Friend of Mine, Bridge of Allan, review - is this all-day bar and kitchen our new bestie?

This three-year old kitchen and bar attracts a wide demographic

I’ve been doing the weekly restaurant review for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007.

However, in 15 years, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten in Bridge of Allan. I’m sorry, it’s a major failure. Please accept my apologies. It’s only an hour away from my home, so there are no excuses, apart from sheer tardiness.

If I’d known that they had an excellently named cheese shop called The House of Mouse, I would have scurried along here a lot sooner.

Miso broth

I did recently toy with the idea of visiting Nick’s on Henderson Street, but there was a fire during lockdown, and it sadly hasn’t reopened yet.

Among the gift shops on this street, there’s also the recently opened restaurant and bar, Queen’s House, which looks extremely glam and glitzy.

I might have ended up there, but something casual was on the cards, with a visit to this intriguingly-named all-day bar and kitchen, which had the potential to be a bestie or a frenemy. It is proof of hipster activity in this town. There were a few there already, with their half mast trousers, artfully scuffed trainers and Timmy Mallett specs, but there were also families, and a real spread of ages.

Unlike any other cafe on this street, it was almost full on a Sunday at noon. As well as the many humans, they also allow dogs, with a beautiful white Alsatian, which had a face like an angelic version of Anubis, hanging out on the terrace and an assortment of poos and doodles inside.

Bao

They are big on drinks. There’s a whole A3 page of alcoholic slushies, frozen gelatos, teas and juice. Since we’re on a health kick, we tried the smoothies: an algae-coloured apple, mint, cucumber, celery and lemon juice (£4) for him and a citrus-shred-strewn orange, carrot, ginger, turmeric and lime juice for me (£4).

Both were great combos that fought the miseries.

The food menu is also full of buzzwords that promise big flavour. There are small plates, as well as a selection of bao, plates (normal-sized presumably) and bowls.

Nobody explained the size ratios, and we couldn’t judge according to the prices, since we’re used to Edinburgh ones and these seemed comparative bargains.

Friend of Mine

Thus we ended up ordering way too much, and it all came at once, so our eyes were popping out on stalks, like skinny-stemmed peonies in full bloom.

The miso mushroom broth (£5) was a deep bowl of smoky and rich liquid, with fat udon noodles, which were clove hitching a few long slices of Portobello mushroom to the depths. On top, were a few buoyant nuggets of smoked tofu, as well as frills of kale and shredded spring onion. It was rainy day soul soup for Scottish summers.

He’d also gone for the miso pork belly bao (£9.50). These weren’t the little palm-sized ones that I’m used to, but massive shammies that required both hands to clutch.

Each of the three was stuffed with a thick and burly matchbox of miso sweetened pork, and a scattering (more please) of pink pickled onion, shredded carrot and micro coriander.

The finger length halloumi fries (£7.50) were decent, in a buff hamster-coloured coating and plastered with lots of sauce, including a lightly spicy and pulpy harissa relish, some sour cream, and pomegranate seeds. However, I asked for most of them to be doggy-bagged, so I could focus on the beetroot waffles (£8).

This was listed as a plural dish, but I’m happy that it was just a single circular waffle, cut into quarters, with each sweet scalene topped by a few flakes of hot smoked salmon, a teaspoon of yoghurt and a chevron of salsa verde. It was an easy going and simple breakfast-y dish.

We’d already seen that they had pastries from Comrie bakery, Wild Hearth (£3.50) on the menu for pudding. It would be criminal to leave without one, even though there was just a cinnamon whirl left. I dissected its buttery and spice-dusted strata, which came apart like golden rose petals, and dipped them into my okay flat white (£2.70). Gorgeous.

I couldn’t think of a better place to break my ridiculously long Bridge of Allan fast.

I’ll be back in another 15 years. Only joking, count me as a regular from now on.

25 Henderson Street

Bridge of Allan

Stirling

(01786 831 386, www.friendofmine.co.uk)

The Verdict

How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £33.50

Food 7.5/10

Ambience 8/10

15.5/20