31 July 2016

Review: Mussel Inn, Edinburgh

Ah, seafood – Scotland’s secret shame.  Our waters are home to such wonderful produce. Why don’t we eat it? Exporting it just seems like such a waste. Rose Street may be famed for pub crawls, but it also acts as a convenient hotspot to showcase our natural larder to our many foreign visitors, especially during Festival time, so I dearly hoped The Mussel Inn would provide suitable evidence to suggest visitors would leave with a positive impression of our fishy treats.

The al fresco area was packed as I clocked a line of 15-20 tourists trying to obtain a table on this bright Thursday evening. Thankfully, I had reservations.  When you see a restaurant this busy, it really adds to the pressure: will I be waiting long between courses? Will the order be accurate? Will there be staff frantically banging into each other, struggling to cope with the volume?

The menu is an extensive one and focusses heavily on shellfish. There’s an appetising array of scallop, oyster and mussel dishes that suggest the seafood is cooked simply – as fish should be – and that’s refreshing, although fish ‘n’ chips is a notable omission.

Despite the crowded interior, my starter of marinated tiger prawns, grilled with red onion, chillies with parsley and garlic butter (£7.40) arrived swiftly with the punch of garlic arousing the palette.  Five plump prawns were just about cooked properly with the fresh flavours from the marinade all identifiable with each mouthful. I liked the addition of the grilled baguette that soaked up the sauce which became even more delicious with a squeeze of lemon.
Sarah opened with grilled queenie scallops with pea puree, crispy pancetta and pea shoots (£6.50). 

This is a combination of flavours that we know works, but the balsamic vinegar overpowered the scallop and didn’t need to be there in such an abundance, if at all.  The scallops were sweet and tender and I liked seeing the roe still attached, but the puree was wishy-washy, although it tasted fine.  The pancetta crumb added texture and smokiness, just a pity about the balsamic.

I have to pay tribute to our delicious wine selection. Castillo de Monjardin “El Cerezo”, this unoaked chardonnay from Spain sparked a debate about whether we had ever tasted a bad Spanish wine.  The answer was a resounding ‘no’. As the plates were cleared, I began to take in the surroundings.  It was packed with people, yet still spacious and unobtrusive. The interior is largely no frills, and I can imagine this restaurant in Spain in the vanguard of the busy café scene, churning out seafood with a good wine accompanying the jolly, sun-kissed banter. That’s the dream life.

Scallops are my favourite, so I went for the pan-fried option with smoked haddock, mascarpone and pea risotto with Parmesan flake which came in just south of twenty quid. The scallops were cooked bang on the money, and the risotto was rich and creamy with the tender flakes of smoked fish giving real depth of flavour along with the burst of fresh, sweet peas.  The rice itself was soft and competently cooked with the cheesy crisp bringing in some seasoning, although it was a little on the soggy side.  An enjoyable eat, nonetheless.

Over the table, Sarah went for the lobster thermidor special (£32 for the whole one, available until the end of August). The meat was bountiful and sweet with the light and tangy sauce a real star. The little potatoes alongside were creamy and thoroughly enjoyable. We indulged in a side of chips (£3.80), which came in handy for scooping up the risotto and cheesy lobster dressing.

For pudding I was impressed by the light mousiness of the strawberry cheesecake (£5.50) with fruits of the forest which provided the palette cleanse after a big dinner. Sarah had the chocolate torte (also £5.50) which had a pleasant orange flavour, heightened by the addition of the orange-flavoured cream. Almonds provided texture to this airy cake, although it was a little dry in parts due to being reheated.

Service was very efficient despite the volume ad I was pleased this was the case having read so in other reviews whilst researching this eatery.  Our server was very confident and knowledgeable about the menu and looked like she enjoyed chatting with customers.  

In culinary terms, there are few things worse than overcooked seafood, but on the flip side, fewer things more enjoyable.  Our larder gives us a gift that we don’t appreciate enough, but thankfully The Mussel Inn exemplifies genuine artistry when it comes to handling seafood, and will leave diners with an overwhelmingly positive impression.

Web: http://www.mussel-inn.com/
Address: 61-65 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2NH
Phone: (0843) 2892 481

Opening times: Mon -Weds 12:00 - 15:00 17:30 - 22:00
                          Thurs - Sat 12:00 - 22:00
                          Sun 12:30 - 22:00

Square Meal
Mussel Inn Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

27 July 2016

COMPETITION: Win a pair of tickets to Foodies Festival 2016

IT SEEMS LIKE no time has passed since last year's record-breaking 10th anniversary, but Foodies Festival is upon us again as the UK's biggest celebration of food and drink takes over Inverleith Park from 5th-7th August to serve up a day out that no foodie should miss.  With its usual line-up of top chefs, producers and a tantalising menu of new culinary features, Phil's Food World has teamed up with Foodies to give away a pair of tickets to one lucky reader.

