4 December 2014

Recipe: Dunsyre Blue Cheese Soufflé

DUNSYRE BLUE IS one of my favourite Scottish cheeses and this is a twist on the classic Roquefort version. Soufflés carry a certain stigma, mainly due to TV shows  over-dramatising them, but they are actually quick and fairly straight forward to knock out. Fresh eggs are vital in this recipe, so make sure to purchase them on the day. This recipe is handy because you can bake them in advance, then double-cook before serving to reheat - ideal for a dinner party. It can also be made with Cheddar or Comté if you aren't a blue cheese lover.

Ingredients (serves 2):

200g Dunsyre Blue cheese
50g butter
50g plain flour
200mls milk
1tsp, Dijon mustard
2 eggs, separated
Parmesan cheese to dust
Salt and white pepper


1) Pre-heat oven to 200C. Butter ramekins, ensuring you stroke upwards to encourage the soufflé to rise.  Drop in the Parmesan (you could use breadcrumbs) and roll around in your hand to coat evenly.

2) Make a roux by melting the butter and adding the flour.  Beat together and cook for two minutes to eliminate the floury taste.  Add the mustard and mix in, add the milk gradually, whisking to ensure a smooth mixture.  Set aside to cool slightly.

3) Beat the egg yolks into the mix and crumble in the blue cheese.  Whisk thoroughly until cheese has melted then season. The cheese is slightly salty, so only a little is needed.

4) Next, whisk eggs to soft peaks.  Using a large spoon, put a dolop of the egg white into the mixture and gradually incorporate with a spatula. Spoon in the rest of the egg whites.  

5) Fill the ramekin and run your thumb around the outside of the mix.  Place in the over for 20-25 mins until risen.

6) If reserving for later, take the soufflé out of the moulds and place on a cooling wire. Place back into the over for 6-7 mins to reheat.

7) Serve with a pear, rocket and walnut salad or goes well as a side for beef.

This one looks a bit rustic, but tasted awesome! Happy cooking!

Visit http://www.erringtoncheese.co.uk/ for a list of stockists or pop into any branch of I.J. Mellis Cheesemongers.

26 November 2014

Review: Nobles Bar, Leith

THERE ALWAYS SEEMS to be a lively atmosphere when you visit Nobles in Leith.  The old Victorian building acts as a vessel for an eclectic crowd of both diners and the thirsty alike, with a reputation spread over Edinburgh and beyond.

The opening act for me was saffron and gin cured Scottish salmon for £5.95. It can be difficult to balance the flavours when curing, but this was spot on.  The notes of gin enhanced the subtle salmon flavours and cut through the creaminess of a delicious remoulade, with the help of the citrus dressing. 

Meanwhile, Sarah tucked into a starter of wild mushroom and goat cheese ravioli with walnuts and a sage beurre noisette (£5.95). The pasta was rolled thinly and stuffed with a decent amount of filling, although it consisted predominantly of the goat cheese, highlighting a distinct lack of mushroom flavour. The butter dressing brought a rich nuttiness to this decent first course.

I admire the regularly changing menu at Nobles and that there’s frequently a couple of daily specials on offer.  Today, my main consisted of pan-fried venison haunch and liver, carrot puree, apple and celery salad with a red wine and pink peppercorn jus (£13.95). Respect is accorded for putting liver on the menu, as it’s rarely seen these days outside of fine dining joints. However, venison liver is strong and obliterated most of the other ingredients on the plate. Sadly, it was slightly over cooked too.  But all was not lost, as the haunch was delicious and the earthy sweetness of the carrot puree created a great combo; I particularly enjoyed the apple and almost fruity spice from the sauce. I’m certainly glad I ordered a side of polenta chips (£3.50) because they were cooked to perfection and had a delicious hum of heat from the toasted spices on top.

Our waitress for the evening – very pleasant and efficient throughout – presented to Sarah pan roasted pork fillet with roasted baby potatoes, red onion, braised leek and a red grape and mustard cream at a reasonable £12.95. It can be hard to keep pork fillet moist, but the cooking of the meat here was excellent. The sauce was creamy with a hint of sweetness and a pleasant mustard taste that paired perfectly with the pork. The potatoes had a tinge of garlic and were one of the best parts of the dish.  The only issue was the leek, which perhaps would have been more pleasant to eat had it been diced and sautéed; serving it whole made it a bit stringy to chew and tough to cut.

You can’t fault the ambience at Nobles, though, whether you're dining or just popping in for a drink.  It’s spacious, yet cosy at the same time and has a commendable drinks menu too. For now, our evening was nearly at an end as our desserts arrived.
Mine came in the form of meringue kisses with lemon curd, chocolate mint crumb and passion fruit pulp, priced at just under a fiver. The individual elements of this pudding were all well executed and the flavours all worked, and I liked the lemon and mint combo in particular.  However, I felt it needed something like an ice cream to bring it together and alleviate the astringency from the chocolate soil.

Sarah ordered hazelnut and Frangelico chocolate terrine with mixed berry marshmallow and Chantilly cream (£4.95). She thoroughly enjoyed the robust raspberry flavour from the ‘mallow, which benefited from not being too sweet, and having a firm texture outside with a wonderfully fluffy interior. The terrine was rich and had a welcome bitterness from the chocolate, while the pistachios added crunch.  This pudding was a generous portion, but not so rich that you couldn’t polish it all off.

