THE WANDERING BARTENDER – COCKTAIL CLASSES THAT COME TO YOU [AD-GUEST]

When I think of cocktails, there are very few negatives that spring to mind – but if I really rack my brain I could come up with just one…that I don’t have my own personal bartender to serve them to me in the comfort of my own home. Well thanks to The Wandering Bartender, you can make that dream a reality.

The brainchild of Mark Herbert and partner, the Wandering Bartender is the most fantastic enterprise offering cocktail making masterclasses that come to you. Hen parties? They’ve got you covered! Team building events? Always better with gin, right?! Whether it’s a birthday, engagement, or just a Friday night in with the girls, TWB will bring you all the fun of a night on the tiles at any venue of your choosing, and you’ll even get a bit of education thrown in there for good measure 😉

When myself and the rest of the blogging gang were invited along to try out a masterclass for ourselves, the answer was a very definite yes. When we were invited along to try out a cocktail masterclass at a castle no less… the answer was a resounding ‘HELL YES!’. The Barn at Barra was to be the setting for the day, so having a reason to dress up a bit swish as we made this stunning wedding venue and it’s scenic surroundings our home for the afternoon, added to the excitement even more.

The event was shaping up to be a pretty epic collaboration, with sponsors such as Hotel Chocolat donating delicious sweet liqueurs, Aelder Elixer providing their rosehip rum liqueur & elderberry elixir, Lind and Lime for their lime infused gin, The Bitter Truth who produce a delicious golden falernum, Snawstorm for their unique Scottish Vodka, and Walter Gregor’s on craft tonic water.


After a warm welcome, a cold crisp gin and a little catch up time, it was time to get down to business. On the menu for the day were a 1930’s Cosmopolitan, a Chester Jester, a Bramble and a Disaronno sours (an absolute fave of mine!). During the super fun and interactive class, Mark took to the bar, sharing his expert knowledge with the group, and testing our own knowledge along the way. With over ten years experience and having worked in cocktail bars all over the world, it’s safe to say that this guy really knows his stuff!

Learning the origins of the cocktails and ingredients along the way, we began to feel like cocktail connoisseurs ourselves, but we were all dying to get down to the most fun part of the day, getting hands on and having a go at making them ourselves. Mark gave us some pretty impressive and skilled demos, and it wasn’t long before the search for volunteers to give it a bash ourselves was on. Can you take a guess at who was first in line, hand waving in the air ‘pick me!’ style..?!

A couple of gins in and full of all of the confidence of 1988 Tom Cruise, I dragged the BF up with me to get my shake on, and it was so much fun! We rustled up a couple of mean Cosmo’s with a gin twist, and the best part was we got to enjoy our own creations afterwards too, delish.

Everyone in the group got a chance to take to the bar whisk up their own tasty beverages under Mark’s expert advise and guidance, with top points going to anyone that managed not to spill and make a mess. After mixing up a storm, it was time for a break to enjoy our creations.

Just when we thought that this afternoon couldn’t be going any better, the gentle reminder that food was also on the agenda set our stomachs rumbling, and probably not a moment to soon with the drinks going down a little too well…

Now the expectation was for a few bar snacks, maybe an olive or two, but what we were met with was the most astonishing smorgasbord of divine looking deli food I had ever laid eyes on!

Food provided by @byplatter

I mean seriously, have you ever seen such a stunning display of delicious delicacies?! It was almost too beautiful to eat…ALMOST.

Byplatter who provided this phenomenal spread are the most incredible catering company who provide sumptuous grazing tables tailored to you, comprised of seasonal and locally sourced produce. Platters include artisan cheeses, chutneys, charcuterie, breads, deli foods, sweet treats, you name it, and you absolutely must give them a try the next time you’re hosting an event that required relaxed dining, because now that Byplatter have landed, pitiful buffets full of soggy sandwiches can be a thing of the past.

What an unbelievable combination of artfully prepared cocktails and fantastic food, all in the most stunning location imaginable. I’ve definitely had worse afternoons…

Huge thanks to The Wandering Bartender for having us along for an unforgettable afternoon. If you would like to book your very own cocktail masterclass with TWB (which I highly recommend you do!) you can do so by getting in touch via Instagram HERE or facebook HERE.

