Sunday, 10 September 2017

Aberdeen's Best Cocktail Bars

Is anyone else sick of the negative Nancy's of Aberdeen writing ridiculous comments on everything the Evening Express or P&J post on Facebook?

They're completely pointless, unconstructive and in some cases, not even true. It seems to me like people just like a moan. It doesn't matter what the article is about, they'll find a reason to complain. Whether it's the airport, the council or, just recently, suggestions of where to eat in the city. Yes Aberdeen can be behind the times but it has so much to offer and some people just can't, or don't want to, see whats right in front of them. 

Anyway, this post wasn't meant to be negative so I'll stop there. One thing we are lucky with in Aberdeen is the bar scene! (Insert snide comment from grumpy old Aberdonian here). We have some of the best cocktail bars in Scotland right at our fingertips, not to mention the award winning bar tenders working their magic behind them. And hey, who doesn't love a good cocktail?

Whatever your tipple, you'll be spoiled for choice in Aberdeen. In no particular order, here are my top picks of the Granite City's premium bars...

Ninety-nine Bar & Kitchen - Tucked away just off Union Street, 99 is my go to for a day/night out with the girls. Food is served through the day but the bar really comes alive in the evening, when the drinks are flowing and the DJ is spinning some funky tunes. Cocktails range from a classic martini to literary inspired masterpieces like Don's Treasure Island and Tequila Mockingbird. My personal favourite is a fresh and fruity concoction from an older menu - ask for a Care Bear!
1 Back Wynd, Aberdeen

Orchid - Home of Porter's gin & 2016 mixologist of the year, Nick Gordon. While 99 is my go to with the girls, Orchid is my date night favourite! A night out in Aberdeen with Gordon will often end at Orchid, especially when Blair McLeod is providing the entertainment. (You'll find him & his guitar in 99 midweek). The menu is ever changing but they make a mean Long Island Iced Tea and I recommend their staple Pink Orchid! Expect table service and spontaneous ceilidh dancing.
51 Langstane Place, Aberdeen

The Tippling House - For a more laid back vibe this "subterranean late night tavern" is the place to be. Its a place to enjoy some good chat whilst sipping on an expertly crafted cocktail. Many an accolade has been won by The Tippling House including SLTN 2013 cocktail bar of the year and 2015 mixologist of the year. I loved their Almost Famous from a previous menu (top) but the current drink list is my favourite yet! Jindea single estate tea gin features heavily and I'd highly recommend the West Bengal Punch and Tea-na Colada. For something a little different you have to try the Ageing Pornstar - a twist on a pornstar martini, where a "Viagra" pill fizzes up a shot of white wine ready to add to the passionfruit mix. Alternatively, if you want to make like Mel B and spice up your life, try the Verdita!
4 Belmont Street, Aberdeen

Tell me, where's your favourite Granite City cocktail bar?

Friday, 8 September 2017

A Healthy Guide to Glasgow

Is there anything better than getting away for a long weekend? I spent my bank holiday down in Glasgow with Gordon, and while we didn't particularly do much we had a great time. We shopped, we ate, we explored and it was just what the Doctor ordered. I've been feeling a little under the weather lately and have decided to get my diet back on track, so we hunted out healthy eateries and ways to stay relatively active in the city.

Where to Eat

Kcal Kitchen - The gift that keeps on giving! Macro trackers will love this café which lists carb, fat and protein content for every item on it's menu. You'll even find them on MyFitnessPal. My favourite thing about Kcal is that it doesn't look or taste like "diet" food. You'll find burgers, pizzas, peanut butter cups and even protein doughnuts. The Himalayan Salt & Chilli Chicken is to die for - proper fakeaway right there!
130 West Regent Street

Prep Fitness Kitchen - I'm not going to lie, I ate here when they first opened and wasn't all that impressed. Another macro counting café but this one caters more for the "bro food" gym lifestyle. The protein pancakes are good so I'm willing to give the rest another go.
22 Bath Street

