Anfora

NOW CLOSED

10th July 2015 7pm

www.anforawinebar.co.uk

Anfora

Anfora

A couple of us at work had been talking about trying Anfora and when we saw a deal for four, including starters, mains and a bottle of prosecco for £49, we thought we would take the opportunity with a couple of colleagues. Anfora is situated in the Vintner Rooms and when we were greeted and seated, we were given a short and interesting history of the building. The restaurant is split into two, with the dining area near the bar a darker area and the dining section we were in was a light, bright room, lit by candles as they cannot put any wiring in the room. The walls and ceiling are still the originals dating back from the 17th century. Although we had a voucher deal, this did enable us to order form the standard a la carte menu. For starters I went for scallops and then surprising I opted for the tofu for the main. The others went also for scallops, mackerel and quail for their starters and two went for pork and one for fish for the main.

Scallops, quail, mackerel - Anfora

Scallops, quail, mackerel – Anfora

We were given a couple of types of bread and some soft butter whilst we waited for our food. I did find it a little odd that the waitresses were leaning across diners to reach others, rather than going behind the diners when the tables either side were unoccupied and therefore left enough space. However, we had prompt service and the starters arrived not long after. Weirdly, they were not all brought out together and another table were also getting part of their meals at the same time. This seemed a little strange. Anyway, back to the starters. They were visually impressive. The scallops I had were not rubbery but small and soft. The chorizo jam was exceptional and provided a wonderfully sweet and spicy element. The apple and kohlrabi was also lovely and light. The other diner eating the same dish felt exactly the same. My friend eating the quail commented that she was a little worried that the dish would be too sweet but was actually just right. The mackerel eater commented that the orange was slightly bitter but the mackerel flavour was strong enough to stand up to it. We were all very happy with the starters.

Pork, tofu, fish - Anfora

Pork, tofu, fish – Anfora

The mains that followed continued the theme of excellent presentation. My tofu was an inspired choice, even though I am a hardened meat eater. I had been swayed by the honey and soy element of the dish and I wasn’t let down. The dressing was excellent and the summer salad was fresh and full of goodness. It was a perfect choice for a summers evening. The pork was also enjoyed by my two friends who had opted for it. The cheek element was particularly well received. The crackling was also crunchy. My friend who had chosen the fish commented on the generous portion size and that it was delicious. Again, a course we were all happy with.

White chocolate tart, elderflower cheesecake - Anfora

White chocolate tart, elderflower cheesecake – Anfora

We had a bit of a chat as to whether we would head on somewhere for drinks or whether we would stay for dessert. We decided to stay on and try a dessert. Three of us decided to indulge, two going for the white chocolate tart and one for the elderflower cheesecake. Sadly, we waited an inordinately long time for these. These types of desserts should only have needed plating up. We were waiting for the best part of 40 minutes for them. When they arrived, we did get an apology for the delay but no real explanation. The white chocolate tart was actually delicious and not sickly in the slightest. However, the ‘cherries’ that accompanied it turned out to be three halves of cherry. I think that when it is that minimal it doesn’t constitute part of the dish and is mere decoration. The ice cream was not a full scoop and much of what was there had melted. The reason for this became more apparent as the diner eating the cheesecake delved in to find it was starting to melt. Not what you expect for a cheesecake. These desserts must have been left on the pass for a considerable time. We did think about complaining but at this point we had waited so long we decided just to ask for the bill. We did this but then that didn’t arrive. I had to ask a different waitress and it eventually arrived. This took another 10 minutes or so. It really took the edge off the meal.

Had we finished after the mains, we would have left with a pretty good impression of Anfora. Sadly the experience after ordering the desserts took the shine off the experience. That, combined with the slightly strange waiting style (and my friend’s coat which had been thrown, inside out and at an angle, on a coat stand) meant that we were a bit deflated by the time we left.

Food – 7/10

Service – 5/10

Atmosphere – 8/10

Value – 8/10

Overall – 28/40

Cost – £49 for four starters, four mains and a bottle of prosecco plus an additional £19 for three desserts. True cost without the voucher would be around £140.

One Square

4th July 2015 2.15pm

www.onesquareedinburgh.co.uk

Chicken liver pate - One Square

Chicken liver pate – One Square

At this time of year, One Square was bustling with graduates and their families. It’s the perfect location as graduation ceremonies take place over the road at Usher Hall. We had decided we were going to have a lovely late lunch which probably was going to involve cocktails. When we originally booked our table we had intended to do a set menu deal but in the end we all opted to go for the a la carte menu as the set menu didn’t really grab us. Cocktails were ordered and when they arrived most of us found they were quite strong. They certainly don’t water them down here. We placed our orders. I went for the chicken liver pate followed by the steak sandwich. My friends went for a variety of starters including salmon and salad and two others went for steak sandwich for their main and the other (a vegetarian) went for the risotto.

