Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Diggers, Edinburgh

It’s rare for the Buddha Belly to write a review of an establishment that only serves drink. However, on this occasion he has made an exception and wishes to share with you probably the finest pint of beer available anywhere in the world. The establishment that serves this beer is The Diggers in Edinburgh, just off Gorgie Road, near the home of the famous Heart of Midlothian Football Club.

The proper name of The Diggers is The Athletic Arms. Its nickname comes from being across the road from a cemetery, whose gravediggers in days gone by would visit the pub at the end of their shift. The Diggers d├ęcor is not to modern taste. My wife often comments that it would be nicer if they got it carpeted, put a dado rail up and invested in some curtains. She’s no taste! However, the linoleum flooring, slightly threadbare upholstered benches and screwed to the floor tables provides the drinker with an interesting environment in which to wet their throat.

When the Buddha Belly visits the Diggers he is only interested in sampling the delights of The Diggers 80/. It is his view that the 80/ or “Electric Soup” is the best you will find. This beer has legendry status and a number of folklores have arisen as to why it tastes so good. Legend has it that the staff add some special liquid to each barrel to make it taste so good. It may also have something to do with the staff keeping the pipes meticulously clean. The Buddha Belly’s Dad thinks that it is something to do with the temperature of the cellar in which the barrels are stored. It could be all of the above. Who knows? It’s a secret.

The staff at The Diggers are the best in the land, in fact they may even be psychic. No need for words to be exchanged, just use your fingers to indicated how many pints of 80/ you wish and they will be poured pronto from one of the fourteen 80/ beer taps. Yes fourteen! The Diggers actually has 16, the other two are for Guinness and lager. But, be warned the Electric Soup is strong. I’ve even known some Australians to feel its effects after just a couple of pints.

So if you are ever in Edinburgh and your throat would benefit from being wet by a superb pint get yourself to The Diggers. Oh! I nearly forgot the steak pies smothered in brown sauce aren’t bad either.

Contact Details:

The Diggers (Athletic Arms)
1-3 Angle Park Terrace
EH11 2JX
Telephone: 0131 337 3822

Friday, September 22, 2006

Buddha Belly Scorches Rumours

It has been reported to Buddha Belly from a number of sources that there are rumours circulating that he has been eating out loads and loads lately and that it is no wonder that he has an ever increasing belly. Well, please let Buddha Belly scorch these rumours and untruths in true Fat Boy Slim style “right here, right now”.

The reviews that have been posted on Buddha Belly Eats to date have been based on visits to bars, restaurants and hotels during the last year and not in the last six weeks as some people may have thought . So please, do not worry about the possibility of the Buddha’s belly growing much bigger and maybe eventually bursting due to a binge eating and drinking frenzy.

So rumour mongers go in peace and walk the gastronomic path to enlightenment.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ziggy’s, St Andrews

A couple of months back the Buddha Belly was at a loss for things to do. It was a fine Saturday in the close season so there were the not the usual football demands. Whilst making the morning coffee I had this vision of a long sandy beach, waves rolling in and a strong sea breeze hitting my face. “Why not go to St Andrews for the day?” I thought. And, why not. I gathered the family together and off we went to the Kingdom of Fife and the home of golf.

The walk along the sandy beach was just like my vision. St Andrews Bay is a fantastic place to walk and enjoy the company of your family. It offers spectacular views over the Old Course, the home of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and over the Firth of Forth. But walking can certainly give you an appetite and before long we were looking for somewhere to find lunch. A friend had recommended a restaurant called “Ziggy’s” at Murray Place, so we decided that we give it a try.

We easily found Ziggy’s and the staff offered us a warm welcome. We got seated at our table and began to take in the remarkable surroundings. Founded in 1983, Ziggy’s claims to be St Andrews original theme restaurant. Well, I don’t know about that, but it is full of amazing rock and pop memorabilia all over the walls, including Beatles gold discs, signed posters and more. We could have spent many happy hours just surveying the extensive collection of signed memorabilia and together with the good music, created a truly unique atmosphere.

After a short while of soaking up the atmosphere we were given menus which offered superb choice of starters and mains to the hungry beach walker. I have to state that the food was very reasonably priced which always pleases the tight wee Buddha. We ordered our food and drinks and resumed our exploration of the wall to wall music exhibition. There was a sense of disappointment when the food and drinks arrived. Not that the it did not look appetising, but rather, that we had stop our exploration and focus on something else.

