Greek time at the Cranside Kitchen

Having enjoyed my previous meal at the Cranside Kitchen, I went there again for dinner the next night.

I was staying in a hotel in Glasgow close to the SECC where I was attending a conference. I had planned to just eat in the hotel restaurant, but found that the restaurant wasn’t open. Well that wasn’t helpful. I had a look around the area on Google Maps and found that, apart from other hotel restaurants there wasn’t much choice close by. I could have walked up to Argyle Street, but it was dark and cold, and to be honest I didn’t fancy walking back.

When I had looked at the Cranside Kitchen the previous day, from the outside it looked like it was now an Italian place called Romano’s. I wasn’t sure if I wanted Italian, so walked around the area a bit more. In the end I went to Cranside Kitchen. I found out then it was a little more than an Italian place. You scanned the QR code on the table and placed your order online. As well as the Italian menu, there was also Chinese, Thai and Japanese.

On my next visit I found that on that that evening there was a Greek option. Well quite liked the idea of Greek so went with that choice.

I had three dishes, the crispy calamari, chicken souvlaki, and a Greek salad.

The crispy calamari was battered squid rings with a garlic dip. 

As calamari goes it was okay, I have had better (and I have had worse). I do think as I have it quite often, that I find it a good benchmark to compare places.

The chicken souvlaki comprised two skewers of grilled chicken on a rather sad and limp salad. The chicken was quite tasty.

The Greek salad was cucumber, tomato, pepper, onion, olives and feta cheese.

The olives hadn’t been stoned, and the feta cheese was rather bland and lacked flavour.

Overall the meal was just okay, nothing special and nothing outstanding. Compared to the previous meal I had at the Cranside Kitchen it was a little disappointing.

At the airport, time for a quick lunch

I had been on a visit to Scotland and was making my way home. I really didn’t fancy eating on the plane, it was a short flight, but it was over lunchtime. So having time at Edinburgh airport I went to All-Bar-One for a quick small lunch. I did in fact fancy tacos from Bar Burrirto, but the airport branch didn’t sell them. The branch of Yo! Sushi, which I had visited before, had closed down in 2020. Liking the idea of small plates I went to All-Bar-One. I ordered two small plates which arrived promptly. This is kind of important in an airport situation as you are often time constrained.

The calamari was excellent and it was a good sized portion for a small plate dish. 

The squid was tender and the batter was crispy. It was served with a sweet chilli sauce. I really enjoyed the squid and would have it again, if I ever fly from Edinburgh.

The prawns in panko breadcrumbs was though slightly disappointing. When it arrived I actually thought they had bought me the wrong dish. What I got was in fact a skewer of prawns, which was then covered in panko breadcrumbs. 

I felt that this was a difficult small plate to eat (and would be difficult to share). The dish lacked flavour and I couldn’t really taste the prawns. 

My gate number was called, so it was time to pay the bill and head to the plane.

Calamari

Arriving late into Birmingham for an event the next day, I was hungry, and the restaurant at the Novotel was still open so I popped in for a bite to eat. There were others eating in the restaurant, so I was not the only person who had probably just arrived feeling hungry. I was given a nice warm welcome and given a menu to peruse. The menu was in my view a standard hotel restaurant menu with some standard hotel fare. In the end I went with some calamari for a starter.

This was some pieces of battered deep fried squid with mayonnaise and some mixed lettuce leaves.

It was actually quite nice, the squid was really tender and the batter was crispy. You could tell it wasn’t made fresh, but this was late evening in a hotel. However, I did enjoy the dish.

Not as good as it was

Back in 2018 I made a few visits to The Real Greek in Cabot Circus and had some great food. Of course with lockdown, any early return visit was scuppered.

So recently I was in the Westfield Shopping Centre with my son and we decided, on my recommendation, the branch of The Real Greek they have there.

It was quite a hot day and it was rather warm in the restaurant. We looked over the menu and thought about what to eat. The menu has changed since I ate there four years ago, so some of the things I had enjoyed then, were no longer on the menu.

