Pork Belly and Half Baby Back Robs - No 1 The Grange

No. 1 The Grange

19th July 2017 6pm

www.no1thegrange.co.uk

No. 1 The Grange has been making some ripples since opening on the Newington/Grange border. The venue had a lovely horseshoe bar and we managed to snaffle a cosy looking booth for the two of us. Looking at the menu there were some amazing options, with both us is changing our minds frequently as we found yet another dish to tempt us the further down the menu we went. In the end I settled on crispy lamb belly followed by pan seared duck. My friend opted for the smoked fish chowder followed by the pork belly with a half rack of baby back ribs.

Both starters were nicely presented. I have to say mine wasn’t quite what I expected. The lamb was actually deep fried (or appeared to be) to make it crispy. The lamb strips were stacked in a star shape with a pea and mint side salad and a smoked garlic emulsion. I really enjoyed the flavour of the meat and the cooking gave it an interesting texture. On the other side of the table, the smoked fish chowder looked incredible. Served with homemade aioli, toasted bread and butter, this was quite a substantial starter (also available in a main course size). The content of the chowder was very generous and the taste it provided was excellent. My friend said she wants to come back to eat this again as a main course.

Onto the mains, my duck was presented beautifully, with vivid orange nasturtiums placed on top. The duck was cooked perfectly and was served with the most exquisite duck livers. The addition of bacon, chanterelle mushrooms and duck fat potatoes made it a hearty dish. Topping it all off was nasturtium oil and pickled cherry juice which was viscous-y and lusciously coated the meat. It is fair to say I polished off the lot. My dining companion was tucking into her pork belly and smoked half rack of baby back ribs. This, again, was a very generous portion. The meat was just sliding off the bones. The belly was braised in cider and the ribs were star-anise glazed. On top on this, there were greens, a stuffed salt-baked potato skin with bacon and wild garlic butter, all topped with a big piece of crackling, which gave an almighty crunch when eaten. The only part of the dish that my friend felt was a little off-kilter was the potato, which she felt didn’t really work and wasn’t sure if the dish really needed it. If it was a matter of needing carbohydrates, then maybe small potatoes would be better.

We were way too stuffed for dessert but noted that there were exciting options we wanted to go back and try. The staff were great so made us feel very welcome and happy to plan a return trip.

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

Overall – 35/40

Would I eat here again? Yes.

Cost £50 for two starters, two mains and two spirits with mixers

Brownie - Otro

Otro

17th July 2017 6pm

https://otrorestaurant.co.uk/

After visiting New Chapter earlier in the year, when sister restaurant Otro opened, a visit was definitely on the cards. Decided to visit here with a friend for a little celebratory dinner. Situated a short stroll from Haymarket, Otro is a pleasant venue with several spaces for eating and drinking. On arrival the sun was streaming in, giving the dining room a light and airy feel. We were allowed to order from the pre-theatre menu which finished at 6pm. There was a nice choice on this menu as well as the a la carte. We picked ourselves some drinks and I chose the chicken terrine followed by the linguine (although I was already eyeing up the dessert options too). My dining companion opted for the crispy squid followed by the rainbow trout.

Each of the dishes we were presented with looked beautiful. My starter consisted of a confit chicken and sun blushed tomato terrine, topped with a parsley and caper salsa. There were also two thinly toasted bits of bread and a side salad. The terrine stayed moist due to the confit method of cooking the chicken. The salsa was perky and gave the dish a great summer feel. I am not sure the toasts were of any use as they broke under any weight, but tasted nice enough. Across the table, my friend was tucking into crispy squid, with a tomato and watermelon salad and a yuzu mayonnaise. I wasn’t sure if the salad would work but my friend reassured me that it was a success. The whole dish tasted great. There was one small complaint that the squid wasn’t evenly crispy, only finding the crunch right on the edge. However, this didn’t detract too much from the dish.

I could smell my main before I saw it. The pesto on my linguine smelt wonderful and tasted just as good. This pasta dish also had two types of courgette mixed through it and some lovely pine nuts to give it some texture. A successful dish. Over on the other side of the table, the rainbow trout looked beautiful. The fish was served with crushed baby potatoes, peas, broad beans and cherry tomatoes. My dining partner said she preferred the potatoes served this was as mash would have been too smooth. There was a foam that brought the plate of food together too, which worked a treat. We were both very impressed with this course.

We decided we had just enough room for dessert. As it was a nice summer’s day (yeah, who thought we had those in Edinburgh?!) I chose the vanilla panna cotta and my friend went for the praline and hazelnut brownie. I have to admit, I had major food envy when I saw the desserts placed on the table. It’s not that mine didn’t look lovely, it was just that the brownie was a sight to behold. The brownie was a generous size and sat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some large chunks of honeycomb. My friend kindly allowed me to taste a little, and if this is on the menu next time I visit, I am having that, possibly before I eat anything else! Everything was perfect on that dish. My panna cotta was actually very lovely. Stacked in a glass, the top layer was a raspberry mousse, almost like a sorbet, with elderflower jelly layered just beneath that. The jelly had berries set within it. At the bottom was the creamy panna cotta, liberally permeated with seeds from vanilla pods. Top notch.

Otro’s staff were excellent, friendly and welcoming. We were not hurried from our table, even though as the evening progressed, the restaurant became very busy (nice to see on a Monday evening). They probably missed a trick by not coming to ask if we wanted more drinks but we were too busy chatting to notice. A really lovely dinner.

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

Overall – 36/40

Would I eat here again? Definitely (and my friend is already planning to head back with some of her other friends).

Cost £50 for two 3 course pre-theatre meals plus a cocktail, an aperol spritz and a glass of wine

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.

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.

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.