Until next time,

B x

Aberdeen Art Gallery – the grand reopening. [GUEST]

One of my favourite past times has always been to while away a rainy afternoon wandering round the art gallery, pretending to be a bit cultured and taking in all that it had to offer, especially when a new exhibition was in town. I was a little gutted when it was announced that the gallery was set to close for a three year long massive refurbishment in 2015, and even more gutted when due to several hiccups along the way, it ended up taking until November 2019 to actually open again!

However there was no disputing that a revamp was much needed, and it was exciting to see the progression every time you passed it by, speculating as to how big the changes really would be. With the addition of an entire floor having been built upwards, expectations were pretty high!

I was kindly invited along to a preview evening last Monday ahead of the grand opening on Saturday, and it’s safe to say that my expectations had not only been surprised, but well and truly smashed to pieces as I walked through the doors for the first time in over four years.

The vast spaciousness of the ground floor hits you immediately as you enter; where you once had the gift shop on the left and the cafe on the right, you now have a stunning open plan space housing both the shop and a cafe space, but on opposite sides, with a gorgeous and well considered open plan.

The next thing that you can’t help but notice is the incredible amount of light that pours from the sky light above the newly created top floor. Gone are the days of the art gallery being a dark dingy place that you got dragged to on school trips with a sketch book and some crayons, this is now a venue that is an absolute joy to spend time in. Oh and here’s a fun fact, it’s not actually a sky light at all, it’s formed from LED lighting which mimics natural light and can be changed with the seasons, so there will never be a dull day inside the gallery again, how cool is that?!

There is an open, easy flow from one space to the next, as you pass through the memorial hall in to the next gallery – of which there are now 19 as opposed to the former 11, wow!

With a stunning mix of artwork both old and new, a breath of fresh air has truly been injected in to this Aberdonian institution, giving us absolutely no reason to moan about there being nothing to see or do in our wee grey city, because if you look close enough, it’s actually bursting with colour.

From world renowned works by Monet and Degas in painting and sculpture providing us with classical arts, to brand new photography by the likes of Martin Parr giving us a giggle by passing comment on everyday Scottish culture, there really something for everyone.

There are even fabulous new interactive parts of the gallery to keep the little ones entertained, plus a selection of sketch stations giving them a chance to create mini masterpieces of their own.

The grand re-opening on Saturday the 2nd November saw thousands of inquisitive Aberdonians descend upon the gallery to see what the £35 million project had delivered, and the response has been phenomenal, with one particular talking point being the new roof terrace which provides stunning views of the city centre.

I don’t think that I’m alone in having eyed up this stunning new space as a potential wedding venue… (IF MY OTHER HALF IS READING THIS, TAKE THAT AS A MASSIVE HINT!).

After a wonderful private tour, our evening at the Art Gallery preview was rounded up with some drinks and nibbles (which were all absolutely delish!) at the ground floor cafe, so be sure to stop off there for a bite to eat when you visit.

You can find all of the information you need on the gallery by visiting their website HERE.

Have you managed to go take a peek at our new and improved Art Gallery yet? I’d love to know what you thought so leave a comment!

Until next time,

B x

[ad] ABERDEEN RESTAURANT WEEK AT THE CITY BAR & DINER – A REVIEW

Let’s start with a bit of honesty. When I first heard that the restaurant I had been allocated to review for Restaurant week was The City Bar and Diner, my initial reaction wasn’t exactly one of elation. That’s just that wee place out the back of M&S where grannies convene of a lunchtime to have a good chinwag over a cheese sandwich and a scone, right? Don’t get me wrong, if a cheese sandwich was all that was in store for me I still would have been more than grateful, (and I’d review the crap out of that cheese buttie too) it just might not have lived up to my fine dining aspirations.

I’m delighted to tell you all that I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the first time I laid eyes on the menu through to the moment we walked through the door, the excitement continued to grow; by the looks of things I was in for an undoubtedly more sophisticated experience than first presumed.

It was 7pm on a Saturday night, and this bright, mordern space that we had entered in to was jostling with large groups of happily chattering diners. As plates of delicious looking food started to pass below our very noses in the hands of smiling servers on the way to these hungry diners, I knew we were in for a bit of a treat.

