“ Address: 124 Coupar Angus Road / Dundee / DD2 5PG „
March has been absolutely packed full of stuff to do whether I wanted to or not. Among the things I did want to do were birthday celebrations galore, despite their costly nature. It was our friend Andrew's birthday. Actually he's Allan's cousin's (Vicky) boyfriend's (Doug) brother (Andrew). Yes, easier to just say our friend. He had arranged a family only night to go for a meal and being that Allan and I are both awesome and very slightly, almost, maybe related in a convoluted way, we got an invite. The venue was to be a place I had been a few times but mostly when I was a young boy with my parents. The Birkhill Inn.
===Time to Travel===
The Birkhill Inn is located in the tiny village of Birkhill which sits on the edge of Dundee but is still part of it. If you don't know the area it may not be immediately apparent how to get there. If you head towards Camperdown Country Park and instead of going IN to the main entrance, go down the straight road to the right of the entrance. You'll find yourself travelling on a road with trees on both sides; Camperdown Park is on one side and Templeton Woods is on the other. It's quite a pretty drive. A few minutes on this road and you'll come to the 30mph signs that indicate you are entering Birkhill. About 20 meters from these signs, on the right hand side (left hand side is all fields) you'll see a low, white brick wall with a little children's play frame/chute next to a large conservatory. That is the Birkhill Inn. You can either turn right just before the wall starts and then left into the car park or if you miss that turn off there is another opening in the wall just after the Inn which takes you into the car park. Most cars come out of that exit though, so it's probably best to try and catch the first turn off.
You'll notice there was a bit of driving involved there. There ARE busses that come out to Birkhill (the 30 and 31) and I'm pretty certain they even stop fairly close to the Inn, however, they are a bit of a nightmare to actually catch as they don't go anywhere near the city centre and aren't incredibly regular: one will arrive every hour. If you fancy waiting on one in particular then each bus is every two hours. Eek. A taxi may be a better idea than a bus but depending on where you are coming from that could cost up to a tenner both ways. Really what I'm saying is that it's incredibly awkward to get to if you don't live next door.
Thankfully when you DO get there in your car, the car park behind the restaurant has ample parking day and night and people shouting howdy neighbour! Ahem. There are plenty of disabled bays too and the entrance is ground level. There are a couple of areas within the restaurant that are up a couple of steps but there are also plenty of areas that are all on ground level. The toilets are also on ground level so overall there should be no issues with wheelchair users or people who aren't great with steps getting around.
If you want to type anything into your sat-nav the address is as follows:
124 Coupar Angus Road
Giving them a ring to book a table is always a good idea as it's a fairly busy restaurant and a bit out of the way, it would be a pain to rock up and find it full. Their number is 01382 581297 though you could always email them on Info@birkhillinn.co.uk. Any other details you want can probably be found on their infuriatingly mis-spelled website www.birkhillin.co.uk though I wouldn't take too much stock in the menus as they are sometimes different than what's actually available on the day.
===Travelling in Time===
The Birkhill Inn has been there for as long as I can remember. In fact, it has been there longer than I remember. It has been around since 1870 in the same place. Since 1870 the Inn (which has a pub section on it too) has expanded from the little house it once was to a house surrounded by extended conservatory sections. As such there is plenty of room inside but the layout can be a little hectic. Regardless of that, however, the place always feels warm both temperature wise and atmosphere wise. It's like going to your very well off grannies house for tea. Luxuriously thick carpets with dark wood tables and chairs sit beneath some interesting decorative (and obviously plastic) bull's heads mounted in the rafters. It's bizarre, but it's cosy and very family friendly. That's probably why I was there a few times as a child!
You'll have already picked up that this place has a little chute and climbing frame type thing outside for the kiddies when the weather is better. The wall that encloses it is rather short and the main road runs directly outside the restaurant so it's probably a good idea to supervise any boisterous kiddies if they are going outside. This isn't all they have though. There is a little room off to the side with large glass windows so you can see into it that is full of toys. There is even a Playstation 3 and a TV hooked up in there. It's basically a box where you can put your kids while you eat if they get bored enough to start getting annoying. That's possibly the most I've seen to keep kids entertained in any restaurant recently so it really is a family friendly place. Not that I'd promote taking kids out in public; that's what babysitters or Duct tape are for!
