11 June 2017

Garlic butter roast chicken stuffed with chilli chickpeas and patatas aioli


I LOVE A good roast, who doesn't? The thought of having people around and everyone getting stuck in fills me with joy.  The meat has to be the centre piece for me and crispy potatoes are a must.

It's so important not to overcook your chicken, yet so many people do it.  *NEWSFLASH* IT DOESN'T TAKE HOURS TO COOK A BIRD - 45 mins is more than enough for a medium-sized bird.  Remember, it will continue cooking when removed from the oven and resting the bird is crucial.   The beauty of cooking poultry this way is that the butter underneath the skin will gently baste the bird and protect it, giving the leg and thigh meat time to cook through.


Ingredients (serves 2):
1x free range chicken
2x cloves garlic
Handful parsley, chopped
50g butter

1x tin of  organic chickpeas (400g), drained
1x red chilli, finely chopped
1x lemon, zested and cut in half
Maris Piper potatoes,  cut into 2cm cubes

2x heads of garlic
150 ml mayonnaise 

1x avocado, sliced
2x ripe plum tomatoes, diced
1x gem lettuce, sliced
Sea salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Method:

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grate the garlic with a fine grater. Add to the butter with the parsley and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mash together with your hands. 

2) Mixed the chickpeas with the chilli, lemon zest, juice of one-half of the lemon and parsley. Season. Stuff the other half lemon into cavity.

3) Remove the wishbone from the chicken.  Stuff the cavity with the chickpea mix.  Now, gently run your fingers under the skin of the breasts to separate.  Spread the garlic butter to cover each breast. Push down with your fingers to distribute evenly. 

4) Place in oven for 40-45 mins.  Dress the sliced garlic heads in oil and cook alongside chicken for 20 mins until tender. Meanwhile, blanch the potatoes in boiling water for two mins.  Drain in a colander until no steam appears.

5) Next, prep the salad, minus the avocado (do this just before serving).  Place in a bowl until serving.

6) Remove the garlic from the oven and allow to cool (or if you have asbestos fingers like me, dive right in).  Remove the clove from the skin and vigourously chop, add a pinch of salt and mash with the side of your knife.  When smooth, mix though the mayo, season and add some lemon juice.

7) Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 10 mins.  Place the potatoes into a pre-heated deep fat fryer (160C) for 5-6 mins until golden and crisp.  Meanwhile, slice the avocado and mix salad through with some lemon juice and olive oil.  

8) Spoon out the chickpea mix from chicken and carve. Serve.




4 June 2017

Review: No.11 Brasserie, Brunswick Street, Edinburgh

I REVIEWED NO.11 Brasserie nearly two years ago to the day.  We enjoyed a delicious meal at the restaurant of this boutique hotel, just off the top of Leith Walk on Brunswick Street.  It appears that chef Ariel has since moved on so it would be intriguing to see what’s coming out of the kitchen these days.

On first inspection, the menu looked a little bit old school, with dishes like haggis parcels and duck parfait featuring on the starters section and sticky toffee pudding on the desserts.  Nothing wrong with classic but they have to be exceptional versions.
We were choosing dishes from the three-course seasonal menu which would set you back £27.95 so treated ourselves to a tasty raspberry bellini to aid us with our decisions.

I started with the chilli and coriander fish bites with pea shoots and tartare sauce. I suppose this dish set the tone for what was to come.  The fish balls were crunchy on the outside with a visually appealing interior. There was evidence of skilled knife work judging by the flecks of shallot, red onion and herbs but they were so under seasoned that the effort was just lost.  The tartare sauce was bizarre.  Again, the knife work was there with the veg elements, but it was like they were dressed in the watery stuff you drain off the top of a tub of yoghurt.  Not pleasant. Why go to the effort of finely chopping things then ruin them by not tasting and being sloppy?

Sarah ordered the vegetarian haggis and beetroot parcels with Glayva, chilli and beetroot puree. Slightly on the rustic side presentation wise, the filo parcels weren’t as crisp as you’d have hoped for but the filling was earthy and pleasing enough.  The puree was kind of jam-like but offered a fine balance of chilli heat, sweetness and the taste of beetroot that I adore.  Again, this dish just wasn’t sufficiently seasoned.