I had ordered one of the “award winning burgers” and it arrived on a toasted sesame seed bun with coleslaw and fries on the side. It looked a lot bigger than the claimed 1/4lb. My wife had ordered Jailhouse Chilli and still to this day she claims it was the best chilli that she has ever had the pleasure of eating. My daughter ordered the Chicken Club Sandwich, which came with fries and coleslaw. The couple of glasses of Sutter Home Chardonnay and the bottle of Tiger Beer complemented the meal perfectly. My daughter always leaves a little space to enjoy the delights of a desert and this day was no exception. She ordered and enjoyed Hot Fudge Sunday. All the meals were delicious and substantial and would offer even the hungriest beach walker a significant challenge to finish.

An enjoyable day at the beach was topped off by a memorable meal. To sum Ziggy’s up. Good music, good food, a great atmosphere and at under £30.00 for our meal pocket friendly prices. I can’t wait to have another vision of a long sandy beach, waves rolling in and a strong sea breeze hitting my face. And, an excuse to visit Ziggy’s.

Contact Details:
6 Murray Place
St. Andrews
KY16 9AP
Telephone: 01334 473686

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Orocco Pier, South Queensferry

It’s true what they say about us Scots in that we really do not appreciate what a beautiful place Scotland is and its right under our noses. It’s not until you take the time to lift your head that you begin to really understand that you do not have travel far to really appreciate what a beautiful country we live in.

Recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to saviour one of the most stunning views in Scotland from the restaurant Orocco Pier in South Queensferry. When we arrived at Orocco Pier it appeared to be in chaos. They were catering for a wedding in their Function Room and some of the guests had split over into the restaurant area. This was not a problem as it offered my wife the opportunity to partake in her favourite hobby of doing her nosey into other peoples weddings. It’s a hangover from when she was a waitress at the Crest Hotel in Erskine.

We were greeted politely by one of the waiters and shown to our table. Our first impression of Orocco Pier was “Woow!” We were blown away by the view. Orocco Pier sits on the waters edge of the River Forth, and we were able to soak up the dramatic sight of the Forth estuary and the rail bridge. I am finding it hard to not keep going on about the view. So what did we eat?
We navigated the menu which tempted us with an irresistible array of fusion gourmet offerings. We decided on the Thai crab cakes on fresh leaves with roast chilli and coriander pickle and the chowder of bacon, prawns, mussels, clams, salmon, garlic and cream for our starters. For our mains we decided on the risotto with lemon courgettes and wild mushrooms sun dried tomato dressing and parmesan shavings and the wok fried king prawns, cherry tomato, avocado and coriander salad. My wife ordered a couple of glasses of the South African Chenin Blanc. She really enjoyed the fresh honey and melon bouquet and both glass went down a treat. I, being a boring little Buddha, ordered a bottle of mineral water.

So what was the food like? Both starters offered a remarkable taste and combination of aromas. I could have had them again for the mains. They were great! The mains were obviously done with care and skills as they were extremely well presented. The risotto was perfectly seasoned, the texture soft, nice and sticky without being mushy. The prawns with the salad were fragrant and tasteful. We decided against deserts as we had been satisfied by the starters and the mains.

All in all, we found the meal to be good. The cost of the meal, at just over £40.00, was okay for what it was. However, Orocco Pier is the perfect place to relax and chill. It offers the diner an awe-inspiring restaurant sited on the edge of the Forth. Close your eyes and just imagine the waves’ lapping on the shores makes for a wonderful setting for good food. It’s well worth the trip I promise you.

Contact Details:
Orocco Pier
17 The High Street
South Queensferry
West Lothian
EH30 9PP
Telephone: 0870 118 1664

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Peckham's Outback, Stirling

On recommendation, my wife and I intended to visit the Spice Garden situated on Allan Park. However, we did not book and it was incredibly busy. Which is sign of good place to eat. We would have had to wait sometime to get a table and as time was of the essence, we decided to trot around the corner to Port Street to try Peckham’s Outback.

As we entered Peckham’s, we were struck by the vast array of continental meats, cheeses, pates, cakes, together with the fridges crammed with smoked salmon, fresh meat, yoghurts, desserts and salads displayed within the deli. As we walked through the deli we enjoyed the strong distinct aroma. I love that smell. We arrived at the Outback and we were met by one of the staff. As I have stated in my other reviews, the staff welcome is very important to me and unfortunately this member of did not get off to a good start. I am finding it difficult to state why. He lacked a smile and a little warmth. Subjective I know, but….

Anyway, he showed us to our table and we were given menus. The menu offered a good choice. We decided on the grilled tiger prawns and the deli delicacies. We also order a glass of house red and house white. While waiting for our meal we began to take in the environment. The Outback is very stylish, if not a tad on dark side. The Buddha Belly felt that it could do with a little more lighting.

