Showing posts with label edinburgh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label edinburgh. Show all posts

Mark Greenaway (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 69 North Castle Street
Website: www.markgreenaway.com
Type of Meal: Dinner 



Mark Greenaway’s surroundings were simple but comfortable and the dining room held a surprising number of tables for the small location.  My only suggestion, for the next revamp, is to change the chairs. They are simply not practical for anyone with a purse with its holes in the back and rounded backing (nothing to hang your purse from); alas, mine had to sit on the ground.  Additionally, they were not that comfortable which may be a downfall for patrons ordering the 8-course tasting menu whom would need to sit for a while.  Luckily, we were just popping by for a quick dinner so they were good enough for us.

Soon after ordering we were brought an amuse bouche of sage and pumpkin foam with toasted pumpkin seeds.  I find pure foam starters to be a hit and miss, but Mark Greenaway's version was delicious with the fragrant warm foam set against the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds.  The dish had a richness to it making it taste like lobster bisque (I know a bit strange for pumpkin) and proved to be a great start.

After the amuse bouche, I was expecting bread to be brought out as a large disk of butter sat on the white linens.  Surprisingly, it did not and instead my appetizer arrived first. Rather, the bread is served between the appetizer and main which is certainly unconventional, but perhaps saves you from filling up?  

The spelt risotto (£7) was beautifully presented with a deep yellow sauce set against the brown grains of spelt.  If you like cheese, this would be a great option as there’s plenty of it – a layer on the bottom of the plate, four croquettes of fried cheese included and a generous shaving of parmesan on top.  Indeed, the croquettes were crispy, hot and delicious an unexpected treat on an already rich dish. But, the risotto itself was a bit hard for my taste. Of course, I realize the barley and spelt based risottos generally have a harder shell so has more of a bite, but these grains hadn't split at all so it just tasted like I was eating kernels of grain in a cheese sauce. Perhaps if they were cooked a bit more or mixed in some rice the dish would have been better as the flavours were certainly there.

My main of halibut (£24) was cooked well and another colourful presentation.  Although it was good, I found the protein to be overshadowed by the pickled vegetable garnishes accompanying the main which were so vibrant in flavour.  Every time I had a taste of the vegetables and then went back to the fish, the halibut tasted really bland.  Now, this isn’t necessarily bad as there is some contrast, but just seems to be a shame that the main part of the dish gets lost. It was served with a lemongrass foam but found this didn't add much in terms of flavour. 

The black rectangle on the fish is actually a piece of squid ink pasta; a bit mushy and not flavourful at all which is strange as squid ink tends to offer such a distinct aroma.  The highlight of the dish, for me, was two slices of carrots which were wrapped around chopped up pieces of either fish or scallop with micro dices of pickled radish.  These garnishes were such a great combination of tartness and silkiness of seafood that I wish there was more of them.

The pan roasted hake fillet (£21) that my husband ordered was definitely the better dish of the two and exhibited a fusion of Asian and French flavours. It had the flavourful crispy skin, which I adore with a piece of plain fish, surrounded by a fragrant sesame ginger broth.  A side of purple mash included was smooth and had an interesting potato flavour mixed with what seemed like black sesame and red bean.  Topping the fish was a lobster tagliatelle made into a dumpling form - sadly my husband polished this before I had a taste.

Normally, I am not a big dessert fan but heard about their peanut butter cheesecake (£7.50) and had to try it.  The dessert consisted of layers of pressed peanut butter and smooth cheese cake piped between peanut butter sheets.  A large piece of dark chocolate peanut bark topped everything and had a hint of saltiness giving the cake a sweet and savoury aspect to it but not overwhelmingly so.  

As if this were not enough a warm syrupy caramel sauce is brought to the table and poured around the cake itself adding such a delicious buttery toffee taste to everything.  Thankfully, the sauce wasn't too sweet and was just enough to complement the already decadent dessert.  A white log decorates the cake and at first we put it to the side thinking it was a regular run of the milk while chocolate cylinder.  When we finally tasted it we were delighted to find it ice cold and creamy in texture going so well with the warm sauce.  I believe it might have been a frozen white chocolate gouache?  This dessert was absolutely delicious and worth all the hype it receives.  During our visit, it wasn't on the regular menu and only offered as part of the market menu.  Thankfully, the chef was accommodating and made it for us anyways.  Mr. Greenaway, put it back on your menu!

