I’ve now hit that stage of my life where quite a few of my friends are having babies.
Not quite ready to jump on the bandwagon myself, it’s been a real change of scene for us all, swapping cocktails for coffees, and late-night dinners for a quick bite at lunch.
Gone (for the interim of course) are the days we’d be ordering a bottle of bubbles and heading out for a boozy lunch. That being said, once their kids grow up, I’m 100% certain this will all come flooding back.
Having said “au revoir” to our booze-filled late-night dinners for now, I’ve rather enjoyed catching up with my friends more frequently at the weekends.
Securing a date with my best friend and her little one, I booked us a table at Formartine’s – one of her favourite lunch stops – at noon on a Saturday.
Travelling to the restaurant in Tarves separately, I arrived just as she was pulling the pram out of the boot of her car. With her wee six-week-old son safely tucked in, we headed into the eatery.
As you enter, there’s a gorgeous farm shop to your right, and a bright, airy eatery to your left. Eyeballing a table with ample space for the buggy, we made ourselves comfortable.
There’s plenty to choose from on the menu so as she got settled I grabbed us some drinks. A fresh lemon juice for me, and pear and elderflower juice for her.
Discussing the different options, we decided to order a meal each, with a few sides to share.
To place an order, you go to the counter and pay at the same time. A more relaxed dining experience like this was no bother at all and it helped that the queue was small too. Along the counter lay a range of delicious-looking home bakes – something I noted for later.
As we busied ourselves catching up on all of our gossip, our food soon arrived. I’d ordered the Formartine’s Perfect Scotch Egg and my friend wanted to try out the chicken parmigana. Between us we decided to also order halloumi fries and a portion of hand-cut chips to share.
Both dishes looked magnificent and we both drooled over the beautiful bright-yellow yolk of my Scotch egg.
Her chicken parmigana was on the large side, and smothered in mozzarella and a cherry tomato ragu. Sprinkled with parmesan cheese on top, the chicken dish looked delicious. Dressed in crispy panko crumb, and wrapped with parma ham, it boasted cooked aubergine throughout the sauce too.
The chicken was perfectly cooked and the tomato sauce was rich and packed with favour.
The parma ham brought a touch of saltiness to the dish, but the sauce overpowered any lingering taste of it.
Cooked well, the aubergine was soft and very easy to cut up.
Melted all over, the mozzarella wasn’t as pungent as most cheeses, which made it ideal for the tangy sauce.
My Scotch egg was a whole different experience. Cut in half, it looked spectacular with its orange-yellow yolk. Slightly runny, the yolk dripped down the Mossie’s pork and Stornoway black pudding filling surrounding the egg. Sourced from local producer Morag’s Cracking Good Eggs, it was absolutely spot on.
The meaty casing was incredible and full of flavour. Fried on the outside, the Scotch egg melted in my mouth and got better with every bite. The beetroot coleslaw it came served with was a stunning purple colour and contrasted the green peppery rocket beautifully. Sitting on a black slate board, the colours popped, which made the dish look even more appetising.
A smear of burnt apple puree left a trail from the edge of the plate to the Scotch egg. It was incredibly sweet and complimented the meatier, heavy flavours of the dish.
The halloumi fries were served with balsamic glaze and tasted phenomenal – we polished all of them off.
As for the hand-cut chips, they were slightly undercooked for our liking, but were lovely and fluffy in the middle nonetheless.
Fancying something sweet, we checked out the array of home bakes and had a sneaky look at the dessert menu.
Unsure what we fancied trying, I went up and ordered my friend a coffee and my first beetroot latte. Having tried a matcha latte at Buchanan Bistro a few weeks ago, it seemed fitting to try a new flavour.
After much deliberation – and one too many trips up to see the home bakes – we decided on a raspberry ripple milkshake and the Formartine’s doughnuts to share. They both sounded too good not to try.
Served with white and dark chocolate dipping sauce, the fresh doughnut balls were smothered in sugar and were served piping hot. There was four (which meant there was no arguing over who would get the last one) and every one was equally as large.
They were soft inside and crisp on the outside and we both ended up covered in the sugar which flaked off as we bit into them.
The rich dark chocolate and the intensely sweet white chocolate dipping sauces were rather runny, making it easy to dunk our doughnuts. It was blissful.
The milkshake was also extremely enjoyable and the flavour was perfect for the warm weather. Made with fresh ice cream, the raspberry sauce drizzled down the inside of the glass and it was finished by adding dried raspberry pieces on top. It looked as good as it tasted.
We couldn’t believe how well my friend’s little one had been on our outing, and it was only as we were finishing dessert that he decided to wake from his slumber.
It had been the perfect place to take a young baby, and looked like a great venue to take young kids too – what with the huge children’s climbing frame and swings outside.
Signing our lunch date off with a bosie from the wee man, we packed up her things and headed back to the car.
Formartine’s may be a little out the way, however, it was still packed to the brim with visitors by the time we had left.
It’s not just somewhere you can come to eat; it’s somewhere you can do a spot of shopping, supporting a number of local producers; it’s a place you can go for a walk around the grounds; and it’s somewhere your kids can enjoy as you catch up with your friends.
If you haven’t taken a trip out to the eatery yet, then I urge you to do so.
Be it with your partners, your kids, your grandparents or friends, it’s a place everyone can enjoy in different ways.
And if you do one thing, make sure you order that Scotch egg.