Salmon - One Square

Salmon – One Square

Whilst waiting for the starters we were given some bread. The slices were seeded and made for a very tasty stop-gap. Sadly the butter was rock solid, so it made it virtually impossible to spread. The starters arrived and looked lovely. My pate was light, fluffy and almost of a mousse consistency, not like your normal pate. I found this wonderful. The red onion jam complemented it well as

Rocket, parmesan & balsamic salad - One Square

Rocket, parmesan & balsamic salad – One Square

added a bit of zing to lift the dish. The toasted sourdough was sturdy enough to hold the pate. Elsewhere around the table the salmon was enjoyed and my friends commented on how fresh it tasted. The rocket, parmesan and balsamic salad, whilst simple, fitted the bill. This is actually a side dish on the menu but the restaurant were happy to provide it as a starter.

IMG_0612We didn’t have to wait too long for the mains. Three of us had the steak sandwich, which was accompanied by fries and a garlic mayo. Now I love garlic but I have to say that the mayo was particularly strong, to the point that it made the other two cough and the taste lingered for several hours afterwards. That being said, I still ate it heartily. The steak was still a bit pink and had some flavour. The accompanying salad leaves had a light mustard seed dressing over it which I particularly enjoyed. The fries were rustic but thin, which was good. The risotto was deemed decent and was eaten quickly. We all thought the food was good.

Banana split martini - One Square

Banana split martini – One Square

Onto dessert, we all opted for dessert cocktails and two of us also had a scoop of ice cream. I had a banana split martini which I thought worked well for dessert. The other dessert cocktails the others had seemed a little strong and perhaps not sweet enough. One of the cocktails had been spilt on a friend upon its arrival but the waitress was immediately apologetic and offered to try to fix it but it really hadn’t been much of an issue. The ice cream was standard but nothing stunning.

So overall, the staff were friendly and helpful. The food was good but I do think it is a little expensive for what it is as I could have had something similar elsewhere to the same standard for closer to half the price.

Food – 8/10

Service – 8/10

Atmosphere – 8/10

Value – 6/10

Overall – 30/40

Cost – approximately £250 for 5 starters, 4 mains, and one side, 2 ice creams, 1 bottle of white wine, 6 cocktails and 1 gin and tonic.

Under The Stairs

19th June 2015 – 6pm

www.underthestairs.org

Homeycomb Save Me - Under the Stairs

Homeycomb Save Me – Under the Stairs

A large group of us headed here for a work do. Hidden just off Candlemaker Row, if you didn’t know this place existed you might miss it as it’s situated in a basement. Upon arrival we entered what was a rather dark venue and may well be better suited to winter rather than summer dining. We crammed round the table we were given and I was squished onto an end with my legs around the table leg, which made it for a slightly uncomfortable experience. That aside, we all ordered drinks and started looking at the menu. There was quite a bit of variety and all sorts of cuisines covered, so everyone should be able to find something they like. I ended up going for the pitta bread with dips followed by loin of venison. One of my fellow diners tried to order the chicken but it wasn’t available so had to order something else. Also those ordering steak were a little miffed that they had to order chips separately. However, the staff were very accommodating with a member of our group who was going to be late and let us put in a later food order for him. We also had water for the table but can I make a plea not to put cucumber in it. It really is a pet hate of mine.

Pitta & dips -Under the Stairs

Pitta & dips -Under the Stairs

Once the food arrived, everyone seemed pleased with their choices. My pitta with dips was delicious. The pitta still had an element of softness, which complemented the dips. The dips themselves were suntouched (!) tomato and feta; pea, walnut and chilli and lastly cayenne pepper, date and charred red pepper. I thought these were all of a good standard but particularly like the tomato one. To be honest, it was so comforting I could imagine spending a lazy afternoon sipping drinks and munching my way through a couple of plates of these.

Venison - Under The Stairs

Venison – Under The Stairs

Onto the mains and my venison was a generous portion of meat. It was heavily pepper coated, as advertised, but did leave me reaching for the water at one point. The celeriac puree was tasty and the accompanying broccoli was roasted to give it an extra element of flavour. The berry jus was not too watery and as expected, was perfect with the venison. I had been asked how I wanted the meat cooked and I asked for rare but this was closer to medium. A couple of my friends had the Bombay aloo burger which was massive. One really enjoyed it but the other thought it tasted a bit gritty. Another of my fellow diners had the curry and virtually licked the bowl at the end.

I skipped dessert but some of the others went for a cheese board. The rocky road cheesecake also seemed popular around the table. The cheese board was confirmed not to have blue cheese on but arrived with blue cheese. There was no problem with getting this changed but it was a little annoying after already having asked about it.

Although my review expresses some niggles, overall, we had a good time and the food was generally good.

Food – 7/10

Service – 8/10

Atmosphere – 8/10

Value – 7/10

Overall – 30/40

Cost – £300 for 11 diners, including drinks.

