Richard Bath restaurant reviews
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WHEN the Turnberry Hotel opened its spa complex on the hill overlooking Ailsa Craig in 1991, it was well ahead of its time. Those looking for some gentle exercise could swim in the pool or sit in the Jacuzzi and savour some of the best sea views in Scotland, while the more narcissistic visitors could submit themselves to be pulled, pushed, prodded and poked in an eye-popping number of ways by a squadron of women in white coats.
EDINBURGH'S Victoria Street, the curvaceous cobbled parade that sweeps down from the Mound to the bars and restaurants of the Grassmarket, may not have the pull of some of the city's more famous landmarks, but it is not to be underestimated. The two companies that chose to use it - rather than some of the more obvious contenders - as a backdrop in their recent Edinburgh-based TV advertisements clearly understood its significance as the pulsing heart of the historic centre.
IF YOU'RE thinking of visiting the new frontier outpost of Centotre, take your sunglasses. We had been there for about half an hour when my head began to throb. By the time pudding arrived, my brain was being pounded by a headache of Vesuvian proportions.
HAVE you tried booking a table in the centre of Edinburgh recently? At short notice? On a Friday or a Saturday evening? Even though the Festival is over and virtually the whole city has gone into hibernation after an overdraft-busting month of excess, it's still surprisingly difficult to find somewhere central to eat on a whim. Which is how I discovered Nine Cellars.
SOME restaurants are like those good-looking friends we all have who never have girlfriends. No one knows why they're single because everyone likes them. It's just that no one seems to like them quite enough to go out with them. Eating out can be like that. I've dined in some excellent restaurants with breathtaking food that have been as empty as Jade Goody's head, and I've had no idea why. The Bank in Crieff falls into that category, as does the Stockbridge Restaurant in Edinburgh.
DARTH VADER'S bedroom. Yep, that about sums it up. Ken McCulloch's description of the interior of his Dakota hotels was an off-the-cuff aside, but then it's always the smart-arse witticisms that stick. And this one stuck because it's true.
SITTING outside the Old Clubhouse can be a dangerous occupation, but it's about the most fun you can have in Gullane unless you have a golf club in your hands. As I chewed the cud with an old friend who's a filthy smoker and who'd popped out to feed his habit, a ball whizzed past his head, narrowly missing the car on whose bonnet he was sitting, before bouncing 20ft into the air off the road and disappearing at speed towards the centre of the village.
A LOT can change in a 15-minute ferry journey. This column has regularly highlighted the strangely high number of good, and occasionally great, restaurants on the Cowal peninsula.
TRULY great meals always end up being about more than just good food. The setting, the ambience, the company and the occasion all make a contribution. But if the deciding factor for you is the quality of the wine then Palmerston's could be your dream destination.
THE summer holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times - great for them, but a trial for us. In our house, the generally accepted way of getting through what seems an interminable break is to keep the little devils as busy as possible. The calendar in our kitchen has already been defaced by screeds of red scrawl as the military operation designed to fill their every waking moment cranks into action.
BRAIDWOODS gives you a warm, comforting glow. The fact that this little restaurant remains one of the enduring success stories of the Scottish scene is cause for celebration, since it is set in an unassuming little cottage on the outskirts of a nondescript former mining town that isn't next to an obvious population centre.
LAUDER occupies that curious no-man's-land between urban and rural. Ostensibly a picturesque little Borders town on the road south from Edinburgh, it's neither a suburb nor a true country town. Thanks to its proximity to the capital, which is a 30-minute drive on the rare occasions when the roads aren't gridlocked, this is prime commuter territory.
First impressions count. As soon as you walk through the door of any restaurant, even before you have clapped eyes on the menu, you are looking for the telltale signs that will sway you one way or the other. The smells, the décor, the time it takes the front of house to show you to your table... These are the little things that subconsciously affect your mood and mindset.
SINCE arriving in Scotland, Geoffrey Smeddle has tended to fly under the radar. But the former head chef at Conran's flagship Glasgow restaurant, Etain, has the air of a man who is determinedly upwardly mobile. His bold move to Fife last year, to take over the fading gastronomic institution that is the Peat Inn, looks like a concerted attempt to step up a level.
WE SHOULD be thankful to Barry Bryson. He, along with many like him, is revolutionising the eating-out experience in Scotland - and this time it's from the bottom up. While Andrew Fairlie, Martin Wishart, Keith Braidwood and their competitors are doing their bit for Caledonia's haute cuisine, Bryson and his fellow café-owners are staging a quiet revolution in the way we eat during the day and when we're on the move.
I CAN'T deny that I truly hated his irredeemably mawkish film Field of Dreams, but when Kevin Costner said, "Build it and they will come", he had a point. He was suggesting that if a group of baseball legends got together in the middle of nowhere at the height of the Depression, they would be able to entice thousands of impoverished and dungareed farmers to seek them out. His point was basically that if you provide quality, people will find you.
BACK in the mists of time, when I first started this reviewing lark and was trying to fathom how to uncover hidden gems on a weekly basis, I was given a piece of advice that has stood me in good stead.