Trenchtown Caribbean Social Club

29th November 2017 6pm

www.trenchtownsocial.com

Trenchtown caused a bit of a stir on social media upon opening – being something a little bit different. They offer Carribbean food – what’s not to love? A group of us headed there before a film at the Cameo (a Chocolate Tree taste-along to Willy Wonka!). As you may expect, the place was brightly coloured, with murals on the wall, including one of Bob Marley. We ordered cocktails and salivated over the menu (figuratively, of course). The menu had something to offer most palates. They also offer three levels of jerk heat – classic (spicy), coconut (milder) and pineapple (fruity). I opted for the whitebait to start followed by island jerk salmon with the classic jerk. My friends chose the squid and the kind prawns to start followed by the babi bak ribs, the mashup jerk chicken burger and the trenchtown goat curry.

We had a little wait and then the starters arrived. Presentation isn’t at the top of the agenda here but don’t let that put you off. My whitebait was crispy and the saltiness really came through. I would have perhaps liked a little more of the lime mayo but then I am a condiment fiend. Across the way from me the squid was piled high and was lovely in flavour. Those who chose the prawns were raving about them. The prawns were massive and the sauce they were in was delicious. Not for those of you who dislike having to peel prawns though.

We had to wait a little while for our plates to be cleared and we were asked if we were ready for our mains. However, when they came out, there was the most beautiful, heady aroma of jerk spices. Again, difficult to make beautiful on the plate but tasted great. My salmon was cooked well and the spices tingled my mouth without making it explode. It was accompanied by rice and peas (rice and kidney beans). This took me back to my first year at Uni where I had a Jamaican landlady who used to cook this every Sunday for us, amongst other things. The ‘greens’ declared on the menu turned out to be rocket and a slice of cucmber, plus some strips of carrot. The goat curry next to me spelt wonderful and its consumer had nothing but high praise for it. Served in a big pot with a side of Jamaican dumpling, this was a comforting dish for a dreich day. The babi bak ribs were a colossus of meat and bone. This was a really good value dish as the ribs had plenty of meat on them but my friend was unable to finish the dish. The burger was also satisfying and came with a side of spicy fries (you can go for greens if you prefer, if you’re that kind of person). The burger wasn’t quite what she expected but she enjoyed it anyway.

We were absolutely stuffed so couldn’t manage dessert and as it transpires, we wouldn’t have had time anyway. Two hours is a long time for two courses. I know we were probably being served in the Caribbean relaxed style and I would have been less bothered if we didn’t have somewhere to go to after. Just be mindful that if you visit, make sure you have no plans afterwards, then you can enjoy the experience to the max.

Food – 8/10
Service – 7/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 9/10

Overall – 32/40

Would I eat here again? Yes, when I am not in a hurry

Cost around £110 for four starters and mains, four cocktails and three beers

Burger

Burger

27th November 2017 6pm

www.burgeruk.co.uk

The lovely peeps at Burger have revamped their menu and invited us along to their branch in Fountainbridge to put it through its paces. Their restaurant is airy and bright (even at night) and we sat at a table by the window. The new menu has some interesting options on it, from classics to burgers with blue cheese, and veggie and vegan options too. The size of their burgers has also increased to 6 ounces. I settled on the chicken katsu burger and a New York cheesecake shake and my dining companion opted for the bacon cheese burger with a salted caramel shake (they also now serve cocktails on top of the beer and wine which was already available, which we may sample on another visit). We decided to try a couple of the sides too, choosing the onion rings and the salivation-inducing brisket cheese fries.

Shakes - Burger

Shakes – Burger

The shakes arrived first. These are made using four scoops of home-made ice cream and had lovely sauces poured over the top. They weren’t an over-facing size, which was nice to see. The food followed not that much longer after. Served on trays, the burgers did look generous in size. They were placed on top of greaseproof paper but if you intend to use a knife and fork like we did (as there is no way we could tackle them without), it does tear up and become soggy, which is a touch annoying. However, that was really the only grumble. My chicken katsu burger was delicious. The burger was encrusted with panko crumbs and the wasabi mayo and tonkatsu sauce made the whole dish dance in my mouth. The burger was juicy and not dry at all, which was also great for chicken. On the other side of the table, my friend was getting quite excited about her bacon cheese burger. The cheese was red Leicester and crispy maple bacon poked out the sides. The meat was juicy and full of flavour and their own burger sauce really made it come together. The sides were also of a great standard. The onion rings were juicy and crispy. The brisket cheese fries were on another level though. Skinny fries, covered in cheese, followed by a smothering of brisket. The meat was in a glossy gravy. The totality sounds so wrong but tastes so right. However, this tipped us over the edge and we couldn’t finish it. Well worth an attempt though!

