Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts

Castle Terrace (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 33/35 Castle Terrace
Website: http://castleterracerestaurant.com
Type of Meal: Dinner


When we visited on a Friday evening, it was a packed house at Castle Terrace; with its laid back atmosphere (for a Michelin restaurant) the dining room was humming with conversation and laughter. Unfortunately, tables are placed fairly close together so you wouldn't want to speak too loudly or risk disrupting your neighbours, but does offer the opportunity to check out what everyone else is ordering.


The amuse bouche for the evening followed a comfort food theme.  The trio consisted of a crab meat ravioli, miniature slider and a liquid Caesar salad.  The crispy ravioli and slider were pretty looking and tasted good, but the most inventive and delicious of the three was the small Caesar salad capsule, which we were instructed to eat in one bite.  As soon as you bite into the half dome, your taste buds are greeted with a blast of garlic sauce.  When paired with the smooth jelly dome and crispy crouton on the bottom, you can certainly see why the chef describes this as a Caesar salad.

Next, arrived an espresso cup filled with the chef's take on a baked potato - smooth cheesy mashed potatoes top with disc of more potatoes (?) and a hint of bacon dust.  As tasty as creamy mashed potatoes can be, but we were still reminiscing about the liquid salad.

As soon as the seared scallops (£19) were placed in front of me, I knew I was in for a good meal. They were a fair size with a beautiful crust that even Mr. Ramsey would be proud of and just cooked so that the middle held a bit of the translucence.  I wouldn’t have imagined making scallops Indian style, but Castle Terrace topped theirs with a light curry sauce (poured table side), placed it on a bed of fragrant curried basmati rice and placed a small disc of naan bread beside each.  

There was just so much to try on the dish! The small pieces dotting the left side of the plate were dried pineapple and raisins, not something I like but thankfully they didn't mix it into the rice. I did enjoy the slivers of fresh coconut topping each scallop adding a light crunchy slaw to each delicate Orkney scallop.  This is certainly as dish you have to try if you like flavourful seafood.

On the other hand, my main of seared hampe of beef (£25) was back to a more traditional offering. Yet, it was presented in an extraordinary fashion and made me sit back for a moment and just take it in before diving into taste it.  From left to right on the plate, a piece of roasted carrot & spring onion, slices of the beef sitting on top of a phyllo pastry filled with crispy ox tongue and lastly a sweet potato mash rectangle filled with bordelaise sauce, mini carrots and a ravioli filled with beef jus (?).

At first, I found the beef to be a bit tough, only to realize when searching "hampe" later for this blog that it was a synonym for skirt steak.  In this case, the beef was actually cooked wonderfully as it was quite tender for this cut of meat and the dish provided a good portion of it. The pastilla (phyllo wrapped ox tongue) was also fairly large and quite delicious. For anyone who has ever had the Chinese pork floss (often found wrapped in glutinous rice or topping congee) the ox tongue had that texture but was moistened with sauce.  Although the flavour was fairly condensed, it didn't have a hint of offal to it and just resembled a gamier beef like bison.

Meanwhile, my husband ordered off of their seasonal menu starting with the crab (£17) which arrived cannelloni style piped into thin shavings of avocado. It was a refreshing dish, much lighter than my scallops, with diced mango and roasted red pepper mixed into the crab filling.  Certainly delicious and beautiful but I did not have order’s remorse.

Being adventurous, he ordered the special of the night, grouse (£33; a type of wild fowl), for his main.  You could tell that these weren't raised on a farm as the menu even warned that the game based dishes "could have traces of shot" in it.  Generally, I'm a fan of gamier tasting meats but even I could not warm up to this dish - breast or leg.  It was either the bird or the bread sauce but there was an unappetizing bitter taste in the dish.  

The only bearable part was the pan fried gnocchi sitting under the legs, served separately, but even these were slightly tainted with a gross aftertaste. My husband ate it and enjoyed it as an "experience" but agreed my beef was the better choice.

Luckily, the meal for him ended off on a sweet note when we ordered the caramel soufflé (£11) to share. Made to order, it arrived at the table towering over the ramekin.  Castle Terrace takes the cake for the most beautiful soufflé I’ve seen. Our server scored the soufflé and then poured a warm dark chocolate sauce on top so that it soaked into the middle.  A generous portion of honeycomb (or what you may know as sponge - the crunchy sweet candy in the middle of a Crunchie bar) and scoop of vanilla bean ice cream topped everything.

