In my latest review for Bite Magazine I sample some tasty Scottish fare on a balmy October evening, when dining atA Room in the West End(26 William St, EH3 7NH). The following exert from provides a taster of what was sample, and the full version of the article is available is available in the November edition of Bite.
It’s not typical to experience high teens of an autumnal Scottish evening. How pleasant then to escape such mugginess for the cool, airy basement that houses A Room in the West End. Nestling below Teuchters’ pub, this long established eatery has a reputation for serving inviting bistro food based on quality Scottish ingredients. It did not disappoint. After being warmly greeted and efficiently seated, we decided to quaff a couple of cool beers whilst we chose our food. Thanks to its proximity to its sister hostelry, the restaurant stocks a fine selection of Scots ales and a pint of Perthshire-brewed Sunburst Pilsner (£4.00) proved most refreshing.
Haddie, sporting a lucious mushy pea puree.
The bistro’s menu rightly makes mention of its use of Scottish produce, so it was unsurprising that JML decided on a classic Cullen Skink (£5.95) to start. Accompanied by a fennel seed scone, the soup struck a really great balance between smokey-sweet fish and creamy sauce, without being overly rich. My venison and green peppercorn salami with warm beetroot, cornichon and pear salad (£5.95) was also a class balancing act. The charcuterie was deliciously spicily-meaty, really complementing the earthy/sweet/sour salad combo.
Fabulous cheesecake with bramble compote.
Possibly taking my queue from JML’s smokey starter, for my main I plumped for roast Finnan Haddie, toasted Stornoway black pudding, mushy peas and dill cream (£14.95). The muckle fish that arrived had tender-peaty flesh that really benefited from its match with the intense blood sausage and minty pea puree flavours, but the combination maybe left the accompanying dill sauce a little overwhelmed. My dining partner’s main of chargrilled chicken breast (£14.45) might have seemed unadventurous. Yet when this beautifully cooked poultry portion was accompanied by toasted venison haggis, confit garlic creamed cabbage and a sun blushed tomato tapenade, the resultant dish was deliciously satisfying.
My latest review for Bite Magazine is now available in the publication’s October edition (both online and in print). Under the spotlight this month is a great wine tasting and dining experience with a Californian theme, thanks to a visit to Calistoga (70 Rose Street Lane North, EH2 3DX). A taster of the review can be read below, with the full article being available for download from Bite’s website.
Calistoga – Raise a glass to Californian cuisine
Preconceptions aren’t good things. Take American cuisine and wine. It’s basically burgers, hot-dogs and sickly-sweet pink Zinfandel, isn’t it? A recent wine-tasting / dining experience at Calistoga – Edinburgh’s Californian-inspired restaurant – certainly exploded this myth.
Our evening started in the restaurant’s tasting room, where sommelier Alastair Henderson took us through the “Congressional” sampling of two red and white wines (£32pp including a 3 course dinner). Previously working in California’s viticulture industry, Henderson’s experience gives Calistoga exclusive access to some impressive wines, and he imparts real insight into how the Napa Valley’s geography and history influences these.
The Californian-inspired food (3 courses for £25pp) impressed too. I started with a flavoursome spicy chicken and sweet potato frittata, well complemented by a smokey BBQ sauce. The enthusiasm with which JML consumed his Manchego, feta and mozzarella flat bread with arugula (that’s Californian for rocket) pesto indicated how tasty this was.
Fab Flatiron and fries.
Our mains were carnivorous. JML’s slow cooked pork shoulder was smashingly tender, without falling apart, and the accompanying chorizo mash and rosemary jus provided a great flavour balance to the meat. My chargrilled Buccleuch flat iron steak, with fries and a peppercorn sauce sounded uncomplicated. However, this American shoulder cut of beef was one of the best steaks I have sampled, smokey black outside with a meltingly moist pink interior…
My third review for Bite Magazine is now published on Bite’s website and in the September print edition of the magazine. This month, JML and I paid a second visit to The Edinburgh Larder Bistro, to find out if a recent refurbishment and appointment of a new head chef had made a difference to this classy Scottish eatery. A taster of the article is printed below, and you can read the full version on Bite Magazine’s website.
