Review: Fonab Castle

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently stayed overnight at Fonab Castle in Pitlochry. I’d spent ages trying to find a decent 2 night break for my husband’s birthday at the end of Feb but I kept finding niggles with everywhere. I kept coming back to Fonab & decided to book their winter special DBB deal.

castle

The castle itself is tucked away just off the A9 at Pitlochry. Although the hotel is a castle, it has a modern block build onto to which does slightly detract from the novelty of staying in a castle. Inside the hotel, the decor is very modern with splashes of Scottish thrown in with thistles on the wallpaper & stags heads for coat hooks on the doors.

decor

The reception staff were very informative, giving us the low down on where all facilities were in the hotel & taking our reservation for dinner. The hotel has 2 restaurants – a bistro & a more formal dining experience with tasting menus. As part of our deal, we had dinner included in the bistro & being the foodie I am, I had perused the menu beforehand & already picked my dishes!

We had booked a room in the castle (ticking another thing off my bucketlist!) & our room was situated on the third floor. Unfortunately our room overlooked the carpark which didn’t provide much entertainment as you’d expect! The room itself was gorgeous. It had a large oversized king bed, feature wall, nespresso machine, smart tv & ipod dock! What more could you ask for?! Oh yeah, a bath! That was the one disappointing element about the room – the bathroom only had a large shower. Although, the shower head was the largest I had ever seen – it was wider than my head! The toiletries in the bathroom were Thierry Mugler (of Angel perfume fame) so that did make up for no bath slightly as well.

room

We ventured over to the newly built spa building across the carpark for an afternoon dip. We struck lucky & the pool was deserted! It was obvious that the hotel were finding their feet with the new pool as we had to leave the jacuzzi as the chlorine levels were too high. In the changing rooms, there were more small touches to add to the experience such as luxury toiletries & bathrobes to use.

pool

Since our trip coincided with my husband’s birthday, we brought some champagne along with us. On past trips, when we’ve asked for an ice bucket, hotels have wanted to charge £5+ just to bring the bucket to the room. We knew asking for one, we might face a similar charge given the high class of the hotel. When we asked for one to be sent up, the porter also asked what type of glasses we would like. That’s service you don’t get in a travelodge! And to make it better, we were not charged for it. I’ll admit that it took every ounce of restraint to not take the tray that the bucket & glasses were brought up on. I mean check it out – who could resist that?!

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Before dinner, we went for a drink in the lounge which overlooks the Loch. The bar has a mix of chesterfield & oversized fabric sofas which made it feel quite homely. One wall of the lounge is covered in a mirrored bottle rack, with the second largest collection of wine I’ve ever seen, only rivalled by the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong.  The hotel prides itself on its gin collection & did not disappoint! It was the first place I have ever seen to stock Rock Rose gin which made me a happy bunny!

bar

Despite picking out my dishes, the menu we were presented with had some changes to the one I’d viewed online. For starters, we had smoked salmon & avocado on brioche & confit of duck. I was slightly disappointed with the salmon as I was expecting either slices or chunks of avocado on the dish. However, the avocado was more like a mousse which made me feel a bit short changed. The whole combo was delicious, along with the lime creme fraiche that accompanied the dish. Duck is not a meat I’m overly keen on but it would have been rude not to sample a bit of the confit. I was pleasantly surprised to taste a smokey & tender meat with no trace of fat. Duck may be another meat I’ve been converted to!

The main I’d had my heart set on, braised ox cheek, was not on the current menu. This left me with a dilemma of having chicken or taking a leap & trying venison. I’d tried venison a few years back but found it too gamey for my tastes. I decided to take the risk & I did not regret it! The venison was slightly pink, making it really tender. For me the taste was between lamb & steak with the sweet yet meaty taste. The dish was accompanied by braised cabbage & a bramble jus which just left me with a taste explosion with every mouthful. It was by far the best dish I’ve had in a long time.

dinner

The other main, spiced monkfish with sweet potato & lime & coriander puree, was also a hit. The dish contained the biggest monkfish tail I’ve ever seen! Considering the dish was priced at £19.95, it was a complete bargain for the quality & quantity of food on the plate.