===Starter for ten===
Having sat down we were short on people as they had gotten caught up in traffic due to someone jumping off the local bridge (or not as the case may be but she spent 3 hours deciding not to). In total there were 8 of us so we got a fair range of food between us. The poor waitress didn't have a clue what was going on so service was a little slower than it normally would have been. After 45 minutes of waiting on people turning up, we decided to order starters since we were all starving.
I went with the soup of the day which just so happened to be Cauliflower and Cheddar and was £3.30. I always get quite excited about cheese soup ever since I got a recipe for Stilton and broccoli soup. I could quite happily eat my weight in that stuff. It came quite nicely presented with a little bit of cess and croutons floating on the top of it and a bread roll with some butter to dip into it. The roll was a little disappointing. It looked like it was going to be nice and crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Instead, it was just soft the whole way through which made cutting it open a bit of a farce. I ended up just squishing it in my hands and tearing bits off of it to smother in butter. It didn't really feel "freshly baked" as the menu stated. It felt shop bought. The soup itself was strange. It was nice but it smelled quite disgusting. The cauliflower made it smell a bit like farts. Gross. It tasted good (though nowhere near as good as my stilton and broccoli soup!) but any time I burped for the next couple of hours all I could taste was Cauliflower and farts. I'd give it three out of five. A good attempt but not the best they could have done.
===Starter for one (or more)===
Allan went for the Nachos for his starter. I'm not sure what price they were as Allan was mixing and matching from the two menus they had. One menu was a set price for so many courses, the other you paid for what you got. They DO allow you to pick anything from any menu but I didn't catch the price of the Nachos on their own. They arrived on a plate that was far too big for them looking as neat as nachos ever really look (not very) Aside from the plate being too large for the portion it served there were no complaints. A few people that were there hadn't tried nachos before and had a little nibble of Allan's starter and they all really enjoyed them to the point where they wanted to have nachos again in future. I've given them my recipe for that too! Overall though, everyone who had them enjoyed them.
Vicki had decided to share a started with Norrie (her boyfriend Doug's stepdad) and went for haggis and oatmeal fritters with clapshot and whisky cream sauce for £4.95. For those of you who are unaware (that would be me till the dish arrived) clapshot is just turnips, potatoes, chives and butter all mashed together. The dish was very neatly presented with three little balls of haggis and oatmeal sat gently on top of three little piles of clapshot. The creamy whisky sauce was drizzled around the outside so you could choose to dip your wee balls into it or have them on their own. I'm a huge fan of not mixing everything together straight away so I liked that they done this. Vicki and Norrie munched their way through them enjoying it all.
Since we had only ordered starters in an attempt to wait on the last stragglers arriving we waited another half hour after the starters. By that point we decided again to just order the main meal and they would have to catch up when they got there. They were still stuck on the bridge waiting for the woman to come down from the railings. The waitress came over and took our orders. The food arrived about ten minutes later so everything was going quickly regardless of messing around with ordering everything separately.
For my main I went with the "award winning" steak and gravy pie. They filled the plate with this one. Served with chips, broccoli and carrots, the healthy serving of pie took up most of the plate. Gravy was everywhere with nice large chunks of steak swimming in it. A large square of puff pastry sat on top of it, the upper layers being nice and crispy with the layers closest to the steak and gravy being nice and moist. It was quite nice. By all means it wasn't the best steak and gravy pie I've ever had but it was certainly more than acceptable. I didn't manage to clear my plate so the portion size was maybe a touch on the large side but given this course costs £8.95 I'd say that the portion size was warranted.
Much to my horror, being staunchly against eating seafood (nothing to do with those pesky biblical rules on creepy-sea-crawlies, more to do with the smell) Allan on my left and Vicki on my right went for Fish and Chips for £8.95. The fish in question, I'm told, was Haddock though it may have actually been a whale. Everyone went wide eyed when Vicki's plate was put before her with a few people exclaiming how huge it was. Allan wasn't as impressed as his was slightly smaller though still on the massive side of the scales. They both had at least a foot of fish on their plate. The both chose to have it battered though you can choose to have it in breadcrumbs if you prefer. It also came with a wedge of lemon which Vicki ever so kindly squirted on both the fish and I.