The Hanoi Bike Shop - Viatnamese restaurant where dishes are packed with veggies. Even the spring rolls come in salad leaf wraps! The Bike Shop isn't necessarily trying to be healthy, so you'll find a few naughty treats among the nutritious pho and various tofu dishes. Head across the road towards the twinkling lights of Ashton Lane for post dinner drinks.
8 Ruthven Lane

Down to Earth Organics - Unfortunately they were closed for the day when we tried to visit but I've heard good things about D2E and even Paolo Nutini is a fan! Expect cold pressed juices, baked eggs, daily specials and plenty vegan options.
351 Dumbarton Road

Primal Roast - A coffee shop owned by a Crossfit instructor, specialising in clean eating/paleo food with a fully vegan menu available too. We went for brunch and can recommend the breakfast burrito and clean breakfast. And what's brunch without cake? The lime and coconut raw cheesecake was a delight but the vegan caramel slice was even better.
278 St Vincent Street

The Left Bank - Not exactly a healthy eatery but the Left Bank does have a variety of nutritious options on it's menu. Between soups, wraps, super salads and noodles you'll be spoiled for choice. I had the Hoi An grilled chicken in a wrap and it was packed with greens and peanut goodness! 
33-35 Gibson Street, West End

Things To Do

Glasgow Mural Trail - Designed to add some colour to buildings and vacant units in the city centre, the mural trail is a fabulous curation of local street art. It's easily walkable in a day and you might even accidently stumble across some of the installations. We spotted a few while shopping and then made a point of finding more the next day. My personal favourites are the Glasgow Tiger and the World's Most Economical Taxi, closely followed by the recently added Billy Connolly portraits!  

Parks - Nobody said keeping active has to involve anything too strenuous! There are various places to get your steps up around the city from Pollok Country Park (where you'll find the Burrell Collection) to Glasgow Green and the winter gardens or Kelvingrove park and the nearby museum. You could even hire one of the pink People Make Glasgow nextbikes to travel between them all!

Gyms - For those seeking more of a sweat fest, Glasgow has its fair share of places to workout. The Club Gym is something of a destination gym, and I enjoyed functional training at Commando X-Fit! I've taken advantage of a free day pass at Pure Gym on Bath Street before which I'd highly recommend. Alternatively you can sometimes find free yoga at Sweaty Betty or Lululemon and run club at the Nike store. 

Getting Around

You can walk pretty much everywhere in the city centre - Primal Roast was the furthest distance we strolled from our hotel and took just 15 minutes. For anywhere further afield you can hire city bikes as I mentioned before, or jump on the Glasgow Subway. To get to the Hanoi Bike Shop and charming Ashton Lane we took a taxi. I recommend downloading Gett - a handy black cab booking app, which usually gives you some sort of free ride/money off deal.

Where to Stay

Travelodge - We spent the night at the new Travelodge on Queen Street. It's a handy location right in the middle of the city centre, within walking distance of Buchanan Street bus station and literally a minute away from the train station. The rooms were clean and more spacious than we expected, with a super comfy bed and plug sockets in all the right places!
78 Queen Street, Glasgow

*We were invited for a complimentary stay with Travelodge. This does not affect my views, all of which are 100% genuine.

Friday, 1 September 2017

A Month in my Shoes | August 2017


This month I've been running. And running, and running, until I never want to run again. I survived the inaugural Great Aberdeen Run half marathon - my first and last foray into long distance running! I have a lot to say on this experience so keep an eye out for a post.
We also completed a trial run of a local OCR - Mintlaw Mudder - the night before the official race. It was super fun but challenging and I enjoyed this 100x more than just plain running! OCR for life.

Other than that, my training has been pretty non existant. Running was my focus for August, so now that's over I can get back to lifting heavy things. (P.S I thought cardio was supposed to make you skinny?)
End of August Stats: 35.4% body fat, 6.12.0st muscle


Richard Froning Fittest on Earth - For someone who's never tried Crossfit, I'm obsessed with watching it on TV! This insight into the life of the fittest man on Earth was inspiring and eye opening. Super human. Crossfit gets a bad rep in the fitness industry but I have massive respect for anyone who competes in the sport.

Dexter - A nice murderer who works for the police, you can't help but route for him even though he's a serial killer! I've reached season 3 in 2 weeks. Addicted.