The burger market is tough in Edinburgh but the options here make it worth a visit.

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

Overall – 31/40

Would I eat here again? Yes, I probably would.

Cost – this meal was complimentary but would cost around £40 for two burgers, two shakes and two sides

Whilst this meal was complimentary, all views are my own. Thank you to Hayley for organising.

Amuse bouche - Castle Terrace

Castle Terrace

25th November 2017 7pm

https://castleterracerestaurant.com/

I hadn’t been to Castle Terrace for over three years, but it had been a firm favourite of mine. With such a big gap, I still somehow managed to visit the restaurant twice in a week – once for lunch and once for dinner. It is the dinner I will be reviewing because I think it put them through their paces more. This was part of my birthday celebrations so we already knew we were all in on the tasting menu (because why wouldn’t you?!).

On arrival we were warmly greeted and had our coats taken in exchange for a cute little charm, so we could claim them back later. We were immediately taken to our table, even though we had arrived a little early, which suited us fine. We noticed later that other people were given stools for their handbags. We were not. I had this happen at the Kitchin too. I don’t know why our handbags were fine to be left on the floor but others not. My poor handbag has now developed a complex.

We were only given drinks menus to start, which we found a little frustrating as we hadn’t indicated at that point that we were choosing the tasting menu, so those drinking wine had no idea what the cost of a paired wines option was or if they had gone for the a la carte menu, what they might be eating so to choose an appropriate wine. This resorted in them not going for the matches wines option, which undoubtedly cost the restaurant some profit. I chose a cocktail – Scottish Rose. I was horrified on its arrival that it had a slice of cucumber in it. I should have guessed as the cocktail had Hendricks gin as an element but it also has Cointreau and rose water. Anyway, I scooped it out and left it on my side plate.

Amuse bouche - Castle Terrace

Amuse bouche – Castle Terrace

We were brought some amuse bouche which consisted of a goats cheese, apricot and pork collar, salt cod barbajuan and a Caesar salad. These were delightful on the eye (a recurring theme), with the goats cheese canapé looking like a mini eggs and bacon and the Caesar salad a vivid green hue, which had to be popped in your mouth in one go as it was in fact liquid inside. All lots of fun but still packing in some serious flavour. Some bread was also brought to the table with some salted butter. The bread was warm, with a crunchy exterior. It would have been nice if they had offered to take away my slice of cucumber (from the aforementioned cocktail) so I could use my side plate properly but that didn’t happen. It just glared at me as I scooted my bread around the remainder of the plate.

We ordered the surprise tasting menu and stipulated dietary requirements. We then waited for what was quite a long time before we had the next lot of food. The appetiser arrived a good 45 minutes after we entered the restaurant. This was the only real wait we had but it wasn’t a great start. The appetiser was a panna cotta of Arbroath smokie. It was clever as it looked like an egg but the yolk was mango. A smart idea which really tricked the mind. The smokiness came through well too, so it wasn’t all style and no substance.

Salmon tartare - Castle Terrace

Salmon tartare – Castle Terrace

The next course was tartare of Shetland salmon, served a little like sushi. The salmon was exquisite and had sesame seeds scattered across it. Placed delicately on top was a small quenelle of wasabi ice cream. I love wasabi ice cream so revelled in eating that. There were also small cubes of soy sauce jelly, alongside slivers of ginger and cucumber (or courgette for those who disliked cucumber). The textures and flavours were executed to perfection in this dish. I really had to restrain myself from gobbling it all up too quickly.

Skate - Castle Terrace

Skate – Castle Terrace

Next came a seared wing of skate, served with a light curry sauce. The skate had a beautiful golden colour to its top, which provided a lovely taste and texture. A little bit of coconut was scattered on top. To its side were some dehydrated grapes and apricot, a celeriac purée topped with a crispy shallot, and a mini naan. Every single mouthful danced on the palate. The curry sauce, whilst light, was still thick and had a mild heat running through it. I was tempted to lick the plate.

