has yet realised that they have knocked the arcade down because there could be tears when she shows up with her supply of two & five pences to no slots. 

Since my old Nairn days, the Classroom Bistro has opened and I’d heard good things so we were off to try it out en-route to the beach.

 

The visit started with a low point – two female front of house team members walked right past us at the door without acknowledging us. A simple ‘hello, be with you in a second’ would have made us feel welcome & know that someone would be over. People seating themselves in restaurants is my bugbear, but if I didn’t work in a restaurant to know it is not acceptable practice, I would have done it on this occasion. Thankfully, a polite young man was more customer focused and took us in. 

The decor inside is modern (there were too many other diners in to take photos) and you’d be mistaken for forgetting that you’re in Nairn. Luckily, I could still order fish and chips to remind me. We both ordered off the lunch menu (I don’t think that the full menu runs at lunchtime) and shared our dishes. The lunch menu is not too big but this is generally a good sign to me because lots of dishes generally mean that they aren’t made in-house. There was a pasta, baguette, steak, burger, soup and a couple of salad options so nothing too crazy but using some imagination in the toppings. If it had been a colder day then I’d have been straight for the Cullen Skink but I was far too hot for a soup on this occasion. As well as the aforementioned fish and chips, the Cajun chicken burger was selected.

The fish batter had a satisfying crunch when you bit into it and the fish was nice & soft inside without being overcooked, and didn’t go soggy after I squeezed the lemon wedge on top. I don’t think the chips were homemade but they had a good balance between being soft inside with crisp shells. The tartare sauce was effective in its grease-cutting job but I wanted more sour notes from it for my palate – more gherkin perhaps. I particularly liked that it was served with a dressed side salad to freshen the whole dish up – in winter, peas are always my preferred choice but as a daytime summer dish the salad was ideal.

 

 

The Cajun chicken burger was served with the same chips and dressed salad as the fish was, as well as a mayo. The chicken itself was nicely blackened and had a spiced flavour but wasn’t especially spicy – a pleasing all rounder that people of different spice abilities could choose. Maybe they could serve it with a spicier Cajun style dip on the side for those who like the cayenne and peppery notes that Cajun offers. My only real criticism is that the bun wasn’t toasted so went a bit soggy halfway through but we both like the dish nevertheless.
 

  
No desserts were ordered as we had our sights set on beachside 99 cones so we paid up & the lovely young man serving us made a genuine effort to chat and check that we had a positive experience. The extensive cocktail menu on the table makes me want to return at night so take note Nans… a Nairn girly festive night out may be on the cards.

North Hop Inverness 2015

 

 After seeing photos of the massively successful North Hop Aberdeen 2015 on social media, I’m now very excited about North Hop Inverness 2015! 

For those of you who haven’t been before, North Hop is a celebration of craft beer, gin, local food, music and cocktails. Ahh, so many of my favourite things! 
There will be local musicians on stage to tap your feet to whilst trying out new craft beers or artisan gin from one of the bars. Luckily the beer hall is inside but outside themed so you don’t need to get your wellies and raincoat on unless you fancy the outside terrace. 

 

 There will be food stalls to eat your way around such as Spanish delights from La Tortilla Asesina, Aye Love Real Food’s artisan fayre (can’t wait for a scotch egg), The Loch Ness Inn with shredded chilli beef pots and more, The Adelphi Kitchen (think BBQ & meat), Poporopo popcorn & Fresh Revolution street food. 

 

Big Boozy names in attendance:

Bavarian State Brewery, Weihenstephan (the worlds oldest brewery)

Cromarty Brewing Co

Brewdog

Loch Ness Cider

Thistly Cross Cider

Eden Mill Distillery & Brewery

Windswept Brewing Co

Six Degrees North

Loch Ness Brewery

Drygate Brewing Co

Fyne Ales 

10 Dollar Shake

Berry Good 

Cairn O Mohr 

Rebel Tattoo studio (custom artwork)

Wooha Brewing Co

Ovenbird Artisan Coffee Roasters

Stacey Hannah Chocolates

Bad Girl Bakery
Betty Booth will also be there to take silly snaps of you and your friends to remember the day. 

 
  

The 1500 strong event will run on Friday the 21st of August from 6pm until midnight & will have two sessions on Saturday the 22nd – 12pm until 6pm and 7pm until 1am. Tickets cost £15 per session and include a branded North Hop glass, beer token and programme. 