Where I've Been

At the start of the month we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at Yatai for our "J" date, followed by drinks at Orchid - that feels like so long ago now! The morning after was filled with Foodstory pancakes, anchor spotting in Duthie Park and visiting the Botanica pop up at Curated Stories Studio. I picked up a Juniper Press necklace which is my current go to accessory!

Throughout the rest of August I enjoyed lunch at the newly opened Craftsman Company, afternoon tea at the Tufted Duck with my gym girls, and we had yet another failed attempt at climbing Lochnagar (Scottish weather), followed by camping in the wilderness (my Father in Law's field). I'm hoping to do some actual wild camping in the remote Scottish countryside soon.

North Hop

It's been a busy month which also saw me announced as North East/Aberdeen ambassador for my favourite festival North Hop! Keep an eye on their blog, as well as here on Dinner Stories, for exciting boozy features coming soon. Early bird Spirit of North Hop tickets are on sale here!

Monday, 28 August 2017

Our First Experience as Race Marshals | Mintlaw Mudder 2017

Most couples spend their first wedding anniversary wining and dining on a romantic break for two. Not us, we spent ours trialling and marshalling a local obstacle race! (Okay, we did go out after). 

A small but perfectly formed local event, the Mintlaw Mudder race is in its second year. We were too late to get tickets (they sold out in just over 24 hours!) but still wanted to get involved and support the event. I'm forever moaning about the cost and travel that comes with entering obstacle races so with this one only 15 minutes from my front door, with an entry fee of just £20, I was keen to see it flourish!

We volunteered via Facebook, were added to a WhatsApp group and just like that we were part of the team! The marshalls were a collection of the event organisers, their friends and families, and local people who just love OCR. As total strangers we were welcomed with open arms and joined the squad on a 3-4 hour walk of the course a few weeks before race day. It was great to get an insight into how an event like this is organised and hear some of the wild ideas they had!

It really was a great course. We got to take part in the trial run the night before and loved it! Starting in Aden Park, into the pond and through "Jurassic Park" as I like to call it, then out to the Pitfour Estate, competitors waded through waist high mud before a dip in the lake. With Gordon's diving experience we were stationed at the Pitfour Plunge, me encouraging them in and Gordon waiting in the water in case anybody needed a helping hand! I made myself useful handing out Haribo and snapping pictures.

The usual cargo nets, tyres and ice baths featured but the organisers used the land and it's natural obstacles to their advantage. Climbing insanely steep hills, carrying rocks down and back up from the quarry, crawling through dirty tunnels and freezing your socks off in the cold stream, nettles nipping at your ankles. The route took us up to the observatory, where Drill Sarge Simpson awaited with sets of push ups, squats and burpees! Under the bridge and heading back towards Aden, there was another couple of miles to push through before the finale.

Finishers were piped in as they arrived, climbing up and down the inflatable before being pelted with water balloons as they tackled the slip n slide to the finish line. One of the most fun endings I've seen at an obstacle race - everyone finished with a smile on their face!

Local food and drink companies were out to support the event, with Ewan Morrice supplying the burgers, Rora Dairy whizzing up smoothies with their raspberry yoghurt and the Saplinbrae running a well classy bar for such a muddy event! Prossecco and Pimms were the star of the show, alongside Isle of Harris G&T's and local craft beers from Peterhead's up and coming Brew Toon.

The entire day was a big hit and I loved being a part of it. From start to finish, the organisers put in so much hard work into making the event the success it was - and all without profit, in their own free time! Finishers couldn't speak more highly of the event ("better than this year's Tough Mudder course") and the t-shirts went down a storm - they featured the names of each entrant around the MM logo on the back. I was delighted to be given my own as a thank you for volunteering!

If you've missed out on a space at an OCR or maybe you're injured and can't take part, I highly recommend volunteering. It was great to see the event from the other side, helping risk assess in the trial run, setting up, clearing up, and appreciating the blood, sweat and tears that go into the organisation. We met some lovely, friendly, community spirited folk who couldn't have made us feel more like part of the team. I hope to see Mintlaw Mudder back next year, even bigger and better, and I can't wait to get involved again!
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