Wildwood, Lothian Rd, Edinburgh, Scotland,

I always get a little nervous when I am meeting a lot of new people for the first time, but for the meal arranged by the inimitable Kelly Lacey for the Facebook Group, Authors and Book Bloggers in Scotland, I need not have worried – what a lovely meal in excellent company. Wildwood 105-109 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh, Scotland is very centrally situated so it was easy for everybody to get to either by car or public transport. wildwood out 2

We were all seated at one long table I was sitting amidst a very jolly group and the chat flowed easily. Several bottles of Prcesso were on the table and included in the cost of our meal. It all added to the happy atmosphere. The staff were most warm and friendly without being intrusive and we all enjoyed a joke with them. wild wood in

The restaurant is decorated in a modern, relaxed style and, because there were so many of us, we had ordered in advance. Our starters arrived on large sharing platters these included figs and strips of pizza bread with cheese and onion jam. Everything was delicious.

Main course choices included sea bass and turkey but I chose the pizza. This caused great hilarity as it was enormous and would comfortably have fed a family of five for  a fortnight, I think! I thoroughly enjoyed what I had, but there was no way I could possibly finished such a large serving. Deserts included a chocoltate brownie with ice cream or a sorbet. I had the brownie. Again, this was very tasty but I had already eaten so much, perhaps I should have chosen the sorbet.

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All in all this was a delightful afternoon. The restaurant did not rush us at all and I had a delicious meal in fresh surroundings served by attentive staff and in good company. I highly recommend Wildwood and plan to visit again with my husband when we are in Edinburgh.

Val Penny

 

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Victoria & Albert Museum, Tatha Bar & Kitchen, 1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee

I was pleased to be able to attend the Crime Writers’ Association Scottish lunch recently. The inimitable Wendy H Jones found time not only to organise the event, but also to prepare a quiz, wrap a gift for each attendee and generally be a fabulous host. Prices in Edinburgh and Glasgow have risen so greatly in the last few years that this event was booked for the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tatha Bar & Kitchen, 1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee. There could certainly not have been a more excellent setting for the gathering.

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V&A Dundee is an international centre of design museum in Dundee, Scotland. It presents the brilliance of Scottish creativity and the best of design from around the world. It opened on 15 September 2018. The V&A Dundee is the first design museum in Scotland and the first Victoria and Albert museum outside London. V&A Dundee provides a place of inspiration, discovery and learning. The V&A Dundee is also the first building in the United Kingdom that has been designed by Kengo Kuma.

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I arrived a little late due to problems with the trains, so climbed the steps to the Tatha Bar & Kitchen which is located upstairs in the new museum with a balcony overlooking the River Tay. I had excellent company as I sat at a table with Mac Logan and the Mulgrew twins who, apparently, mamnged to write cosy crime novels together without ripping each others heads off. Apparently diners can normally expect a true taste of Tayside, with brewers, fishmongers and farmers from Dundee and Perth all being brought on board as suppliers and Dundee brewery 71 Brewing will be providing two main beers – Mandarina Sky and 71 Lager. However, we chose from the more limited festive menu.

Now here I must declare an interest in that I am vegetarian. There was a vegetarian choice for each course and for last course the cheese was vegetarian. The fig, pear and walnut salad that I had for my first course was delicious but the serving was very tiny. Nouvelle cuisine rules at the V & A Dundee! My companions also enjoyed thier first course of salmon but agreed that the offerings were small.

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There was then over an hour to wait before the main courses arrived. Wendy had to chase up the servers. The vegetarian choice was pollenta served with a predictably small serving of vegetables. My meal was very poorly seasoned, dull and dry. I sent it back. I got no apology nor explanation. I see no reason why vegetarians should receive food that is not tasty. Having said that, my fellow diners said their meals, duck, were not warm enough and rather chewy. Not only vegetarians were being targetted with poor quality food. Having taken an hour to provide the main courses, it was disappointing that they were not perfect.

The last course took so long to arrive that some of our group thought they would have to leave before it arrived. Again, Wendy was disturbed because she went to speak to the restaurant manager about this too. When the desrts arrived, they were delicious. My table companions all chose a sweet. Again, the serving was small but I chose the cheese: a vegatarian brie with bread. It was an enormous portion and beautifully ripened cheese.

