Wednesday, 19 July 2017

So… Just WHAT Is Private Dining?

Readers,  the joy of blogging is uncovering new and exciting food experiences.  Sometimes it’s the joy of educating others about my experiences and other times, it’s talking about new stuff!

Take for example, The Private Dining Directory.  It’s a one stop shop for all things private dining in the UK.   You can select by city, then venue and discover all the best private dining spots in your city (local or otherwise).

private dining directory


Alas, WHAT IS PRIVATE DINING, I hear you ask?   It’s not just for the rich and famous.  There are plenty of opportunities when private dining could be relevant. You’ve a group of customers coming up from London and you want to take them for dinner?  Why sit with everyone else, when you could have a room to yourself?   You want to treat the management team as they’ve worked really hard?  Make them feel special with a private dining experience.  Just got engaged?  It’s a great way to bring both families together and meet in a quiet space.  Congratulations on your engagement… suddenly it’s time for the hen and you’re a classy lady… why not consider private dining?  You get the picture.
The Private Dining Directory lists by occasion, so it’s not just personal events you can enquire about.  You can search for conference and meeting spaces, wedding venues and even a special place for a proposal.

The idea of this directory is really useful.  I’m currently engaged and searching for wedding venues in or near Glasgow was a case of check out what you know, then ask Google the rest.  For venues listed on the directory, it’s an easy way to see what they can do, approximate pricing and how many the venue can hold.  There’s the option to check availability if you’ve got a chosen date, or you can add a number of venues to the enquiry form and send out an enquiry to a few places if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

This is a great little resource for individuals searching for dinner somewhere different (a fair few of these have a small minimum of around 8 people – probably not that hard to get to) or could be useful for marketing, PR and corporate relations professionals looking to impress their colleagues with their knowledge of the local dining scene… just with a little help.

For more info, check out the directory's social pages on Twitter and Facebook.



This post is sponsored by The Private Dining Directory. 

Glasgow Living Part 24 – Lunch Menu at Ardnamurchan

Readers, as you’ve probably gathered, it’s been all go on the blog this month.  I’ve done a fair few reviews as well as recipe postings which has kept me busy.

Today I’m talking all things Arnamurchan – the amazing Scottish restaurant and bar at the top of Hope Street (across the road from the Theatre Royal). As a Scottish food blogger, it’s always an honour to be asked along to try out new places.

This was actually my second visit to the restaurant – a few weeks ago, I visited with some friends for the pre-theatre menu, booked through 5pm (honestly, try it, you won't be disappointed).  We had such an amazing experience, I was delighted to be invited back to review.  Pre-Ardnamurchan this place was a big pub that I’d never felt the urge to go into.  The new owners have invested heavily in the décor – moving the bar, exposing the brickwork, putting in industrial lights but still keeping a Scottish feel with just enough touches of tartan than it’s modern, not twee.
 
interior at ardnamurchan glasgow
Booths are available for larger groups

kitchen at arnamurchan glasgow
View to the open kitchen 

I had really high hopes for lunch here after our lovely dinner a few weeks previous – note – the wine list is fantastic and the guys behind the bar know their stuff – they’re well trained and polite. 

This time, as we were in for a lunchtime visit, I went purely for a soft drink and got stuck into their new lunch menu.   The choices are for 1,2 or 3 courses, starting at £7.95 for one course.  We’d definitely recommend the two courses at £9.95 – with the portion sizes, there was no way we’d have got to dessert as well.  We didn’t feel we needed it.  Quite a few dishes have supplements but these were only £1.00 each, so not breaking the bank if you do want to try some of the more premium offers. Although this could add up quickly, if you chose them for each course.

We both tried different starters – Mr WhatClaireBaked keeping it classic with chicken liver pate, toasted bread and fig jam.  Pate to bread ratio was great (he reported this back, we discuss it every time one of us orders pate in a restaurant). 
starter lunch menu Ardnamurchan


My starter was amazing – venison Bolognese hache – think venison meatballs, deep fried in breadcrumbs with a bolognese sauce.  They were SO GOOD.  Crispy outside, soft inside,  tangy sauce for dipping. Recommended as the stand out starter on the menu.

starter lunch menu Ardnamurchan
Next up, Mr WhatClaireBaked went for the venison burger served on brioche with a red onion relish and skinny fries – it came with a toasted bun and the venison was cooked properly – still pink in the middle.  It looked great, but for the purposes of avoiding “double venison” – I looked at it longingly across the table.

