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.

Chicken Chasni - Ronaq

Ronaq

20th September 2017 6pm

www.ronaqrestaurant.co.uk/new_waverley/

Ronaq recently opened a second restaurant by Waverley, their first being in Comely Bank. Inside, this restaurant was decorated in a slick, modern style, with the main restaurant area based on the upper floor. We were seated by the window, which although overlooks the council building, also does have views of Calton Hill. We were offered some poppadoms whilst we looked at the menu, which we obviously agreed to. We ordered a couple of cocktails and I decided to skip a starter and go straight to ordering a chicken chasni and my friend chose fish pakora to start, followed by the Ronaq special curry.

The poppadoms were lovely, with good crunch. The chutneys were also excellent. The fish pakora arrived and I have to say we were a little disappointed in how they looked, as they resembled more of a frozen battered fish fillet than pakora (apologies that the photo is only showing two rather than three pakora – my friend was very hungry!). They tasted ok, as I got to sample one, but it really wasn’t anything special and lacked the texture I would normally expect.

The curries came next and both looked and smelt great. The service dishes seems a little shallow in comparison with other restaurants, which isn’t really a problem in terms of volume as I usually struggle to finish a curry, but seems a little stingy based on price. The chasni had peppers, onions and mushrooms as well as the chicken in it. The Ronaq special consisted of a mix of chicken, lamb, mushroom, prawn and lentils. Both were pleasant enough but lacked a bit of personality and depth of spice, resulting in neither of us being wowed by them. The garlic naans we both had were delicious though and stood up to the curries well.

Ronaq is pleasant enough but a little underwhelming overall.

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

Overall – 29/40

Would I eat here again? Maybe but it wouldn’t be my first choice

Cost £60 for poppadoms, chutneys, one starter, two mains, two garlic naans and two cocktails.

Assorted Sashimi Salad - Kanpai

Kanpai

19th September 2017 12.30pm

www.kanpaisushiedinburgh.co.uk

A friend (who also happens to be a colleague) and I went for an impromptu lunch at Kanpai and it turned out to be a serene location for a lunchtime treat. Decorated in muted hues and delicate features, Kanpai has a hint of both modern and traditional. There were plenty of different options on the menu without being over-faced with choice. In the end, I chose the tuna maki and the assorted sashimi salad. My dining companion opted for the crowned tuna tartare and the king prawn tempura.

The dishes come out when they are ready and the first two dishes to arrive where the crowned tuna tartare and the tuna maki. There was a delightful little pot on the table to pour your soy sauce from. It’s little touches like these that indicated there was a high level of attention to detail. After the soy was poured, I got stuck into my tuna maki. I had to do all I could to refrain myself from devouring the whole lot in quick succession. This maki was seriously good. You could tell that the fish was of good quality and the sushi rice was simply perfect. I tried to let each flavour melt on my tongue before swallowing the food. I was a very happy bunny. On the other side of the table, my friend was making equally delighted noises over her crowned tuna tartare. This was a beautifully presented dish. The tuna was topped with breadcrumbs, to provide some extra texture, and the whole thing sat on top of a bed of rice. Thumbs up all round.

As we were tucking into those dishes, the tempura and the assorted sashimi salad arrived. The salad was vibrant with pieces of avocado scattered across the top, along with a single prawn. The main ingredients of the salad were salmon, tuna and squid. Daikon, cucumber and spring onions could be found at the bottom. It also came with its own dressing which you could pour over to meet your own preferences. This was fresh and dazzling. It seemed to last for ages too, which felt like a bonus. I can’t recommend this enough. The tempura was also good, being light and flavoursome. It was served in a lovely basket. However, my friend commented that she would have liked some chilli in her tempura. That being said, it was clear that fish was where the speciality lies in Kanpai.

We both really enjoyed our time at Kanpai and can’t wait to go back again. The only downside, as is always the way with sushi, it’s not a particularly cheap option. However, Kanpai offers the quality which makes the price tag seem deserved.

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

Overall – 35/40

Would I eat here again? Regularly!

Cost £34 for four plates of food plus two diet cokes

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

Ice cream - Jilani's

Jilani’s

7th September 2017 6.30pm

https://www.facebook.com/JilanisDesserts-918995298200083/

We decided we fancied a sweet treat and ventured into Jilani’s. Situated opposite Old College, Jilani’s opens in the evenings to meet all your dessert needs. Focussing primarily on ice cream; cones, sundaes and milkshakes are a staple. Waffles, crepes and cakes are also available. However, my eye was drawn to the section labelled cookie dough. With a variety of flavours, I was surprisingly attracted to the simple milk chocolate chip option. My friend wanted a sundae. She’s strange and doesn’t like cream, so asked for it without. The gentleman serving us was concerned she’d be disappointed it wouldn’t look as good, so added a couple of extra toppings to make it look more impressive.

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - Jilani's

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – Jilani’s

When mine was ready, it smelt incredible. The cookie dough was warmed, more like a molten biscuit. It tasted absolutely divine. The scoop of vanilla ice cream contrasted well. Chocolate sauce and a scattering of chocolate drops finished off the dish. My friend also loved her sundae. Lots of biscuity treats adorned the top and scoops of ice cream and lashings of sauce worked a treat.

Sundae - Jilani's

Sundae – Jilani’s

It’s a shame this place only opens in the evening as I imagine it would do well in the afternoons, particularly at the weekends but as a small business, this is not currently possible. Worth skipping dessert elsewhere for a visit in the evening.

Food – 9/10
Service – 10/10
Atmosphere- 7/10
Value – 8.5/10

Overall – 34.5/40

Would I eat here again? Without a doubt

Cost just shy of £11 for the two desserts