The Tatha Bar and Kitchen has such spectacular views across the River Tay and is set in av & a 3 fascinating and unique building, so it is a shame that the quality of our meal and the service were both so very poor. I cannot recommend the restaurant but luckily for me, the company I was in was fine.

Val Penny

One Square, Sheraton Hotel,1 Festival Square, Edinburgh, Scotland

one square outsideRecently, I had to organise a festive family lunch where I could be sure my mother and her wheelchair would be accomodated and my granddaughter would have access to a highchair all on the Sunday before Christmas. I chose the centrally situated Sheraton Hotel in Edinburgh as the restaurant, One Square is highly praised. It was years since I had eaten at the Sheraton, but my mother was delighted by the choice but unfortunately she was belatedly unable to join us.

Nevertheless, many people had had the same idea and there were many with mobility issues and wheelchair users there, but the tables were too close together making access for these guests difficult.

one-square-restaurantOur servers were pleasant and helpful and brought drinks but yhey were not efficient about refilling water glasses. The meal was buffet style. The buffet was set in three parts, starters, mains and deserts and cheese. Access around these areas was virtually impossible for those who were not able bodied.

The starters were tasty and varied, but portions very tiny: the real disappointment was the mains. The mains were served in the buffet area by people in chef outfits. There was very rare beef, turkey roll with a strong tasting stuffing and a good looking roast of gammon. However, I am vegetarian: I asked a female in a chef uniform if there was a vegetarian option. I was told she could give me a butternut squash ‘patte’ and I could help myself to vegetables. I am not partial to butternut squash. When I mentioned this, the woman shrugged and turned her back on me. I feel retraining may be required. Had my daughters not been there, I would have called the manager. As it was, I did not want to cause a scene.

one square 2The deserts were delicious and the selection of cheeses varied. The coffee was provided by a machine which needed cleaned when I went to use it, but there was nobody to ask about this. No provision was made for tea and, again, no member of staff was anywhere to be seen to ask. Even getting my bill was a struggle and I did resent the 10% service charge. However, I paid it, but did not add a further tip. It was not deserved.

I had a wonderful time in the company of my husband, our daughters, my son-in-law one square outside 2and our granddaughter, but the food was mediocre and the service far too variable for such a feted hotel. Would I book lunch as a family treat in One Square in the future? No. Would I return to One Square in any other circumstances? Not voluntarily.

Val Penny

The Orangery Restaurant, Seamill Hydro, 39 Ardrossan Road, Seamill, West Kilbride, Scotland

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It is not often that my husband and I can go out for dinner with friends and walk to and from the event, so it was rather nice when we met with Jill and Paul who had suggested we go to dinner at The Orangery restaurant in Seamill Hydro. The hotel has recently undergone a major extension and refurbishment, so we walked down and arrived a little early to have a drink before dinner in the well appointed pub where I had a fine choice of gins.

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When we met up with our friends in The Orangery we were seated with them in a booth where we studied all three menus: the regular menu, the vegetarian/vegan menu and the wine menu. The fellows each had a beer, Jill chose a small house wine and I went with a soda water and lime after my earlier gin.Orangery 1

For our meals, we all chose different things. Jill and Paul shared a mixed fish starter while my husband chose a haggis starter and I had the temura vegetables. For our mains, My husband went with a steak, unfortunately this was a bit cooler and more cooked than he had ordered. Jill chose chicken, Paul had a vegetable pasta and I ordered the asparagus and mushroom risotto. My meal was delicious, but very filling. orangery out

Only my husband chose a pudding, a chocolate and icecream desert. The rest of us all had coffee. It was a lovely meal, except for my husband’s steak: the environment was fine, although the service was a big slow. Still, I would give The Orangery another try.

Val Penny

Caffe Creme Cafetaria Store 13, Torre da Medronheira, Olhos de Agua, Albufeira 8200-374, Portugal

It is always nice when on vacation to go for a walk to explore new surroundings and to give yourself a reward at the end of the venture. My husband and I like the village of Olhos de Agua near Albufeira in Portugal very much. On a recent visit, we walked in a different direction from usual and found the most delightful gift shop A Tulipa where we found many unusual gifts for family and friends.

