Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – A dog’s dinner

No, I’m not complaining about the fare I’m being served up here during lockdown… I’ll leave that to the Son and Heir.

It’s just that my dog-mad extended Irish and American family have been preparing for the reopening of restaurants by flagging up how their pets have been coping in lockdown.

Well, is the answer if Harry and Coco are anything to go by.

Few are as barking about their pooches as the Americans and the Japanese but where they lead (sorry) the way we have followed.

So here’s my five top of the pups (there’s more of this!).

New Bark, New Bark

Paws for thought. Credit: Jenna Murray/IGC Hospitality

The Wilson NYC, New York: And where I first encountered puppy pampering and pedicures down on the block on Rockville Center in Long Island when I first visited the Big Apple in my first summer after school.

And only in America as they say because puppies never got their nails painted in Glasgow!

I’m glad to say that the New Yorkers still treat their pets as Top Dogs.

And Halloween gives them the perfect chance to dress their pups up as Superman, Batman and other superheroes down on Battery Park.

This Chelsea favourite sees the maitre d’ (for dog) put your pet up at the high table and treat them to a distinct dog menu.

With fancy options like a 16-ounce grilled ribeye steak for $42, pan-roasted salmon for $28, and grilled chicken breast for $16.

All on the restaurant’s side patio and front terrace, where their pet humans order their own steak off the regular menu. See, and Old New York: Hamilton.

Indian pup trick

Puppychino, New Delhi: The Indians have a religious love for their animals which is endearing but surprising for those not brought up around animals.

Such as my Dear Old Dad who baulked at the bus driver who stopped the No. 52 while a cow ambled across the road. Before getting off his coach to do a dump in the street and get back on.

This is Puppychino and it is one of many cafes and restaurants around India where the animal is put first, rather than in some establishments I’ve been in where you’re treated like an animal.

See, and Yoga-dabba-do – International Yoga Day.

Japanese growl

Your table’s ready, Sir

Mame-Shiba, Cafe, Harajuku, Tokyo: Now Japan’s culture of low tables and sheer eccentricity lends itself admirably to dog cafes and restaurants.

And these guys are in doggie heaven…

The entry fee covers entrance, a drink and a time slot of 30 minutes with your favourite furry friend. Get there early to avoid long queues. See and and

Don’t mess with Le Toutou

You big softie

Le Toutou, Brussels: So Le Toutou means doggie, but you knew that, right?

And there’s no distinction between doggies and humans here.

With both being treated to a choice of dishes from pasta or rice to vegetables, beef or chicken, all being high in fibre and low in salt.

The pooches though get their own beer, as they should, Red Dog.

It’s an energy beer which is described as the ‘subtle taste of bone marrow’. Visit and In Flanders fields.

Old Barkie


Edinburgh Chihuahua Cafe: Billing itself as Scotland’s first dog cafe its owners are barking about two things…

Cakes and dogs, and chihuahuas to be precise.

They advertise that resident Chihuahuas will roam freely amongst guests.

For you to pet, cuddle, play with, take photos or simply observe and enjoy.

Just what Edinburgh’s most famous doggie, Greyfriars Bobby, would think of the Chihuahuas getting all this pampering…

Don’t worry though Bobby, you’re still No. 1.

Bobby and Jimmy

And we’ll never stop patting you, although kissing his nose has left it to wear away!

See, and Edinburgh – an old friend and Putting these statues on a pedestal.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland

Raising the Bar

And Sadie, you’re going to be the one that saves me.

Oasis (maybe)

Oasis are belting out their pub standard and I’m putting my own spin on it.

Of course, it’s not the actual Gallagher brothers themselves, but three hipsters who make up the house band, and one of them is on a banjo!

And it’s not a mega stadium, but just off the Liffey.

‘Cause after all, this is Temple Bar.’

And it’s Valentine’s Night so every tune is a rousing anthem.

