Reviews

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Review: Badger & Co., Edinburgh


A BREAKFAST REVIEW was a first for me and I had heard positive things about Badger & Co. prior to this morning’s visit.  The Signature Pub Group spent a cool £1.35m to give this former office block on Castle Street a swank makeover, and first impressions suggested this was money well spent – but will the food live up to the smart interior design job?

The private dining room
This restaurant come bar (or bar come restaurant) pays homage to Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows, who was once housed here, and I’m fortunate enough to get the grand tour from a very professional and efficient waiter, Art.  The beer garden looks a tasty spot to sample a delightful cocktail list and I’m a little bit gutted that it’s only 10:00 a.m. Sampling will thus require another visit.  There is also a private dining space that Art explains can be used for parties, slightly more formal dinners, or even just to watch the footie on the big projector screen and drink a few beers with mates.  It’s a fun-looking space, indeed.

I believe Signature are Scotland’s only remaining independent pub chain and have added Badger & Co. to their other nearby ventures, Element and Copper Blossom, as well as their flagship venue, The Rutland Hotel to name but a few. I’ve always admired their interiors and this space has achieved a cool, spacious vibe that has been very tastefully constructed.  Without waffling on, this lot know what they’re doing. 

I chose ‘The Full Sett’ which came with a lofty price tag of £11, on par with my favourite breakfast spot,  Noble’s.  Expectations were high as a result, so it had better be up there.  What was essentially a full English arrived on a handsome plate sporting bacon from the Border’s, pork sausage, a fried duck egg, a roasted vine tomato, two Portobello mushrooms, toasted rye bread and the house baked beans.  The rich and creamy egg was expertly cooked and provided a fine sauce for the meaty components, both of which were of satisfying quality.  The ‘shrooms brought an earthy nuttiness and were perfectly cooked, while the tomato brought a slight acidity and freshness. The bread was delicious and I appreciated the pre-buttering.  The beans were the standout component for me; they needed a little salt but that tinge of paprika just elevated this from a very good breakfast to an outstanding one.  My only gripe was that the pretty plate wasn’t very practical when it came to eating from it, as it slid around the table when I tried to cut up.

Sarah decided to sample the beans on toast (£5.50) and added poached eggs and sausage for an extra £2 each.  “I don’t know who ended up getting the better end of the deal here, Phil”, proclaimed Art when he delivered our grub. I could see what he was getting at when Sarah’s mound of beans and mushrooms arrived on top of the toast, enhanced by a generous duo of duck eggs and a couple of bangers. £5.50 alone would have represented great value, such was the quality of the dish.  I’m not always mad on mushrooms but in this instance, they were very tasty and respectfully cooked. The extra add-ons created a huge portion that Sarah regretfully couldn’t finish... It would have been rude of me not to help her out in this task.

I couldn’t help but notice a pair of office workers at the table up from us compliment their breakfast and thank Art for his efforts – it’s important to see other diners receive the same high standard of cooking.

The bar was set high at the beginning of this meal but it was met in every way. The outstanding knowledge of the food and exemplary service was matched by excellent cooking and ingredients and, the surroundings were truly a comfy place to dine in. I think I’ll make dinner reservations …


Twitter: @badgerandco
Instagram: badger.co

Phone: (0131) 226 5430
Address: 32 Castle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3HT

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8 a.m. - 1 a.m.



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Review: Morningside Spice, Edinburgh


I SEEM TO BE spending a great deal of time in Indian restaurants of late and it’s fair to say that I’ve been on a good run.  Today was date night, which involved a trip to the cinema to see the new Jason Bourne movie, but we needed to satisfy our hunger beforehand. Morningside Spice seemed like the best option given its close proximity to the Dominion Theatre.

My brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law, Jemma, moved to this part of town a few months ago and have dined at Morningside Spice a couple of times. Given we have enjoyed several meals together at their (and our) previous local, Rivage, I trusted their judgement; I just hoped my Indian odyssey would continue positively.

The dining room was compact but spacious, with tables donning white linen table clothes and staff smartly attired. It was hard to interpret the cross-section of diners at first, which can often be the case during the Edinburgh Festival. On closer inspection (I am a nosey little s*it when I’m out eating), there were a few accents, definite students, and some families on this busy Thursday service.  There were plenty of staff on hand to cope, however, and they were very polite and well-trained on first impression.Worth noting that the restaurant is fully licensened and we enjoyed a famliar friend in the form of a bottle of Baron D'Arignac Cabernet Sauvignon at a reasonable £13.95.