Pork belly is my favourite meat and I always order it when it’s on the menu.  This one was billed as crispy belly with spring onion mash, fondant carrots and cider jus. Firstly, it was obvious that the skin wasn’t crispy as billed.  It was soggy and disgusting and needed to be crisped up in a hot pan or roasted in the oven – surely any chef can see that before sending it out?  This is my pet hate given my love for this ingredient.  The meat underneath was glorious and had a pleasing note of star anise that works so well with this cut. The fondant carrots still had a little bite but were deliciously buttery.  The mash was verging on the dense side and needed seasoning but was okay overall.  I had expected the cider jus to provide a sharp contrast to the sweet components and the richness of the dish but it tasted of very little.

Fillet of sea bass with red pepper gnocchi, spinach and mozzarella was Sarah’s choice of main and her initial reaction wasn’t great, as the fillet of bass was a meagre one to say the least. On top of that, it the skin was flabby and overcooked.  The gnocchi was tasty with a hint of red pepper to it but the whole thing needed a serious injection of salt and pepper.

Despite being a throwback to the '80s, sticky toffee pudding can be a glorious thing. This one didn’t quite cut it.  The sponge was fine but lacked flavour, though the sauce was tasty.  The ice cream had crystallised so wasn’t nice to eat.  Maybe jazzing it up with a bit of salt caramel would have made it a bit more interesting, but otherwise it was forgettable.

Now, Sarah’s dessert was a real embarrassment. She ordered cranachan, which, let’s face it, isn’t the most difficult of puddings to make. This one was essentially a tower of whipped cream with some mushed up berries through it.  No sign of whisky as per a traditional cranachan, although there was a sprinkling of oats over the slate board.  There was a chocolate spoon present to add some "theatre” but it didn’t need to be there.  Not impressed.

Dinner didn’t quite live up to the heights of last time, which was obviously disappointing.  This seasonal menu is designed to offer value, but I’d suggest you could find a more modern, better executed one elsewhere. Ultimately, I think the errors here were just down to the chef not paying attention to detail and being a bit lazy. What a pity.

Web: http://www.11brunswickst.co.uk/
Address: No. 11, 11 Brunswick Street, Edinburgh, EH7 5JB
Phone: (0131) 557 6910




Brasserie - No. 11 Boutique Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3 June 2017

A day in the life of... a Food Technologist

FOR THE PAST four months I have been working as a Food Technologist at Queen Margaret University (QMU) in Edinburgh, a place described by my (desk) neighbour, Professor Joe Goldblatt, as “the best small university in the world”. The university is predominantly food and health focused and part of my job is conducting sensory analysis of products ranging from everyday supermarket goods to the most innovative of food stuffs.

Opened in 2014, QMU houses the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation. The centre is a unique facility that uses academic expertise and cutting edge equipment to work with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to develop their products for today’s market.

The modern campus at QMU has a dedicated sensory suite where we carry out our consumer taste panels. The suite contains 12 self-contained booths where our panelists blind-taste a wide range of products, using their senses to complete a focused questionnaire for us to analyse on our specially developed sensory software. Afterwards, we host a brief discussion on the products which, for me, is the interesting part along with the results because although people have tasted the same items, results can be totally different. It just goes to show that everyone’s palette is unique.

It’s crucial to our results that we make the room as neutral as possible so panelists can form an unbiased opinion. We can control the temperature of the room and use different coloured lighting to alter the room to suit. The panels consist of mainly staff members and the general public who have an interest in food. In exchange for their time, we gift each person a £10 Amazon or John Lewis voucher.

Before the sessions my colleagues and I will have prepared the food and tasted it. This way we have our own opinion on the foods before the panel tastes it, although we remain completely impartial! The fun is afterwards when we compare opinions, usually doing the dishes at the same time – the glamorous part of the job!

From a panelist’s point of view, it’s challenging because it’s not often in life that you are asked to describe food in such a detailed way: aroma, appearance, taste, texture and so on. I got used to it doing restaurant reviews but it can be a little odd for people at first when it comes to articulating your points. How often do you eat something and talk about how sweet/sour/umami/salty/bitter it is!?

