Contini

Contini

22nd May 2017 6.15pm

www.contini.com/contini-george-street

I had been wanting to visit Contini for quite some time and a voucher from Itison allowed us to finally experience this place. Situated on George Street, Contini forms part of the Contini chain which includes Cannonball and the Scottish Café and Restaurant at the Scottish National Gallery. Our voucher included two starters, two mains, a side dish and two Venus Prosecco cocktails.

Venus Prosecco - Contini

Venus Prosecco – Contini

We were greeted warmly by staff, in the lofty, ornate venue, and taken to our table. When we took our seats, there were menus already on the table, so we got looking, only to be told that we were actually ordering from a different menu (which wasn’t stipulated on the voucher). They were still items from the normal al a carte menu but there was a much reduced choice which was a bit of a shame. We were given our cocktails – although the prosecco meant I couldn’t drink it but I had graciously forgone my non-alcoholic alternative so my friend could drink them both! The prosecco also had strawberry in it with lots of lavender scattered across the top, along with a flower. My friend found the lavender pieces a bit annoying whilst trying to drink the cocktail but overall enjoyed the flavour. We also got our food ordered – me opting for arancini followed by contandino, which is a creamy sausage pasta dish. My friend went for the pigs cheek carbonara to start and followed that with the beetroot risotto. We chose the pomodori (tomatoes) for our side.

Our starters both looked good, served in dishes so lovely I wanted to nab them. You could smell the wild garlic pesto that my arancini were sat in. The beautiful aroma wafted up to my nose and made me dive into the dish. The balls themselves were soft, with the rice cooked perfectly and the cheese giving it nice flavour. I have to say I was a little envious of the dish on the other side of the table as it looked amazing, made with one of my favourite pastas (trofiette). However, my friend did not enjoy it so much. She felt a little misled by the pigs cheeks as this wasn’t the braised type more frequently served in the UK, but was more like lardons. This would have been ok in itself but due to the cut, she found it a bit chewy. She also found the dish a little salty for her palate but was probably to be expected considering the elements of the dish.

The mains also had a visual impact. Mine looked utterly comforting but my friend was weirdly shocked by the bright colour of her risotto (I am really not sure what she was expecting as it looked as I thought it would). My pasta dish was made from orecchiette and was sitting in a creamy sauce with Italian picante sausage, porcini mushrooms, rocket and a parmesan tuille. This dish was beautiful from start to finish. Everything had incredible flavour, from the sausage to the mushroom through to the parmesan. I am led to believe this hasn’t been off the menu since the day they opened, and frankly, I am not surprised. Across the table from me, my friend found the risotto needed more in it to break it up a bit as it became too samey as she went on. I think both of us have decided not to pick risottos in restaurants any more as this is often a problem. I did have a quick try of the dish and the taste was good, so if you don’t mind the lack of variety on your plate, this could still work as a dish. The side of tomatoes were lovely. Balsamic vinegar was drizzled over them and the little basil leaves were a perfect match, as you would expect.

With me looking like the cat who got the cream with my chosen plates of food and my friend not so, we decided to see what desserts brought. These weren’t part of the voucher deal so paid full price. I was toying between the bomboloni and the chocolate mousse, so asked our server for her recommendation. She said bomboloni with such speed that I thought she was actually clarifying that was what I said, when in fact she just was incredibly certain that this was the dessert to try, so that had me sold. My friend went for the limone, which was a lemon cream which came with meringue. My dessert consisted of three small, round, warm, sugared doughnuts with a dish of chocolate sauce. The doughnuts weren’t the lightest I’d ever had but that didn’t stop them from being yummy. The chocolate sauce was good, although I would prefer mine a little thicker than perhaps traditionally served. On the other side of the table, the dish was quite creamy and could have been a little smaller. I had a taste though and it was full of zing.

This meal was different for the two of us – me really enjoying it and my friend not as much, although she did admit it was partly down to the menu choices she made.

Food – 7/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 7.5/10
Value – 7.5/10

Overall – 31/40

Would I eat here again? I would, but with a different dining companion!

Cost £39 with the voucher plus £10 for the desserts but would be closer to £65 full price.

Caley Sample Room

Caley Sample Room

21st May 2017 12.30pm

http://thecaleysampleroom.co.uk/

My friend insisted that we find somewhere new to go for a Sunday roast. The Caley Sample Room is situated in Dalry so whilst not in the city centre, it is really easy to get to and prides itself on being a family friendly venue. The roasts are served from 12noon on a Sunday until it runs out. It’s probably wise to get in early as although it was quiet on our arrival, the place was pretty busy by the time we left. There were two roasts on offer – lamb and beef. I went for the lamb whilst my other friends went for the beef.