Good show from Nobles tonight. The standard of food is always consistent and the menu offers a variety of slightly more sophisticated options than your usual pub fayre, while the atmosphere creates a place you’ll definitely find yourself visiting again and again.

Nobles on Urbanspoon
44a Constitution Street,
Leith, EH6 6RS
0131 629 7215
Opening times:
Mon - Fri: 12:00 pm - 1:00 am
Sat - Sun: 10:00 am - 1:00 am

31 October 2014

Review: The Peat Inn, Fife

I LIKE TO keep a mental league table of Michelin-starred restaurants, and despite it being a few years since my last visit to The Peat Inn, that particular meal sees the restaurant installed near the summit.  This visit had a lot to live up to...

It was my birthday and The Peat Inn offers a restaurant with rooms, so Sarah treated us both to a night in my beloved East Neuk. The suite was homely, well equipped and spotlessly clean, with calming views of a well-kept garden and the rolling Fife countryside.  On the lower level, the large, rather comfortable bed seemed ideal for retiring to, while the top floor offered a chilled out living space to relax beforehand.

We are warmly welcomed by manager Ian MacRae, who recently collected a gong at the AA awards for his outstanding wine list.  As Ian settles us in by the open hearth, you feel this is the ideal place to spend an autumn evening, and we begin deliberating over a menu that offers a real smörgåsbord of seasonal delights.
Opting for the a la carte menu (tasting menu and a very favourably priced daily menu are also available), my first course was crisp basil langoustines with marinated scallops, black sesame, avocado wasabi puree and coriander (£17). The langos were fried in what seemed like a stain glass-style pasta casing: wonderfully crisp outside, with a visible and pleasant herby note complimenting the meaty, soft langoustine. I didn’t get much heat from the wasabi in the avocado puree, but the scallops were to die for, and the mango served a fruity note to this light starter.

Sarah began with St. Andrew’s bay lobster with seaweed butter sauce (£19) and what a triumph it was.  The seaweed component brought a saltiness that enhanced the rich, tender crustacean.  The real beauty in this dish lies with its simplicity, and that requires a cook with equal measures of confidence and ability.

Our next course comprised of young calamari stuffed with spiced pork with smoked aubergine puree, fennel and crisp pancetta (£16 as a starter). Every now and again, you encounter dishes that you toy with ordering, but succumb to the options featuring the more Rolls Royce-type ingredients. Yet, if you were to try them, you always end up upset that you didn’t have the bollocks to go with that initial instinct; this was one of those.  Beautifully presented, the tender calamari housed flavoursome pig with an aniseed layer from the fennel that elevated it to heavenly status.  Smoked aubergine brought another layer of flavour and texture, but the real star was the zing of apple from the marinated kohlrabi.
I don’t recall a time where I had to ask for “a few more minutes” to make my choice, but when you’re tasked with choosing from (and this was my shortlist) roast loin and confit shoulder of mutton, creamed Swiss chard, truffled potato beignets and bay leaf jus (£25), wild Cairngorm venison with savoyarde potato, brassicas, savoury granola, venison haggis and juniper jus (£25) and wild halibut, glazed Jerusalem artichokes, trompette mushroom, creamed onion and lobster croquette with champagne veloute (£26), what the hell are you meant to do?

Anyhow, I went for the mutton, which was simply sublime.  Both meat elements burst with flavour and were cooked with the respect the contrasting cuts deserved.  I loved the little pomme dauphine-like potato beignets. However, the star was the creamy, cheesy (I suspect local Anster cheese) garnish with the chard.  Delicious.

Sarah ordered Scottish grouse, cocotte potatoes, Savoy cabbage and bacon, with damson jam and madeira jus, which was the most expensive dish on the menu at £30. It was well worth it.  Struggling to polish off the rather butch portion, I was more than happy to tuck in.  The breasts were supple, and boasted a rich gaminess that reminds me why I love this season.  I particularly enjoyed the black pudding that came with this dish, especially with the tartness from the damson jam.  Made from the hearts of the birds, this was a fine demonstration in how to utilise the whole of the animal.

For the third and final course, I chose iced honey parfait, Bunnahabhain ice cream, damson mousse and toasted oats (£9.50). Very Scottish-themed dessert this, and a decent one too. Technically faultless, but the nuttiness from the oats on the outside overpowered the subtle hint of honey in the parfait. The whisky ice cream had a bit more of a robust flavour to it, and worked superbly with the rest of the dish. The little tuille biscuits were most notable. I ate this in about three minutes, as obviously I had to have my share of Sarah’s hot banana and passion fruit soufflé with Pina Colada sorbet and rum and raisin madeleines (£9.50).

The behemoth of a soufflé was light, and executed in the fashion you’d expect from a Michelin-starred kitchen. The sorbet was perfect and offered a cold contrast to the soufflé, with the delicious little cakes almost acting as an impromptu petit four. Fun dish that.

Staying at The Peat Inn brought a sense of ceremony to the meal that you just wouldn’t get from a 'normal' visit.  While the relaxed country atmosphere will always provide me with fond memories, it’s also very competitively priced for a Michelin restaurant.  Smeddle’s expertise at fusing modern cooking with classic influences and fine seasonal produce leaves me in no doubt a visit will finish highly on your league tables too.

