Meldrum House -a dog friendly, delightful destination.

I know I know I sound like a stuck record but really. This time of year in our glorious country matches and beats hands down anywhere else on the planet you could meander. In my humble opinion. On the road…the long suffering husband.. Charlie Chorizo Sausage Dog and myself.

 

The sausage at Meldrum House – someone shouted BISCUITS!

 

Originally from the North East I have been there a lot recently as I have been settling my Mum into a Care Home. She has Alzheimers and it has been a rollercoaster of a year but she has gravitated home to Aberdeen where she was born and bred.  She has lived in the Central belt for 15 years and yet the moment she stepped over the threshold of this particular home she just put her hand on my arm and said “This is where I want to live”.  So..a very very long story short..I am splitting my time to be with her and to be in Edinburgh. It’s an easy 2 hour drive and now Mum is  settled the long suffering husband, sausage dog and I decided to go away for a few days to just walk, inhale the delicious fresh air and relax.

 

Old Meldrum Golf Course….wow!

It’s hard to find accommodation last minute in the Aberdeen area especially at this time of year and so with a google, a wing, a prayer and a bit of pot luck we rocked up to Meldrum House, about 30 minutes outside the City on the outskirts of Old Meldrum . And well…. be still my beating heart. Its like  Disney Castle – but the real McCoy – and what  a location!

A wee something whilst we enjoyed a pre dinner bev

Privately owned it really is a very special spot indeed.

There was a wedding on  which they warned us about so we were in the main house. The weddings are in an annex and we honestly didn’t know the huge rollocking party was there.

 

We had a great wander about, a delicious meal and retired early to our huge bedroom where we slept like logs (or dogs in Charlies case) partly because of the giant bed but also because the vast windows were draped in the best black out curtains the world has ever seen. Fabulous.

Being an obsessive foodie it was great to find this chef knows his onions and every other item of food. Delicious food. And their smoked haddock and poached egg in the morning was a thing of beauty. Och it all was. Including the hungover wedding guests clutching their heads and gulping coffee with shaky hands – ah yes those were the days.

The staff were all lovely, chatty and informal. Despite it being mid summer or near enough a huge fire roared in the entrance hall which always makes for a warm welcome and nothing was too much trouble.

If you golf – prepare yourself – it is a beautiful course. Its not cheap to play but the hotel can arrange it all for you. I hit a bucket of balls but didn’t play – well I can’t yet! Having just had my first lesson in 20 years I am currently smitten but if the mere thought of golf repels you don’t be discouraged the gardens are like Life on Earth ….Swans and their signets, Geese and their Goslings, 2 Highland Cows and a few tourists……the full enchilada. Bliss.

Mr & Mrs Goose and their Goslings – gas and air for the poor duchess there were about 12!
Love is in the air for these two hairy galoots.

Sausage still looking for that biscuit ……Seriously refreshed and podged up with lovely food we will be back…….and soon.For now the sausage, husband and I are heading elsewhere on the hunt for more dog friendly places to stay….will keep you posted.
Oh and whatever rate you get on booking.com phone the hotel direct – you aye get the best deal that way…..Here’s their details….Meldrum House Country Hotel & Golf Course
T: +44 (0)1651 872294
F: +44 (0)1651 872464
E: enquiries@meldrumhouse.com

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The Brandon at Canonmills – yum yum yum.

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In the place where Cross and Corner used to live there’s now a wee bar/restaurant on that corner of Broughton Street and Eyre Place called Brandon’s of Canonmills.  A refreshing groovsters hangout with food that frankly my lips haven’t stopped smacking themselves about since we tried it.
When I say groovsters hang out clearly not just groovsters as we are about as far from the category as you can get and still be labelled human.

We are 3 middle aged woman and a sausage dog. Sounds like a film but no it’s just my life.

So just to clarify….dogs are very welcome indeed as is everyone it seems.

When you have hit the dizzy heights of 50 odd (with the emphasis on odd in this case) it’s disheartening and annoying the number of people who ignore you, don’t do eye contact or assume you are in for a cup of tea or a slash. Well our shower arounder was a charmer make no mistake and we loved him. So we booked a booth for supper  later in the day thinking it was just a formality –  after all a Tuesday night surely wouldn’t be busy. We were right, it wasn’t busy. It was packed.

2 main courses and a bottle of wine £30 – a good deal and too good to pass up.

Photo of Interior courtesy of Scotsman.com
Photo of Interior courtesy of Scotsman.com
Japes aplenty
Japes aplenty

One Sausage & 3 women ensconced. Happy days. As we arrived a very tired beach exhausted Charlie Chorizo was offered water which he slurped before falling asleep on my foot.

