Moveable Feast

Moveable Feast – a mini review

13th October 2016 6pm

www.edinevents.com/moveable-feast

As part of Edinburgh Restaurant Festival, Moveable Feast was an opportunity to have a different course of a meal at a different restaurant. This not only is a fun way to dine but a good way to sample food at different venues all in the one evening. Our host for the evening was Gareth, who kept us both entertained and together so no straggler was lost. The twenty of us who had tickets that evening were told to assemble at Veeno on Rose Street. Unfortunately wine and I don’t agreed but I had chosen not to declare this as an allergy as I can have it in food. However, the Veeno staff rustled me up a soft drink and then the organisers of the event offered to arrange for me to have different drinks along the way as the courses were matched with wines (which wasn’t obvious when booking as everything is supposed to be a surprise). I hadn’t wanted to make a fuss and was happy with water but the staff went out of my way to make sure I was sorted, so I did have a couple of alcoholic drinks along the way. Hurrah! My friend accompanying me for the evening did drink wine though and had so much praise for the red she drank at Veeno. Within about five minutes she was already planning a return visit with other wine drinking friends. Canapés were also passed around which were delicious. Gareth then started off proceedings telling us how the evening would work. We were given travel wallets which had information about what had been on offer at Veeno and we would be able to pick up identical cards along the way in each of the restaurants as a memento of what we had eaten. We also got some polaroids of our time at Veeno and more were taken throughout the evening. After having a little chat from the manager at Veeno about what they do, we were all then asked to take a cork from a bowl. Some had letters on them, so those who had these read the letters out which, when arranged in order, spelt our next destination- Cadiz.

So we were taken to Cadiz on George Street and were all seated. We had a nice cocktail which was champagne and gin based (mine was without the champagne). Our course here was home cured Scottish salmon with avocado puree and pink grapefruit. The salmon was exquisite, of great quality and full of flavour. I wasn’t a fan of the grapefruit as I found it a bit too overpowering for the salmon but my friend really enjoyed it, so I think this just depends on your palate. The little touch of caviar on top was lovely and the avocado really pulled the dish together. Once we’d finished our course, we were shown some cryptic picture clues for our next venue – Chaophraya.

After we exited Cadiz, we were taken to the left rather than the right in order to cross the road, which was done under the guise of health and safety but once we were on the other side of George Street and heading towards Chaophraya, we paused at the Freemason’s Hall where we were greeted by a small group singing us “Food Glorious Food” as we were handed small cups of pickled veg with a seeded tuille as a palate cleanser. This was indeed a surprise and lots of fun. A small cup of tea was then given before we moved onto the restaurant.

Once in Chaophraya, we were warmly greeted and seated. We were to have four dishes which could be shared between four people. This was a great way of trying lots of the food. The dishes were Thai green chicken curry, king prawns with ginger, mixed greens ad mushroom stir fry and chicken pad Thai. Rice was also available for those who wanted it. Wine was topped up for everyone and I had a vodka and lemonade but essentially had a choice of whatever I fancied which was nice. Having been to Chaophraya before I knew the food would be good. However this did give me an opportunity to sample a few things I’d not had there before. My favourite I think was the pad Thai but that was closely followed by the prawns. Every dish popped with exciting flavours and it took a lot of restraint not to steal more than my fair share of each dish. Once we’d finished eating, we were given a fortune cookie to open, which had our next destination inside. It did say the Pompadour but this evening we were going to the Galvin Brasserie de Luxe at the same hotel. This probably fitted better with the evening anyway.

A little longer walk this time but still we reached our destination quickly. We were seated in the private dining area at Galvin. This time a Valrhona chocolate tart was on offer with salted caramel and some crème fraiche ice cream on the side. The chocolate wasn’t too sweet but I am glad the portion wasn’t any bigger as it was still rich. The salted caramel was lovely and the ice cream cut through the density of the dish nicely.

