Tag Archives: restaurant

Review: Red Squirrel (Lothian Road)

Sunday afternoons are for relaxed eats, and as my flat is currently ‘under construction’, pooch and I took our friend Billy out for a lazy late lunch in the dog-friendly Red Squirrel on Lothian Road.

I opted for the crispy bacon, egg and potato salad to start, the 3 mini slider sharing platter and to finish, the gourmet mac and cheese with caramelised red onions and tomato.

Let’s start with the good…I loved the chilled out vibe of the place, the unassuming yet cool diner decor (reminded me of Pop’s Malt Shoppe from the old Archie comics), and huge burgers are glorious!

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The mini sliders were super cute, and I love the idea of having three different flavours of burger in manageable munchable size.

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The waiter brought us a bowl of water for the wee man and was more than happy to put in an order for a couple sausages for his dinner. Aw, cute!

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And now for the not-so-great…my mac and cheese was nice but very…ordinary. The gruyere was a bit mild, I like my cheesy pasta full of flavour and this one erred too much on the side of subtle. Other than a few flecks of caramelised onion, it was barely discernible, especially from an ingredient that is usually such a bold and distinctive taste.

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My potato salad was huge, but not particularly interesting.

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There are things i really love about the Red Squirrel, but I’d definitely recommend sticking to what they do best – the super tasty burgers.

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Marylebone High Street: Fish Works

Fishworks on Marylebone High Street seems like the urban version of Tobermory’s Cafe Fish, a seafood restaurant at the back of a fishmongers.

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I started my late lunch off with a platter of bread served with salsa verde and aioli. I don’t think the bread was home baked, something in the crust told me so. Pleasant enough but a bit bland. I do love the concept of dips for artisan bread as opposed to the plain old standby butter. This would have been beautiful if the aioli were homemade and the salsa verde less uniformly smooth…I like to see and taste texture!

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A half dozen oysters followed – 3 prestige (salt and savoury), 3 Dorset rock (sweet and delicate). The Dorset were so lovely and gentle it would have been wrong to defile with mignonette…the prestige needed a taste of something acidic to cut through the saltiness.

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My main course was a spaghetti with clams, because I am utterly predictable. It’s only of my favourite dishes, and had become over the years one of my ‘yardstick’ meals. It’s simple and unfussy, and relies entirely on the freshness of the (few) ingredients and the talents of the chef to execute well.

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This version included, oddly, a mirepoix (carrots.onions and garlic as a base). A little too oily, possibly not enough butter and too much olive oil, or not enough white wine to cut through.

Nothing extraordinary, but the oysters were lovely. I think sometimes the freshness of the ingredients speak for themselves, but sometimes (in this case anyway) a bit more effort should have been made in the details.

The Fishworks
89 Marylebone High Street W1
http://www.fishworks.co.uk

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Review: Nonna’s kitchen, Morningside

This time last week I was sitting enjoying a macchiato with perfect creamy foam at Nonna’s Kitchen in Morningside, . I had an errand to run at the post office and this was my indulgence for the day – a ‘three course’ Italian lunch.

I have to be in the right sort of mood for pudding, so my three courses included an order of fresh oysters. It was my dad who taught me to enjoy these as a child; and oysters, mussels and giant sweet prawns were on the menu almost as soon as I was on solid food.

I’m the first lunch customer of the day. In fact, I was so early they were still writing the specials on the board!

The waiter here is amazing – the family who own Nonna’s also ran the Patio on Hanover street (though I’m not sure if it’s still there) and the older of the two waiters has a incredible memory. There are usually about twenty specials, starters and mains, and his ability to remember and recite them is pretty damned impressive. This is old-school waiting, none of this ‘I’ll have to check with the kitchen’ nonsense when you ask what the soup of the day is!

As always I decided to go for one of the specials…it seems such a shame not to when they sound so lovely.

I started with half a dozen delicately salty oysters, with just a squeeze of fresh lemon and some black pepper.

This was followed by an intriguing starter of baked avocado with mixed seafood bound in a creamy sauce. I’d never tried baking avocado before, but it was pretty good (may have to try doing this at home), skin and all. Melt-in-your-mouth sweet creamy avocado flesh with savoury, garlicky prawns, clams and scallops with a touch of cream and mozzarella.