Pork ‘burger’ - Castle Terrace

Pork ‘burger’ – Castle Terrace

The next dish was very clever indeed. It was presented to us as a pork burger but nothing was quite what it seemed. The meat component was a patty of pork, but with additional elements inside. The bun was actually made of chickpea. It was astounding that this still managed to not just look like but also have the texture of bread. There was a slice of ketchup but in jelly form and what looked like some cheese was in fact turnip. It seemed only the lettuce leaf was wearing its true identity. The whole thing came with a pork jus. Utterly delicious.

Cod - Castle Terrace

Cod – Castle Terrace

The fish course was probably one of the least memorable of the evening. That isn’t to say that it was bad – it just didn’t stand out as much. It was a cod dish and had been poached, with a minestrone of vegetables sat on top with a crab ravioli. A crab bisque was then poured over the top. The fish was soft and the bisque was velvety. A solid course, just a bit uninspiring after the previous dishes.

Spelt risotto - Castle Terrace

Spelt risotto – Castle Terrace

Onto the meat course. This was a spelt risotto with various beef elements on top. I first had a spelt risotto here several years ago and fell in love with it. I’ve yet to have a spelt risotto as good and was as tasty as I remembered it. On top was heart, beef slices and oxtail. Each element was packed with flavour and was quite a rich dish and felt quite opulent but somehow homely at the same time. One of my friends described this course as spectacular.

Apple and mascarpone cheesecake - Castle Terrace

Apple and mascarpone cheesecake – Castle Terrace

Lastly came the dessert. This was an apple and mascarpone cheesecake. A swirl of caramelised sesame seeds sat on top with a slice of confit lime and apple sorbet. This was not too heavy for dessert and the flavours were relatively subtle, apart from the confit lime which was quite tart and make me pucker up. One of the staff was fiddling around in opening a bottle of wine for the next table at a little side table between us and them. Whilst he did this he encroached on my friend’s space while she was trying to eat, with his side rubbing up against her arm. This isn’t a good set up at all and needs to be adjusted.

Petit Fours - Castle Terrace

Petit Fours – Castle Terrace

My friends ordered an espresso and a breakfast tea, which arrived with petit fours for us all. My friend who had chosen tea wasn’t offered milk, so had to ask for it, which yet again was a little disappointing. The petit fours were cute and tasted nice though but not as fun as the amuse bouche at the beginning of the meal.

I know from what I’ve written sounds as if I didn’t have a great time but that’s not true. Overall, I did enjoy the experience but it wasn’t as good as times gone past. The food was excellent but elements of the service took the shine off it. At another restaurant I wouldn’t have found such things annoying but at this standard of restaurant, there is more scrutiny. My friend also found some of the insistence of the sommelier a little pressurising, particularly as they had already made their choice. As an aside, my lunch experience was different because I went with someone who was a regular and was recognised by all the staff – plus it wasn’t busy. This shouldn’t really impact on the experience. Perhaps this is why they lost their Michelin star.

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

Overall – 33/40

Would I eat here again? Yes but I’d probably pick the Kitchin instead.

Cost £320 for three tasting menus, two half bottles of wine and a cocktail

Venison - Monteiths

Monteiths

23rd November 2017 7pm

www.monteithsrestaurant.co.uk

Well the day had come – my 40th birthday (did I hear someone say I don’t look 40?!). I had quite a few foodie related plans in the weeks surrounding my birthday but my friends had organised a surprise outing to Monteiths. The last time I had visited was before the birth of Edinburgh Feasts, so I was intrigued to see what they now offered.

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Monteiths can be found down a pretty path off the Royal Mile, easily spotted by the wicker and fairy light arch. The restaurant isn’t that large but they have managed to slot in a small bar area too, so you can visit just for drinks if you wish. Whilst perusing the menu one of the waiting staff came over with a cocktail for me for my birthday, which was a really nice touch. It was a Rosehip Gimlet and had a highly entertaining head of foam. Back to the menu – we were a little surprised that there wasn’t really much for vegetarians. However, our veggie diner spoke to the waiting staff who said they could rustle up a risotto and asked for vegetable preferences. It does amaze me in this day and age that there aren’t at least a couple of vegetarian options as standard for each course on a menu. Anyway, we chose an array of foods. I opted for the crispy squid to start, followed by the venison. My friends chose items such as seafood chowder, liver parfait, smoked bacon rashers and heritage tomatoes for their starters and mussels, steak, risotto and chicken for their mains.

