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Cocktail Masterclass with the River House Stirling

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The River House is such a Stirling classic. I’ve been to countless family birthdays, anniversary dinners and the like here. I didn’t, however, have it pegged as a cocktail destination. Having been taken over recently by new management, the place has had a much needed spruce up, lovely happy staff and a brand new cocktail menu!

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Myself and a couple of other Stirling bloggers were invited along for a Cocktail Masterclass with our very own mixologist, Liam. There was no sitting back and letting him do all the work though, he put a glass of ice cold prosecco in our hands and told us to get thinking about which cocktails we’d like to make.

I chose a Passion Fruit Mojito and my all time favourite, Espresso Martini. Sadly my recent inability to have any kind of strong caffeine meant that I made a decaf one, but it still tasted really bloody good if I do say so myself. (Any of the following photos featuring me are the handiwork of Gail (thanks!))

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Liam was absolutely fantastic at hosting, he was happy to let us change ingredients and get stuck into every stage of making them. I worked in bars and restaurants for years so I have full cocktail training, slightly unfair advantage I guess, but the other girls were first timers and loved it!

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Even if you don’t go for a cocktail, the food is bloody fantastic and very reasonable. As it was a Sunday, I went for the classic steak pie and mash which was cracking. I’d also been in a few weeks before for a meeting and got my hands on the duck shepherd’s pie – absolutely sensational. The whole place is based on an old Scottish crannog set in a beautiful little man-made loch with some local residents floating about hoping for a spare bit of pastry. (Don’t worry, they don’t cook the locals…)

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Give them a call to book a Cocktail Masterclass, it’s an ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon or for a girly hen party! 01786 465 577 or book online riverhousestirling.co.uk

Make sure you check our their blog on their website too, I’m thinking of making them honorary members of my Stirling Bloggers group!

My vlog of the evening is here🙂

Casual Date Night at Beefeater Stirling

I don’t like chains. I’ve said it before and I’ve always said it, I’m not a huge fan of the lack of atmosphere or individuality. The plastic, sticky menus and children everyyyywhere. I know that there’s a place for them in the world and they are super family friendly, it’s just that I’m not. So when Beefeater asked me to pop in and visit their Stirling branch, my first thought was ‘oh no, I can’t review a chain!’ Actually, I can. I did and I was really impressed. Read on to find out why (and no, it wasn’t because dinner was on them)

Attached to a Premier Inn and situated in the new-ish development of Forthside Way in Riverside, Stirling, Beefeater popped up and passed me by. The brand reminds me of family dinners in days gone by. Cold peas and kids packs, thinking I was cool because I came with my Dad to the bar to place the order when I shouldn’t have been allowed. Put all those ideas to the back of your mind, it’s nothing like that anymore. I was so shocked when David and I walked into a fresh, modern ‘proper restaurant’. Someone at HQ has definitely been on Pinterest looking up ‘New York grills’ and it’s working.

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Beefeater have a shiny new menu (with a very cute little cow mascot) and although they are staying true to their roots with the pub classics of gammon steak or fish & chips, you can now pick from some rather fancy starters of duck wings or a salt beef board (mmm pickles). Mains are a huge range of steaks, lots of sticky ribs from the grill and even a steak salad for those strange people who don’t eat chips. OH did I mention that some meals come with unlimited refills on chips? How ridiculously good is that?! We ordered half from the main menu and half from their fantastic deal of 3 courses for £14.99, decent.

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From the main menu we started with a lamb kofta and some crispy potato skin dippers with sour cream dip from the deal menu. The lamb was just spicy enough and the tzatziki made it a really fresh, light choice to kick off with. The potato skins were ok, just a little bit tasteless! Would have been better to leave them in the classic half-shell way with loads of cheese, the portion size was huge though.

I was determined that we were trying the steaks and David voted for something from the grill so we went for a rib-eye (it’s on the deal menu for only £2.99 extra!) and BBQ ribs & chicken from the main menu. We got both chip options and we can safely vote on the chunky ones as being the best. Triple cooked and super crispy, they went really well with the steak sauces we ordered. Nothing like dipping that first chip into a hot, creamy, pepper sauce.