Chocolate Tart - Galvin Brasserie

Chocolate Tart – Galvin Brasserie

Our final destination was Ghillie Dhu. We were seated in the large booths and were given a dram of Glayva, plus tea or coffee for those who fancied. Several petit fours were passed round the table, including macaroons and shortbread. It was a delicious way to end the evening, with the whisky having a Christmas type aroma. A live band played in the background which gave the place a fun atmosphere. We were also given a small selector pack of Hotel Chocolat chocolates to take home with us.

This was such a fun event and I hope they think about doing this throughout the year at different venues as I would definitely do this again.

Cost £45 per person

Dram and Smoke

Dram and Smoke – mini review

7th August 2016 7pm

http://dramandsmoke.com/

Known for pop up projects, Dram and Smoke have taken up residence for the festival at the Biscuit Factory. As such, this is a mini review as it is a temporary offering.

Cocktail - Dram and Smoke

Cocktail – Dram and Smoke

We were given precise instructions to arrive at 7pm and were would be eating our first course by 7.45. We arrived at 6.55 and couldn’t be let in until 7, which was a shame as it was chucking it down with rain and windy. However, we soon piled in and followed a stream of stencilled bird feet though the building to our first stop to get a cocktail with a whisky base. This was surprisingly refreshing and went down well. Dram and Smoke is based on communal dining. So we found a board which told us what table we would be sat at on the floor above. This might not be your bag if you are not the sociable type. Luckily, our table had good chat which led to a very pleasant evening. The venue  itself is of the warehouse type but somehow it really worked, even if we had the odd drip from the ceiling. The dining area had a bar so you could get more drinks and also an open kitchen so you could have a nosey at the food being prepared.

Dram and Smoke

Dram and Smoke

The first course  was smoked ham hock and haggis terrine, with capers and pickles and a tattie scone on the side. The slices of terrine were presented on a large board, which looked impressive. We all helped ourselves to slices. The terrine was not too cold and had carrot and spring onion through it. I am not sure the haggis was very identifiable apart from a peppery taste but it was nice enough nevertheless. The pickles and capers were optional and could be left on the board if you preferred.

Smoked Ham Hock and Haggis Terrine - Dram and Smoke

Smoked Ham Hock and Haggis Terrine – Dram and Smoke

The second course was a pearl barley risotto with spoots (razor clams), chorizo and mushrooms. I love risotto and this was lovely. However, the spoots were hidden somewhat. There was much discussion round the table about whether the spoots should have been presented in their shells but I enjoyed the dish regardless. The mushrooms were surprisingly lemony but some of the other flavours were a little lost.

Pearl Barley Risotto with Spoots - Dram and Smoke

Pearl Barley Risotto with Spoots – Dram and Smoke

Third course  was the braised beef brisket. This was brought to the table on a board with a large piece of horseradish for grating (way more than was needed for the table) and a parley sauce. This did require someone to dish up but luckily we had willing volunteers. The brisket was fatty in places but it provided very tasty meat. The sauce was surprisingly fresh and made a nice alternative to gravy. Alongside the meat were hasselback potatoes, leeks and a green bean and celeriac salad. The salad in particular was excellent as it was fresh, vibrant and had a lovely wholegrain mustard running through it.

We were running late at this point. The final course – dessert – was rhubarb and custard with heather honeycomb. We were given little pots of rhubarb and custard whilst the honeycomb was brought out on a board with a little hammer. Again, a volunteer smashed it up into bits for the rest of the table. This dessert seemed to split the table. Some loved the honeycomb whereas others thought it bitter. Some loved the rhubarb and custard and others found the rhubarb sharp and the custard not vanilla-y enough. I thought it was a solid offering.

As it was a school night and it was running a bit behind, we left at this point but music and dancing is also offered for those who like to party, once the food is consumed.

The experience was fun and worth checking out. Dram and Smoke is running through the festival at a cost of £40 for a four course meal and a cocktail.

Please note that whilst this was complimentary, views expressed are my own. Thanks to Paul from Dram and Smoke for arranging.

Edinburgh New Town Cookery School – mini review

1st June 2016 6pm

www.entcs.co.uk

So this is one of my mini reviews, where I get to tell you about somewhere I visited for a taster rather than a full experience.

