Cuchullin Restaurant, Isle of Skye 01-2019

For our one evening in Portree, after scouring lots and lots of menus and searching for somewhere on Skye that is actually open in January, I settled upon Dulse & Brose. The menu had some local ingredients that I was looking forward to. Unfortunately they had other ideas, telling us at 7.15pm that they had closed their kitchen for the night.

And so the only place open and willing to serve was Cuchullin. Not a problem, it was warm and friendly and served by 2 lovely local lasses and their smiles.

- Steamed mussels (shallots, garlic, white wine broth) £13.5 for large - mild flavour;
- Battered haddock with Rooster chips £13.5 - very good fish although the batter was a bit soft. The Rooster chips (whatever they are) were outstanding skin on versions. The best I had in all the Scotland meals;
- 8oz sirloin steak (tomato, portobello mushroom, rooster chips, pepper sauce) £21 - after driving around and seeing local cattle I thought it was worth trying steak. One lass could tell me it was local (Scotland) but not if it was local (Skye). Hmmm. The meat was cooked to a nice rare for me as requested and although it wasn't very tender, the flavour was excellent with assumably just a bit of salt and pepper.

It was a good meal in cosy surroundings in a place that was willing to serve the winter visitors. Thank you.

The Oyster Shed, Isle of Skye 01-2019

In the small town of Carbost, there is a seafood place (this one), a brewery for whiskey, and a coffee shop that is closed for winter. Otherwise there's also the special views of the water, particularly enjoyable when eating fresh seafood at The Oyster Shed.

The shed itself has a variety of things to order from oysters in their farm shucked, to lots of different types of terrines made from each seafood type, and some other bits and pieces including frozen local meats.

- Oysters £8.5 for 6 - really good flavour, salinity and hint of metallic. The texture has a touch of bite and the size is medium;
- Scallops £10 for 7 - very large scallops, cooked perfectly with salt and butter. Tender, juicy and the best of the lot;
- Lobster tail £13 - a small tail that must shrivel a lot when cooked in the garlic butter (or they gave us a very small one) that tasted ok but wasn't as good as the scallops;
- Crab claws £6 for 6 - very cheap for these boiled and served cold bits. The meat was unexpectedly firm and quite dense. Not my taste.

The oysters and scallops are worth going back for. I'd probably try the langoustines next time too, since they are a local Skye specialty.

Artisan Gelato, Edinburgh 01-2019

On a freezing 2C day, there is nothing better than gelato. I was the only one who thought this way and ended up here after a quick search for places around my Airbnb.

They serve an exceptional gelato. The pistachio was a perfect colour and flavour. The dark chocolate with orange wasn't one I've seen elsewhere, but a favourite chocolate of mine usually. It could have used a touch more orange, but that's just being picky. 70% dark is also the right amount of dark.

It was texturally great with no ice crystals. And of course in the cold it didn't melt at all.

It isn't cheap by any means, but it's very good.

Merchant Chippie, Glasgow 01-2019

For some reason Scotland seems to like deep frying stuff. There's the usual fish and chips, but also Mars bars, pizza and all sorts of sausage and pudding. Additionally that Scottish favourite haggis gets the deepfried treatment, which is a different mode to the standard serving on this. 

For another reason I don't know, the chippies seem to be run by Italians. Go figure.

Merchant is one of the highly reputed one's in Glasgow and in fact was the only place in Glasgow to be in the top 50 for the UK and they even state they were awarded best in Scotland. Not a bad set of accolades.

It's a simple small cafe where everything is breaded and fried, whereas the chips are fresh cut potatoes sitting in a giant vat.

- Haddock in batter supper £5.8 - a nice fish with a mild flavour, where the predominance was the wispy crisp slightly thick salted batter. The chips (which are the "supper" part) were soft rather than crispy, but at least they are actual potatoes freshly cut;
- Lemon sole £6.5 - this was too thin and so the fish got lost amongst the friedness;
- Black pudding £2.9 - had an unusual flavour of cloves. Definitely not what I expected. Like good Scottish pudding there was mostly meat and not much chunks of fat;
- Haggis £2.9 - mild flavour overall.

It's a good fish and chip. I'd stick with the classic haddock, being the cheapest and the best part of the meal.

Clachaig Inn, Glencoe 01-2019

There's a few token stops between Glasgow and Fort William. Real Food Cafe and Green Welly both in Tyndrum are two, but it's too close to Glasgow to be worth stopping for lunch I think. Then comes Glencoe and the recommendation of Clachaig Inn. I'm still not sure how to pronounce it. And the girl serving us sounded Portuguese and so she wasn't sure either. I wanted to try their gin but obviously not with driving straight after. Oh well.

The main dish on the menu that excited me was the game pie. With that many different meats listed, I wonder if it's just a random variety of offcuts from somewhere. But then where are the original pieces going?

- Highland Game Pie (rabbit, venison, pheasant, mallard, partridge, pigeon, cooked with blackberries, tarragon, juniper berries & Clachaig gin) £13.95 - lots of different meats with varying textures, some soft, some chewy. Strong berry and pepper taste overall. The pastry was thin, crisp and not flavoured. It was the disappointing part. Potatoes were fine. The mash was some combination of carrots and pumpkin I think.

