highland foodie

Jocktoberfest – a barrel of fun 

Ten years ago I went to my first festival. Ten whole years ago- that makes me feel so old! I remember all of the planning- buying an 85 litre rucksack and a camp stove, buying as much cheap booze as we could and getting my wellies on. Most of all, I remember the bubble that we were in when we were there. You become so immersed in your surroundings that you almost forget about the world outside for a weekend and feel totally de-stressed. Dancing and singing in a field makes you feel free, there’s no doubt about it. I love it.

Last month we nipped over to Jocktoberfest and found ourselves back in that place again – feeling free and… singing and dancing in a pile of hay. Jocktoberfest has been going on for a few years now but this was the first time I went. It runs in September every year at Black Isle Brewery and pays homage to good beer, music and food.

They sell tickets by the weekend instead of by the day but they are incredibly good value at £35pp (under 13s go free). We just went for the day but next year I think we’ll do the whole weekend, ideally in a campervan if we can get hold of one.

The first thing that struck me when we arrived was how many children were there-maybe about 15-20 or so. Very family friendly. This isn’t the kind of festival for a group of 18 year old lads to get smashed, create a mosh pit and get rowdy so if that’s you then don’t bother showing up. It’s about appreciating some fantastic live music whilst drinking a craft beer and eating an organic lamb burger. It’s a festival for grown ups, some with kids to tag along. 

We started at the bar, where there was an impressive beer selection to work our way around. My favourite was Anything Gose followed by Goldeneye ale. For non beer drinkers they had cider, wine and a few spirits.

We then lined our tummies for the night ahead by sharing some pizza and a lamb burger. Woodburns Sourdough pizzas had a little wood burning oven to freshly make pizza and you created your own toppings.

The lamb burgers were Black Isle Brewery’s own using their own lambs and we’re full of flavour and juicy. Both were perfect for a night of beer and dancing.

Then it was time for the music to start. Calum Jones, a Scottish 17 year old, put on a superb set and we were mightily impressed. Of course we got our dance on! Definitely a name to look out for in the future.

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It’s not a big festival, and on the Friday night there was just one stage then two on the Saturday. I liked how intimate it felt with being so small and how close everything was. There was plenty of sheltered space if it had rained too.

Weekend Set List 2017

Ho-Ro really brought it with the Jock vibe with a modern upbeat ceilidh style set. Perfect for dancing round in the hay lined barn and the atmosphere was amazing.

We even managed to get a first dance arranged for a couple that had got married that day. Everyone created a circle and it was a lovely touching moment feeling the festival love.

For Jocktoberfest there was less prep, but all of the atmosphere that we could have hoped for. We stepped into that bubble for the night and loved every minute of it. It was a whimsical and free night with some pretty damn good beer, food and music. I felt like I’d stepped back to being young again, not a bad thing once in a while. See you next year.

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Corner On The Square Beauly

Often my favourite places up here are outside of the city centre. Maybe it’s because a drive makes me hungry and it feels like a whole day out. It also stirs up memories of family days out when I was growing up. Spending proper family time together and going for adventures. I’m trying to keep up the tradition with my little squidge on the rare days that both Mr S and I are off. 

The Beauly/Muir of Ord road isn’t too far away (about half an hour from Inverness) and has a few nice places, one of them being Corner on the Square cafe in Beauly. 

  

I like Beauly as it has little shops & we can pick up dinner in the butchers and greengrocers. How I miss greengrocers from living in Glasgow – this is an unfortunate thing about living in ‘Tesco town’. 

Corner on the Square also has a fab deli counter and shop so you can get a selection of cheese, meat, olives, wine, crackers, tea/coffee, jars and so on. 

  

Greek food is my favourite so I chose the mezze platter (£7.50). It came with griddled halloumi, roasted red peppers, pitted olives, houmous of the day, dressed salad and bread. I enjoyed all of the picky bits, and it was especially easy to eat with a baby to keep still. Bread served with it is from Cromarty Bakery and delicious. It was also a bonus to get a proper salad with no iceberg & a tasty dressing. My only criticism is that I felt that the houmous was lacking in garlic. 

I’ve previously had their soup and it was excellent so I’d recommend that too. 

  

They have a large cake and pudding selection so it’s a good choice if you have a sweet tooth. We had a chocolate brownie (taste-wise delicious but could have been softer and more brownie gooey) and a cake (yummy), and I’ve also tried their traybakes and they get the thumbs up. 