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The steak was cooked perfectly. I’m always wary of ordering medium rare when I’m out because so often you end up with an overcooked, tough steak. They’re not messing about with the meat at Beefeater. It was melt-in-the-mouth and I absolutely demolished my half with a few dips into the triple peppercorn and béarnaise sauces on the side. The ribs were sticky and charred with loads of meat on them and although I only managed a wee bit of the chicken, David cleared his plate and that’s always a good sign.

The service was bloody fantastic. Our waitress was really lovely, had a nice level of ‘hover and check without pestering’ as well as making sure we were never without the option for more drinks/chips/sauces etc. I’m allergic to nuts and it causes me a lot of stress when I eat out because restaurants just say ‘Oh we can’t guarantee’ and leave me at that. It often means I miss out on tasty things that I could have eaten, just because they don’t have all the info. When I asked our waitress to check the desserts for me, she produced a full allergy folder from the wait station and totally put my mind at ease. Can’t stress enough how much I appreciate places that have themselves together on allergens!

Oh the desserts. I never make it to pudding and I’m so glad I paced myself and powered through to the end. The only thing I couldn’t have was the bakewell tart which meant I had full run of so many other cracking options. I’d been craving chocolate all day so I went for the melt in the middle chocolate pudding. It was rich, the exact right size and came with a nice big scoop of lovely vanilla ice cream. David opted for the raspberry cheesecake which was bloody huge but really light and fluffy.

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If that’s left your mouth watering then you’ll be glad to know that Beefeater Stirling have given me a 25% off code for you guys to use! Head along for a pre-cinema dinner in Stirling before the 18th of May and quote 588113001. Enjoy!

*All food and drinks provided by Beefeater free of charge, thanks very much folks!

I Bought Some Pink Trainers.

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Yeah that’s right, pink. Pink trainers. Stay with me on this because they are not only adorable to look at, they’re also the comfiest things I’ve put on my feet in a while and I don’t feel like I should be at the gym in them. Does anyone else get that trainer guilt? Wearing a pair of properly sporty numbers thinking ‘these are wasted on my office floor, I should be giving it laldy on the treadmill in these’. Just me then.

Online shopping has been a bit of a slippery slope for me recently. I’ve not been frequenting the shopping centre in Stirling as much because, for reasons which myself (and a professional) have tried to work out, it gives me terrifyingly bad anxiety attacks. I’m looking on the bright side that I’m no longer having H&M binges every Thursday night but I’m probably spending double online. I’m that person that gets express delivery.

ASOS, Missguided and New Look have taken a bit of a hit from me recently but in my search for some summery trainers, Zalando hooked me in. This was also my very first order from them and I’m about to sing their praises (this isn’t sponsored, I bloody wish it was). Their website isn’t as jazzy as ASOS or its pals but it does the job. Plus there were so many options in the refine bit of your search, ideaaaal. A few clicks later and I was staring lovingly at these babies.

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I silently debated with myself over the mint ones, but I fell for the cute powdery look of the pink. Icing on the little pink fairycake shoes? They were only £34! I had just bought a pair of white, clumpy, £80 Nike leather monstrosities from ASOS and sent them back after they made me look like I was wearing my Dad’s shoes to take the bins out. So to find a pair three times nicer for less than half the price, decent. They are super comfy, really padded round the sides and although they look a bit leather-like in the photos, they are canvas so they are nice and light. I can’t wait to wear them with jeans and white tops or a wee denim skirt.

Here’s the BEST BIT though, I had found a £5 off voucher that I had already used when I checked my emails and saw that as I registered Zalando had sent a £10 off voucher. Oh mannnn. I quickly tweeted them and oh my days, their customer service are superb. They replied in the morning and immediately sorted it all, taking another £5 off for me. Fan-bloody-tastic service if you ask me. Plus it’s free delivery and everything arrived on Wednesday when I’d ordered late on Saturday night. I also bought some Adidas leggings which are a great fit (and motivation to get me to go back to the gym) but I’m weirded out by the idea of posting a photo of just my bum/legs on my blog so here’s a link to them.

Again, this isn’t sponsored, but I fully recommend a wee nose around zalando.co.uk, they have a much better range than Schuh or Office IMO. (I only just learnt what this stands for and I’m overusing it ok?)