All the starters looked great. My squid had a lovely batter with a good flavour. The squid was not chewy or rubbery and the accompanying side salad had a beautiful dressing on it (to the point that I wondered whether I preferred the salad to the squid!). Everyone seemed to be enjoying their food, with nods specifically to the parfait with port jelly and the bacon rashers, which came with a butterscotch sauce.

The mains continued on the same theme. However, there did seem to be a bit of variety in the sizes of the portions, with the risotto being quite large and the venison being relatively small. My venison was exquisite though. The flavours really worked together on the plate. The meat itself was cooked pink (which you were advised upon ordering), and came with a cauliflower puree, spring onions and beetroot. It felt like a good winter dish without being too stodgy. The mussels, which were a special, were plentiful and had a good sauce. It would have been useful to provide finger bowls at the time of eating rather than needing to be requested at the end of the meal, but that is a minor quibble. The steak and chips were good, but the cooked tomatoes were not really cooked, which would have been fine with me but meant my friend who had this left them uneaten. The chicken dish was also really good, with the peppercorn sauce giving a peppery kick. The additional flavours of haggis, shallot and turnip worked well.

We didn’t end up having dessert as Monteith’s were really kind and allowed us to have a cake (of the caterpillar variety) and set it up and brought it over. In fact, the staff in general were really good at ensuring they knew it was my birthday, looking after my needs as priority in the group and wishing me a happy birthday as soon as I sat down.

We all enjoyed our visit to Montieths and is well worth a try.

Food – 8/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 7.5/10

Overall – 32.5/40

Would I eat here again? Yes!Cost £377 for 8 starters and mains, a few sides, two bottles of wine, 6 cocktails, a gin and tonic and some sparkling water.

White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar

14th November 2017 6.30pm

www.whitehorseoysterbar.co.uk

A group of us had been eagerly awaiting the opening of the White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar and we took the opportunity of a friend’s birthday to visit. It’s a long and thin restaurant, decorated in dark wood but has a sophisticated yet relaxed feel. We were greeted by our server, who frankly was delightful and knowledgeable throughout. We ordered some drinks and perused the menu. There were a host of small plates, platters and mains. We decided to order a host of small plates between us as well as a platter.

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The small plates arrived and took over the table. We had two crab scotch eggs, crab fries, monkfish satay and crispy chilli squid. We had half a scotch egg each. We all thought they were incredibly tasty, although lacking a little bit of a runny yolk but the egg certainly wasn’t over done. The crab fries were a big hit. The fries were seasoned well and the slightly sweet crab meat voluminously perched on top. The pickled samphire added a lovely complimentary element. My favourite, the monkfish satay, came on metal skewers and was generous in portion. The satay had a bit of a kick, which was a pleasant surprise and the fish was cooked to perfection. The crispy chilli squid rounded off the small plates, with an accompanying ponzu dressing and wasabi mayo, the latter of which I couldn’t get enough of. Delicious!

The house platter then arrived. This was an impressive display. Admittedly, this had more oysters on than we were expecting (12 to be precise), so if you are not a big fan, one of the other platters may be more suitable. The oysters came with an assortments of dressings, including something which was incredibly hot, so you could have them how you wanted. We all tucked in, although it took one of the party a bit of encouragement before she had one. They were incredibly fresh and slide down very easily. On the upper tier of the platter, there was a host of delights. The tuna tartare was exceptional and using some of the wasabi mayo on top was a beautiful thing. The scotch bonnet salmon was also a hit with the table. More crab was available through both a dressed crab and crab claws, and on top of that were the amazing pickled mussels and clams, which were somehow sweet in their pickling and were a joy to eat. Additional to this was some chunky bread which also got the thumbs up. One of the group also ordered a side of hassleback potatoes which I didn’t try but were deemed to be excellent.

As seafood is relatively light, we had a little bit of space for dessert. I chose the chocolate delice, two friends shared the apple tart and one chose a scoop of the salted caramel ice cream with an espresso martini on the side. The chocolate in the delice was deep and delicious. Ice cream and berries on the side helped cut through the richness. My friends were raving about the apple tart and the ice cream was also massively enjoyed. The only complaint was that the espresso martini was too cold.