I was invited to Edinburgh New Town Cookery School who are just launching their summer programme of courses and have also begun a partnership selling some wonderful Spanish extra virgin olive oils. Luckily for everyone, I wasn’t actually doing any cooking. The first part of our time with the cookery school was to find out more about the olive oils and the second part was to watch a demonstration and more importantly taste some of the food the cookery school teaches it’s students how to make.

So firstly, the olive oils which are introduced to us by Fiona, the Principal of the school. The cookery school have been working with a Spanish food exporter based in the Extremadura region of Spain. The main range is called Texturas and features differing strengths of extra virgin olive oils (including an organic one). Each are beautifully packaged and gift sets are also available for your foodie friends – or just to spoil yourself. We got to try each of the four in this range and I was surprised to find I actually liked the mildest most. Usually I find myself drawn to more intense flavours, as others were that evening, but not this time. It was surprising just how different each of these oils were. We also got to try the award winning Oleosetin unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and this was my winner, so the award was justified! So much so that I bought a bottle at the end of the evening. Prices are quite reasonable for quality extra virgin olive oil and range from £7 for the Oleosetin 250ml bottle up to £15 for the Texturas 1 litre tins.

We eagerly moved onto the demonstration, led by Jess, who has been at the cookery school since it began. Edinburgh New Town Cookery School offers a range of cookery programmes covering cuisines around the world and catering for varying abilities, including children and teen classes. The most popular course they offer is Curries from Around the World but they also offer courses in cuisines from countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Spain, France plus specialist patisserie courses. The courses usually have a demonstration and then students go upstairs to the kitchen to cook their own lunch. There is more cooking throughout the afternoon and students get to take home their food. The demonstration set up is clever as there is a reflective surface above the work surface so you can also see from above what is happening with the food. Although these courses can be quite intensive, both Fiona and Jess assure us that there is a convivial atmosphere and none of that Gordon Ramsay shouty stuff. Also, your ingredients are already weighed out for you. Now if only I could get that at home!

Jess then took us on a whistle stop tour of cuisines. Firstly, she started on an empanada, which is a Galician Flat Pie. This is a delightful pie with a pork and chorizo filling. Whilst she set that off to cook in the oven, she then created a romesco sauce, which can be used for a multitude of different things but today was going to serve as a dip for some crudités. This had a pepper and tomato base and had a good, chunky texture that stuck well to the crudités.

Jess then went on to create a Thai red curry paste from scratch. One of my work colleagues is from Thailand so I ran the recipe by her the next day. Whilst there were a few differences to what she would do (no paprika, she’d use fresh rather than powdered turmeric and would also pound to make a paste rather than a food processor so wouldn’t need the oil) she said it was decent enough and maybe westernised a bit for convenience. This paste was then used to make a Panaeng style curry with prawns, which is actually very easy to make once you have done the work with the curry paste.

Jess then started on the Vietnamese Grass Beef and Noodle salad (Bun Bo Xao). This had a long list of ingredients but was not too complicated to pull together either and was quite impressive piled up when complete. This was actually my favourite dish as I could wrap up some of the stir fry into a little gem lettuce leaf as a tasty little parcel. The empanada was also released from the oven and looked spectacular when cut. All the food was then lined up for us to taste and they were all excellent. Nothing was too spicy, which was a surprise, but it all packed plenty of flavour.  Any student would feel a great sense of accomplishment by completing these dishes and would be welcomed by friends at a dinner party.

Finally there was a chocolate and raspberry tart to sample. Whilst we didn’t see this prepared, I was still happy to sample the results. Again, delicious, with the raspberries cutting though the rich chocolate.

I enjoyed seeing what Edinburgh New Town Cookery School had to offer. It certainly got me thinking about getting back into the kitchen to try out some new recipes.  The short courses the school offers are not cheap but not wildly expensive either when you consider the food and training you get. If you are looking to have a small but excellent repertoire to show off at dinner parties, it is probably money well spent. The professional courses are quite a bit more expensive and would likely require some saving for the average person. More information can be found on their website (at the top of this post).

Thanks to Svetlana and Edinburgh New Town Cookery School for inviting me to this event.

An evening with Michael Smith and Tony Singh – mini review

1st December 2015 6.30pm

This event was hosted at Tigerlily. This is a mini review as this does not reflect on the food that Tigerlily offers as the chefs had come in for this special event. The meal was paid for prior to the evening and included a six course meal created by the chefs plus a glass of fizz on arrival. I was a bit surprised that there were no non-alcoholic drinks automatically available for guests as an alternative to the fizz (as I couldn’t have it) but it was no problem once I asked. We had time to sit around the bar area before we were all seated for the meal. The chefs mingled amongst the group, which was a nice touch. Sadly we were not warned that seating would be in large groups, almost in a banquet style. If we had known we might have thought twice about going as we were crammed in like sardines. There were 15 of us on our table, so one side had more guests than the other. This table, at best, should have sat no more than 10. This resulted in everyone being too hot and it was too loud to have a proper conversation. This was certainly not a relaxing start to the meal. This was not the fault of the chefs, mind you. The chefs addressed the diners, miked up (not that it really helped as some diners insisted on talking whilst they were – loving the sound of their own voices) and explained the idea of the evening. Michael and Tony met on Great British Menus and have become firm friends ever since. The dinner was showing some of the best of Scottish produce with a spiced twist, with the courses we had demonstrating some of their highlights from Great British Menus. They would be mingling and answers questions for the whole evening.

Mussel and Saffron Soup

Mussel and Saffron Soup

As the chefs wrapped up their welcome, the first course arrived. This was mussel and saffron soup. I had never had mussel soup before but love mussels so I was raring to give it a try. This course was a delight. The soup was fragrant and the mussels juicy. The vividness of the saffron meant that not only was the palate dancing, the eyes were too.

Terrine

Mussel and Saffron Soup

Next up was a shredded hough terrine – Tony’s take on spam. This came in a novelty tin can and was accompanied by a tube of charred apple and cinnamon purée and a roll to spread it all on. This was pleasant. Texture wise it was not close enough to a terrine for me which was a bit of a shame but then you would have lost the novelty factor. The purée was definitely a highlight and I would have that with pork/ham again.

Punjabi salmon

Punjabi salmon

With relatively quick pace, out came the Punjabi salmon. This is based on Tony’s mum’s recipe. The dish was lovely and had beautiful spicing (which is hardly surprising). The tomatoes were full of flavour. My salmon a little over in my opinion but everyone else seemed happy so I probably had a duffer. At this point we started to notice that the portion sizing in general was a bit too big for 6 courses. This was also when people really started to struggle to have enough room to eat as the use of the knife and fork was needed here and there was simply not enough elbow room.

Lamb tagine

Lamb tagine

Then, the showcase course, a lamb version of Michael’s winning goat tagine. This was served sharing style. The meat was tender and perfectly spiced. The balance was beautiful. The crunchy green beans were a nice contrast and looked striking on the platter. Both were sat on a bed of fruity cous cous. There was a silky whisky sauce (make with Talisker) which brought out the depth of the spices. This dish was lovely but impractical for the tables we were at and as we had one of the platters directly in front of us, we ended up sitting at a bizarre angle to try to eat. However, it was worth it for the beautifully spiced meat. There were additional pastillas being passed around but I was desperate to make it to dessert so declined one but the other diners said they were deliciously fruity.

Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart

Dessert came in the form of a chocolate tart with a chocolate chilli ice cream and a chocolate rolled stick. The tart was a a bit too dry for me, or at least needed more ice cream but my dining partner for the evening really enjoyed it all, so perhaps that was down to personal preference. The chocolate stick was lovely.

Mini mince pies

Mini mince pies

Finally, we were given a warm mini mince pie. A fantastic way to end the meal. Yum.

Whilst the food was really quite nice, better management of event would have made this excel. Instead we made a sharp exit after the last course rather than enjoying the surroundings.

Cost £45 each for a 6 course meal and a glass of fizz

The Observatory – mini review

27th August 2015 6.30pm

www.theglasshousehotel.co.uk/food-and-drink/relaxing/The-Observatory

The Observatory

The Observatory

Another Zomato meet up brought me to the Observatory restaurant at the Glasshouse Hotel. This time it was to sample some delights in canapé form rather than get to taste full dishes. At the start of the evening we headed up to the roof terrace, which afforded beautiful views both of Calton Hill and down to Leith. Pimms was served on arrival but I did think it tasted a little weak (but perhaps I just have my Pimms quite strong). Sadly, we didn’t stay on the roof terrace for too long as the Scottish weather meant we needed to head indoors. We were taken down to the Observatory restaurant via an area called the Snug, which had a beautiful modern fire going and lots of comfy seating. Once we reached the dining room, it was easy to be impressed. It had an enormous window running down the side of the room with a beautiful view onto Calton Hill. You could easily think you were in the middle of a forest if you looked in the right direction.That being said, the room seats about 50, so you are not in a vast space but the window helps to give that impression. Once settled into the room, we were given an introduction to the food by the sous chef which also covered the ethos of the restaurant. Their aim is to treat each element of food on the plate as a whole, which can bring out best of complimenting flavours. It was clear there was passion in what the restaurant was trying to do.

Before the canapés came out, we had the opportunity to try some cocktails in jars made by King Bloom. These were all really interesting (with the coconut one having silver glitter in it) but I opted for the vodka with raspberry and kiwi which was called Ladybird. All the cocktails had milk thistle in, which is supposed to be good for you. Ice was added to the jar, the lid put on ad then the cocktail shaken. I’m not sure whether it’s worth all that extra effort but it did taste nice.

The Observatory

The Observatory

With a drink in hand, the canapés began coming out of the kitchen. Firstly we got to taste the canapé version of their cod main which comprised of sorrel marinade cod fillet, spring onion and leeks. This was delicious. The fish was moist and light and the flavours worked well. Then we got to try a mini burger with cheese in the middle. There was a surprising sweetness to this which I really enjoyed. I wolfed that one down. Then there was venison and broccoli which I think was really a little too small to make the most of the venison flavour but that’s what you get with canapés. The last of the savoury dishes was a version of their brown crab starter which was crab in a warm tomato soup topped with a parmesan doughnut. This was fun but I did think the tomato soup did taste a little like unseasoned passata so perhaps more seasoning would bring the tomato alive. The dessert canapé was the restaurant’s quirky take on a teacake, with hazelnut sponge, marshmallow, jam and a shard of chocolate. These were delicious and we managed to sneak some more from the kitchen thanks to @aquirkylife

Before we left, we nipped back onto roof terrace as it had stopped raining to take in the views and take a few snaps. A thoroughly good time was had by all. The staff were incredibly friendly and had a good knowledge of the food. I felt very welcomed.

There is no score for this mini review as canapés are not enough to score on. However, this is somewhere I will definitely be returning to for the full dining experience soon to fully review and place on Zomato.

Please note that whilst this event was complimentary, views expressed are my own. Thanks to Zomato for arranging.

Singh’s Road Trip – Mini Review

17th August 2015 7.30pm

www.apexhotels.co.uk/en/offers/tony-singhs-road-trip/

For August only (hence the mini review), Tony Singh has opened a street food pop up in the Apex on Grassmarket. Although it’s street food, it’s almost tapas in style in that several dishes can be shared between people. We’d seen a recommendation that 5-6 dishes between two would be sufficient but we found that way too much based on what we ordered. This is probably ok if you order more fish and vegetarian dishes but the meat dishes are plentiful so order conservatively there. However, if you do over-order, I did spot some people getting their leftovers in a take-out bag, so nothing needs to go to waste!

Singh's Road Trip

Singh’s Road Trip

The menu itself was split into meat, fish, vegetarian and desserts. The waiter seemed to over-explain this to us and kept focussing on what was not so spicy on the menu, even though we had not indicated that we were looking for plain food. Anyway, we ummed and ahhed over the menu as it all sounded great but we settled on steamed buns with pickles, a thai prawn omelette, pork ribs in a Jura BBQ sauce, lamb vuhra and flat iron steak. Being street food, we didn’t have to wait long before food started to come out.

Singh's Road Trip

Singh’s Road Trip

The steamed buns with pickles arrived first. I loved these buns. They were soft but still had good flavour. The pickles were a nice variety and still had good crunch. The Thai prawn omelette was spicy with chillies but this didn’t overpower the dish too much and the omelette was yummy and light. Moving onto the ribs, they came in an excellent Jura BBQ sauce and the whiskey was subtle. No bones were on the plate and there was plenty of meat. A small side salad included fennel and apple. The lam vuhra was a parcel of minced lamb and shredded salad. At first there was overpowering mint in salad but the tamarind started to take over and balance it out. Finally the flat iron steak topped with chimmichurri. The steak was nicely cooked and again a very generous portion.

Milkshake - Singh's Road Trip

Milkshake – Singh’s Road Trip

Whilst we didn’t really have space for desserts we decided that we couldn’t go without having something. I went for the milkshake with ice cream and jelly and my friend went for the churros. I had an option of rose or cardamom for my milkshake, so I went for rose. I knew this could be risky and be too perfume-y but it was delicious. The jelly was broken down into little bits so you could still suck it up through the straw and get little bursts of rose. One the other side of the table, the churros were going down a storm.

Churros - Singh's Road Trip

Churros – Singh’s Road Trip

So overall we had a good time. Whilst venue lends itself to the style of food, it still had too much of a canteen feel, which is surprising for a hotel. Also, the plastic cutlery not strong enough and not everything on the menu works well eating with your hands. The staff came across a bit awkwardly at some points but can’t expect much from a pop up where there isn’t a long term training scheme. The food was decent and that’s why this pop up will do well.
Food – 8/10
Service – 7/10
Atmosphere – 6/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 29/40

Cost £50 for 5 dishes and 2 desserts

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Barnacles and Bones – mini review

7th Aug 2015 5.45pm

www.twitter.com/eatbnb

Newly opened in a police box at the back of John Lewis on Cathedral Lane, I have been desperate to try this place out. An unappetising half left lunch resulted in my being hungry on the way home from work, so I thought I’d stop off here to fill my chops. Not technically a restaurant, hence it being a mini review, I couldn’t not feature it on my blog (plus, the owner informed me that as you can drink on the streets in Edinburgh, it is classed as a BYOB and local wine sellers can offer some pairings for you).

Crab and chips - Barnacles and Bones

Crab and chips – Barnacles and Bones

Barnacles and Bones offers simple options of catch of the day crab or short rib beef. If you are lucky on weekends you might get to taste some special brunch offerings including scallop and black pudding. There are three ways of having these; with chips, in a roll or with a quinoa and rocket salad. You can also have it open or in a take away carton. I went for crab in homemade lemon mayo with the tarragon salt fries. This also came with a crunchy slaw. I got it in a take away carton as I was nipping straight home. My first impression when opening the box was there was tons for the money. The fries were well cooked and the seasoning was lovely (and I’m not usually a fan of tarragon so that’s saying something). The slaw was crunchy and you could kid yourself you were having a very healthy meal. It consisted of beautiful ribbons of carrot , sliced red cabbage, red onion and also some shredded lettuce. It was all topped off with a scattering of cress and a slice of lemon. The crab itself was gorgeous. Zesty and flaky but so easy to eat, with the homemade mayo giving my stomach a satisfying feeling. A couple of hours after eating it, I still had that happy post-eating smile on my face.

This is certainly worth stopping by for. In fact, purposefully go out of your way to eat there. It won’t disappoint.

Food – 9/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere n/a
Value – 10/10

Overall – 28/30

Cost – £6 for the crab, chips and slaw

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