The Ivy on the Square

3rd October 2017 6pm

https://theivyedinburgh.com/

There was much fanfare around the Ivy opening in Edinburgh. Set in the much regenerated St Andrew Square, the Ivy on the Square is compact but visually appealing. Inside, we didn’t find the seating as comfy as it was nice on the eye. That being said, it wasn’t terrible. The cocktail list a bit short and nothing took my fancy so gave it a miss. They do offer an early evening set menu but we decided to order from the a la carte. I went for steak tartare (which can also come as a main) followed by braised venison. Across the table my friend chose wasabi prawns with salt and pepper squid followed by steak, egg and chips.

My tartare came out on a wooden board with a glass casing. A piece of wood with a small sprig of rosemary was smoking inside. The glass was lifted and the smokey aroma swirled. This dish came with a side of two full slices of granary toast. I usually complain that the tartare to toast ratio is off, with not enough toast, but it was actually the other way round. However, it was all very nice. The egg on top provided the right amount of creaminess and the capers delivered some sharpness. Across the table, my friend was swooning over her prawns and squid. The batter was delicious and could be dipped in a wasabi mayo with miso sauce.

Our mains looked nice but not overly practical in the eating. My braised venison smelt delicious and was a bit like a casserole but the mash was served on a separate plate which whilst kept the mash fresh, it was a little cumbersome. However, the mash was excellent and probably was the saviour to what would have been a mediocre dish. On the other side of the table, the steak, egg and chips were presented well, but the chips were served in a tall silver cup and couldn’t be taken off the plate due to the juices on the plate touching the bottom of the cup, and my friend felt it wouldn’t have been appropriate to take it off to sit on the pristine white tablecloth. She had been offered her steak to be cooked pink or well done. She chose pink, but ion slicing the meat, it was apparent that it was not. It wasn’t well done either and we do appreciate that it is difficult to do with this thickness of steak but perhaps an option shouldn’t be offered. Overall though, the flavour was good but the chips were a bit disappointing.

Desserts were enticing, so I chose the chocolate bombe and my friend went for the apple tart fine. These both had a bit of wow factor when brought to the table but unfortunately the photos do not do this justice, by both taking the one of the chocolate bombe after the hot sauce had been poured and just not adequately capturing the flambé on the apple tart – so you will just have to take my word for it. The chocolate bombe had a vanilla ice cream and honeycomb centre and the hot butterscotch sauce was poured over the chocolate shell to make it melt. This all tasted wonderful. The butterscotch flavour in particular was exquisite. Across the table, my dining companion felt there was too much alcohol poured on her dessert and not enough was burnt off, which led to a harsh flavour. As she went on, the flavour eventually absorbed and the tart was good from that point on, but who wants to sit for 5 minutes with their food in front of them not being able to eat it? It was also a rather large tart, so she was unable to finish it.

The Ivy on the Square was a bit hit and miss but certainly more of a hit. It will do well on name and location but needs a bit of tweaking to be considered comparable to other fine establishments in the city.

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

Overall – 31/40

Would I eat here again? Yes but it wouldn’t be my first port of call.

Cost £80 for two starters, mains and desserts plus a glass of wine.

Brewhemia

Brewhemia

13th September 2017 5.30pm

https://brewhemia.co.uk/

Brewhemia opened in August and is easily identifiable on Market Street by their floral front entrance. The place seems quite large, with a variety of spaces for drinks and food. We were seated in a booth that had a handy buzzer for bubbles. No doubt this feature is going to be very popular! They also offer tank beer, with six of their own copper beer tanks. As we both scoured the menu, we found our eyes were drawn to virtually all the options, one after another. In the end, I settled on the 6oz Scottish beef burger, with an additional side of onion rings (the burger already came with chips). My friend changed her mind at the last minute and ended up choosing the Scottish sirloin steak sandwich with a side of truffle and parmesan house chips. I also ordered a long bramble cocktail and my friend chose a large glass of red wine.

Brewhemia

Brewhemia

When the food arrived, they looked appetising. My onion rings were perched on top of my burger, so I got stuck into them straight away. I was really impressed with these. They were crispy and had managed to avoid the usual blandness you get with below-par onion rings. The burger was huge and I did struggle on an eating strategy but ended up cutting it in half and using my hands. The meat patty was excellent and had great flavour. The bun held up against the burger juices. The accompanying chips were fine but hovering around the average mark. There was an additional slice of pickle and a beetroot slaw, which were acceptable but didn’t add masses to the dish. Across the table, my friend’s steak sandwich was a little on the rare side but as long as you are fine with this, you will enjoy this dish. She wolfed it down, finding the mushroom jam and the IPA onion compote particularly nice additions, along with the very lovely side of truffle and parmesan house chips. She didn’t think the crisps on the side were up to much though.

We were so tempted by the desserts on the fist sift of the menu, we couldn’t deny ourselves the experience. I chose the rhubarb Edinburgh Gin crumble and my dining companion chose the Brewhemia sundae. My crumble turned out to be quite large. However, it was delicious. I liked the crumble as it was, only lightly toasted and plenty of goo. My friend commented that if it had been her dish she would have preferred it to be darker. It was accompanied by a sorbet and a cold crème anglaise. Whilst both were excellent, I think that no sorbet and either a warm custard or a cream would have worked better here. I didn’t manage to get through all of the crumble but I did make a valiant attempt. On the other side of the table the sundae consisted of vanilla ice cream, macaroon and IPA cherries. My friend inhaled most of this but began to struggle near the end as the cherries became more potent. That didn’t stop her picking a couple more out before the plates were taken away.

Brewhemia is a decent offering, with a nice drinks list and a sturdy option of pub grub. Definitely worth a visit.

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

Overall 32/40

Would I eat here again? Yes. It’s a good location and a large space.

£52 for two mains, two sides, two desserts, a cocktail and a large glass of wine

View from Old Chain Pier

Old Chain Pier

12th September 2017 7.30pm

http://oldchainpier.com/

A friend had just moved along the road from Old Chain Pier and conveniently there was a voucher deal for two grazing platters and four glasses of wine at said establishment, so we snapped that up and visited. In a beautiful location overlooking the Forth, we were delighted to be given a table by the window. We ordered our platters knowing that we may order some supplementary food later.

Grazing platter - Old Chain Pier

Grazing platter – Old Chain Pier

The platters came in crate type boxes but weren’t completely identical, with only one having balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip and only one had bell tomatoes, but nevertheless, these were tasty. Each also had a salad, cornichons, sundried tomatoes, mixed antipasti, olives, hummous, blue cheese, brie, cheddar, bread, oatcakes and butter. The bread was plentiful and soft. The hummus was delicious. All the antipasti was beautiful and full of flavour. The voucher was really good value for money.

However, we were all quite hungry before we arrived, so still had space for a little more. So we ordered the half kilo bowl of mussels, chilli and a portion of chips between the four of us. I have to say that the mussels were exceptional. They were nestled in a garlic, white wine and cream sauce and served with crusty bread. The chips were also decent. The chilli had great flavour but was not a thick enough consistency, which was a shame. The nachos looked a little lacklustre but actually were tasty.

Sticky Toffee Pudding (half eaten) - Old Chain Pier

Sticky Toffee Pudding (half eaten) – Old Chain Pier

Two of the table decided to share a dessert. They went for sticky toffee pudding and chose ice cream over cream as its accompaniment. Whilst this was nice and light, neither of them would say it was strictly a sticky toffee pudding as it had a strong cinnamon flavour. Apologies for the photo of it half eaten!

Old Chain Pier

Old Chain Pier

We had a really lovely time at the Old Chain Pier. The staff were friendly and the settling was delightful. A few little wobbles with the food but nothing detrimental and actually some wonderful stuff to enjoy. Certainly worth checking out.

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

Overall – 32/40

Would I eat here again? Yes

Cost £26 for the voucher plus a further £31 for two mains, a side of chips, a dessert, a glass of wine and a coffee

Flat Iron Steak - No. 8 Lister Square

No. 8 Lister Square

8th September 2017 7.45pm

http://no8listersquare.co.uk

A bustling Friday night brought us to No. 8 Lister Square. This was a catch up with my pals Emma from Vegan Edinburgh and Ann from A Quirky Lifestyle. We were seated in the upstairs dining area. Emma asked for what could be made vegan from the menu (and we did explain there would be a vegan diner when booking). The waitress was very helpful and double checked with the chef and ensured she came back with a few options. In the end she chose the superfood salad and chips. I, being the omnivore that I am, ordered the flat iron steak and Ann chose the salmon with a side of sweet potato fries. You can also choose steak options to cook on a stone yourself but I am not a fan of that so gave it a miss.

The food came out surprisingly quickly. My steak was served on a wooden board with a side salad and a small bucket of skinny fries. The steak was cooked to perfection – rare as I’d asked. It was a healthy sized bit of meat and was seasoned incredibly well. The salad was good and had a nice dressing on it but I would have liked more of the greenery as the dish seemed a little unbalanced. The fries were ok but were a little on the cool side. Across from me, the superfood salad looked pretty. Emma thought it was nice enough but nothing stellar. She found the cauliflower a little too large. The salmon was good. The accompanying broccoli and mango salsa were also of a good standard and the plate was emptied! The side of sweet potato fries was generous and had lovely flavour.

Salted Caramel and Pecan Ice Cream Sundae - No. 8 Lister Square

One of us went on to have dessert. I decided against as none of the three options were taking my fancy. However, Ann had the salted caramel and pecan ice cream sundae. This seemed to take a little while to arrive but when it did, it looked impressive. It disappeared quite quickly too!

Overall No. 8 is not too bad. Steaks are obviously their strength.

Food – 7.5/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 30.5/40

Would I eat here again? Maybe

Cost £62 for three mains, two sides, one dessert and two cocktails

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.