Oak Smoked Duck Breast - The Voyage of Buck

The Voyage of Buck

12th July 2017 6.30pm

www.thevoyageofbuckedinburgh.co.uk

Nestled in the west end, The Voyage of Buck manages to feel old, traditional and modern all in one go. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and seated quickly. We got some cocktails from the menu, which was themed on cities around the world. These were excellent. The Per La Donna was our favourite as it was refreshing on such a warm day. Whilst sipping on our drinks, we ordered food. I went for duck followed by sea bass, one friend chose squid followed by chicken and last of the group chose bread from the bar food list followed by a main of pork loin.

My starter was incredible. The duck was smoked and full of flavour. It was accompanied by amazingly zingy pickled asparagus, cauliflower and sweet potato purée. I adored this dish as it seemed to dance on my tastebuds. Across the table, the squid looked pretty, served with heritage tomatoes and cashew purée. This was enjoyed and the plate emptied quickly. The bread however, was a little disappointing and expensive for what it was. Served with extra virgin olive oil and crema di ancardio, the bread itself tasted as if it had been slice a while ago and had dried out a bit.

My main of sea bass was served with mussels and mussel broth, rainbow chard and samphire. The fish was cooked well and had brown crab mayonnaise dotted on top. The mayo didn’t have a flavour strong enough to combat other flavours on the dish though. I was a little disappointed that some of my mussels were not open. It’s just about acceptable in a bowlful of mussels but these must have been placed on the dish so should have been checked. The broth made the chard a bit too soggy but the samphire was lovely. The chicken dish was going down well and was moist but she didn’t get to eat much of it as the friend eating the pork was not aware that nduja was a spicy sausage so found her dish too hot. She swapped with the friend eating chicken but credit to the server who had offered to get a different dish cooked (the waiting wasn’t worth it when a swap was fine for all parties involved). My friend did recommend that it was indicated that the dish was spicy on the menu – I hadn’t realised she didn’t know. However, was a shame she had to pass it on as it did come with an incredible buckwheat risotto. The friend now eating this dish really enjoyed it. The presentation of it would have been better if it hadn’t been covered with green leaf.

Two of us had desserts. I went for the warm toffee frangipane tart with honeycomb ice cream. This was exquisite. Every mouthful was like a warm hug. My friend chose the chocolate delice. This came with clotted cream, orange and whisky (which wasn’t too overpowering). This dish was good even though it was a bit rich.

We did enjoy our meal but there was a few things that prevented it from reaching its potential to be excellent. There were definitely hints of magic though.

Food – 7.5/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 9/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 33.5/40


Would I eat here again? Yes, my starter and dessert were particularly special.

Cost £106 for three starters and mains, two desserts, three cocktails and two glasses of wine.

Smoked Chicken - Ishka

Ishka

6th July 2017 6pm

www.ishkaedinburgh.co.uk

After being wowed by Ishka’s Instagram account, we had originally intended to attend one of Ishka’s launch events. We could only attend the first or two dates available, which upon arrival was clear was not happening as the place was still a building site. With no explanation from the PR company, we left it a little while to let the place get going. We were off to see a show at the EICC and as this was handily across the road, we decided to take the opportunity to finally try it out.

Ishka is a smallish venue but has an array of tables and booths. We were given a booth which was nice. There was a giant pillar candle on the table which had left quite a bit of wax splattered across the surface but at least that was off to one side. We were given both the a la carte and market menus. The latter seemed reasonable at £14 for two courses and £18 for three courses. The price on the menu was a little more expensive than on the website but at bill time we were charged the lower fee (as quoted above). The drinks were a little more on the expensive side but the cocktails we had were all excellent.

We all ordered from the market menu. I went for the cauliflower veloute followed by the bavette steak. My friends chose the veloute or the smoked chicken for starters. For their mains they also chose the steak or the pork loin with glazed pork cheek.