You also have no idea what you’re eating – it could be anything from the finest artisanal product to the cheapest bog-standard supermarket version. The hard part for me is that we aren’t allowed to reveal what the products are. Which I secretly kind of like …

    The green-focused campus has won  multiple awards for sustainability 

My colleague, Lucy MacLellan, sat on the panels before joining the team as a Food Technologist at the Scottish Centre for Food Innovation gives me her take on the panels:

"The taste panels are quite a unique thing to be involved in – I'm not aware of any other universities or organisations that run taste panels like QMU. There was nothing similar to these taste panels when I was at university and it's definitely something I would have signed up for when I was a student. I mean, who doesn't want free food?!

“I like the fact that the panels are recruited so publicly – anyone can become a taste panelist at QMU whether you're staff, a student, or not linked to the university at all. There's such a variety of products tested, so there always a panel to put your name forward for. It's exciting that my opinion will be taken into consideration and will make a difference to future products on the market."

I hope this has given you an insight into the consumer panels at QMU. As you can gather, no day is the same and it’s amazing to chat food with a diverse range of foodies. We would love to see more people signing up for the panels to get a taste for themselves.



Website: qmu.ac.uk
Twitter: @ScotFoodQMU

28 May 2017

Feature: Osso's Ally McGrath returns to Great British Menu


CHEF ALLY MCGRATH returns to the BBC’s Great British Menu next where he hopes to improve on last year’s performance that saw him cook for the judges.  On that occasion, Ally ‘s progress was halted by fellow Scot Michael Bremner, whom he will face again in this year’s heats. The Peebles-based chef will be hoping to use that experience to improve his fortunes in the 2017 competition.

Ally opened his restaurant, Osso, in 2007 and it is based in the picturesque town of Peebles in the Scottish borders.   As with last year, Ally will be the only chef from the Scottish heats actually cooking in Scotland with Bremner behind the stove at his Brighton-based eatery, 64 degrees, and debutant Angela Malik running a catering company in London. This year’s brief is centred around summer cooking, where victors will serve their dishes at the Wimbledon Championships – some feather in any chef’s cap (or hat!).

With its relaxed atmosphere and commitment to sourcing local produce, Osso is a firm favourite with the locals in Peebles. The family-run restaurant holds a coveted Bib Gourmand – the only restaurant to do so in the borders.  Ally’s success in the area has led to him recently taking over as Executive Chef at Pebbles Golf Club.  With being so busy, I wondered how the chef found time to practise for this year’s competition:

“I am very lucky that I have such a good team and I can sneak away and try to get an extra hour or so concentrating on the GBM menu rather than the restaurant one. It just takes over everything. You end up thinking about it constantly: is it up to scratch? Does it fit the brief? Can you do it in the time? And then all, of a sudden you go 'Ah! And what about this?!' It's crazy.”

The Scot, who trained under the likes of banquet veteran Richard Corrigan, narrowly lost out on finals week at GBM 2016.  I wondered what he learned from that and if the experience would boost his confidence this time around.

“I think you learn that you've really got to respect the competition and that you need to give it your all.  We had a lot on last year in the run up to filming and I made a couple of mistakes that I shouldn't have; I basically didn't have the time to practise as much as I should have.

“This year I have practised lots more. There has been a lot of fine tuning and tweaking, so I know exactly how I want it. It did boost my confidence a little. You know what's expected and the standard that is required, but I felt the pressure a lot more this year. I really want to go further this year!”

With food tourism such a huge industry these days, a show like Great British Menu can really propel a restaurant into the spotlight, also bringing financial gains to the local area.  Ally told me about the impact the show had on both him personally and the restaurant:

“It has had a huge effect on me and the business. It puts you on a national level and I wasn't really expecting that. We discovered that people were booking for a couple of months in advance, rather than a couple of weekends – it was great. As for the media, it's quite hard to keep up with things after the show airs; last year I basically dealt with Twitter after the show until midnight, then turned it off. It's just crazy!”