When the roasts arrived, they were not piled high as you sometimes see, but did have plenty of meat on them. Both roasts came with seasonal vegetables (in this case runner beans, broccoli, courgette and cabbage), roast potatoes, a Yorkshire pudding and a lovely gravy. The lamb dish came with a pot of mint sauce and the beef dish came with a pot of horseradish sauce. The lamb was very succulent, even though there was no pink colour to it. The gravy had a beautiful depth of flavour. It was poured into the Yorkshire pudding though, to the horror of my friend who prefers a crispy batter (it was fine by me though, I like a bit of sogginess). My potatoes had clearly caught a bit on the pan, which wasn’t great but didn’t impact too much on the taste. The veg was ok but nothing spectacular. I personally like carrots as well as green veg with my roast dinner but I have to say I didn’t miss them too much. The other two were enjoying their beef, both saying that their meals were really good.

Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart - Caley Sample Room

Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart – Caley Sample Room

We decided we’d try to fit in a dessert, although if you felt this was too much, a boozy coffee or hot chocolate is a good alternative on offer. I chose the dark chocolate and salted caramel tart and my friends chose the espresso crème brulee and the knickerbocker glory. My tart was actually a slice but was about the right size considering the richness of the chocolate. The tart was accompanied by a fruit compote and a scoop of ice cream. These two additions helped balance out the intensity of the tart. The base was delicious too. All in all a solid dessert. The knickerbocker glory was massive. Full of ice cream and fruit compote and topped with flakes (she had asked for it without any cream). She was surprised to find that part way down there were also marshmallows, which she wasn’t expecting. She particularly enjoyed the ice cream in this and almost managed to finish the lot. The last dish – the brulee – did have a bit of a crack on entry but I noticed that the custard was a bit runny, possibly connected to the coffee content. My friend didn’t seem bothered by this and said it still tasted good. This dessert had three small amaretti biscuits served with it too.

Generally, we enjoyed our visit to Caley Sample Room. The menu had lots of interesting options on it so it might be worth a return visit.

Food – 7.5/10
Service – 7/10
Atmosphere – 8/10 (one of my friends particularly like the Beatles playlist)
Value – 8/10

Overall – 30.5/40

Would I eat here again? Probably

Cost £75 for three roasts, three desserts, a bottle of white wine and a diet coke

Hake - Lovage

Lovage

18th May 2017 6pm

http://lovagerestaurant.co.uk/

Lovage is quietly situated just off the Royal Mile on St Mary’s Street. Lovage’s menu is relatively short but offers some exciting delights, leaving both my dining companion and I undecided about which options to go for. In the end, I chose the salmon to start followed by the hake. My friend opted for the pork belly followed by the parmesan risotto.

Whilst we were waiting for our starters to arrive, we were brought some gorgeous warmed bread which we virtually inhaled. The starters followed shortly after and were beautifully presented. My dish was 37 degrees Celsius Scottish salmon, served with a sweet chilli sauce, celeriac and a lemon crust. The salmon was absolutely beautiful. It separated easily and the sauces complemented without being overpowering. There was even a scatting of samphire, which was a bonus as I love it. The dish managed to be light but with substance. On the other side of the table, the pork belly was also going down well. This was accompanied with an unusual choice of rhubarb but worked well. The plate also consisted of potato puree, cumin jus and cavolo nero. All the elements were harmonious. The only complaint was that the dish made it a little difficult to eat as all the ingredients were served in the small well in the centre of the plate. On the plus side, this did ensure that she ate all the ingredients together, which meant she probably experienced the dish at its optimal level.

The mains continued with the superb level of presentation. My hake sat in a vivid green pea soup, with asparagus, confit potatoes, a hollandaise sauce and some lemon crème fraiche. The fish was cooked to perfection, flaking effortlessly. The pea soup packed in some strong flavour, with both the hollandaise and crème fraiche adding further dimensions. This was a thoroughly pleasing plate of food. On the other side of the table, the parmesan risotto looked good. The top was scattered with mushrooms and walnuts, which helped give the risotto additional textures (as a bowl of plain risotto can become a bit too same-y). The truffle oil also added some luxury. For those who are vegetarian, they can make this a vegetarian dish for you if you were interested in.