A delicious date with The Edinburgh Larder Bistro
Second dates can be intriguing; a chance to confirm or dispel first impressions. So a couple of months on from a great first visit to The Edinburgh Larder Bistro I was keen to dine there again, not least because it has recently had a refurbishment and change of head chef.
This West End basement restaurant now has a more “nouveau rustic” feel, combining white-washed walls with tastefully weathered furniture, and trendy wicker fittings. Seated in the airy conservatory space beyond the main dining area, we were, however, pleased to see that the menu remained packed with the seasonal, locally-sourced, sometimes foraged ingredients that are the bistro’s trademark.
JML chose to open with squid with black pudding, gooseberry syrup, pickled carrots and Arran leaves (£5.95) – a great combination of seafood and meaty flavours, well balanced by acid gooseberry and sour/sharp pickle. My rabbit loin, potato purée, barley, green leaf sauce and cider butter (£6.50) comprised two moist chunks of tasty meat atop an invitingly creamy base, surrounded by pools of tangy sauce and pearls of verdant pesto. Both starters were very well composed and beautifully presented, though somewhat tepid. The wine choice of a bottle of dry, grapefruity picpoul de pinet (£20) matched them well.
Beautiful hake on courgettes, Puy lentils & pancetta.
My second review for Bite Magazine has just appeared on the publication’s website, and will hopefully also feature in the August print edition of the magazine. This time JML and I had the pleasure to return to one of our old stomping grounds, The Shore Bar and Restaurant located, appropriately enough, in Leith’s Shore district. You can read a wee taster of the review below, and the full article can be found on Bite Magazine‘s website.
A happy return to The Shore
Re-acquaintance with a lost friend can be a marvellous thing. And such was the case when I recently revisited The Shore. Previously a regular haunt of mine, walking into the elegant oak-panelled and mirror-adorned bar that adjoins the restaurant, the welcome was as warm as I remembered.
Heavenly chocolate brownie & caramelised banana.
Looking over the menu, we enjoyed an aperitif whilst awaiting our table – nice to see a place buzzing on a dreich Tuesday. The restaurant (now part of the Fishers group) offers inventive fare featuring Scottish ingredients, with seafood at the centre of a number of dishes.
Seated beside the restaurant’s huge windows, my dining partner and I had high hopes for our starters. We were not disappointed. My squid with chorizo, chickpeas and roast peppers (£6) had a great balance of flavours. Tender seafood, moist pimentón sausage and earthy pulses worked beautifully with a fruity tang and chilli heat. Across the table was a hockey-puck of ham and potato hash cake (£5.75), crisped in breadcrumbs, and generously adorned with hollandaise and poached egg. Real comfort food!
I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to Bitemagazine – “your independent, local guide to eating and drinking in Edinburgh”. My first piece for them is a review of the smashing wine bar that is Le Di-Vin. As an appetiser, I’ve posted an extract of this below, together with a link to the full version on the Bite website
Divine wine at Le Di-Vin
“Wine bar”. For those of us who grew up in the 80s this term evokes memories of venues packed with punters dressed like extras from Dynasty, glugging over-oaked chardonnay to a backing track by Sade. Fortunately, the modern incarnation is a lot more palatable, as a recent visit to Le Di-Vin joyfully proved.
Nestling in a former church building, Le Di-Vin is the younger sibling to next-door restaurant La P’tite Folie, both owned by Virginie and Ghislain Brouard.
Entering the bar it is apparent that wine is the star. A whole double-height wall is dedicated to a decorative pewter bar, backed by shelves of quality wines, expertly sourced from across the globe by Ghislain: 164 bottles to choose from. Yet a visit to Le Di-Vin is far from an overwhelming experience – quite the reverse…
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