I am cruising around UK with my van to discover not only breathtaking landscapes but flavors – to hopefully fall in love with the often underestimated UK cuisine!
Most of us are familiar with the Michelin Star, a very desired award by cooks and culinary geniuses. You might also have heard about the Michelin Guide and the list of restaurants listed as being the best of the best! What a lot people do not know is that, some of those restaurants tend to have a more democratic pricing list which enables more people to try what the high cuisine is all about. A lovely way to explore what the most innovative cooks are bringing to the table – literally.
And so, that is what I have been up to during my mad van road-trip. From camping sights, sleeping overnight in parking lots, to castles and gins – lots of those – to some of most exquisite flavors the -vegetarian- UK kitchen has to offer. Let us zoom into those hidden gems and get a real taste of New English Cuisine!!
I managed to enjoy the Brocco experience just as a morning stop, I was working on the day and I had some remote meetings I needed to attend. Also, as always my little Antonia – chihuahua nomad dog – was with me and dogs are not allowed in the restaurant. Anyhow, the terrace is lovely, has nice heaters and wooden furniture. The avocado with chilli, lime, coriander, grilled tomatoes and poached eggs on sourdough was superb! The sweet – sour flavors from the bread matched the grilled tomato acidity and the chili kick perfectly.
For those looking for a place to stay, Brocco has also a hotel as well as more sophisticated dinner and lunch options. It is actually situated in a very green area, close to the Endcliffe Park which technically leads you to Peak District – if you walk long enough. The park is full of dark green paths with birds and squires. Great emerging experience after breakfast!
But it cannot all be Avo and egg! I want to try more places. The aim of my trip is to spend as much time as possible during the summer months in Scotland to enjoy the long days – bright and hopefully sunny! Next stop in my Michelin tour is Glasgow.
Glasgow is a delight in itself. Such a magical city full of history, with it’s architectural “skin” inked by graffiti and full of sumptuous old historical buildings. Bubbly humans come in the pack too! Constantly getting stopped to engage with “the wee dog in a jumper”. That is Antonia again, the chihuahua that stole the show all day every day.
Slowly we made our way to the west end not before making a spontaneous stop at Crabshakk at Cathedral House. Two oysters and a wine into the lunch, we arrived at the Ubiquitous Chip, our table was ready and we were invited to enter the main floor, which has a garden and green feel to it.
Due to COVID rules at that time we could not succumb to the wine – so we kept it simple with some soda. Two vegetarians and one meat eater at the table – let the feast begin!
We kicked off lunch with the asparagus tart (Asparagus Tart, Shallots, Cashews, Wild Garlic Miso) the garlic miso kicked trough really nicely. I enjoyed the crispiness from the tart and the creamy mousy sauce. After that we had black rice with crazy vegetable mix from patron peppers to carrots to parley to nuts. It was definitely an interesting dish – full of flavors and textures. To finish up – Rhubarb Tart with Ginger Meringue, Almond Crumble, Hay Cream …. Hayyy hay aii! Lovely textures again and incredible balance between the sweetness of the ice-cream and meringue and the bitterness from the Rhubarb.
We say bye for now to Glasgow to enter Aberdeernshire, where we are going to spend some more time getting to know North-East of Scotland. From Stonehaven anti-clockwise, we will be discovering some intriguing flavours and restaurants full of character. Just before we jump into the Seafood, let me explain that my vegetarian commitment has a wee caveat. I do not eat things with eyes. That explains – hopefully- the oysters from Glasgow. This may sound irrational but there is a logic behind it. Will explain in a different moment.
Stonehaven was a nice surprise. From Dunnottar Castle, to the Dunnottar Woods, to an idyllic view into the harbour. I visited one of the dog friendly spots called Marine Hotel which has also really good food by the way! I started the evening with half a pint IPA while making time before my dinner at Tolbooth Seafood. Antonia was not invited to this lovely solo dinner with myself, dogs are not allowed in. It was a moment of celebration, I was celebrating achievements such a being at peace in solitude. Very deep – I know.
As a no-face-things eater the menu did not have a lot to offer, but what was on the carte was worth my time! I kicked of with six LOCH FYNE oysters that paired very nicely with a French Rose – I do not recall the name, which is always a sign of a good party. My main was steamed Shetland Mussels, simple but deli, white wine, onions and some flavoring, paired with an Albariño. You may figure out I tend to drink a lot of Albariño, to me it does pair very well with vegetables and seafood. It has a lovely peachy and citrusy aroma, it brings the sea to my pallets and it is Spanish – which I am delighted to support. The mussels were very delicate, the flavor kicked in after … slowly. For those that love to dip bread into the sauce – this might not be your predilect version, as the sauce was very light and fresh.
