Saturday, January 26, 2008

Future Posts

The Buddha Belly will be posting reviews on the following shortly:

The Park Bistro & Eating House, Linlithgow
Gloagburn Farm Shop and Coffee Shop, Tibbermore, Perth
Smiling Jacks, Stirling
David Bann, Edinburgh

Keep visiting Buddha Belly Eats and the Buddha Belly will help you select somewhere not so ordinary to go and eat and drink.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Old Clubhouse, Gullane

When family move back north of the border to civilisation and decide to settle in Aberlady it offers up opportunities to visit untried eateries on the coast of East Lothian. I was keen to take up this opportunity and when the Buddha’s sister in law offered to take us to The Old Clubhouse at Gullane we gladly accepted.

The drive from Aberlady to Gullane is a very pleasant one as the road meanders between the numerous golf courses. As you enter Gullane, you take the turning marked "The Old Clubhouse" at East Links Road and on your left is the half-timbered building which used to accommodate the original Gullane Golf Club.

As I entered the Clubhouse, I could feel the welcoming ambience and I was mightily impressed by the choice of décor, the fire place and the traditional style bar. We took a seat and perused the menu which you could also read on the large blackboard.

The Buddha and his wife ordered Nachos, Haggis, Neeps & Tatties and Marinated King Prawn Kebabs. We also chose a bottle of Guerrieri Rizzardi Pinot Grigio 2006 from the extensive wine list. I had the usual, although there was a range of cask conditioned ales to sample, but better the devil you know.

When the Nachos arrived I was dumbstruck. I have never seen such a well presented plate of Nachos in my life. The tortilla chips were topped with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeño peppers and melted cheese. Wow! They have to be probably the best Nachos in the world. They were amazing.

Haggis, Neeps & Tatties and Marinated King Prawn Kebabs were just about as good. It is unfortunate that Haggis gets such a bad rap as I’m sure more people would really enjoy it as when its cooked right it tastes brilliant. I am happy to report that the Old Clubhouse’s haggis was deliciously gorgeous. The 'great chieftan o' the pudding race' was nice and spicy and was served with a generous quantity of creamy mashed turnips and potatoes.

It tasted as though the King Prawn had been marinated with yoghurt, spices and lime juice to produce a heavenly combination of textures and fragrant, spicy flavours. The Buddha’s wife enjoyed the dish immensely.

Oh, and as an aside, the others chose Crayfish & Loch Fyne Smoked Salmon Salad and a Rib Eye Steak. There were nods of approval when I asked them if they were enjoying their meal.

The meal was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Old Clubhouse. It was memorable and very enjoyable. I’m sure that I will be back.


Contact details:
The Old Clubhouse
East Links Road
EH31 2AF
Tel: 01620 842008

VinCaffè, Edinburgh

As the Buddha’s kids have grown into their mid teens it’s not very often that we get out as foursome to do some shopping and lunch. So with great gusto I dragged them into Edinburgh to buy a birthday present for the Buddha’s wife. When I look at her I find it hard to believe that another year has passed. She never seems to age and looks at least ten years younger than she is.

After we had visited Links of London, behind Harvey Nichols, we decided that we needed to snack so we made the few steps along Multrees Walk to VinCaffè, Valvona & Crolla. We were seated upstairs in the restaurant beside the window. The place is sleek and chic and appears very upmarket.

As we waited for our meal we were able to pass the time watching shoppers go about their business. The kids ordered two margarita pizza’s and devoured them. They commented that the pizza dough was light and crispy and really tasty. We ordered two bowls of potato and rocket soup which came with bread on the side. The soup had a very distinctive taste that grew on you as you ate it. It was incredibly filling. We also had two soft drinks, a cappuccino and a glass of pinot. The bill was just shy of £45.00. The food was good, but over priced and did not offer good value.

Environment-6/10 (Two of the ladies toilets were not working)

Contact details:
Valvona & Crolla
Multrees Walk
Tel: 0131 557 0088

Clive Ramsay’s at Brucefields Family Golf Centre, Bannockburn

I have visited Clive Ramsay’s at Brucefields Family Golf Centre near Bannockburn on a number of occasions recently and I have had mixed experiences.

My first visit was for a breakfast meeting. Those present ordered coffee and as we were all slightly hungry we also ordered breakfast. I ordered poached eggs on toast with bacon. The coffee and the breakfast meal arrived after an eternity. However, the eggs and bacon tasted as well as they were presented. Very nice. The coffee was less well received as it was bitter and not as warm as it should be.

