Saturday, 18 January 2020

Restaurant Review: Umi Japanese Cuisine, Stockbridge

Readers! Happy New Year to you all (can I still say it after midway through the month?) I’m back on the wagon again with some sort of routine, have quit chocolates for breakfast and am using my alarm again in the morning.

Last weekend, as a reward for his patience in visiting countless interior stores with me in the last few months, I took Mr WhatClaireDid as my plus one to a review of  Umi Japanese Cuisine in Stockbridge, Edinburgh.  For those of you not in the know, Stockbridge is a cool ‘hood in Edinburgh to wander around in – lots of independents stores, cafes, restaurant and a high quality charity shop or two, if you enjoy a rake around.
restaurant review umi stockbridge by what claire did
Interior of Umi Japanese Cuisine, Stockbridge, Edinburgh 
We were invited along to try out Umi’s menu and this is genuine – I loved the place.  My last meal on earth would probably be Asian cuisine of some description and I can’t remember the last time we went somewhere that the food was so fresh and delicious.

Umi is located on Deanhaugh Street in Stockbridge, in a basement – something I love, as you never know what you’re getting until you step through the front door. At Umi, Edinburgh, you’ll be greeted with lanterns, bench seating for groups, small tables for two or four and the delicious scent of a kitchen punching above it’s weight with Japanese food in Edinburgh.
restaurant review umi stockbridge by what claire did
Authentic interiors at Umi

We sat at a bench big enough for four (or in our case, just two… we ordered a lot of food to share).  The staff were really polite and helpful – making some recommendations to try, including the Octopus balls which are a favourite of diners at Umi Japanese Cuisine.  A little like a Spanish croquette, with octopus in the middle, deep fried.
restaurant review umi stockbridge by what claire did

After spending longer than we should have running through the menu, we started with a  few of Umi Japanese Cuisine’s small dishes priced between £4 and £10 for sharing.  Here, we enjoyed the Kara-age Fried Chicken, Chicken and Vegetable Gyoza Takoyaki (fried octopus dough balls).  Each of these three dishes was priced at under £5, which we felt was great value for the quality and the amount of food we received.

 We both felt it wasn’t great to come to Umi Japanese Cuisine in Edinburgh and not try their sushi which is hand rolled by their skilled chefs. We opted for a an 8 piece Crunch Soy Roll selection, which priced at £9.90, was filled with tempura prawn, avocado, a soy paper and topped with eel sauce, dill sauce and crispy fried onions.  The onions were great to give some crunch to the dish and I wasn’t shy in enjoying some soy sauce dipping with these – poured from the lovely Japanese soy teapots on the table!

restaurant review umi stockbridge by what claire didrestaurant review umi stockbridge by what claire did

Not content with just enjoying the smaller plates, we both opted to try the rice bowls, which were the standout dish of the visit – neither of us having a clue what was coming.   I will say that we probably could have ordered one less small plate, as we were starting to get full by this point, but carried on regardless!

The rice bowls were such a surprise – amazing value and a bit of theatre. I had the salmon fried rice whilst Mr WhatClaireDid opted for the chashu fried rice, which was servied with pork belly.

The dishes arrived in roasting hot stone bowls, we were presented with a smalls sauce bowl on the side and encouraged to pour this in, then use the cutlery to mix everything around. 

restaurant review umi stockbridge by what claire did

The heat from the bowls, combined with the liquid started to fry the rice and the meat/fish at the table.  We had no idea we’d be frying our own rice… was it great?  Absolutely.  It added an extra dimension to the experience and the bowls kept their heat, so by adding a little more soy, you could keep on cookin’ at the table.  

Again, these were great value – priced at £8.90 for the pork and £10.90 for the salmon. They are also really filling – so either order one between two, or perhaps go easy on the smaller plates.

restaurant review umi stockbridge by what claire did

 We were really delighted by our Umi Japanese Cuisine experience and would recommend it to both locals and tourists coming to Edinburgh.  All in, including drinks, lunch would have been around £50 for us both, which we felt was brilliant value for the amount of food we had and how delicious it was.  You could of course order less, if you’re on a budget and still leave satisfied.

Umi Japanese Cuisine is closed on Mondays and is open for dinner Tuesday to Thursday and lunch and dinner Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Find out more by visiting their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Disclaimer – we were gifted lunch for two, in exchange for an honest review of our experience. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Social Planning with Squaremeal

Readers… today I’m talking restaurant and venue booking!  Why? Not only is it currently the most wonderful time of the year, but, for anyone doing party planning it’s sometimes a struggle to work out where to book, how to book and find something that keeps everyone happy – be that friends, family or being handed the responsibility of the work Christmas social. Ahhhh.

square meal post venue finding Copyright what claire did

I’m a regular fan of eating out plus am a bit of an event organiser having done a series of big(ish) charity events, balls and fundraisers all requiring me to find a venue. Yes, there’s Google and you can do it yourself or you can find a platform like the Square Meal website, which will take some of the hassle out of venue sourcing for you.