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cristina cafe insideOn our way back from the shop, we stopped off at the Caffe Crema Cafetaria for coffee and cake. What a find! The coffee is mellow, the cakes are delicious and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. As I say, we only stopped in for coffee and cake but at no time were we made to feel we had to hurry away. The waiting staff spoke good English and German and the restaurant is spotlessly clean.

The choice of cakes, pastries and pies is excellent. There are far too many to choose from than you could imagine. I chose a cream eclair with fruit on the top and my husband went with a couple of the smaller custard tarts. All were lovely.

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The Caffe Crema Cafetaria does offer meals as well, including a full English Breakfast. However, although we did visit the place three times during our vacation, we never got past coffee and cake.cristina outside

If you happen to be in the village of Olhos de Agua, I highly recommend some shopping time at A Tulipa and then a refreshment stop at the Caffe Crema Cafetaria.

Val Penny

 

Ristorante Tre Scalini, Piazza Navonna, Roma,

I have always loved Piazza Navonna in Rome, Italy. I am entranced by the proportions of the square and fascinated by the artists who display their talents there. My daughter enjoyed watching the ‘silver man’ living staue who performed while she was there with me and, years later, when my husband treated me to a week in this fabulous city, we were keen to re-visit all the sites.

trevi fountainThe day we visited the Trevi Fountain.The Trevi Fountain is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy, designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini. Standing 26.3 metres high and 49.15 metres wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Tourists toss coins into the Trevi Fountain to guarantee a return visit to Rome. For many years now, the monies retrieved from the fountain have been collected, sorted, and donated to Caritas, the non-profit that provides food to the poor and homeless of Rome.

trevi teaAfter our visit to the Trevi fountain, my husband and I walked through the streets of Rome to Piazza Navonna where we treated ourselves to afternoon tea in the Ristorante Tre Scalini. 

Dave & cakeThis is a delightful restaurant where the staff are smartly dressed and formally courteous. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his coffee and banana split. He hadn’t had one for ages, so it was a special holiday treat. I chose a nice cup of tea and we had a lovely time, chatting about our day and planning our evening. We probably stayed far longer than an afternoon tea stop would normally justify, but at no time were we pressured or rushed or made to feel like we had overstayed our welcome.Trevi Restaurant

We enjoyed our visit to Ristorante Tre Scalini and would deiniftely stop there again. It is not a cheap restaurant, but it is lovely and it is in a premium situation in Piazza Navonna. I would certainly recommend it.

Val Penny

 

 

 

California Hotel 4-8 Belgrove Street, London, England

I was taking an early train from London St. Pancras and wanted to find suitable accommodation for one night close to the station. I am old enough to remember The Eagles hit song ‘Hotel California’, so when I found the California Hotel, 4-8 Belgrove Street, London, England, I could not go past it. calif hotel out

The hotel is only about 200 yards from St. Pancras/Kings Cross Station. It is formed of four old town houses and to get into the building you have to go up three very deep, steep steps. This would not normally be a huge problem, unless you have mobility problems. However, my suitcase was extremely heavy and getting it up even those three steps was a struggle.

The reception area is small and quirky. The staff are helpful and very polite. The biggest drawback in respect of this hotel is that there is no elevator. Had I noticed that, I would probably have booked somewhere else. However, the reception staff kindly brought my heavy suitcase to my room and when I was leaving the following morning, they brought it back to reception for me, but not down the three steep stairs outside. caalif hotel room

I had booked a single room and I got a single bed in a small basement room. It was quite bright as it had a double aspect window, but as the room looked into other hotel rooms, I had to keep the blinds shut. My room had an en-suite wet room. The quality of the shower was excellent, but the lavatory made a dreadful noise when I flushed it.calif hotel reception

There was a small tray of courtesy teas and coffees, a bottle of water and a hair-dryer. it also had free wi-fi with no password and I got a good telephone signal. I met family for dinner and friends for breakfast, so I did not eat in the California Hotel. The hotel was perfectly situated for what I needed and the room had everything I expected, albeit in a confined space.

I would not seek out the California Hotel again, but if I were making similar travel arrangements, I would not avoid it.

Val Penny