  

So if the sun is shining in that direction get in the car and go! 

And don’t forget the butcher and greengrocer on the way back.

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Service with a smile at La Taverna Aviemore 


It makes such a difference to me what the staff are like in a restaurant. It can be the difference of going somewhere because of convenience or making a trip especially. I understand that you can get a sudden rush or be understaffed, and I make allowances for it, but it’s the friendliness that changes everything. Waiting in a busy place is not an easy job but some people are just naturally good at it and put you at ease. Luckily, I’ve found some gems in this category recently. 

Friends of mine kept recommending La Taverna restaurant on the edge of Aviemore but it has such tough competition nearby that I never seemed to get there until last year. Now it’s our favourite place in Aviemore! 


Decor is old school traditional Italian even although the outside looks like a big ski lodge. It has an informal feel, which is probably to do with many of their clientele coming straight off the slopes or from doing watersports. Until March this year we had only visited in the daytime but I can now attest that the nighttime clientele were mainly sporty ones or tourists looking to rest those weary feet. 

Keeping on the informal lines, they do a buffet both at lunchtime and at night, as well as their a la carte menu. I’ve had an a la carte meal once because I wanted to try the seafood spaghetti (delicious) but the buffet is so convenient for us with a toddler. 

They serve a selection of pizza, pasta and salad, and in the evening it includes dessert. We generally visit right at the start of lunch and they always ask what pizzas we like and make things that we want on there – gold star for customer service. 

Then there’s the pastas, at least four on at a time. Little L favours the creamy pesto one and macaroni cheese while my go to is the tomato and chicken. 

Salad isn’t just the normal buffet affair. The orzo salad is my favourite and they have plenty of olives to keep L happy. There’s a few pasta salads, beetroot salad, the normal leaves, a tomato salad, bean salad, coleslaw and more. 

Sometimes we’ll order ice-cream to share afterwards under the pretence that we’re doing it for the child. Think what you will but it’s nice ice-cream. 

La Taverna should be eternally grateful to their staff because, ultimately, that’s why we keep going back and I’m sure we’re not the only ones. I’d describe the service as relaxed, genuine and cheerful. They always greet us with a smile, even the chefs if they are about. The fact that the chefs say bye if they are out front tending to the buffet says it all. How many places does that happen in? 

Thai Dining Flies The Flag In Inverness 

After finding two Thai restaurants that we loved in Glasgow (Thai Siam & Thai Lemongrass), I was really rooting for Thai Dining to fly the flag for Inverness. Conveniently located on Academy Street in the centre, it is handy for an after work meal or parking at Rose Street at night. Not to mention it’s less than five minutes to Black Isle Bar for a pre-dinner drink. And it’s near Miele’s for a sneaky ice-cream after. 
We decided to ask our favourite Thai experts, my folks, to come with us to see if it was going to live up to our expectations. 

The starters arrived, with prawn Chub Pang Tod (£6.95) kicking us off. That’s king prawn tempura to me and you. Firstly, the presentation of the plate was superb – so pretty and appetising. Mr S was a bit unsure of them being breadcrumbed instead of in a usual tempura batter but I quite liked the change. Maybe a detail to put on the menu though. The sweet chilli dip provided some welcome sweetness and zing. 

My Satay Gai (£5.95) was another beautifully presented starter. Succulent, marinated chicken with a rich peanut dip and refreshing cucumber relish- an accomplished attempt at satay that I’ll order again. 

My veg loving mum chose the Por Pia Tod (vegetable spring rolls), which came with a sweet chilli dip (£5.95). They were crispy on the outside and the veg was soft enough inside without becoming mushy. 


The first of the main courses was Pad Khing (£12.95). This was a stir-fry dish full of ginger, spring onions, mushrooms and other veg. It was really tasty, so tasty that I didn’t get to try too much because it wasn’t my dish! I also liked that with this dish, as well as many others, you can choose whether you wanted it with chicken, duck, pork, veg, prawn or beef depending what would go with the sauce. 


My pick was the chicken Pad Thai (£11.95) because pre-made sauces always taste rubbish so I don’t bother buying them & my one at home is not a patch on restaurant quality. I also got to have peanuts, which is a rarity when you live with a nut allergy sufferer. My dish was packed to the brim with flavour as I was hoping it would be. With an almost caramelised taste from wok cooking, the marinated chicken contrasted well with the crunchy beansprouts and spring onions. The peanuts gave a lovely crunch too. 