Perhaps it was due to our late seating and there were no other diners around, but the staff were extremely friendly and helpful, not only taking the time to chat with us but explain some facts of Scotland to us.  Overall, the experience was a great one and Mark Greenaway is worth a visit. They also offer a great deal with the special market menu, available from 5:30-6:45 offering 2 courses for £16.50 or 3 courses for £20.

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!



Restaurant Mark Greenaway on Urbanspoon

La Tasca (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 9 South Charlotte Street
Website: www.latascakitchen.co.uk
Type of Meal: Dinner 
 



La Tasca isn’t anything fancy, but if you’re looking for reasonable prices and a low-key but not family restaurant environment, this UK chain is a great option. The menu is quite extensive with tapas, paellas, whole fish and simple salads; items we tried are unfussy and reminiscent of the tastes of Spain.
One of the better dishes of the night was the calamares (£4.60) a simple fried calamari dish.  Cut into thicker slices the squid tastes fresh and tender.  The crust is crispy and thin with just some sea salt, although the dish does have a spicy aioli sauce on the side if you need a bit more flavour.


The langostinos (£5.95) was a good value dish comprised of four large tiger prawns – heads on for some who may be squeamish.  Grilled on a flat top so that juices are retained but without charring the shell, the prawn is delicious and maintains its natural flavours.    
A dish with some kick were the empanadas de carne (£4.35) filled with spicy ground beef and regato cheese wrapped in a crunchy yet soft coating.
If you want something more filling the flatbread for two (£6.95) may be the dish for you – certainly sufficient for us to share even amongst a table of four.  Arriving on a wooden platter the bread is not exactly flat but rather like a thick crust vegetarian pizza. Topped with roast peppers, tomatoes, cheese and onion it’s a dish built for sustenance.
The gratinado verduras (£3.75) is for individuals who like their vegetables hidden under a layer of cheese and mixed into cream.  Garlicky creamed spinach sits on the bottom with a scalloped potato layer on top.
After my visit to La Tasca, I’ve learnt that “salsa” essentially translates to “sauce” - not the tomato Old El Paso variety available in mild, medium and hot but just “sauce”.  When the pollo con salsa (£4.95) arrived we were a little surprised that the chicken was sitting in a creamy sherry sauce, we should read the menu carefully. But, the dish was still good with the pieces of white meat mixed with mushrooms.
I enjoyed the variety of salads on their menu; by this point in the trip I was craving something simple and healthy. We ordered a regular green house salad (£2.95) as well as the beetroot, carrot and butternut squash salad (£4.80). Personally, I enjoyed the simple green salad more as I’m not a huge fan of sweet squash dishes.
La Tasca has a fair variety of beers and wine on their menu. Choice is abundant with wines offered in 125ml, 250ml, half bottle and full bottle options with a 250ml will glass setting you back about £6. So, if you’re tired after walking through Old or New Town, this is a good choice to stop for a bite where you can likely comfortably feed two with £20 without having to eat a burger.
Overall mark - 7 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!
  •   
La Tasca on Urbanspoon

Tigerlily (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 125 George Street
Website: http://www.tigerlilyedinburgh.co.uk/edinburgh-restaurant/
Type of Meal: Dinner 



While visiting Edinburgh, we stayed at Tigerlily, a modern boutique hotel situated in New Town within walking distance of most sites. Located on the quieter end of George Street, the hotel was generally pretty calm until the weekend rolled in and the lobby becomes a swanky lounge and the basement a nightclub. 

From Sunday – Friday, Tigerlily offers a 2-course dinner menu for £15 with a choice of five appetizers and six mains.  Not feeling like venturing very far one night, I decided to try out this deal.

Starting with the Shetland mussels, I was pleasantly surprised with the quantity you receive as an appetizer. The Thai styled sauce is made with fragrant green curry, coriander, ginger, chilli, lime and enriched with coconut milk.  The mussels were fresh and cooked well with the sauce adding a great flavour to it.  Since the Thai sauce was a little thicker, it stuck on well to the mussels.