My second visit was an attempt to get some head space from the chaotic comings and goings in the office. I ordered a cup of coffee and mixed root vegetable crisps with salsa and houmous. When it arrived after a lengthy wait the coffee was barely passable, weak and pretty tasteless. It was also cold. The crisps and dip were good, if not a tad overpriced for what they were. The salsa is really nice though.

I drew the attention of the waiter to the cold coffee and all I got was a shrug of the shoulders as he lifted it and took it from a blast of steam. He returned it with a trace of a smile. Has verbal communication been removed from the competency of a waiter? Mmmm.

On my third visit, I was accompanied by the Buddha’s wife and we decided that we would create our own little buffet and picked the red chilli peppers stuffed with tuna, the classic caesar salad with little gem leaves, croutons, anchovies, fresh parmesan with house caesar dressing and the house cheese plate.

What a feast we had. It was very enjoyable. I love those kind of sharing meals. The Buddha’s wife ordered a glass or two of the refreshing and fruity Pinot Grigio which she thoroughly enjoyed and complemented the cheddar, brie and blue cheese and oatcakes. I washed the meal down with a coffee which was a significant improvement on what I had received on previous visits.


Contact details:
Brucefields Family Golf Centre
Pirnhall Road
Tel: 01786 818805

The Commercial Hotel, Larbert

The Buddha has only posted two pubs on Buddha Belly Eats to date. These being the Diggers in Edinburgh and Bar 51/2 in Porto Colum, Majorca, So, I thought that it was about time I shared another gem of a drinking den with you.

The Commercial Hotel is a family-owned and family-run hotel and traditional pub that serves a range of lagers and ales, along with a good selection of wines and whiskies, including the Buddha’s favourite, Belhaven Best. The Buddha’s wife swears that the slimline tonic sold at the Commercial is the best calorie controlled diet that includes an essential and comprehensive intake of vodka.

The Hotel stands opposite the imposing Larbert Old Parish Church. The Church dates back to the first half of the 16th century and in it’s present form was designed by the celebrated architect David Hamilton and built in 1820 at a cost of £3,300.

The Commercial has been the prime local watering hole at Larbert Cross for well over a century. The Scottish-American actor Jimmy Finlayson was born a stones throw from the Commercial in 1887. Finlayson worked in silent as well as sound movies and starred opposite Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. It is a hangout of regulars, local worthies, with a smattering of old-timers and, being Larbert, the atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and genial.

This little drinking den oozes atmosphere and some quirky features that enhance the drinking experience. The main feature is a long bar that patrons congregate around to discuss the events of the day and to put the world to right. There are two screens usually tuned into music or sport, but conversation is easy, and there are plenty of tables and chairs and a lounge at the rear.

In recent years, the management of the Commercial has passed from Mother to Son and it has undergone refurbishment. I’m glad to report that Kenny and his wife Angela have done a fine job and the refurbishment has not detracted from the traditional drinking experience. May the Commercial continue to serve the community of Larbert for another 100 years.

Food-N/A (Although the Salt and Vinegar Square Crisps are the best in the area)

Contact details:
Commercial Hotel
3 Stirling Road
Tel: 01324 557197

Friday, January 04, 2008

Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Cardrona

Since I, the Buddha Belly, got hitched some five years ago I have always attempted to celebrate that historic day by whisking my dearly beloved wife off to a romantic venue for our wedding anniversary. This year was no exception and we made a reservation at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Cardrona. Our reservation was based on our excellent experience of a recent stay at the McDonald Marine Hotel in North Berwick and as busy parents we were looking forward to spending our short break at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel.

What follows is the sorry tale of our nighmare stay and one that unfortunately soured our anniversery celebration. Please read on.

On arrival at the Hotel, we asked to have our evening meal at 9.30pm and we arrived promptly at the restaurant to be told that there had been a mix up and that we should take a seat in the lounge area for a couple of minutes. We did as requested and after 25 minutes we were given menus to look over. A further 25 minutes passed and no staff approached us to take a drinks order and/or to take a meal order and I had to place a drinks order at the bar myself. After a further 10 minutes, we were shown to our table which appeared to have been hastily set. This was 60 minutes after we should have been seated at our table.

When we sat down I lent slightly on the table and it seemed to be unstable to the extent that my wife had to rescue the glasses from falling from the it. As we were seated directly behind the restaurant reception the staff must have been aware that the table was faulty. I drew the staffs attention to the table and they apologised, but did nothing to alleviate the situation. We placed our meal order 15 minutes after being seated and I am sure that you will agree that having just placed your meal order 1 hour 15 minutes after you are supposed to seated for what should have been a celebratory meal is just not good enough. The evening could not have got of to a worse start; unfortunately it did not get any better.