I began with the sheek kebab priced at £4.95, which happens to be a favourite of mine at Rivage. Unfortunately, I found this starter a little underwhelming.  While the lamb mince was tender and moist, it lacked the depth of flavour and seasoning that I had expected. It didn’t have the crusty exterior or the barbeque flavour that you get from a tandoor, which meant it was slightly odd in texture.  It also needed a sauce to add a bit of zing as it was pretty one-dimensional beside just a standard salad.

Sarah opened with lamb tikka (£4.95), which consisted of skewered meat that fared better on the spice side and benefited from a smoky barbeque note to it. I found certain pieces a little chewy for my liking, which is why I often avoid lamb at Indians until my trust has been gained that it will be executed properly. Again, I felt a sauce of some description would have helped lubricate the plate, especially with some of the meat being rather on the dry side.

I was right in the mood for my favoured garlic chilli chicken, but felt it would be considerate of me to give it a miss in case I was reeking of garlic at the cinema, thereby preventing some unbeknown punter inhaling my vampire-repelling breath.  I had the Kathmandu chicken (£8.75) instead and it was a real treat.  I found the heat to my liking, and was thankful that I could taste the garlic, ginger and particularly the fine tinge of cinnamon.  The texture and taste of lentils alongside a generous amount of tender chicken went some way to rectifying the initial impression from my previous course.

Over the table Sarah ordered Karahi chicken (£8.75) and it certainly looked appealing to the eye. She found the tomatoes and fresh herbs helped created a lightness to the dish, with pleasantly spiced, soft chicken benefiting from being cooked in the tandoor oven.  Like my main it was quickly polished off with a side of standard pilau rice (£3.25).  Our usual garlic naan was near enough as good as they come at £3.25.


There were a few wobbles on this occasion but the main courses were very tasty and I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to order them again.  They essentially turned around what could have been an otherwise very disappointing evening.  Service standards were set high, too, and the surroundings acceptable. The Indian odyssey continues…


Web: http://www.morningsidespice.co.uk/
Phone: (0131) 447 8787
Address: 47 Morningside Road, Edinburgh, EH10 4BY

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 12:00 - 14:00 17:00 - 23:00

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Review: The Raj, Edinburgh

SOME OF YOU readers may be familiar with The Raj from the restaurant’s original premises in Leith, but after 30 plus years on Henderson Street, the Indian eatery has re-established itself in Blackhall.  Judging by the number of punters who walked passed and waved to the waiting staff, I’d say they were more than welcome in this part of town, but we would form our own verdict nonetheless.

Blackhall is a fairly built up residential area with not an awful lot to choose from in terms of sit-in eateries, so you could see the logic behind the move. Chatting with the owner beforehand was interesting, as he proudly stated that may of his regular customers from the Leith area now frequent the new site.  It was all shaping up to be a promising dinner, although it was fairly quiet this particular Thursday evening. 

I began with Tangri chicken (£3.50) and what a way to open. Grilled chicken drumsticks soaked in yoghurt with a dry spice rub served up flavours of garlic, ginger, green chilli and a hint of lemon that really delighted the taste buds.  Grilling the drumsticks created a light crust that utilised the skin of the bird and protected the juicy, tender meat that deserved a round of applause.  One of the best Indian starters I’ve had the pleasure of eating, a bucket of those bad boys with a cold beer would see this carnivore in heaven.

Sarah’s Lal Mirchi with chicken (£2.95) was an eye catcher during the selection process, as well as on arrival, so I was glad for the opportunity to sample it. The pleasantly fiery chicken morsels paired well with the tang from the house-made Bengal tiger sauce, which was mango chutney blended with spices; an idea I fully intend of stealing come curry night at my gaff. The meat was set upon some crispy onion bhajis that brought crunch to the dish and a soothing raita rounded off another impressive starter.

I enjoy discovering types of curry with different influences that have shaped Indian food. Chicken Cafreal originated from the Portuguese and is widely eaten in Goa according to the menu. At £8.95 my curry horizons were expanded when I was met with bags of my old friends ginger and garlic, a pleasant heat and beautifully executed chicken chunks.  I like when curry has a slightly drier, thick sauce and the notes of cumin and cinnamon made this very enjoyable indeed.  I’m not a particularly large eater and this portion was perfectly adequate for me, but if I had to pick a fault, perhaps a little more chicken would be needed to satisfy the larger appetite.

The menu offers a diverse range of fish and lamb, as well as chicken dishes and that deserves to be explored another time with Sarah opting for green Bengal masala chicken (£8.95).  Bursting with herby goodness, this dish was fresh and spot on spice-wise yet again.  It was light, with tender meat and an enjoyable heat that didn’t mask the other flavours in there. We shared a tasty vegetable pilau rice that was accurately cooked with nuttiness from chickpeas, crunch from cabbage and more greenery providing further freshness and flavour.  