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Then came the giant prawn linguine in all it’s glory, with sweet tiger prawns that were truly massive and a fresh chopped tomato sauce garnished with whole roasted cherry toms. None of that oversweetness of a a ready made sauce full of tinned tomatoes, this beautiful stuff was made of fresh tomatoes chopped minutes before the plate came to my table…

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Review: Opus One in Perth

Tonight I took a friend out for a belated birthday dinner at Opus One at the New County Hotel in Perth. I am now sitting on the last train to Edinburgh a little tipsy, with a full belly.

When we arrived, my friend made a joke about the restaurant being a bit heavy-handed with the romantic atmosphere. Mood lighting, candles and Michael Buble piped into the dining room.

To start with, ordered the chicken liver and foie gras parfait with a pear and fig chutney. My normslly vegetarian friend asked for the risotto and spelt grain with wild mushrooms.

We were presented with a simple cauliflower veloute amuse Simple, effective, though lacking in imagination. Maybe I’m overly fussy, but I am quite bored with the ubiquitous veloute. Pureed soup in a minuscule cup does not set my heart racing.

My parfait was lovely and silky, garnished with cress and served in a mini Mason jar on a slate platter, with a smear of sticky-sweet pear and fig chutney. My only complaint was the single slice of toasted walnut bread was not adequate for amount of parfait. Otherwise a near perfect dish.

My friend’s risotto was deemed fabulous, though I didn’t try any. She’d polished it off before I had a chance! I think that speaks for itself.

My main course was a vegetarian gnocchi with figs and lemon creme Fraiche. The dish was slightly oversalted, possibly from the water the gnocchi had been poached in. The creme Fraiche tasted very strongly of lemon, almost overpoweringly so, though the sweetness of the figs (disappointingly semi-dried rather than fresh) complemented the two and helped tone down the excessive saltiness and citrus tang. It was garnished bizarrely with fresh coriander.

My friend ordered the loin of cured roe deer with pan fried liver and braised cabbage. She is normally s vegetarian, but is partial to the occasional piece of well prepared venison. The liver was lovely and savoury, without the gaminess or slight metallic aftertaste of some. Her venison was tasty and tender, though not spectacularly so. It was, however, very very good. The braised cabbage was sweet and still had a bit of texture to it, perfectly cooked and absolutely fabulous.

For dessert, I had the locally foraged plum tarte Tatin with mulled plum sorbet. My friend had the poached autumn fruits with rosemary ice cream. Both were nice, but overspiced. Her poached fruits tasted almost overwhelmingly of cardamom, but luckily she loves the stuff. The rosemary ice cream was overshadowed, drowned out by the screaming cardamom. My tarte Tatin was lovely, with a sticky tartness to the plums in what would otherwise be a sickly finish. The sorbet was delicious, but the taste of mulled spices lingered long after I’d finished my meal.

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Review: Urban Angel, Hanover Street

I’m at Urban Angel again for lunch, as I’ve errands to run in town and it’s so convenient. It also helps the food is fabulous!

I’m eating alone today, having left the boyfriend at home. We have our usual sharing dishes we order every time, like the homemade bread with olive oil and dukkah, but as I’m on my own I thought I’d try something different.

So today, I am having the crispy polenta bites with tomato and Parmesan, and the whole mackerel with a fennel, apple and blue cheese salad.

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The polenta was perfectly cooked, crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy with just the right amount if texture within. It came with shavings of Parmesan and a fresh tomato salsa comparable to Lupe Pintos. All served on a bed of rocket.

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My mackerel was a generous portion of fish, complete with head and tail! It was expertly cooked with a crispy skin and tender flesh. The salad combined sweet, crunchy apple with the tanginess of blue cheese and delicate slices of fennel. Fabulous!

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I finished my meal with a slice of their New York baked cheesecake, my usual treat. This is the cheesecake against which all other cheesecakes are compared. Rich and creamy, not too sweet and with a cake base. Beautiful!

I’m now happily stuffed and ready for an afternoon of messages and some sneaky shopping.

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Review: The Apartment, Bruntsfield

The boyfriend and I decided to have a late dinner at The Apartment yesterday evening; it’s one if our ‘regular’ eateries about town, and being close to home made it the obvious choice.

