Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Athenaeum - Aberdeen

With The Athenaeum being right at the bottom of Union Street it's a place that I've driven past a million times on the way into town but never really given a second thought. I suppose it's slightly out of the way when I'm through shopping because Marks & Sparks is about as far down the street as I venture before veering off in Topshop's direction. Anyway, we decided to give it a go a couple of weeks ago and I was impressed...

We were seated in a cosy little booth by the window, with the sun streaming through and it started as all good nights should - with a pornstar. (Martini, that is!) This one didn't come with the usual shot of prosecco but that's my least favourite part of the drink anyway. Bubbles should not be served in shot glasses in my opinion! It's strong, sweet taste of passionfruit made the cocktail far too easy to drink.

Pornstar martini #1 

Gordon went a little out of his comfort zone for the starter and ordered the mussels. They were served in a bowl of pear cider, garlic, bacon and cream with a couple of slices of chunky crusty bread, and were delicious! I went for the soup of the day, which turned out to be Bloody Mary. It basically tasted just like any tomato soup but I really enjoyed it. Apparently they're now serving it in a caddy "with all you need to make it as spicy and as potent as you like" - sounds intriguing!

Mussels cooked in pear cider, with smoked bacon, garlic and cream
 Bloody Mary soup

The Athenaeum have an extensive cocktail list to work your way through so it would of been rude not to order another while waiting for our main courses. I recommend the Hendricks & lychee gimlet! Gordon had a burger as usual, topped with bacon and cheese, and I went for the veggie option - the polenta & goats cheese burger. You can really taste the goats cheese over anything else and I think it could of done with some sort of relish or something, but it was still really good. I'd probably go for a normal burger next time though, just because I like a good piece of meat!

Hendricks & lychee gimlet
 8oz handmade burger, topped with cheese & bacon, with onion rings, 'slaw & chunky chips
Veggie burger - polenta & goats cheese, topped with mushroom, with onion rings, 'slaw & chunky chips

By this point a couple of food babies were starting to make an appearance but we still struggled through dessert. We decided not to be too greedy and just share a banana sticky toffee pudding between us. Gordon's the world's biggest sticky toffee fan and I love banana cake so what else would we of gone for!? To be honest it didn't taste of banana at all but the caramel sauce made up for it. Another pornstar martini was the perfect ending to an excellent meal.

 Banana sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel sauce & vanilla ice-cream

If you want to visit The Athenaeum you'll find them at 5-9 Union Street, Aberdeen and you can book by calling 01224 595585. They serve lunch and dinner, all day breakfasts on Sundays and also do afternoon tea with either tea/coffee or teapot cocktails! The big comfy sofas look perfect to sink into with a cocktail after a hard days work.

Have you ever been to The Athenaeum? Please leave any suggestions you have for restaurants in Aberdeen/shire in a comment below! :)

UPDATE 3/1/16: The Athenaeum has changed hands and is now Brewdog, Castlegate!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Blinq - Amsterdam

On our last night in Amsterdam, Gordon and I decided we wanted to get dressed up (ok I decided that part) and go for a nice meal. After deciding we'd need to try somewhere other than MOMO, and that Jamie Oliver's Fifteen was too far away, we pinned our hopes on the ever helpful hotel staff and asked them for suggestions. The words "classy" and "cocktails" led the tall, sophisticated looking receptionist to recommend Blinq.

Blinq is located on the Leidseplein - a 5 minute walk from MOMO and right behind Max Euweplein (where you'll find Wagamama & The Hard Rock Cafe). We'd visited this area of the city so many times and yet somehow never wondered down this particular street. It's lined with various good looking restaurants and bars and is somewhere we wished we'd discovered earlier.

We were greeted by a cheery waiter who went in search of some English menus and fetched us some cocktails while we found a seat on the terrace in the sun. Except the sun wasn't quite as warm as I'd hoped. It was pretty chilly in the wind, but the waiter even kept up his cheeriness when I decided to be awkward and ask to move inside.

Much happier indoors, with Blinq's stylish interior shielding us from the wind! For starters Gordon enjoyed his Dutch shrimp cocktail and I went for the vegetarian spring rolls. Anybody else noticing a spring roll theme in my posts lately!? So far Musa is still in 1st place & MOMO in 2nd. Blinq's spring rolls were pretty damn good though.

I deliberated back and forth for my main, between the chicken noodles and the warm goats cheese salad. Eventually I decided on the noodles and they were a definite winner. The chicken and stir fried veg was literally piled on top and the sweet and sour sauce was spot on. There was just far too much for me, especially when I had my eye on the dessert menu, so I didn't finish it but don't let that put you off!

With our bellies already pretty full we went ahead and ordered dessert, along with the best mojito I've had in a while - I like to taste the lime more than the mint! If there's one thing you can be sure of, it's that I will always order the cheesecake when there's a cheesecake option. And Gordon will always choose sticky toffee pudding. This occasion was no different and the New York cheesecake was calling my name. It was nothing extraordinary but did the job - yum yum! Gordon had the Sticky toffee cake. I don't think it quite lived up to his expectations - his main complaint was that it was cold! But to be fair it was described on the menu as "cake" and not "pudding" so I guess that's the difference? He wolfed it down all the same.

Overall we enjoyed our dinner at Blinq and would definitely return if we're ever back in Amsterdam. If not for any other reasons than the chic decor, tasty cocktails and happy, friendly service! You can also visit Blinq for lunch or coffee and at the weekends they turn into a club with DJ's to entertain you through the night.