On the other hand, the piri piri salmon baked on cedar wood was a bit of a miss.  The salmon itself was good – fresh, flaky and tender. Unlike Atlantic salmon, I found this to be leaner and consequently lighter tasting since your tongue doesn’t get coated with fish oil. Where it fell flat was the awfully bland piri piri sauce which little flavour it offered was gross.  Luckily, I still had the mussels so I was able to scrape off the piri piri and replace it with the delicious Thai sauce.   Tigerlily should really consider switching the accompanying sauce to its Thai sauce, which also goes well with the steamed jasmine rice and crispy green beans. 

Overall, Tigerlily offers a modern environment with friendly and helpful staff.  On the weekend, it’s bustling with locals and tourists alike hanging out on its plush seating with drinks.  But, week nights are also a great opportunity to stop by for a relatively tasty and affordable dinner.

Overall mark - 7 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!



Tigerlily on Urbanspoon

Mums Great Comfort Food (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 4A Forest Road
Website: http://www.monstermashcafe.co.uk/
Type of Meal: Lunch 
 



Mums Great Comfort Food, the name pretty much sums up what this restaurant is all about.  Here they serve up Scottish/British classics using local produce, in good sized portions and at reasonable prices. Even their beer is home-grown offering various microbrewed options from Tempest Brewing, Thistly Cross Ciders and Knops Beer Company.  


I was advised I couldn’t visit Scotland and not try a steak and ale pie (£7.95). So, when I saw it on Mums’ menu I had to order it. When it arrived just the sight of it was astounding – the pastry crust is BIG.  As the waiter brings the towering pie to the table, I’m giddy like a child excited to break through the crusty exterior.  The crust is very airy with the middle separated into layers of soft supple dough with crispy edges. Since it wasn’t too buttery, the significant amount of crust wasn’t over powering but rather light tasting enough to be enjoyable (I almost finished the whole thing).  Deep inside on the bottom are tender chunks of steak, carrots, onions, mushroom and turnip slow cooked together in a delicious ale-laced gravy.  No pot pie will ever be the same for me after this experience. 

This was also my husband’s chance to try the famed bangers and mash (£6.95 for two).  Ordering this is no simple task as Mums dedicates a whole section of their menu and chalkboard to it - the combinations and choices are endless!  Their sausages are supplied by O’Hagans who prides themselves with using no additives and natural ingredients.  From the choice of seven he ordered two different styles (unfortunately names long forgotten), I tried a piece and it was delicious despite me not being a sausage fan.  Perhaps if all sausages tasted this fresh I would enjoy them more. Unlike the ones I’ve previously tried, they weren’t fatty tasting, had great herb and spices mixed throughout and not overly salty.

From the 16 (yes you heard right) mashed potato options he ordered the cheese and onion.  It was fluffy, buttery and absolutely loaded with cheese and onion; so much so that some of the onions had to be taken out because it was overpowering.  He selected for the classic brown gravy (from three choices), which arrives in a small jug allowing you to drown everything to your heart’s content.

Not pictured is the soup of the day (£2.75), on our visit I believe was butternut squash. I didn’t get a chance to try it so can’t comment on the taste but was a decent portion accompanied by a hunk of bread. Certainly, it could be a meal in itself if you just wanted something small.

Mum’s belief that “’gourmet’ can and should be for everyone” was certainly fulfilled on our visit. This is another great example of a restaurant in Scotland that is delicious, satisfying and won’t break the bank.
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!
  •  
MUMS Great Comfort Food on Urbanspoon

The Dome (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 14 George Street
Website: http://www.thedomeedinburgh.com/
Type of Meal: Light dinner and drinks



The Dome is an impressive building with stately columns out front and a grand entrance.  Originally, built as the Physician’s hall and later demolished to serve as the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, it’s now home to two restaurants, lounge, tea house, outdoors patio, suites and events venue. On both visits we sat is the lounge where we were able to take in the elaborate ceiling which gives the building its name.  