*The restaurant is undergoing a renovation In January, and will be shut for the entire month.  Owner Geoffrey Smeddle took the time to talk me through his plans: “The restaurant will gain a more spacious bar area, a few more tables, and overall an increased sense of luxury, elegance and comfort, while still reflecting the heritage of the building and the rural setting.”

Phone: 01334 840 306
Peat Inn on UrbanspoonEmail: Stay@thepeatinn.co.uk

Opening hours: Tues-Sat 
Lunch 12:30 -13:30
Dinner 19:00 - 21:00

17 October 2014

Review: Burger Meats Bun, Edinburgh

FOLLOWING A RECOMMENDATION from a Michelin-starred chef, there was considerable expectation burdened on the shoulders of Edinburgh’s latest burger joint, Burger Meats Bun. As a graduate of Hamburger University (yes, go on, laugh) I reckon I’m suitably qualified to assess their credentials.

We had actually visited BMB a few of weeks earlier, and were impressed by their sincere customer service following a slight mix up with Sarah’s order. I firmly believe a mistake should only be judged by the manner in which it is rectified, and the apologetic team more than atoned for that error.
Anyway, that was a different visit, long before the sky began getting dark at 7:30 p.m.

Co-owner Ben would escort us through the BMB experience this evening, and he welcomed us in. The restaurant sits on Forth Street, just off Broughton Street, with the original branch located in Glasgow city centre. Besides the fact that the restaurant is at full seating capacity on a mid-month Wednesday night, the first thing I pick up on is the attention to detail in the BMB menu: provenance of produce, top suppliers (Gartmore Farm and George Mewes Cheeses), seasonal specials, quirky cocktails, and a rotating range of craft beers. I also rather like their branding and menu format.

So, how would the food measure up? First off, I delved into a tub of honey and chipotle chicken wings (£5.50), the evening’s special, and special they were. The tender bites of chicken, oozing with a sweet and slightly spicy glaze were rather moreish, and they tempted you to try the other menu offerings too.

I opted for the seasonal burger, which came in the form of a venison patty, haggis, pickled beetroot, Bonnet goats’ cheese, bramble jam with kohlrabi and remoulade, priced at £9.50. Now, I have two main gripes when it comes to burgers: 1) I hate it when the patty doesn’t sit proportionately on the bun and 2) when the bun disintegrates half way through eating.  Don’t expect any of those issues at BMB; the robust, yet soft, brioche bun was a perfect foil for the venison patty, which was a healthy size in itself.

The beautiful scent of the deer tantalised my taste buds Ainsley Harriott-style as it found its way into my mouth.  The beetroot and kohlrabi illustrates that this is a chef aware of seasonal produce, and the earthy, zingy notes married with the venison as if nature intended. I particularly enjoyed the tang from the Bonnet, and the way it acted as an impromptu cheesy sauce in the process.

Sarah ordered the “Hot Chic” chicken burger (£8.50), which consisted of a crispy breast, Toma Ranschera cheese, and chipotle sauce (she omitted the mayo).  The chef nailed the cooking of the crispy breast, ensuring it was impressively moist inside.  While she enjoyed the chipotle sauce, she would have liked a bit more of a kick from it.  We shared some cheesy fries (£2.50) and the house salad, priced at £3. The chips were crisp with a fluffy interior and covered with what I suspected was Barwhey’s cheddar.  The salad was a fresh and crunchy offering, coated in a superb lemon dressing that was a complete triumph.

We chatted with Ben throughout, and were surprised to learn that the aforementioned Michelin-star chef (Geoffrey Smeddle from The Peat Inn) was a previous employer of both him and chef/business partner James. I had actually just mentioned to Sarah that the little touches like her butternut squash cocktail and quality ingredients could separate BMB from being just a burger house – learning of the owners’ background explained a lot.

For dessert we split the donuts with dipping sauce (£4.50), with today’s offering being strawberry and black pepper.  The donuts were good, but the sauce was so delicious (and I was so full) I ended up just sticking my finger in and licking it. Enough said.

We were very impressed with the BMB experience.  Great burgers might sound like a simple concept, but is it really that simple given how many places do it so badly? You could easily come here, spend £16-18 on a meal with a drink, and leave just as satisfied as if you had visited a high-end eatery and paid double that. James and Ben clearly know what they’re doing, and I’m sure (and look forward) to be hearing of further success for the pair.  A+.

 Web: http://www.burger-meats-bun.co.uk/
 Phone: (0131) 556 7023
 Twitter: @BMBEdinburgh

1 Forth Street, Edinburgh, EH13JX

Opening times:
Tues- Sun 12-9:30pm
 Closed Monday

Burger Meats Bun on Urbanspoon

6 October 2014

Harissa lamb burgers with homemade guacamole and sweet potato wedges

HARISSA IS AN aromatic, hot paste made from chillies, garlic, oil, coriander and spices. It's commonly used in North African cooking, and, for me, is a real store cupboard essential.  You can't beat handmade burgers, so give this easy recipe a bash.

I make a quick, no fuss guacamole to accompany the spicy lamb, as I love the cool contrast it brings to the burger.  As with most burger recipes, this can easily be turned into a meatball mix for a cracking lamb tagine.