All you have to do to win is answer this simple question:

Which guest chef recently launched their first cookbook 'Perceptions'?

A) Mark Greenaway
B) Stuart Muir
C) Jamie Scott

Send your answers HERE and a lucky winner will be picked at random (please specify which of the three days you would like to attend).

Foodies Festival offers a smorgasbord of gastronomic treats, read all about them below:

Aga Rangemaster Chefs Theatre
Scotland's culinary masters will showcase their skills and share insight into this year's food trends while answering questions from the audience. Chefs confirmed include:
  • Jacqueline O'Donnell - The Sisters and Great British Menu regional champion
  • Marcello Tully - Kinloch Lodge (Michelin-starred)
  • Brian Grigor - Number One at The Balmoral (Michelin-starred)
  • Stuart Muir - DINE
  • Mark Greenaway - Restaurant Mark Greenaway
  • Jamie Scott - The Newport and MasterChef: The Professionals winner
  • Colin Fleming - The Printing Press
  • Gordon Craig - The Field
  • Fraser Smith - Angels with Bagpipes
  • Fraser Allen - The Pompadour 
  • Graeme Pallister - 63 Tay Street
  • Paul Wedgwood - Wedgwood's
  • Neil Forbes - Cafe St Honore  
  • Stuart Ralston - Aizle
  • Edward Murray - Gardiners Cottage
  • Gillian, Nichola & Linsey - Three Sisters Bake 
  • Tony Rodd - MasterChef Finalist 2015
  • Kaori Simpson - Harajuku Kitchen 
  • Kim Kaewkraikhot - Chaophraya
  • Ian Pirrie - Edinburgh School of Food & Wine

Drinks Theatre
Champagne enthusiasts can relax in the Drinks Theatre with 'The Fascinating Story of Champagne Canard-Duchêne and Pinot Noir' masterclasses presented by writer Brian Elliot or learn how to match wine with seasonal ingredients with TV wine expert Charles Metcalfe. 

Tutorials in craft beer are also available with beer critic Melissa Cole, and for those who enjoy Whisky, R&B Distillers host whisky tastings - perfect for both whisky novices and connoisseurs.

Street Food Avenue
A feast of international flavours and delicacies are served on the Street Food Avenue. Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Argentinian, Turkish, Indian, Korean, Mexican, French and African are just some of the cuisines on offer and can be enjoyed in the every growing Feasting Tent, ensuring hunger is banished and tummies are full. 

There’s a special focus on Brazilian street food this year to celebrate the Olympic host’s cuisine, including traditional Brazilian BBQ and Rio’s favourite dish Feijoada made from black beans, salted pork, trimmings, smoked sausage and jerk beef, which is cooked in a traditional clay pot. Brazil’s national cocktail Caipirinha, a mix of lime, sugar and Cachaça (made from sugarcane juice with an ABV of 48%), and Brazilian coffees will be available.

Artisan Producers Market
This year there are more award-winning producers at Foodies Festival than ever before with a glittering array of Great Taste Award winners available to shop and sample from, each being hailed as a producer of ‘Exquisite, Outstanding and Simply Delicious’ food and drink – a fantastic opportunity for visitors to meet artisan producers from the local area and across the country, learn their story and stock up on award winning produce.

New Vintage Tea Room and Cake, Bake & Tasting Theatre
A beautifully decorated new Vintage Tea Room offers visitors Afternoon Tea with a selection of cakes, scones with clotted cream and jam, and finger sandwiches served on china from a tea trolley by vintage styled tea ladies and gentlemen.

Baking extraordinaire Charlotte White, master chocolatier Fiona Sciolti and top local cake-makers work their baking wizardry on the Cake & Bake stage, inspiring visitors to reach for their whips and spatulas at home and create show-stopping cakes and delicious summer bakes. A neighbouring Chocolate, Cake and Bake Village sells freshly baked breads, sponges, tarts, jellies and trifles to enjoy with a bubble tea or fresh juice. 

Into the Jungle
Festival goers can munch their way into the depths of the jungle this summer with a trip to the Vietnamese Street Food stand, where those with a taste for the exotic can indulge in insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, mealworms, beetles, scorpions, locus and ants.

For those brave enough, there’s a daily Bush Tucker Trial on the Challenge Stage, where visitors compete against one another by eating jungle insects, from small ants to large juicy grubs, with the contestant eating the biggest and the most being crowned champion. 