 The Scottish heats begin next week (Monday, 29 May) where Ally will compete against Angela and Michael to represent Scotland at Wimbledon.  Unfortunately, Ally wouldn’t give much away about his menu beforehand, telling me to watch out for his dessert:
“I love it! I think it’s amazing!” Be sure to tune in and find out how he does.


You can wish Ally all the best and Tweet him @OssoAlly.

4 May 2017

Review: The Huxley, Edinburgh

THE SUMMER SUN was finally shining on this teasingly mild Sunday morning. The expansive Georgian windows at The Huxley combined with the weather make this the perfect spot to watch the world go by.  I’ve enjoyed the odd burger and hot dog here before (and maybe a pint or three), but today was all about breakfast.

The Huxley is one of two restaurants (steakhouse Kyloe being the other) that can be found inside The Rutland Hotel at the west end of Princes Street, the whole package being the flagship venue of the Signature Group.  We reviewed breakfast at Badger & Co., another of their city-centre ventures, last year and were left very impressed with the whole operation.  That has heightened expectations for this sitting.

Let’s chat about service.  Service is a bit like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.  It can elevate an average meal or bring frustration to even the finest food.  I was really impressed by the young team at The Huxley.  I’ve noticed over the past year that young staff on the whole barely know anything about the area surrounding their workplace.  Where is the nearest cash point or bus stop? *Blank look* followed by “I dunno”.  Not here, though.  On entering I asked our server about traffic restrictions, vaguely remembering my brother (he’s a councillor) fighting to stop Sunday charges being introduced.  Our waitress demonstrated sound knowledge of the surrounding streets and was very attentive all morning, as were her colleagues. They all seemed to be trained well and singing from the same song sheet.

I ordered a decent coffee beforehand, and Sarah a tasty raspberry smoothie (£4.50). It was so delicious that I just had to have one.  I particularly liked that it was served at the optimum temperature – not brain freeze cold, not too warm -  to maximise the flavours. 

Under the circumstances, I will always order the full Scottish. Breakfasts like this always remind me of getting up at 7 a.m. when I was still a nipper to make Sunday breakfast for my family. The key to pulling it off is using quality ingredients, especially if the price tag is hovering around the tenner mark. The Huxley’s offering is priced at a competitive £9.50 and I begin by diving in to the two types of sausage – one skinny beef, one chubby pork – both clearly from a trusted butcher.  The black pudding is tasty and well-cooked and the bacon is mildly smoky and doesn’t overpower. Eggs are cooked as you like; in my case, fried, which is executed flawlessly. A full Scottish wouldn’t be a full Scottish without a tattie scone and I’m glad this one isn’t just an oily, hard piece of cardboard.  Finally, there’s a disk of inoffensive haggis that I find a bit mushy but tastes fine.

Sarah ordered the smashed avocado on toast with poached eggs (£8.50) and added bacon for a further £1.85.  This dish is a bit pricey for what it is but that’s fine if it’s perfectly done.  And it was.  My pet hate is ‘ripe’ supermarket avocados that are about as ripe as a bowling ball.  Thankfully, this attempt was bang on the money.  The acid test technique would always be the poached eggs.  They were neat in shape and on cutting achieved a pleasingly oozy centre.  There was a welcome smattering of chilli flakes just to add a little life to a very simple but expertly put together breakfast.

I slump into a bad mood if my food isn’t to my satisfaction and that would have been a terrible waste of a beautiful day.  Fortunately, all aspects of this breakfast shone equally as bright.  The service was highly commendable and the cooking competent. I’d happily eat here again.


Web: http://www.thehuxley.co.uk/
Twitter: @TheHuxleyEdin
Address: 1 Rutland Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AE
Phone: (0131) 229 3402

Breakfast is served daily from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Daily menu served from 12 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.






The Huxley - The Rutland Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

29 April 2017

Recipe: chicken stewed with cider and apples

I'M NOT EVEN going to try and take credit for this recipe, other than the addition of garlic.  It comes from one of my favourite chefs Jose Pizarro's latest book Basque.  I've made this recipe a few times while entertaining and it always goes down a storm.  Perfect for a change to the old Sunday roast. The beauty of this dish is that it doesn't take much effort whatsoever.

This book really transports me back to touring northern Spain a couple of years ago, enjoying the culinary offers of San Sebastian and Bilbao in particular.  Food has the unique ability to evoke memories and that's exactly what Basque does.