The sausage looking forward to his visit.
The sausage working up an appetite at the beach.

We  had a couple of margaritas to start – blood orange margaritas – hello! A great kick start to any evening. there was no pressure of time so we set the pace giving more than ample time for our well over due gossiping.
And…
Well the food was great. Delicious. Fresh. Imaginative. Slurp. Beetroot and goats cheese salad. A burger – just plain but perfect and panko rolled smoked jackfruit – wtf? I have no idea so I asked. It is an Indonesian fruit apparently which was a revelation.

Resist making that revolting joker please. Thank you.
Resist making that revolting joke please. Thank you.

Our smiley server described Jackfruit as having the same consistency as pulled pork – I was sceptical but he was bang on. The flavoursome pork impersonator oozed smoky paprika and the presentation was like 2 great big meaty delicious Scotch eggs (without the egg!)
Puds were great too. We had Mellis Cheese and oatcakes and – drum roll – adffogato – not with ice cream and espresso but with rhubarb ice cream and a shot of gin. Be still my beating heart.

Dear Santa I will be a good good girl if you promise to take me back here. Soon.

Its warm, welcoming, groovy, dog friendly, cocktail delightful, foodie hangout for all.

Its so good this lazy blogger has broken the habit of being a sloth and got back on the blogging horse. Woah.

The Brandon at Canonmills: Mmmmmnnnnnnn

 

If you fancy going down the Jackfruit route heres an article from The Guardian all about it.

To be or 2 1 2 1 2?

So it was the long suffering husband Howies birthday.

So where to go? What to do?

Well with himself being in the restaurant business – Howies -it had to be a food related odyssey.  Despite the fact 24/7 he is steeped in the world of catering there is one thing it is imperative to do as a restaurateur and that is to go out and eat in other restaurants as often as possible. This is hardly a strain. We just love food. From day one food has been our shared passion – along with wine, dogs and fun. He from the restaurant side of life, me from the food critic side of life. Critic in The Herald, presented two food programs on STV and more recently a judge on Iron Chef – you can imagine going out to eat with the pair of us would be a nightmare. So just as well we can put up with each other.

Over the years we have been fortunate to eat in 1000s of different places. Small, big, good, bad, eccentric, snooty, vague, pop-up, average, in fact the whole jing bang but one place that had so far eluded our taste buds was 21212 in Edinburgh. Mixed verbal and written reviews from friends had failed to excite us when they opened which was ages ago and with a celebration afoot it was such an obvious omission in our culinary journey we went for it.

 

21212 is on Royal Terrace a lovely Georgian street off the top of Leith Walk in central Edinburgh and just round the corner from our very own Howies Waterloo. So taxi for Howie off we went for a birthday lunch.

 

We were greeted with a big smile which immediately dispelled the previous rumours of pretentious nonsense and shown into the dining room which is plush, in muted bluey, greys, with up holstered cream chairs, soft furnished booths, linen tablecloths, and a contemporary chandelier. Despite the age of the room and  the well known listed building nightmare restrictions in Edinburgh the kitchen is visible through a Perspex wall at one end of the room – a masterful design element and compelling if the process of food preparation fascinates.

 

Our actual seat with the sparkling kitchen in the background.

Luckily we weren’t facing the kitchen as we ould have just stared in like a pair of dafties no we were shown to a booth facing the other way. Result. No sooner had had we sat down we were offered water and 3 wee dishes olives, crisps and well I am not sure what the third thing was – were delivered. The 3rd mystery dish looked like it held tooth picks but by now we were too busy marvelling at the menu to enquire what they were. A la kazaam. (whatever that actually means) Foodie heaven.

 

The smiley sommelier offered us a drink – champagne – well its only once a year – English champagne he described it as  strawberries and cream – Sold!  And he was right it was just that – perfect. A lush start.

The name of the restaurant 2 1 2 1 2  describes the menu.

Two starters to choose from

1 soup

2 main course to choose from

1 cheese

2 sweets to choose from.

 

You can have 3 or 5 courses. We decided to go for 3 leaving the soup and cheese and just order and share the lot which saved a lot of humming and hawing. We were both keen to try everything so this was an easy option.

The  mind boggling number of elements to each dish was something we were both looking forward to experiencing. At Howies we celebrate simple. You know the sort of thing, slow cooked lamb shank, roasted vegetable with creamy mash…equally as valid as this other extreme.   Howies food ethos the ABC of simple yet perfect (well I would say that)  and then 21212 at the other end of the spectrum -more Stephen Hawking in sanskrit.

 

Home made bread arrived fresh & yeasty , soft and utterly irresistible I had to say no after my first slice or I would have had a loaf before the main event.  You help yourself to as many slices as you want there was none of that  individual slice delivery type thing which again dispelled the now myth of snooty nonsense.