I love a chicken and bacon club – the Arndamurchan version came in a ciabatta rolls with mustard mayo and was also served with skinny fries. I went for this as my main.  It was incredibly filling and coupled with a decent sized starter, made for good value for less than £10 a head.

The waiting staff told us that the sticky toffee pudding was the best in Glasgow – we’ve yet to prove this, but if anyone else has been to Arnamurchan, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts!
lunch menu Arnamurchan Glasgow


Also for coeliac and gluten free friends – there are a few options for you which are highlighted on the menu.  Fear not!  

For more info, or to book, visit the website.  You can also keep up to date with the restaurant on Facebook, and Instagram.

Disclaimer: I was invited along to enjoy lunch for two in exchange for a review. Any opinions expressed are my own.


Monday, 17 July 2017

Beer Snacks & Low Alcohol Beer with Krombacher

Readers, I’m back experimenting in the kitchen again as it’s officially Summer (also known in Glasgow as TAPS AFF) and beer and bbq season.   The lovely people at Krombacher were in touch recently, to see if I’d be willing to do some kitchen experiments with their low alcohol beer.

This is the first of two planned posts showcasing interesting things you can do with beer as well as drink it.  Take note, these recipes have both been made with Krombacher low alcohol products – from the biggest family owned and operated brewery in Europe.  You’ll find these beers to be produced according to the Germany Beer Purity Law of 1516.  Both the Pils and the wheat beer I’ve worked with here are low alcohol and actually taste like beer.

krombacher low alcohol beer

These are great for drinking as well as cooking – various statistics are showing adults are shunning alcohol or attempting to cut down as part of a healthier lifestyle.  In Scotland, we have fairly strict drink driving rules, so one of these low alcohol beers at an afternoon barbeque could be an option – especially when you’ve had too many carbonated soft drinks like you're at a a children’s party!

So as well as enjoying these as part of a low alcohol lifestyle, I’ve cooked up a few recipes to share with you all for Summer entertaining season – all perfect snack foods to enjoy with a low alcohol Krombacher or two!

Keep an eye on this great German brand by following on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram 

Beer Battered Fried Chicken with Krombacher Pils Low Alcohol

Ingredients (makes 8 pieces)
8 mini breast fillets
Plain flour for coating

Batter Mix
½ cup plain flour
½ cup Krombacher Pils Low Alcohol
1 egg beaten
3 cups veg oil for frying

Method
  1. Dry off each chicken fillet with a paper towel then season with salt and pepper.  Then, coat each fillet in plain flour.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat one egg, add in the flour and Krombacher Pils Low Alcohol and mix together until a smooth batter is formed.  Then dip each floured fillet into the batter, coating on both sides. Shake off any excess.  Transfer to a plate and refrigerate for ½ hour before frying to settle the batter.
  3. Next, add the oil to a DEEP heavy based sauce pan and heat the oil to 350F – check using a temperature proof kitchen thermometer.  Don’t let it get too hot.  Alternatively, if you have a deep fryer, you can cook in there (I don’t have one).  Please be careful handling pans of hot oil.  It can be dangerous. 
  4. Once the temperature is reached, aimed to maintain this during cooking.  Cook fillets 2-3 at a time, turning throughout cooking.  Cook time for breast meat should be 8-10 minutes. Turn during cooking.  Remove from pan using a slotted heat proof spoon, then drain on kitchen towel.  Cut through one of each to check meat is white and fully cooked.  Serve immediately with bbq sauce.
  5. Be careful – do not touch the oil and pan until it is fully cooled down and dispose of the oil responsibly.
    krombacher beer battered fried chicken


Mini Steak & Beer Pies with Krombacher Weizen Low Alcohol

These take a good bit of time to prep but are worth it.  You might end up with leftover meat – fear not, it can be frozen and used at a later date.
krombacher mini steak pies


Ingredients – filling (will make a minimum of 10-12 mini pies)
400g diced beef
1 bottle Krombacher Weizen Low Alcohol
2 beef oxo cubes
1 onion (sliced)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp all purpose seasoning
Dash Worcester Sauce

1 egg beaten (for egg wash)
Pastry – 2 rolls of pre rolled puff pastry

Method
  1. Slice the onion, add to a large heavy based pan and begin to fry and soften before adding the garlic.
  2. Toss the meat in plain flour and add to the saucepan, start browning. 
  3. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix, then straight after, add a full bottle of Krombacher Weizen Low Alcohol.  Mix together and cook on a medium heat for around 5 minutes.  Once starting to boil, transfer to a slow cooker and cook meat on low for around 7 hours.
  4. Once your meat is cooked, begin to assemble the pies.  Start by greasing a muffin tin and preheat your oven to 180c (fan).
  5. Take your pre-rolled pastry and cut out a large circle and a slightly smaller circle for the lid.  The large circle should fit in the muffin tin and reach the top on both sides. I used a wide topped cup as my guide and a narrower mug for the lid of the pie.
  6. From the two rolls of pastry, prepare 12 large and 12 smaller circles.  If desired, you can re-roll the pastry to make more. 
  7. Place each of the larger circles into the muffin tin to make a case, then spoon in your cooked meat to each to around ¾ full.   Next, using a damp finger, go around the top of each case and put on the smaller pastry circle – making sure it is well sealed to the case around all edges.
    How to prep and fill each mini pie
  8. Repeat with the remaining mix until all are topped and sealed.   Wash each with a pastry brush and beaten egg.
  9. Transfer to the oven, bake for around 20 minutes, or until pastry is golden and the meat is hot.
  10. Remove from the oven and muffin tin, then serve immediately.




Disclaimer – this post has been sponsored by Krombacher beers. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Glasgow Living Part 23 – Afternoon Tea at Willow Tea Rooms

Readers, I took my mum on an adventure last week for afternoon tea at the Glasgow institution which is the Willow Tea Rooms.  They have two sites in the city centre – one on Buchanan Street (enjoyed by the tourists) and one within Watt Brothers on Sauchiehall Street.

We visited the Buchanan Street Tearoom and were seated upstairs in the Chinese tearoom – painted blue.  Go up the stairs and you’re treated to a two level tearoom, with Rennie Mackintosh inspired furniture and his signature style dotted throughout the venue. It’s incredibly traditional and charming, with the waitresses dressed in black dresses and white aprons.
Willow Tea Rooms
Interior of Willow Tea Rooms 


We went for the afternoon tea at £12.95 per person – which visitors flock far and wide for.   You start by choosing your tea from the vast selection of loose leaf (I went for the Cranston blend), then pick your choice of cake from the cabinet.  But more about the giant strawberry tarts later.

Our afternoon tea arrived shortly after, served on a traditional three tier display with finger sandwiches on the bottom.  Top marks to our lovely waitress who shared the selection of sandwiches with us when we ordered and allowed us to make a few swaps (we’re not a family of egg mayo lovers).    They were cut into dainty finger shapes, crusts removed and on fresh, soft bread. 
afternoon tea willow tearooms


afternoon tea willow tearooms

Next level up, our cream scones were waiting – a choice of plain or fruit – with traditional clotted cream and jam.   A little shortbread round was also on the plate, to enjoy with our tea.  After much debate on the cream versus jam, which goes first on a scone, we tucked in.  Let it be known that you’ll get proper home baking at Willow Tea Rooms. There’s no “bought in” cakes here.   It’s a real bugbear of mine when you go for an afternoon tea and are presented with untidy sandwiches and frozen cakes (I’ve been somewhere before, where there was definitely ice in the middle).  Not here though, the scones were home-made. 


Back to the strawberry tarts.  These things were HUGE.  We’re talking several strawberries, big dollops of cream, delicious short pastry and loads of strawberry tart jelly which I love. They easily filled the top level of the cake stand and were worth waiting for.  I always feel a summer isn’t complete without the arrival of a Strawberry tart (favoured around Wimbledon season, just in case you are wondering!)  For me, these were the highlight of the afternoon tea.
strawberry tarts the willow tearooms


Mum and I both enjoyed our visit to this Glasgow institution – a favourite with both locals and visitors to the city.  You’ll find Willow Tea Rooms Buchanan Street at Number 97 – towards the lower end of Buchanan Street - for people who are new to Glasgow.  Head up the stairs and you’ll be greeted by friendly waitresses showing you with a table.  Be prepared for a short wait if you haven’t pre-booked, especially during peak times in the day.  And don't forget to try the strawberry tarts! 



For more information, keep up to date with Willow Tea Rooms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Disclaimer:  I was invited along to Willow Tea Rooms as a Glasgow Blogger to try their afternoon tea menu in exchange for a write up.  Any opinions expressed are my own.  

Friday, 7 July 2017

Glasgow Living Part 22 - Dinner at Monty's Finnieston

Readers, I had a great start to my week of annual leave visiting new restaurant opening in Finnieston.  Many of you will remember Monty’s as the old Montgomery’s Café – a neighbourhood jaunt favoured by locals.  Under new management, Monty’s is now fully refurbed and looking fantastic.  It’s gone from neighbourhood café, to trend bistro with a fantastic menu, great chefs and really refined dishes.
Monty's Finnieston


We were lucky enough to be asked along to try out dinner at the newly refurbished venue and I’ll start by saying that this is one to watch in the area.  I think it could gain a great reputation very quickly.  The challenge will be getting the locals back in to see it in a new light.

Dinner started with an amuse bouche which was much appreciated whilst we waited on our starters coming.  I took a bit of time to check out the new décor – it’s got a real industrial feel with exposed brickwork, copper lighting and big wooden tables and booths.  There’s also a small bar through the archway and in the evenings, after food service, you can come in, grab a table and enjoy drinks.

Amuse Bouche, Monty's Finnieston




Our starters swiftly arrived – I went for the courgette and cheddar fritters, whilst Mr WhatClaireBaked went traditional with Scottish smoked salmon, capers and bread. Both were delicious, a decent size and hoovered up!   
starters monty's finnieston

starters monty's finnieston

The choice of mains was fantastic – ranging between £12 and £18 (roughly!) for a main course.  I had checked out the menu online and had my heart set on the venison loin which didn’t disappoint.  Delicious, rich, cooked pink and served with creamed savoy cabbage and bacon, with butternut squash.  The portion was just right – it was an incredibly rich dish, so I didn’t feel the need for more.  Mr WhatClaireBaked went for the chicken and risotto, which was equally beautifully presented and filling.  
venson main monty's glasgow


Not one to turn down dessert, I went for the cranachan – but a modern take on a cranachan – served as a parfait, with raspberry sorbet, homemade toasted granola and fresh raspberries.  Mr WhatClaireBaked struggled his way through ice cream, after saying he couldn’t manage dessert, then stared longingly at mine!!!!
dessert monty's glasgow


We were really impressed by Monty’s.  The menu is fairly Scottish, with decent sized portions presented stylishly in a great modern settting. If you are popping by, don’t forget to check out the huge world map on the ceiling – a relic from the old café.


You’ll find Monty’s on Radnor Street in Finnieston. They also offer a brunch menu and are open right through to late evening.  Why not visit their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Disclaimer:  I was asked to come for dinner for two in exchange for a review.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Glasgow Living Part 21 – Pre Theatre Menu at Alston Bar & Beef

Readers, I’ve had a great month of reviews and socialising with other bloggers.  I also love how much of a community there is in Glasgow.  

My latest adventure was to Alston Bar & Beef. Alston’s new manager was really keen to engage the blogger community, so brought in a few of us in small groups to try out their new pre-theatre menu.  I went along with Foodie Explorers and EmmaEats for a night of socialising!

One thing to be clear about – this is for people who lovvveeees their meat.  No rude jokes at the back please.  The clue is in the bar and beef name.  Alston for those of you who don’t know, is UNDER central station in Glasgow.  No joke.  You go in through the main entrance to Glasgow Central, it’s on the left, down the stairs.  Terribly unassuming from the outside, but once down underground, there’s some cool blue and purple lighting and a great buzz.

Don’t be put off by the fact it’s inside a train station.  This is NOT station food.

The set menu – pre/theatre is served Monday to Thursday 12pm to 6.30pm and Friday and Saturday between 12pm and 4pm.

We started our night with a cocktail each from the extensive menu.  I  love my gins as you probably know.  I started with a little raspberry gin cocktail (Raspberry Royale) before moving onto Argentinian Malbec to go with the steaks.
alston glasgow
Raspberry Royale Cocktail


I started with the tweed valley brisket and smoked cheddar croquettes (think posh potato croquettes) which were delicious.  Soft and smooth in the middle, then crispy on the outside.  I felt I couldn’t go to Alston and not order steak so went for a classic 227g bavette and chips.  I’d also recommend a focaccia to share at the table if you’re happy to get your carbs on. 
alston bar and beef glasgow starter

steak alston bar and beef glasgow

By this point I was starting to feel full and was concerned I wasn’t making it to dessert, but undeterred I continued on.  I cheated slightly, only going for lemon sorbet for dessert, but was assured by my dining partners that the poached pear and chocolate brownie on the menu were also delicious.

dessert alston glasgow

For value, you’re probably best going for at least 2 courses – one course will set you back £10, 2 courses are £13 and if you’ve room for dessert, 3 courses are £16.

I loved the vibe of Alston – the low lighting made it feel like a proper night out, even though it was a Thursday – and it was fairly busy around the bar and restaurant, creating a great atmosphere for everyone in the venue.
alston bar and beef glasgow

 For more info, visit the Alston website or visit their social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Disclaimer: I was asked to visit Alston to review the new menu. Any opinions expressed are my own.