A good stop close to Fort William. I'd happily go back to try some of their other things. If there are better stops in Glencoe, I'd be keen to know them.

The Compass, Edinburgh 08-2017

In order to escape the mess and inflated Edinburgh accommodation prices during the Fringe, we'd booked an Airbnb in Leith, the port suburb in north Edinburgh. It turned out to the a good opportunity to find a new area to explore more bereft of crowds, but at the same time realising that the buses to George Square are quite unreliable and the initial plan of Uber/taxi was limited by availability and constant surge pricing.

Nonetheless it's a pleasant part of town moreso with the river areas particularly when the sun was shining. Food options (other than Michelin star) are not especially renowned but there's certainly options. The Ship On The Shore seemed to be the seafood place with reasonable prices that I considered. However for a casual lunch, The Compass won out.

It's a bar with hidden upmarket upholstery and decoration. The lunch crowd was a man and his baby, a group of young adults and two elderly females. They were serving both breakfast and lunch at 1pm on a Friday but the lunch options seemed clearly superior on paper.

- Cullen skink with crusty sourdough bread £5.5 - this local specialty of smoked fish was a hit. I really enjoyed the creamy flavours and smoked fish pieces;
- Hawaiian poke salad with sesame & chilli marinated salmon, avocado, rice & macadamia nuts £7.95 - in contrast to the traditions of cullen skink, this was the only other entree sized dish that appealed. The flavours married well and the texture combinations were good and varied;
- Shetland mussels in Thai red curry sauce with homemade chips & crusty sourdough bread £12.95 - I had to look up Shetland to discover it's a group of islands north of Scotland. These mussels were a good meaty size and quite tasty. The red curry sauce was decent but had too much fish sauce added. The homemade chips were very good.

Overall the food quality was very good and the options different to those in English pubs. I'd happily go back for the cullen skink and try the fish & chips of pie.

The Hideout Cafe, Edinburgh 08-2017

When visiting The Compass the day before, we noticed a very cute and full cafe sitting across the road. Although it was difficult to see the menu, the decoration and general friendly cafe atmosphere was appealing. On a Saturday at 1130am the place was busy but not full. Maybe it is because the Fringe was on and everyone had gone central already or that there are more options around for this quieter part of Edinburgh.

Seating was available to marvel at the old style kettles and kitchen implements, the local magazines to peruse and listen to the cassette player lined with a wall of albums. Maybe cassettes will come back in one day...

The menu is focussed and without the extreme creativity of modern day cafes. But it was certainly suffice. I'm told the coffee was good. I drank the Jackie Chan smoothie (berries, spinach, avocado, dates, goji, almond milk) £3.5. I have to admit it was a bit of a let down without the expected creamy thickness and flavour of avocado nor the sweetness of dates. It tasted like blended berries, which is fine but not expected given the ingredients list.

- Grilled sourdough with blue cheese, bacon & apple £4.9 - an excellent combination of toasty white bread heated and squeezed until the mild blue cheese melted on top of the bacon and warmed apple. Brilliant;
- Fried eggs & oak smoked salmon (with toasted artisan bread & cream cheese) £6.9 - the bread was fine without being special and was really just the vessel for the cream cheese, overcooked and non-runny eggs and ample amount of good salmon.

There's no problem having brunch here but I'd want to try the plethora of other options nearby. In particular Mimi's Bakehouse full breakfast or the cafes such as Printworks, Nobles or Rocksalt.

The Hideout Cafe Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato

Deacon Brodie's Tavern, Edinburgh 08-2017

During the pleasantly warm and incredibly crowded trek through the Golden Mile during Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a friend living locally suggested this would be a good stop for a break and some haggis. I remember eating haggis in Glasgow back in 2005 in a pub on what was the known as the haggis day or Burns night (January 25). Interestingly it was a much more quiet affair but probably because either locals will eat it at home or not especially eat it on that evening.

I remember it being very similar to mince meat from a cheap pie. How different would it be 12 years later?

The place says it is well known for fish & chips. As tempted as I was, I couldn't fit haggis and well as a full serve fish & chips. So I went for the more traditional and less available option.

- Haggis, Neeps & Tatties £4.95 - haggis was a thicker form of mince made from mutton and oatmeal. Others thought it had a strong liver taste but I thought only mild. It was fine to eat but nothing special and nothing I would go out of my way to try again. It was served with a fairly sour swede mash, and some standard but minimally seasoned potato mash;
- Macaroni & Cheese £3.95 - nice and warm with a tasty burnt cheese topping. Very good.

I also tried the vegetable scotch broth which was a warming soup served with quite ordinary bread of soft crust and spongy middle.

The other areas looked like happening pub bits and the upstairs food area was a bit more settled. I'd go back again and try the fish & chips or other dishes.

Deacon Brodies Tavern Nicholsons Menu Reviews Photos Location and Info - Zomato