Tickets can be purchased through the North Hop website http://www.northhop.co.uk or Eden Court box office (01463 234234). Strictly over 18’s only. 

Cafe 1 Take 1 

Cafe 1 piqued my curiosity after several recommendations and being told that it’s owned by a chef. Then I looked at their website & I saw that they rear their own Hebridean sheep & Highland cows to use in some of the dishes *swoons*. Is this the place I’ve been looking for up here? We ended up going in for an impromptu midweek meal to see. 

First impressions were positive – coming in to the restaurant facing the bar was a great element of design as it allows staff to instantly greet customers in the ‘hive’ of the restaurant. Decor is simple and we were sat at the back in a romantic little corner. Low lighting added to the effect but meant that my photos came out rubbish, can’t have it all!

After deciding on red meat for mains, the wine list was studied. They do reds ranging from £15 to £175 so it’s fair to say there’s a good selection. 

Quite boring but we chose the same starter, it sounded too good a special to miss. Roast partridge, chicken liver pâté, crouton, Marsala sauce and watercress – reads epically but could they pull it off? In short, yes. 

The partridge was flavourful, not dry and boosted by the rich pate whilst the watercress gave a freshness to cut through this. Most importantly for me, (personal bugbear time) the Marsala sauce was both savoury and sweet. It was a sauce for a dish like this and not a dessert. 

This is my favourite Inverness starter so far. I would happily order two of these with potatoes next time I go and that would be me content. 

  

In a strange turn of events at main course ordering time, I had singled out the fillet steak & Mr S had elected the lamb to fill his tummy. 

The garlic and thyme rump of lamb (£16) was nice & pink so we were off to a pleasing start. It came with rosemary sautéed potatoes but there was not enough for the amount of lamb so Mr S ordered a portion of chips that arrived just as he was finishing them. The haggis bon-bons were lovely with the lamb and some of the red wine jus. Carrot ribbons, sun-blushed tomatoes and spinach lent a hand but it was the meat that stole the show.

 

I had heard glowing reports on their steaks and their description and accompaniments sold it to me. I can’t lie, it was the duxelle (Or duxelles) that reeled me in. A duxelle is a fancy word for very finely chopped mushroom, onion, shallot and herbs that are slowly cooked in butter until they are soft and intense. Mushroom duxelle immediately leaped out of the menu and I wanted the steak. 

My Aberdeen Angus fillet steak (£24) was massive, not that I’m complaining. Mr S was gleeful when it arrived, knowing that I’d never finish that much so he could have some. Steak and duxelle are a delicious and long-term marriage that should never split up & I loved it. The crisp fried potatoes also went well, as did the spinach and shallots. Pepper sauce wasn’t too overpowering and was perfect for my taste but, as a personal preference, I like my steak sauce in a jug so I can decide when & where to put it. 

 

 

I was stuffed and now regretting telling Mr S about how the Cafe 1 Malteser crepes are famous in the Highlands. He was ordering one and I knew a spoon was coming my way. I wanted something sweet to accompany it, so we ordered a couple of glasses of Sauternes dessert wine. 

The crepe (£6.50) arrived and we took our time starting so that we could wait for the dessert wine. I couldn’t see any staff nearby to ask so it must have been busy. After a while the ice-cream was melting so we had to eat the gooey, sweet dessert that is worth its fame. I nipped down to the bar & cancelled the dessert wines and this was the only time during the meal that I felt a bit disappointed. The service besides that was attentive and friendly, with the dessert wine thing probably being more of an organisational error. 

 

We left Cafe 1 delighted that we’d found another go to place and have since been back. Definitely one to recommend. 

Highland Aspendos Turkish Feast

I have a huge appreciation of Greek & Turkish food after going to Greece last year. If there’s anyone that knows how to cook simple but do it very well, it’s them. You think that the lamb skewers sound basic then they arrive & you can tell that it’s been skilfully marinated in lemon, oregano and other beautiful flavours. And the dips are fantastic and the seafood out of this world. 

Inverness only has one restaurant that fits the bill, unless there’s others hiding. Aspendos is a Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant on Queensgate next to the post office. 

We almost never made it here because I’d tried phoning all the day before to book but no-one was answering or it was engaged, and they don’t have an online booking system. I know from working in a restaurant not to phone at peak times (taking a booking at 8pm on a Saturday night for a week in advance when you have a full restaurant waiting for service is a nightmare for a restaurant worker!) but I tried about 8 times to no avail. Luckily I popped in on the off chance but I hope they don’t lose a lot of business from such things happening. 