I’ll have my usual

While you and your loved one may have been gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes in your favourite Italian restaurant last week, and maybe even in a restaurant in Italy, I had taken my beloved to Dublin’s party hub

Obviously hoping to spend it in a sports bar… Celtic were playing that night.

Rush hour

And they’ve even got the Scotland flag out

Now before I have the massed regiments of womenkind taking up arms against me, we did do the romantic dinner bit.

With an eight-course tasting menu at the Morgan Hotel before we went out on the town.

I had arrived from the office with seconds to spare for our sitting, after working up to the wire.

All overheated from a lower walk from my work in Ballsbridge, three and a half kilometres away.

Herself? She was as fresh as a daisy.

The refurbished Morgan is sat plumb on Fleet Street, next to the Hard Rock Cafe, but is a haven from the throb of humanity that populates Temple Bar, day and night.

Like much of Temple Bar itself it’s multi-national and its staff are bursting with life.

All the world is here

Busting a move: With Oliver St John Gogarty

I joke with Spaniard Sonya at reception when she tells me that my wife is upstairs and I ask if she is alone.

And then there’s our waitress Anastasia who smiles patiently as we dither over cocktails…

A special Valentine’s frothy concoction just whets our appetite for another with ‘Mother Gin’ Herself trying out a Ruby made from Ha’Penny Rhubarb Gin, apple, lime and lemon juice with a basil leaf.

All on medicinal grounds you understand… as she was quick to point out that it had said on the drinks menu.

Now, clearly we don’t go in for tasting menus at home… because somebody’s specified chores are dish-washing.

Catch of the day

Melt in the mourh

But there is something particularly civilised about taking small portions, and your breath, between dishes.

The dishes at the Morgan restaurant, 10 Fleet Street, are beautifully created and almost too good to eat.

But eat we did, mackerel, salmon, duck, roast pork cheek, and king scallops and bream, and even the Baby Beet Salad they slipped in there when they didn’t think I was looking.

Glowing from our cocktails… and with some credit in the bank from giving Herself my uninterrupted attention for once at dinner time I went in search of my football match.

Surprisingly though, for all that Temple Bar is Party Central my attempts at finding a pub with the game on were proving fruitless.

The Temple Bar hostelry was jumping, but not with rowdy football supporters but good-natured music-lovers, cooing couples and young people just there for a good night out.

The best bar none

Every hour is cocktail hour

And while I half-expected the playlist to be all diddly-aye music, the band’s set was rockier.

They are an eclectic bunch in the Temple Bar tonight…

We share holiday reminisces with Amsterdammer Sandor until he either tires of my attempts at engaging with him on the Ajax game the previous night.

Or because he is diverted by a pair of brown eyes.

Now Temple Bar isn’t cheap and it is wise to pace you drinking with a pub crawl perhaps the best idea.

It also helps you clear your head.

Buskers, our next stop, strikes me as a little too modern for our lining… and what do you know, the singer is only playing Wonderwall.

Hat’s not fair

Something for the palate

The Oliver St John Gogarty is perhaps the best-known pub in Temple Bar and for research purposes we end our night there…

Probably because to go on would have meant having to sell a vital organ to afford another drink.

It’s busy, yes, and loud, ditto.

But the Temple Bar revellers are mostly good-natured, although if a fatter ‘Phil Mitchell’ tries to meet your vacant gaze by the side of the stage then it might be best to find another place to stand.

That, or be prepared for a delicate spot of diplomacy to get your hat back.

Perhaps feeling guilty at the prices of their drinks they did hand out little bowls of chips and a sausage roll.

Because eight courses back in the Morgan was never going to be enough.

*The Morgan Hotel 1 643 7000. The Morgan is running a spring offer of 30% off room-only rates on bookings until March 31 (valid on stays until December 31) from €150 per room.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in 2019.

The Menu

Rose petal: Absolut raspberry vodka. Chambord, rose syrup, lime jice pineapple foam.

Torched cured mackerel fillet: Cured mackerel filled, dried lime, caper berries, lime gel, lime oil.