Malmaison

7th June 2015 – 1pm

www.malmaison.com/locations/edinburgh/brasserie

Situated on the Shore in Leith, Malmaison’s Brasserie sits nestled into the ground floor of their hotel. I had bought a voucher deal for Malmaison’s Sunday lunch, which consisted of a soup and/or buffet starter, a brunch or lunch dish and a dessert. Upon arrival, we weren’t really sure whether the Brasserie was the venue of the meal but as there was no-one in the main reception area to ask, we headed that way. Luckily we were right and were greeted by a member of the waiting staff. We were shown to our table and given the menu, which listed the contents of the buffet along with the mains and desserts. There were a selection of brunch options, including a cooked breakfast, and for the lunch options there were a couple of roasts and some other mains such as burgers. I decided to risk full scale over eating and ordered the ½ roast chicken. My friend went for eggs benedict. We had to wait a little while for someone to take our order but we assumed this was to make sure the buffet table was never too busy. This seemed to work well as we were the only two selecting our buffet items at that time.

Buffet - Malmaison

Buffet – Malmaison

We decided to skip the soup and picked some bits and pieces from the buffet. There was a nice selection of Italian and Spanish meats, terrines, bread, cheeses, crackers, salmon, pate and a couple of salads (including a bean salad). There were also a number of dips and sauces but were not labelled so it was a bit of a guess as to what they might be. The buffet table is also relatively small, which means nothing is sat out too long and is replenished regularly. We were restrained enough not to get a bit of everything but between us we managed to taste most things that were available. The spread was pretty tasty. My dining companion particularly liked the terrine and I thought the pate was delicious. The meats were of a good standard and the salads were fresh. The only real complaint was that the bread was a little hard. Not that it was stale but it was just a little difficult to eat. We only went for one helping but some diners were heading back up for more.

Roast chicken - Malmaison

Roast chicken – Malmaison

We received our mains pretty quickly after completing the buffet course. My chicken came with a pork and lemon stuffing, vegetables and gravy. Sadly, the first mouthful of the chicken I had was from a piece that had been sat directly under the stuffing and a piece of what looked like pickled lemon. It was so overpoweringly lemony that I thought I had eaten washing up liquid. However, the stuffing itself was actually quite nice and when I moved to eating other parts of the chicken that had not been touched by the lemon, it was moist and tasty.

Eggs benedict - Malmaison

Eggs benedict – Malmaison

The accompanying gravy had a good flavour and wasn’t too greasy. The vegetables, which has been served in a cast iron side dish had a mixed success rate. The carrots and parsnips had been honey roasted and were absolutely wonderful. I probably could have eaten a plateful of just those. The green beans were nice but were quite crunchy and could have probably done with a minute or two more cooking. The potatoes were disappointing. They were really too large and the outsides were chewy rather than crispy. On the other side of the table, the eggs benedict was proving to be a nice dish. My friend commented that there seemed to be just the right amount of everything on the plate, so each mouthful had a balance of ingredients. The only complaint was the fat on the bacon wasn’t rendered enough and should have been a little more crispy.

Berry and coconut slice and hot chocolate - Malmaison

Berry and coconut slice and hot chocolate – Malmaison

As I had not eaten quite all of my main, this made dessert easier to eat than trying to cram it in down the sides. There was actually a very nice choice of classic desserts including crème brulee and sticky toffee pudding. Once our order was finally taken, I opted for a hot chocolate dessert and my dining partner went for the dessert du jour, which was a berry and coconut slice. When the hot chocolate dessert arrived I had to check that they hadn’t just given me a drink of hot chocolate as it arrived in a cup. Talk about confusing! However, a gravy boat arrived with the hot chocolate sauce inside it and within the cup there was ice cream and a swirl of vanilla cream topped with a couple of marshmallows. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I was particularly surprised at how good the cream was as often cream doesn’t stand up well to ice cream. Everything was smooth and silky. The chocolate sauce was a touch too bitter for my taste but not so much as to spoil the dish. I know that many people would prefer this bitterness level so it’s just a matter of personal taste. On the other side of the table, the berry slice was enjoyed but it was a little difficult to tell what was in each layer.

So, overall Malmaison’s brasserie offers some solid food, when they get it right.

Food – 7/10

Service – 7/10

Atmosphere – 7/10

Value – 9/10

Overall – 30/40

Cost – £30 for two three course meals, no drinks (voucher deal) and would be £40 without the voucher.

Purslane

17th May 2015 – 12.30pm

www.purslanerestaurant.co.uk

Purslane

Purslane

Purslane is situated in a little basement abode on St Stephen Street in Stockbridge and seats less than 20, which gives an intimate vibe to the place. The restaurant is decorated with quiet tones of mushroom and dark wood but somehow the place doesn’t feel dark. Although we had visited before, this was before the blog existed so we took advantage of a voucher deal to try the place again. We had got a five course tasting menu for lunch for £39 for the two of us, which was incredibly good value but the standard seven course tasting menu is also excellent value for money. On arrival we were given the menu so we could see what was in store. We ordered some drinks (no cocktails this time) and whilst we were waiting for the tasting courses to commence, were brought some warm bread rolls. These were nice and tasty but the accompanying butter seemed to be unsalted, which was a bit of a shame. However, this was the only blip in what ended up being an exquisite meal.