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The mixed mezze menu would have appealed but my cousin is a bit fussier than me so we chose from the lunch menu instead. 

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Starters were decided on – mucver and meze tabagi – and they brought us complimentary bread and dips whilst we waited. 

I’m guessing that the bread was homemade & it was wonderful. The soft, warm and herby bread tastes delicious topped with some creamy cheese dip or tomatoey number.

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Mucver arrived looking like rosti cakes dolloped with yoghurt. They were crispy on the outside and full of flavour, I’d order this again.

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The meze arrived with cacik, humus, tarama salata & what I think was maydonoz salatasi and kozlenmis pathican. Cacik is similar to tsatziki, humus is chickpea dip and tarama salata is fish pate. The more acidic maydonoz salatasi lifted the creamy flavours (a tabbouleh parsley salad with tomato, onion, olive oil and lemon juice) and the kozlenmis pathican (roasted aubergine, peppers, parsley, garlic & olive oil) complemented it. 

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Main courses arrived and I was lacking in stomach space already. The tavuk sis across the table from me was marinated chicken with rice and salad. Exactly what I mean about simple done well. I tasted it and my only criticism is that I like lots of fresh oregano on my meat and there wasn’t, but this is purely a personal observation. 

They also came out and offered their homemade chilli sauce – just say yes (delicious!). 

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My mantarli karides guvec arrived as a baked pot of prawns, mushrooms, green pepper, garlic, onion, aspendos sauce and cheese. Again, the flavours were all there and there were plenty of  tiny prawns. I would have preferred a smaller portion of this and some rice to accompany it instead to soak up the lovely sauce. There were so many prawns that I couldn’t finish it as a dish alone. 

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Having decided not to have a dessert, we were somehow convinced into sharing a ‘small’ one (not a hard job really!). 

Classic baklava was gooey and nutty. When it arrived it looked a small-ish portion but it’s so rich you wouldn’t want any more.

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Aspendos isn’t a fancy looking place, but that lends itself to making you feel at home and comfortable. The service is friendly and polite. It would be a good place for a friends get together as a group. Our trip to Aspendos was one we enjoyed so much that I’ve been back since with Mr S. I had to go back for the bread, dips & chilli sauce alone. 

How Contrasting Was Contrast?

Let me set the scene; it was lashing down with rain, stormy and cold, the streets were pretty empty. We practically ran from the High Street along the river to Contrast Brasserie in the upscale Glenmoriston Hotel. A friendly man greeted us at reception and took our coats before whisking us off to the warm, inviting & cosy restaurant. There’s nothing better than escaping a cold, wet night. It was an encouraging start to our meal at Contrast.

The dining room is beautiful – rich, warm tones made us feel relaxed in our surroundings.

The pre-theatre menu had four starter choices but we both opted for pate based on the fact that we’d never make it at home. It was served with granary bread (only one slice but the staff were pro-active in offering more), apricot chutney and dressed leaves. I like a bit of salad with my pate so I was happy. The pate itself needed seasoning and perhaps some herbs or something to lift it.

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Loin of pork, caramelised watermelon, pont neuf potatoes & mustard sauce was overcooked for our taste. The watermelon didn’t blend with the dish & the caramelisation was lost on us but the potatoes were lovely. A mixed bag really.

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My seabream fillet with green olive & herb potato cake, saffron espana and chorizo oil sounded amazing. The fish was cooked well – the skin wasn’t crispy but I never eat the skin anyway. I just wanted more flavour – seasoning on the fish before cooking, more olives & herbs in the potato, more chorizo oil (or the fish cooked in it) and more saffron espana. The espana was like a foam so melted as I was eating.

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There were two waitresses on and they seemed to be helping each other to ensure a successful service. We couldn’t help but listen in as the table next to us wanted to taste the steak sauce before ordering it. She explained that they use the meat juices during cooking to make it but he wasn’t happy. They had already been difficult with her & I really wanted to step in. Never off duty!

The sticky toffee sundae with meringue, caramel sauce and chantilly cream was nice.

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My chocolate fondant (not on the pre-theatre menu) had the richness that it should and I enjoyed it.

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The dining room decor and the service were both spot on but the flavours were too delicate for our palates. Their website states that they use simple flavours – it is on brief in a way but I wanted the simple flavours to sing.

Have you been to Contrast? What did you think? Comment below…