 

Stirling Eats: Sable & Flea

Today I squealed in excitement at a box outside a vintage shop full of £2 crockery. This is the kind of thing that makes my eyes widen, my heart beat faster and the irresponsible adult in me go ‘ooooh I’ve got an overdraft to exercise’. So imagine how I felt walking down the street clutching a bag full of beautiful mismatching plates and seeing this cute newbie on Friar Street.

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Sable & Flea is coffee shop & vintage store and I have a feeling it’s my new favourite Stirling haunt…sorry Groundhouse. I’ve always had an affinity with this shop, it used to be a children’s clothing place called The Honeytree. My Mum bought most of my ‘fancy’ clothes from there until I was about 4 years old, it was a beautiful old fashioned shop and that carnival horse (which I’m SO GLAD they kept) had a bloody waiting list! When it closed down last year I was really sad, even if I hadn’t shopped there in quiiite a while, but it was a shame to see it go. I’m really chuffed that it has been used in this way.

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We had a couple of post-walk hot chocolates to warm up our cold fingers and they were ideal. Frothy and thick, and those are some excellent sized marshmallows. We didn’t eat but I had a nosey at the menu anyway, it’s an ideal change from the usual fayre in Stirling and I’m going back to try some of the fantastic looking fresh bread.

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The vintage buys are so tempting, but not anywhere near as cheap as my £2 finds. They are clearly handpicked and I looked around thinking, ‘I want that, I want that too’ but I’ve been trying to cut back on my taxidermy recently…

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If you’re offended by taxidermy, you’re on the wrong blog. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not off out to the Trossachs with a shotgun, but really old vintage taxidermy that was done in a time before people thought ‘oh hey wait maybe we shouldn’t kill helpless animals for fun?’ is fair game (excuse the pun). Would you rather these vintage treasures sit in a damp back room somewhere or actually get to be enjoyed and have another kind of life? I really wanted this little squirrel pal, but I held back. Mainly because he’s so at home in the beautiful little cafe!

Can we also take a second to enjoy my new jumper? I’m becoming quite the social media geek after giving myself a kick up the backside to advance my knowledge and I just HAD to have this ‘trending‘ number from New Look.

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So if you’re in Stirling and fancy an ideal place for a cute lunch or somewhere reasonably priced to take your mum, I know that one is often a struggle, then Sable & Flea is for you.

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Find it on Friar Street, next to Europa. Don’t have a go on the horse, you’re too big now, get over it.

Back to School with BrewDog

I honestly don’t work for BrewDog. Promise! I’ve just got a bit of a brand crush and I’m flirting outrageously. The team invited myself and some other lovely Stirling Bloggers along for a Beer School this week and it’s safe to say I learnt a LOT. I don’t want to write too much about it though, which may seem counter productive for a blog but I’d rather tempt you all with snippets and hear that you’ve booked a lesson.

First off, don’t go in thinking it’s an actual school day. There’s no test, they don’t put you on the spot and you’re still correct if you think your beer smells like a pet shop (It did ok!)

I’d thoroughly recommend booking up if you want to learn the secrets behind the names of the beers (5AM Saint is a particularly cool one) and be taught the perfect way to smell and further taste your beer.

A warning though, it’s definitely pushed my levels of beer snob up a few notches. Pre-school I could quite happily neck a pint of cheap lager or drink a slightly warm desperados and think it was tasty.  Now I look out for Punk IPA on offer in Tesco and I’ll have a peer over the bar to check the fridges for the distinct BrewDog bottles…or at least I’ll have a Guinness.

We tried 5 different beers, all completely different and I definitely have a new favourite go-to after it. So let’s enjoy some photos and a few tasting notes on the beers. There’s even a little video at the end for you, please excuse my editing skills – it’s been about 6 years since I even opened an editor.

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This is Lager 4.7%
Tasting notes: Bit lemony and nicer than any standard watery lager.
Overall thoughts: Not a huge fan, but Tina loves an ice cold lager on a hot day on holiday so this one is for her.

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Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier 5.4%
Tasting notes: Foam bananas. Seriously, you have to try this one and think of chocolate covered foam bananas.
Overall thoughts: Huge fan! This is definitely my new favourite to have next time I’m in.

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Punk IPA 5.6%
Tasting notes: Fruit, pineapple, mango, frrrrrresshhh.
Overall thoughts: My all time favourite and I doubt I’m alone. You can get it in Tesco so there’s no excuse not to try it.