The place was busy. Every table virtually full. It is graduation time but nonetheless is shows recession or not people will push the boat out if they feel the need.

Its impossible to list the ingredients – we kept the menu at the table during our meal to refer to as we tasted each morsel and texture. Remarkable. To write this down would have taken away the pleasure of eating it. To forensically list each thing would look impressive but by the time I had done that the meal would have been cold and more to the point my lunch partner would have scoffed the lot. So I find myself saying – trust me I’m a foodie. Delicious and despite the eye popping number of different elements all present and correct. I have copied an example of their menu below so you can see what I am withering on about.

There was a sliver of something fabulous we could not name nor guess so we asked. The answer was a dried gherkin. I  had guessed at liquorice but I was well off course. A dried gherkin the sort of thing I scraped off the floor of my fridge as a student and binned with the aid of a rubber glove , My how things change,

We deliberately ate slowly.

It’s an intimate space. One to relish not write about at the time.

As we paused after our main course extravaganza. The call of the cheese was  too strong to ignore so it was duly ordered as the birthday boy is a fromagaholic. 9 pieces of cheese – yes nine –  a cut and presented in a wheel shape with a plate teetering with different crackers, biscuits, slivers of homemade crispbreads, the favourite Pittenweem chunky oatcake. There was a man who spoke fluent fromage and he talked through each one. There were goats, ewse, coos . They were from all over and the one that had us hooked was called Morbier.

Good memory? No not really I texted myself as I knew the second I tasted it I had made a friend for life.

Sweets next. One trifle. To say trifle is to say pure mathematics is the 2 times tables. The other option a crème brulee but again tis is the understatement of this millennium to call it just that.

Presentation and taste again impeccable.

Only one mystery. Everyone at this point is given a tiny cardboard scoop of oaty milk – it tasted like Alpen soaked milk – not sure that that was all about but horsed it anyway. Perfectly nice taste but nothing special andwould have been just as happy without it.

Conclusion.
Gee food in such detail is hard work to produce.

The atmosphere was relaxed and elegant

The staff friendly and knowledgeable

The food – well I think you get the gist – it was outstanding.

Remarkable imagination, execution and delivery and most important of all taste.

A feast for the eye and the palate.

So….we are happy in our restaurant niche and they are happy in theirs.

Vive Le Difference!

Google 2 1 2 1 2  and you get endless 2 for 1 vouchers which I suspect will not be valid for this restaurant – click here though and it will take you the website Restaurant 21212 if you are a foodie it is an experience not to miss. Yeh it’s not the cheapest option in town but it is something you will remember for a long time to come.

MENU EXAMPLES FROM WEBSITE

This is one main course.

Chicken Curry, Pineapple & Artichokes

Slow Cooked Breast Of French Corn Fed Chicken,

Artichokes, White Cauliflower, Breakfast Radish,

Anya Potatoes, Saffron Onions & Pineapple Confit,

Soft & Crispy Pancakes, Coconut Shards,

Piccalilli Mayonnaise, Argon Oil

 

3 course lunch £28   4 course  £38      5 course £52

Dinner: £68

 

As opposed to Howies which in Edinburgh is £8.95 for a 2 course lunch- yeh but different strokes for different folks but the generous birthday boy has given me a voucher to give away. Lunch for two with bottle of wine at any of the Howies – whichever you fancy – there are two in Edinburgh, one in Aberdeen. Just answer this simple question:

What year was Howies started?

Please send your answer to:

alison@alisonsdiary. com

Subject: Win a lunch

I will announce the winner on 20th July.

Scottish Highlands holiday – Sunday.

Arrived  at 4pm saturday to – these little beauties. Scones. warm from the oven with raspberry jam. Oh thank you God. That and a cuppa tea was the perfect end to a long and unarduous journey. Teenwolf and long suffering husband ate 3 each, being a picker I had one.

Round 1 - Warm scones freshly baked with raspberry jam. Yum.

This is the first time in as long as I can remember that myself  Teenwolf and the long suffering husband have been out of town and away together. We are gathering in a highland house with two other families, some stragglers and a variety of dogs for a week of fun. Between us we tick more boxes than the census has yet imagined. Old, young, happy, miserable, thin, fat, hairy, quadroped, bi-ped, boozy, sensible, completely mental, shy, too bloody extrovert for their own good and so the list goes on. But the thing we have in common is a genuine love for the Scottish highlands and everything it has to offer.  So  join us on this outstanding culinary and physical adventure. No need for Monarch of The Glen, or Hamish macBeth this is it. For real. No shit.

