Topolobamba, Glasgow

‘Do you want a wee pudding m’love?’

My waiter at Topolabamba, Jamie, was an absolute gem and said the words above in his thick Scottish accent with a giant smile and twinkle in his eye. I’d spent a long day sightseeing – my phone said I’d walked 11km – and as I was parked in a corner on my table for one I was glad of a friendly, welcoming face. The restaurant was buzzing on a Saturday night with tables bulging with food and excitable people knocking back cocktails. I loved the atmosphere and colourful lighting, which went from blue to red to green throughout the evening.

As I sat down Jamie introduced himself and asked if I’d like a regular or large white wine, emphasising the word ‘large’ and giving me a look of ‘it’s Saturday night’. I grinned and said yes, and gave him my food order: shredded beef tostadas, crispy fish tacos and crispy Pasilla king prawn tacos. You’ll have to forgive my weird menu choices, I have a thing for fried things from the sea. It was only after I ordered that I realised I’d missed out using the mini Ikea pencil to circle my choices. Everyone loves a tiny pencil.

I sat back and opened my book just as a bottle of tequila landed on my table. After my initial horror I was relieved to find it only had tap water in it. The last time I drank tequila was on my hen do and the less that’s said about that, the better. My beef tostadas came out first, swiftly followed by my fish and prawn tacos.

Everything was flavoursome but boy was it spicy. It was at this point that I realised the menu had a heat key, which I had completely ignored. As I finished up, my mouth was on fire and as Jamie asked ‘do you want a wee pudding m’love’ all I could do was nod and point at the Horchata ice cream, which he said tasted like Caramac bars.

It arrived pronto in a deep blue bowl that looked like a flower pot. The first bite was like diving into a pool when you’ve been sat in the sun too long. The ice cream was soothing, creamy and indeed tasted like Caramac bars. I asked for the bill as I was finishing the final scoop and it arrived with a smiley face on it.

I don’t know if Jamie was being nice to be in order to earn a tip, either way he was delightful and made my solo dinner all the more enjoyable. I asked him if he got his tips and he said yes. The food at Topolabamba was tasty and I’d like to go back with a big group of people so I can try more of the menu. My takeaway this trip though will be Jamie, who made me feel right at home.

Kember and Jones, Glasgow

‘Veggie Haggis? Yes’.

I’m sure for most Scottish people veggie haggis is sacrilege, but for this southerner I was lured in by golden flakey pastry and the novelty of veggie haggis. I walked into Kember and Jones and straight past the ‘please wait to be seated’ sign to gawp at the array of baked goods on display. The veggie haggis roll got me and after breakfast I bought one for lunch later.

I’d travelled across the city to get to Kember and Jones, and took another 10 minutes to finally sit down as I had to find a cash point because their card reader wasn’t working. I helped myself to a menu (I had rudely just sat myself down after being distracted by pastry) and plugged my phone charger in next to me. I was delighted that the Kember and Jones’ menu had my initials on, so I had to photograph it. Simple things.

The menu was varied but strangely egg-free. I opted for avocado on sourdough and griddled halloumi. After ordering, everything seemed to get a bit frantic. The waiting staff were dashing about and clattering noises were coming from the kitchen. A waitress told the table next to me that there had been a power cut and they’d lost power – that’s what took out their card reader that morning. I wanted to give her a hug. None of the customers seemed to mind though as food kept coming.

My food arrived after a few minutes, tasty fresh avocado, rocket and a lemon slice – something you don’t tend to get with your avo smash in London. The only issue was the halloumi, which I think was ‘griddled’ with a whole load of butter because it was rather greasy. The sourdough however was deliciously rich and nutty. I could see their breads lined up behind the counter and if I’d been in Glasgow longer I’d have got one. As I paid up I once again succumbed to the treats on display and bought a lemon poppyseed muffin.

It was absolutely divine and lasted about 4 minutes whilst I walked to the Hunterian Museum round the corner. It was moist and delicately flavoured, with a tang of lemon in the soft white icing. I recycled the paper bag, licked my fingers and (after properly washing my hands) explored the weird and gross bits of body on display. I spent the afternoon at the Riverside Museum, stunningly designed by Zaha Hadid, a must for anyone who likes museums, architecture and taking photos.

I made the most of the glorious weather and sat out in the sun listening to small children run around the deck of the Tall Ship, clanging it’s bell and launching into fits of giggles. The water of the River Clyde was so still and serene it acted like a mirror perfectly reflecting the clouds in the sky. Here I enjoyed my veggie haggis roll, constantly on the look out for lurking sea gulls. I ate it before they got a look in.