Gin & Juniper Cured Salmon: Cucumber escabeche ribbons, pepper drops, fennel sour cream, rye crisps.

House smoked rare duck: Bumblebee mixed leaves, yellow pepper coulis, heritage tomatoes, lavender, lavender oil.

Baby Beet Salad: Beetroot yoghurt cream, beet brittle, pomegranate, orange segments.

Slow Roast Pork Cheek, King Scallops: Sea salted baby kale, garlic baby carrot, blackberry & basil gel, port jus.

Baked filled of bream: Sweet potato crisps, orange cauliflower, sweet pepper dressing.

Whiskey smoked pear: Caramel droplets, cardamon infused saboyon.

And if you want to check out a great Dublin institution in rugby heartland then here’s my review of the InterContinental Rugby central, it’s the InterCon… what a Ledge!.

*This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in 2019.

What’s your favourite Dublin hotel? Let me know and we’ll share.

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Dans La Rue en France

La Scary One does all the driving from Chez Murty.

She grabs hold of the inside lever on the door as soon as I turn the ignition on.

So as not to hurt my feelings she says it’s because she taught me how to drive.


The owner of the French Fiat 501 firm in Mandelieu-La-Napoule was less diplomatic The Boat D’Azur.

Does this car look big in me?

And after I’d stalled his car in the car park for the third time, with its gearstick on the dashboard, he put his hand out for the keys.

There was a frosty drive around the French Riviera until we met up with our hosts again.

A pool all to yourself?

All of which circuitous route from A to B brings me round to Airelles’ three and seven-night road trips in the South of France

Chateau living

Where you’ll stay at Airelles Gordes, La Bastide in the hilltop village of Gordes, Château d’Estoublon, a stone’s throw from Les Baux de Provence and Château de la Messardière, a stone’s throw from Les Baux de Provence and Chateau de La Messardiere in St Tropez.

Al Fresco dining

Airelles is naturally flagging up the culinary delights of France and its spas which Le Scary One would be all over.

A week to remember

But as thoughts during lockdown turned to dream trips she did put in a request for lavender fields which is just what Airelles is offering.

And drinking

The seven-night road trip breaks down into:

Two nights in a Superior Valley Room at La Bastide, Gordes,

And a further two nights in a Residence at Chateau d’Estoublon, Les Baux-de-Provence.

Room with a view

And three nights in a Superior Seaview Room at Chateau de la Messardiere, St Tropez.

From €7,000 (£6,250) based on two sharing. Full board (excluding drinks).

Un jardin to yourself too

Three-day trip

The three-night road trip includes:

Enjoy one night in a Superior Valley Room at Ka Bastide, Gordes.

One night in a Residence at Chateau d’Estoublon, Les Baux-de-Provence.

And another night in a Superior Seaview Room at Chateau de la Messardiere, St Tropez.

From €3,000 (£3,125). Full board (excluding drinks).

Food for thought

And they’ll throw in daily picnic baskets with lots of goodies in them. The trip is flexible around your needs and dates. Visit

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food

Hungry and Thursday – sweet, sweet ice cream

King Henry VIII’s Greensleeves means two things to me… Miss F’s slow wedding march and the ice cream van.

Just why Tudor music should be the go-to tune for ice cream vendors I’ll put out there for you to chime in with an answer.

But I rather enjoy the image of Henry running out in his padded garb for his 99.

And I suppose it could happen… on a film set. And I dare say Jonny Rhys Meyers and Damian Lewis like a double nougat or a screwball.

Porty’s finest

Did you know though that the 99 was created just up the road from here?

In my old stomping ground of Portobello, Edinburgh’s town beach and

Arcari claims to be the birthplace of the 99 with the number that of their address in Portobello High Street.

Where Stephen Arcari broke a chocolate flake in half and put it on the ice cream

Hundreds and thousands please

An alternative explanation is that it comes from slang, 99 meaning excellent and alluding to an elite guard of 99 soldiers who served the King of Italy.

The Pope’s fave

Now I don’t know about the King of Italy but our Popes have been partial to a gelato, or ice cream.