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5AM Saint 5%
Tasting notes: Malty, sweet and kinda caramel-y.
Overall thoughts: Not a big fan but the story behind the name is pretty cool.

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Death by Coconut 6.5%
Tasting notes: Urggghhh so goooood. Coconut, coffee, chocolate, all the good things.
Overall thoughts: A strong favourite but I could only have one before it got too much.

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I actually forgot to take a photo of this, maybe because it literally blew my mind.
Tasting notes: It’s not beer, it can’t be, surely not. Superbly strong, more like a syrupy whisky. Swoosh it around your mouth if you can stand it then swallow and breath out through your nose. Insane.
Overall thoughts: Never again but it’s a ‘try it once in your life’ thing. It only comes in 25ml measures in the bar funnily enough.

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It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the eats too. We were needing a little break by the time we got to the third beer and these beauties appeared. That blue cheese with a sip of the 5AM Saint? Oh my. Plus that last bit of charcuterie on the bottom is venison, properly properly tasty.

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I hope I’ve managed to peak your interest in going back to school. You don’t actually have to take notes like I did, but my scribblings meant I could write this with some shred of knowledge that the 32% beer didn’t wipe out!

Check out this little video (I knowwwww it’s 4:3, I’m sorry!) and get booking by emailing stirlingbar@brewdog.com

BrewDog Comes To Stirling 

 

I love a good brand. If you’ve been reading my blogs for a few years you’ll know I’m easily seduced by nice clean branding, a good company ethos and honest social media. BrewDog nail all of those things as well as providing the only beer I actually like to drink. So you can imagine I was beyond buzzing to find out they were knocking down ‘the runt of the Belhaven pack’ and putting a brand new BrewDog right in the centre of my beloved Stirling. 

I got straight on the emails to the new manager and organised for myself and some of the lovely new members of my Stirling Bloggers group to head along for a sneaky preview. We were to be BrewDog guinea pigs and it’s safe to say we all left feeling full, tipsy and very pleased.  

  

 

  
I’ve been a fan for a few years now, having my first half of Punk IPA (a good starting point for newbies!) at their Kelvingrove-facing bar in Glasgow’s West End. I was immediately hooked on just how damn cool everything about the place was. The staff knew their shit, the beers actually tasted like beer not watery nonsense and the food was super tasty. All of these things have been brought to the Stirling branch and more. Darren and his team were welcoming and happy to chat to some of our BrewDog virgins about the (young!) history of the brand, as well as making some great recommendations at the bar.

  

  
 I had to start off with a lovely cool half pint of my favourite  Punk IPA but I got more and more adventurous after a wee chat with the bar staff. I sipped away at tasters of their milk stout and ended up with a medium strength and slightly festive, Candy Kaiser (or as I accidentally described it, ‘Tasty Vicar’…) I can’t wait to head back in and try a full pint of the stout that really tasted like espresso and coconut, my faaaaves. 

Can we just take a second to look at this awesome photo that ‘lcblair23’ on Instagram took, feat. the back of my head and our wee beer crew. I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing it!

  
The beer is perfectly complemented with some cracking pub food in the form of pies from Pieminister, a local company who deliver them fresh, as well as stews, toasties and my favourite, cheese & charcuterie boards. Get the minty mushy peas with your pie, you won’t regret it. They also brew Dear Green coffee which is soooo good, but I can’t imagine not having beer in there. Maybe I’ll be popping in for a take away flat white if I’m picking stuff up from their neighbours at Mailboxes before work…

   

  

 

  

  

Beer cocktails! You know I’m going to be all over the Espresso Stoutini.

  
 
 

The whole place is a breath of fresh air for Stirling, the decor makes it feel very young and studenty and the pricing (which I have no problem with) keeps out the annoying weans and old jakes. They even have a Walking Dead pinball machine, they do takeaway on all their beers aaaaand they are dog friendly! It was lovely to meet Ingvild and Sophie too, even if we were all being typical anti-social looking bloggers. I can’t wait to spend a fair few winter evenings in there, making friends with the lovely staff and working my way through that beer menu. 15 taps? I accept the challenge. 