We loved our visit here. Our server made us feel incredibly welcome and wished our friend a happy birthday not only at the mention of the birthday but also as we left. We felt valued as customers, which in combination with the food means that we are very likely to return.

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

Overall – 38/40

Would I eat here again? Yes, definitely.

Cost £200 for 5 small plates, the house platter, three desserts, two cocktails, two bottles of wine and a sherry.

Quay Commons

Quay Commons

27th October 2017 6.15pm

https://www.quaycommons.co/

After having a booking at Black Pig and Oyster, which we found to be shut on arrival, we took the opportunity to try Quay Commons. This restaurant is from the same people as Gardener’s Cottage (although we’ve yet to visit there). Quay Commons acts not only as a restaurant but a bakery and bar, which results in the dining space feeling relatively informal.

The dining menu is relatively short. I went for whitebait followed by mussels and my dining companion went for starter sized mussels followed by beef short rib. We also ordered some soft drinks, although they had run out of Appletise, which was a bit disappointing considering they only had a short list of options. The server gave only one of us a spoon for the mussels (and then to me having it as a main rather than to my friend who was having mussels first as a starter). The starters were great. My whitebait was decent and plentiful. They came with a scurvy grass mayo, which worked well with the fish. My friend adored her mussels. She loved the white wine sauce, which wasn’t overly creamy. The toasted baguette on the side was a nice touch.

Braised Beef Short Rib - Quay Commons

Braised Beef Short Rib – Quay Commons

The chef brought out the mains (and had a look on his face as if the waitress had forgotten). Again, the mussels were good and was essentially a larger portion of the starter. However, the cost provided better value along the way at Café Tartine, which we had dined at a few weeks previously. The beef short rib on the other side of the table was massive. It was nice but she couldn’t finish it. It would certainly be too fatty for some people the potatoes and mushrooms were also good. We waited getting on for 20 mins for our plates to be cleared and then she only took one plate and proceeded to do other jobs around the restaurant before clearing the second when we got her attention to ask for the bill. What was weirder was that by that time, we were the only diners in the restaurant so shouldn’t have been receiving such service. All in all the service was pleasant enough but just a bit odd.

Our experience was a little bit underwhelming. Not bad, just not enough that I want to rush back.

Food – 7/10
Service – 5/10
Atmosphere – 6/10
Value – 7/10

Overall – 25/40

Would I eat here again? Unlikely

Cost £46 for two starters, two mains and two soft drinks

Cafe Tartine

Cafe Tartine

18th October 2017 6.30pm

www.cafetartine.co.uk

Café Tartine is a family run French bistro found on the Shore. As the nights are drawing in, Café Tartine offers a cosy experience with candles in wine bottles scattered about the room. The menu covers the A-Z of rustic French food. I chose the chicken liver parfait, followed by pan-seared fillet of salmon. My dining companion opted for the French onion soup to start followed by mussels with fries.

As the starters were delivered to our table, we could see we were in for a lot of food. My parfait was delivered on a wooden board, with two large slices of toast, salad and a small pot of cranberry and orange jam. The parfait was wrapped in a slice of prosciutto which I am not sure added much. However, the whole dish was lovely. Even the salad was dressed well. I would have liked a little more of the cranberry jam but that’s more of a personal preference. Across from me, my friend had been given a ginormous bowl of French onion soup. She lapped up most of it though as it was so delicious. I also had a try of it and think this would be a great choice for lunch on a cold winter’s day. This soup also came with some large chunks of bread.

The mains were just as generous as the starters. My salmon was an incredible size. I had never had salmon skin so crispy either. The fillet sat in a pool of mussel veloute, which was truly beautiful. A handful of mussels, still in shells, were placed around the dish. To finish it off, there was samphire, green beans and a luscious pomme puree. It was so good that I ate way past the point of fullness! My friend was tucking into her large pot of mussels and accompanying fries. They were of good quality and the sauce was good. For those who can’t face a kilo pot of mussels, there is also a half kilo pot available on the list of starters.

We were way too stuffed for dessert, which was a shame as they looked really good. I would happily have the dishes a little smaller for a pound or two cheaper so I could fit in something sweet at the end. That being said, we left very content with what we’d eaten.

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

Overall – 33/40

Would I eat here again? Yes (that mussel veloute is still making me smile)

Cost £55 for two starters, mains and one large glass of wine.