I did my research before we headed off to the log cabin. Sure, it was self-catering but it also happened to be near Callander, which is the home of the Ben Ledi Cafe, one of The Independent’s Top 50 UK cafes. I drooled over the website for weeks in advance. So while Gareth was looking forward to long bike rides, strenuous hikes and blissful serenity, I was dreaming of fried fish and burgers.
I had pretty much memorised the menu, so as we pedaled alongside the loch on the Tuesday afternoon I chanted to myself, "Just keep going. Keeeeep going. Soon you can have the chips. Or the milkshake. Or the banana split."
So imagine my dismay when we rocked up to the Cafe a few hours later and it was CLOSED.
"Are you okay?" asked Gareth.
"Of course I’m okay!" I said brightly. "Why the hell wouldn’t I be okay?"
"Umm. Alright. What do you want to do now?"
"Go back to the cabin and cook something, I suppose."
When we returned I got busy with the pots and pans right away.
"So you’re sure you’re alright?" Gareth asked again.
"Yes! Why do you keep asking?"
"We-llllll," he said carefully, "Sometimes when you have a food-related disappointment it can take you a long time to recover."
"Don’t be ridiculous!"
Half an hour later we were eating our sensible home-cooked meal, something involving spring greens and baby potatoes I think.
"Soooo," I said, trying to sound casual. "Do you think they’ll open later?"
"I mean, WHAT IF THEY DON’T? What if they’re shut ALL WEEK?"
"Ha ha! You are obsessed!"
We went back on the Thursday and thank-bloody-goodness the lights were on. I was torn between the burger and the fish tea but when Gareth ordered the fish tea, I knew I could steal a bite of his and it would be almost as good as having both meals. Hurrah!
"Just the beef burger thanks!" I said to the waitress.
"OH! Could I get cheese on that too?"
"Sure. Anything else?"
"No. OH! Any chance of some bacon too?"
"Of course." You gluttonous piggy.
Oh people. It was so worth all those weeks of anticipation. I would have to say it’s the best burger I’ve had in Britain. The beef was succulent, the relish was homemade and zingy. The bread roll was one of those gorgeous pillowy Scottish ones. And the salad! Not only was there fresh, delicious greenery on the burger, there was EXTRA salad on the side! I had never seen such a radical thing on Scottish shores before.
Of course I had a major case of Plate Envy when Gareth’s fish tea came out. Check out that fish! The batter was so clean and golden, no bits of old dead chips clinging to it like you get in some less quality establishments. By the way, for the uninitiated, a fish tea is basically fish and chips with bread and butter on the side. Gareth said it was just as good as all the fish and chips he’d scoffed in Australia!
Well, he said that after some prompting.
"Is it as good as Australia? Is it? Is it!?!"
I also had an orange juice which was genuine freshly squeezed! "Whoa, tastes like Spain!" was the Gareth verdict. Many places claim freshly squeezed but the only thing they’re squeezin’ is a Tetra pack.
Afterwards I had a banana split but that photo came out blurry as I was trembling in anticipation.
There are few things more pleasurable to me than when you’ve been looking forward to something for ages, building it up in your mind, and it actually turns out to be just as brilliant as you imagined. Particularly when it’s something edible.
Anyway, there’s absolutely no real point to this entry except to say I heart food. And when it comes to being a tourist, I shall always travel with stomach first, eyes and feet second.