The Willow Tea Rooms, Buchanan Street, Glasgow

‘Bit rainy out there isn’t it love?’

Google Maps took me completely the wrong way when I was looking for the Willow Tea Rooms, and it hammered with rain. I had pre-empted the weather so I had my red umbrella and an unattractive but practical grey rain coat. As I walked further down a backstreet with more bins than people I ditched Google Maps and headed towards a street showing more signs of life. I didn’t know it but I was in fact on Buchanan Street, and I almost walked straight past the tea rooms which were tucked between Carphone Warehouse and ironically, Whittard of Chelsea. The Art Deco frontage, inspired by Charles Rennie Macintosh, was fabulously inviting.

Relieved to be in the dry I walked hastily up the stairs past some boards explaining the history of the tea rooms and their decor, which I took time to read after I’d eaten. On entering the tea room I saw a sign for the Chinese tea room upstairs – I was too hungry, soggy and shy to go wandering so it’s on my list of things to do next time I’m in Glasgow. To be honest it would probably be a bit lost on my anyway since I don’t actually like tea…

I was shown to a table for two, the high backed chairs were stunning but not particularly practical although they did wonders for my posture over breakfast. I loved the aesthetic of the tea room, the chairs being a talking point for everyone on each table.

I ordered poached eggs on sourdough with avocado, which was handed over within about 7 minutes by a smartly dressed waitress with a big smile. A hunk of sourdough was generously slathered in fresh avocado and my two poached eggs wobbled, almost twerked, on top.

I squeezed the slice of lemon all over and dived in. It was immensely filling and for once I took my time over eating breakfast. When I was done the waitress asked me in her thick Scottish accent if I wanted anything else. I said no but after a few minutes my sweet tooth persuaded me to order a hot chocolate, which came so fast I wondered if the waiting staff were actually clairvoyant. It was rich and creamy and just what was required on a very wet day in Glasgow.

20 minutes later I donned my wet weather gear and splashed through the streets to the Gallery of Modern Art. It was too wet to take a picture so this one is from 2 days later.

Note the traffic cone on top of the Duke of Wellington’s head, which my Scottish friend tells me it’s now a thing and she was right as I kept seeing postcards with it on. In July this year it hit the headlines for having 10 traffic cones placed on it. I think it’s great and I hope more cities adopt the traffic cone atop their statues. And hey, if it makes someone Google ‘the Duke of Wellington’ and learn about who he was then I’m all for it.

JC’s Kitchen, Bath

‘Do you reckon he’ll let me go off menu?’ 

Thankfully the server at JC’s Kitchen was happy to oblige to my cheeky request and, in seeing my immense box of food, my husband opted for exactly the same thing. We’d spent the morning exploring Bath together in our 2-days married candy floss bubble. We walked arm in arm down the aisle in Bath Abbey joking that we were now experts in aisle walking. I felt quite emotional sat in a pew at the front thinking about the past few days; next to me my husband was Googling where we could go for lunch. I’m sure Jesus didn’t mind, I’ve heard he loves a feast.

I‘m a big fan of street food or any kind of foodie place that serves from a shed/ tent/ shack. We could tell we were in a cool place walking through an old bus station, past a barber with a feminist slogan on its door and a neon signed record shop with man-bunned hipsters flicking through brimming boxes on trestle tables outside.

As we approached JC’s Kitchen we could hear sizzling and see smoke bellowing, and a meaty, spicy smell filled our nostrils. The Filipino menu was a simple choice of bubble & squeak or spicy beans with an array of meats, cheese and sauces on top. For £7 the man serving filled up my box with half bubble & squeak and half spicy beans, grilled chicken, salad and chipotle sauce on top.

We sat on picnic benches outside the shack and tucked in whilst ogling at the pictures in a Filipino recipe book left on the table. Every mouthful was flavoursome and filling and the portion was deceptively large – the double carbs of rice and potato did me in though, and I couldn’t finish my box.

We headed over the road to The Bath Brewhouse for a beer garden pint and G&T, and to let our food settle. After a little while our sweet teeth beckoned and we went in search of baked treats. I chose a raw cacao slice and Murtie chose a giant chocolate brownie slice thing from Mokoko Coffee. We sat in the sun listening to a busking jazz trumpeter with the Abbey turrets making jagged shadows on the ground around us.