We have the Good Book, the Vatican Cookbook, as our holy scripture here which tells us that Pope Francis loves an Argentine fave dulce de leche and its caramel flavour.

And he knows his flock loves gelati too, being known to hand out 3,000 ice creams to Rome’s poor and homeless.

And some raspberry sauce

All of which kept my mind occupied as I stood socially distanced in my queue.

Walk this way

And for a quick and invaluable guide on Rome and how to get there by foot with Francigena Ways see, and Small roads lead to Rome.


Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Jocktails… the Strawberry Daiquiri

A sweltering hot summer in Boston after Aberdeen University, three jobs, and a thirst on me like a blindfolded man in the desert.

And a party of office workers unwinding in Quincy Market with a jug of Strawberry Daiquiri.

I was in… and from that moment the slushy, ruby-red rum cocktail has always ben my go-to.

It doesn’t have to be a cruise ship although here I am again…

I know where I’ll put this

I’ll bring you more Jocktails from around the world as I go but here’s the recipe.

And you might be surprised to hear that I’m the one who makes them around Casa Bandana while the Scary One is the one who devours them.

Strawberry Daiquiri

Zesty flavour

5 cracked ice cubes

1 measure of white rum

A half measure of strawberry liqueur.

A quarter measure of lime cordial

Garnish with a strawberry.

Jocktail tip: Stick some strawberries in the blender too for extra fruitiness.

Method: put the rum, strawbs and lime liqueur into the blender for 30 seconds. Pour into a margarita glass with the cracked ice in it and decorate with a slice of strawberry. Oh, go on, stick in a cocktail brolly and stick with a couple of maraschino cherries on it.

And because I’m writing about Boston visit and

Want to know the best places to drink one. On a Royal Caribbean cruise… A Royal Party and

Boston is well served by the major airlines from Ireland… look out for best deals in Flyday Friday.



America, Countries, Culture, Food

The Sunday Sermon – Inner City America

Weeping may stay for the night But rejoicing comes in the morning – Psalm 30:5

Now we’ve been here before and will be again… racial tensions, police brutality, inner city riots and American cities in flames.

But as Dr Martin Luther King vows in his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech on the National Mall in Washington DC in 1963 the weeping will stop.

That we could do with someone of the status of Dr King now is undisputed.

But we have his words, his legacy and an example from history to guide us.

Memphis memorial

When Dr King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee and The Promised Land there was a curfew.

It was put in place for the inner cities where the worst violence broke out.

Bur not in a certain diner on U Street in Washington DC and Easy DC which the authorities allowed to stay open.

U Street was the Black Broadway of its day popularised by the likes of Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday and…

Ben Ali.

Super Bowl

Trinidadian Ben and his social hub, Ben’s Chili Bowl was allowed to stay open as it provided the local community with somewhere to go.

And eat.

Ben’s Chili Half-Smoke is an institution in the American capital.

And it was here where Barack Obama dropped in a week before his inauguration.

When a local Mamma asked the Security brief who the VIP was for there to be such a fuss…

He turned and pointed at her pin on her coat… ‘Him’!

A cast of heroes

Ben’s is adorned with pictures of luminaries, Bono among them obviously, with Ben.

While the outside walls are a kaleidoscope of murals of famous people among them Dr King.

Ben’s is still at the heart of the community and as you would expect it is helping out frontline workers during this crisis.

Just follow and enter

A fine example

Dr King may be gone but Ben’s is still going strong.

Just sit on a stool at the diner and you’ll see why it’s called Ben’s Chilled Bowl.

Also see and

Africa, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Uncategorized

Ethiopia’s first lady

No, not Lucy, the earliest female for which we have bones, or the Queen of Sheba, or Sahle-Work Zewde, the President of Ethiopia.

Although all are celebrated examples of female power and contribution not just to Africa but the wider world.

No, my first lady of Ethiopia is the first Ethiopian lady I met… the graceful Meseret Tekalign.