Butternut squash veloute - Purslane

Butternut squash veloute – Purslane

The first course was an amuse bouche of butternut squash veloute and arrived in a cute little cup. I love veloutes and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. My friend commented that she could have eaten a massive bowlful of it with some bread. I have to say that I couldn’t have agreed more. It was light, smooth and delicate, yet at the same time has a smoky robustness of flavour. I was trying to drink it slowly to make it last as long as possible.

Sea bream - Purslane

Sea bream – Purslane

The next course was sea bream, parmesan polenta and sun-dried tomato arancini. I had arancini here before and fell in love with them. Again, they were still of an excellent standard. They were creamy in texture and packed with a great depth of tomato-y goodness. The sea bream itself was beautifully cooked, with a salty skin which was deliciously crispy. I could have easily eaten a bigger portion (yes, I know it was a starter but I liked it!). The polenta, on first glance, looked like a slice of butter but was a delightful contrast to the fish. The accompanying pea and tomato salad gave the dish an air of freshness and balance.

Roast rump of beef - Purslane

Roast rump of beef – Purslane

Onto the main and we had roast rump of beef. The five course menu usually has pork but today it was beef and it was like a posh mini roast. The meat was quite pink, which was just to my liking but may not be to everyone’s taste. The flavour was excellent. We perhaps could have done with steak knives as it was a rump cut but we soldiered on. The celeriac and potato stack creamy and the kale was er, like kale. However, the star of the plate, apart from the meat, was the combination of mushrooms which has been softly cooked and the sweet onions. The juiciness of these onions was wonderful and was almost like an onion marmalade. The red wine jus brought the dish together well.

Raspberry sorbet and chocolate mousse - Purslane

Raspberry sorbet and chocolate mousse – Purslane

Now, this restaurant does a ‘pre-dessert’. This is my kind of place! It’s essentially another dessert which almost acts like a palate cleanser. It was a raspberry sorbet with a chocolate mousse. As expected, the raspberry worked well with the chocolate, with the zing of the raspberry making sure that the mousse wasn’t the overpowering flavour of the dish.The coulis dotted about the dish was sweet and emphasised the raspberry flavour even more.

Rhubarb and custard - Purslane

Rhubarb and custard – Purslane

The actual dessert came in the form of ‘rhubarb and custard’. Obviously this wasn’t going to be quite as straight forward as described. It was absolutely delicious and we agreed that it was the best course. There was rhubarb ice cream, which was creamy and, amazingly, had not lost any of the true rhubarb flavour. There were also lots of small pieces of rhubarb which still had a bit of bite. Alongside that was a stack of vanilla panacotta and rhubarb jelly and a piece of crème brulee to add the custard element. The brulee was also packed with the sweetness of vanilla. This was a perfect finish to the meal.

Purslane is a lovely little restaurant, great for an intimate dinner but simply great to eat at…full stop.

Food – 9/10

Service – 9/10

Atmosphere – 8/10

Value – 9/10

Overall – 35/40

Cost – £52 for two five course menus, a glass of wine and a vodka and lemonade (voucher for the food was £39).

Steak on Stones

NOW CLOSED

 

16th April 2015 – 6pm

http://steakonstones.co.uk/

Bonnie Lassie - Steak on Stones

Bonnie Lassie – Steak on Stones

Steak on Stones is the newly opened sister restaurant to Steak (Steak Edinburgh already reviewed here and at the time of writing my 3rd highest reviewed restaurant) and sits in the site formerly taken by Fish. Now, I am going to be honest here and say that I cannot help but compare Steak on Stones to Steak, which scored very highly, and my review will be written as such. The venue for Steak on Stones is light and airy and also has a small bar area attached to it. I visited with my parents, who were up for a visit. We were a bit surprised on arrival that we were shown to the bar as our table was not ready. My parents aren’t really drinkers so it felt a little awkward. Also, at 6pm, having to wait 10 or so minutes until our booked table was ready whilst the restaurant was empty was not great. Anyway, you’ll not be surprised to read that I ordered a cocktail and my Dad did go for a Heineken. The beer came in a can, which seemed a little steep at £4. My cocktail was the going rate of £7.95 and I went for a Bonnie Lassi, which was delicious. The mango and coconut were a lovely combination.