The dessert was positively decadent and made to be shared as we couldn't nearly have eaten it to ourselves.  The soufflé was airy and moist and undoubtedly the best sweet version I've ever had. Normally, I prefer my soufflés on the drier side, but even with the addition of the dark chocolate syrup and melting ice cream the structure still remained intact.  The honeycomb was also a smart choice adding a crunchy contrast to the smooth soufflé.
It appears that both of the Michelin restaurants in Edinburgh we visited have some sort of table side cart.  When my husband ordered a scotch (some year of Lagavulin for £11.50) the waiter wheeled over an entire whisky cart and poured it table side - perhaps to entice the other patrons and a great conversation starter.


 Coffee or tea, served with petit fours, will set you back £4.95. During our visit, the selection consisted of a pistachio cream cookie sandwich, a coconut chocolate macaroon and a chocolate filled with pineapple jam.  After such a delicious soufflé all were a bit of a disappointment and a bit sweet.

Castle Terrace did have their service down pat.  Despite being more laid back and casual than Martin Wishart, the servers just had a bit more polish. For example, they remembered my water preference (ice) compared to my other dinner companions (sparkling at £4.50/bottle) without having to be reminded.  It’s these little things that make all the difference.

I did notice a random £1 "charity" charge added onto the bill.  It's unclear what this is exactly for, but after shelling out so much for a meal what's another £1? And perhaps it's a way of having diners look back at the meal without guilt... sure I've splurged and ingested quite a number of calories from the decadent dishes, but in the end I helped someone out so surely all that would be negated right?

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Castle Terrace Restaurant on Urbanspoon





Anstruther's Fish Bar (Anstruther)

Location: Anstruther, Scotland
Address: 42-44 Shore Street
Website: http://www.anstrutherfishbar.co.uk/
Type of Meal: Lunch



Anstruther's Fish Bar is located right on the pier so fresh fish is what you’ll expect and get.  In fact, on top of their takeaway counter sits a sign that proudly announces which fishing company caught the haddock for the day.  The restaurant is simple with a take-out area as soon as you enter (£5.90 for the haddock), a dining area with about a dozen tables in the middle and an ice cream parlour at the other end.

But, don’t let the casual interior fool you, Anstruther is serious about fish and chips and won many accolades including being recognized the Best Fish and Chip Shop in Scotland and the UK’s Fish Shop of the Year.  Discreet Scotland Tours brought us here right after our visit in the St. Andrews district and noted its popularity with visitors and students of St. Andrews University – including the infamous Prince William.

Having walked around all morning, we decided to eat in and luckily scored a table.  Everyone had to try their speciality, deep fried haddock (£8.25), although Anstruther offers other seafood such as sole, hake, cod, prawns and crab.  For those who don’t like seafood (gasp), deep fried chicken, pizza, burgers, curry chicken, macaroni & cheese and savoury rolls are also available.  

The haddock when dining in costs a bit more but does come with bread & butter (regular sliced bread), a selection of sauces (ketchup, tartare, malt vinegar or brown sauce (aka HP sauce)) and a hot drink. I went with the tartare sauce which sadly was a packaged Heinz variety that’s meritocracy actually ruined the fish – in the end I just ate it plain with some malt vinegar on the chips.

The batter is light, crispy and not greasy at all allowing the freshness of the fish to shine through.  Meanwhile, the haddock is just cooked through so that the fish retains its moistness.  Portion sizes are fairly large with the paper platter containing one and a half fillets and a significant amount of chips. The chips are ordinary yet still tasty and just needs some salt (found on the table) to give it some flavour.

Not having grown up on fish and chips, I must say this is one of the best versions I’ve tasted. Admittedly, I have had a similar calibre fish and chip in Toronto at Rock Lobster where they make a wonderful house-made tartare sauce. My father-in-law, who eats it more and has tried other UK locations, ranks this as one of his top picks as well.  In the end, I wouldn’t make a special journey to Anstruther’s Fish Bar; but, if you happen to be in the St. Andrews area you should definitely stop by.


Overall mark - 8 out of 10


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Anstruther Fish Bar on Urbanspoon

The Bon Vivant (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 55 Thistle Street
Website: http://www.bonvivantedinburgh.co.uk/
Type of Meal: Dinner


Located on a small street, The Bon Vivant is a restaurant you may miss unless you know the look for it down the cobblestone laneway.  Inside the restaurant, the dining room is much larger than expected but still small enough to provide a cozy intimate feeling. With dim lighting, candlelit wine bottles and tables placed in cozy nooks this is a great date place.