My friend sacrificed some of her risotto in order to fit in dessert (I had no such problem in scoffing my chops with the fish). I went for the chocolate cremeux and my dining companion chose the strawberry cheesecake. Again, these were both lovely looking plates of food. My cremeux made a good crunch on top as I broke into it, with my spoon then sliding down through a creamy layer to reach a delicious chocolate sponge. Each layer was as tasty as the next. Alongside the cremeux was a smooth banana ice cream. I am not usually a big fan of banana flavoured things but this really worked, particularly as there were also orange segments and gels dotted on the plate. This resulted in a very balanced dish. My friend also enjoyed her strawberry cheesecake. The cheesecake had a layer of strawberry jelly on top and was accompanied by black pepper meringue (which she loved) and a basil sorbet (which she was less keen on as it was a bit too overpowering in basil flavour). I have to say I tried a bit of the sorbet and thought it would be a really nice starter with some tomatoes and cheese.

Overall, Lovage produced some top notch food. The vibe in the restaurant was relaxed, with a jazz playlist playing soothingly in the background. It is certainly worth a visit.

Food – 9/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 8.5/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 33.5/40

Would I eat here again? Definitely

Cost – £78 for two lots of three courses plus one large and one small glass of wine.

The Outsider

The Outsider

9th May 2017 1pm

www.theoutsiderrestaurant.com

An impromptu lunch with a colleague brought us to The Outsider. I had not ventured here since I started my blog so I was intrigued to see if it was as nice as I remembered. We were greeted with a smile and asked if we’d like to sit in the sun (i.e. near a window). We jumped at the chance and whilst not right next to a window we did have a beautiful view of the castle, which is particularly impressive if you want to show off to visitors. As we were a little later in the lunchtime slot, two of the three specials were already sold out but the rest of the normal lunch menu was available plus the soup special, all at really reasonable prices. I could have eaten pretty much everything and after changing my mind a few times, I opted for the pan fried crispy gnocchi whereas my colleague went for the honey and ale marinated steak ciabatta.

Gnocchi - The Outsider

Gnocchi – The Outsider

When the food arrived, they were both good portion sizes, although the ciabatta – with a humongous portion of skinny fries – was certainly punching above its weight. My gnocchi was in long strips, which was a little unusual but didn’t detract from its lovey flavour. The gnocchi was nestled in a bed of rocket alongside fine slices of juicy pear, a scattering of walnuts, and some cherry tomatoes. These all worked in harmony and the basil pesto and Parmesan shavings brought it all together nicely. I polished off the lot. My colleague attempted to eat the ciabatta with her hands but as the steak was not cut finely enough, she found herself having to take pieces out and eat them a bit at a time. That was her only complaint though as the meat itself was succulent and full of flavour. The side of fries were perfectly seasoned. She couldn’t finish them off so I was happily able to assist. They were delicious and the wild garlic aioli was spot on (even if our office was going to be pungent on our return).

Steak Ciabatta - The Outsider

Steak Ciabatta – The Outsider

We enjoyed our time at The Outsider. The service was generally good, although we did have to chase an ordered drink. The vibe was relaxing. Definitely worth a visit.

Food – 8.5/10
Service – 7.5/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 10/10

Overall – 34/40

Would I eat here again? Yup!

Cost £15 for two mains from the lunch menu plus a sparkling water

La Petite Mort

La Petite Mort

4th May 2017 7pm

www.lapetitemortedinburgh.co.uk

Several of my friends and I had been eyeing up La Petite Mort for some time. Situated in Tollcross, handily around the corner from the Kings Theatre, La Petite Mort, from the outside, is an understated affair but on the inside feels more grand in its own way. The menu isn’t long but is varied enough that everyone should find something they like (or like me, want absolutely everything on the menu). I opted for the crab mascarpone and chive parcels, followed by sun dried tomato crusted cod fillet. Around the table, others chose the assiette of beetroot and the leek wrapped duck for their starters, and selected roast rump of lamb, roast pork belly and open veg pie for their mains. Our host/waiter for the evening was excellent, coping with our enthusiasm with grace and humour. We also ordered a round of cocktails which were divine and very reasonably priced.

Our starters all looked very elegant on arrival. My crab mascarpone and chive parcel was actually singular rather than the plural advertised but was of a good size. The flavour was fresh but mildly tainted by a little bit of crab shell, which was the only downside I encountered. The breaded quails egg was beautiful, with the yolk rich and runny. I adored the crayfish popcorn, which was not greasy in the slightest and still allowed the crayfish to sing. The radish salad was accompanied by a pretty saffron mayo which brought the whole dish together. Another friend who also had this dish had nothing but praise for it. Around the table, the beetroot dish was also producing smiling faces. The beetroot was given a multitude of treatments by the chef and accompanied by some delicious goats cheese. The leek wrapped duck was a terrine, which had a port and prune puree dotted along the side for some moistness. This dish had great flavour. All in all, a successful round of food.

