Tag Archives: Restaurant

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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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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Cooking and eating – Anthony Bourdain style

9 Dec
Read all about it! Snapshot from http://www.anthonybourdain.net/

Read all about it! Snapshot from http://www.anthonybourdain.net/

When I’m not eating or writing, I’m likely to be reading. Recently, I decided to read not just about food but about cooking and eating. I started with Anthony Bourdain‘s Kitchen Confidential and so enjoyed it that I soon after read the sequel, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. Essentially, they form the first and second part of an autobiography but they are very different books. Much has happened to Bourdain in the time between the first was published and he started writing the second.

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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

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

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)

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

A Swedish favourite: crayfish party at Joseph Pearce, Edinburgh

31 Aug
Green dill, red crayfish and golden snaps. Life is good.

Green dill, red crayfish and golden snaps. Life is good.

Crayfish. Some countries go mad for these little critters. They are eaten all over the world but they are eaten with particular fervour and ceremony in Sweden. The Swedes  lure crayfish out of the murky waters they favour to pop them into boiling dill-flavoured liquor and transform them from brown-black wall flowers to bright red belles of the ball. It is my immense pleasure to announce that a traditional crayfish party can now be experienced in Edinburgh.

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