The wine arrived quite quickly and was very pleasant for only £2.85 for a large glass. Both meals arrived after a short while. The tiger prawns were served on a bed of mixed leaves with crusty French bread. The six prawns were in garlic & lime dressing. My wife thoroughly enjoyed the meal and at £6.95 was good value. The deli delicacies was a feast in its own right. There were two plates of four types of salami, hummus, together with fresh basil pesto, taramasalata, stuffed olives, warm pitta bread and mixed leaves salad. The meal is meant for two, but I scoffed the lot. That’s why they call me the Buddha Belly! I enjoyed the tapas and once again at £6.95 was good value.

As I read over this review three phrases jump out at me and they were that the Outback offers good choice, good food and good value. The meal was made even more enjoyable by the good company of my wife.

Contact Details:
Peckham's Outback
52 Port Street
01786 463 222

The Gulnar Tandoori, Larbert

Life is full of dilemmas. For example, if you come across £10.00 note lying on the path what do you do? You find yourself facing a moral dilemmas. Do you bend down and pick it up? If you do pick it up, what do you then do? Do you ut the £10.00 note in your pocket and keep it or hand it in to the police. It’s a difficult decision.

Well a couple of years ago I found myself facing a similar dilemma. I came across an Indian restaurant that was so good that I did not want to tell anyone as I wanted to keep the the Gulnar Tandoori my little secret. However, if I did not share the joy of the Gulnar with others then my Mum would call me selfish and I could not have her doing that. Could I? Well, I have been a good little Buddha and I have shared the delights of the Gulnar with a few select people.

The Gulnar Tandoori is on the Main Street of Larbert. Parking can be challenge, but if you persist you will not be disappointed. The restaurant has been renovated during the last couple for years and offers a basic, yet comfortable environment in which to eat. The staff, like most family run business, are really friendly and cannot do enough for you.

The menu is extensive and offers a wide range of Indian dishes. But, I would encourage you to try the buffet. At £11.00 it is great value and offers a feast of fantastic starters and curries that are as good as anything I have tasted within the country. For £11.00 you get papadoms and chutneys as your aperitif so to speak. Once you’ve polished them off you can progress on to range of pakora’s, chicken tikka and chicken chat. And of course your plate can be garnished with customary side salad if you so desire. If you’ve not stuffed yourself at this point you can begin to graze the curries. There are usually six to choose from and will surely satisfy the most hard to please the curry connaisseur. The chicken masala and lamb bhoona are particular favourites of the Buddha Belly. I always sample the vegetarian dish when I visit the Gulnar and the mushroom dopiaza is delicious.

Oh, I nearly forgot two important things. Firstly, you get a nan bread thrown in for the price. The Gulnar’s nan’s are legendary as they are hugely enormous and ideal for wiping the sweat from your forehead. Secondly, like all good Indian buffets, it is requirement that you wash it down by a pint or two of Cobra larger.

Well, if you are anything like the Buddha Belly, by the time you have munched you way though the papadoms, starters and the mains you might be ready for a lie down. However, the Gulnar buffet offers you a further challenge. The desert! You can have ice cream and/or apple pie or gateau. And, a coffee with a selection of Quality Street sweets. It’s time to wave the white flag in surrender. No more!

I hope you get the idea of the Gulnar's buffet. It’s brilliant and excellent value. If you are ever in the area pay the Gulnar a visit you will not be disappointed. I feel incredibly less selfish now that I have shared the Gulnar with a few more people. Mum, you can be proud of your wee Buddha Belly.

Contact Details:
Gulnar Tandoori
50-64 Main Street
Telephone: 01324 562189

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Royal Hotel, Comrie

As part of my sister-in-laws birthday celebration, we had the good fortune to dine at the Royal Hotel in Comrie and what an enjoyable time we had. And the food wasn’t bad either.

We arrived at the Royal and had pre-dinner drinks in the Lounge. I had my usual pint of Best, where as the others shared a bottle of Maillart Premier Champagne. The ladies really enjoyed it, which is a good recommendation as they can sometimes be a bit fussy? Still on the drink, I have heard that the Royal has over 170 Single Malt Whiskies. So, if you’re into that sort of thing the Royal could offer you a right good evening to yourself.

We sunk into the comfortable settees and spent ages contemplating the menu. Decision made, we ordered and settled for a chinwag in what is a very pleasant surrounding. After a short while, our attentive waiter informed us our table was ready and we moved through to the Brassiere. The Brassiere is a slightly less formal room that the Royals Dining Room, but a wee bit more formal that the Lounge. The Brassiere offers an impressive view of the Hotel grounds and hills beyond. It offered us a perfect setting for our meal.

I had ordered french onion soup to start and sea bass as my mains. My soup arrived and I was really impressed by its strong aroma. The soup offered a rich texture and a mouth watering taste. It was beautiful. I would state that it probably the best french onion soup that I have ever had. I polished it off in pronto style and began to eye my brother-in-laws starter. He had ordered a plate of pasta seafood and what a plateful it was. I thought he’ll never manage to eat all that but I had forgotten that he is the guy that eats till he sleeps!

The sea bass arrived. It looked and smelled great. Normally, I do not rush to order fish, however on this occasion I was pleased that I had. The sea bass was presented on a bed of marinated ratatouille, with a side of pesto spaghetti. I was pure magic and I thought that I had gone to the big dining room in the sky. It was one of those dishes that you never wanted to stop eating. To be honest, I can’t remember what the other’s had to eat. Not that their meals were not memorable, but I was so focussed on my own enjoyment I barely lifted my head to look. When I’m served great food I am sometimes not the best conversationalist!

For desert, we ordered two portions of cheese and biscuits to share between us, together with coffee. When the plates arrived we had a choice of six cheeses on each. There was more than enough for the five of us. It was a great way to finish off what had been a fantastic meal. The company wasn’t bad either. I had better say that as I'll explain in the next paragraph.

“ Buddha Belly how much did it cost?” I hear you cry. Well, I have to admit here that I really do not know as I did not pay for it. My overly generous brother-in-law picked up the tab. However, at a guess, I would say that for the french onion soup and the sea bass you would get some change out of £15.00. And, I have to say that at that price it a snip as its top notch grub and I’ll be back. Pity, as I might have pay next time!

Contact Details:

The Royal Hotel
Melville Square
Telephone: 01764 679200

The Gulnar, Larbert

The Buddha Belly has been hearing fantastic reports about the The Gulnar in Larbert. So, keep you eye out for a review of the Gulner which will on Buddha Belly Eats soon.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

OSTA, Stirling

My wife and I had the opportunity to go out a few Saturday’s back. The kids were at sleepovers so the world was our oyster as they say. On the spur of moment we decided to jump a train to Stirling and visit Osta. Osta is a relatively new restaurant in Stirling, that occupies a recently converted Georgian building just off the Craigs roundabout.

We did not book and arrived on the off chance that we could get a table. The staff were extremely friendly and asked if were happy to wait five minutes for a table. We were happy to wait and ordered a well earned drink at the bar. My wife ordered a glass of house white Drostdy Hof Steen Chenin Blanc and I took a pint of Belhaven Best. My wife commented on how nice the wine was and the pint was "Simply the Best".

We were soon seated in the lounge and began to take in the relaxed surroundings. Osta offers a very pleasant and relaxed environment. As the pianist played we began to run our eyes over the menu. The menu offered a wide range of tapas, pizza, pasta and scottish traditional dishes. My wife chose Peking Duck and I decided on the Parma Ham Rocket Pizza. We also deided on a bottle of Sancerre La Crele Domain Thomas and at £18.50 we thought this was reasonabley priced. Both meals were magic. Thoroughly enjoyable.

We decided to miss deserts as we were satisfied with the mains. We did order a glass of Lanson Black Label and another pint of Belhaven Best. We sat and listened to the pianist and chatted for another hour. The £46.00 for meal and drink was well worth it. As we walked to the train station we revelled on what had been a great evening. If you’re into a little sophistication and wish to try somewhere that has a fresh atmosphere then Osta is for you. We really enjoyed it. Bring on the next spur of the moment.

Contact Details:

78 Upper Craigs
Telephone: 01786 430890

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

St Fillans Golf Club, St Fillans

A few of weeks ago a couple of my mates and I had the pleasure of playing a round of golf at St Fillans Golf Club. For those of you who are not familiar with the area, St Fillans Golf Club is near village of St Fillans, which sits at the eastern end of Loch Earn. The nine-hole course is tucked away across the River Earn and offers you fantastic scenery, together with a pleasant golfing challenge.

After our round we retired to the clubhouse for a spot to eat. The clubhouse offers a warm and relaxing environment in which to reflect on your round. The views from the lounge are majestic unlike my drive off the first tee. The staff are extremely hospitable, friendly and encourage you to take a table. The menu offers a range of snacks and homemade meals that are very reasonably priced. We decided to try the steak pie, fish cakes and ham salad.

The steak pie arrived. What a pastry! It was like a Desperate Dan cow pat. The steak was tender in rich gravy. The seasonal vegetables and chips were perfectly cooked. The two large homemade fish cakes were lightly fried and filled with a rich filling of haddock, mackerel and potato. Served with chips and side salad they looked extremely tempting and I began to question my choice of the ham salad. I should not have worried. The ham salad arrived at the table. It was like a work of art. The mixture of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumber, cheese, potato salad and coleslaw provided a stark contrast of colours. The couple of home cooked thick slices of ham were topped with fresh pineapple and kiwi fruit and filled a plate that looked like an artistic masterpiece. It also provided a considerable eating challenge even to the Buddha Belly. Thank God we did not order starters!

The sign of a good meal can be that it facilitated good conversation. This meal certainly did that. “What’s the steak pie like?” “Great and you’re not getting any!” “You should try the fishcakes there magic.” “Can I get a wee taste?” “No!” “The ham looks great.” “Aye it is ….” Silence as we munched our way through a feast fit for golfing kings.

The home baking was to tempting to resist and we all had something that was mouth-watering which we then washed down with a couple of pots of tea. We sat there feeling as though we had eagled every hole on the course. Pure satisfaction and all for about £7.00 a head.

Do not get me wrong, St Fillans Golf Club will not win many AA Rosettes. However, it offers the tired golfer, together with passer-by’s, a very reasonable meal for a very reasonable price. Remember, if you do go to St Fillans Golf Club try the ham salad. It’s fantastic. Enjoy.

Contact Details:

St Fillans Golf Club
South Loch Earn Road
St Fillans
Telephone: 01764 685312

The Drummond Hotel, St Fillans

In life there are events that are best forgotten and a recent meal I had at the Drummond Hotel at St Filllans is one such event. Unfortunately, I have committed to sharing my experience on Buddha Belly Eats and as such I am going to have to relive the nightmare of this catastrophic gastronomic experience.

My family and I have visited the Drummond Hotel on countless occasions during the last 5 years or so and in the past have been pleasantly surprised by the good quality of food served there. However, and I start to shake and quiver as I begin to reminisce, on my most recent visit it was a disaster. Six of my family and I visited the Drummond Hotel a couple of weeks ago and unfortunately I have report that it was crap. Apologies for the use of agricultural language but it’s hard to find another word that describes the disappoint felt by those that sampled the inept and disastrous culinary exploits of the Drummond Hotel.

The Drummond Hotel has recently been taken over by new management and I have to say the place has gone down hill. What was once a friendly place to eat and drink has lost its welcoming and warm atmosphere. The food and drink served have also gone down hill. In short, the meal was dire. It took to long to serve us. “Sorry sir we have a bus party in and the chef is very busy.” I felt like screaming “But we booked for this meal and you should not have taken the booking if you could not deliver a reasonable meal in a reasonable time.” The service was very poor.

The drink was also very poor. The beer was too cold (freezing!). When my pint arrived it did not have a head on it. It looked like a stagnant pond. I should have taken this as a sign of things to come. After a couple of attempts at ordering wine I was really pissed off. We ordered wine and the waiter came back to the table “Sorry I know we said we had that wine but we don’t.” This happened three times. I thought that it was a wind up. It got to the stage of us asking what wine do you have since the wine list is no longer relevant? Poor guy, he was badly let down by the management.

The soup was passable. The haggis was covered in some sauce with a skin on it that turned my stomach. But my dear father-in-law ate half of it. However, he should have surrendered to the rubbery mush much earlier. But, he is too polite and he has lived through the WW II and is thankful for anything that’s not made from powdered milk! But this was just rank rotten.

The trout tasted too much like an orange and drew my sister-in-laws cheeks together. The gammon steak was tough and fatty. The steaks was under cooked. The chips were not bad though!

My 14 year old daughter's comment about the apple crumble “I’ve made better in my Home Economics class.” summed everything up. It was dry and tasteless. And, I did not get the ice cream being in one ceramic dish and the apple crumble being in another. It takes allsorts as they say.

I have tried to find something positive to say about the Drummond Hotel but I am struggling. Aaah yes, the view from the car park is magical. Loch Earn is a wonderful romantic setting that should be enjoyed by all. Unfortunately, the food and drink at the Drummond Hotel does not do the view justice. As Tim Lovejoy of Soccer AM says “It won’t last!” It is my view, for what its worth, that there is just no way that a business that offers such rubbish to its customers can last. Maybe the new owners will be one season disasters. But one things for sure, I won’t be back.

Contact Details:

The Drummond Hotel
St Fillans on Loch Earn
Telephone: 01764 685212