The Apartment was where I ate my first meal in Edinburgh, with a good friend and the lovely lady who is now his wife. This was before I’d moved here, and it was a special treat to go for a night out in the city. He’d suggested we try this place as it was one of his favourites, and it didn’t disappoint.

Yesterday was no different; we turned up at 9:30 and were greeted like old friends by the lovely waitress. At that time of night, some some restaurants are finishing up their last orders, but we didn’t feel rushed at all.

We ordered one of their signature ‘chunky healthy lines’; skewers of salmon, king prawn and scallop marinated in a sweet chilli dressing. This came with a generous portion of salmon, tender and complemented by the sweet dressing. There were whole caramelised roasted chillies and shallots. Even my boyfriend, who usually steers away from fish, couldn’t resist.

We had the same main course of sautéed duck livers on sourdough toast with roasted pears. Now I’m a sucker for a roasted pear (The Apartment’s gnocchi with roasted pear, pumpkin and rocket is one of my favourites, as is Ghillie Dhu’s lamb chops with roasted pear and new potatoes), so this special was an obvious choice.

The livers were fabulous, crisp on the outside, sweat and tender inside. The caramelised pear and crisp toasted sourdough finished the dish perfectly. We had to restrain ourselves from licking our plates clean!

We’d ordered some sides to accompany our meal, but due to a delay in the kitchen (and there was a very large party of tourists in at the same time), they arrived a little later. The waitress was super-nice about it though and took them off the bill, though they did arrive and we polished them off as well.

The Apartment is definitely one of my favourite places to eat in Edinburgh, with consistently fabulous food and great service. It’s chilled out and unpretentious, and feels like you’re at a very, very good dinner party.

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Review: Koyama Japanese restaurant, Forrest road

After a late start to the day, and a fabulous croissant from Valvona and Crolla with a generous dollop of Claire Leslie’s strazzberry jam for brunch, I’m ready for lunch.

By the time I made my way across the Meadows, there was a growl in my belly. I’ve had Japanese food 3 times in the past week; first dinner at Yes Sushi on Hanover Street on Friday, then Number One Sushi on Home street on Sunday evening, and finally Izzi on Lothian road for lunch yesterday.

Today I thought I’d try Koyama on Forrest road. I’ve been past it on my way into town many times, but have always been in too much of a rush to go in.

My first impression on entering was this place is much larger, with a set up similar to sushi restaurants in Canada and the US. Some booths as well as small tables, red paper lanterns, and Hokusai prints on the walls.

Although I’d consider myself adventurous in what I eat, I must admit I have my ‘usuals’ when I eat Japanese. Unagi (eel) nigiri and hand roll, sea bass sashimi and some sort of noodle soup.

The problem was, today the menu outside was very different to the menu I was presented with. Quite a few things had disappeared, including the hearty noodle soups and the unagi hand roll. In fact, the only mention of eel was in a maki roll and in an unagi don style rice dish. I was told this was the ‘Festival menu’, and no, the chef could not make any of the missing items from the regular menu. Not a good start, as that just had me thinking the sushi was not freshly made.

I ordered sea bass and salmon sashimi, and decided to try the eel maki. For my main dish I had the mixed seafood yaki udon.

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The salmon sashimi was sliced a bit thick for my taste, less delicate pieces of fish and more generous mouthfuls. The sea bass sashimi was fine, topped with firm roe and sliced thinly.

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The eel maki had a bit too much rice and not enough eel, though there was a nice crunch of cucumber. Disappointingly, there was barely any eel to speak of.

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My udon came with panko-fried prawns and pieces of various other seafood,  which tasted suspiciously like scampi! The prawns had a nice crisp crust though, which was the high point of the dish. The noodles were slightly overcooked and limp, and the sauce lacked robust flavour.

To top things off, I was then informed by the waitress that despite the sign advertising a 10% student discount, this only applied if I paid in cash! I spoke to the manager and she allowed me the discount, but I think it’s a little misleading as there was no mention of cash payments only on the sign in their window!

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here as it is Festival season, and normal rules don’t apply, evidently. It was a disappointing experience and a mediocre meal, but I may go back and try their wares when it’s back to the normal menu.

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