We’d been having an excellent run of it so something had to go wrong and unfortunately it was Mr S & his pork laab (£11.95). The dish had two chillies next to it on the menu to indicate its spice level but I think it should have at least three. Either that or the chef accidentally got chilli happy. With less chilli it could be a delicious dish but our taste buds were numb after a mouthful. 

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The Gaeng Penang curry (£11.95) on the other hand was gorgeous. Also with a two chillies spice level, the dish was expertly balanced between being spicy, tasty and creamy. Creamy coconut milk with a tangy thai sauce coated the chicken and the veg still had a nice bite to it. Kaffir lime leaves completed the dish. 

The staff at Thai Dining were incredible with our daughter, who loved them, and helped us to feel relaxed and enjoy our meal. What fantastic service. 

Seven out of eight dishes were lovely, and the meal was reasonably priced too. 

I’m happy to say that Thai Dining was every bit as good as the aforementioned Glasgow Thai restaurants. And 170 miles closer! 

Camerons – Loch Ness Hideaway

 

Do you ever visit somewhere for the first time and it just feels right? You feel at home and comfortable and fond of the place from the get-go. Cameron’s tea room out at Foyers gave me that feeling from the minute we commandeered those sofas in front of the wood burning stove on a rainy day. 
  

If you don’t know Foyers then take the road out to, and past, Dores. It’s about fifteen minutes drive past Dores Inn along Loch Ness with wonderful views to make the journey feel quicker. 

Cameron’s sits on the left hand side of the road just at the end of the village. It is a golden wooden building with its own car park. 
It’s a little cafe that also has a farm shop part, as well as selling some gift items and a few textiles.
It was pouring down and freezing the day we visited but Camerons kept cropping up when hearing about places to go so off we went. We were greeted by a lovely lady who seemed delighted to see the two babies we had in tow, and was telling us about her grandchild. 
After a chat, we ordered our lunch. A baked potato with prawns came with a nice side salad, coleslaw and crisps. A generous portion of juicy prawns on top of soft potato. The only negative was that the potato skin wasn’t crispy. 
  
The other two lunches ordered were both soup and half sandwich, which were also served with the yummy coleslaw, salad and crisps. Both sandwiches were prawn and one was with a rich lentil soup. 
  
The other was with a homely leek and potato soup. Both homemade and tasty soups. 
  
We sat chatting and basking in the heat of the wood burner for a while then decided to sample some of the home baking along with coffees. 

Carrot cake was well-balanced and the muffin was moist and flavourful. Mrs T who had the muffin loved the lemon curd and is hoping it will be there next time.

 
  

  

My sponge was fab – rich cake bursting with fruity jam and sweet icing. The jam itself made the cake in my opinion because it was packed with flavour. 

 
 
The decor is girly yet not overpowering, and we loved the stag light fittings. 
   
 

The original lady serving us finished her shift when we were in and even came over to say goodbye before she left, we felt so welcome. She was replaced by an equally friendly face and I can see why people grow an attachment with customer service like this. 
   
 

We arrived at 2pm and never left until 5pm when they closed. That speaks volumes in itself. Cosy, homely, friendly, wonderful. Enough said. 

 

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.

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More photos if you haven’t had enough-

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Aye Love Real Food

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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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Aberdeen Girly Weekend

A Mackenzie milestone birthday now means a ladies weekend away and this time we went tae the ‘deen for a braw, banterful weekend.

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We stayed in the Hilton Doubletree at the beach & they had kindly put strawberries dipped in chocolate in our room when we arrived – a delicious start. We were straight down to use the pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.

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As the hotel is right on the beach, the following morning was spent walking along the boulevard burning off a fraction of the breakfast. We even made time to rediscover our inner child at the amusements although the theme park rides are off in winter (fail!). It was there that we spotted the Inversnecky Cafe – the name alone warranted a milkshake sale.

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That night we went to Nargile – a Turkish restaurant on Skene Street. It was by far my favourite Turkish meal that I’ve eaten outside of Turkey. I loved watching the owner take over the kitchen when it was busy (but I bet the chefs don’t!) and the food was tremendous. It had so much flavour in every element. We ordered a selection of starters and they arrived with lots of pitta. Everything from the humus, borekler (stuffed filo pastries), patlican kizartma (aubergine with feta and yoghurt), sarimsaklika rides (kind prawns), cacik (like tsatziki) and kizartma (veg with yoghurt) was delicious. The portions were large so we should have only ordered a couple of starters between the six of us to save space for the filling mains.