Ingredients (serves 2):

350g lamb mince
1 small tin (142ml), harissa (available in most supermarkets)
1 tsp ground cumin
Good pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
For the guacamole:

1 ready to eat avocado
Juice of one lime
Half a red onion, diced very finely
Bunch of coriander, chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Sea salt

For the sweet potato wedges:

1x large sweet potato
1 tsp smoked paprika
Sea salt
Rapeseed oil

Natural yogurt
Bunch of mint, roughly chopped
Lettuce (I used gem lettuce)
Tomato, sliced 
2x burger buns


1) Turn oven on to 200C (Mark 7), and the grill to a semi-high heat.  Mix all the burger ingredients together in a bowl, shape into desired patties and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.  If you have time, make the night before to really allow those flavours to develop.

2) Slice up the sweet potato into even sized wedges, place in a large bowl.  Mix the smoked paprika, salt and oil together, and then coat the wedges.  Place on the top shelf for 18-20 mins, until soft inside and crispy outside. 

3) Meanwhile, get the burgers under the grill for 12-15 mins, turning half way through.  Tip: to check if they are cooked, insert a small knife or metal skewer into the middle of the burgers for a few seconds, then place on your top lip.  If it's hot, the burgers are cooked.

4) Scoop out the avocado flesh and place in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients.  Pulse until all ingredients come together.  I kept mine deliberately chunky, but feel free to blitz to a smoother texture.

5) Once the burgers are ready, allow a few minutes resting time.  Toast your burger buns under the grill.  Mix the chopped mint with the yoghurt, and add a pinch of salt. Remove wedges from the oven.

6) To plate, place a couple of lettuce leaves and slices of tomato on the bun, then spoon on some of the guacamole.  Stack the wedges on the plate and place a good dollop of the minty yogurt 

24 September 2014

Recipe: Chickpea Curry

THIS RECIPE IS a cracking healthy curry that's my contribution to my family's Indian heritage.

My nan was born in Calcutta (her mother, my great granny is from India and met my great grandad during the war) and one of my earliest food memories was pounding spices in her kitchen with a mortar and pestle.

I make this for dinner once a week, as it takes just half an hour to rustle up and is a tasty way to introduce a vegetarian meal into your diet.  Because there is no meat in this dish, it keeps the costs down, so I like to splash out a little more on organic tomatoes and tomato puree; it really does make a difference to the overall taste..

Sarah makes a little salad alongside this curry, and I love how the acidity and fruitiness from the apple mixes with the spices.

Note: I've used pre-ground spices in this recipe, but investing in spice grinder or mortar and pestle is a sound acquisition.  Pre-ground spices lose flavour far sooner, so try not keep them in your cupboards for any longer than a couple of months. Freshly ground spices also taste better!

Ingredients (serves 2):

1x tin of chickpeas (400g)
1x large red onion, thinly sliced
1x garlic clove
Tbsp tomato puree
2x green chillis, finely chopped
Knob of ginger, grated
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground mustard seeds
1 tsp chilli powder (adjust depending on how hot you like it)
1x tin of tomatoes
Bag of spinach 
Chicken stock (I use chicken but if you're vegetarian, obviously use veg stock)
2x ripe vine tomatoes, chopped
Splash of lemon juice
Coriander, chopped
Oil for cooking
Salt and pepper

Serve with Sarah's salad (and rice):

1x red onion, roughly chopped
1x apple, roughly chopped
2x tomatoes, roughly chopped
Quarter of a cucumber, chopped
Splash of red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice


1) Sweat the onions on a low heat for around 10 minutes, making sure not to colour them
2) Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for a minute.
2) Next, add in the spices. Cook for around 30 seconds to release their flavour, before adding the tomato puree. Cook for a further minute to banish the slight bitterness of the puree. 
3) Add in the chickpeas, and coat with the mix.  Drop in the tinned tomatoes and add a little stock to cover - you don't want to end up with too much liquid. Get the rice on at this point.
4) Give that for around 20 mins.  While that's simmering away, prep the salad and place in a bowl. TIP: never dress a salad until last minute, so keep the lemon juice, salt and oil aside.
5) Add the spinach and fresh tomatoes, stir, and cook for 1-2 mins under the spinach has wilted slightly.  Check seasoning at this point.
6) Plate up

Happy cooking!

12 September 2014

Review: Chop Chop (Haymarket), Edinburgh

IT SEEMS SO long ago that Chop Chop featured on Gordon Ramsay’s F-Word series on Channel 4.  We had yet to visit their original restaurant just around the corner from Haymarket station, and my brother, Steve, had always suggested giving it a bash.

A big smile from restaurant manager Yin greeted us on arrival, proudly giving us a brief history of the restaurant his family opened back in 2006.  Since then, the Chop Chop brand has expanded operations, with a second restaurant established in Leith in 2010, and a Glasgow branch due to open later this year.

We decided to go for the unlimited banquet for two, priced at £20.25 per head. The banquet is a voluminous order: prawn crackers, spicy squid with garlic, boiled pork and coriander dumplings, pan-fried prawn dumplings, cucumber salad, aubergine with garlic, crispy northern beef, seasoned chicken wings, and boiled rice.