Despite the fancy surroundings, drink prices are reasonable and approximately £2 for a half pint, £4 for a pint and £6 for a glass of wine.  On one visit we shared a platter for four (£22.50) but given there were eight of everything this could easily serve more. Comprised of many fried favourites - coconut shrimp, duck spring rolls, mozzarella sticks and sweeter fried dough stuffed with cabbage - plus the lone grilled chicken skewers the platter has something for everyone.


Everything arrived crispy and hot with my favourites being the crispy fragrant coconut shrimp, the slightly gamey duck spring rolls and the tender chicken skewers.  The whimsical use of take-out chopsticks to skewer the chicken was also a nice touch.

On another night, we went back for dessert and drinks and I treated myself to an absolutely delicious mocha complete with real chocolate shavings at the bottom of the glass.  The other guests had some delicious desserts, approximately £7 each, and were substantial portions.

During both visits the Dome’s lounge was fairly busy filled with suits, couples and tourists alike. But, tables turned over quickly and we never had to wait to secure a table. The breathtaking décor, efficient service and fair pricing are definitely worth a visit.


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Dome Grill Room and Bar on Urbanspoon

Jamie's Italian (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 54 George Street
Website: http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/edinburgh
Type of Meal: Dinner 
 



I first knew Jamie Oliver as the Naked Chef, a cute looking blond British chef recognized for his down to earth shows and later his stance against processed foods in the American school system. So, although I’ve never had a desire to eat at one of his restaurants, when the opportunity presented itself I thought “his Italian food must be good, let’s do this!”  Unfortunately, I was dead wrong and eating at Jamie’s Italian was a disappointing experience.

Perhaps it all started with our dismal experience with being seated – yes something so simple left a bad taste in our mouth.  We walked in on a weeknight, after a couple of minutes of reviewing the computer system the hostess brought us to a table in a fairly empty dining room.  After settling in, another hostess approaches the table to tell us that we were seated in the wrong spot and had to be moved. So, we were ushered into the downstairs area with a more casual vibe.  Normally, it wouldn’t matter, but the situation was just handled so abruptly and awkwardly without an apology.

As we had a heavy multi-course lunch that day, everyone wanted smaller dishes.  My husband started first and requested the vegetable plank appetizer in which our waiter answered “is that all?” in a somewhat dissatisfied manner.  Certainly, I agree restaurants should sometimes try to up-sale customers to add extra items to their meal, but to be off putting about it is another story.

Usually, I could have overlooked these faux pas if it weren’t for the substandard dishes Jamie Oliver chooses to serve.  Honestly, my experiences with chains like Olive Garden and Alice Fazoolis was far better than what I had that night.   

To begin, the vegetable plank (£6.85) was pretty mediocre and something I could whip up at home.  The slices of grilled zucchini and eggplant topped with pickled peppers in the middle bowl were cold and uninspired tasting despite being “marinated”. A small piece of buffalo mozzarella was also bland despite being described as having “chilli, mint, pecorino and an amazing chilli jam”. 

Strangely, nothing came with the vegetables so he decided to order the Italian bread selection (£3.75) as an accompaniment.  Although the basket looked impressive, the bread was cold and unexceptional. Especially the focaccia which is normally known to be soft airy bread saturated with olive oil – how could it be so mealy and dry? Sadly, this is when I reminisced about how good the Olive Garden bread sticks could be.

Luckily, the vongole tagliolini (£11.25) I ordered was better.  The house-made pasta was nice and al dante and the olive oil sauce providing a decent flavour (mix of garlic, white wine and hint of chilli).  But, the clams were just so small and poorly cooked - to put size into perspective the red things you see are grape tomato halves.  They were overcooked and shrivelled into the shell so the meat ended up being the size of a caper and difficult to taste.  To make matters worse there were remnants of sand at the bottom of my dish likely as the clams were soaked long enough. 

In the end, if I were just having a dish of linguine with garlic olive oil it would have been palatable, but the fact that it’s marketed as clam pasta was disappointing.  The clam linguine I generally order at Alice Fazoolis, a Toronto chain, is loads better than the mediocre fare served at Jamie’s Italian.