I should mention the outstanding naan bread, too, which was light as a feather and packed with vampire-repelling amounts of garlic and sprinkles of fragrant coriander.

You can certainly see why The Raj has been a firm favourite in the capital for such a long and impressive amount of time.  The food was pretty much flawless throughout and the variety of dishes on the menu are a culinary treat that I look forward to exploring further.  The residents of Blackhall are extremely lucky that this restaurant decided to up sticks!


Address: 12 Hillhouse Road, Blackhall, Edinburgh, EH4 2AG
Phone: (0131) 332 2289


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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


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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

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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,
              Newhaven,
              Edinburgh,
              EH5 3ED

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

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Review: The Black fox, Leith, Edinburgh


I KEEP THINKING The Black Fox is new every time I walk past it and that I must visit.  Having opened towards the end of last summer, it can’t exactly be classed as new, but after a recommendation from my mate and local resident, James, it was time to sample the merchandise for myself.
There seems to have been a few new gastropubs added to the eclectic roster of Leith Walk bars in the past couple of years.  Lioness of Leith, V-Deep, Serrano Manchego and, more recently, Leith Depot and The Mouse Trap are primed to cater to the every-increasing student population in the area, and that can only be a positive thing.

On this particular Tuesday night, the bar was indeed ticking over with students, and one rather out-of- place old man nursing a pint as if in protest to this modern, craft-beer punting, burger joint. The menu also features a range of tempting hot dogs, as is the trend in this model of bar these days.

Our server is incredibly friendly and I’m delighted to discover they have one of my favourite beers from Drygate on tap.  I swiftly order the old blue burger (£9.65) with a side of onion rings (£3.50). You can see the action happening in the open kitchen and the grub is swiftly served.
Us humans eat with our eyes and this burger certainly had the desired effect.  A giant patty smothered with blue cheese on a brioche bun comes accompanied by a homemade-looking ‘slaw, side salad and a giant dear drop of sauce. The beef patty was cooked competently enough and the creamy blue cheese didn’t overpower the tasty cow. The smoky hum from the bacon was a welcome component and I always appreciate a bun that doesn’t crumble to pieces half way through eating, too. The little salad was fresh with a delicious dressing and the accompanying Cajun fries were both crispy and fluffy with a subtle spice as you’d expect.

Sarah went for the classic steak burger (£8.95) which was very much enjoyed. Neatly assembled, this simple offering relies on the quality of the beef, and thankfully that was apparent here.  Oozing with gooey cheese and matching sides, this burger went down with fair applause. The prices at The Black Fox are very reasonable, with all options bar one priced at under £10 with chips and so on included. 
My only negative would be that both burgers could have benefited from a pinch of seasoning, particularly with the nakedness of the steak burger.

There was an ample amount of positive points to the bounty of burgers on offer at The Black Fox and it will certainly be revisited in the not too distant future.  While it wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever munched down, it still wasn’t without its charms and the food and drink on offer certainly represents good value for money that definitely merit a visit.

Address: 17 Albert Square, Leith Walk, Edinburgh, EH7 5HN
Phone: (0131) 553 2268


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Review: The Magnum, Edinburgh 


THE STREETS ALWAYS seem quiet when you saunter from Queen Street down towards Albany Street; quiet but with a degree of intrigue. After a minor refurb, The Magnum launched a new menu this week and after two excellent visits prior to this one, that intrigue was now completely focused on the food.

My opening act was a rather enticing carpaccio of spiced duck with pickled fennel, cauliflower cous cous and crispy duck skin (£6.95). The sweetness of the lightly smoked meat was offset by the delicate acidity from the fennel with the presence of the cauliflower contributing an earthy note.  The shards of crispy skin were inspired and added a degree of seasoning while the dots of balsamic reduction contributed another well-tuned layer of flavour.  Overall, only a touch of good sea salt was needed to turn this dish into a real stunner.

Sarah opted for crispy squid rings, spinach, red onion and lemon salad with garlic aioli from the set menu.  Squid rings can only go one of two ways: utterly brilliant or complete car crash.  The latter reminds me of a cultureless marina area in Greece or Cyprus (name your generic British package holiday location) swarming with British tourists and terrible restaurants that serve up pizzas, all day breakfasts with chips, and every other dish you would associate with a stereotypical British diet. 
However, this was flawlessly executed to show what a delight it can be. The batter  that housed the melt in the mouth squid was light as air, a tasty dressed salad of leaves was worth mentioning, but the star was a fantastic garlic mayo that I just wanted to steal for my own pleasure.

