Saturday, 25 February 2017

Icelandic Lamb Soup and a trip round The Golden Circle

Food and travel are inextricably linked. Every time I go on holiday one of the highlights (OK I admit it, reasons for going in the first place) is the food. I wasn't entirely sure if this would be the case with Iceland but I was blown away by the food. Yes it was super expensive but it was also amazing. I've already blogged about Where we stayed in Iceland and what we ate in Reykjavik, now I'm going to take you for a trip round The Golden Circle, the island's main tourist route and share my recreation of the Lamb Soup we ate at Gulfoss. 

Kerio Crater Lake
We were completely blown way by the first stop on our Golden Circle journey. Just 5k from our apartment at Hotel Grimsborgir, Kerio is a 6500 year old explosion crater lake. The vivid red rock, colourful vegetation and greenish water make it a spectacular sight. Iceland's favourite pop star Bjork once performed a gig on a pontoon in the middle.

Geothermal energy is used to heat thousands of Greenhouses across the whole of Iceland, at night they glow spookily red like a horticultural version of the Northern Lights. Fridheimar is a truly unique food experience located within a tomato greenhouse. It's a restaurant with a small shop and I'd mistakenly thought we could just drop in and look around but you really need to be part of a pre-booked tour group or be dining. The smell of tomatoes as soon as you stepped in was mesmerising and took me straight back to my Granda Monearn's small greenhouse when I was a child. We'd not long eaten breakfast so lunch wasn't really an option, instead, despite the sun not being over the yardarm, I opted for a Bloody Mary and Foodie Boy had Tomato Ice Cream. Both were absolutely delicious and a return visit for their famous soup would be top of my list for any future trips to Iceland.

Geysir is the geysir after which all other geysers are named. Alas the Great Geysir itself hasn't really been active since 1916. Luckily its neighbour Strokkur is happy to regularly oblige to the delight of hundreds of tourists waiting poised with cameras to capture the moment. 

The furthest point on the Golden Circle is Iceland's most famous waterfall, Gulfoss, The Golden Falls. Its a spectacular two tier plummet of 32m. Alas no sunshine when we visited but it is known for producing spectacular rainbows. Our guidebook told us that the Cafe was famous for its traditional Lamb soup and it didn't disappoint. Made using local organic lamb and vegetables it comes with unlimited bread and butter and a free refill - best bargain of the whole trip! We each managed two bowls. I knew from the first spoonful that I wanted to try and recreate my own version. 

Girl had a sandwich whilst we feasted on Lamb Soup but I'd promised her that the next stop would be right up her street. Efstidalus is a dairy farm with a Restaurant and Ice Cream Cafe. You can watch the ice cream and cones being made and from the cafe windows you look right into the cows and calves in the cowshed whilst enjoying an ice cream. Another one I'd love to revisit to try out their restaurant. 

Snorkelling Silfra Fissure at Pingvellir National Park 
This was an absolute must do on our trip and didn't disappoint. We went snorkeling between the American and European tectonic plates with Iceland Adventure Tours. Getting in and out of the dry suits was an adventure in itself! The water is freezing cold - no geothermal springs here. The snorkeling trip itself takes about 30-40 minutes exploring the big crack, hall, cathedral and lagoon. The water is fantastically clear and the colours are brilliant. Visibility is around 100-150 meters. The water is probably the purest drinking water you'll find in Iceland so we all drank some - whether on purpose or accidentally! The hot chocolate, coffee and cookies afterwards were almost as welcome as tea and toast after childbirth. 

Now to try and recreate the Lamb Soup. Icelandic lamb is renowned for its flavour and quality - as is Scotch Lamb. Kjotsupa is a favourite throughout Iceland and apparently every household has their own recipe. The broth was wonderfully flavourful and I suspect that a Sheep Head was used to make it. We saw these on sale in the freezers of all the supermarkets. The vegetables in the broth were really chunky and rustic so I chopped mine likewise. I think it could also work really well with the addition of barley, rice or rolled oats to make a thicker stew. I was really pleased with my version but I'm sure it could be improved with using a freshly made lamb stock (with or without sheep head!) I stirred in some English Mustard to my second bowl which added a nice kick. It's the perfect dish to warm the cockles of your heart. 