Neither of them managed to finish their fish, both leaving more than a quarter of it on their plate. Allan was a bit upset with the batter as it started going quite soggy near the middle of the fish, something that Vicki agreed with thought they both admitted it may just have been due to the amount of time it took them to eat that much that the batter lost its crispy crunchy shell. Overall they enjoyed it, but again, possibly a bit too much was on the plate. Brilliant value though.
Both Doug and his brother Andrew went for the 10oz Rump Steak for £13. Everything from their grill section comes with vine tomatoes, mushrooms, onion rings a fried egg and chips. Their plates were absolutely falling over with stuff. The egg sat squarely on top of the steak and covered only half of it. The cuts of meat were massive. So massive that Andrew left about half of his and Doug (being much more of a steak fiend and also giving people little bits to try) was still left with a bit at the end. The steak was delicious. I traded Doug a slice of steak for a bit of pie as we had both been swaying between the two choices. The steak was perfectly cooked. It just so happens that Doug likes his steak the same way I do; Medium rare. They managed to hit that on the head which is less common that you might think in restaurants. The meat was a quality cut too, with very little chewy fatty bits through it and the fat on the edges melted away in your mouth. Totally mouth-watering and more than worth the £13 price tag.
Norrie and Lorraine (Andrews Mum and stepdad) went for the Gammon steak for £8.95 and this was the only meal that seemed like it was a normal portion size. They both enjoyed it thoroughly and managed to clear their plates. I didn't try it myself but they gave it a thumbs up.
===A barren desert menu===
Rather upsettingly they didn't have a huge range of desserts. Probably because no one can manage to get that far thanks to the massive portion sizes. We didn't really need anything anyway as Lorraine had brought a Thornton's birthday cake. The staff kept it in the kitchen for us and even gave us plates, cutlery and a knife to cut it with! About half way through eating the cake we had brought the people we had been waiting on arrived. By that time the kitchen had just closed for the night... but upon asking the waitress and checking with the kitchen, they said they'd keep it open for the poor stragglers. They went straight for the main meals and demolished them while everyone else worked slowly on the cake. By that point I was too engrossed in chatter to actually notice what they had, though I did see that one of them got the mahoosive fish dish. They seemed to enjoy it.
===Skip to the loo==
As usual, no trip to the restaurant is complete without a thorough investigation of the loos. If they are rank they will instantly loose a star from my rating so it's always a good idea to have a clean and nice looking toilet around me. As I expected from the looks of the place, the Birkhill Inn toilets are completely up to standard. While they look a little old fashioned, it continues the theme of the restaurant and everything is clean, tidy and in working order. A full thumbs up for the toilets!
The staff at the Birkhill Inn were all polite and friendly. The food came out quickly after we had ordered it. The only thing I could say would be that they weren't easy to wave down though that's probably due to the fact we were messing them around with ordering bit by bit. They forgot to check if we wanted more drinks and no one asked if everything was OK with the meal till the very end when they saw Andrews half-steak languishing on his plate due to him being too full to continue. Again though, I really don't blame them for this due to the slightly odd situation we found ourselves in. I did notice that they were asking other tables if they needed anything a bit more regularly so we probably just effed up their flow. I'll still give them a thumbs up for being polite and even re-opening the kitchen for the people who were stuck on the bridge for hours.
Overall we had a good meal. I'm inclined to say it's not the best food I've ever eaten but it was still very nice. It would seem that everyone else thought the same. As they all knew I was reviewing the meal, in the car on the way home I asked Vicki, Doug and Allan to give the meal marks out of five. Vicki and Doug gave four stars and Allan gave three and a half. Add that to my mark of Four out of Five and that would give them an average rating of 3.87 out of 5. For ease sakes we'll round to the nearest whole number so four stars out of five. The food was decent and you got a lot for your money, the staff were polite and the surroundings were nice. The only reason I can think that we all rated down was that the food wasn't mind blowing. It was simply good. I'd not make a point of going myself but I wouldn't mind going along when I'm asked to by friends and it's always good for a change of venue!