Hot stone steak - Steak on Stones

Hot stone steak – Steak on Stones

Once we were finally shown to our table, we were greeted by a very helpful waiter, who explained the menu for us. My parents were a little too scared of a hot stone (and the idea of ‘thin’ steak) so they both opted for the steak frites with a side of creamed leeks, peas and bacon. I decided that I would be a fool not to try the lava stone and ordered 200g of steak for this, which is the minimum order but I know from previous experience is enough steak for me. Chips do not come with this, so I ordered a side of fries and also opted for a jerk mayo sauce. When the food came out, the steak frites looked good, with the chips arriving in little buckets. The side of béarnaise sauce was to follow. My lava stone came out with a cover on top. As soon as the lid was lifted, you could feel the heat soaring off it. A plate with small slices of steak was provided and my own bucket of chips and a small pot of jerk mayo shortly followed. The waiter explained that the hot stone should be sprinkled with salt to stop the steak sticking to the stone. I have to admit, I got a little excited at the theatre of it all. I soon found out that you have to turn the steak almost immediately to get rare steak but once I got the hang of it, it was fun but I did get a bit bored after a while so it was a good job I didn’t order more steak. The meat was exceptionally tender and full of flavour, as in the sister restaurant. The chips didn’t have the magic seasoning that Steak has but they still were tasty. The jerk mayo was nice but not that spicy. On the other side of the table, my Dad’s rare steak was well past medium and my Mum’s medium steak was closer to well done. They didn’t mind as the steak still tasted nice but it wasn’t what they had asked for. At this point, they still hadn’t received the béarnaise sauce, which eventually arrived half way through the meal, but wasn’t too much of a big deal as my Dad is allergic to egg anyway. They did have exceptionally high praise for the creamed leeks, peas and bacon. My Dad did comment that it would have been much easier to eat the steak if they had been provided with steak knives, as whilst the steak was soft in the mouth, a steak knife would have eased the journey. This wasn’t so much of a problem for me as my steak was quite thin, so I wonder if they use cutlery expecting that most people will be having the thin steak.

Doughnut - Steak on Stones

Doughnut – Steak on Stones

Moving onto dessert, there is only one option – warm doughnuts. This is fantastic but sadly meant that my Dad could not have dessert due to his allergy. The waiter did remember though so wasn’t cruel as to bring a menu of things he couldn’t have. That got the waiter a healthy tip for remembering. There are four fillings available for the doughnuts. I went for apple and my Mum went for custard. When they arrived they were of a good size, light and fluffy. They weren’t that warm but I suppose it is difficult to get the balance so the filling doesn’t cook, or the filling doesn’t overcook the doughnut. The fillings themselves were plentiful. No hunting for where the filling is in these.

Overall, we had a pleasant time but seemed lacking in comparison with Steak. Yes, it is a little cheaper in general and the room is lighter but I think this place is still trying to find its feet. I may be doing the restaurant a little bit of a disservice as it I have had such fantastic experiences at Steak. However, unless you were really keen on using the hot lava stones to cook your meat, I would recommend going to Steak instead.

Food – 7/10

Service – 8/10

Atmosphere – 7/10

Value – 8/10

Overall – 30/40

Cost – £65 for 3 mains, 3 sides, 2 desserts, 1 cocktail and 1 beer

Potting Shed

13th April 2015 – 5.45pm

www.thepottingshededinburgh.co.uk

This place has been many incarnations since I have lived in Edinburgh. The current edition is very themed but somehow works so it doesn’t feel like it is a gimmick. The gardeners feel isn’t intrusive (we didn’t get any food served on trowels!) but also feels integral and brings a warmth I enjoyed. We were able to pick a booth to sit in but there were varied tables and sofas to meet most people’s needs.

Rhubarb and ginger mojito (left), the restaurant (top right), poached rhubarb dessert (bottom right)

Rhubarb and ginger mojito (left), the restaurant (top right), poached rhubarb dessert (bottom right)

We ordered some cocktails whilst we perused the menu. We both plumped for a rhubarb and ginger mojito, which was served in a jam jar with a handle. This was very good and had a great taste of rhubarb. We were given food menus which suggest 3-4 plates each, providing food very much in the tapas style. We went for four each, mainly because there seemed to be so many goodies on offer. So, I ended up going for whitebait with lime and coriander mayo; kimchi radishes; salt baked carrots, beets and goats curd and confit duck with bacon, potato and samphire. My dining companion went for sourdough; goats cheese, pomegranate and granola; pigs cheeks and burnt rosemary hand-cut chips.

Goats cheese, pomegranate and granola (top), confit duck (bottom)

Goats cheese, pomegranate and granola (top), confit duck (bottom)

As with tapas, plates of food come out when they are ready. First out were the kimchi radishes, which I realised when they appeared that I was getting confused with the normal kimchi which is cabbage. These radishes were still nice and the sour cream certainly helped lift them. However, there were rather a lot, even if sharing. The sourdough followed. This consisted of three chunky pieces of bread, drizzled with olive oil, accompanied by a tasty tomato concoction. The bread was bouncy and fresh. Next was the whitebait. There were tons of them. This was the point at which we began to realise that three plates each would have probably been enough. I have to say that the whitebait was my favourite of all the plates I had. They were crispy and worked perfectly with the mayo. When the goats cheese arrived, it was probably one of the prettiest dishes we had. It was simple but elegant. My friend commented that it would be something you could make at home but would never think of doing. There was a generous portion of goats cheese on the plate.

Carrots and beets (top), pigs cheeks (bottom)

Carrots and beets (top), pigs cheeks (bottom)

The carrots and beets also looked stunning on the plate but were cold. They weren’t advertised as a salad but it seemed a shame as the taste indicted that even luke-warm would have been a benefit to the dish.My dining partner had ordered pigs cheeks which she devoured. She said she would definitely order it again and on the plus side wasn’t too massive a portion. The sweet and sour beetroot that accompanied the pigs cheeks was a puree, which was a surprise but a pleasant one. The confit duck was nice but again the size of the dish was large and was closer to a standard main. The samphire was spectacular and the bacon was a proper slice rather than a rasher. The final plate to arrive was the chips. They were more wedges than chips but were good and came to life with the harissa yoghurt dip.

Whitebait (top), kimchi radishes and sourdough (bottom)

Whitebait (top), kimchi radishes and sourdough (bottom)

We were really stuffed but had both been eyeing up the same dessert so we decided to share. We picked the poached rhubarb, brown sugar meringue, vanilla mascarpone and rhubarb salsa. Sadly, whilst this looked lovely on the plate it was a let-down. The salsa was vile. Chilli and what I think was basil were chopped up within the rhubarb. Whist I am all for experimentation I don’t think this worked at all, at least not as a dessert with other sweet things on the plate. There was some brown blobs on the plate and after several tastes we couldn’t identify what it was but that also was too bitter for the dessert. That said, the poached rhubarb, mascarpone and the meringue were all delicious and had they all been on the plate together with nothing else, it would have been an amazing dessert. It was a bit of a shame to end on that note.

Overall I think the Potting Shed is not quite there and has yet to realise its full potential. However, it does have some really great ideas and some dishes that we would certainly go back for. I do wonder whether smaller and therefore slightly cheaper plates might work better, particularly in such a student led area. A little more thought about the potential food combinations they have available and I think they will strike gold. Adding to that the lovely staff who serves us and simply the best atmosphere I have experienced in a relaxed eatery, this place could eventually make its mark.

Food – 7/10

Service – 9/10

Atmosphere – 10/10

Value – 7/10

Overall – 33/40

Cost – £56 for 9 dishes and 2 cocktails

Ondine

1st April 2015 6.00pm

www.ondinerestaurant.co.uk

Ondine is situated on George IV Bridge but could easily be missed as it is a first floor restaurant and only has a small doorway at ground level. If you do manage to venture in, you will find the restaurant to be a mosaic of monochrome and elegant with it. The dining room has a circular appearance with the oyster bar at its centre. You can opt to have a table at the bar or on the main floor of the restaurant. We had decided to have a standard table when we booked and were placed at the window with a nice view over Victoria Street.

Ondine offers both an a la carte and a set menu. We opted for the a la carte menu. They do offer some great platters on this menu but we went for the traditional starter/main/dessert combo. I went for the steak tartare, followed by the grilled lemon sole and finished with the apple and toffee crumble tart. My dining companion went for the fish and shellfish soup, followed by deep fried haddock and chips and then the lemon posset. When ordering, I was given the choice of having my fish on or off the bone (I went for off). My friend was given the choice of having her haddock battered or in breadcrumb (she went for batter). We were given a selection of bread whilst we waited. There was brown and white but also a delightful little cheesy bread ball each. They were definitely the best of the breads, slightly warmed and exploding in your mouth with a beautiful cheese flavour.

Steak Tartare (top) and fish and shellfish soup (bottom) - Ondine

Steak Tartare (top) and fish and shellfish soup (bottom) – Ondine

Onto the starters. Those of you who have read some of my other reviews will know that I like to try steak tartare wherever I can, even if that means ordering it in a seafood speciality restaurant. This stacked up pretty well. The portion was a decent size. I think I would have liked my egg a little larger but that is personal preference. There was plenty of zing inside the tartare and it was seasoned perfectly. It came with toasted sourdough, which looked greasy on first inspection but was actually surprisingly crisp. On the other side of the table I think she had gone to heaven. She was not only saying this was the best fish soup she had ever had but the best soup she had tasted full stop. This was high praise indeed. It was not luke-warm and was a generous portion (perhaps a little large for a starter but that didn’t stop her!). There were decent sized croutons served separately with cheese and rouille. She felt it was good to have to option of having this in the soup or not.

Grilled lemon sole (top), haddock and chips (bottom) - Ondine

Grilled lemon sole (top), haddock and chips (bottom) – Ondine

My main was grilled lemon sole and looked pretty on the plate. It came with cockles, which I had never tried before. I enjoyed them and though they had a good taste of the sea without losing its own flavour. The fish itself was big and meaty. Perhaps a bit more meaty that I was expecting. It has a good crust from grilling and was packed with flavour. The dish was also scattered with chorizo which, whilst packed with flavour, also seemed overly salty for my palate, so much so that the dish became too salty for me to cope with and I couldn’t finish it, which was a shame. My dining partner enjoyed the fish and chips. You can tell the quality of the restaurant by whether they give you muslin over the lemon so you don’t get seeds in your dinner. The battered haddock was a large size but was spoilt a bit by being placed directly onto the pea puree, as it made the batter soggy underneath. The chips were thin and crispy. I pinched a few and can confirm they were pretty amazing.