But, my husband and I should have counted ourselves lucky as my mother-in-law complained her dish of free-range chicken (£13.25; not pictured) was so dry and overcooked that it half of it could not even be cut into.  Normally, she’s a person who’s quite forgiving in her expectation with dishes, so a basic grilled chicken should not be what stumps a kitchen.

I’m very disappointed to review Jamie’s Italian this poorly as I can’t begin to comprehend how the delightful Naked Chef shown on TV can serve something so mediocre.  Sadly, this experience has ruined my perception of Jamie Oliver as a chef and his brand in general.  As for his philosophy about chefs feeding the masses at reasonable prices, I will happily pay a few extra pounds to not eat such substandard quality food again.   

Overall mark - 3 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!



Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Martin Wishart (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 54 The Shore
Website: http://www.restaurantmartinwishart.co.uk/
Type of Meal: Lunch



When a Michelin starred restaurant offers a 3-course lunch menu for £28.50 it’s a deal that's hard to pass up. So, we made the short cab ride out to Leith, Northwest of Edinburgh's city centre, to visit the restaurant.

Being a French restaurant, you certainly got that classic upscale French feeling when you walked into Martin Wishart with the crisp white linen, sparkly crystal and shiny silverware. Luckily, the staff were friendly and didn't appear to be snooty, albeit not nearly as friendly as the other Edinburgh restaurants we encountered. 

Not long after ordering a small dice sized horseradish beet macaron was presented meant to be eaten in one bite to wake up the palette. It was an interesting combination with the sweet macaron shell and the creamy horseradish spiked filling; a good savoury take on the French dessert. 

Following was a more substantial amuse bouche trio consisting of a haggis croquette, foie gras shavings and a parmesan cheese puff.  I thoroughly enjoyed the fried haggis ball with its smooth flavourful meat filling and crunchy exterior.  Not being a fan of foie gras, for ethical reasons, I was glad it was only a small portion. Nonetheless, it was smooth and flavourful and almost refreshing in how they prepared it – it appeared to be mixed it with something, frozen and then shaved and topped with a complementary crispy element. The cheese puff was tasty - as cheese and choux pastry generally would be, with an astonishing amount of cheese for such a small ball.

My starter, ravioli of wild mushroom, was my favourite dish of the meal.  It could have easily been a main with another ravioli and the addition of some protein. Even though the pasta dough was thin, there was still a nice chewy texture and stuffed full with diced mushrooms - the mixture being so dense that you could have sworn there was some meat in there binding it all together. The foam was delicate and allowed the woodsy mushroom flavour to shine through.  Even the sautéed cabbage sitting under the ravioli, a smart way to stop them from sliding around the dish, was delicious. 

As can be seen from the picture below, the roast cod was seared beautifully giving it a golden brown crust, which goes so well with the delicate soft fish.  The dish was a bit salty, not sure if it was from the foam, the fish or the wilted spinach on the bottom. The fish itself was good but not very memorable.  The only unexpected highlight was the thin medallions of potato boulangere dotted around the dish - deliciously flavourful with a slight herby essence, which is somewhat sad given they were an inconsequential part of the meal.

On the other hand, the navarin of Dornoch lamb my husband ordered was such an intensely flavourful dish.  This French lamb stew was a good nod to Scottish cuisine and almost like beef bourguignon.  The lamb was tender, flaked apart easily and had a rich deep sauce covering everything. This is certainly a hearty dish you want if you're hungry, Martin Wishart provides a substantial portion topped with typical stew ingredients (carrots, onions and mushrooms). Celeriac purée, served in a separate dish, accompanied the dish and added a silky, buttery and creamy touch to everything. 

French cuisine is known for their desserts and my apple tart bourdaloude did not disappoint its warm flaky crust, beautifully fanned layer of apples and dollop of chantilly cream. Thankfully, the apples were cooked well - tender throughout but still had a slight bite to it.  For me, the dessert was too sweet; I just wish the apple itself was a bit tarter so it could have cut through the sugary syrup. 