Happy New Year

A smile that lights up a room

It was, of course Ethiopian New Year, Enkutatash… Happy Newer Year – from Ethiopia

And had we known each other before we would obviously have exchanged compliments… that we were looking years younger.

Seven years, of course, as our calendar is on a different time scale to the Ethiopians.

It was always a high point of the year to spend Ethiopian New Year with Meseret, Ethiopian Airlines’ Country Manager Ireland, and the Ethiopian community.

Hands up for Ethiopia

A bright future

And eat with our hands, a type of pitta bread to scoop up the meats, rices and vegetables, all washed down with Ethiopian wine.

Before we watched the traditional coffee-making ceremony and sampled the coffee which I now only take out on special occasions.

I was entranced by Meseret as soon as I met her.

And she by me, obviously, and she even invited me to send a writer to Ethiopia to celebrate International Women’s Day.

I’m a woman!

Tuck in: And there’s seconds

When Ethiopian Airlines put an entire female crew on from Addis Ababa to Washington Dulles via Dublin.

Always putting others first I asked if I could blag it, wear a dress and pass myself off as a woman.

After all being of the Scottish variety I’m no stranger to wearing a skirt.

I was, of course, happy to support such a wonderful idea.

A long history

One more cup of coffee for the road

And to promote this land of mystery and awe, a country that has no fewer than nine UNESCO heritage sites.

Meseret is heading back to Addis with the good wishes of all who she took to her heart over the past few years.

We’re glad she enjoyed the craic as she revealed:

‘Taking up my first post in Europe was something I relished and will always look back on it fondly.

‘I feel lucky it was Ireland where the people lived up to the hype of being the friendliest in Europe even in business.’ 

And, of course, she and us feel years younger for the experience.

Pride of lions

And, of course, if all this talk of Africa has tempted you then remember that Ethiopian command’s the lion’s share of the Pan-African market.

And talking of lions and Africa, the two go hand in paw.

At a safe and respectful distance as I discovered when I visited the Eastern Cape of South Africa… What’s new pussycat?

I’m working my way up the continent. We’ll meet again, Meseret.

Food, Food & Wine, UK

Lockdown door-to-door booze delivery

It’s the must-have supply for lockdown or self-isolation… a five-litre keg of beer delivered to your door by bike.

An Edinburgh brewer has come up with an old-fashioned solution to our booze needs, biking and vanning our beer to us, while we are confined to barracks.

Andrew ‘Barney’ Barnett has turned to home deliveries from his micro-brewery in Summerhall while his normal outlets are on hold.

Barney time: Barney delivers every time

And his new business has been a Godsend to a broad section of the public, from students to those of us with cabin fever, to our senior citizens.

‘We’ve found that people don’t like the inconvenience of having to queue at supermarkets and have been ordering in our beers,’ he said.

‘We’ve had everybody from students to people who have had to self-isolate, ordering our beer. 

Load ‘em up

‘One older gentleman in assisted accommodation was particularly grateful to have his beer left out for him at the end of his path.

‘It’s been a treat for him, a bit of social contact to see a cheery smile and a wave.’

While Barney, 53, brews up, Edinburgh firm Farr Out Deliveries takes the beer which comes in 12 and 24 packs around to your home… the kegs will follow from Wednesday.

Barney has now rolled out his beer-delivery business across the whole of Britain with the help of DHL.

Award-winning beer… at Barney’s

And all with a cheery smile and a wave. 

There is a £5 delivery charge for under £50 and free delivery for over £50. 


America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland

Hungry and Thursday – New York’s Irish Cottage

A little corner of Queen’s, New York, will forever be Co. Donegal.

For 60 years ex-pats and people who aren’t called Pat but love their craic have chosen The Irish Cottage as their place of refuge.

From the humdrum and their troubles at home.

A Donegal dream

Here Danny and Kathleen McNulty would make them feel part of their family and as close to being in Donegal as you could be… 5,000kms from Ireland.