The first portion of the menu offers appetizers in "bite" or "starter" portions.  The bites are for £1 each while starters range from £3 - £5.  In reality, the pricing makes no difference as the starters are just a multiple of the bites - those £3 contain 3 pieces while £4 dishes contain 4 pieces. We ordered a few starters to share amongst our table of four.   

First up were the vegetable fritters (£3) which had a great golden brown colour.  The crust was outstanding with a crispy texture without being overly hard.  The inside consisted of shredded carrots,   zucchini and salsify (?) which in itself are not strong flavours but offered some nice contrasting colours. I found the batter to be a bit lumpy - it wasn't unpleasant just unexpected. A spinach pesto topped the fritters giving it a bit more flavour. Not a bad start and a favourite amongst the table. 


My favourite tapa dish was the steak and peanut meatballs (£4) which had such a rich flavour to it.  The Bon Vivant used steak cuts of meat as the base providing a much beefier essence while still being relatively lean. The peanuts sounded like a weird ingredient but were subtle and appeared to be ground into the meat with just some small soft bits throughout.  The tomato sauce was great flavourful sauce that's a mix between marinara and gravy, nice and mellow and not too acidic.

The chorizo in cider (£4) was not my favourite, but then again I never really liked this sausage.  It’s much milder in flavour likely due to it being boiled in the cider.  The sauce was a nice mix of briny tanginess and good for dipping the bread into. Strangely, they only provided us with two wedges of bread despite there being four of us and the appetizer portion equivalent to four "bites".  It would have been nice if there was enough for one per person.  

My main was good but not my favourite.  Wanting to try something different, I opted for the seared hare loin and bridie (the leg of the hare)(£16.50).  The dish was quite a substantial portion despite the small size of the hare and the meat very tender.  The meat has a gamey flavour and is sort of like duck but stronger.  

Normally, I would have been enjoyed the dish but the accompanying ingredients, sweet potato mash and salsify, were just too sweet and similar for my taste.  Additionally the sauce consisted of chestnuts jus which also did not contrast the rest of the ingredients.  The only thing that differed was the wood sorrel but these are very light tasting mushrooms so didn't stand out.  If only there was something else - a vinegary or savoury sauce or a fresher vegetable I would have liked it much more. The empanada like pastry on top was a bit unexpected but was good with its flakey crust.  The filling, I believe was the bridie, could have been flavoured more as was sort of bland.

Without a doubt, the best dish of the night was the haggis (£9.50) which actually looked appetizing. Seriously, travel shows have done this dish injustice by showing it served in the stomach, The Bon Vivant serves theirs in a formed shape on the plate and actually looks nice.  The texture was thick and smooth but still had some pieces with bite to it.  I found it to taste like a thicker sheppard's pie mixture with richer flavours.  It didn't taste like offal at all and was actually delicious. The accompanying gratin dauphinois (scalloped potatoes) were amazing and rich, just the right consistency (soft throughout but still a bit a bite in the potatoes) and had a hint of horseradish in it that gave it a wonderful zing. The roast neeps (turnips) and leafy greens were a bit plain but I think that's necessary when the rest of the dish is already so heavy and flavourful.

We also ordered a side of triple cooked hand cut chips (£3) for the table that were some of the best fries I've had.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a fry connoisseur and have tried many throughout Toronto.  Up until now, I thought I like the thinner fries (my favourite being the ones served at Beer Bistro and One) and generally detested the thick and filling wedges.  My perception has changed as the ones in Scotland were still light and crumbly yet had such a great crunch and rich potato flavour to it.  Something about their potatoes are amazing, the flavour so pronounce without even using the skin.  In Canada, we often only get the strong potato taste if the skin is left on the spud, but the skin also leaves a metallic zing to it.  In Scotland, their chips have such a lovely essence without needing the skin. The Bon Vivant’s chips were simply salted and arrived burning hot … I couldn’t stop eating them because they were so delicious.

Being voted as one of the top bars in Edinburgh, they also offer are a variety of beers and wine at reasonable prices - approximately £6/glass for wine and £3.50/pint for beer. 
What made Bon Vivant outstanding was their service.  Everyone was welcoming and attentive right from the beginning. Knowing we were tourists, our waiter took the time to explain what ingredients were as many were named differently - "swede" for turnips and "tatties" for potatoes.  Another employee, Kyle, also took the time to offer pub and attraction suggestions even plotting it on a map for us.  Given this was our first meal in Scotland we had a great welcoming experience into the country – thank you to the Bon Vivant for showing us the “good life”.
Overall mark - 8 out of 10



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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

The Bon Vivant on Urbanspoon