When you stay at a hotel on a DBB deal, it’s usually stated how much allowance you have for dinner. At Fonab, there was no such information given to us which made us unsure if we could have a dessert or not. I’m finding myself being more drawn to desserts these days & the treacle tart on the menu, I couldn’t resist! We ordered that along with a dark chocolate fondant to finish our meal.

The treacle tart arrived & looked scrumptious. One bite into it & I remembered why I don’t order desserts. It was so disappointing. The tart was quite dry & didn’t have the wow factor I had expected. The dark chocolate fondant was a hit with my husband who devoured the gooey pudding.

breakfast

At breakfast the next morning, the hotel offered a 3 course feast. The offerings include your typical breakfast items such as a full breakfast, eggs benedict & kippers. I decided to branch out & try some of the more unfamiliar items. To start I had caramelised pink grapefruit which was followed by toast. My main breakfast item was steak & eggs. I swear I did not eat late afternoon after such a feast!

viewThe view at breakfast was a nice ending to our brief stay. The restaurant overlooks the Loch with a vista of the snowed covered hills in the background. A reminder of why it’s sometimes better to make the most of what’s on your doorstep 🙂

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Get Stuffed Chronicles – The Food of Love

Or should that be the love of food? It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the foodie front (I know I’ve skipped a week) that involved some good meals & more foodie fails!

Valentine’s day was definitely a day of foodie love that started out in BRGR in Glasgow’s West End thanks to some amazing Tarantino themed specials they had posted on Facebook that seemed too good to pass up. Ok, and there may have been a bit of overindulgence the night before that needed mopping up! We opted for one each of the special – A Royale with cheese (as it sounds) & The Big Kahuna burger. Both burgers were amazing as were the sweet potato fries & ‘slaw we munched with it.

BRGR

That night we went to Porter & Rye for the first time since it opened. I won’t mention too much about it but it’s a MUST visit for steak lovers. You can read my review here.

Living in the West End of Glasgow has its obvious perks & one of them is the farmer’s market in Mansfield Park every couple of weeks. There’s a good range of produce from fresh bread, meat & fish to Spanish & Indian dishes. We visited the market & picked up, what I would class as the best burgers I’ve ever eaten, Hairy Beast burgers from Cedar Country Foods. The burgers are made from Highland Cattle & are the leanest burgers I have ever eaten. I swear, they are so moreish, you’ll be looking for more once you’ve finished one! We also picked up some fresh Tarka Dhal which has quite the kick to it from Jaldikatessan (sp?) & a monster scotch egg from Aye Love Real Food.Market Wares

There was obvious foodie excitement last Tuesday with Shrove Tuesday making its annual appearance. It’s strange how most people only eat and make pancakes once a year even though they are so delicious! As I’m watching what I eat, I opted to try out some pumpkin pancakes using Libby’s Pumpkin Puree. What a mistake that turned out to be! Instead of the wonderful, fluffy pancakes the recipe promised, I ended up with squishy, soggy pancakes. Such a disappointment! However, it has made me determined to try & find a decent, healthy eating friendly pancake recipe soon so I can enjoy a better batch.

Pancakes

At the weekend gone, I decided I would try to make kedgeree for breakfast whilst also whipping up a batc h of creme egg brownies (they are as amazing as they sound) & a loaf to take to lunch at our friends. Well, let’s just say sometimes you can take on too much & I very much so underestimated how much time I had! The kedgeree, made with oak smoked haddock from our fishbox,  was the only item I didn’t have an issue with! The brownies, which I made several times last year, were missing a vital ingredient – caster sugar! I completely forgot to put it in but thanks to the amount of sugar in the chocolate & the topping used, they still went down well with my taste testers. And looked quite good, even if I do say so myself! The bread did look like a nice loaf & was edible but because I didn’t have enough time to prove it & had to transport it whilst warm, it was quite doughy inside. Let’s just say I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to baking & I’m not happy unless it’s 100% right!

Weekend Cooking

Review: Porter & Rye

Steak has been taken to another level in Glasgow thanks to the introduction of Finnieston’s newest restaurant, Porter & Rye. It’s owned by the same people who own Finnieston favourites Lebowski’s & The Finnieston, with the aim of bringing together good quality aged beef & molecular cooking (how very Heston!).

