19 June 2014

Review: No.11 Brunswick St., Edinburgh

AS HISTORY HAS it, due to a shortage of stone the townhouses on Edinburgh’s Brunswick Street were the last of the Georgian-inspired buildings to be constructed in the city’s New Town.  The building had been a Black Watch club for over 60 years, before being transformed into the modern boutique hotel before us today – and that’s where my interest lies.

Brunswick Street is an ideal location for a boutique hotel.  The quiet side street is surrounded by leafy gardens across London Road and only a stone’s throw from the Edinburgh Playhouse, city centre and the diverse array of offerings on Leith Walk.

The hotels co-owner Susan Grant greeted us as we escaped the sweltering heat of the capital to run the rule over  No.11’s Brasserie.  Susan was keen to give us a brief history of the building and spoke of her passion for giving visitors and locals alike an insight into the history of the city, by capturing it with a mural of the great thinkers, such as Adam Smith and David Hume, who have presided in Edinburgh over the years.

Anyway, history lessons aside I was rather hungry and it was time to eat.  No. 11’s menu offered a plethora of dishes that you could have just shut your eyes and selected your dish with a random finger point– the selection of dishes was that appealing.  Nevertheless, we had to choose and I went for the Isle of Gigha organic halibut gravlax, with pickled spring vegetables, citrus crème fraiche and crostini (£6.95), while Sarah ordered confit of duck, pork and Parma ham ballontine with celeriac remoulade and toasted brioche (£7.25).

My gravlax was an ideal starter for this sort of day; fresh and light, the halibut was sweet with a light hint of dill.  The little pickled veg had been prepared with care and attention, and cut through the tender halibut perfectly.  The actual pickling was bang on the money, and the pepperiness of the radishes almost seasoned the dish.  I would have liked a dollop or two more of the crème fraiche dressing though, just to round off each mouthful. Halibut is such an amazing fish and it always reminds me of my first day in a professional kitchen, where chef taught me how to fillet a whole one through at The Seafood Restaurant in St. Monans

Sarah’s duck ballontine was rich, tender and brimming with flavour, with the radish bringing a bit of freshness and texture.  The celeriac remoulade was creamy, and balanced out the richness of the ballontine to a tee. Ideal starter portion for a three-course dinner too.

It was obvious that the two waitresses had tasted the dishes, as their knowledge of the menu was evident not just at our table, but with other guests as I listened to them pleasantly converse with other guests; I even overheard the gentleman next to me ask for a business card and talk of his intentions to visit again.

For main course, I went for my favourite – braised pork belly with potato puree, spring greens, pancetta and red wine jus (£18.25). Underneath the excellent crispy crackling i found moist, tender meat – a generous slab of beautiful piggy goodness.  The cooking of the veg left a slight bite and showed the cook has skill and I could tell the jus was excellent by the sheen and viscosity of it – the taste didn’t disappoint.  If I was being picky, if eaten on its own, the potato puree could have benefited with a twist of seasoning, but the cubes of pancetta remedied that when eaten together.

The other half went for one of the specials in the shape of  an 8oz Glenrothes venison haunch steak with roasted shallot puree, Pont Neuf potatoes, wild mushrooms, brambles and a Port jus (£25).  The venison came medium-rare as requested and was rich and easy to cut.  The shallot puree was probably the star, bringing a sharp but not too sweet element to the dish and working in tandem with the earthy mushrooms.  One thing was missing and that was the Pont Neuf potatoes, which arrived a couple of minutes late; no biggy, plus they were ideal for mopping up another sublime jus. 

Having thoroughly enjoyed the first two thirds of the meal, the final course awaited and I looked forward to my white chocolate, vanilla and maple syrup brûlée with rhubarb compote and shortbread (£6.25) with Sarah opting to try the iced raspberry cranachan parfait with whisky infused raspberries and toasted oat crumble (£6.25).  The brûlée was a decent one:  sufficiently crunchy top that I'll never get tire of smashing into with a silky filling and flecks of vanilla seed running throughout.  I didn’t really get any maple syrup from it, but the white chocolate was certainly there and thankfully not too sweet.  The shortbread was buttery and well made, however I would have liked the compote to be reduced down more to really enhance those flavours.

The iced cranachan parfait was refreshing, especially on this super-hot day, with an oaty flavour that was complimented by the warmth of the whisky soaked rasps.  Sarah commented that it perhaps needed a little more of the toasted oats to add crunch, while my only reservation was that the parfait could have been cut with a hot knife to ensure a smooth finish to the presentation.

I think it’s fair to say that was a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience and I would most definitely visit again.  Some flawless technique on show here and a menu I’d happily eat my way through.  The slick, professional service mimicked the quality of the food and I’m glad the owner’s pride in her chef’s cooking was fully justified.  

Web: http://www.11brunswickst.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/no11brunswick?fref=ts
Phone: 0131 557 6910
No.11 Brasserie on UrbanspoonEmail: info@11brunswickst.co.uk

No.11,
11 Brunswick St,
Edinburgh,
EH7 5JB



9 June 2014

Smoked mackerel pate on toasted sourdough bread

Easy no cook lunch... 



This dish is a really simple, no cook lunch that can be prepared days in advance - perfect for taking to work.  Mackerel is cheap, sustainable and rich in Omega 3, so we should be eating more of it! I love the silver and blue markings of this beautiful fish. I didn't realise, and was a little surprised,  to learn that mackerel is Scotland's most valuable species of fish (check out Seafoodscotland.org).

So, here is my recipe for mackerel pate with toasted sourdough bread:


Ingredients (makes about three ramekins worth):


Four smoked mackerel fillets (you could use peppered if you please)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp creme fraiche
Good dash of lemon juice
125g butter
Sea salt flakes
Pepper
Sourdough loaf, sliced thinly (try making your own at http://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/river-cottage-sourdough/
Bunch of spring onions, sliced
Micro parsley (or chopped) to garnish

Method:


1) Remove the skin and flake the flesh of the fish into a bowl. Add mustard, honey, creme fraiche, lemon juice and seasoning and blend in a food processor until smooth.


2) Check the seasoning then add the butter, blend again. 


3) Scoop into ramekins or whatever moulds you have available, cover and chill for at least two hours.


4) To serve, toast the sourdough then spead the pate, sprinkle over some spring onions and dig in.