 Give the guys a follow on Twitter & Instagram  @BrewDogStirling

(P.S. Excuse the messiness of this post, the WordPress iPad app is painful to use. I’ll tidy it up when I’m back home) 

From France to Scotland in 24 hours

I’ve just had one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time, which was so picture-perfect that I felt it deserved it’s own post! Friday evening and I found myself on the ‘fast train’ to Glasgow, heels on and an evening of wine and good company ahead. I love love love trying new places and the idea of a little French bistro sounded like an ideal way to end a busy week. Excuse the exceptionally shoddy photos, the lighting wasn’t my pal and I didn’t really want to be that food blogger who ruins every meal by snapping everything 10 times!

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We started off sharing a little taster platter of escargots and cuisses de grenouilles – that’s snails and frogs legs to you (/anyone else who still doesn’t pretend their advanced higher French means they can speak it) I had never had them before, which is surprising since I’ve frequented Paris a fair few times! But I was convinced and I’m definitely converted. Mind you, anything saturated in lovely fresh garlic is a winner to me. The frogs legs really bloody do taste like very tender chicken, don’t be scared to try them!

Mains are photographed so badly that I actually feel guilty showing you them, but I wish I could pass you a forkful. The fish (sea bass) in that little mysterious parcel was so soft and buttery it just fell apart on your tongue. My chicken came stuffed with a beautifully salty tapenade, wrapped in crispy parma ham and accompanied simply by the best gratin dauphinois I’ve had in a long time!

The little bistro itself was so cute, simply decorated (how v French) and the service was absolutely faultless. The two waiters had just enough ‘chat’ with us to not intrude on our meal, everything was whipped away in a timely manner and our wine glasses were never empty. I love that. It was fairly quiet for a Friday night, and I’m very surprised considering how delicious everything was. Actually, I take it back, no one go. I want it to be quiet so I can go again next time I’m through and maybe take Tina for dinner!

It’s situated on Hope St, just around the corner from Blue Dog which makes for an ideal pre-dinner drink venue. Don’t judge it by the website font choices, it really is wonderful – www.lebistrobeaumartin.co.uk

We didn’t manage pudding, but meeting this handsome chap was enough of a treat to end my evening on!

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After an evening in ‘France’, it was only fitting that we got back to our roots with a day driving through the beautiful Scottish countryside, the best of Scottish music playing and the sun in our eyes. First off, a quick stop at Campsie Fells as I had never been, what a beautiful little green valley!

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Then on to the beauty of Loch Lomond, where it just so happened that there was a food and drink festival on! It was far too busy to properly nosey at the stalls but we managed to grab some incredible smoked, roasted meats. I’m 90% sure it was beef, I actually forgot to ask, but it was so good. It came drizzled in chimichurri sauce on a bed of mustard mayo. In. My. Element. I also won Mini Golf by 5 points so I was just a chuffed wee lady all round.

It ended up being a really warm and sunny day and we managed to finally find a quiet part of the loch and have a wander. I decided I had to be king of the fallen tree castle. Look at the sun on that water, oh I wish I had a boat!

That was my last free weekend for two weeks (until I’m sunning myself in Spain) because Freshers madness is upon me at work. I think I’ve gone out with a bang. You really can’t beat good food, beautiful views and excellent company.  Oh and cats, lots of lovely fluffy cats. Have some more cats….

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Big Willy Wallace Style

There’s my big daft face, starting my blog posts off as usual. I’ve been partying too much lately and that hungover face above is the reason for the next post – Kirk is getting fit! Apart from slipping off the wagon a few times with the odd takeaway, I’ve not been doing too badly at eating less, eating well and exercising. Freshers is just around the corner at work and I’m going straight to Spain after it so I need to whip my ass into shape quickly.

I love the gym and going to classes, but sometimes the best exercise is getting out in the rare sunshine with friends and exploring. McKay and I did just that and ended up doing over 11K in a few hours. We headed from mine to Toast to fill up on a big breakfast, I really should do a post on there because I’m such a regular.

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A few comedic stretches and we were off through Riverside, on to Cambuskenneth with a little pit stop at the Abbey.

The Wallace Monument was our final destination and we managed to pick the hardest way to get to the ticket office, as well as the warmest day for climbing the hill to it. It was about 19 degrees in the shade of the trees and it’s safe to say we worked hard!

During Summer, they put on a little woodland tour with some wonderful actors – we met Wallace! It’s a must if you’re a tourist and it was certainly a nice little refresher course on my local history.

Prepare yourself for quite the spinny stairs climb once you’re inside, if you get dizzy easily then it’s not for you! There are levels every few floors where you can stop and read about the incredibly rich history of the area, see Wallace’s sword and even crack out a (very poor) Y stand…

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It’s definitely worth the climb for the views from the top alone. It’s quite reasonably priced if like me you’ve managed to get yourself an NUS card and live as a perpetual student. We also made friends with two lovely American men from Virginia and I can’t lie, I might have slightly fallen in love with one of them. It clearly wasn’t meant to be as we popped into the Coo for a Sunday evening night-cap to find that they had been in (on my recommendation) only an hour before!

I was pretty shattered by the time we walked back down, back into Stirling and up the stairs to my flat, slept like a baby! It’s nice to visit local historic sites and team it up with some good exercise, what’s near you?

More info here – www.nationalwallacemonument.com Oh and if you fancy it – go on a nice day, it’s rubbish when it’s cloudy.

Lochside Lunch

This is just a quick little post about one of my favourite day-trip places to eat. Situated on the banks of Loch Venachar just outside Callendar, Venachar Lochside is a perfect little ‘taste of Scotland’ cafe with stunning views. It has a 4 star Scottish tourist rating amongst countless awards…Scotland’s Best Restaurant 2014 – Scottish Baking Awards, Taste Our Best 2014/15 – Visit Scotland and Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015! If that’s not enough to convince you, read on.

It’s my absolute favourite to go to with the girls on a sunny day for a ‘ladies who lunch’ day. The staff are delightful, polite and seem to all really get on which I like a lot – it’s a great atmosphere to dine in.

Go hungry. Their portions are generous and you have to leave room for some of the incredible home made cakes. If they have the coffee cake, get it and get a bit to take home – it’s divine!

I usually opt for mussels or their very homely and tasty cullin skink soup – I love fish. Their menu is refreshed regularly and never fails to give me that ‘oh but I want three different things’ feeling. Click here for a sample menu. 

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Equally as good as the fresh, tasty Scottish fayre is the beautiful view from the huge windows. Sit outside if it’s sunny, it’s a perfect scene. I wish I had taken more photos of the inside, it’s very simple and I can see why people have their weddings there. I really need to get Tina up there for an afternoon, I’m sure my Dad would love to get out on the boats too. I wanted to jump into one and putter off into the sun.

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Give their Facebook page a like here, if only to drool over the albums of food and cakes…

NAF Glasgow Guuurl

This is the face of a very happy lady! Not only because I’ve got a cracking new set of gels on the nails I’ve been growing and carefully babying for weeks…but because one of my oldest and dearest friends has just realised a business dream, I’m so proud!

Years ago, Tammy started painting nails in her bedroom in Stirling. I’m pretty sure her first leopard print nails were done with a sharpie on some Bodycare falsies and she’ll probably kill me for that. But if there’s ever a better example of making a dream come true, it’s Tammy and her brand new salon – NAF.

It stands for nails & face if you hadn’t already got that…Tammy has taken her DIY Nails business and expanded into the beauty market with a fully stocked salon doing nails, make up and soon to include henna, extensions and more! It’s basically your one-stop-shop for looking great in Glasgow.

I’m going to leave this as a photo post from here on because just LOOK AT IT! Definitely going to be the most instagrammed salon in Glasgow.

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Betty inspects the job the girls have done before you’re allowed to leave…

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Tammy did a beautiful job on some pale pink gels for me and I couldn’t resist a wee selfie session in front of the mirrors…

NAF has just opened in Central Chambers, if you’re walking down Waterloo St look up and you’ll see her emoji-windows! If you’ve never treated yourself to a proper manicure before, then why not? You’re in very good, very talented hands and you’ll leave feeling so sassy. I’ve popped their opening offers price list below, can you believe how bloody reasonable that is!? Make sure you book because they are sure to be busy – nafsalon.com

facebook.com/nafsalon  //  instagram.com/nafsalon  //  twitter.com/nafsalon  //  56, 1st Floor, 12 Waterloo St, Glasgow

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