Apple and toffee crumble tart - Ondine

Apple and toffee crumble tart – Ondine

We weren’t sure we could face dessert as we were so full but gave it a good go anyway. The tart was nice and the apple had not turned into mush and was still identifiable. It was tainted a little by the nuts in the topping, which I felt were a bit too bitter for the dish and knocked away the delicate spicing of the fruit. It came with a small jug of custard which I thought was a bit too thin for such a robust pudding but was nice nevertheless. The posset was tasty and tangy with little meringues dotted on top. The lemon curd was sharp and tangy.

Overall this was a solid dining experience. The staff were efficient and kept their distance. The venue itself had a nice atmosphere and decent music in the background. The food was ok in general, which a couple of highlights that stood out.

Food – 7/10

Service – 8/10

Atmosphere – 9/10

Value – 7/10

Overall – 31/40

Cost – £89 for two three course meals and 1 glass of wine.

Timberyard

18th March 2015 – 6.30pm

http://www.timberyard.co/

Timberyard is situated in a large warehouse space, which used to house storage for costumes and props. The place has a massive swinging door, which gives you a sense of the airy proportions of the room you are about to experience. Whilst is it a space with high ceilings, it still feels warm and welcoming, with candles dotted about the room and dark wooden tables. This place is well aware of the size of the venue though as they even have a blanket for every table should you find that more comfortable. We certainly didn’t need it but it is a nice touch. The ethos of this restaurant is sustainability and using local produce.

Duck heart - Timberyard

Duck heart – Timberyard

Once we were seated, we started off by being given the drinks list. There is plenty on offer here, with a nice array of soft drinks, cocktails, beers, ciders and wine. We were then given two menus; one was the 7 course tasting menu (which we were advised would need up to three hours set aside to eat all the courses) or the main ‘daily’ menu. Whilst the tasting menu was very tempting, we thought it might just be too much for a week night so opted for the daily menu (which is actually date stamped). This menu is split into four categories: bites, small, large and sweet. The waiter recommended that we went for all four and that is just what we did. Before we ordered we were also asked if we had any dietary requirements, which I think is particularly useful here, as the menu lists the main ingredients in the dish rather than give you a description of the dish that will appear in front of you. I opted for duck heart, liver, mushroom, onion and mustard seed from the ‘bite’ section followed by asparagus, duck yolk, goats curd, rye, seeds, celery and cider from the ‘small’ section then onto smoked beef, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mushroom, ramson, radish and ramp from the ‘large’ options and then finally sea buckthorn, carrot, crowdie, buttermilk, biscuit and seeds from the ‘sweet’ options. My dining companion went from celeriac, crab, pear, crème fraiche, brioche and horseradish followed by the same asparagus dish and then onto the turbot, smoked mussels, fennel, wild leek, potato, dill and celery and finally the honey, bee pollen, gooseberry, almond, milk and barley (phew!).

We were topped up with water throughout the meal but whilst we were waiting for the ‘bites’ to arrive, we were given some nice bread, bone marrow, and a cheese and butter mix with a sprinkling of pepper and sea salt with parsley to put on the bread. This was a tasty interpretation of the bread and butter option. I particularly enjoyed the salt/parsley mix, which complemented the bread well.

Celeriac - Timberyard

Celeriac – Timberyard

The bites arrived and looked amazing. The duck heart had a stick through it. I did wonder whether this might put people off but then realised that if you were ordering a duck heart, you probably weren’t all that squeamish. It certainly added drama to the dish. The heart was tender and not rubbery and the liver came in the form of a pate, which had bags of flavour in such a small piece. The mushrooms had a depth I don’t think I have ever experienced. To be honest, I could have eaten several bowls of this quite easily. The celeriac, on the other side of the table, seemed to be served on a rather large plate, as is often the trend. I’m not sure if that was really necessary but the mish-mash feel of the plates and glasses made it seem ok to do so and less pretentious. The food was consumed very quickly and we had to remind ourselves to savour all the flavours.

Asparagus - Timberyard

Asparagus – Timberyard

Both of us had opted for the asparagus for the next course. We certainly weren’t disappointed. This dish was full of freshness. The egg added a creaminess that brought the dish alive. The greens on the plate had a vivid colour, showing off the benefit of locally resourced food and nurtured by an attentive chef. The curd worked well and the seeds brought a nice texture to balance out the creamy, smooth elements. Again we both could have eaten another portion of this, it was that good. I think this might have been my favourite course.

Smoked beef (top) and Turbot (bottom)

Smoked beef (top) and Turbot (bottom)

Now, onto the ‘large’ course. Both the dishes were of a decent size and a visual wonder. This place knows how to show off the variety of ingredients they are using, particularly with the less common ones. I was told in advanced that the beef is cooked on the rarer side of medium, which was perfect for me. The smoking of the beef wasn’t overkill but added dimension to the beef in a subtle way. Again, the texture and range of flavour was pretty spectacular and I had been introduced to some varieties of vegetable I wasn’t familiar with but will look for in the future. The turbot looked delicate on the plate and the foam around it which had more purpose than creating an effect. Again, my friend enjoyed every morsel on the plate and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the flavours.