I loved that Martin Wishart has a cheese cart, which they roll over when you order the cheese plate (supplement of £10).  There are about a dozen of options available and the server asks your preference before building a cheese plate catered to your palate.  My husband, liking stronger tasting cheddars and not blue cheeses, was given a variety of French cheeses with one lone Scottish cheddar. Not pictured are some crackers and bread that is placed on your side plate when this is ordered.

Enclosed below is a picture of the chocolate macaron with black current filling ordered by another guest. I can't comment on how it tastes since I never tried it, but thought I'd share since it was so beautifully presented.



Sadly, there were a couple of slight hiccups that I found surprising for a Michelin rated restaurant.
  • Perhaps this is common in Scotland, but when we requested tea and coffee with our dessert, we were instantly charged the coffee + petit fours option with the meal (£5.95).  To make things worse, we weren't even brought any of the petit fours, despite being charged to it making each hot beverage quite costly.  I will say that I enjoyed that they heated up their teapots and milk, but still for £6 a cup it was a bit steep.  
  • The second issue was that they just couldn't remember my water choice! My guests prefer sparkling (£5.50 per bottle) while I just like plain ice water.  Both times they refilled my glass, either I or someone from my table had to stop them and state no sparkling water for me as I prefer ice.  After hearing this, they didn't offer to replace my water so I had to drink the carbonated version that I detest.  I know it’s something small, but something that easily could have been avoided – just write down the guest’s preferences somewhere!
All in all, for the price of the meal, Martin Wishart is a great value option.  For the most part the dishes were delicious and atmosphere posh, elegant and relaxing.


Overall mark - 7.5 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!


Martin Wishart on Urbanspoon



Bramble Bar (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 16A Queen St
Website: http://www.bramblebar.co.uk/
Type of Meal: Drinks
  


If you find yourself in front of a dry cleaning place while looking for Bramble then you’re at the right place!  With no prominent signs and the non-descript location, it can definitely be over looked.  So, first find the dry cleaners, head down the stairs and the door on the left is where you want to enter. 


Just looking for Bramble brings a whole speakeasy vibe to the place, which continues when you enter.  The small basement space is dark and intimate, with lighting given from candles scattered around tables and the bar.  With a cozy bar area and a few small seating nooks you want to show up early or risk being packed by the entrance.

It’s really hard to decide what to order with Bramble’s extensive menu of cocktails.  Even if you wanted a simple gin and tonic, they have 40 types of gin and a plethora of mixers to choose from!  I tried one of the “recommended” G&T’s called Three Corners & Fevertree Tonic (£6).  Although it looks simple, watching him make it made me realize the amount of work that goes into the drink and now understand why Bramble was voted as one of the best bars in Edinburgh and the World. 

The bartender obtained a large sphere of ice and painstakingly whittled it down until it was the perfect size for my glass.  Next, he added to it was a freshly sliced piece of orange peel and a crushed seed (not sure what it was), before a small bottle of Fevertree Tonic was opened up and finished off the drink. The first sip is extremely strong, but once the ice block melted down and the orange and seed mixed in everything mellowed out.

My husband asked for custom one and was asked a few questions before they narrowed it down to one that was good for him.  Certainly the options and combinations are endless!

We also tried some of their mixed cocktails.  The Bramble (£6.50) is a safe bet consisting of Bombay Dry Gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar syrup & creme de mures (a blackberry liqueur.  It was fruity and simple, tasting somewhat like a grown-up Killer Kool-Aid.  

I personally preferred my Most Unusual Drink (£7) more, especially since it was served in a teacup martini glass – how great is that?  Also gin based (this time using Sourdough Hendrick), its flavours are derived from cucumber manzanilla (type of sherry?), freshly squeezed lime juice and rose water.  The flavours were very crisp and clean, absolutely delicious!

Bramble is a good place to head to with a few friends who appreciate tasty fresh drinks.  This is not the place to go if you want to dance or are expecting to meet people.  When we went, early on a Friday, it seemed like a mix of the after work crowd, friends catching up and date crowds.  Everyone pretty much stuck to themselves, chatting away.  The surroundings were crowded by still pleasant with each drink giving us something to enjoy and talk about. With so many to choose from, it’s definitely somewhere you can keep going back to.



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Bramble Bar & Lounge 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!

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