The one thing the Scots lack is an ability to verbalise their feelings and emotions. Rather than shouting ‘I love you’ from the highest tower  we are more likely to quietly offer you a small slice of cheesy toast and tell you to shut up if you say thank you. Yes where other nations enjoy a verbose and grand outpouring of emotion we demonstrate our strength of feeling in the sourcing, preparation and sharing of the most wonderful food. 

Don’t believe what you hear about deep fried this that and the next thing. Scotland  is awash with a people whose DNA is closer to L’Escoffier than the Loch Ness Monster. To illustrate this I am going to diary exactly what we are eating this week.. All local, all from the land and all made fresh.

Only a few hours into our break. Here we start.

Chocolate cake - welcome!

After a stomp down to the river it was a meander back up to the lodge where Donnie, the chef was organising things. Look. Lying out waiting to be given their pecking order were local langoustines, scallops, a ham the size of our labrador – actually where is the labradar SAM? Oh no it’s Ok she’s here I can relax it’s definately pork then. Stop lie down, relax you are on holiday. Easier said than done with all these distractions of the culinary variety all around..

Those who love pigs look away.
Caught in the act
Outside to take our mind of food for 10 secs

So the bottom line is over the next few days I will prove to the cynic and the ignoramus that us Scots are not haggis eating, bagpipe playing, dafties who subsist on mass produced, deep fried nodules..  No here I will note exactly what we eat. Local. Delicious. Mind blowingly great.

This is Scotland. The Highlands and the experience that anyone can have who comes here. Can you even imagine what’s for dinner tonight? Be still my beating heart.  If you are on a diet or like self control then banish this blog from your horizon. If you like indulgence, delictation and sheer unadulterated satisfaction. Then HELLO….we are going to get along just fine. Until tomorrow…

Where do you take a sick horse? Horsepital or the local restaurant?

You just couldn't could you?

The talk of the steamie last weekend in Edinburgh was that L’Escargot Bleu in Edinburgh’s Broughton Street are going to start serving horse and no I don’t mean inviting the odd horse to pull up a chair, enjoy an aperetif and a canape.
No Edinburgh’s most authentic French Restaurant is testing the boundaries of the Scots palate and introducing horse  to their menu. The gauntlet is down, well how do you carve horse with your gauntlets on? And rather than tuck it away in a stew or serve it as a steak the proprietor has plumped for the rather radical sounding horse tartare.

Definition of Tartare: a dish of coursely ground or finely chopped high quality raw lean horse that has been seasoned with salt, capers, onions and the tears of every pre-pubescent girl in Scotland (and my Auntie Joyce)

Raw horse. God the thought of taking your kids to pony club developing a long and loving relationship with a beast then when the going gets tough, or before it’s flanks get too tough, hell just shoot it and eat it just seems so wrong.

He's obviously heard the news

The arguments are valid. I eat cow. I eat pig. I eat lamb – aka baby sheep. It’s all true which is why I can’t quite understand the revulsion I feel that Dobbin local horse with long eyelashes, swishy tale and a personality is coming to a plate near me. Black Beauty, Thelwell, National Velvet they are icons of childhood and affection. I can’t recall one story in which a cow or sheep took a leading role. Babe was of course a world wide pig star and for some reason, despite the fact pigs are generally credited with being  more intelligent than dogs, I have no qualms about slapping them between to bits of bread and having them for breakfast. I know where this going. I am of course a hypocrite.

Def. of hypocrite:a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

Yup. Guilty as charged as this picture below illustrates. Fed it, cuddled it, gave it a name. Ate it. Och well. Damn it tasted good though.

Pal Jennys pig. Now in the freezer. Bless.

Eyes like road maps.

Yes there was drink involved. Well what do you do when an old pal turns up from far far away and wants to go out on the lash.
‘No no I can’t I have to sit in and try and remember when I last detected tone in my thighs’ Aye right.
So off we went into the night. Well specifically The Balmoral Hotel, posh and not the sort of place we usually hang oot so slightly cowed by the grandeur we started in whispery voices. Cut to 4 hours later we were singing at reception. Sorry to the lovely staff.

When in the loo last night I thought my friend Anne was in the adjoining cubicle so I knelt down, put my hand under the door and grabbed her bag. The shriek that emanated from the cubicle made my blood run cold it wasn’t Anne but a complete stranger.  I apologised profusely in an Irish accent in case she was sitting next to us in the restaurant and recognised my voice and ran like the wind. Poor woman.

Made a pact with myself before going out drink water between every glass of booze. I did that – twice and then the ‘what the hell you’re only young once’ thing kicked in. Of course I’m not bloody young anymore which is why I now look like Marty Feldman after someone sat on his face all night and feel like someone has force fed me dung for a fortnight.
Yeuch.