More pictures of me hanging out with the unknown French Rosé and … voilá … the Lemon Curd, shortbread crumble, white chocolate and lemon zest namesake, limoncello jellies, elderflower! The tart to me was incredible, again the balance between the citrusy and the sweet was on point. Great dinner, amazing contracts of pure sea, salt, marine and elegant and pure flavors with a good kick at the end!
We are still in Aberdeenshire, Moonfish is a little hidden germ underneath a bridge in a small road in the heart of Aberdeen. Lovely staff. Welcome us with a smile and sit us in our table. Again, in the context of a vegetarian the menu did offer 2 plates but for me this makes it all just easier and it gives me time to focus on other things like the interior design! From a budget stand point, Moonfish is the perfect example. It has very affordable prices, vibrant atmosphere and it feels like a relaxed and sporadic dinner. The design is clean and simple – good simple – no overdoing in their logo, the interior design nor in the plate presentation. Very refreshing!
We kicked of with a pumpkin seed soda bread with truffle fromage blanc. Nice spongy bread and lovely cheese kick. Who doesn’t like truffle? From there I went to a sweet potato & goat cheese lasagne rocket, pine nut dressing. Good flavors and very filling, it made me travel to Greece with the cheese and the moussaka feel to it. Absolutely lovely for the evening. It did not surprise me – I have eating something similar before – but it really masters what it promises.
Would 100% go again!
At the other end of the spectrum, we find Eat on the Green (by the way this one is not in the 2021 Michelin Guide). When you arrive into the venue you know you are there for something different, full of detail and baroque . Deep green wallpaper in the toilets, dark walls with very intriguing realistic paintings of people in the middle of nature, velvet chairs and a pre-ordered tasting menu. Apparently the cook from Moonfish worked here before!
Started – strong – with a Negroni cocktail at the bar, they brought some little canapés over : Pea & Mint Velouté | Haggis Bon Bons | Smoked Paprika & Sesame Pastries. I love a canapé! it is small -dah- , does not fill you too much but it gives back a lot of flavor and texture. I it is something fun to start dinner with that enables the cook to explore new combinations in a refreshing way and sets the tone of the rest of the food. The pea & mint warm soup was very nice, together with the smoked paprika pastries, my two favs. The mousy paprika was very soft and combined well with the crispy bread.
As in most of these places the freshly baked bread is soft and spongy, the Herb & Rock Sea Salt Butter was nice snack to keep the Negroni effects under control. My starters were vegetarian, I got the Beetroot & Pecan Nut Salad , the Roast Tomato Soup, Tempura Vegetable Kofta & Saffron Mayo. It did remind me of the previous canapés, but after my confessed love for bite-size-food I think you can imagine my reaction.
Over to wine, white wine and a lovely lemon sorbet to clean the tasting buds. Next stop: Katsu Cauliflower, Salsa Verdi, Asparagus, Aromatic Sticky Rice and Coriander. The presentation was exaggerated – it had lot’s going on, I would have loved to be able to find some order in chaos, but at the same time I think it did balance the clean starter presentation very well. The Cauliflower was good and the carrots and asparagus too. To me, certain parts of the plate tasted like vegetarian Moroccan tahine, slow cooked vegetables with earthy seasoning. It was a good plate, interesting dressing and good intention, it did not surprise me either with any flavors. But again, we need to understand we are in Scotland and giving feedback on only the veggie options of restaurants that have been recognized for their fish and meat.
At this stage, the risk of exploding is real! But the view is too tempting: Sticky Toffee Pudding , Lemon Posset , Chocolate Ganache, Scottish Raspberry Meringue. It could be that my food knowledge around sweets is not too sophisticated, but I really enjoyed the merengue. Definitely my favorite, the toffee and ganache was too sweet. A coffee and more toffee bites. Those I took in a doggie bag! And … over to the van – literally parked in front – to roll in and have a queen size siesta!
Sutor Creek, Cromarty
I did an art residency in Cromarty and so I had many lovely opportunities to get PIZZA! Amazing veggie options and a very juicy quiche. Because of COVID and overall because of the space, it is take-away. The experience is not the focus but the food is top! The pizza on the left is the roasted vegetables one and the one on the right is the extra margarita with artichokes. Nice stuff, clean, super cool local food shop + kick-ass pizza in a corner of the word you would not expect!
More foodie updates coming soon …..