The dining room was pretty much at capacity; always a good sign given it’s a mid-month Wednesday evening. Then again, Chop Chop was voted Britain's favourite Chinese restaurant in 2012 and boasts over 20,000 members, so maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. As I decanted the wine (Chop Chop is BYOB, with corkage charges applying), we couldn’t help notice that the table was rather sticky, which was a tad irritating.

The first dish to arrive was the cucumber salad, and I can report that it was utterly delicious.  It was supremely fresh, as you’d expect, with angel hair noodles running throughout, and a tinge of lemongrass adding flavours alongside the nuttiness of the sesame oil.

Next came the chicken wings, which were equally as exquisite.  The batter was crunchy with sesame seeds speckled throughout, with the juicy meat inside making this dish a real star of the meal for me.  It was so good we even ordered another round.

Sarah and I have eaten dumplings just about everywhere in Edinburgh over the past few weeks, so it was interesting to see how Chop Chop would fare, given their excellent reputation for the bite-sized treats. Thankfully, this reputation was justified. The pork and coriander were light and seasoned well, with a subtle taste of the herb complementing the pig.  The fried prawn offering was just as tasty, and it was clear they were hand-made with care and precision.

I was slightly concerned that the squid would be tough and rubbery – I’m still scarred from a terrible batch from a restaurant (that I won’t name back) in Kirkcaldy. However, they were in the right hands here: moist, with an enjoyable hit of chilli and a crispy batter.  In addition, the cucumber salad was super alongside it.

The largest dish was the crispy northern beef, which turned out to be Sarah’s favourite plate of the evening.  Again, layers of flavours, this time from lemongrass, chilli and soy; the little morsels were verging on addictive.  The rice was a little bit dry and bland, but It was edible enough.

I’m a big aubergine fan, and another vegetable element was most welcome.  They were soft, but not mushy, with just about the right of garlic in there.

I hadn’t given dessert a thought until Yin brought it up, and I wasn’t sure how I could manage another course.  I went for sugar string apples (£7.50) with a side of vanilla ice cream at an additional £1.70.  I’m glad I had this pudding, because I would probably never order a dessert in a Chinese restaurant.  As instructed, I dipped the battered apple into ice water to crystallise the sugar, then sunk my teeth through the crunchy, sweet outside, where I was then met with a zingy apple flavour. I enjoyed it a lot more than I had expected.

Sarah ordered mixed fruit dumplings (£3.90), also with vanilla ice cream. The filling was sharp and not overly sweet, with the ice cream creating a sauce for a decent, if unspectacular, dessert.

This was a sterling banquet that we both really enjoyed. I was particularly impressed with the amount of flavour crammed into every plate, and at that price for an unlimited feast, great value for money. We promised Yin we would be back as we left. Maybe we should invite my brother as a thank you…

Phone: 0131 221 1155
248 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8DT
Twitter: @eatatchopchop

Opening times: Mon-Fri 12:00-14:00, 17:00- 22:00 Sat: 12:00- 14:00, Sun 12:30-14:30, 17:00- 22:00 (Haymarket)

Mon-Thurs 18:00-22:00 Fri 18:00-22:30 Sat 12:00-14:00, 17:00-22:30 Sun 12:30-14:30, 17:00-22:00 (Leith)

Chop Chop on Urbanspoon

8 September 2014

Review: The Stockbridge Restaurant, Edinburgh

ARGUABLY MY FAVOURITE restaurant sits over the road from The Stockbridge Restaurant, so I felt like a bit of a traitor as I snuck down the stairs into this little grotto on St. Stephen’s Street. Toiling with a cold, I was close to cancelling this review, but this would test my views that good food always helps.

On first impression, the restaurant has a touch of class about it: it’s homely and cosy, yet spacious with walls adorned with rather interesting artwork. Chef/proprietor Jason Gallagher has held two AA Rosettes here for seven years, and his sterling reputation within the industry suggested we will be well fed.

The first page of the menu pays tribute to the various suppliers used by Gallagher, almost a statement of intent if you like.  We perused the a la carte menu, the impressive array of dishes went hand in hand with my hankering for some good old honest cooking.  It’s worth pointing out that an extremely good value-for-money set menu runs from Tuesday-Thursday, with two courses costing just £20.95, and three for £24.95 respectively. I like how it features dedicated dishes rather than watered down versions of main menu offerings, as is often the case.

I started off with braised Ox cheeks with horseradish creamed potato, Bourguignonne sauce and onion rings (£7.95). Presented with an oval-shaped bowl that brought an elegant touch of drama to proceedings, I was worried that in my current state I’d be unable to polish off this mammoth beast of a portion. However, it was such a delightful dish that failing to do so would be verging on rude.  The meat was as soft as melted butter, yet still lovely and moist. I knew the sauce was top notch when the first waft of it graced my nostrils. The crispy onion rings just added a crunchy sharpness to the plate, but I didn’t quite get enough horseradish flavour from an otherwise sublime mash potato.

Sarah began with seared scallops with butternut squash puree, apple salsa with walnuts and Serrano ham (£7.95).  The cooking of the scallops ensured they were the star of the show, as intended, with the walnuts adding texture and earthiness, along with the butternut squash.  The zingy apple salsa was refreshingly pleasant, though I think there was too much of it on the plate.

Arguing over mains, Sarah went for the meritorious roasted rack of Hugh Grierson organic lamb, with braised flank, spinach and roasted potatoes (£24.95), while I selected mallard duck breast with confit leg, Savoy cabbage with bacon, potato terrine and jus at £21.95.