In the end we went with the fixed price Filoxenia Dinner Menu.

You make one choice from the four options.

For the first option, I went with the Greek flatbread, whilst my son had the crudités.

As for the second option, my son chose the Houmous and I went with the Santorini Fava.

From the hot meze options, I went with the Loukaniko Beef & Pork Sausage Skewer, and my son chose the Fried Kalamari.

For the final option we had chips and the Saffron Rice.

The Santorini Fava was something I haven’t had before, and is yellow lentils from Santorini, cooked and blended with herbs and spices, topped with a salsa of tomatoes, onions, capers and caper powder. 

It was nicely presented  and worked well with the flatbread.

The houmous was a blend of chickpeas, rich in tahini and spiced with cumin, topped with paprika and roasted red peppers. I had a taste and it was really nice. 

For the hot meze, the Kalamari was crisp squid rings served with lemon mayonnaise.

Compared to the grilled kalamari I had in 2018 this was a real disappointment. The previous dish was described as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

The Real Greek describe the grilled kalamari as “Our own unique version, using the freshest squid and a sticky Greek honey and paprika marinade.”

My thoughts back then were:

I think you can tell a lot about a restaurant on how they cook squid. The dish looked interesting and not quite how I imagined. The squid was tender and tasty, the marinade wasn’t overpowering and enhanced the dish.

This time, what we go was, squid rings in a crispy coating. It could have been okay, however the squid hadn’t been cleaned properly before cooking and a couple of pieces still had the inedible membrane attached.

As for my Loukaniko, Beef & Pork Sausage Skewer, this was a traditional Greek sausage from Thrace, chargrilled and served on a bed of Greek Slaw.

Well it was, what it said it was. The sausages was tasty and I enjoyed the slaw.

This was a very different dish to the one I had in July 2018, then you got a lot more sausage.

Loukaniko beef and pork sausage

Overall I was to be honest quite disappointed with the whole experience. I don’t think I will be making a return visit anytime soon.

Back at Bills

I have really enjoyed my recent meals at Bills. Back in September 2021 I had a really nice meal at the (now closed) branch of Bills in Ealing. In May I was in Manchester and had a nice fish supper at Bills. Last month we had a delicious brunch in Bath, well everyone else had brunch, I had tacos.

So it was with a little anticipation myself and my son headed out to the Baker Street branch of Bills. We had booked, so, after a warm welcome, we were shown to our table. I do like the quirkiness of the decor in the different branches of Bills, and Baker Street was no exception.

I looked over the menu (or should I say menus) and decided what to eat. As you might expect I was somewhat tempted by the tuna tacos again, as I had enjoyed them on previous visits. I also liked the idea of the crab cakes. There were lots of nice choices on the mains section of the menu, the chargrilled lamb rump did appeal, as did the lobster and seafood linguine.

One of the things I have found with Bills is that the menu changes quite often, so even though you may think, well I have that next time I visit, sometimes those very things disappear. So it does make, making a choice that little bit harder.

In the end we went with the set menu, with two courses for £13.95 which seemed very reasonable.

For my starter I had the chicken and sesame dumplings with Bill’s spicy chutney.

I got six pan fried dumplings, though I wouldn’t have called it a chutney, it was much more a dipping sauce. The pastry was nice and crisp, though the filling was a little bland for me. However the dipping sauce enhanced the dumplings, so in the end I did enjoy the dish.

My son went with the crispy calamari served with roast garlic & basil aioli.

He let me try some, the squid was really nice, tender and there was a nice crunch to the crispy coating. There was quite a bit of sliced red chilli on the dish, which I did try to avoid. I couldn’t taste the basil, but the aioli was quite tasty.

For my main course I weren’t with the chargrilled chicken and grains. This was described as coming with spinach, lentil and ancient grain salad, flatbread and tzatziki.