I was a bit surprised at the size of the veloute upon arrival. This was a massive soup bowl, far bigger than a usual starter portion. The veloute also had some big chunks of coated black pudding and some curried potato chips. The two of us that had this dish thought the black pudding was going to be sprinkled across the top so found it a bit heavy in the way it was served. The veloute was sorely underseasoned and wasn’t remedied by the black pudding. All in all a bit disappointing. The other two were eating the smoked chicken, which was received more positively. Overall the dish was good and the chicken cooked well. However one of them commented that the accompanying saffron yoghurt was a little overpowering for the rest of the dish.

We hoped for more with the mains. Three of us had the bavette steak, presented on beautiful red plates. The steaks were all cooked to our requests, which was pleasing. The cut isn’t that easy to eat though, which was a bit of a shame. The steaks came with fries and salad, which had a generous seasoning of salt. We thought this dish was ok but not as good as it could be. The final one of the group had the pork. Sadly she thought this was poor, with some of the meat being incredibly dry and the whole dish needing to be exposed to some seasoning. She was very disappointed.

Only two of us decided to venture onto desserts. One went for the passion fruit tart and the other the apple meringue. The tart was shallow and wide, and served with a coconut ice cream. The apple dish consisted of apple compote, toffee and pistachio cake. These were both enjoyed. The flavours and textures of both dishes were of good quality.

Whilst the décor was slick, those sat on the outer facing side of the booth felt incredibly close to the nearby tables and people being shown to their table were often brushing perilously close to our food and drinks. It was also difficult for the waiter to serve those on the inner side of the booth, having to lean over the wall from the bar side to place and collect dishes/glasses.

Ishka sadly failed to meet expectations. We desperately wanted the place to do well and the service was very good. Sadly, overall the food didn’t quite make its mark. Worth a pop in for a cocktail if you are feeling flush.

Food – 6/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere- 8/10
Value – 7.5/10

Overall – 29.5/40

Would I eat here again? Unlikely but might pop in for a drink

Cost £107 for two 2 courses for the set menu plus two 3 courses from the set menu, 1 bottle of wine and two cocktails.

Tom Yum Kai - Passorn Brasserie

Passorn Brasserie

4th July 2017 6pm

http://passornthai.com/passorn-thai-brasserie/

Passorn Brasserie is the second restaurant for Passorn. The Brasserie is situated on Hanover Street, so is a little more central location that their first restaurant in Tollcross. We visited early on a fairly quiet Tuesday. We hadn’t booked but this wasn’t a problem at the time we went. The interiors were slick and polished and gave an impression of space with some cleverly placed mirrors.

Once seated, we were handed both the a la carte and the pre-theatre menus. The pre-theatre menu was good value, with two courses plus a glass of wine or a cocktail for £19.50, so we decided to go for that. Chilli symbols on menu indicated heat, which seemed to be accurate based on the taste of the food. I chose the Tom Yum Kai (chicken hot and sour soup) followed by the Panang Kai (creamy red chicken curry). My dining companion went for the Pla Chao Wang (crispy sea bass Thai salad) followed by Kaeng Keaw Wan (Thai green curry with king prawns). We also ordered a cocktail each – Pink Passion and Thai smile – both of which were excellent.

We were not waiting long before our starters arrived and smelt amazing. My soup was perhaps a little hot for me (I should have heeded the chilli symbol!) but it had lovely flavour, permeated with fresh Thai herbs. The chicken was particularly moist and the contents were plentiful. On the other side of the table, the salad was fresh and vibrant. It came with mango, cashew nuts and a tasty lime juice dressing.

The mains were served in cute little bowls and automatically come with steamed fragrant Thai rice (as is the same with all the mains). My red chicken curry was delicious. It was beautifully was creamy and thick, without being gloopy. Again, the chicken was excellent. The peppers were also great and added an extra element to the dish. My friend was equally enjoying her green curry. This definitely had more heat in than the red, which suited her palate.

Overall we had a nice experience at Passorn Brasserie and offers good value for their pre-theatre menu.

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

Overall – 32/40

Would I eat here again? Yes

Cost £39 for two pre-theatre meals consisting of two courses and a cocktail each.

Mussels with white wine, cream and shallots - Cadiz

Cadiz

7th June 2017 7pm

www.cadizedinburgh.co.uk

Four of us had purchased two Itison vouchers for Cadiz. The deal included a cocktail, a four course meal and tea/coffee for two. On arrival, our special menus were waiting for us on the table. The menu was shorter than the normal menu at Cadiz but there was still plenty of showcasing of their normal dishes within it. I was a bit disappointed to see that all the cocktails were ‘twists’ and had some kind of wine in them, so was going to opt for a soft drink but our server was very accommodating and said it was not a problem to adapt one of the cocktails so there was no wine in it. I appreciated this gesture. So three of us had the mojito and one went for the bloody mary. We automatically would be receiving a fish and shellfish soup amuse bouche but we were able to choose our other courses. I went for asparagus with a poached egg to start, followed by mussels in a white wine, fresh cream and shallot sauce. My friends went for a calamari and padron peppers for their starters and then mussels in a white wine, chorizo and chilli sauce and the arroz for their mains.

Seafood and Fish Soup - Cadiz

Seafood and Fish Soup – Cadiz

The amuse bouche came out and was a generous size considering the course. We were also given a plate of crispy croutons with aioli to share between two. The soup itself was rich brown in colour and hidden in its depths was a plethora of seafood. The croutons were as crispy as advertised and the aioli was beautiful, with a delightful richness of garlic. Thumbs up all round.

Our starters all looked great as they were brought to the table. My asparagus was coated with a hollandaise sauce. The poached egg oozed golden loveliness as I cut into it. A simple, yet effective, dish. Two friends had chosen the calamari, which would have been my backup choice. This was served with a lemon, neatly wrapped in muslin and tied off with a ribbon. The calamari had a sprinkling of sea salt and chilli on top and had a luscious smoked paprika aioli for the calamari to be dipped into. They were not chewy and the batter was of excellent quality. Across from me, another friend was busing herself with eating the padron peppers. This was a large portion, with about 8 peppers in total. These again were sprinkled with sea salt and went down a treat.

The generous sizing continued when our mains arrived. Three of us had mussels with one or other of the sauces. These were in very large bowls and were served with a side of fries. We all thought the mussels were excellent. Mine were plump and juicy. The sauces were also exceptional, although I think the white wine, cream and shallot sauce I chose was the winner (as the other two tasted the sauce too). It provided a good base to dunk the fries in. The mussels were also available as a starter but served with crusty bread rather than fries. The last of our group had the arroz, which is an arborio rice dish, served with king prawns and clams. This was a homely yet pretty dish and whilst rice was the main component of the plate of food, there was plenty of seafood mixed through it too. Overall, I think my only complaint was that there was no finger bowl or finger wipes after the mussels, so your hands were left a bit sticky (particularly if you are like us and use a mussel shell for your cutlery).

We had to wait a little bit until the staff came to tell us about dessert. We had the option of a crème brulee or a white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake. Three of us went for the brulee, with a lone friend picking the cheesecake. What surprised me on delivery of the brulees was that they were on fire. In an unusual method, instead of blow torching the sugar in the kitchen, it was happening in front of our eyes at the table. We were advised to wait for it to go out and then wait for another minute to ensure the crack of the surface when diving in with your spoon. Whilst it unnerved me a little, having a flame in front of me, once it went out and duly waited, the crack came, along with a gloriously delicious custard. Simplicity at its finest. There were a couple of chocolate cake type balls served on the side of the brulee. These were a bit dry, which was a shame. The cheesecake was also good. This came with a raspberry coulis and raspberries placed on top. This was a solid effort, although my friend was unable to finish it. After, teas and coffees were sipped before we left for the evening.

We really enjoyed our meal at Cadiz. Generally the staff were very attentive and seemed to predict our every need, with the wait for dessert being the only, very minor, blip. If you like seafood, this is worth a visit.

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

Overall – 34/40

Would I eat here again? Yes.

Cost – The deal cost £98 for the two vouchers plus a further £15 for a couple more cocktails. The full price would have been closer to £153 for the four of us.

Wild mushrooms with chorizo - The Devil's Advocate

The Devil’s Advocate

30th May 2017 6pm

http://devilsadvocateedinburgh.co.uk/

I’d visited The Devil’s Advocate for drinks a few times and once had lunch (but only had soup so felt it was too little to review on) so we finally got round to having dinner here. The Devil’s Advocate is a sister restaurant to both Bon Vivant and El Cartel so we expected a decent level of food. Would they be up to the challenge? When we arrived, the place was heaving, not only with after work drinkers but the dining area was completely full too, so I am glad we booked. However, if you like quiet places, this might not be for you at this time of day. Either a lunch or a later dinner may be more suitable when the place is a little quieter. We were shown to our table and we got onto perusing the menu, which is relatively short but with enough choice. I chose the wild mushrooms with pan fried chorizo followed by the garlic and rosemary picanha (also known as the sirloin cap or rump cover) with a béarnaise sauce. My dining companion for the evening went for Serrano ham with sourdough toast followed by lamb neck fillet.

The starters looked good on arrival. My little bowl looked quite dainty in comparison to the Serrano ham dish. My bowl has lots of wild mushrooms and pieces of chorizo, sitting in a bed of rocket with rosemary croutons and a garlic puree. Whilst I generally loved the dish, there was a fair whack of salt on it, which in the first couple of mouthfuls was a little overpowering. On the other side of the table, my friend was a little disappointed that the toast was in fact dried bread and was not sourdough. However, this was made up for with the delicious ham, cheese, olives and incredibly tasty romesco sauce. This was also quite a generous portion with massive chunks of bread (apologies for the slightly blurred photo). Generally we enjoyed the starters but they weren’t quite 100%.

The mains, however, were something to behold. My picanha was cooked as requested (rare) and full of juicy flavour. There was plenty of it too, to my delight. Alongside the meat was a beautiful béarnaise sauce which was simply perfect. The accompanying vegetables consisted of a grilled piece of butternut squash, grilled tomatoes, a portobello mushroom and rocket. These were all delicious and balanced out the beef well. The same positive reactions could be found opposite me. The lamb neck fillet was equally tasty. It sat on a bed of roasted red pepper and chick peas. Some of the chickpeas had been kept whole for added texture. This was accompanied by a sun dried tomato, garlic and olive salsa. My friend completely cleared her dish and probably could have licked the plate!

We decided that as the courses weren’t too large we could squeeze in dessert. I had a chocolate torte, which came with ice cream. The torte itself was rich but gloriously chocolatey. The base was just the right consistency . The ice cream helped cut through the richness of the chocolate, along with a berry coulis. The panna cotta across from me was also a success. It had great flavour. The only complaint was that the rhubarb was not a compote but luckily there was also a berry coulis which worked well with the panna cotta.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal and the venue. Definitely worth a visit.

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

Overall – 34/40

Would I eat here again? Yup, definitely

Cost £75 for two three course meals plus a glass of wine.

Salmon Set - Tang's

Tang’s

30th May 2017 12.45pm

www.hakatayauk.com/tang-s-japanese-dining/

Tang’s can be found on Candlemaker Row, in the shadow of Greyfriars Bobby. A friend suggested meeting here for an impromptu lunch. I arrived first but stood waiting for a member of staff for getting on for 5 minutes. As it transpired, there seemed to be only one member of waiting staff and she had been serving some other customers on the upper floor (and was rushed off her feet the entire time we were there). My friend arrived just in time and we were seated on the ground floor. We had a look at the menus and both decided to order from the lunchtime menu. I went for the salmon set – a salmon sushi platter. My dining companion chose the chicken katsu curry.

Salmon Set - Tang's

Salmon Set – Tang’s

Whilst our server had been very busy, we didn’t have to wait too long for our food to arrive. My sushi was on a nice wooden serving stand. It looked very pretty, comprising of sashimi, nigiri and maki, with a small pile of ginger, wasabi, and a token bit of salad with a couple of slices of radish. I went for maki first and was surprised to find it was warm. The rice obviously hadn’t been cooled enough before rolling. This didn’t make it unpleasant though and worked quite well dipped into the soy. The nigiri was the same, with slightly warm rice, although as it was more exposed it was a bit cooler. The sashimi however was ice cold in one place on each slice, almost as if it had been frozen and hadn’t fully defrosted, which was a shame as it really did take any flavour out of the salmon. On the other side of the table, the katsu curry was a large portion. Which made it decent value for money. However, my friend felt the dish was OK but nothing more, and had experienced better elsewhere.

Chicken Katsu Curry - Tang's

Chicken Katsu Curry – Tang’s

We also found whilst we were eating that across from us, some tradesmen were working on fixing something, causing an awful noise as we finished our food. Whilst I know broken items need fixing, perhaps avoiding the lunch rush would have been better. All in all, a bit of a disappointing visit.

Food – 6/10
Service – 6/10
Atmosphere – 5/10
Value – 7/10

Overall – 24/40

Would I eat here again? Unlikely

Cost £22 for a salmon set, chicken katsu curry and two diet cokes

Bruscetta - La Favorita

La Favorita

24th May 2017 7.30pm

www.vittoriagroup.co.uk/lafavorita/

This was a long overdue catch up with fellow bloggers Emma from Vegan Edinburgh and Ann from A Quirky Lifestyle. We usually let Emma pick the venue as her requirements are a higher priority. She was shocked to hear that whilst I’d had take away from La Favorita, I’d not actually dined in. Ann hadn’t either, so this had to be rectified. I booked a table, and we were given the opportunity to give any dietary requirements and to let them know if the booking was for a special event. So we forewarned them that we had a vegan in our midsts.

It was a little hectic on arrival, with little space by the reception desk, which is situated after the bar area. Our table wasn’t ready so we sat in the waiting area for about 5 minutes or so before being seated. Once seated at our table, Emma double checked the vegan options (click here for the Vegan Edinburgh review) with the waitress. After scanning the generously sized menu, I went for the calamari fritti followed by a 10 inch Hawaii pizza (14 inch are also available). Emma chose bruschetta followed by the vegetariana but with vegan cheese substituting the standard cheese. Ann went for crocchette di merluzzo (fish cakes) and asked for a pizza recommendation from the waitress. She gave three options and Ann chose the Campione di Scozia. A G&T, Diet Coke and a cocktail were also ordered (the latter again on recommendation of the waitress).

When the first course came, they were in a variety of sizes. The bruschetta was huge and the fishcakes were small and my calamari fritti were somewhere in the middle. The fritti actually consisted of both baby squid and anchovies. The squid was nice, particularly when dipped in the garlic mayonnaise. However, I was a little disappointed with the anchovies as they were unbelievably salty. They also broke as you tried to pick one up, so it almost ended up as a salty, fishy crumb, which was a shame. The bruschetta was large so if you don’t eat it quickly the bread can become a little soggy. However, it went down well. I think just be mindful of portion sizes and balance it well with your choice of mains. The crocchette di merluzzo were also being enjoyed and the plate was cleared.

The pizzas followed shortly after and the 10 inch pizzas were definitely big enough after a starter. There was plenty of topping on my pizza and the flavours were really good. I love a good thin base and this was pretty decent. I couldn’t manage to finish it all though but had made a valiant effort. The Campione di Scozia pizza was generally well received but she found the cheese a little too much. She didn’t make as much headway with her pizza but was offered a take out box in order to transport it home, which she took them up on. The vegetariana was wolfed down. It appeared that the way La Favorita dispersed the vegan cheese as a topping has changed by using smaller cubes, making the pizza much more enjoyable. A thumbs up for the vegan option.

We were all way too stuffed to have dessert, but La Favorita offers some decent pizzas.

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

Overall – 30/40

Would I eat here again? Probably

Cost £63 for three starters and mains plus a cocktail, a G&T and a Diet Coke