Serve this with some patatas bravas and slices of a good sourdough loaf.

For me, if you find a great recipe it deserves to be shared, so here you go!

Ingredients

1 medium (1.3 - 1.5kg) free-range chicken
4 apples, peeled and quarters
2 onions, finely sliced
500ml, cider
2 bay leaves
6 sage leaves
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves, garlic
75g sultanas
400ml chicken stock
25g butter
Rapeseed oil
1 tsp caster sugar
Sea salt and pepper

Method


1) Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Heat a heavy-based casserole dish on the hob. Melt the butter and add a splash of rapeseed oil.  Season the chicken inside and out then brown all over.

2) Set the chicken a side and sweat the onions for 8-10 mins.  Add the garlic, sage leaves, bay and the cinnamon stick.  Place one of the quartered apples into the cavity and return the chicken to the pan. Add the cider and bring to a gentle bubble, add the stock along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Place in the oven for 45 mins.

3) Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a pan with a splash of oil. Add the apple quarters and the sugar. Cook until caramelised and add the sultanas. Add to the chicken around half way through the cooking time. Raise the heat to 200C and take the lid off for ten mins to brown the chicken. Take out of the dish an allow to rest for five mins before serving.

4) While resting, ladle some of the cooking liquor into a saucepan and reduce on a rapid heat.  Carve the chicken and serve with some of the apple, onion and sultana mix.  

Basque is available to purchase by following this link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Basque-Spanish-Recipes-Sebastian-Beyond/dp/1784880264







 



19 April 2017

Feature: The Story Cafe, Edinburgh

THE STORY CAFÉ can be found at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh and has its own unique story to tell.  The café has been under the ownership of the Edinburgh-based charity Comas since 2016 and sees all profits go to help support, among others, adults recovering from addiction and vulnerable people who have been driven into poverty.

This branch is a slightly more ambitious venture than its sister project, the Serenity Café, which can be found nearby, just behind the Scottish Parliament building. Both offer adults the chance to volunteer and even gain paid employment - truly showing the power of what food can do.

The project offers a range of homely grub from soups and delicious cheese scones to salads, sandwiches and tasty hot options, as well as a range of veggie and gluten-free options.  The food is very favourably priced (hot options are just £6.50), aiming to encourage people in from the busy tourist-laden streets outside, as well as local punters alike.

Pic courtesy of the Story Cafe
It’s a wonderfully bright and fun space to eat in - ideal for escaping the hordes of tourists for a coffee and a bite to eat. The premises are fully licensed and offer a range of wines and craft beers. There is also a tasty children’s menu with dishes priced at just £2.50 (you can also order smaller portions of the full menu at half price) with the added bonus of there being plenty going on to keep the little nippers entertained, including the Storytelling Court and the Storywall.

I caught up with Sinead White from the café who took me through the food offerings: “The aim is to offer homemade dishes that people are familiar with, that are good value for money.  We also like to focus on healthy food and home-baking, aiming to be accessible to as many people as possible”

Pic courtesy of the Story Cafe
There is always an exhibition on at the Storytelling Centre for punters to enjoy if visiting the café, which also hosts shows and various events in the early evening.  You will find everything from music lessons to book groups in this incredibly relaxed space. It has clearly been well thought out in order to offer a broad range of goings on, as well as the actual café itself – well worth a visit.

Tasty grub at an affordable price that sees all profits go towards helping people? What’s not to love? Pop into the Story Café on the Royal Mile next time you’re in the heart of the capital.

Storytelling Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

9 April 2017

Review: Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, London.

THE SUN WAS shining on London as we strolled down the manicured streets of Royal Hospital Road for lunch at the three Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.  Gordon was one of the chefs that inspired me to cook and despite being more of a TV personality now, his hard work, unrelenting standards and sheer determination to succeed are always something I’ll admire.  To say I was looking forward to this would be the understatement of the century.