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I’ve thought about my main course many times since, always a positive sign. I had hunkar begendi, which was cubes of marinated lamb with creamed aubergine. Without a doubt I’ll be back to Aberdeen for another plate. I also seem to love Turkish coffee – a choice that has proved unusual around people I know.

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Back to the hotel for some bubbly but we still managed a swim the next morning. The jacuzzi was cold so we gave it a miss but overall the hotel was great.

We had booked the Carmelite for afternoon tea but I can’t find my photos from it! It was a mixed bag for me – there were people next to us eating pub grub style food so it didn’t feel like a proper afternoon tea place. If I owned it I’d segregate the areas because with afternoon tea it’s all about the experience. The sandwiches & cakes were okay but the cocktails were nice.

I left the Mackenzies at the train station to stay with my brother in-law and sister in-law for the night. The other Mrs S introduced me to Cocoa Ooze where we had hot chocolate made with real chocolate melted into milk. Sickly but sinning in the best way, I almost finished it.

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To finish my weekend away, we went to the Boozy Cow the next day because I had a hankering for a pink burger. My chilli burger hit the spot once I’d figured out how to get the massive thing into my mouth. Along with cherry coke and crispy onion rings my three days of excess was complete.

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Sundaes On Monday In Rocpool

If I was choosing one restaurant in Inverness that people speak most highly about, it would have to be Rocpool on Ness Walk. It has gone from strength to strength since the Pieraccini’s opened it in 2002, had an owner change and has now cemented its status as one of the city’s finest. We went a little over a year ago & were served the best mussels in chorizo I’ve had so we were confident in our choice.

Eating early, we took advantage of the pre-theatre menu. 2 courses for £16.95 is more than I’m used to for a pre-theatre menu so they were setting the bar high from the start.

On entry were greeted by who I would say is probably the owner and were made to feel comfortable. He stopped for a chat then got the night kicked off with a Caorunn.

Not wanting to fill myself up, I chose the salad option for starter. The menu described it as ‘fresh pear and pecorino cheese salad with minted broad beans and lemon’. Mint in a salad used to scare me but Jamie Oliver has recently sorted that out, phew. The salad was well balanced with the right ratio of leaves to the creamy cheese, sweet pear and fresh broad beans. I could have eaten a whole plate of those broad beans.

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Mr S tried the scrambled egg and crab on toast with cress and spring onion creme fraiche on a recommendation from his dad. He was very happy. It’s such a simple but great idea & they executed it pretty perfectly.

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For main course I was between the seabream and steak tagliata but eventually chose steak because Mr S was having it and I thought I’d get jealous. The description of ‘Scotch rump steak ‘tagliata’ style carved pink over fresh rocket leaves, fine beans and butter roasted new potatoes with salsa rosso and lime’ definitely sounded worth the two pound supplement, we thought we were getting a bargain. The potatoes were delicious – well cooked, seasoned and flavoursome. The rocket could have done with lots of salsa rosso through it to add zing. The meat was too chewy for me and I left more than half of it. I was surprised that Mr S found it chewy because he likes tasty cuts of fibrous beef like hanger. The meat portion size was far too big for either of us and we’d have preferred more quality over quantity in this case. Not one to order again but I saw other tables with the seabream and haddock and it looked nice.

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Since the main was a flop, I was having a dessert (like I need an excuse). We decided on the homemade honeycomb ice-cream with popcorn and hot chocolate sauce. Let’s just say that this was a star indulgent dish from Rocpool. It was like an elegant version of an American style sundae. I wanted to lick the glass.

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I have to mention the toilets! Very plush looking sink area, clean toilets and they are unisex. Was very strange going into the toilet at the same time a man did, and doing my lipstick next to a gent washing his hands but I got used to it.

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The service, wine, atmosphere, starters and dessert were all getting top marks so, although neither of us liked the main course, we still want to come back soon. We’ll maybe do one more pre-theatre before parting with our a la carte pounds but we’re sure we’ll be won over by it.

A Song In Little Italy

I’m a big fan of Italian food, whether it be traditional or modern style. A traditional Italian restaurant should have charm, Italian owners and red checkered tablecloths (cliché as it sounds). Little Italy on Stephen’s Brae has all of the above. It has been in Inverness for a few years but I had never got around to trying it so a few months ago – before the hectic move – we visited this tiny venue.