An emotional moment: At the Irish Cottage

Full disclosure here, Danny and Kathleen McNulty are my uncle and auntie.

The force of Nature that she was, Auntie Kathleen, passed onto the great Irish Cottage in the sky last month.

Where Uncle Danny would have been waiting for with her favourite drink.

Cottage industry

I first visited the Irish Cottage in 1983 before I could even legally drink but it didn’t stop Auntie Kathleen have me moving kegs out back.

King of Queens: Andy Murray, US Open champion In 2012

All the cousins were employed there to varying degrees over the years.

The canopy was lowered on a Queen’s institution – Steve Buscemi (of Boardwalk Empire) is a patron – last month to mark Auntie Kathleen’s passing.

Break soda bread together

I have a wealth of memories of the Irish Cottage.

Particularly the last occasion we broke (soda) bread there.

And the McNultys got the greater family out from Long Island.

And we had their famous Surf ‘n’ Turf… I could still be trying to finish it now.

The Lady and the scamp

Visitors to New York will obviously and rightly take in the iconic sites…

The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty. the Rockefeller Center, Broadway er al.

Hamilton’s home

Me, the history buff that I am walked in the footsteps of Alexander Hamilton

If you have time (and if you don’t, make it) then head out to the borough of Queens.

Another famous New Yorker

And Flushing Meadows

Open and shut case

Where the US Open tennis is a unique experience and where another famous Scot (Andy Murray) rocked NY when he won the men’s title in 2012.

You should also check out the New York Hall of Science, the Museum of the Moving Image and Rockaway Beach.

While I’ll also pay a visit and dwell and think about the most famous residents of the Irish Cottage at 10807 72nd Avenue, Forest Hills.


Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine

Flyday Friday – your lockdown Captain speaking

And when he can’t tell you you’re cruising at 15,000ft with the skies clear what does he do?

Our friends at Etihad have taken an alternate course for us while we are confined to barracks.

And the captain has got the cabin crew to do what they always do, excel at keeping the restless passengers occupied.

And so the purple-suited ones are encouraging us to learn a new language. Arabic anyone?

Etihad style: And plenty of room

It’s the first language in 25 countries around the world.


It’s just a taster but a great idea nonetheless and it might just give me precious time when I am put on the spot.

One of our own

Like when I was off to the Black Sea and the crew member started talking Bulgarian to me because they thought I was a local.

With time hanging heavy on us all Daddy’s Little Girl has been badgering me to teach her Italian.

It is la bella lingua and one that I have dipped in and out of but I have little excuse now to get the tapes oit again.


And particularly if my Laurie helps me with my Italian cooking.

Rusotto… in all its forms

I had already been given a crash course in making pasta from scratch by Italian specialist Catherine Fulvio.

At her Ballyknocken Cookery School in my old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow in Ireland.

In the company of Italian tour specialists Topflight

The joy of ceps

Etihad also offer cooking tips with their in-flight chef rustling up a quick mushroom risotto…

Fun guy him… and I do love an oul’ risotto Rome on €50.

I’ve seen first-hand on an inspection tour of their fleet at Dublin Airport just how they look after the little ones.

And you can download a number of family activities from their site.

Jet-propellled: In Jordan

Which is all good to know as we’ll want to occupy ourselves in our own seats as much as we can.

When we take to the skies again.

Are we there yet? Well, I’m in no hurry… I’m on an Etihad airplane.

Shukran Etihad.

Jaunty Jordan

And shukran too to my Jordanian host Zuhair, G Adventures and Visit Jordan who took me a whip-crackin’ away to Petra,.

And also the desert and the Dead and Red Sea last year The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Give a little bit

Keep flying high: Virgin Atlantic

Now there’s always a bit of resentment that creeps in when we see someone as visible as Richard Branson asking for a dig-out.

But before we jump on the bandwagon it’s worth remembering the work that he and other airlines have been doing for years for charity.

In the Third World.

We may all be strapped for cash just now but when, and if, we can we should remember that when we next board a flight.

To fill the envelope.