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The most seasonal restaurant in Edinburgh?

9 Nov

Many restaurants proclaim they use local, seasonal ingredients. I think I have found the most seasonal restaurant in Edinburgh.

The Atrium Edinburgh - Neil Forbes gathering ingredients

Neil Forbes gathering ingredients

Picture this. I am standing in the Atrium kitchen salivating as dish after dish of prime seasonal food is lovingly prepared: Organic chicken with cep and tarragon cream, Borders roe deer with red cabbage, plum and cinnamon; beef with a sticky unctuous gravy, roasted roots and buttery mash: Isle of Lewis Scallops, Stornoway black pudding and puree of Lewis’ apples (he’s the Maitre D). The atmosphere is calm. Staff coming on shift have checked out the ingredients and cooking methods for tonight’s dishes in case the diners quiz them. The pot washer is rattling into an alarmingly high pile of dishes. A huge stock pot is being fed with roasted bones, trimmings and vegetables and set on to cook for about 12 hours. Continue reading

Whatever happened to… Jacques, The Backstage Bistro and La Bagatelle

4 Nov

 

Map of Tollcross showing the locations of the three restaurants mentioned in this article.

You turn your back for a year or two and suddenly your favourite restaurant is no more.

 

Edinburgh has a lot of restaurants so competition must be fierce. New restaurants open all the time and old ones die and disappear. Sometimes it’s obvious why a restaurant isn’t successful, at other times it is a mystery. Recently, I was walking around Tollcross looking for something to eat and found that some of my favourite restaurants had stopped serving, and another one had gone to seed. The question is why?

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Veggie heaven – a vegetarian’s guide to Edinburgh

26 Oct
Henderson's Restaurant

Henderson's Restaurant - steep stairs and good food

A couple of months ago, I wrote about L’Artichaut, a great little French vegetarian restaurant in Stockbridge. At the start, I listed several good vegetarian restaurant and it struck me that a quickie-guide, a longer article that gives a bit more detail, would be useful. Here is a review of three of them: Ann Purna, Black Bo’s and Henderson’s

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Marrakesh – where you should eat (pt 2)

1 Oct

In the second of two reports from Marrakesh,  you’ll find some tips about eating out.

Mint Tea

Mint Tea

Marrakesh has large numbers of riads, perhaps 200 or more. Enterprising owners have refurbished, extended and embellished houses in the oldest parts of town to provide luxurious accommodation. The riads Mr EF and I came across were in quiet locations and in many cases down a maze of tunnels – do arrange to be collected from the airport it is extremely difficult to find where you are going the first time!

Apart from being wonderful places to stay, riads are often the very best places to eat as they have their own dedicated chefs. You don’t have to be staying  at the Riad, but you must pre-book by lunchtime at the latest – just ask someone from where you are staying to book for you they will be happy to do so. When you arrive, just mention the name of where you are staying rather than your own name.  I suggest doing a bit of research – by all means use your guidebook for some tips, but bear in mind they will be out of date. Check out recent reviews on Trip Advisor to ensure which are the very best to try. There are other restaurants in the old quarter, such as Le Foundouk but they are very tourist oriented and the food average (and terrible music). We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with the Simbade the chef at the Riad El Rimal who very patiently explained how to make a fish and a meat tagine. We’re still experimenting with his recipes and will share them in another post.

Pastilla served as a starter - it is usually round

Pastilla served as a starter - it is usually round

Wherever to you do eat, you’ll find that tagines and couscous are staples on the menu. Do try the pastilla (or bastilla) if it is available. It’s an unusual mixture for British palates, but think of mince pies and you’ll do fine. It’s usually meat (usually pigeon) and almonds encased in a filo-like pastry, topped with icing sugar and cinnamon. Made well, it is delicious!

Vegetarian Sandwich at Cafe des Epices

Vegetarian Sandwich at Cafe des Epices

At lunchtime, try one of the wonderful Moroccan salads made with locally grown ingredients. You’ll find that are served hot (as in the picture below of a delicious tomato and pepper mixture with charmoula spice) as well as cold. Moroccan flavouring is subtle and it is all down to the expertise of the chef as to whether it is really delicious or simply OK.  If you’re hankering after a sandwich, Cafe des Epices is a great place to head to – they even have WIFI. Salads cost around 20 dirhams, tagines from 60 (there are currently 13 dirhams to a pound).

Pimento and Tomato "Salad"

Pimento and Tomato "Salad"

Whilst you won’t usually find fine dining in the old town, there are exceptions. We visit La Sultana on our last night. This is a fabulous hotel right next to the Saadian tombs (well worth a visit). You can dine on French haute cuisine, or take the opportunity to try a range of delicious Moroccan specialities with the most impeccable service and delightful music from an oud player. The prices are European, but well worth it for the ambiance and high quality food – you dine under the stars next to a pool.