Having pre-ordered our meals, we gladly skipped the part of the evening where I spend half an hour carrying out the agonising task of deciding what to eat, and went straight to ordering a couple of nice cold pints from the incredibly enthusiastic hostess. Despite having been kindly offered a nice window seat, we instead chose a quiet spot where we were close to the bar and could have a cheeky nosey in to the kitchen at the same time, and patiently awaited our first course with increasingly loud rumbles coming from our eager bellies the whole time.

The starters…

Expecting a bit of a wait, which would have been entirely reasonable given the large parties occupying the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised when barely a few moments later, we were presented with our starters. This made one very hungry gal a very happy one! Knowing that we would inevitably end up sharing each others food in the way that couples typically do, we ordered one of each from the veggie and the fish options.

Four cheese risotto balls & smoked chipotle salsa
Smoked haddock chowder with cheese and leek scones

We were immediately struck by the high-end restaurant quality presentation, this was an absolute ‘wow!’ moment, and long gone were those distant imaginings of tea scones with your gran on a Friday afternoon. We were clearly dealing with creative and passionate chefs with a fine attention to detail, and boy did it all smell good!

The risotto balls were just as they should be, crisp and crunchy on the outside, gooey and oozing with cheese on the inside. The sweet and spicy salsa was the perfect accompaniment to cut through the savoury elements. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I could eat about ten of these…

The smoked haddock chowder was as good and any fish chowder we had ever tasted. You should know that this is a compliment of the highest order coming from the other half who considers himself a connoisseur of Cullen Skink! Buttery, creamy and brimming with chunks of smoked fish and veg, this flavoursome dish was an absolute winner. I seriously considered coming over all Oliver and asking for some more, but resisted knowing that the main was still to come, and our anticipation was now high.

The mains…

With just the right amount of time to pour over how much we had enjoyed our starters, and of course take to Instagram to share our fabulous first course, the second soon arrived.

Sweet & sour jackfruit and vegetable pot pie with butternut squash hash
Cajun fried haddock with sweetcorn, banana and spiced tartare sauce

Seemingly taking us on a culinary trip around the globe, the main course options sang of South America and the carribean. Once again as non-meat eaters, we went for the veggie and the fish option and shared a bit of each. The presentation as expected was well considered and carried out with finesse.

The generously pie consisted of lovely flakey pastry jam packed with jackfruit and veg in a tangy sweet and sour sauce. I’d never seen a dish like this before, but I have a feeling that I’ll be trying to recreate it at home at some point soon! The only room for improvement lay in that while the artfully stacked squash hash on the side was very pretty to look at, maybe a more savoury side would have provided a nice contrast to the already sweet pie.

Next up was the menu item that we were both most curious about. Cajun fried haddock, with banana?! You’d be forgiven for thinking that this sounds a bit bonkers, because it does, but in this instance the unexpected combination just worked. It was absolutely delicious! Having gladly obliged us in our request to hold the bacon, we were still left more than satisfied with the remaining corn and spiced tartare that adorned the gently spiced juicy fish. Again my only (very minute) quibble would have been that the cajun spicing could have been turned up a notch or two, but I’m a bit of a spice fiend so maybe that’s just me!

The desserts…

Full to the gunnels after our first two amply sized courses, there was a moment of deliberation as to whether we could actually cope with the oncoming puddings, but we powered through in the name of Restaurant week – don’t say we’re not good to you guys!

Peanut butter and honeycomb pie with chocolate sauce
Chocolate brownie sliders with vanilla ice cream and [strawberries!]

As these indulgent looking little beauties were placed in front of us, we instantaneously knew that we were going to give them our best shot. My calorie count for the week was about to go clean out the window, but I didn’t care one tiny bit.

The brownies were tasty and dripping filled with ice cream. We didn’t actually notice that they were topped with strawberries instead of the advertised raspberries as we got stuck in. Personally I’m a warm sticky brownie kind of girl, but this was an enjoyable dessert all the same.

The real start of the show however came all wrapped up in this pretty little peanut butter pie, oh my! Sweet, nutty, creamy and with a lightly spiced base, this was an absolutely heavenly way to round off the meal. This was gratification at it’s finest!

After a night of fabulous service and top restaurant quality food, we were ready to roll ourselves home, already planning our next trip to The City Bar & Diner, feeling extremely glad to have found a great new eatery to add to out list of fave spots to dine out.

Remember that this menu is available until the 21st July, and be sure to book your table quoting restaurant week to avoid disappointment!