Childrens Cookery School
The Olympic theme continues into the Childrens Cookery School, where little foodies can decorate their very own gold medal with coloured icing, glitter and edible ribbon.  Pizza and cupcake making classes also allow kids to explore their taste buds and learn basic cookery skills to practice at home.

Chilli-Eating Challenge
The famous Chilli-Eating Challenge continues in 2016, inviting fans of spice to beat an eye-watering 16 million scoville record set by Shahina Waseem last year. Participants start at the low end of the chilli spectrum by eating bell peppers, but things quickly get a lot hotter with Habanero, Scotch and Carolina Reaper (world's hottest chilli) chillies being added to the menu. Those still standing are then inflicted to pure chilli extract, increasing in strength, until a winner is crowned.

New Deco Noir VIP Tent
This year's 1920s themed Deco Noir VIP tent offers those looking to relax in style at Foodies Festival a decadently decorated VIP Tent sponsored by Simpson & Marwick Property. VIPs can enjoy a red carpet reception with a welcome glass of bubbly and goody bag, and take advantage of priority entry to food and drink masterclasses between relaxing in the VIP Tent with private Mirror Bar, live jazz music and refreshments throughout the day. 

Live Music and Pop-Up Bars
After a day of feasting and fun, visitors can picnic on the grass with friends and soak in the atmosphere with live music from award-winning local bands at the Unsigned Music Awards Stage and a glass of bubbly or refreshing cocktail from the Giant Pimm's Teapot or Mojito Ship. 

Visitors 5.jpgTicket prices:
Friday adult ticket £10.00/£8.00 concession
Saturday/Sunday adult ticket £14.00/£11.00 concession
Three day adult ticket £20.00/£16.00 concession

VIP day ticket £38.00/£35.00 Friday - includes a glass of bubbly with red carpet welcome, use of the decadent Deco Noir VIP Lounge and Mirror Bar, refreshments throughout the day, priority entry to food and drink masterclasses, show guide, and goody bag to take home.

Children aged 12 and under go free to all Foodies Festivals when accompanied by an adult.

Open times:
5th August - 11am - 7pm
6th August - 10am - 8pm
7th August - 10am - 7pm

17 July 2016

Review: Voujon, Edinburgh

DESPITE OUR LOVE of Indian food, Sarah and I are guilty of not branching out in search of rivals to our much-loved regulars Rivage and Desi Pakwan.  Then again, when you know the food is always going to be top notch, why would you take this risk? Today presented an opportunity to take us out of our spice comfort zone when a trip to Voujon in Newington was arranged.

I have to admit I knew very little about this eatery but remember reading a review by my blogger friends The Edinburgers (http://www.edinburgers.co.uk/) earlier in the year.  Newington itself isn’t our normal turf, either, but there’s always a buzz around the area to suggest this part of town demands further exploration.

The weather couldn’t be much worse on this Friday evening and you can feel the city starting to swell with the Festival looming.  Traffic is busier, tourists are confused by the £1.60 bus fare payment and so holding everyone up, waves of colourful posters are everywhere … yip, August is near.

It was worth noting that the waiting staff were smartly dressed as we trudged in from the rain in need of nourishment.  The dining room was full with what I judged to be a mix of locals, tourists and students, as well as a busy takeaway trade going on, so best to get down to business quickly.

The menu showcased an extensive range of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. The usual classics were in there alongside an interesting range of kebabs, specials and fusion dishes. 

I was tempted by the veggie starter voll puri (£3.75) (lightly spiced chickpeas and potatoes with poori from Calcutta), but went for the more lavish butterflied king prawns (£7.95), that the menu described as ‘striking and delicious’. When it arrived the two large breadcrumbed prawns certainly had my attention. I found the prawns were beautifully tender and the coating suitably crisp with a tasty yellow sauce that had a pleasant fruity tang to it. This was certainly delicious , but could have done with a chilli sauce or some spice to deliver the striking part. 

Sarah’s starter of Khati kebab (£5.95) had a little more character to it. Little flecks of tandoori chicken and well-cooked vegetables mixed with an evenly balanced mix of spices inside a light, toasty-flavoured roti, and a fresh side salad impressed.  This was a mammoth portion, too, but again could have benefited from the addition of a sauce just to elevate it to another level.

I was glad Sarah ordered the North Indian garlic chilli chicken (£9.95) because it’s my go-to Indian main course, but I thought I’d branch out, opting for the Khatmandu chicken delicacy (£9.95).  An intriguing name to say the least, it consists of chicken tikka kebabs with whole spring onions, cinnamon, lentils and fresh herbs that form a spicy sauce. Sounds good.