La Sultana Hotel - view from our dining table

La Sultana Hotel - view from our dining table

And for those of you with a sweet tooth, do try the Marrakeshi equivalent of baklava.  These are delicious light pastries filled with nuts and fruits, flavoured with rose water – delicious with the ubiquitous mint tea or coffee

Sweet Pastries from Marrakech

Sweet Pastries from Marrakech

A word of caution. Street restaurants will display prices for food but not drinks. This is the way some make their money, literally making a price up on the spot for incautious tourists – watch out for this in Place des Ferblantiers in particular. You can of course eat out at the stalls in the main square (but with caution as I suggested in Part 1).

To stay in a riad, check out Luxury Riads

La Sultana (information on the accommodation only)

Riad Al Rimal Cookery course available (in French only)

The best type of local pub – Caley Sample Room, Edinburgh

29 Sep
The Caley Sample Room: a cozy and comfortable place that my camera doesn't do justice.

The Caley Sample Room: a cozy and comfortable place that my camera doesn't do justice.

The Caley Sample Room is my local. It isn’t the pub  closest to where I live, but it is by far the best pub within 20 minutes walk. An added bonus is that it offers not just beer, as the name and its location close to the Caledonian Brewery might suggest, but has a decent wine list and a good kitchen. Yes, the thing that makes me so fond of the Caley Sample Room is that it serves food, and good food at that. Once a quarter they offer a special menu in association with the Shandon Local Food Group. On Thursday 23rd September I went to eat and find out more.

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Selling seafood on the seashore – The King’s Wark, Edinburgh

21 Sep
Smoked hake with brown prawn butter on black pudding and mashed potato. It's a mouthful.

Smoked hake with brown prawn butter on black pudding and mashed potato. It's a mouthful.

We’re so close to the sea that you would expect good seafood in Edinburgh. And you can certainly get it, from fancy restaurants in town to the pubs on the shore of Leith, seafood and fish are ubiquitous. Last weekend I took a leisurely walk down to Leith and visited three of the bar-cum-restaurants down there, finally eating in the King’s Wark.

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A little corner of California in Edinburgh

31 Aug

Set in St Stephen’s Street, Stockbridge, Redwood Restaurant has become a favourite with locals and food lovers alike. I caught up with owner and chef Annette Sprague to find out more.

Annette Sprague of Redwood

Annette Sprague of Redwood

What meal did you most enjoy recently?

I’ve just come back from Oaxaca in Mexico. I was particularly impressed with duck breast with tomatillo, pumpkin seed and lentil with mole sauce – wonderful combination. Tomatillo look rather like green tomatoes but are actually part of the Physalis family. There are many variations of mole, but this one included spices and chocolate. Moles are a classic Mexican sauce made from blending dried chillies, spices, nuts, and seeds.  There exist many combinations, with the most well-known being Mole Poblano, which is made with chocolate & chillies (and usually served with chicken).  The mole sauce I had with the duck utilized tomatillos and pumpkin seeds along with chillies et al, but no chocolate (called Pipian Mole Verde).  Absolutely delicious!

What is California Cuisine?

Rather than being associated with specific dishes as Spain with paella or Italy with pasta, California cuisine is about the produce that is grown in abundance in the state and the approach to food that Alice Waters pioneered the cuisine in the 1970s. Until that time ingredients were sourced from abroad, from France, rather than locally!
Although the word fusion is overused it describes Californian cuisine well: dishes are influenced by many cultures, including Italian, Vietnamese and Mexican which come together to create something essentially Californian. We eat outside, we love our meat and BBQs. I think our salads really sum up the essence of California cuisine, fresh and delicious.

Annette's Favourte Salad

Annette's favourite Salad

What inspired you to set up Redwood?

Two reasons, firstly after running a successful catering business for 5 years, I wanted to get away from schlepping all the equipment from one place to another!

Secondly, I was frustrated at the lack of restaurants in the middle price bracket in Edinburgh that provided good consistent tasty food and a good wine list.

How do you create dishes for the menu?

I am inspired by fresh local produce and also my particular passions at the time. I like to develop dishes on themes.  You will definitely see some Mexican influenced dishes on the menu this Autumn!

What has surprised you about opening the restaurant?

I really shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I have found the support from people who live locally amazing. I have many regular customers who recommend the restaurant to friends of theirs and who are loyal fans.

Duck California Style

Duck California Style

What has frustrated you the most about opening the restaurant?

The restaurant has a very small kitchen with no room for a dishwasher. It’s been incredibly difficult employ a good kitchen porters.

How do you promote the restaurant?

We have been lucky enough to receive excellent reviews in many publications including locally based publications such as the List but also through international sites such as TripAdvisor.  We get a huge amount of recommendations by word of mouth.

I particularly enjoy doing cookery demonstrations and classes and plan to do more this coming year. We use Twitter to let our followers know if we have last-minute availability for dinner.

33a St. Stephen Street
Edinburgh EH3 5AZ
0131 225 8342
Booking essential
@Redwood_Edin