You can also head to www.aberdeenrestaurantweek.com to check out the rest of the incredible lineup offering you delicious deals all week long!

Enjoy Restaurant Week guys,

B x

ABERDEEN RESTAURANT WEEK RETURNS! [ad]

That’s right folks, free up your diary and dig out the stretchy pants because Restaurant Week is Back! And luckily for me, so am I, bringing you all of the latest info and top tips on where to grab the best eats as I once again join the ambassador squad.

This years second instalment, running from the 15th to the 21st of July , sees the return of some familiar places along with a bunch of friendly new faces joining the lineup too, leaving you guys completely and utterly spoiled for choice when it comes to dining out next week.

For the rare few of you who haven’t encountered the culinary delights of Restaurant week before, let me recap what it’s all about. For one week only, the best bistros, restaurants, cafes and diners that Aberdeen has to offer unite in offering you lucky lot exceptionally good deals on dining out. Across the majority of those involved, you can bag yourself a two course lunch for just £10, or a three course dinner for a tiny £20, absolute bargain!

The best way to size up all of the possibilities and and schedule how to best fit in as much tasty grub as humanly possible is to head to the website,

www.aberdeenrestaurantweek.com

where you can view full menus, but I’ll warn you, do not do this on an empty stomach because your mouth will water!

Given that the hospitality is one of the few industries that continues to ride high in this economic climate, why is it that we find ourselves frequenting the same old haunts week in, week out when there are a multitude of unique and enticing venues right around any given corner? Aberdeen Inspired aims to break our bad eating habits and whet our appetites for trying something new and unknown by orchestrating this incredible event which is growing in popularity with each turn now that the secret is well and truly out.

You can check out a whole bunch of reviews from previous Restaurant Week’s by myself and the other lovely members of the blog squad here, but this time round I’ll also be bringing you a brand new review of of somewhere that I’ll be experiencing for the first time, The City Bar & Diner, which has a menu so darned appetizing it makes me want to run to the fridge for a snack just to satiate the salivation it causes!

Stay tuned on Instagram this week and get ready to get hungry as I bring you live feedback of my dining experiences along with my recommendations must-try menus that you really shouldn’t miss out on next week. You should absolutely go and follow the other fabulous bloggers involved too for more tantalising tasters of the goods on offer, and you can do so by finding them here. As if that wasn’t quite enough scoop for you, let’s not forget that Society Magazine are covering the whole event too, so you really have no excuse to miss out on this phenomenal week of foodie goodness!

Get booking guys because this is going to be a busy one, and if you spy me waddling up the street clutching a big round belly, don’t get excited, I guarantee you it’s just a really massive food baby. Diet starts after Restaurant Week, right?

B x

ROOTS VEGAN JUNK FOOD TAKEOVER AT NINETY-NINE BAR & KITCHEN

Roots Catering Vegan Junk Food blog header

Lets get one thing straight, I’m not a vegan. Cheese will forever be the one thing that yanks on those extremely slack dairy-free reigns and says ‘Woah there!’ and leaves me trotting along at my vegetarian pace, but with menus like this on offer right here in Aberdeen, even the most carnivorous of you out there will be tempted to give veganism a go, even if only for one night.

Enter Roots Catering, the plant based brainchild of South African born chef Nick Coetzer. Up until now Nick’s plant-based journey has been one centred around fine-dining, hosting five course menu pop-ups at venues such as Foodstory, which by all reports have been massive hits. Coming from a non-vegan background, Nick’s menus have been hugely experimental, and visually stunning, not to mention sold out – which is why I’ve struggled to attend a Roots event as yet.

Now I love fine dining as much as the next foodie, but the single mention of meat-free junk food had me quick-drawing my phone and booking a table faster than you can say vegan cheese, and it’s a bloody good job I did, as only two days after the night was announced, all bar my one remaining lucky table was booked out! It really is no wonder why either, with offerings such as loaded cheese fries, Southern fried chick’aint and pulled bbq mushroom tacos, the increasingly large vegan/veggie population of Aberdeen were sure to be fighting each other to the (cruelty free) death for a spot at this sure-fire hit of an evening.

As a regular haunt of ours, I was delighted that Ninety-nine bar & kitchen were going to be playing host for the night. The laid back setting and atmosphere lends itself perfectly to the street food vibe that the menu offered. We all know that Ninety-nine are the home of bespoke cocktails in the city centre, so as would be expected, in collaboration with Roots they put together a mouth-watering vegan cocktail menu to accompany the food. Disappointingly for myself and the other half, it was a school night, so in a rare moment of sensibility, we stuck to a refreshing pint to wash down the oncoming feast, however with options such as a White Chocolate Ramos Gin Fizz and a Five Dollar Shake, i was left seriously wishing that it was a Saturday night!

Let’s get to the food…

Let’s face it, when it comes to vegan and veggie food, choices are often limited and the same old, ill thought out, soup/salad/rabbit food options are just plain depressing after a while, so with so many insanely tasty sounding, definitely not diet friendly options on offer, this was never going to be an easy choice. So we decided not to make one…we made five instead. Diet starts Monday, right?! I just want to make it clear that everything we tried was a roaring success, but in light of not wanting my readers to fall asleep as I pour over each and every delicious element of every dish, here are my selection of absolute faves:

Korean pulled bbq mushroom tacos, pickled rainbow slaw, sriracha mayo, toasted sesame seeds and peanuts.

The tacos…oh sweet baby Jesus the tacos. Lashings of bbq sauce were rich with layers of taste-bud-tingling flavours and just the right amount of heat. The mushrooms perfectly replaced the soft meaty texture that you would normally get from a slow-cooked protein and the peanuts added a nice crunchy element to bring it all together. The micro corriander topping delivered a burst of fresh flavour bringing everything together. Seriously, give me these joy-filled soft shells any day of the week and I’ll be one very happy lady!

Southern fried Chick’aint goujons with crack sauce.

I’ve been meat-free for almost four years now, but I’ll be the first one to admit that I still get cravings for junk foods of days gone by. For most veggie’s it’s bacon. For me, just walking past a KFC is enough to reduce me to a drooling mess. These chick’aint goujons could have any meat-eater walk in of the street and leave convinced that they had been served a meal from the Colonel himself. Perfectly spiced, crunchy and moist in the middle, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Where do I even get started with that aptly named crack sauce too?! Nick kindly found time to come say hi during the hustle and bustle of a busy service and confirmed our suspicions that the sauce was based on Big Mac sauce, admitting that he used to have a bit of an obsession with the stuff smothered over a burger. Well move over burgers, I’d gladly have this slathered over about 90% of the foods that I eat. In fact I did just that for the next few days, as Nick was kind enough to give us an extra portion away with us after proclaiming our undying love for this tangy little beauty.

Side of mac & cheese with crispy shitake bacon.

I consider myself a bit of a mac & cheese connoisseur, the cheesier the better in my opinion, which is why I’ve often felt let down by vegan imitations in the past, they just haven’t quite hit mark, but I had high hopes for the Roots take on this classic. I was not disappointed. This weighty portion came with a creamy sauce that had the familiar sweetness of what I presume was butternut squash that I’ve experienced in other vegan versions, however this time it seemed to be cut with the sharpness of what I could absolutely swear were chunks of cheddar throughout. Combined with generous toppings of spring onions and that incredible shitake bacon (which I can only assume was conjured up using actual wizardry), this was one satisfying wee box of flavoursome ‘cheesy’ goodness.

Also ordered were the Southern fried Chick’aint burger and the loaded fries which were both equally calorific and satisfying in the most wonderful way, but like I said, we haven’t got all day!

The stroke of genius for me was that everything was served in environmentally friendly take-out style cardboard boxes, leaving us to pack up the remainder of our ridiculous over-order and take it home for the next day. Not only that but our awesome server (who along with the rest of the staff had been left the remaining brownies from the dessert option which we physically had no room left to try) packed up a couple of brownies for us to take home and try later. Hurrah for being saved from the absolute tragedy of a missed dessert! And yes, I can confirm that they were just as deceptively wonderful as any dairy filled brownie I’ve ever tasted.

Now, who’s going to be first to sign my petition to make this incredible night a monthly event and bring tears of joy to vegans, veggies and everyone else in between?

Until this dream hopefully becomes a reality you can catch Roots at their next pop up, a brunch event being hosted at Parx Cafe on Sunday the 10th March from 9-3. This event is walk in only, and sure to be as much of a hit as this one was, so get there early.

See you in the queue!

B x

P.s. You can keep up with everything going on at Roots by following their socials on Instagram and Facebook.