The breast was cooked medium-rare as stated, while the leg just fell from the bone; both elements being equally delicious.  I thoroughly enjoyed the craftsmanship and execution of the potato terrine, while the cabbage was suitably al dente, and added some greenery. The acidity from little pieces of tomato concasse was inspired, with another rich, viscous sauce completing this super main course.

Over the table, Sarah’s rack of lamb had been expertly butchered and was perfectly pink throughout, with the verdict being  that the lesser-used cut of flank was the most memorable part of the dish. The potatoes had clearly been turned by someone that had served their time in classic restaurant kitchens, with another almost lickable sauce binding this robust dish together. Maybe a hit of seasoning was lacking from the mains, but that’s being super critical.

Usually when I’m reviewing I’ll try and pick up any murmurs from other tables, and I was particularly interest by the gentleman at the table next to me, because he had ordered the grilled halibut that I’d toyed with earlier.  I don’t really need to say much other than he got his dish after me, and yet devoured it before I’d finished mine.

We did wait a bit for our desserts, but I suspect that was due to a table of nine (I think) who spoke broken English being seen to; it would be extremely harsh to criticise the highly professional service we received all evening.

With my cold well and truly on the mend, I could enjoy my dessert without thinking of spending the next day in bed.  Vanilla rice pudding with shortbread crumble, apple compote and cinnamon ice 
cream (£6.45) was a solid dessert indeed.  The rice was soft, but still had enough texture to ensure it would avoid the risk of being deemed baby food.  The creamy vanilla-infused rice was offset by the sharp apple, while the cold contrast of cinnamon ice cream rounded off this well-balanced pudding.

For her final course, Sarah ordered a classic banana tart tatin with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream (£6.45). The pastry had stayed crispy throughout cooking, with the bananas sporting an appealing caramelised top; the butterscotch sauce was top notch, as it wasn’t too rich and sickly sweet. The vanilla ice cream was decent, and as with my dessert, brought a cooling sensation to the palate.

Classic cooking is classic for a reason, and Jason Gallagher showed that he is a true master of it. The standard of cooking made the hearty portions even more welcome, and the setting certainly contributed to the enjoyment of our meal.  It is obvious why two AA Rosettes have been maintained at The Stockbridge Restaurant for so long, and what I will leave with is that it’s the Godfather of the rather eclectic St. Stephen Street dining scene. Oh, and my cold has vanished too…

We drank... Santa Rosa malbec (£24.95). A rather light malbec, with tastes of plum and raspberry. Most sipable. 

Twitter: @stockbridgerest
Email: Jane@Stockbridgerestaurant.co.uk

Address: 54 St Stephen Street
Edinburgh EH3 5AL
Phone: 0131 226 6766

Opening hours: Saturday and Sunday
Dinner: 7.00pm - Saturday 9.30pm, Sunday 9.00pm 
Tuesday - Friday 
Dinner: 7.00pm - 9.30pm. Set menu available Tuesday - Friday.
Lunches available with prior notice, please see website or contact the restaurant for further details
The Stockbridge Restaurant on Urbanspoon

22 August 2014

Review: The Magnum, Edinburgh

WITH THE CITY centre's capacity swelling, dinner in Edinburgh's New Town was a welcome break from the chaotic flurry of the Festival.  I had yet to visit The Magnum, and this chilly August night offered the perfect opportunity to remedy that.

The bustling atmosphere instantly hit as Sarah and I took our seats at the window by the bar, ordering a very enjoyable bottle of Rioja (£19.95) as we decided upon our grub. My starter was Devonshire crab gazpacho with avocado cream, peppers, cherry tomatoes, which was finished with olive oil (£6.95). This dish was fresh and light and would have been perfect for a warm summer's day - if we had been fortunate enough to get one.  

The sweetness of the gazpacho was enhanced by the crunch and warmth from the green peppers, which really made the dish for me.  Crab is a ridiculously underused ingredient in my opinion, and the delicate meat was delicious alongside the chilled soup, although a crack of salt wouldn’t have gone a miss.

Sarah started the evening with pan-fried breast of pigeon, with frisee and radicchio salad, toasted pine nuts with sultanas and Quail’s egg (£6.95).  The pigeon was adequately pink, juicy and tender.  The pine nuts and sultanas brought an earthiness to the plate as well as texture. It was a pity the quail’s egg was a little over; no runny yolk this time boo hoo. The only other minor foible was that Sarah felt it could have been a little hotter, and the plate wasn’t warmed either.

The menu proudly focuses on Scottish produce, and for main, I chose whisky and vanilla cured salmon with saffron potatoes, wilted baby gem lettuce and samphire (£18.95). I reckoned the salmon had been steamed, and while I love the crispy skin that comes from pan-frying, the cooking was so good that I forgot all about it. The fish was beautiful and flaky, and any fears I had of being over-cured and sickly were dispelled with the first forkful I devoured.  The warmth of whisky and tinge of vanilla didn’t overpower the salmon either, and those little potatoes stained with saffron were sublime.  I love cooked lettuce and it worked well in this dish, adding crunch and slight bitterness, with the saltiness of the expertly cooked samphire adding to its enjoyment. If I’m being picky, a sauce or even a drizzle of olive oil would have just rounded the dish off perfectly.

Continuing her game theme, Sarah ordered venison steak with dauphinoise potatoes, broccoli, thyme and garlic infused mushrooms and redcurrant jus, priced at £19.95. The venison was soft and tasty, with the classic dauphinoise sufficiently cooked and adding a creamy note to the plate.  You could really taste the thyme and garlic, and the dish was all the better for it.  The enormous portion was excellently seasoned, and the full-flavoured sauce made this a high standard gastropub dish allround.

Sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream (£6.50) would be my third and final course of the night.  I’ve often found that desserts let places of (what I’d consider) similar ilk down, but this pudding was actually very good.  The cake itself was light and manageable after two courses.  The sauce was sweet and with just a hint of saltiness, and while the ice cream was middle-of-the-road and could have presented a little neater, it nonetheless provided a cold contrast to the excellent sticky toffee pudding.

For dessert, Sarah went for chocolate and star anise cake with fennel ice cream (£6.50). The star anise brought a welcome twist to a normal chocolate torte pudding, with the fennel ice cream lending to the aniseed flavour.  It was rich, yet light and well-balanced flavour-wise.

As far as gastropub fayre goes, The Magnum is ticking all the boxes.  The menu is well thought out, with the technique of the chef apparent, and gives the customer a sound interpretation of Scottish food.  The portions were generous and the surroundings lend to a really decent dining spot in the New Town.  

Follow: @MagnumBar_Rest

1 Albany Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3PY
Opening times: Sun-Thurs 12pm -12am
                        Fri-Sat 12pm- 1am

14 August 2014

Recipe: Pea velouté with chorizo and broad beans

I love this recipe, as it's ridiculously quick to whip up and ideal for a cool summer day.  It reminds me of a version I done while in first year at catering college. 

Chef Norman Bendix would emphasis the beauty of its simplicity, and how it was important not to over cook your vegetables, so you don't lose their goodness.

I've used broad beans and chorizo to jazz up this simple soup recipe. I love the flavour combo and the added texture it brings, plus broad beans are bang in season.

You could also use smoked ham hock, pancetta or coconut milk to elevate it just as effectively.


1 onion, finely diced
450g frozen peas
200mls full fat milk
1 chicken stock cube
200g unpodded broad beans
80g chorizo, diced into cubes
Double cream to garnish


1) First, get a pot of water boiling and open up the whole broad beans. Remove the beans and drop into the boiling water for 10 seconds.  With a slotted spoon, remove the beans and plunge into cold water to stop them cooking.  Take them out of the water, and pod the beans.

2) Next, put a pot on the hob.  Toss in the chorizo and cook for a minute.  Pour both the chorizo and the oil into a bowl. In the same pan, add a dash more oil to replenish and lower the heat slightly.  Add the onion and gently sweat for 5-6 mins without colouring.

3) While the onion is sweating, blanch the peas in the boiling water for two mins, then pour into the pot with the onion. Season, cover with milk and add the chicken stock.

4) Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer, and allow to cook for 2-3 mins. Blitz in a food processor or with a stick blender. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

5) To serve, pour into a warm soup bowl, mix the broad beans with the chorizo and spoon a generous helping in the centre of the bowl.  Drizzle around the chorizo oil and cream.

7 August 2014

Festival Foodie Guide

IT DOESN'T SEEM like any time has passed since I published last year's Festival guide, and since then, I've visited some really great dining spots. I hope visitors to Edinburgh manage to visit these marvelous restaurants that truly cement the city as a real foodie destination.

Must Visit:

Purslane is a gem of a find and a restaurant I suggest no visitor misses out on while visiting Edinburgh. Nestled downstairs on St. Stephen Street, Purslane serves up a mouth-watering menu of seasonal delights with ingredients predominantly sourced from the surrounding  Stockbridge area. 

Chef Paul Gunning has honed his craft under the watchful eye of some of the top chefs in the UK, including Marco Pierre White (The River Room) and Phil Thompson (Auberge Du Lac).  

Offering three courses for around £28 (taster menu is also available) and a considerable wine list, Purslane will give any visitor (or local alike) a real taste of modern Scottish cooking and the best value for money in the city.

Phone: (0131) 226 3500 

33a St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5AH

Top Lunch Spot:

Located just off Princes Street, The Edinburgh Larder's food philosophy is an inspiration for any foodie. Not only does the eatery offer a top rate lunch deal (two courses for £12 or three for £15), it also houses an artisan bakery where you can purchase their breads and pastries. 

The restaurant doesn't just take pride in the way ingredients are turned into top notch dishes, but also in informing the customer of the provenance of such produce by promoting their excellent array of suppliers.

I highly recommend one of their gin cocktails with home-made lavender cordial!   

Phone:(0131) 225 4599

Bistro: 1a Alva Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4PH
Cafe: 15 Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1NB

Taste of The Sea

Scotland offers some of the best seafood in the world, and you're in good hands at A Room in Leith. This popular seafood joint serves up some of the finest fish in the city, with a range of beers and whiskies to boot.

Situated on The Shore area, their use of quality produce is given the necessary respect that will send you away with fond memories of Scottish cuisine - a far cry from our reputation as deep fried Mars bar eaters! 