Square Meal operates across London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Birmingham and can help you with anything from finding a restaurant or a pub to sourcing your wedding venue (anyone who’s recently got married will understand how painful this research part is…)  There’s even a concierge service to help you with all those traumatic work jobs like finding a meeting room in a different city last minute or finding a private dining room for 20 people you’ve never met, that that your MD has decided must be taken out for dinner in 2 days’ time.

square meal post venue finding Copyright what claire did

Square Meal is all about making your life that little bit easier by taking some of the stress out finding a venue and giving you the time back to work on the parts of the organisation that really matter, you know, like finalising the cocktail menu.

In the spirit of it currently being the season of giving, today I thought I’d share with you, my top 5 tips for organising and planning a great event (I’ll even tell you that these are tips for life, not just for Christmas).

1.  Start Early

Venues book up quickly – especially wedding ones – some are booked 2 years ahead in peak season.  If you’ve got your heart set on somewhere, as soon as you have a date for your event, start researching venues and contacting your preferred choice(s).

square meal post venue finding Copyright what claire did

2.  Know Your Numbers

It’s impossible to predict exactly, however, most venues will want a final total 1-2 weeks before (depending on how big your event is).  Prepare for call offs, but also prepare for people to be so disorganised, they appear last minute and expect a seat at the table.


3.  Set Expectations

You’ll never get a 5* private dining room in Mayfair, for the price of a function room at your local pub.  Work with your team to set expectations about what is and isn’t achievable for their proposed per head budget.

square meal post venue finding Copyright what claire did

 4.  Don’t Forget Dietary Requirements

People are veggie, vegan, lactose free, coeliac, gluten free, have nut allergies and more… please don’t forget to ask your guests or party goers if they have any dietary requirements and make sure the venue knows – there’s nothing more disappointing than being presented with something you can’t eat.

square meal post venue finding Copyright what claire did

 5.  Check in A Few Days Before

Whether it’s the team Christmas lunch or a large-scale event, make sure you check in with your venue 48 hours before to confirm any last minute details, changes to plans or provide any information that can help your night run smoothly… once you’ve checked everything off your list, don’t forget that you’re there to enjoy yourself too!

square meal post venue finding Copyright what claire did

This post is a paid collaboration with Square Meal.

Monday, 30 September 2019

A Weekend Break to The Four Seasons Hotel, St Fillans

Readers, hello! We’ve been off on our travels again – last month we were in Mexico – more on that soon, but for now, I’m focussing on somewhere a little closer to home – Perthshire!

We were recently invited to enjoy an overnight stay at The Four Seasons Hotel, a 3 Star hotel in St Fillans, a small Scottish village located next to Loch Earn.

Outside The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire DidOutside The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire Did

The hotel was bought over two years ago by Sue, a lovely lady with a history of working in some of the big-name chain hotels who had a dream of buying a small independent place in the highlands of Scotland.

For those of you not familiar with St Fillans, it’s a small village, it sits right on the banks of Loch Earn (amazing views!) and enjoys a gorgeous vista over the hills and mountains beyond.   Around 200 people live in St Fillans and nearby you’ll find walking routes, golf, fishing and other water sports available to you.

The Four Seasons Hotel offers accommodation for all – providing a range of rooms and chalets for guests. A number of rooms are also dog friendly, which is great for those not wanting to leave their furry friend at home. We met a few friendly pups during our stay!

We arrived at the hotel late in the afternoon, having enjoyed a countryside drive up from Glasgow and a stop off at the antiques centre at Doune on the way.  We then went for a stroll around the village after checking in.  There was homemade shortbread waiting for us in our room and Sue had left a letter for us, with information about the local area, to make us feel welcome.  Our room (room 10) was located at the end of the corridor at the far end of the hotel and had spectacular views across the loch. 

The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire DidBedroom at The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire Did

It was roomy, had all the necessary amenities and the bath with a rubber duck waiting on the edge was a welcome addition.  There were bathrobes in the cupboard, fresh bottled water and a small TV, should you not wish to enjoy what’s outside the window!

Bathroom at The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire Did

As the weather was spectacular, we decided to sit at the outdoor seating area in front of the hotel, where several other guests had congregated to enjoy the views and a beer (or two) in the sunshine.  There are around 6 tables available for guests, each seating 2 to 4 people and bar food is also served outdoors during the good weather.   A few guests were enjoying the fish and chips when we were there, however having dinner booked in the restaurant later, we decided to hold back.  

A note to any guests – there isn’t a huge amount of facilities in the village itself, so it’s probably best to drive, or hire a car if you’re coming from overseas, to allow you to explore the surrounding area easily.  We brought our Uno cards with us, which provided hours of entertainment in the hotel bar, however we did spot a number of board games in the corner of the bar, so please don’t feel the need to pack your own!

We were booked in for dinner in the hotel’s Meall Reamhar restaurant where we were offered both the bar food menu and a more formal set menu.   We chose the bar menu, for its more varied selection, however the staff were kind enough to let me order the scallops from the set menu, so I could try them.  They were delicious and incredibly well cooked (there’s nothing worse than a chewy scallop).  Mr What Claire Did had the soup of the day to start with – a hearty portion served with fresh bread.

Starter at dinner at the four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did

For mains, we both went for the fish – me, I had the fish and chips I’d spotted the other guests having earlier on.  2 small pieces, in a light and crispy batter, was just enough, plenty of chips and a side of minted crushed peas were very much enjoyable.  Swordfish was the dish chosen by Mr What Claire Did – which came with 4 different types of corn, including popcorn!  I didn’t try it, but he did comment that the fish had been well cooked.

main course Starter at dinner at the four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did

The portions we had were generous, so two courses may well be enough for you, however, I’d been told the white chocolate tart with chocolate strawberries was a favourite and I felt it would be rude to not at least try it! Did I manage to finish it?  Not quite, but, I had also dipped into Mr What Claire Did’s bread and butter pudding by this point.  

dessert at Starter at dinner at the four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did

The restaurant had 4 or 5 other tables in for dinner when we arrived, but the food arrived with us quickly and was hot and fresh.

It was dark by the time we finished dinner, so we couldn’t enjoy the great views any longer. We did decide to have a drink in the small bar next to the dining room (the hotel has two bars; however, we didn’t visit the other) and play a few games of Uno before bed. 

sunset over loch earn taken from four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did

The hotel is located in a quiet and picturesque location – despite being on the other side of the road from the loch, we weren’t bothered by any traffic noise from our room.

Our stay also included breakfast the next morning – there was a selection of cereals and juices, some pastries and a help yourself hot selection, however I didn’t try this. Toast and tea was brought to the table by the staff and each of the tables has a “reserved for X room” sign, so you can find your way to the table that designated for you at breakfast.

breakfast at the four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire didc four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did

From chatting to the owner Sue before we left, it’s clear she’s keen to strike the balance between developing the hotel for future, but also not taking too many big steps that puts the local clientele and regular visitors off return visits.  The lounge area outside the restaurant has recently been redeveloped with modern furniture, is freshly painted and has some lovely plants that I’d happily have taken home with me! There are parts of the hotel that would benefit from development in the future, however, we can’t fault the cleanliness of our room when we arrived, which is always the first thing I look at.

The hotel offers several pet friendly rooms; however, these are clearly marked and not all rooms are available to pet owners.  The views from the rooms at the front of hotel also showcase Scotland’s scenery at its best.

A Saturday night stay in low season at The Four Seasons Hotel in St Fillans starts from £86 for a classic room (via for 2 people including breakfast. 

For more information on the hotel, visit their Facebook and Instagram

Disclaimer: I was invited to enjoy a one-night stay at the hotel, on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis for 2 people.  Any opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Mermaid Traybake Cake

Readers, I decided it was time for a recipe post again, as it’s been a while. I’ve been baking loads recently – a 60th birthday cake and various traybakes for the office too, which you've possible seen over on Instagram?

Just a short post tonight, but here’s a really simple recipe for you to try.  It only takes 4 ingredients, can be made in an hour or so and is great for kids birthday parties… AND... who doesn’t love mermaids?!

Leave me a comment if you manage to try this one out!

what claire did no bake mermaid traybake cake

Mermaid Themed Traybake Cake


50g unsalted butter
150g pink and white mini marshmallows
200g rice crispies (use more or less depending on how they mix up)
2 tbsp mermaid sprinkles


  1. In a pan over a low heat, add the butter and marshmallows.  Heat until melted down to a liquid.  Use a lower heat and be patient.  Stir as you go. Be careful not to burn the mixture, or it won't keep the mermaids happy! 
    what claire did mermaid no bake traybake cake
    Melting butter and marshmallows
  2. Once melted down, remove from the heat and stir in the rice crispies until well coated.Transfer the mermaid cake mix to an 8x8in silicone baking pan and use a spatula to mould into the pan, ensuring it’s even and smooth on the top.
    what claire did mermaid no bake traybake cake
    Melted butter and marshmallows, ready to add rice crispies
  3. Cover the top in mermaid sprinkles and transfer the mermaid traybake to the fridge to set for a minimum of 1h. 
    what claire did mermaid no bake traybake cake
    Ready for the fridge
  4. Once set, bring back to room temperature before cutting into rectangles and serving.
  5. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

what claire did no bake mermaid traybake cake

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Travel Post - Alternative Algarve

Readers, I yet again apologise for the backseat taken in the blogging world. I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my Insta up to date, whilst also not becoming a slave to Insta. I’m also keen to try and post more regularly on my actual blog, because my little piece of the internet was designed to be about my words and life adventures.  Not me trying to get 20k likes because I’m in a bikini (sorry influencers).
what claire did travel blogger algarve portugal

Anyway, as some of you might have seen on Insta, last month we went to Portugal for a week, specifically the Algarve.  You might wonder why this Glasgow blogger picked the Algarve?  Having not been in about 14 years, we got a cheap deal at an amazing hotel that we spotted on Holiday Pirates and decided to take the plunge and book a cheap week away.  It turns out our cheap week in the Algarve was indeed excellent. The hotel was fantastic and it was lovely to experience a different type of holiday. 
what claire did travel blogger lagos algarve

So for today’s post I’m talking Alternative Algarve and some suggestions if you decide to go as a couple in their late 20s or 30s – I think where we stayed MIGHT be a bit tame for some of the younger squad, but perfect if you're looking for peace and tranquility. 

Monchique – Many Mountains

We stayed near Monchique – a pretty little Algarve town up the mountains. It’s suffered terribly from last year’s forest fires, so we felt it really important to go and help their tourism spend.  It’s a long and winding road up to Monchique, so you’d really need to hire a car if you’re going, but it’s an incredibly peaceful place to be.  There are some traditional roadside restaurants, serving decent grub at affordable prices too!

what claire did travel blogger dinner in monchique algarve

Hire A Car

As I mentioned above, consider hiring a car.  The Algarve is fairly easy to drive around, well signposted and it allowed us to venture across many parts of the Algarve.  Hire from a reputable company though and consider the damage waiver, as the Portuguese drives are a bit different from the brits!

Like a Spa?

We stayed at Monchique Resort and Spa – a BEAUTIFUL 5 star hotel near Monchique.  We stayed bed and breakfast (the breakfast was epic).  There’s an underground car park for your hire car, a gorgeous pool with views over the mountains and most of the rooms are suites with massive beds, outdoor terraces with loungers and a home from home feel.    The Spa at the hotel is stocked by ESPA and my massage was wonderful.  The spa circuit was also a fabulous way to spend a few hours on a windy spring morning.

what claire did travel blogger monchique resort algarve

Head to Benagil Caves and Beach

A bit less touristy, you can drive here, park up the car, walk around the caves and then head down to the small beach for a bit of sunbathing afterwards.  If you’d like to get close up, there are cave boat trips and paddleboarding adventures here and its’ a favourite with the Algarve surfing community.

what claire did travel blogger benagil caves algarve

Eat Piri Piri Chicken

You can’t go to the Algarve and not enjoy a piri piri chicken (either half or whole, depending how hungry you are) served with fries.   This is a staple dinner in the Algarve and we found a great place that was stumbling distance from Monchique Resort and Spa, called Foz do Banho, where we had dinner for 2 for less than £30.

Spot Shipwrecks

If you happen to be down in the old fishing village of Alvor on your travels, see if you can spot the shipwreck near the beach… Top tip, you’ll see it in the afternoon.
Image Credit - Instagram dougies_wee_world

Visit the Most South Westerly Point in Europe

An hour or so will lead you to Sagres and on to the most south westerly point in Europe. You can see the lighthouse, walk along the cliffs and loudly shout NEXT STOP AMERICA… if you want to be that annoying person.
what claire did travel blogger sagres lighthouse algarve

Enjoy a Leisurely Seafood Lunch

The Algarve’s restaurants in the more out of town locations are what you would call “rustic”.  Don’t expect hip, modern interiors. Do expect incredibly fresh seafood, delicious Algarvian wines and a no rush attitude, where you can sit for several hours, chatting and enjoying yourself.
what claire did food and travel blogger seafood lunch algarve

Go Historic in Silves

A lovely town, along the west coast, Silves has beauty and history in equal amounts.  Have a quick lunch near the bottom of the town and build your energy levels for an uphill walk to the cathedral and castle. Walk the old walls and enjoy spectacular views over the town.
what claire did travel blogger silves algarve

 Enjoy an evening in Lagos
We decided to spend our second last night in Lagos – a beach town, with plenty of restaurants and bars to pass an evening.  We stayed in a rustic villa complex with a little outside patio around a 15 minute walk to the main town and a 10 minute walk along to the caves in Lagos.  We only stayed one night, but can recommend taking a stroll past many of the restaurants and bars, taking your time to find one you like. 

what claire did travel blogger lagos cliffs algarve