Honey and bee pollen (top) and sea buckthorn (bottom)

Honey and bee pollen (top) and sea buckthorn (bottom)

Finally, the sweets. Neither of us were really sure about what we had opted for and whether we would like them. Oh how silly of us. These were just phenomenal. My sea buckthorn dish, whilst it had its sour notes, was full of different textures and flavours. The thin meringue was a delightful surprise and the sorbet was full of zing. There were creamy elements again to balance it out and seeds and biscuit to add crunch. Each mouthful brought a new surprise or flavour combination. I couldn’t find a fault with any component. Even the carrots were a pleasantly sweet addition. On the other side of the table, a delighted squeak went out when she discovered the cake bits were warm. She also enthused over the honeycomb, which she said was an excellent example and was well made. She actually isn’t really a fan of honey but found this dish to be completely satisfying.

I don’t think I can ever convey in a review just how good the food was in this restaurant. The flavours the kitchen manage to get out of this food is astounding. The service matched it in every single way. We never felt like we were being interrupted but our every need was looked after and you could see from a distance that the waiters were always doing the rounds to check that all the tables had everything they needed. I think the only thing we could complain about was that the knives could do with a sharpen. If that is seriously the only thing I can complain about, you know it must be good. Sadly this place isn’t cheap, so we cannot make a trip to it once a week but I have to say that even though it’s not in a low cost bracket, the value you get is top notch. I will be coming back again as soon as I can.

Food – 10/10

Service – 10/10

Atmosphere – 10/10

Value – 9.5/10

Overall – 39.5/40

Cost – £116 for 4 courses for two people plus one glass of wine

Steak Edinburgh

12th March 2015 6pm

www.steakedinburgh.com

Yet again it was chucking it down outside when we stepped into Steak Edinburgh. The warmth enveloped us and was scented with a faint aroma of incense. After a lovely welcome, our coats were taken and we were shown to our table, which conveniently was situated next to a radiator. The restaurant had quite a few people in it, so it didn’t feel lonely in this cavernous room. The dining room has an industrial feel yet also softened somehow. The music was a touch unusual, with a bit of a French slant. The venue itself was dimly lit, so don’t expect to see your dinner that well! Not that it matters, as we were about to find out.

Cocktails - Steak Edinburgh

Cocktails – Steak Edinburgh

We had booked for the pre-theatre menu, which was striking value at £14.50 for two courses or £16.50 for three. We were offered the wine list or if we preferred (which, no surprise we did) a cocktail menu. We opted for an All or Nothing and a Rose Fizz. Whilst they were being made, we decided on our choices from the pre-theatre menu, which offered three options for each course. I went for the steak tartar (again, no surprise) followed by the steak frites. My dining partner went for the salted cod starter with the steak frites again for her main. We ordered after our cocktails arrived and we also got some bread whilst we waited.

Steak tartare - Steak Edinburgh

Steak tartare – Steak Edinburgh

As soon as the starters arrived, we tucked right in. The steak tartar was delicious. There was a large amount and had a great sharpness to it. The tartar sauce which accompanied it worked surprisingly well. However, I am not sure about the crinkle cut crisps. They were a bit hard and there weren’t really enough of them to act as a device to scoop up the tartar onto. I’d actually rather they had not been there at all if they weren’t able to offer anything better. However, this is really a small element of the dish and too trivial to really get het up over. It certainly didn’t detract enough to stop me from wolfing it all down. On the other side, the cod was being enjoyed. She commented that the egg worked really well and helped balance the dish. The sourdough bread was good as it wasn’t so hard that you couldn’t use it to mop up.

Steak Frites - Steak Edinburgh

Steak Frites – Steak Edinburgh

After the tasty starters we moved onto the mains. We had the same but I ordered rare and my friend ordered medium. It came with chips and a béarnaise sauce which sat in its own little saucepan. We were also offered condiments so we asked for tomato ketchup, which came in its own small jar. The steak was cooked to perfection and simply melted in the mouth. I really don’t think that I’ve had a better steak. So much so that if I could I would have eaten 20 of them! The béarnaise sauce looked like a small amount but I should really learn to trust the chef as it was actually just the right portion. It did have a little bit of a skin on it so it might have waited on the pass a minute or so too long but with a quick stir that was all fixed. It was wonderful anyway. The fries were delicately seasoned and that seemed to make them incredibly moreish. The ketchup seemed to be made in house as it certainly wasn’t like the supermarket brand and added a whole other level of flavour to the meal. It seemed mellow but deep at the same time.

We would have tried dessert if we hadn’t been so full but I am sure we will be back to do just that. The staff had been friendly and helpful throughout the meal, offering to explain the menu and answer any questions. They also offered to arrange a taxi for us if we needed it. It’s these little touches than make a restaurant stand out. I really cannot wait to go back.

Food – 9.5

Service 9.5

Atmosphere – 8

Value – 10 (on a pre-theatre deal)

Overall – 37/40

Cost £44 for two starters and mains from the pre-theatre menu plus two cocktails.