Scotland - Around Edinburgh, Loch Ness, Glencoe & Highlands Tour [Travel]

Sunday, 29 November 2009

I've mentioned before that my sister is on a vacation here in the UK. She's been globetrotting in Europe for the past 2 months and I thought it's about time we do some traveling in the UK instead. As you know from our previous posts, we just got back from a 3-day weekend break in Scotland. We spent the first 2 days exploring places around Edinburgh and the last day in Edinburgh itself.

We took a plane from London to Edinburgh and arrived at about 9a.m. We rented a car and our first stop was the Roslynn chapel in Roslin. This place has become really popular after being used in The Da Vinci Code - that's the reason why we wanted to make that detour. Unfortunately...


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it was under construction.

We were so disappointed we decided to divert our attention to food instead, and so we headed to Anstruther for fish & chips.

Our next stop was St Andrews which is the home of golf. This is also the home of The University of St Andrews, which is the oldest university in Scotland and also where Prince William graduated from.

We managed to take a picture of the ruins of St Andrews Castle and it started to pour like cats and dogs.

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So instead of exploring St Andrews by foot, we drove around instead.

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The national drink of Scotland is whisky, so a visit to the distillery is a must. Please remember to check the opening and closing times of everywhere you intend to go. The Glenkinchie distillery closes at 4p.m and we were there at 3.55p.m! We missed the last tour and I think the salesperson pitied us and let us have a shot of Glenkinchie 12 year old each. It's smooth but a bit too light for my taste.

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Another disappointment, so yet again we diverted our attention to food instead. We headed back to Edinburgh and had dinner at A Room in the Town.

The next day, we took a day tour to Loch Ness, Glencoe and the highlands with Rabbie's trail burners. I chose them because they are highly recommended by tripadvisor and they conduct a small group tour with a maximum of 16 passengers. It was a 12 hour tour, although very tiring and a rush, we managed to see what we wanted to see - beautiful landscape scenery and attractions of Scotland. The driver/ tour guide was very knowledgeable and humorous- told us lots of historical information on the way. To be honest, I dozed off and fell asleep a few times as his voice was a tad too... pleasant. Anyway, I enjoyed it and it's a great way to explore Scotland (if time is an issue). Here are some highlights of our day tour.


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Doune castle - where the British comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a parody of the legends of King Arthur by the Monty Python team, was filmed on location in Scotland in 1974
.

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Cottage in Castle Grounds - it's actually a toilet

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Loch Lubnaig

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Falls of Dochart

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Glencoe - Filming for the third Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", was filmed on location in Glencoe
. The tour guide showed us the location of Hagrid's hut but unfortunately it was dismantled.

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More rain...

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The Commando memorial - this area is dedicated to the memory of all Commandos who gave their lives in the service of thsi country during the 1939-1945 War.Comrades who have died since the cessation of hostilities are also remembered here.

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Fort Augustus on the southern shore of Loch Ness. It's the largest loch by volume in Scotland and contains more water than every lake in England and Wales combined. The loch is best known for the legendary sightings of the Loch Ness Monster "Nessie".

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Loch Ness - gloomy when we arrived

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The sun appeared after 10 minutes

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The Caledonian Canal which links the lochs of the Great Glen.

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The gatehouse

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It got dark at this point and we weren't able to see much.

We were back in Edinburgh at about 7p.m.

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To be continued...


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A Room in the Town, Edinburgh

Friday, 27 November 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar


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St Giles' cathedral, Edinburgh


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Haggis, neeps & tatties with a glayva syrup – first haggis I’ve tried, but the more experienced PigPig and my good friend the Suckling Pig both gave this a thumb’s up although they were a bit miserly with the sauce. In case the name doesn’t make any sense, neeps = turnips, tatties = potatoes, glayva = a whiskey liqueur.


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Lamb, mint & pinenut patties with coriander & cucumber yoghurt – perhaps not a typical Scottish dish but they did a fairly good job with this. The patties could have used a bit more seasoning though. (Pigpig: I thought the patties were a bit dry.)


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Confit duck legs with pickled red cabbage, port & roast shallot jus – a very good, if not particularly imaginative rendition of a dish I had in Prague. The skin was nice and crispy while the duck meat was tender, juicy and went well with the slightly sweet picked cabbage.


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Pan seared pheasant breasts on merguez sausage, fig & haricot bean casserole – the PigPig’s choice, the meat was a bit dry and tough and the fig and bean casserole with its tomato base was a bit too sharp for my liking. (Pigpig: I enjoyed the bean casserole.)


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Cumin roasted pumpkin tart with a sharp plum tomato & ginger chutney - completely forgot about this at first and the PigPig needed to remind me to add this in! I'm not a big fan of vegetarian mains and this had no chance of changing my mind; the tomato base was too sharp and completely overpowered the pumpkin taste. Poor effort.


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Steak of the day – fillet with mushroom sauce and coconut rice – best main dish of the night. Although a fillet cut isn’t my preferred cut (I prefer a bit more fat on the meat), this one was cooked perfectly pink and still remained quite juicy. The rich coconut rice helped somewhat with the beef’s low fat content. (Pigpig: everything was really tasty esp the mushrooms and coconut rice. I kept attacking this dish instead of my rather dry pheasant.)


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Banoffee pie – a simply brilliant pudding, the main body was quite light which was sweetened mainly by the toffee at the bottom. The only complaint was from the girls as we guys finished it too quickly!


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Sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce & double cream – while the taste is there, the texture was a bit lacking as it wasn’t as sticky as it should be. Also the double cream seemed a bit light, it was more like single cream.


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Altogether, the bill came up to about £30 each including a bottle of rather disappointing red pinot noir.

Food – 6.5
Service – 6.5
Atmosphere – 5.0
Value – 5.0


Pretty good food, if not anything particularly special.

Would I eat here again? I think I’ll like to try someplace else instead if I were to visit Edinburgh again.

PS. Forgot to mention that it was a fully booked night we were there and we got the last table available for the evening. Also there are another two "rooms" in and nearby Edinburgh so they're obviously doing well.

A Room in the Town
18 Howe St
Edinburgh,
EH3 6TG
Tel: +44 (0)131 225 8204
Official website

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Anstruther Fish Bar, Scotland - Best in Britain?! [Restaurant Review]

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

We went on a three day long weekend trip to Edinburgh so the next few posts will be Edinburgh related.


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At our friend’s insistence, we were dragged up to the village of Anstruther to have fish and chips after our visit to St Andrews (home of golf apparently). He had it previously and claimed it was amazing, a view backed up by the chippy winning several awards, most recently UK Seafish Fish & Chip Shop of the Year 2008/09.


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In fact, this fish bar even has its own road signboard as we made our way into town.


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Anyway to make things simple the four of us shared three haddock and chips. The meal set included drinks as well as bread and butter (which I found rather odd, is this a ‘normal’ thing? I don’t know).


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The fish seemed fresh enough; not a surprise as they source the fish themselves, as they used to be in the fishing and supplying business prior to buying the chippy in 2003. The batter was also pretty good and light and was actually quite tasty. The chips however seemed a little on the oily side and there was a noticeable oil slick at the end of the meal.


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Altogether, the bill came up to around £25 for three fried haddock and chip meals.

Food – 5.5
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 5.0
Value – 5.0


Is it the best fish and chips I’ve had? No, this is actually pretty good, but that prestige (if any) belongs to Rick Stein’s. Only complaints are that it’s a bit oily, and no home made tartare sauce.

Would I eat here again? Not too sure about travelling 1.5 hours from Edinburgh all the way out there just to eat fish and chips.

Anstruther Fish Bar
42-44 Shore Street
Anstruther
Fife
KY10 3AQ
Tel: +44 01333 310518
Official website




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Steamed Egg with Milk Custard (鮮奶燉蛋)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

My sister is here on vacation and she stays with me if she's not globetrotting in Europe. Very much like me, she has a sweet tooth, so after every meal, she'd ask me what's for dessert. I have to admit that I've been really lazy and on a semi-hibernation mode, so my answers to her have been "chocolates". I got away with it for about a week and she started complaining. She suggested that it's about time I get my lazy ass off the sofa and whip up something nice and warm for her like this steamed egg with milk custard (a famous dessert in Hong Kong), which is the simplest warm dessert that one can make. Most recipes would suggest using rock sugar, but I was too lazy to melt the sugar over the stove, leave it to cool then steam the egg and milk mixture. I used caster sugar instead and melted it using the microwave. This is about as easy as it can get and it satisfied our sugar cravings (for a few days)- a simple and delicious warm dessert.


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Ingredients: makes 2 ramekins
  • 1cup minus 2 tbs (220ml) milk
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)


Directions:
  • Place 1/3 cup milk and sugar in a microwavable bowl, microwave on high for 30 seconds to dissolve sugar. Stir to mix.
  • Add the remaining milk and honey.
  • In another bowl, gently beat/ stir eggs to mix.
  • Stir eggs into milk until well combined.
  • Add vanilla essence.
  • Pour egg-milk mixture into ramekins through a sieve to get rid of air bubbles.
  • Steam on high heat for 5 mins. I used a wok with a steaming rack set over it. Place 2 chopsticks below the lid to let the steam escape.
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  • Turn off heat and leave to set for about 20 mins.


Steamed Egg with Milk Custard (鮮奶燉蛋)

My first batch of egg custard made with 2 eggs and 1 cup of milk. The surface was a bit ugly, I think it's because I steamed it with the wok fully covered without letting the steam escape. This batch was also denser. I prefer the 1 egg to 220ml of milk batch - much softer and smoother.

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Sushi-Hiro, London [Restaurant Review]

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

Alright, so I did proclaim Sushi-Say to be my favourite all time best ever Japanese restaurant and had no interest in finding a new regular place to eat Japanese food, but it didn’t mean I couldn’t try new places; I wouldn’t be much of a food blogger if I did that.

The PigPig has been hearing good stuff about Sushi Hiro, mainly that it serves good sushi at quite reasonable prices. The only problem was its location, in remote Ealing. We arrived at opening time, luckily too as they were apparently fully booked for the day but were able to squeeze us in. They got quite odd opening times (for normal London restaurants anyway) at 11am to 1.30pm (2pm is the last call for ordering food for lunch) and 4.30pm to 9pm for dinner only Tuesday to Sundays.


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Located right opposite Ealing Common tube station, the façade of Sushi Hiro wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen. Inside however is a different story; it was bright and airy with cheerful young Japanese staff.


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We were seated at the bar counter and had a bird’s eye view of all the fresh seafood on display. A waitress quickly served us hot green tea (they serve it to everybody coming in) and gave us a menu and paper to tick our choices. The menu was very focused as Sushi Hiro only served sushi and sashimi (ok yes they do have edamame and miso soup, but it doesn’t really count).


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Our choice of a deluxe nigiri platter to share came quickly. Being the most expensive sushi platter available, it had only the choicer types of seafood available, no space for egg or cucumber makis here. Instead, we ate unagi (eel), toro (tuna belly), salmon, mackerel, scallop, seabream, seabass, yellowtail, surf clam, crab, squid, ama ebi (sweet shrimp), salmon eggs; in summary they were all very fresh and there were no complaints at all.


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However, the seafood is only half of the sushi; the rice also has to be tasty as well. To me, the rice felt a little bit harder than other places I’ve eaten at and less seasoned with sugar/vinegar. The sushi chef still made the sushi well though, with the rice being well pressed and firm, only once did some rice break away en route from plate to mouth. Personally, I preferred Sushi-Say’s rice. Also, the sushi chef was perhaps just a wee bit too aggressive in his wasabi delivery for my liking.

Other sushi we tried included the uni (sea urchin); the uni served here was darker and richer in colour but unfortunately not in taste. Although still delicious, it didn’t seem as rich as the ones served in Sushi-Say.

The chilli flying fish roe was not very spicy but quite salty. It was something new for me but wasn’t too impressive.

Similarly the razor clams were quite sweet but not as sweet as I’ve had elsewhere.


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The spotted prawns on the other hand were amazingly presented. I had dismissively assumed the prawn head to be a decorative headpiece (hehe) only to realise later it was filled to the head (hehehe) with roe, after the head had been lightly deep fried with a dash of salt. I made a bit of a mess trying to dig it out with pieces of shell flying everywhere, only for the PigPig to elegantly remove one side of the head, laying the entire contents vulnerable for her to eat up. Oh and the prawn meat itself was pretty good too, slightly sticky in its raw form with only the sweetness of the prawn to enjoy.


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It was always going to be a bit hard to impress me after the spotted prawns, but the anago (sea eel) managed to do just that. Although it looked like a bit of a mess on the plate, the incredibly creamy texture was just amazing. Although I’ve eaten unagi (freshwater eel) several times before, this anago is new to me and it was a delight to try.


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Lastly, the PigPig just had to order a futomaki. Although normally quite large in size, the ones here seemed even bigger than normal. The PigPig especially loved it as they not only used lots of the pickled gourds and mushrooms but they also added some prawn to the roll, giving it an extra layer of taste and slight chewy texture.


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Altogether, the bill came to £30 per person for a very large and filling meal of top quality sushi and some complimentary miso soup.

Food – 6.0
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 5.0


Without a doubt, very good quality sushi/sashimi served. Unfortunately, its only sushi/sashimi you’ll get here. While the range of sushi is wider than Sushi-Say’s, I do prefer Sushi-Say’s extra large slices of fish and other goodies on the menu. However, I think that sushi fans will still be very happy to visit this restaurant.

Would I eat here again? If Sushi-Say burned down (touch wood).

Sushi-Hiro
1 Station Parade,
Uxbridge road
Ealing, W5 3LD
Tel: +44(020) 8896 3175

Sushi-Hiro on Urbanspoon

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