Googlemaps told us it was 2.5 miles back to our AirB&B, which we decided to walk. It turned out to be 2.5 miles up a giant hill, although we crossed a canal just as a boat was going through a lock, which was exciting for us city folk. At least the walk burned off some of the inordinate amount of calories we had consumed in 2 days.

King William Pub, Bath

‘We call you DFL’s round here’.

Nice to meet you too, new pub friend. DFL means ‘down from London’ and we couldn’t really defend ourselves on that one. Our new pub friends softened up once we told them we had got married yesterday. After a nice chat about where else we should go for dinner in Bath (whilst I surreptitiously took photos of their caramel dog) we tucked into our Sunday roast.

The King William Pub in Bath was the first place we found on Tripadvisor. We’d arrived at our accommodation early that day and taken an extended trip to Morrisons whilst the cleaner cleaned. As dinner time approached we couldn’t face more decision-making having spent the past eleven months making wedding related decisions. It had a nice picture, high ratings, was a 5-minute drive away and had free parking (on Sundays) across the road.

The turquoise frontage was inviting and we walked in to a quirky pub with equally quirky looking clientele and staff. We were seated in a corner and took all of 3 seconds to agree that it was Sunday and the only suitable food for two tired newlyweds was a fat roast dinner. It did not disappoint.

The Yorkshire pudding was the size of my face and it harboured a roast potato inside.  Juicy roast chicken and an assortment of veg were sat in the richest and silkiest gravy. It hinted dark chocolate and I made a mental note to ask the chef what was in it but in the end, I completely forgot to ask. My husband of 24 hours and I didn’t speak for 20 minutes whilst we gorged, meeting eyes every now and then to agree, by grunting, that it was ridiculously delicious.

Neither of us could particularly move once we’d finished but the dessert menu was placed in front of us and the words ‘sticky toffee pudding’ leapt into our eyes. Our favourite. Now, we could have shared. We’d literally said ‘all that I have I share with you’ in our vows the day before, and we were stuffed. But no. One each please, kind waiter.

This sticky toffee was Bruce Bogtrotter enormous and it sat in a puddle of shiny toffee sauce and rapidly melting vanilla ice cream. It was deeply sweet and stuck to every corner of our mouths. We were not defeated and our tummies were fit to burst once we’d finished. I can’t describe the feeling of being so content from eating. Suffice to say we went back to our Air B&B and had a wild night of sleeping.

Over the next two days in Bath we did go to a couple of our new pub friends’ recommended eateries.  We ate our bodyweight in steak and chips at Hudson Steakhouse and drank cocktails with unpronounceable ingredients in a Prohibition style, shadowy cornered basement bar called The Dark Horse. I felt squiffy after one, which I think is a good sign especially when the price of each drink was in double figures. Our only misdemeanour was (our choice, should have stuck to local knowledge) heading to Thaikun for dinner one evening – we had a nice time, but the food was pricey, ok tasting and the décor tried much too hard to be authentic. We were trying to evoke our honeymoon to Thailand later this year but agreed to leave our culinary Thai adventures until we are actually in Thailand rather than Bath.

Singtong Burger House, Leather Lane, London

‘I’m being good, the wedding is 6 weeks away’. 

I’d just picked up our wedding rings from a jeweller in Hatton Garden and wondered what to do for lunch. It was the beginning of a half day off work and I was in a really good mood. I walked through the food market on Leather Lane, each stall sizzled and popped and gave off delicious smells. I dodged the queues of city workers and passed giant pans of paella, pizza slices and gourmet kebabs but couldn’t find what a wanted. SINGTONG BURGER HOUSE. I made a beeline to a small corner restaurant with lots of guys sat in the window stuffing their faces and chugging cans of Diet Coke.

I ordered the cheeseburger, not particularly adventurous considering they do a rather fabulous sounding chicken burger, but I was in the mood for greasy beef and fries. I got the lunch meal deal – burger, fries and a drink for £10. I sat at the bar and a few minutes later a try landed in front of me with fries spilling out a bag and an oozing cheesy burger.

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It felt kind of wrong having been in a fancy Hatton Garden jewellers 10 minutes earlier and now I was taking mammoth bites into my cheeseburger. I’d text my husband-to-be about 8 minutes earlier saying ‘I’m finding lunch in the Leather Lane market, I’m being good, the wedding is 6 weeks away’. By ‘good’ I clearly meant good at finding somewhere incredible to eat, and at that I was successful.

I marched off half an hour later, fancy wedding rings safely in my bag, slathering my hands in sanitizer and a big smile on my face.