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Little Italy restaurant sits next door to Little Italy Tapas & Prosecco Bar, where we almost went for lunch. I was peckish for a pizza so we saved tapas for another day.

As we are big sharers, we ordered a pizza and a pasta between us. The pasta was Linguine Salsicia Italiana but we swapped the linguine for penne. The pasta was slightly more cooked than al dente but it was flavoursome. I’m a total Italian sausage lover (why we put breadcrumbs and things in our sausages is beyond me) so this was always going to be a hit with me. A bit of parmesan or grana padano and the sweet tomatoes are lifted immediately.

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The ‘Brindisi’ pizza that we chose had similar ingredients to the pasta but why change a winning formula? The normal tomato & mozzarella base was accompanied by mascarpone, onion, peppers, chillies, spicy Italian sausage and rocket. I’m getting better with how much spice I can take so even had some of the chilli, Mr S is at last converting me. Even although there was both mozzarella and mascarpone, they hadn’t overdone the cheese. The toppings were tasty and the rocket gave a leafy lightness with a peppery hit.

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Whilst we were waiting for an affogato to share, the Italian restaurant owner broke into song in the dining room! I’ve been told since that this is a regular occurrence and, as surreal as it was, I liked it. It’s the kind of thing that in most places could have gone either way but Little Italy manage it.

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The affogato arrived in a martini glass with three big scoops of vanilla ice-cream and the shot of espresso poured over. It was nice, I was distracted (and clapping) by the singing man, and the meal had been a success. Somewhere I would return to for sure.

Lunchy Munchy At La Tortilla Asesina

Finding your feet in a new city can be hard – even if you’ve lived there before a million moons ago. You get lost and you don’t have favourite places to go, it’s a blank canvas. Exciting but unfamiliar and my control freak side hates the thought of giving somewhere rubbish my money.
Luckily we seem to be off the starting block by finding somewhere that has convenient opening hours, is near to work and that we feel welcomed and at ease in. La Tortilla Asesina on Castle Street is a Spanish tapas restaurant that also has a bar area. A wee post-work glass of vino with some Spanish ham is my idea of bliss so you can see why we’ve been a few times.
Last week after a mortgage appointment (yes, we are hopefully getting our house!) we felt like a celebratory lunch so ended up in La Tortilla Asesina.

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We have actually been here twice before in the last few years and the first time didn’t think much of it. The menu was massive and I think they were doing too many mediocre dishes – definitely quantity over quality. But the last time we visited before we moved up the road, they seem to have streamlined things and concentrate on doing more with less dishes.

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(Love their sense of humour!)

I’ll get my bugbear out of the way first – when you google this place no website comes up and their Facebook didn’t have any menu handy that I could see. Websites are expensive so I understand why small businesses don’t always have them but if they don’t then a pinned post of their menu on Facebook or regular photos of it (and on Twitter) then I often don’t go to places. Going to a new restaurant is all about reeling you in but La Tortilla is putting no bait out.

So it was unsurprisingly quiet on the Wednesday lunchtime that we visited. They do a fantastic lunch deal with two tapas for £5 that we didn’t know about – why they are not screaming about this on social media I don’t know.

Mr S and I shared a selection of dishes and they gave us free bread too. My first choice was chipirones – fried tiny baby squid. I would never have ordered this before but my father in-law loves it and after trying his I’m hooked. Chipirones just seems to have so much more flavour than calamari and less rubber to it – more like little fishy, salty bites. They were lovely and crunchy – a definite high point.

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We had a prawn dish each because Mr S wanted the battered prawns with garlic mayo and I wanted the Gambas pil pil. He was happy with his prawns and I was enjoying mine. A little more chilli and garlic wouldn’t have gone amiss but they were still good.

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Our meat choice was pollo chisporroteante, which is sizzling chicken strips marinated in mojo sauce and fried with onions and peppers. It was yummy! Full of flavour, the chicken wasn’t dry and the oily pan sauce was perfect for mopping up with bread.

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We had patatas bravas to accompany the meat and the ‘chips’ were soft in the middle but golden on the outside. The sauce is usually spicy but this lacked flavour.

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A tomato salad finished our selection of goodies well and provided some much needed veg.

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We left after lunch with full bellies and contented smiles… I think we’ve got our first favourite.