I’ve undertaken a strict(ish) fitness regime this past couple of months, meaning the temptation of spiced bass fillet with courgette and cherry tomato ragu was difficult to resist, but when there’s pork belly on the menu, it’s getting ordered.  This version came with puy lentils, buttifara fresca sausage, a crispy duck egg and apple ketchup that would set you back £18.25. For me, there is no point serving pork belly if you aren’t going to nail the crackling.  Flabby crackling is sacrilegious in my book.  First impressions were promising and when our excellent server declared “that crackling looks amazing”, I knew there would be no issues here.  I don’t heap praise easily, but this was a terrific plate of food: crunchy crackling with tender meat underneath, lentils cooked to perfection, a well-executed crispy duck egg complete with oozy centre, and a zingy apple sauce to boot.  The only thing I would say is that maybe some sort of gravy would have just tipped this dish from a nine out of 10 to a 10.

The aromas from Sarah’s chicken supreme with podded peas, smoked bacon, wild mushrooms, spinach with garlic crème and parsnip dauphinoise (£16.95) certainly warmed up the appetite.  The chicken was soft and moist with the sweet peas contributing both freshness and texture to the earthiness of the mushrooms, and the creamy dauphinoise.  The garlic crème rounded all the flavours together in a notably light dish that was thoroughly enjoyed.

The restaurant area suddenly looked very full and proceedings were in full swing by the time our puddings came around.  As the atmosphere warmed up, I ordered one of my all-time favourite desserts in the form of lemon tart with chantilly cream and honeycomb dust (£6.50).  Some people may find this a little too sharp, but that’s how I like it.  The pastry was thin and competently made with the crème chantilly all the better for not being overly sweet.  The honeycomb dust didn’t really offer much other than enhancing the presentation.

For her third and final course, Sarah went for The Magnum’s take on the famous Scottish dessert, cranachan.  This one in cheesecake form accompanied by a raspberry compote and coulis (£6.50). The creamy filling was smooth with added oats bringing a toasty taste and texture, although the expected honey flavour was hard to detect.  The base was nutty and delicious, but the star was the raspberry compote, as it cut through the cream and was packed full of fruity flavour.

I am confident this new menu will go down well with the punters. I think Sarah and I would agree that the professionalism of the service on top of the cracking food made this one our most enjoyable visit yet.  If you’re around the Princes Street area, this little gem is well worth the wander. Hat-trick completed.

Web: http://www.themagnumrestaurant.co.uk/
Phone: (0131)  557 4366
Address: 1 Albany Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3PY

Opening hours: Mon-Thurs 12:30-14:00, 17:30-22:00
                          Fri-Sat 12:00-22:00
                          Sun 12:00-15:00, 18:00- 21:00


Square MealThe Magnum Bar & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review: Bread Meats Bread, Edinburgh 17/12/15


POPULAR GLASGOW BURGER joint, Bread Meats Bread, has joined the Edinburgh burger scene, occupying the site on Lothian Road recently vacated by Yummi Tori. No doubt hoping to emulate the success of Burger Meats Bun, who opened their second restaurant in the capital last year, we popped in for a late afternoon bite to see what all the hype was about.

If first impressions are anything to go by, a full restaurant as early as 5pm on a Tuesday shows there is plenty of intrigue surrounding this opening.  The pristine new interior features a busy open kitchen, and I find the restaurant is more spacious than I initially thought after taking our seats to peruse the menu.  The menu speaks of the quality of ingredients proudly used and offers up a range of different sandwiches and hot dogs alongside the burger options. They also serve carafes of wine - I like that, and don’t know why more places don’t.

I was intrigued to try poutine for the first time having had a chat recently with a chap looking to start a new business called The Poutine Wagon. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a sort of comfort food consisting of chips, cheese curds and gravy that originates from Quebec, Canada.

BMB serves up a few different versions, but I stuck to the classic version, on offer for £4.  Now, it seems pretty standard with this sort of establishment that you require a side dish along with your burger, but it’s different here; these, along with Sarah’s side, which I’ll get to, were mammoth portions.  A huge bowl of chips swimming in a sweet, yet beefy gravy topped with oozy, rich cheese was a stonking dish on its own, and I hadn’t even touched my burger yet!

Having sized up the menu, I went for the Spartan burger, which included salami, tzatziki, crushed chillies, tomatoes and harissa mayo (£7.50). Brimming with meaty flavour and cooked pink, the peppery salami was met by a dash of soothing tzatziki and bite of fresh tomato, encased in a steamed bun, robust enough to manage the entire sitting without wilting away. My only criticism is that I didn't get any chilli heat, which would have scored an extra point, but a satisfying eat overall.

Opting for a simple cheeseburger (£6.50), this would be a decisive test for any burger establishment worth its salt, and Sarah was impressed with the well-seasoned patty, the freshness of the salad components and molten cheese.  Her side of sweet potato fries (£3) were crispy and, as with my side, a portion you could easily share.

I’m confident Bread Meats Bread will be a hit in this neck of the woods and certainly avoid the fate suffered by previous tenants.  The food is good quality, at a competitive price that's ideal for a casual evening bite before catching a movie at one of the various nearby cinemas. Another interesting addition to the capital’s burger scene.

Web: breadmeatsbread.com
Phone: (0131) 229 2206 (BMB do not reserve tables)

Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11:00 - 22:00
                         Sun 11:00 - 20:00



Bread Meats Bread Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato



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Review: 1051 GWR, Glasgow 1/12/15



I CAN’T SAY that I have many gastronomic memories of Glasgow.  Everywhere I seem to turn, the city reminds me of my (failed) attempts to conquer the music world rather than the culinary one.  It wasn’t that my band (Calm as the Colour) weren’t any good or didn’t achieve success; we just didn’t become the biggest band in the world as I had dreamed.  Luckily, I have this restaurant reviewing gig to fall back on, and tonight we dine at the newly opened 1051 GWR.

The building was designed by the renowned Glaswegian architect Sir J J Burnet, and is steeped in history.  Opening in 1897, the building originally functioned as Kelvinside Station, part of the Glasgow Central Railway Network, but closed in 1942 when it was deemed “too remote”.  In recent times, the structure has hosted various restaurants, but now returns to its roots.  As it transpires, this is no bog-standard train station caff.

Tastefully decorated inside, the lighting is warm without being too low, which was appealing given the atrocious weather of late. A diverse mix of young and old customers alike created a positive atmosphere you could feel a part of, with the layout affording you privacy at the same time.  A passion for craft beer, particularly Glasgow brewed, was obvious, with a long range of shiny new taps jostling for position behind the bar, and a regularly rotated railway station-style menu board installed to assist with your selections.

I begin with hot smoked salmon with potato salad (£5.95) from a starters menu that doubles as a small plates one.  It’s an extensive offering that caters for all needs whether it be bar bites to the more refined, gastropubby options such as scallops with black pudding or moules marinères. The presentation was neat and the portion size ideal to start a meal.  The moist fish was tamed perfectly by the creamy mayo, with a little mustard dressing seasoning the dish whilst adding a little warmth at the back of the palette.  The potatoes and crunch from the chives popped up to bring texture and complete a simple, well-balanced plate of food.

Sarah opted for king prawns in tempura batter with mango, ginger and chilli salsa with sweet chilli dip (£5.95).  This is one of these dishes that always promises so much, yet gets massacred time and time again, so much so that I just never risk ordering it.  However, faith was restored when three plump shellfish in an impressively light-looking batter arrived.  I like seeing knife skills displayed on a plate and that was apparent in the neat little salsa accompanying those deliciously sweet prawns.  
The batter was as good as it looked with the meaty seafood juicy and flavoursome.  I’m impressed.

The mains menu comprises of both a grill and mains section with specials displayed above the bar.  I select pan-fried bavette of Scotch beef with café de Paris butter and beef dripping chips (£15.95).  Bavette can be a tricky customer if not given due care; thankfully it was on this occasion, with pink meat bursting with notes of beefiness that my knife sailed through with consummate ease. The butter tasted sublime, but it was clearly just retrieved from the chiller, meaning the temperature of the beef wasn’t maintained as long as I’d have liked.  Nothing a quick flash under the salamander or a couple of minutes out of the fridge wouldn’t resolve. It did make a mean sauce to dunk the crispy chips in, which was an added bonus to an enjoyable dish.

Over the table, Sarah mix and matched grill options, ordering two lamb cutlets, a featherblade steak with a side of gratin dauphinoise, and red wine jus for £13.95 all in.  The lamb was sufficiently caramelised on the outside and perfectly medium-rare in the middle, with the featherblade executed just as accurately.  The quality of the meat throughout was obvious from the depth of flavour from each product.The real star was the side orders: the dauphinoise was a rich, indulgent portion of heaven with a wonderful cheesiness to them, with the honey roasted carrots (£2.95) a sweet and earthy indulgence in themselves.  We loved the hint of caraway that just added another well-thought out dimension.

Exemplary service will clearly be a major part in the success of 1051 GWR.  There has been clear investment front-of-house, with waiting staff clutching iPads along with their new POS system.  The staff had a calm efficiency about them and I liked that they dispensed little samples of beer to customers; extras go a long way, and even more so when the restaurant is practically full.

All good things must end and I left with a sticky toffee pudding (£4.95) that I’d be pretty proud of.  It was so light and fluffy that I could have made room for another slab.  Sarah enjoyed caramelised apple tart tatin with salted caramel ice cream for just under £6. The pastry was crisp on the outside with a little soggy bit in the middle that I actually enjoy more.  The apples held up well rather than being reduced to mush, while the sweet and saltiness from the ice cream harmonised with the sharp fruit.

If you had told me beforehand that this place had only been open for a few weeks, I wouldn’t have believed you. There were certainly signs of a slick operation here with focus on service and good, solid cooking.  When I think gastropub, I think fresh, unpretentious food at affordable prices in a welcoming surrounding; that is the clear vision here and it was impressively achieved on this occasion. Rock ‘n’ roll may be dying, but 1051 GWR is tuning up to reach the top of the Glasgow food scene charts.  Restaurant reviewing is the new rock ‘n’ roll, right?

1051 GWR Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoOpening times: 
Mon-Sun 10am-12am

Address: 1051 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 0XP
Phone: (0141) 339 5575



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Review: One Square, Edinburgh 16/9/15



BEGINNING NEW JOBS recently has meant that Sarah and I are in close enough proximity to meet for lunch, which usually ends up being around Festival Square, at the West End of Princes Street.  This has drawn my attention to One Square, which is located within the Sheraton hotel, an etsablishment of which I've heard numerous positive things. 

With me always running excitedly early, we had time to enjoy a cheeky glass of prosecco in the bar beforehand, where we discussed the spacious, bright, modern interior.  Having to refuse a bowl of nuts due to my allergy, our waiter informed us that he would let the kitchen know to save us the trouble.

I was ravenous so decided to finish our bubbles in the restaurant, me still very impressed with the communication and preparation of the staff in regards to my nut allergy.  It might sound a simple thing, but given it’s life threatening, you would be amazed at how many restaurants are very casual about it.

The menu showcased a pleasing amount of modern Scottish seafood dishes, particularly in the mains section, with a more routine steak/beef description stating that One Square is “a proud member of the Scotch Beef Club”.  This combination made the visit difficult when it came to choosing our dishes. First-world problems.

I knew Sarah would punt for the grilled Troon langoustines with lemon, garlic butter and mayonnaise (£13), while I went for the shellfish bisque with Parmesan, paprika crouton and soured cream (£9.50).  Expectations were high as we discussed previously successful attempts of both.

The langoustines arrived in a quirky metal basket with branded paper, and certainly smelled delicious where I was sitting.  The flesh was juicy and cooked on the money with the lemon providing seasoning.  They maybe could have been a little bolder with the garlic, but otherwise a fine way to open a meal. 

My bisque was a deep red shade and certainly had a robust shellfish flavour to it, as you would expect.  The soured cream just halted that richness, but the whole thing needed a big whack of seasoning to elevate it.  The texture of the crouton was far too soft, although it tasted fine. 


I really fancied  a steak but I prefer to experience the more creative side to the kitchen team when reviewing, so I opted for scallops with spiced white chocolate puree, burnt spring onions, champagne samphire, and gooseberry caviar (£29.50), as well as a side of courgette chips (£3.95).

On first inspection, I thought this plate looked like a small portion, but it went down perfectly.  Tender, meaty scallops were masterfully handled and I liked the rather grown-up white chocolate, which had  a slight aniseed twang to it,  far more than I expected.  Champagne can often be hit or miss in dishes, but I was very impressed with the acidity levels and the texture added from the samphire; that really worked with the scallop.  My only issues were that the carrot was cold and the dish again lacked seasoning.

Sarah decided to try the stuffed loin of rabbit with Talisker puree, braised leg square, roast asparagus and charred baby carrots (£25.00), with a side of buttered Jersey Royals for an additional £3.95.  Stunningly presented, this dish set the bar high.  Unfortunately, while the black pudding was delicious, there was far too much of it in relation to the resultantly overpowered rabbit.  The crisp beignet was thoroughly enjoyable, the standout element being the expertly cooked Jersey Royals. The Talisker puree was a little disappointing, but the accompanying jus provided a superb sauce to bind the dish.  The veg elements were competently executed, but a bit more generosity wouldn’t have gone amiss. 

We found the front-of-house staff very efficient and professional, offering great service to us and other diners alike all evening.  I think Sarah is convinced I’m ignoring her sometimes, but I like to listen into other tables to check consistency and how issues, if they arise, are handled.

I was deeply in need of a palate-cleansing pudding to finish off but found the chocolate fondant with popcorn ice cream and vanilla sauce (£8) too much to resist.  However, while cooked well enough, the fondant lacked the intense flavour of a real quality dark chocolate.  All was not lost, though, as the popcorn ice cream was one the finest components of the night, with the vanilla cream providing a soothing note.  Shame about that fondant though…

Priced at £7, Sarah concluded with crème caramel, toffee foam, caramel with tonka bean ice cream and toffee sponge.  Another stunningly presented plate served up a sufficiently wobbly set custard and the tonka bean ice cream was truly sublime.  The little toffee chards were tasty, but the sponge was a tad dry. Perhaps a more bitter crème caramel topping would have benefitted it, but it was an enjoyable eat overall.

I’m still unsure where I’m at with this one.  There was a great deal to be impressed with at One Square tonight; the execution and presentation was excellent and the service was first class throughout, but I was disappointed with the seasoning in places.   With pricing just shy of the Michelin joints, I think it’s just about right for what was a pretty enjoyable, if  imperfect evening.

Address: 1 Festival Square,
                Edinburgh,
                EH3 9SR

Phone: (0131) 221 6422

Web: http://www.onesquareedinburgh.co.uk/


One Square Restaurant - The Sheraton Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoSquare Meal



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Review: Donald's Bistro, Duck's Inn, Aberlady


THE GOOD OLD British summer, or lack of, has brought a distinct lack of beer garden visits this year, seeing Sarah and I switch to road trips along the east coast for kicks.  The scenery was as beautiful as it ever today, as we check out what, we hoped, would be a real find at Donald’s Bar and Bistro in the quaint village of Aberlady. 

Owner Malcolm Duck took the time to chat beforehand, filling us in about his new chef and plans for the re-opening of the other eatery here at this restaurant with rooms – Duck's – that has long held two AA rosettes.  This will see a real focus on produce from around East Lothian feature on a refined menu -  watch this space.

Perhaps a goats’ cheese tart is not the most exciting sounding of dishes to a grace a menu these days, but nonetheless, done well, it can be a satisfying starter; this effort being in the latter category.  I dived into the tomato pesto, which impressed with garlicky notes and a zingy freshness.  The acidity married enchantingly with the creamy goats’ cheese. The pastry was cooked well enough but wasn’t overly warm, yet I found the goats’ cheese was piping hot; perhaps it had been blowtorched.  A neatly packed fresh salad of slightly bitter, dressed salad leaves was a sufficient  accompaniment for my £6.50.

Sarah’s starter was grilled asparagus with parmesan, olive oil, lemon and rocket (£6.95).  Asparagus season didn’t run into August in Britain last time I checked, but I’ll give this dish the benefit of the doubt (Peruvian asparagus is widely available), as it was immaculately presented and equally as well cooked.  Tender with a slight crunch, the cheese added a little saltiness, although a further smidgen of salt wouldn’t have done any harm.  There was a surprise element in the form of a chilli dressing, which was delicious enough to suggest a little more of it would have been a good thing.  

My main course of glazed short rib of Tweed Valley beef with mash, which I subbed for hand-cut chips, caramelised shallots and pickled celeriac had a lot to live up to with a price tag of £24.50; it didn’t disappoint.  The meat was delicious and slow-cooked perfectly to allow succulent, soft meat.  
The little brunoise of celeriac tells me this is a chef who has skill with a blade and the shallot relish was sticky and sweet.  I have to hold my hands up and say mash, as originally billed, would have suited this dish better, but those chips were so good, I could have just sat in the bar with them and a cold beer and been satisfied.

Priced at £18.95, Sarah opted for shellfish linguine with seared scallops, king prawns, chilli and garlic oil and confit cherry tomatoes. There is huge scope for error with a dish like this, but the execution of the scallops and prawns was flawless and clearly cooked with confidence, as  was the suitably al dente pasta.  There was a waft of garlic, which I love and a pleasant burst from the confit tomatoes to boot. There was some spinach in there to add greenery and further flavour, and again, the presentation was neat and tidy.

Our young French waiter was very polite throughout the evening, as was his female colleague, who offered particularly good service across the dining room, answering a few questions confidently and knowledgeably.

Dessert on this occasion was a decent chocolate marquise with cherry compote and white chocolate mousse (£6.95). There was nothing wrong with the slab of chocolate; I simply would have preferred a stronger type, but it was smooth and at the correct serving temperature.  The cherry compote brought sweet and sourness to the dish but was a good foil and I was thankful that the mousse wasn’t too sickly.

For Sarah, she went for the good old sticky toffee pudding (£6.50) which seems to be coming back into fashion.  It always makes me think back to my college days when chef Edwards used to boast his sticky toffee pud was the best in the world.  He might be right.  Anyway, I liked the ginger flavours running through this and felt it really enhanced this version. The ice cream was creamy and a no-fail partner for it.

A fulfilling dinner at Donald’s has left us pretty impressed, particularly with kitchen’s handiwork and the front of house team.  The prices are competitive and need to be if you’re going to leave the city centre for a visit.  However, on this evidence, it’s definitely worth a trip. 

Phone: (01875) 870 682
Address: Main Street,
               Aberlady,
               EH32 0RE




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Review: The Magnum, Edinburgh


GIVEN THE DISTINCT lack of summer we’ve been having, I think this sunny(ish) day has to go down as one of the better ones, as we laud the happy drinkers outside The Magnum on Albany Street. Sarah and I had enjoyed a visit to this gastropub last year, meaning there would be added scrutiny this time around.

As it happens, the same table was free, so we plonked down at the window and admired the surrounding Georgian architecture of the New Town, whilst sipping on a rather refreshing Chenin Blanc (The Veldt Range, 2014 from South Africa, priced at £18.95).

I always lean towards cullen skink when it crops up on the menu, but it was too humid a day (boo hoo)  for a hot soup.  Instead, I ordered beetroot cured salmon gravadlax with celeriac remoulade, beetroot puree and pumpernickel bread (£7.20).  It certainly passed the presentation test, vibrant purples contrasting with lusciously green micro herbs.  The purple parts consisted of deliciously fresh cured salmon and an earthy puree that we know always works, but what elevated this dish was the warmth of wholegrain mustard from the creamy, crunchy remoulade.

Sarah elected to start with The Magnum’s play on haggis (vegetarian in this instance), neeps ‘n’ tatties with a whisky and thyme sauce (£6.50). Three neat quenelles of the above ticked all the boxes: smooth mash, good quality haggis and a well-cooked turnip element were complemented by a light whisky sauce that had hints of thyme, but maybe could have done with a splash more of whisky.

Mains were again a difficult choice due to the appeal of the menu offerings, but I settled (I say like it’s a chore; it wasn’t) for venison haunch with a black pudding croquette, purple carrots and kale with a redcurrant reduction all for the sum of £19.50. Excellent presentation again, in what turned out to be a real satisfying dish.  The tender meat was expertly dispatched and clearly well rested, while the carrots still had crunch and married well with the meat.  I really liked the gently sweated red onions running throughout; they brought texture and, along with the irony kale, colour while offsetting the sweetness of the venison. Eating each element together with that black pudding really gives you maximum satisfaction – delicious.

Pan-fried sea bass with sumac-coated king prawns, croutons, charred red pepper and a chilli and orange dressing (£17.50) was Sarah’s main and, again, the portion size was generous to say the least.  The fish was soft, succulent and sufficiently seasoned, but maybe the skin could have been crisper. I don’t really get the relevance of the prawns, although there was nothing wrong with them as such.  The sweetness and charred notes of the peppers were a real highlight, with an acidity from the orange that sliced through the bass. We debated the fruit and fish combo… it’s still going on, but a good plate of food nonetheless.

For once, I didn’t have a big lunch before going out for dinner and I was glad by the time desserts came.  Mine,  cranachan cheesecake with red berry coulis and raspberry and vanilla compote (£6.50) with the lady’s dish consisting of chocolate fudge cake with cherries in red wine syrup and chocolate ganache (£6.75).

The cheesecake base was thin and short – I distress at seeing thick biscuit bases.  The filling was speckled with oats throughout and, rather pleasingly, wasn’t too heavy.  A more pronounced whisky taste would have been welcomed, but the freshness of the fruit and a top-drawer compote meant that this was an ideal dish to end the meal on.

Over the table, Sarah tackled a light, chocolate pudding that sported an oozy, cherry-laden, fondant-esque centre  The ganache was rich and finger licking good, with the freshness from strawberries harmonising the richness of the plate.

The Magnum had a lot to live up to after our last visit, but it dealt with those expectations confidently, with superbly presented plates of food at reasonable prices.  Well worth a visit if you’re in and around the town centre.


Phone: (0131) 557 4366
Address: 1 Albany Street,
                Edinburgh,
                EH 1 3PY
The Magnum Bar & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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