I have to say this was an excellent curry.  Lentils can easily go to mush in these sort of dishes but the texture was still there, and complimented the juicy chicken tikka.  Cinnamon can be another potential downfall, but it was subtle in this instance and really contributed to the dish.  In fact, I love it with lamb as well.  I do like a bit of heat and this did pack a punch as promised. Bravo.

I was eager to try Sarah’s main and the stench of garlic radiating from it was impressive.  The chicken was tender and it had a pleasing heat to it with flavourful, fresh whole green chillis bringing tang and welcome texture.  The only downside here was a slight bitter taste, which meant it didn’t quite match the exquisiteness of my dish. 1-1 on the doors.

We shared rice in the form of ghee bhat (£2.65) and a side of saag aloo priced at £3.95), and as if there wasn’t enough garlic, yes, a garlic naan. The latter was one of the best naans we’ve tasted.  It was so light it would have floated like a feather. The rice was a little different and I liked the texture and oniony vibes the allium brought to it. The saag aloo offered irony spinach that flirted with soft, lightly spiced spuds – delicious.

The waiters were exceptionally polite, hard-working and humble. Their product knowledge was as impressive as the pride they took in their work, and service was impeccable throughout the evening.  I’ve had far worse service in fine dining restaurants, so credit where credit is due.

Voujon was certainly worth the venture out into the horrendous weather.  My Khatmandu chicken delicacy and that garlic naan will stick in the memory for a while, but as to whether it rivals our trusted local eateries, further visits are required to inspect levels of consistency. There were plenty of positives to merit a return visit and the excellent service rounded off an enjoyable evening. 

Phone: (0131) 667 5046
Address: 107 Newington Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1QW

Square MealVoujon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

5 July 2016

Review: Old Chain Pier, Newhaven, Edinburgh

WITH A HOUSE move looming the opportunity to scout our soon-to-be locals presented itself as we look forward to life by the sea in Newhaven. My good friend, Bat, was a resident here before moving home to his native France, and he often spoke fondly of the Harbour Inn and Old Chain Pier.  I think the concept of a regular “after work pint” was lost somewhere in translation, but the stunning views from the Old Chain Pier are something anybody would appreciate.

I can recall this establishment getting a good write up in Bite Magazine a few years ago when I used to write reviews for them. I've always admired how she tells it like it is and her recommendations are usually bang on the money.  Anyway, on Googling this place, I learned that it was up for sale for £150,000, which screams to me a good investment for any wannabe or current restauranteur with a few quid to spend. With idyllic views and a history of fishing in Newhaven, sitting down here with a cold pint and a pot of moules marinière or a hearty fish pie seems heavenly. If anybody agrees and wants to lend me the £150k, my email address is on the right-hand side of this blog…

Anyway, down to business… there can’t be many more effective methods of gauging the quality of the grub than to sample pub staples like burgers and fish and chips, so we duly ordered them.  There was a range of what I guess you would call regular burgers alongside a section offering ‘gourmet’ options, which I just find a bit Wetherspoons-y – call it a restaurant gripe of mine. 

I ordered from the ‘normal’ burger section of the menu to run the rule over the pork and apple burger (£7.95) with a side of hand-cut chips for an additional £2.95.

Now this was a very tasty thing, indeed.  A juicy 8oz meat patty with a subtle acidic tang of apple, creamy, melted mozzarella (£1.50 extra) with a fresh crunch of red onion and lettuce actually took me by surprise at how enjoyable a burger it would be. If that was great, the chips were simply outstanding. Cooked perfectly, using good-quality spuds, there wasn’t evidence of even a single drop of grease.  My only pang would be that for a side order, the portion was verging on the small side.  I like a good chip, but unfortunately, this brought disappointment, if only because they were so delicious.

Sarah’s fish and chips (she went for the small priced at £8.95 with large at £11.95) looked appetising from my side of the table.  Light, crispy batter housed tender haddock that was flawlessly cooked and matched with those chippers again, a side of decent tartar sauce and a side salad was well worth the price. 

Now the food was good value for money, which leads me onto my final little gripe – the drinks prices. Old Chain Pier had Three Hop on tap, which I enjoy at my local, The Mash Tun. The Mash Tun isn’t the cheapest bar in the world, with a pint of Three Hop setting you back £4, but I was astounded to see a charge of £4.75 when my bill arrived.

I will definitely return here for the food and scenery, but only time will tell if the Old Chain Pier becomes a regular drinking spot after the move. After all, us Fifers like plenty of change back from our tenner when it’s our round!

Web: http://oldchainpier.com/
Phone: (0131) 552 4960
Address: 32 Trinity Crescent,
              EH5 3ED

Opening Hours: Sun-Thurs 11:30am - 11pm
                        Fri and Sat 11:30am - 1am

The Old Chain Pier Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato