Live blog of Honey and Co

The last time I went to Honey and Co I euphorically declared it a 10/10 as I walked out of the door. Despite that, I still haven’t managed to blog about it, which, quite frankly, is just rude. (In fact, I’ve just seen it in my drafts. 14 June 2014. Titled Middle Eastern Heaven. I clearly had good intentions).

So tonight I’m going to try a live blog. Why not hey? What’s the worst that can happen?! Let’s just hope the food is as tasty as last time.

It’s Valentines Day. We are paying a babysitter £50 so we can have a meal out. It had better be good!!

We only managed to get a table by sheer luck. Last night at around 8pm I received a voicemail saying they had a cancellation and if we called back within 15 minutes the table was ours! Thankfully I have fast fingers.

I’m currently sitting in Dabbous bar (lovely by the way – perfect for a date) waiting for Mr E to arrive. I think the staff think I’ve been stood up. I’m on my second cocktail. Thankfully husbands don’t often stand up their wives, so I think I’m safe. He was on handover duty – whilst I flounced off to have my highlights done. Oh it’s an easy life being a mum don’t ya know!

Update:

We are here. I have just announced the live blogging idea. This was the reaction.

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Apparently not very romantic!

I’ll have to save it for when he nips to the loo.

(Long pause)

I behaved myself and kept my phone usage to a couple of quick snaps, which looking at them now are not great – sorry – I’m out of practice!

The good news is that we had a lovely time. The bad news is that I didn’t enjoy the food nearly as much as last time. I think I ordered badly, which is a shame. Therefore I am now awarding Honey and Co is a solid 8/10. Tasty food but perhaps a little hit and miss in places. Oh and prepare to be friendly with your neighbouring tables, as it’s a cosy place.

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We started with the mixed mezze to share. It had all the usual favourites; falafel, hummus, tabbouleh, fattoush, pitta bread and more . Plus a few exciting extras, including a beetroot and herb salad and some pickled celery.

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All delicious and I could certainly have eaten more. In fact, I wish I’d had extra starter and missed the main course.

I opted for Su Boregi. Described as a Turkish “lasagne type thing” with burnt aubergine. It was nice enough but a little bland and stodgy for my liking unfortunately. As I said, a poor choice on my part, it did pretty much do what it said on the tin after all .

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Mr E went for the octopus. Obviously. It was cooked with lemon and paprika and served with a Tunisian bean stew and meshwiya sauce. He said it was fresh, delicious and perfectly cooked.

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For pudding we shared a very tasty chocolate and pecan slice and I had a coffee with an obligatory heart on top to mark the day of romance!

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So there you have it, my first live(ish) blog. Barely edited and hot off the press. Maybe this is the way forward with a 6 month old baby and a million things that always need to be done.

If you haven’t been to Honey and Co, I would definitely recommend it. Perhaps just don’t let your expectations get the better of you. It’s a low key place serving tasty and simple Middle Eastern food. Forget the hype and tuck in.

Honey & Co on Urbanspoon

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The perfect warming winter soup : chestnut and chorizo

I was slightly dubious about this soup. Surely it would be far too rich if chorizo was the main ingredient? But, I had everything I needed in the house, a baby fast asleep upstairs and it is bloody freezing today so I thought I’d give it a whirl for my lunch. You can’t go wrong with Moro right? Right!

(Yes, I know it’s a bit unusual to stock chestnuts but it is almost Christmas and they’re currently on offer at Ocado don’t ya know).

This was one dreamboat of a soup. Comforting with warm spice and deep chestnuts and rich – but not too rich. It was absolutely packed with flavour. I went back for a second bowl. I messaged my friends about the fabulous soup I’d just made and then I thought, this has got to go on the blog, right now. People need to know about this soup. What if they overlook it, like I almost did, because it sounds too rich.

So here it is, the recipe for a totally delicious warming winter soup, courtesy of Sam and Sam Clark. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced (I just used a white one)
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
  • 120g mild cooking chorizo, cut into 1cm cubes (make sure you use soft cooking chorizo and not the hard cured variety)
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • 1½tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 small dried red chillies, crushed (I put about 3/4 teaspoon of crushed red chills in)
  • 2 tomatoes, fresh or tinned, roughly chopped (I used fresh, no need to skin)
  • 500g cooked, peeled chestnuts fresh or vacuum-packed), roughly chopped (I only had 2 packs, which is 400g but it seemed to work fine)
  • 20 saffron threads, infused in 3-4 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 litre water
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Method

1. It would be a good idea to get everything chopped and measured in advance, or at least the onion, carrot, celery and chorizo. I didn’t, obviously, but if I was a better person I would have!

2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat.

3. Add the onion, carrot, celery and  chorizo that you have diligently chopped in advance along with a pinch of salt and fry for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything caramelises and turns quite brown.

4. Now add the garlic, cumin, thyme and chilli and cook for one more minute, followed by the tomato and, after about two minutes, the chestnuts.

5. Give everything a good stir, then add the saffron-infused liquid, and the water, and simmer for about 10 minutes. (It still seemed quite thin at this point so I simmered for another 15 minutes).

6. Sam & Sam suggest that you then mash by hand with a potato masher until almost smooth but still with a little bit of texture, however that seemed like a lot of hard work to me so I just gave it a blitz with the hand blender, making sure I left plenty of lumps,

7. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.


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Spring – my new favourite

Mr E, Baby E and I went to Skye Gyngell’s new restaurant in the New Wing of Somerset House a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely loved it! So much so that we have already booked to go back with family and friends next weekend.

Where to start?!

The dining room is gorgeous. Extremely feminine. Grand but comfortable and not at all intimidating or overbearing. There is a lovely light, fresh, welcoming feel to the place and if you pay attention (which isn’t really the point) you can see that every detail has been carefully thought about, from the beautiful fresh flowers in the toilets to the coffee machine at the bar.

The staff were brilliant. Friendly, accommodating, attentive, knowledgable. Exactly what you would hope for. I even loved their beautifully designed striped uniforms, which I am told are individually tailored.

The menu was full of seasonal Italian dishes. Plenty of options and everything was tempting. As it turned out the simple descriptions of the dishes in the menu did not do them justice. The food was outstanding.

I decided to go for the set lunch option, as the dishes on there sounded just as good as everything else on offer and in what is a pricey restaurant, it was a very reasonable £29.50 for 3 courses. Mr E went a la carte and I made sure I got at least one big mouthful of his choices too!

To start, we had a beetroot salad and the scallops with white polenta and chilli oil. Both simple dishes but executed perfectly, with a wonderful combination of flavours. The smashed up mint in the beetroot salad lifted the earthy beetroot and provided a sweetness to contrast with lemon and bitter radicchio. The scallops were deep and sweet against the delicate, well seasoned polenta, which stood up well against the kick of chilli.

For main, spice rubbed quail with smashed sweet potato and salmoriglio was a real lick your plate clean dish. The sweet potato in particular. It was rich, buttery and again, extremely well seasoned. A modest but delicious dish, in contras to the monkfish with clams, rosemary aioli and bruschetta, which was undoubtedly a dish fit for a banquet.

The desserts were to die for. Mr E had agreed that I could have my pick of the desserts as he was more than happy with the the trio of ice-cream, which came with the set lunch. I went for the warm chocolate cake with candied chestnuts and sweet cream. Rich, sweet, sticky and chocolate based – heaven on a plate. If I was never to eat another dessert again I would be happy that this was my last! The ice cream was also lovely. We had a bit of a fight over the honey and walnut – apparently I was taking more than my fair share! The interesting and varied flavours change daily depending on what is available in the kitchen, often inspired by ingredients left over from savoury dishes that day. What a brilliant idea – waste not, want not!

The verdict? It’s awesome – you should go! For me this is a true 10/10. It is rare that I will chose a set lunch menu and rarer still that I will enjoy it as much as the a la carte but here it made no difference what you ate, it was all fantastic. Add in some excellent service, a beautiful venue and an overwhelming desire to go back as soon as possible and there you have it, the perfect 10.

 

IMG_9959Scallops with white polenta and chilli oil

IMG_9962Fern Verrow beetroots with salad leaves and creme fraiche

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Monkfish with clams, rosemary aioli and bruschetta

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Spice rubbed quail with smashed sweet potato and salmoriglio

IMG_9969A trio of ice cream: blackberry, honey & walnut, bitter chocolate & caramel

IMG_9970Warm chocolate cake with candied chestnuts and sweet cream

Spring at Somerset House on Urbanspoon

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Amass – Hip Hop and Haute Cuisine

It’s been too long. Five moths to be precise. Well, if we’re honest, it’s been a lot longer than that hasn’t it! My last post may have been five months ago but for the last twelve months I’ve neglected this blog on a level that would, no doubt, have resulted in the privilege being revoked if it was something sought after with a waiting list; I’m thinking an allotment in inner city London.