The flatbread was warm and fresh, and the tzatziki was tasty and refreshing.

As you can see, the lentil and ancient grain salad was served with pea shoots and not spinach, but I didn’t mind that as I preferred the pea shoots over having the spinach.

The chicken was chargrilled, but I did feel it was a little dry and overcooked. Of course you have to cook chicken properly, but this was cooked a little too much properly for my liking.

My son had the chargrilled minute steak with rosemary fries and  dressed pea shoots. 

Well the pea shoots were missing. He let me try some, this was an excellent dish, the steak was cooked perfectly and the fries (were fries) and tasted of potato

We decided to forgo desert and paid the bill using the QR code, which is becoming the norm for many places these days. 

I am looking forward to my next visit to Bills.

Fish Supper at Bills

I was in Manchester and needing an evening meal, my hotel restaurant was closed, so I headed out to the Trafford Centre for a bite to eat. There is a wide choice of places to choose from. I did walk around, but in the end decided I would go to Bills. There were quite a few things on the menu that I liked the sound of. They also had a reasonably priced set menu as well.

This branch of Bills is set within the New Orleans area of the Trafford Centre, so though it is a fake building, it’s quite an authentic fake building. I actually liked the facade.

I had a really good meal on my last visit to Bills in Ealing. I had some great tuna tacos and a nice steak. However that branch in Ealing has closed, it is now a branch of Las Iguanas. The menu at Bills appears to change frequently, or probably more likely I go so infrequently that it only appears to change frequently. However the tacos were on the menu, and I was tempted to give them a go again. I took my time, but in the end I decided I would go with the set menu.

For my starter I went with the crispy calamari with chilli and roast garlic & basil aioli.

I am a fan of crispy squid, so knew that I was probably going to be hyper-critical of the end result. However this was a nice plate of food. The squid was nice and tender, the coating was nice and crispy. It worked well with the aioli. I liked the presentation of the dish with the pea shoots and the chilli.

My main course was the pan-fried sea bass which was served with tomato sauce, nicoise olives, chive mash & pea shoots.

This was a nicely presented dish. The sea bass was nicely cooked and was quite tasty. I enjoyed the chive mash and it worked well with the tomato sauce. I finished all of this enjoyable dish.

I was tempted with dessert, but in the end said no.

Service was excellent and combined with the food made for a lovely meal. I would certainly go again and there are other items on the menu I want to try.

La Lola Calamares

Working in Bristol a few weeks back and out for a walk at lunchtime. I did consider buying some mushrooms from the food market at Finzel Reach, but they looked rather expensive, £10 for a small punnet of morels. Due to my experience last time with She Sells Sushi, I decided not to go there and headed to St Nicholas Market.

Having had some really nice food from La Lola at the St Nicholas Market it wasn’t too surprising when I was looking for somewhere for lunch that I gravitated to the La Lola stall. Having tried some of their other dishes, paella and Huevos Rotos with Iberico ham, this time I went back on an old favourite of their crispy squid.

The staff as always were friendly and welcoming, and I took a seat by the window and waited for my food.

It wasn’t very long before my food arrived. The squid was served with “chipped” potatoes, salad and aioli.

The squid had a nice crisp coating and was very tender on the inside. The chipped potatoes were cooked to perfection and the salad was nice and fresh. It was a delicious box of food, which I really enjoyed.

Crispy Squid

One dish I eat on a regular basis at restaurants is crispy squid.

I’ve recently eaten crispy squid at Las Iguanas, though the squid in my opinion was rather overcooked. 

I also had chilli squid at Wagamama.

That time I was expecting to have soft tender squid in a crispy batter. What I actually got was rubbery squid in a hard crunchy batter.

The second time I had calamari from La Lola at the St Nicholas Market in Bristol it was excellent.

calamari

The squid was freshly cooked, nice crisp batter, tender squid and was delicious, served with a slice of lemon.