We both chose the mushroom risotto for our starters and my wife chose the duck for her mains and I chose the turbot for my mains. The mushroom risotto arrived some 25 minutes later, we are now talking 11.10pm and we are just getting our starters. The mushroom risotto was simply disgusting. I am still trying to understand why there was a pile of lettuce leaves sprinkled on the top. Maybe, it was to hide the impending disappointment of the risotto. Once we had moved these to the side we were able to see the gooey mush that had been served up to us. I took my first mouthful and it tasted rancid. Where had the overpowering taste of garlic come from as it drowned the dish? Another forkful revealed that the mushrooms were undercooked and just horrible. We never bothered trying to eat any more and we moved the plates to the side. The waitress who cleared the plates never asked us what was wrong with the starter.

We waited and waited and waited for a further 40 minutes (12 midnight an no main course yet!) until we could wait no longer and I summoned a waitress to inquire where the main course was and she looked puzzled and embarrassed and hastily set off in the direction of the kitchen. After a further 15 minutes, our main courses arrived. My wife’s duck was a bit fatty, but in her words “it is edible”. However I wish I could say the same for the turbot. It was dry and partial burnt and it was clear that it had been left under a hot lamp for a considerable period of time. I took 2 forkfuls’ and decided to give it a miss.

Once my wife had eaten what she could of the duck I asked, whom I presumed was the Head Waitress, to attend our table and I communicated our disappointment at the meal that we have been served and she agreed that it was “not very good”. She also intimated that our order had somehow been left in the kitchen and that this was why we had not been served earlier. She could not explain why it had taken us over an hour to be seated and she also apologised for the table being dangerously unstable. After discussion with a senior colleague, who appeared totally non-plussed by our experience, she returned to offer us a complimentary drink for our inconvenience. We declined the offer.

Needless to say, the dining experience had a negative effect on our stay at the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel and rather than using the spa facilities in the morning we left at our earliest convenience. What should have been a celebration of our anniversary turned out to be a nightmare. I shall not be returning to any Macdonald Hotels in a hurry.


Contact details:
Macdonald Cardrona Hotel
EH45 6LZ
Tel: 0870 194 2114
Fax:. 01896 831166

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Horseshoe Inn, Eddleston by Peebles

“What’s around the next bend?” I wondered. It was Sunday and we driving down the A703 towards Peebles and we had just entered the small village of Eddleston. As we drove through the village, we both glanced left at a white washed building and were drawn by the glow of candles in the window. We looked at each other knowingly and as is our want we entered our usual psychic communication and I pulled into the rear car park of The Horseshoe Inn.

“This looks nice” said the Buddha’s wife as we entered the Inn. The receptionist asked us if we were dining or looking for drink. We said we would decide once we had the opportunity to peruse the menu. We were seated in a formal, but very relaxed lounge area.

The waitress handed us menu’s and we commented on how the Inn had a lovely welcoming feel to it. She informed us that the Inn had originally been the villages Blacksmith’s Shop and that a couple of years ago the present owners had undertaken a significant refurbishment of the property. We both agreed that they had made a good job of it.

The Inn had a Sunday Lunch Menu that looked irresistible so we decided to have both a drink and to dine. The Buddha Belly ordered a pint of Best and as is her normal practice, the Buddh’a wife had a a glass of Francesca Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005. At £7.00 a glass it was a bit steep, but according to the enthusiastic consumer it was brilliant and well worth the money.

For starters, we ordered the pheasant and foie gras terrine with shizo salad, apple and plum chutney and the chilled melon with parma ham, parmesan cheese and rocket with dressing. For mains, we ordered the pan seared sea bass on a bed of stir fry vegetables, ginger and noodles, together with the roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and gravy.

We were seated in the in the red and gold restaurant shortly after placing our order and the meal duly arrived. It was Sunday feast fit for kings and queens. It was great and I could see why The Horseshoe Inn has been awarded the AA's new Restaurant of the Year for Scotland. We enjoyed fine-dining in a restaurant that takes food seriously, this together with the super-attentive staff gave us an afternoon to remember.

I don’t think that we could afford to do Sunday lunch at the Inn every week, however they do have cheaper and interesting menu in the bistro. No wonder that The Horseshoe Inn’s is developing a growing reputation for the quality of the food served. It was a fantastic meal and we will return.


Contact details:
The Horseshoe Inn
EH45 8QP
Tel: 01721 730 225