P.S - This is my last Amsterdam post - boohoo! :(

Sunday, 23 June 2013

House of Bols - Amsterdam

After our lunch at MOMO and a stroll along P.C.Hoofstraat we headed over to the 'House of Bols' Cocktail & Genever Experience for a little top up. This was another handy recommendation from Adrian! If you're heading to Amsterdam and fancy a fun, interactive boozy tour then head in this direction - avoid the Heineken Experience, we found it boring.

Bols has been distilling liqueurs in Amsterdam since 1575 (who knew!?) so there's plenty to learn about the history of the brand. My favourite part of the self guided tour was the Hall of Taste! You're encouraged to use your sense of taste and smell to explore and discover the flavours that Bols has to offer. I'd only ever heard of blue, strawberry and cherry until we came here - it's a right pain in the butt bols to get a hold of Strawberry Bols in Aberdeenshire! - but there is actually over 30 different types available! At one point you'll be asked to put a tiny piece of gum-like paper on your tongue, and allow it to dissolve whilst holding your nose. It sounds strange and you feel a bit stupid but, trust me, do it. I won't ruin it for you but I will say I was surprised by what happened when I let go of my nose!

In the next part of the tour you'll learn more about Bols Genever - a cocktail spirit with a like-ness to whiskey that, due to being a protected spirit category, can only be made in Holland & a select few nearby areas.

There are cocktail workshops available for groups in the House of Bols. We didn't do this (not sure they'd do it for only 2 people!) but if you're over on a stag/hen do or birthday celebration this would be ideal!

For the grand finale, the tour ends in the fantastic Mirror Bar! Your entry fee includes a cocktail of your choice and 2 shots of liqueur to "sample". You can buy extra cocktails for 6.50 each. We tried the lychee martini and vanillaberry crush cocktails to start with (thumbs up for both) and then had a shot of the lychee and passionfruit liqueurs. They were sweet and much easier to drink than I'd expected. The cocktail menu was far too tempting so we ordered another round and this time watched the barman shake and stir his way through a watermelon martini (not as good as MOMO's, obviously) and a bramble. I'd highly recommend the bramble just to admire the way the Bols Creme de Cassis trickles like blood down your glass!

We stayed in the Mirror Bar for quite a while playing in the flair booth and sipping our cocktails as we snapped "selfies" in the millions of mirrors surrounding us!

House of Bols is right next to Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam so it's really easy to find and well worth a trip. Tickets are 14.50 or 9.50 after 5pm on Fridays, which includes your 1st cocktail and 2 shots in the Mirror Bar, and of course all visitors must be over 18! Let me know what you think if you decide to visit :)


Friday, 21 June 2013

MOMO - Amsterdam

Our first stop when we arrived around Friday lunch time in Amsterdam, was MOMO. It was recommended by a friend and I'd also spotted it over on Valentina de Pertis' blog so it was high on our list of places to go. MOMO is an asian restaurant, bar and lounge with a modern, western twist. With the Park Hotel above it, it's located in a beautiful area of Amsterdam - overlooking Vondel park, the Singelgracht canal, just off P.C.Hoofstraat (Chanel, Louis Vuitton etc!) and right next to the museum quarter. I honestly can't recommend this place enough! 

With it's sleek, white walls and the sun beaming in through the windows, the restaurant was bright and inviting.

We parked our bums at the bar and ordered up some cocktails - a long island iced tea for Gordon (a manly cocktail apparently) and a lychee martini for me - yum!

Lychee martini

Sharing is encouraged at MOMO, so after asking to see the bar menu we ordered a few dishes between us. When they arrived, we were literally surrounded by food! And oh my god did we love it...

The very nice, friendly barman kept our drinks topped up and told us all about the sauces etc that came with our food. He even supplied us with the free wifi password and a random free cocktail that he had whipped up while we tucked in. I'll be honest - I have no idea what this cocktail was called or what was in it. I did ask, but I was a little tipsy by this point and I have a goldfish memory at the best of times! But I can tell you I enjoyed it. Obviously.

 Aromatic duck roll with hoi sin sauce

 Sweet potato chips

 Spicy fried squid

Chicken skewers with spicy peanut sauce

All of the dishes were absolutely beautiful and we munched up every last morsel between the two of us. My favourite was the duck rolls. I had expected them to be more "pancakey" if you know what I mean, but they were more of a spring roll and a pretty high contender for Musa's haggis version! Excuse me, while I wipe the drool off my laptop...

Watermelon vanilla martini

I could of stayed in MOMO all day, relaxing with a tasty cocktail but seeing as it was our first day in the city I gave in to the call of the shops. We had one more drink for the road and this time, I went for the watermelon vanilla martini. If you ever stop by MOMO do not leave until you try this! I very nearly ordered a bellini but after a quick chat with the barman, who told me the martini would be more refreshing as it was made with real, fresh watermelon, I made the right decision. I'm a fan of any fruity cocktail served in a martini glass so this was right up my street and the best cocktail I had all weekend!

MOMO is an absolute must next time you're in Amsterdam. Granted it's a bit pricey, but in my opinion it is definitely worth it for the great service, food, drinks and luxury atmosphere. Our bill came to just over 100 euros for the 4 dishes & 4 drinks. We weren't charged for the random cocktail or 2 beers that Gordon had, although that may of been a mistake! We only ordered from the bar menu but there are also lunch, dinner and set menus available.

On a side note, we had meant to visit The Butcher (recommended by The Tippling House's Adrian) while we were over there but completely forgot about it. The Butcher is basically an upmarket burger joint hidden through the back of a butchers shop. Turns out, it's owned by the same people as MOMO - Face-Palm! Although we were stupid and missed out on this experience, I suggest you check it out and let us know how you get on? At least I've now found a reason to go back to Amsterdam!

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