We debated who would order the Dexter beef tartare with nasturtiums and Manni olive oil starter for weeks (praying it was still on the menu).  Being the gentleman, Sarah came out on top (in the heats at least) as she had a change of heart on the day.  Admittedly, this one a bit of a thinker because I had expected a traditional steak tartare. What I got was a simple dish that largely relied on the star ingredient to do the talking.  I felt that it needed a pinch of sea salt to maximise its potential.
However, the raw beef melted like butter on your tongue and was hit by a welcome peppery note from the nasturtiums.  The required season was there when the fruity, slightly spicy olive oil was added, but there wasn’t enough (perhaps it was the way it was drizzled around) of it to have the desired effect on the whole portion. Worth mentioning the eagle-eyed waiter who offered to fetch me some extra cracker breads as I came to the end  - that's what makes the difference at this level.

Ironically, Sarah’s starter of Buckwheat gnocchi, mushroom, sweetbreads and Parmesan with garlic capers was exceptional.  The skill here was in the creamy, velvety, mushroom veloute where the richness was reigned in to keep the dish on the lighter side.  The little sweetbread nuggets were soft as silk on the inside, housed by a crunchy, yet light coating and the gnocchi provided a tasty vessel to lap up that delicious cheesy, 'shroom sauce.

The dining room was smaller than I had imagined with an army of staff led by Maître d’ Jean-Claude picking up on even the smallest of details.  It wasn’t as stuffy as I’d have imagined (maybe even hoped for with punters turning up in jeans and answering mobile phones in the dining room), which was a sign that this beacon of British gastronomy is more modern than the restaurant featured years ago in Boiling Point, the TV series were a young Ramsay really came to national fame.

I would need to be truly wooed with my main course after a lukewarm starter and thankfully I was.  Fresh from an excellent venison main at Hadrian’s Brasserie, this meat option was a must for me.  The deer was accompanied by Jerusalem artichokes, alliums and elderberry ketchup.  The venison was out of this world, possibly the most tender piece of meat I’ve eaten, it was simply heaven alongside that elderberry sauce.  It did taste like a posh, slightly fruity Heinz Tommy K, and I mean that with the greatest of respects to the chefs – it was the star of the show alongside those slabs of game.  The artichoke came in the form of both crisps, which was sort of modern game chip idea, and an earthy sort of puree that neatly fitted another piece of the flavour jigsaw together. The puzzle was completed with a pleasant, and again light, venison sauce.

Sarah’s plate was a real eye-pleaser.  Norfolk Black chicken leg with smoked bacon, brassicas and three-corner garlic would taste as pleasing as it looked.  The bird was succulent and as tender as one could dream. The brassicas – Romanesco and crispy kale – looked like a little garden on the plate and brought that freshness with it.  The herby sauce was interesting, while the smoked bacon brought an earthiness to the dish.  A real triumph of modern British cooking.

A three-course lunch will set you back £65 (plus service charge) which we enjoyed with a very reasonably priced bottle of Dao from Portugal – a snip at £39.  The wine list, compiled by head sommelier James Peter Lloyd, was an extensive one (as you’d expect) and I wish we’d had more time (and dosh) to get stuck into it.

My final course was an Earl Grey parfait with Yorkshire rhubarb and lemon balm. The parfait was well-balanced flavour-wise, with the right level of Earl Grey to prevent it being overly floral and sickly.  The rhubarb was controlled well, numbing the acidity without losing the ability to cut through the parfait, and not too sweet.  It also brought needed texture.  I didn’t really get much from the lemon balm, unfortunately.

Custard tart with blood orange, mint and mascarpone sorbet was Sarah’s choice.  The tart filling was a little more liquid than expected but tasted great, especially with the orange and mint combo. The pastry was spot on, too. The only criticism is that she felt there could have been more mint because it was such a delicious match with the blood orange.

This was one of those dreaded restaurant critic moments where the weight of expectation can bring an eatery tumbling down from its pedestal in your mind.  I’m pleased that this was not the case and even more delighted to have experienced the outstanding service that Royal Hospital Road provides.  The food here is a truly pleasurable example of modern British cuisine, showcasing the finest of our ingredients in the best way possible. 

