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

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.