The mains came out quite quickly after the starters. There was no doubt that the roast pork belly was the most visually impressive dish. It was probably the largest of all the mains too. However, firstly, apologies that the photo I took of my cod did not turn out, so I will do my best to describe it well. The fish itself was perfectly cooked and flaked effortlessly. On top of the fish was a vivid sun dried tomato crust, which complemented the fish well. The fish sat on top of a sweet potato fondant, which melted in the mouth. There was also a black sesame sphere, which had a mouse like consistency and coated with the elegant seeds. This was sat atop some delicious greenery. The dish was light and elegant without being too fussy. Next to me, a friend was tucking into the open veg pie. She excitedly got stuck into the beetroot, spring onions, roasted carrots and artichoke that sat underneath a puff pastry crust, which was cut into two large triangles. The roast garlic mayo and pea puree topped it off nicely. A substantial vegetarian dish. Across the table, the lamb was beautifully cooked. The friend eating this dish really couldn’t fault it, describing it as ‘flavoursome’. The meat had a pink glow to it and sat atop butternut puree and asparagus, with beetroot dauphinoise potatoes on the side. The mint jus was generous but at the same time not overwhelming the plate. Lastly, the remaining two diners were gorging themselves on the roast pork belly. The meat itself was a giant hunk which sat on a black pudding and basil mashed potato. The mash had really good taste and texture. Alongside the meat was a smoked pork collar croquette which the pair of them raved about. Neither of them could believe just how much flavour had been packed into the croquette. The greens were provided in the form of kale and the whole lot was topped with a honey and apple jus. The crackling really was made exceptionally well. You could hear the pair of them crunching on it. However, sadly one of them who had a slightly susceptible tooth managed to break said tooth on it. This did not deter her enjoyment of the dish but perhaps those with more delicate mouths might want to pick a different option. She still thought it was a cracking (!) dish. It did send us into a fit of hysterics though as we worked our way through similar puns, so apologies to any of the other diners we may have disrupted.

We had a little time to let our food go down before ordering desserts. All of us, except the less enthusiastic dessert eater, immediately went for the salted caramel baked alaska. The other friend felt she wouldn’t be able to fit in the cheese (although it really is at a reasonable price), so went for the slightly lighter passionfruit bavarois. The baked alaska was impressive on arrival. The meringue was superbly toasted, with a little dehydrated apple crisp placed at the top. The ice cream inside was still perfectly set and underneath was a small disc of sponge. This was all delicious. On the side was some heavenly honeycomb, which dissolved on the tongue. Some sauce and fruit scattered across the plate added balance. We all enjoyed this dish. The bavarois was also good, with small pieces of meringue placed around it. Next to the bavarois was a elderflower and summer berries jelly which was light and refreshing.

I think we all thoroughly enjoyed our meal, even if there were a couple of mishaps along the way. I think you’ll see from my scoring below that this is somewhere really quite lovely and very much worth a visit.

Food – 8.5/10
Service – 9.5/10
Atmosphere – 8.5/10
Value – 9.5/10

Overall – 36/40

Would I eat here again? Most definitely.

£216 for 5 starters, mains and desserts, 5 cocktails and two bottles of wine

Fillet Steak - Miller & Carter

Miller & Carter

2nd May 2017 6pm

www.millerandcarter.co.uk/restaurants/scotland-and-northern-ireland/millerandcarteredinburghcitycentre

Already well established out at a Cramond Brig, Miller & Carter have recently opened up on Frederick St, so it would be rude of us not to pop in to put it through its paces. On entering the place, it had quite a stylish, albeit dark, feel inside. We both really liked how it was decked out. We were welcomed by our waitress, who was incredibly helpful. We had a quick look at the drinks menu and spotted that many of the cocktails were £4.95 Monday through Wednesday – bonus! So we got on with ordering a cocktail each and then chose some nibbles plus mains. I went for olives followed by a fillet steak (ordered rare, as recommended on the menu) and my dining companion chose the toasted breads with bread dripping butter followed by a full rack of smokey barbecue ribs.

Strawberry Daiquiri - Miller & Carter

Strawberry Daiquiri – Miller & Carter

The drinks and nibbles came quickly. The cocktails were excellent. My olives were all pitted, which I prefer and were large and juicy. On the other side of the table, the bread was cut into fingers and were a variety of types, which was really nice. The beef dripping flavour was quite subtle but did allow for the butter to be slathered over the bread easily.

Bread and Olives - Miller & Carter

Bread and Olives – Miller & Carter

I was advised on ordering my steak that I also got a lettuce wedge before the steak which is treated a little like a palate cleanser. Our mains were not brought by the waitress who had been serving us but by another member of staff and came without having the lettuce first. Our original waitress came to check on us and I explained the missing lettuce and she was so apologetic and brought it out instantly, along with a steak knife she’d notified I was missing. To be honest, I hadn’t missed that as my standard knife was cutting through my meat like butter. The fillet was cooked as I’d requested and was incredibly soft. It was full of flavour and just delicious. It came in at 8oz which I thought was very reasonable and had a small circle of parsley butter on top. Alongside the steak was my choice of sauce (bearnaise), an onion loaf, which was very lovely, a balsamic tomato and a side of fries. All of the food was of a really good standard. My lettuce wedge ended up being eaten alongside the steak. I’d chosen it to have a cocktail and crouton dressing on top which was beautifully creamy. I couldn’t finish the dish (partly as I had also been out for lunch, like the pig that I am) so left a bit of the lettuce and some of the fries but it wasn’t for lack of trying! On the other side of the table, my friend absolutely demolished her ribs. They were massive but she managed to get through them. The meat came off the bone easily, which meant she could use a knife and fork so her fingers didn’t get sticky. She also had fries with her ribs and a small tub of slaw. You can order the ribs as a half rack if a full rack seems a bit over-facing.

There were a lot of lovely desserts on offer but we just couldn’t manage them so had another cocktail before leaving. I think next time – and there will be a next time – we’ll need to make sure we’ve not eaten all day to eat a full three courses here.

Food – 8.5/10
Service – 8.5/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 33/40

Would I eat here again? Yes and fully intend to.

Cost £68 for two sets of nibbles, two mains (including fillet steak at £24.95) and four cocktails.

Apple Strudel - The Huxley

The Huxley

29th April 2017 12.30pm

www.thehuxley.co.uk

We popped in here for lunch after seeing a push on social media (particularly their brunch it seems). Saturday meant it was busy but not in an overcrowded way. The Huxley offers a relatively standard menu which includs burgers, hot dogs, nachos, salads etc. All prices are fairly reasonable. I went for the naked dog – a hot dog without toppings, with the exception of onions. My friend chose the Philly Cheesesteak in the aim of eradicating the awful memories from Wildwood.

When the food arrived, it looked a little disappointing. My hotdog looked ok but the fries looked a little lacklustre. My friend’s cheesesteak looked a little lonely on the large plate (admittedly my friend forgot to order a side of fries). Even the accompanying slaw couldn’t do much to save either dish. Anyway, tucking in, my hot dog was actually pretty good. The sausage had really good flavour, smoky but not overpowering. The bun was ok and the onions were nice, although not with enough caramelised flavour for my liking. The slaw was crunchy and not too creamy. The fries were sufficient but were a touch limp. On the other side of the table, my dining companion was relieved to report that the cheesesteak was definitely better than the one from Wildwood. The filling was generous. However, she found the brioche bun a little too sweet.

As I had already spied an apple strudel on the dessert menu, I knew it was my destiny. My friend decided to have the trio of ice cream. When she ordered, it became apparent there was a choice but the waitress has to check. The choices were orange, ginger or wild berries. My friend thought they were odd choices but picked orange. Upon arrival, my strudel looked more like two spring rolls. The custard was a small pool in the bottom of the bowl. I could see that the strudel in this form could be stood up in the custard, allowing the pastry to still be crisp in places. The filling was tasty, with the apple not too sweet and the sultanas plump and luscious. I would have liked a little more custard as it was very good. Across from me, my friend was a little perplexed. Although the ice cream was creamy, it really had little perceptible orange flavour, which was a shame. The chocolate shard was pleasant enough. I did notice afterwards whilst writing this review and looking back at the photos that the menu does say a trio of ice creams and sorbet. However, there were not three scoops. I think the menu needs to be more clear that it is one scoop from a choice of three.

I think I enjoyed my meal more than my dining partner enjoyed hers. However, with other good eateries in the vicinity, this might not be my first choice to return to.

Food – 7/10
Service – 7/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 30/40

Would I eat here again? Maybe but it would not my top pick

Cost £18 with an introductory 20%off for signing up to their mailing list. Full price around £24 for two mains and two desserts.