Ever since Porter & Rye opened in December, I had been pining to visit & the perfect opportunity came up to go for dinner on Valentine’s day. The interior of the restaurant has a homely yet modern feel to it with stripped back brick walls & a sleek metallic style bar with open kitchen at the back of the restaurant. The seating is spread out with a few booths & bar types seats on the ground floor & a split mezzanine with booths to the back & table to the front. We were fortunate to be seated in the upper booth area which was cosy with dimmed lighting. It was also seated directly above the kitchen so I could sneak peeks at goings on downstairs.

rest

When I say steak has been taken to another level, this is evident when you’re seated. Our waitress had a blackboard with each type of steak, which cut of meat & the price. On the night, there was 30 day aged Galloway & 28 day aged Aberdeen Angus to choose from. I found out after our meal from John, the head chef of the group, that from pictures provided by their butcher, individual cows are picked by the restaurant for their meat to ensure they are getting the best quality!

We opted to order some drinks whilst deciding & I’ll admit that I hardly recognised any of the ingredients on the cocktail menu. That didn’t stop me & I ordered a tequila based cocktail that came with blue cheese stuffed olives that arrived with the biggest block of ice I’d ever seen! Normally that would put me off but on the first sip, it was evident that the focus here was on the alcohol & not masking the taste with fruity or sugary flavours! Not that I’m complaining!

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Our starters were chosen from the small plates section & we opted for beef carpaccio & smoked mackerel pate. I know, a beef starter when we’re about to have a steak but I couldn’t resist. This was the first evidence of the molecular cooking as the carpaccio arrived with a domed cover filled with smoke that evaporated once uncovered. Despite this, I could still taste the smokiness with each bite of the carpaccio. The smoked mackerel pate had a similar smokiness to it, hinting that it was smoked in-house to give it a subtle taste. The pate also came with 8 oatcakes which couldn’t be finished as we had to keep space for the main! We also received some of the oysters that were on special that weekend with compliments of the chef. These were covered with an apple foams with tiny bits of diced apples, seated in a crate on a bed of seaweed which our waitress made smoke with some liquid poured over it. These were divine – very fresh & tangy from the apple & a nice change from the usual oysters au natural.

starter

The main event was to die for! We opted for a chateaubriand medium rare which came with 2 sides & 2 sauces. It was difficult to choose only 2 sides but we narrowed it down to broccoli & marrow bone mac & cheese which I had heard good things about. Before your steak arrives, you are presented with a selection of steak knives & allowed to choose which one you prefer! The steak was beautiful – perfectly cooked, melt in the mouth & full of flavour. I honestly could have eaten the whole thing to myself it was that good! I’m normally a fast eater but I took my time with this as I wanted to savour every mouthful.

beef

Our sides were also fantastic. Although we had tenderstem broccoli as they had run out of purple sprouting, it was crunchy yet slightly buttery & salty – a far cry from my usual plain old boiled broccoli I make at home! And the mac & cheese, what can I say? I’d never been sure about trying bone marrow but the small cubes that were mixed with the mac & cheese were meaty & complimented the pasta perfectly. The mac & cheese was not overly cheesy which actually went quite well as it wasn’t too heavy & didn’t detract from the steak. Our sauces were porter & bacon & smoked garlic & pink peppercorn & although they were nice, I didn’t feel they were needed as the steak & sides provided enough flavour for the main course.

sides

With my main I had a particularly fabulous cocktail which had a spirit I had never heard or, nor can recall but had green apple sorbet in it with a large slice of a granny smith. I’d never had sorbet in a cocktail but it was really refreshing & helped soak up the (strong) alcohol that was in the cocktail.

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I have to take my hats off to Porter & Rye for providing a dessert I could not resist, which is rare for me. I opted to have the peanut butter ice cream with banana & toffee sauce to end my meal. The ice cream was creamy & a not so strong but just about right peanut butter flavour. The banana was in the form of chips & caramelised banana chunks which was perfect with the toffee sauce.

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Porter & Rye was the best dining experience I’ve had since we dined in a Aux Armes de Bruxelles on our mini-moon. Yes it was expensive (we were £98 in total) but the reflection of the amount of time, effort & money they have spent developing the concept & dishes is evident from the moment you are seated. With new starters due to be launched in the coming weeks, I’m excited to see what else they can offer on top of what I regard to be an already amazing restaurant. This will definitely be one of our go-to restaurants for special occasions!