Icelandic Lamb Soup - Kjotsupa 
Serves 8 

4 x Lamb Leg Steaks (approx 800g) 
2 Onions 
1 large leek 
2 litres lamb stock (I used 2 stock cubes) 
3 sprigs Thyme 
3 sprigs Rosemary 
4 Carrots 
4 Potatoes 
1/2 Neep (Swede) 
1/4 White Cabbage 
Salt & Pepper 

Cut the lamb into bite -sized cubes and place it in a large soup pan along with the stock, and the roughly chopped onions and leeks. Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer with the lid on for 1 hour. 
Add the sprigs of thyme and rosemary and the roughly chopped carrots, potato and swede and cook for a further 20 minutes. Finally add the chopped cabbage, season well with salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes. 
Remove the thyme and rosemary sprigs before serving with unlimited bread and butter and free refills. 

Linking up to CookBlogShare and Simply Seasonal

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Foodie Quine - Kjotsupa  - Icelandic Lamb Soup and a trip round The Golden Circle - Kerio Crater Lake, Fridheimar, Geysir, Gullfoss, Efstidalur, Snorkelling Silfra Fissure at Pingvellir National Park

Monday, 20 February 2017

What we ate and where we stayed in Reykjavik and Iceland

I have so much that I want to share about our amazing five day trip to Iceland that I really don't know where to start. My head is buzzing with recipe development ideas (mostly involving Lamb and Skyr) but I'm going to kick off by sharing a selection of what we ate in Reykjavik, the island's capital and where we stayed on our trip. Suffice to say we had an absolutely amazing holiday and totally fell in love with Iceland. The price of everything is eye-wateringly expensive (£15 for a cheese and ham sandwich!) but the food throughout our entire stay was absolutely wonderful no matter where we ate. Cafes at motorway service stations and tourist attractions in the UK could learn a lot from those in Iceland. 

We spent the first night in Keflavik which is where the airport is situated. Our accommodation was at Hotel Keflavik and was absolutely ideal for a one night stay. Breakfast there was particularly good and we soon learned to eat as much as we could to fill us up for the day ahead! For our first Icelandic meal we headed to Kaffi Duss at the opposite end of the town where I had the most amazing Grilled Icelandic Lambchops with red cabbage, rhubarb jam, baked potato, and brown sauce (thankfully not of the HP variety!) Boy had Lobster Soup with Whipped Cream, Foodie Loon had Bacon wrapped monkfish with glazed vegetables, potatoes and house specialty lobster sauce. Girl had Pizza. You can bring a horse to (Icelandic) water but you can't make it drink. 

For the following four nights of our stay we were in a luxury 2 bedroom apartment at the Grimsborgir Hotel. This was absolutely perfect for us with terrace, bbq and a private hot tub plus a buffet breakfast served in the main hotel itself. It is located just off the 'Golden Circle' route close to Pingvellir National Park. We had optimistically hoped to spot the northern lights from our hot tub but unfortunately cloud throughout our stay put paid to that. Our travel agent Kate at Travel Counsellors had organised wine and mini deserts for our arrival which was much appreciated. So glad we chose to stay outwith Reykjavik and hire a car, it was definitely the best option for us and provided much more freedom than being tied to tour buses. 

I had a checklist of both sights and food to tick off in Reyjjavik. First stop was Harpa, the capital's twinkling concert hall with seemingly ever changing glass panels overlooking the harbour. Much fun was had by both little and big people building towers on the beach with black volcanic rocks before heading along the waterfront to Jon Arnason's ship like Sun Voyager sculpture. Hot Dogs are a huge thing in Iceland and the place to go in Reykjavik is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur which translates to 'the best hot dog in town'. We ordered one with the works - ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remolaði, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. If truth be told I was rather underwhelmed although I did like the raw and crispy onion combo. Bitafiskur - pieces of dried fish - were an absolute must try. These are best served with lashings of Icelandic butter. Perhaps not for everyone but I got a real taste for them. The perfect snack with a tipple, much like pork scratchings. Reykjavik Chips was recommended to me by a number of people and most definitely did not disappoint. We went for a family box to share which unfortunately meant that we didn't have a cone to insert into the holes in the table. The chips themselves were amazing, skin on, twice cooked served with your sauce of a dozen different sauces. A Gull beer on the side finished them off perfectly.