Alas the calamari from Kingfin from the street food markets in Bristol was one of my favourite lunch dishes. You got a decent portion of squid. It was quite tasty, you could certainly taste the difference with the fact they cooked the squid from fresh.

However they have changed their menu recently so you can’t get it anyore.

As well as eating crispy squid I also make it at home. This is a recipe for making my own gluten free crispy squid.

I take some squid, sometimes I use fresh squid, I score the squid and slice into chunks. Other times I use defrosted squid rings that I cut so I get strips of squid rather than rings.

I coat the squid in seasoned gluten free plain flour. This I leave for at least fifteen minutes and check that all the squid is coated in the flour.

I then deep fry the squid in hot oil. Season and serve.

Time for Las Iguanas

I have been tempted many times by Las Iguanas, but have never actually got there until recently when I was in Birmingham.

Looking for a place to eat the choice available was a decision maker for the group of friends I was with. Las Iguanas as they have a large menu covering Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, and beyond.

The place was really busy, but despite not booking they found us a table.

I looked over the extensive menu and thought about what I wanted.  For my starter I went with the Calamares, crispy squid served with creamy aioli.

The squid was certainly crispy, overcooked in my opinion, but this was more than just squid rings, this was squid in batter with a rather garlicky aioli.

For my main course I went with the Xinxim. A classic recipe from North Brazil. Chicken and crayfish in our creamy lime and peanut sauce. Served with spring onion rice, shredded greens, coconut farofa and sweet plantain.

This arrived in two dishes, the spring onion rice, shredded greens, coconut farofa and sweet plantain on one plate, and a bowl with the Xinxim. 

Here is the plate with the rice and the plantain.

At first I didn’t think there was any crayfish in the dish, but it was hidden at the bottom. I added the bowl of Xinxim to the plate of rice. I did quite like creamy lime and peanut sauce and there was plenty of chicken. I would like to have seen more and bigger crayfish in the dish.

The rice didn’t seem to have much spring onion in it and the shredded greens were okay. I have to say I didn’t really like the sweet plantain, but having never had it before I couldn’t tell if this was representative of plantain or not. Something I might try again when I next visit the Caribbean Wrap in Bristol.

Overall I was a little disappointed. I think this was more down I had quite high expectations about the food, and it was just okay. I don’t think I will be going out of my way to visit Las Iguanas anytime soon.

Fritto Misto

I have always enjoyed the calamari from the Kingfin. My introduction to Kingfin was back in the summer of 2019 on a visit to the Finzel Reach Market. Kingfin have recently revamped their menu. They have lost their calamari, but you can now have a softshell crab burger, a cod goujon wrap or fritto misto.

Since I found out about the new menu I was tempted by both the softshell crab and the fritto misto.

So when I was in Bristol one Thursday, this meant that for lunch I could visit the Temple Quay Market. It was nice to have the opportunity to get some tasty street food and I was pleased to see Kingfin at the market.

 A few weeks back when I was in Bristol, I had intended to pay a visit to Kingfin at the Finzel Reach Market to try out their new menu. However upon visiting the market they weren’t there, so went to La Lola at the St Nicholas market.

So I joined the queue and ordered the fritto misto. There was a bit of a wait as they had a bit of backlog, a sign the stall was popular. They had already sold out of the cod goujons and their kedgeree scotch egg.

Whereas the calamari came with rosemary chips and salad, the fritto misto was just fritto misto. I could have ordered chips for another £3 but I wasn’t that hungry.

The dish contained calamari, prawns, whitebait, small pieces of cod, and some courgette slices. It was served with a slice of lemon and some bright yellow garlic aioli.

Overall, if I am honest, though I enjoyed the dish, I was a little disappointed. The calamari was great, but the rest of the fish was a little soggy, despite having just being deep fried. There were two prawns in the dish, one peeled prawn and one whole prawn. The courgette was floppy and was quite greasy.

I really loved the calamari special I’ve had in the past from Kingfin and would be happy to order that again. Would I order the fritto misto again, probably not.