Their neighbouring pub, Teuchters Landing, is the ideal spot for an after dinner drink, and also serves up a brilliant mug menu to snack on - ideal for munching on their outside terrace. 

Phone: (0131) 554 7427

1a Dock Place, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6LU

1 August 2014

Review: Manchester House, Manchester

I’VE LONG HAD an affiliation with the city of Manchester.  The music scene in the late '80s through to the mid-'90s inspired me to pick up the bass guitar and join a band, and I’ve enjoyed bags of success as a United fan since I was eight years old.  But, it always lacked a food scene to satisfy my hat-trick of hobbies.  Until now…

Manchester House is located in the upmarket business district of Spinningfields and is run by one of the youngest chefs ever to gain a Michelin star, when a then 22-year-old named Aiden Byrne achieved the accolade at Adlard’s in Norwich. 

Byrne’s CV boasts a host of top establishments, including The Dorchester and Tom Aiken's Chelsea restaurant. He also cooked at The Great British Menu banquet a couple of years back, and owns another restaurant, The Church Green, in Cheshire. Manchester House sees Aiden return to his fine dining roots. With a huge £3million investment in the restaurant from Living Ventures, the aim is to gain a star here too.

You enter via lift from the ground floor and are instantly hit by the modern, chic vibe of the place, with the metal work and exposed brick giving a nod to Manchester's industrial past. We stroll past the open kitchen where the man himself is keeping a steely eye on proceedings as we take our seats for lunch.

I felt immediately relaxed, despite thinking the restaurant décor would be a tad loud and modern (I’m an old 30 year old) for my tastes.  It wasn’t at all.  Actually, I surmised it might be one of my favourite dining spots.  Mind you, I haven’t tasted the food yet.

The waiting staff were all dressed casually, with just matching waistcoats and shirts resembling any sort of uniform.  Our waitress Charlie started us off with an amuse bouche of cep brioche that was light as a feather, a light and delightful mushroom consommé, which she suggests "needs a couple of minutes to really infuse" and a delicious seaweed butter that would set the tone for the entire meal.

To begin, Sarah and I both had chicken and lobster consommé with Jerusalem artichoke ravioli. If the beautiful presentation didn’t give this dish instant appeal, the smell of the consommé certainly did.  Crystal clear, it was packed with flavour and seasoned perfectly.  The lobster was so soft, and the chicken rich with the woody artichoke ravioli lending another welcome note of flavour. I thought that dish looked amazing – it tasted even better.

For the main, I had Longhorn beef sirloin, with caramelised onions and watercress purée, which was a variation of Aiden’s Great British Menu main course. For me, this dish epitomises everything modern British cooking should be: simple, with exceptional produce, sound technique and not a pointless foam in sight. The beef was rare and cut with the back of your knife, while the watercress pureé brought a pepperiness that was an ideal partner for the meat.  Aiden later told me the beef is hung in the restaurant for an extra two weeks in addition to the three on the farm; it's that extra touch that leads to accolades. There were also these little ox tongue croquettes that gave a contrast of cheap to expensive cut. Perfectly seasoned, they held their own against the sirloin.

While the cow was amazing, the real star for me was those little onion petals.  It made me sad so many people across the country were in supermarkets buying tasteless, rubbish alliums while I was sitting in this fine restaurant appreciating what an onion should taste like.

Sarah had roasted turbot with asparagus risotto and red Sicilian prawns for her main course. You could tell the risotto had been expertly cooked by the way it held its shape on the plate, with the prawn’s head adding a playful touch to the presentation.  The turbot was magnificent, with the sweetness and a garlicky taste of the prawn a notable highlight.  I’m big on seasoning, as you can probably tell, and this dish yet again fulfilled by expectations.

Charlie and her co-workers really delivered on top service throughout the couple of hours we spent at Manchester House.  They were friendly and chatty, and had an effortless confidence about their work. I especially liked how she came across and kept Sarah company as I popped to the bathroom – lovely touch. 

I’m a sucker for a panna cotta, and opted for the lavender version with gooseberries and Champagne bubbles. The set cream came with some majestic candyfloss that kind of tasted like Palma Violets.  The panna cotta was creamy and scored sufficiently high on the wobbly scale.  Those little Champagne spherifications were little globules of pure flavour – a prime example of molecular gastronomy actually enhancing a dish.  The little shortbread biscuits brought crunch and counterbalanced the sharpness of the gooseberries.

The warm date sponge with parsnip cream and carrot distillation was another eye catcher.  There were a few mini parsnip panna cottas in there that brought a creaminess to the light, warmth of the sponge.  The slightly sweet carrot brought texture to the plate with the ice cream bringing it all together.  It was like a carrot cake meets a sticky toffee pudding, but not as rich and heavy. Delicious.

I’m reading my words back and thinking through this meal trying to find fault, but I genuinely can’t pinpoint one.  From entry to exit, the staff were phenomenal and the food attractive, well-seasoned and a joy to eat.  At £27.50 for three courses, it’s up there for a Michelin-starred lunch, and I certainly think it was there standards wise too.  Hat-trick completed. 

Phone: 0161 835 2557
Follow: @MCRHouse

Opening hours: Tues-Thurs Lunch 12.30-14.30
                                         Dinner 19:00-21:00
                        Fri-Sat       Lunch 12:00- 14:30
                                         Dinner 18:00- 22:00