Address: 68 Royal Hospital Road, London, SW3 4HP
Phone: 0207 352 4441

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal

19 March 2017

Review Hadrian's Brasserie, Edinburgh



I DON’T VENTURE up town much these days, not for food anyway.  But with a new flurry of restaurants opening, most of which are firmly established in London town, I might need to make more of an effort, at least to assess the impact Wahaca, Dishoom and co. have had on the Edinburgh dining scene. Tonight, we are at a venue that requires no introduction - The Balmoral - checking out Hadrian’s Brasserie. 

I have often overlooked Hadrian’s in favour of its Michelin-starred sister, Number One, but was intrigued when I heard they used the same suppliers.  Both restaurants are operated under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Jeff Bland, so the signs all suggested we would leave satisfied.

I opened with East Neuk crab with black sesame and cucumber (£11). The presentation suggested that this was an established dish and it certainly created a positive first impression.  On diving in, the freshness and flavours managed to heighten expectations: fresh, top quality crab, as expected, were met with a pleasant charcoal-tasting crunch from the striking tuille, a well-made mayonnaise and refreshing vibes from the cucumber.  A pleasing dish that I’d score an eight (out of ten), I just felt the addition of lemon or perhaps pickling the cucumber would have taken it to another level - the crab certainly belonged there.

Sarah started with hand-dived Tarbert scallops, quinoa, date and salted almonds (£12.50).  The scallops were beautifully cooked; buttery inside with a crisp coating.  It was an interesting balance of textures that kept you on your toes. The crunchy, toasted almonds and  a warming richness from the dates coincided with the light pieces of apple and cucumber, creating a Middle Eastern slant that worked with one of the jewels of our natural larder.

The menu features a grill section alongside a range of main courses that continue the theme of showcasing Scottish produce.  With that in mind, I went for another of our stars in the form of Allandale venison with braised red cabbage and wild mushrooms (£24.50).  This is cooking just the way I like it and a top-notch dish all-round.  An exquisite loin of venison was cooked to perfection with a neat, buttery potato terrine contributing richness.  The flavours of spice from the red cabbage were the real star of this dish with the ‘shrooms  adding an earthy, natural note to this sublime main course.

Isle of Gigha halibut with kohlrabi, wild mushrooms and red wine sauce came at a cost of £23.50.  Presentation was again modern and slick, demonstrating an expertly dispatched piece of fish cookery.  Kohlrabi doesn’t have much flavour, so is ideal to pickle, bringing acidity to the creamy potato and fish elements of this delicious plate of food.

I tend to take stock during the gap between mains and dessert.  It made me consider my perceptions of a brasserie: busy, loud, tight tables. The times I’ve walked past and peered into the windows at Hadrian’s done nothing to quash that perception, but this is a really well thought-out dining space.  Tables aren’t cramped together, it isn’t too loud (although being ¾ full) and the service as flawless, not just on our tables but from what you could gather from surrounding ones, too. It’s a much more relaxed service than you’d perhaps expect, one that is managed by a well-trained and very professional front of house team.

I trusted our waitress so much that I asked her to select my dessert for me, and a bloody good job she did, too.  The pudding was billed simply as ‘bitter chocolate, caramel and milk sorbet’. For my tenner, it came in the form of a chocolate delice – a delicious one at that – which is one of my favourite desserts.  It was dense and extravagant, mirrored by pieces of gold leaf on top of a cleansing milk sorbet.  The chocolate chards brought both height and texture, providing a platform for the technique of a skilled pastry chef.

For her final course, Sarah chose the Crowdie cheesecake with mango and coconut (£8).  The cheesecake was more robust than expected with the sharp mango sorbet and glaze providing a needed sharpness to cut through the creaminess.  The coconut element was delivered in two parts: 1) shaved pieces that brought a warming, nutty note that works so well with tropical fruits and 2) a modern coconut ‘snow’ that lends texture, as well as a cooling component.

A very impressive display of hospitality, both service and food-wise from the team at Hadrian’s.  It was difficult to find fault on what was a pretty flawless dinner session, which is what I’d expect when visiting this particular five star hotel. If I was looking for somewhere to show of the best of Scottish, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Hadrian’s Brasserie.
Phone: (0131) 556 2414
Twitter: @The_Balmoral

Address: The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2EQ 


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Hadrian's Brasserie - Balmoral Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato