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The sea in a pot – Mussel Inn, Edinburgh

5 Feb
Mussel shells. I eat too quickly to photograph my dinner sometimes.

Mussel shells. I eat too quickly to photograph my dinner sometimes.

I was reminded of how much I enjoy oysters when I tasted some lovely plump ones from AnCuig Seafoods at the Scottish Food show last week. So when it was suggested that we go to Mussel Inn for dinner Friday night I knew immediately what my starter would be. The Mussel Inn isn’t one of the places that AnCuig supplies, and I’m not going to discuss the relative values of oysters, but I will wax lyrical over a meal of molluscs. Ah, a beautiful thing, the mollusc, when fresh, sea-scented and accompanied by a clean white wine.

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Just seaweed? No, an essential ingredient

2 Feb

Several friends have mentioned their love of seaweed recently  – one vegetarian loves it for its delicious taste of the sea without compromising his principles!  I love eating samphire, and am keen to try cooking with seaweed. So I thought I’d start by getting in touch with Iain McKellar of Just Seaweed to find out more about this overlooked ingredient.

Iain McKellar  Just Seaweed

Iain McKellar from Just Seaweed

Iain lives on the Isle of Bute. He explains  “The Isle of Bute and the sea inspire me.  I set up Just Seaweed so I could stay on this wonderful island. It’s wonderful to be able to make a living from the shore and work with nature. Continue reading

Quick bites: The Dogs surf and turf?

24 Jan

Perfect for a leisurely lunch, the Dogs is a firm favourite. Their delightfully short menu has a new edition: Musselburgh Pie – perhaps one of the original surf and turf recipes?

The Dogs, Edinburgh

The Dogs, Edinburgh

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Quick bites … Ruthven’s at the Dean Gallery

17 Jan

QUICK BITES …

Ruthven’s is something of an Edinburgh institution it dates back to 1983. Before the museum closed for refurbishment, their restaurant at the National Portrait Gallery was a favourite lunch places for me.

Now part of Heritage Portfolio, Ruthven’s continue to operate a “scratch” kitchen ( everything cooked from scratch), at various venues including the Gallery of Modern Art and the  Dean Gallery. (Non-art lovers can be easily bribed by the prospect of tea).

Cafe Newton, Dean Gallery

Cafe Newton, Dean Gallery

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Absolutely the dog’s! – Seadogs, Edinburgh

21 Dec
Going to The Dogs. But first, Seadogs.

Going to The Dogs. But first, Seadogs.

Seadogs is a fish restaurant in the popular and successful Dogs chain. The Dogs, the first in the series, offers amazing rustic dishes based on cheap and unusual cuts. It was so popular that they opened Amore Dogs, an Italian version of the original concept. The latest restaurant focuses on fish. I went there for pre-Christmas cheer with a couple of friends a positively balmy if snowy evening in December.

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I am disappointed, do you want to read about it?

6 Dec

I am beginning to think that I must be extraordinarily hard to please.

I’ve recently been to four different places – all at different prices points, sizes of restaurant and number of staff – and have thought, well, that was OK but nothing special. This is all part of being a reviewer I know, but when you read other bloggers reviews of the same space and they think it fabulous or note that a restaurant has had consistently 5-star reviews from diners, you do start to wonder.

This restaurant did live up to expectations

This restaurant did live up to expectations - I've deliberately not chosen a local example! A local restaurant with very tasty food served with passion*

I do know that @happy_appetite agonised over posting one review as he wanted to present a fair view and not completely lambast a place – we’re actually not out there to condemn.

I can

  • Tell you  about the top restaurant with almost more staff than customers who couldn’t manage to take a lunch order for 25 minutes for a group in a private dining room?
  • Tell you about the friendliest service ever?
  • Rant about the overuse of the word tapas meaning anything small but delivered at the same price as a full size portion at a standard restaurant
  • Despair over dishes served up purporting to be representative of that countries’ cuisine

All are valid. But most of all I want to tell you about the FOOD –  how ordinary it was. That despite (in some cases) using expensive ingredients, it was bland. But I’d be writing the same review in every case.

That’s why I am so disappointed.

Whatever you do restaurants, please do it to your best ability – continually check and recheck the flavour. Especially in the run up to Christmas. Why should we suddenly have to suspend our desire to enjoy something really tasty.  Is it any wonder, that many of us return to the same place time and again because we know we’ll have a great meal and a warm welcome?

I look forward to your thoughts!

*Scottish plaid (tartan) mash indeed!

Father Christmas here’s our cookbook wishlist

29 Nov
Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver

Cookbooks by Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver

I love that delicious anticipation of discovering a new cookbook. The pictures look wonderful, the recipes sound delicious, you can’t wait to get started.

But I get ahead of myself, there’s the all important step of acquiring the cookbook. Yesterday, I was in a bookshop and got chatting to a few people all of whom were looking very unsure exactly what they were doing there. They needed help.

There’s also the cook who’d like to discover something different – maybe try cooking they enjoyed so much in a restaurant. I needed suggestions from people who know cookbooks, have gazed and drooled over them and of course enjoy cooking!  So, with the help of many Twitter followers (thank you everyone!) and a couple of local chefs, here is what WE want for Christmas.  And to make it easy for you, I’ve created an Amazon list with all of those (bar one) listed.  I am currently stumped with the Martin Wishart cookbook, it seems to be out of print!

We’re a pretty adventurous lot with eclectic tastes which makes this list so enjoyable. Please feel free to add some more – there are bound to be some must-have books that should be there.

Chef Recommends

Neil Forbes at the Atrium restaurant: Manual of a Traditional Bacon Curer
Craig Wood at the Wee Restaurant, Queensferry – Martin Wishart’s cookbook

For beginners/basics

Ainsley Harriott – Just Five Ingredients
Jamie Oliver – Meals in 30 minutes
Jame Oliver –  Naked Chef

Simply Inspirational

Rene Redzepi Noma

Two from Thomas Keller The French Laundry Cookbook and Adhoc at Home

The Ottolenghi Cookbook and Plenty

For the baker

The Handmade Loaf from @dan_lepard

The Great British Book of Baking featuring @bakersbunny @pinkwhisk @theboywhobakes

Peter Reinhart Artisan Breads Everyday

Scottish

Sue Lawrence – Scottish Kitchen
F.Marian McNeill  Scot’s Kitchen
Nick Paul – The Scottish Farmer’s Market Cookbook

Exotic

Thai Street Food This has to be the largest cookbook I’ve every seen – challenging to find somewhere to put it whilst you’re cooking from it!

India Cookbook –  Imagine a 1000 recipes to dip into.

Anissa Helou – Modern Mezze

Silvena Rowe – Purple citrus and sweet perfume

Madhur JaffreyCurry Easy

Thomasina Myers – Mexican Food

Comfort Food

Nigel Slater –  Tender  – books I and II
Nigella Lawson – Recipes from the Heart of the Home

The Silver Spoon