Probably the most iconic building in Reykjavic is Hallgrimskirkja (as also cleverly seen in the the Reykjavic Chips logo - go back and look!) The silhouette of this immense white concrete church is stunning whilst the interior is very simple bar a huge pipe organ. We took the opportunity to light a candle in the church in memory of my cousin Valerie. She had traveled to Iceland and had hoped to do so again but sadly passed away last year. We used the money she bequeathed to fund our holiday. Well worth taking the elevator trip to the top of the 73m high tower for fantastic views. The sun came out at this point and we had a fantastic vantage point over the multicoloured houses of the capital. Time for a wander around the Old Harbour in search of further sustenance. Saegreiffin - The Seabarron was our destination located in a turquoise harbourside shed. The interior is far from salubrious with communal benches and plastic barrel seats. We tried their famous lobster soup and a grilled fish kebab. The kebab was fantastic but I found the soup rather wishy washy.

Whilst in the vicinity of Hallgrimskirkja I'd been told to look out for Braud & Co Bakery. The smell of their warm cinnamon buns baking was amazing and the taste more than lived up to the enticing aroma. Eaten so quickly I never even got a photo but well worth following your nose to their highly graffitied building. Lunch on our final day in Iceland was at Kaffivagninn. A slightly confusing self service system of ordering but we got there. Main meals come with a portion of their soup of the day and a coffee. A selection of traditional scandanavian and Icelandic dishes were on the menu and the cold Danish Smørrebrød looked tempting but we all opted for hot fish dishes quirkily served in frying pans. Fishpan Cod Loin au gratin with shrimp and bernaise for me, Panfried Fish Balls with onion butter and remoulade for boy and Fish Stew with rye bread and butter for Foodie Loon. Girl went to Subway for her lunch but joined us for desert of apple cake. Baby steps. 

Lamb and Fish are most definitely the most prevalent items on menus in Iceland although there was also chicken, pork, pizza, pasta and vegetarian options available. We really didn't see much at all in the way of beef. We did see both Puffin & Whale on menus but chose to avoid both for ecological reasons. Even without that concern I think fermented whale would be a step too far for my palate and no way would girl have let me eat Puffin as they are just too cute. My only souvenir from Reykjavik? Yup you've guessed it. Gin.

For further Icelandic inspiration Helen has blogged about travel and gastronomy at Fuss Free Flavours and Kavey Eats has sent a fascinating series of Postcards from Iceland. More Iceland travel and recipe posts to follow from me too. I've got a pan of Icelandic Lamb Soup bubbling away at the moment just waiting to be blogged about...

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Foodie Quine - Eating in Iceland and Reykjavik. Lamb, Seafood, Lobster Soup, Hot Dogs, Reykjavik Chips, Saegreiffin, Braud & Co Bakery, Kaffi Duss, Bitafiskur.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

#experiencemercure Ardoe House Masterclass, Aberdeen

We're all really bad at not appreciating the things that are on our own doorstep. Ardoe House Hotel on the outskirts of Aberdeen is a place I've been on a number of occasions but pretty much always for functions or corporate events. As such I've never stayed in the hotel or made the most of their dining offering. To give it its full title, Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel and Spa, is a beautiful 4-star 19th century mansion house set in 30 acres of tranquil Aberdeenshire countryside. It boasts 120 bedrooms and is situated just 3 miles outside the Granite City thus providing the perfect backdrop for a relaxing weekend. As such I was delighted to be invited to kick start my February with a culinary masterclass and overnight stay. My BFF was equally delighted to be asked to attend as my plus one but expressed reservations as to how hands on the masterclass might be. I was assured that it was just a demo so you can imagine her horror when she spotted aprons on the chairs!

On arrival at Ardoe we checked into our spacious twin room which was stylishly furnished with super comfy beds plus a seating and work desk area. The large bathroom had a walk-in shower and was kitted out with toiletries, robes and slippers. Complimentary soft drinks and snacks awaited alongside a Nespresso machine and an #ArdoeMasterclass Picnic Hamper was delivered containing a selection of scones with cream and jam, scotch egg, pork pie, chocolate brownies, local crisps and sparkling mineral water. Time to head down to the Masterclass and meet up with fellow bloggers John of The Everyday Man, Claire of Bee Waits and Alex & Ziggy of Scotland Travelaholic. Leading the Masterclass was Ardoe's Executive Head Chef Richard Yearnshire assisted by Senior Sous Chef Alan Clarke and Pastry Chef Daniel Grant. Time to don our aprons and roll up our sleeves!

The menu and recipes for the Masterclass had already been delivered to our room along with our Hamper and details of the event timings. The first instruction was 'the preparation of the pork belly needs to be cooked in advance over a three day period'. Luckily Richard explained that for a number of elements they would be working on a 'here's one we made earlier basis'. Phew, not sure we could have waited 3 days for our dinner. Richard took great pains to explain the ethos of the fine dining offering at Ardoe's Blair's Restaurant. As much as possible of the food is local with an emphasis on quality and provenance. A myriad of textures, flavours, temperatures and cooking techniques are used to prevent palate fatigue. We were wowed with techniques using brining, sous vide, salt baking, dehydrating, pané, vac packing, gels, jus, syrups and souffles.

Thanks to Ziggy at Scotland Travelaholic for the above couple of photos. I made a complete pigs ear at my attempt to shuck a humongous Isle of Skye Scallop. When it came to plating up we were again offered the chance to try our hand, I stepped back for this opportunity fearing another faux pas. However when it came to whipping up the souffle my BFF stepped forward and folded in the egg whites and cranachan base like a true pro. By this time our mouths were watering as we'd watched the first two courses being prepared, cooked and plated up but hadn't eaten a thing. The cooking smells were tantalising and when the souffle arrived from the oven we all grabbed a spoon and dug in. It would only have flopped and the sorbet melted if we hadn't.

A quick change of clothes to dress for dinner and at last with rumbling bellies and eager anticipation we headed to Blair's Restaurant to enjoy our Mercure Masterclass Meal. As expected everything tasted absolutely wonderful and all eight of us agreed that we enjoyed our meal even more having seen all the time, skill, techniques and sheer passion that had gone into creating it. Bar the scallops, pork and venison my personal favourite elements were the pork crackling ring, the Sloe Gin jus (surprise surprise!) and the onion tarte tatin. A sensational journey for the palate which truly captured the farm to fork ethos.

Hand Dived Scallops, Pork Belly, Beetroot Flavours.

Loin of 24hr Braised Shoulder of Venison, Onion Tart Tatin, Salt Baked Vegetables, Blackberry and Sloe Gin Jus.

Cranachan Souffle, Barra Berries, Whisky Sorbet

We enjoyed a post dinner drink in the Lairds Bar before retiring for the night. However upon entering our room we were met with a further treat to enable us to create our own Hot Toddies as a nightcap. It would have been rude not to partake! A hearty cooked breakfast was the order of the day to start Sunday morning before heading to the Spa for a swim, steam and sauna. The perfect end to a relaxing and educational #experiencemercure weekend break. 

Disclosure: This is a commissioned post for Mercure Hotels. We ate and stayed as guests of Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel and Spa. All views expressed are my own. 
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me to continue to share my Edible Scottish Adventures with you. I’m super choosy and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Ice Cream Cookiewiches ♥ Ice Cream and Choc Chip Cookie Sandwiches

14th February. Valentines Day. It's the sweetest time of the year for some, but for others it can be the day they love to hate. Whether you're celebrating with a loved one, drowning your sorrows a la Bridget Jones, doing it a day early with your girlfriends for Galentines Day or burying your head in the sand about the whole thing I've got some delicious deserts to share with you. It's your prerogative if you choose to share them with a significant other or keep them all for yourself. Cookies, Ice Cream and Sprinkles. Could there be anything sweeter?! Combine them all for the ultimate Sandwich and you have a heavenly desert. This year I will be spending Valentines Day in Iceland (the country) so it seems only appropriate that I've teamed up with Iceland (the shop) to showcase their Luxury Dessert range and share my recipe for Ice Cream Cookiewiches.

Can I share a secret? Valentine's Day is probably the worst time of the year to eat out as a couple. Prices are hiked up, people are squeezed in, there's an atmosphere of enforced romance, the staff really don't want to be there. The ideal solution could be a special meal at home. However if you go for that option you run the risk of spending more time slaving over a hot stove that gazing into each others eyes across the table. Time to harness the #PowerOfFrozen from Iceland Foods. Their range of frozen produce is tasty, convenient and absolutely perfect for when you want to enjoy quality food whilst spending time with someone special and not be stuck in the kitchen. With decadent desserts in mind I popped along to my local Iceland store and picked up a fantastic haul from their Luxury desert range. All were effortlessly easy to prepare with defrosting times ranging from 10 minutes to 1-1/2 hours. With a few accessories you can pimp and preen their presentation to perfection. 

French Crème Brûlée 

2 individual terracotta pots filled with a Madagascan vanilla custard base with caramel pieces included to create a crunchy glazed topping.

These cook from frozen under the grill in only 4-5 minutes. Deliciously decadent and reusable terracotta pots to boot. Be sure to let them stand for a further 5 minutes so the top crisps up nicely.

Raspberry & Prosecco Semifreddo
A creamy raspberry and Prosecco Italian style dessert made with marscapone cheese, topped with a raspberry compote and Heritage raspberry crumb. 
This only needs 10-15 minutes to defrost. Pure indulgence and simply must be served accompanied by a glass of Prosecco for the full effect.

2 Pot Au Chocolat
Creamy dark chocolate dessert made with real Belgian chocolate served in individual terracotta pots.
2 Exotic Mousse with Coconut
A thin sponge layer topped with passion fruit and mango mousse with mango pieces, coated in mango icing and decorated with desiccated coconut.
2 Chocolate & Hazelnut Marquise
A layered desert on a crunch hazelnut and milk chocolate base with chocolate flavoued sauce, chocolate flavour brownie and dark chocolate mousse. Decorated with dark chocolate velvet dusting.

Why have one desert when you can create your own sharing platter of three? The exotic tropical mouse makes a wonderfully refreshing contrast to the indulgent dark chocolate.

Very Berry Individual Cheesecakes
2 individual baked vanilla cheesecakes, topped with a sweet berry sauce, raspberries and wild blackberries.
These creamy fruity cheesecakes and their Westcountry Salted Fudge counterparts make the perfect end to a special Valentine meal.

If you'd like to go a step further and make your own desert, you can head to the freezers at Iceland and combine ready to bake cookie dough with luxury ice cream to make Ice Cream Cookiewiches. These can be made in advance and you can mix and match the flavours of cookies and ice cream to suit. The 100's and 1000's are optional and could be substituted with chopped nuts, grated chocolate or popping candy. My kids were the taste testers for this creation and they absolutely loved them! Cookiewiches (or Sandookies??!!) are the perfect sweet treat to share with any loved one on any day of the year. We should really celebrate love all year round for everyone special in our lives.

Ice Cream Cookiewiches ♥ Ice Cream and Cookie Sandwiches 
Makes 3 

1 Box Millie's at Home Ready to Bake Triple Choc Cookie Dough
Magnum Tub White Ice Cream
Hundreds & Thousands Sprinkles

Bake the cookies from frozen according to the pack instructions and allow to cool completely.
Remove ice cream from the freezer and stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Squeeze the pack and crack the thick Magnum white chocolate shell.
Spread a generous layer of the ice cream on the underside of 3 of the cookies and sandwich together with the remaining 3.
Tip some hundreds and thousands sprinkles into a small shallow bowl and roll around the edges of your cookiewiches.
Place the cookiewiches in a freezer proof container and return to the freezer for at least an hour before serving. 
Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving. 

For further Valentine's recipes utilising the #PowerOfFrozen take a look at these delectable deserts from my blogging colleagues
Veggie Desserts - Pistachio Blondies with Raspberry Swirl Hearts
Recipes From A Pantry - Lime, Mango & Pineapple Loaf Cake

The Hedgecombers - Wintry Summer Pudding

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Ice Cream Cookiewiches ♥ Foodie Quine - Ice Cream and Choc Chip Cookie Sandwiches and a round up of Iceland Foods Luxury Valentine Dessert Range #PowerOfFrozen

Linking up to CookBlogShare

Disclosure: This is a commissioned recipe for Iceland Foods. As always, all views expressed are my own. 
Thank you for supporting the brands who make it possible for me to continue to share my Edible Scottish Adventures with you. I’m super choosy and promise to bring you only the cream of the crop.

Friday, 3 February 2017

An Audience with Nick Nairn at Dunblane Hydro

I love how things can sometimes go full circle. Back in May 2013 when I'd been blogging for less than nine months I was terribly excited to be invited to my very first blogger event. A tasting in the Kailyard by Nick Nairn at Dunblane Hydro. Fast forward to last Friday night and I was invited once again to the Hydro, this time for an overnight stay and to attend An Audience with Nick Nairn. In the intervening 4 years my path has crossed with Nick on a number of occasions so it was lovely to join him as he celebrated 30 years in the business as a successful chef, TV presenter and entrepreneur. With Stephen Jardine as the host with the most we knew we were in for an enjoyable night.

Shonagh Gordon (Sales Manager at Dunblane Hydro) Foodie Loon & Foodie Quine
With drinks and canapés from 7pm we had a wee bit of a rush to head south on a Friday night and as we hit the A9 after Perth snow began to flutter. Whilst I've been to Dunblane Hydro on a number of occasion I thought it best to rely on the Sat Nav for directions given the dark night and inclement weather. Big Mistake. The automated voice announced "You have reached your destination" in the middle of a housing estate! We could actually see the hotel but couldn't reach it! When we finally checked in at 6.55pm the receptionist told us that guest getting lost enroute was a regular occurrence. A quick change into a frock, spritz of perfume and tszujing of hair and make up (that was just foodie loon!) and we were were presentable. Alas such was the rush that I didn't manage to photograph our room in its pristine state. Suffice to say it was spacious, clean, comfortable and modern with a huge bathroom and lovely views over the hotel grounds.

The Edinburgh Gin and Tonic was most welcome after our slightly stressful arrival and we mingled with other guests in the Wallace Lounge before heading through to the Strathallan Suite for the main event. It soon became apparent that the evening would consist of a Game of Tartan Thrones. These gorgeous chairs usually sit at the front door of the hotel and we took the opportunity to take our own selfies in them the next morning. Nick and Stephen arrived on stage and reminiscent of This is Your Life the evening began with a selection of embarrassing baby and teenage photographs moving on to Nick regaling tales of his life in the Royal Navy from the age of 17 and his discovery in the Far East that there was more to food than mince and tatties. Time to eat our first two courses which comprised of Smoked Scottish Salmon and Cauliflower Veloute before the next part of the story.

With a passion for food, Nick left the Navy and despite never having been to catering college, working in a restaurant or being tutored by any chef he formulated ambitious plans to open a restaurant in a disused Mill at Braeval, near Aberfoyle. Aged 27 his first job in the industry was his own restaurant. It was by no means plain sailing with many hiccups along the way and 100+ hour working weeks but the reward came in 1991 when he became the youngest Scottish chef to win a coveted Michelin star. Time for main course of Slow Braised Daube of Scotch Beef before the concluding part of the tale. 

Television beckoned and Nick grasped the opportunity with both hands initially fronting his own shows Wild Harvest and Island Harvest before becoming a well loved celebrity chef on Ready Steady Cook. Multiple books followed by the opening of two Cookschools, three seasons of the Great British Menu and cooking the main course at the banquet for the Queen’s 80th birthday. More recently he has been gallivanting with his chef buddy Paul Rankin in Ireland, Scotland the USA and Canada in Paul & Nick’s Big Food Trip. Closer to home he continues to shout from the rooftops about Scotland’s fabulous natural larder and work towards ways in which Scotland can continue to improve its relationship with food through better school meals and food education. Following dessert of Malt Whisky Cream with Macerated Berries it was time for the fun part of the evening - the audience Q&A session. With the offer of a half day for 2 at the Cookery School up for grabs for the best question there were plenty of hands in the air. Amongst other things I now know that Nick's food heaven is Scottish Seafood, hell is Reindeer Testicles and last meal would be a Bacon & Egg Roll cooked by Paul Rankin. 


The evening ended with a chance for guests to meet Nick, grab a selfie and purchase a cookbook or one of his ubiquitous cook school board scrapers. Entertainment continued with a live band (most definitely not Jim MacLeod and his Scottish Dance Band) but we headed through to the Cocktail Bar for a nightcap. A wonderful selection of Scottish gins, alas no premium tonics, but knowledgeable barman and all the correct garnishes meant we enjoyed Strathearn, Eden Mill, Rock Rose and Caorunn before I caused great consternation by ordering a Baileys and Amaretto in the same glass. I can assure you that it is truly a wonderful 'one for the road'. After a comfortable nights sleep, breakfast up to 11am at the weekend was most appreciated and we enjoyed the full Scottish with black pudding and haggis before heading to the leisure facilities for a quick swim, steam and sauna. A wonderful start to the weekend, Dunblane Hydro is truly a little luxury in the heart of Scotland.

Disclosure: We ate and stayed as guests of DoubleTree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro. All views expressed are my own. Additional photography courtesy of Dunblane Hydro.