This time last year I got a bun in the oven and since then time and energy have been in short supply. Luckily for me there are no rules about how often I have to post and no long queue of people sniffing at my ankles waiting to take my place (not literally at least). So, let’s just call it a sabbatical. My twelve months are up and I am back.

You won’t be surprised to hear that despite my failure to keep you up to date I’ve got plenty to tell you about. I’ve decided, in the short term at least, that I’m going to set the bar low for myself in terms of editing and hopefully this will mean that I won’t be starting 2015 with a new year’s resolution to get back to blogging and instead, by then, I’ll be up to date in telling you all of the wonderful things I have eaten of late. It can’t be that hard – the baby has to sleep sometime right?!

So, let’s start with the most recent. I am currently sitting in a lovely Airbnb apartment in Copenhagen – home to no less than 15 Michelin star restaurants – and I’m dying to tell you about my lunch yesterday at Amass, surely next in line to receive the nod from the Michelin inspectors.

By Copenhagen standards the prices here are reasonable and as Rene Redzepi appears keen to tell anyone who will listen that it’s his new favourite place to eat, booking a table here is surely a no brainer, even without my glowing recommendation.

Based in an old shipbuilding factory outside the centre of Copenhagen, Amass is certainly a little bit different. For a start, the best way to get there is by water taxi. The restaurant is hard to spot at first, as it is surrounded by huge warehouses and industrial buildings and it doesn’t look all that different from the outside. The industrial feel continues when you walk into the restaurant. You are greeted by a concrete shell with graffiti on the walls and West Coast hip hop blaring out, only interrupted by intermittent choir of kitchen staff shouting “yes chef” in unison when the orders are called out in the open kitchen.

The food is far more typical of what one might expect from a fine dining restaurant. Beautifully presented, creative and brilliantly executed. Most importantly, everything delivered on flavour.

There were three menus on offer, varying in length and expense, all of the tasting menu variety. We went for the “extended menu” which consists of nine surprise course. As they were presented to us there were a number of dishes that I expected not to like. The smoked mussel dish for one, I do not like mussels. Never have, never will. And licorice mousse – no thank you. Aniseed and licorice are on the very short list of flavours that I really don’t enjoy. So why is it that I enjoyed every single mouthful? Somehow, the subtlety and the combination of flavours and textures meant that everything worked. It more than worked, it was amazing and I would happily go back for a second and third helping of the licorice mousse dessert.

I love to try new things and experiences but at heart, when it comes to food, I am a flavour girl. There have been times when I’ve eaten truly spectacular food in truly spectacular places but I haven’t actually enjoyed it that much. (Mugaritz I’m talking to you!) Amass has got this exactly right – flavour seems to be the number one priority and everything else follows.

The highlights of the meal were the caramel like slow cooked egg yolk in a rich corn broth, the wild duck with chanterelle mushrooms lifted by a sharp vinaigrette and the yeast ice cream which had the most amazing texture.

Oh and the bread. For those of you that worry about the small portions you often get in a tasting menu and the risk that “you’ll want a kebab on the way home”, this bread is the answer. A fermented potato bread baked on the bbq outside and served with a delicious kale and chilli tapenade. It was so delicious that we assumed it was one of our courses and embarrassingly wolfed it down before the next course arrived. However, it is in fact an all you can eat buffet. More of this piping hot bread, fresh from the grill, will be delivered to your table periodically throughout your meal, whether you ask for it or not.

Top marks for Amass – 10/10. The venue was fun, the service was friendly and the food delivered. Even the chairs made me happy – comfort and style. I would gladly go back time and time again and I have no doubt that I will be remembering my meal there for a very long time.

http://www.amassrestaurant.com

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Fermented Flat Bread with Kale and Chilli topping

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Crystal Malt, Smoked Mussel, Coriander Seeds, Sea Lettuce

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Mustard Leaves, Raw Scallop, Crispy Pig Skin

Here there should be a photo of:

Pumpkin, Burnt Honey, Cultured Cream, Nasturtium

But I forgot to take one as I was too busy ordering wine … if you’d like to see what it looked like here is a link to the Amass twitter page

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Beets, Plums, Red Seaweed, Almonds

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 Grilled Corn, Egg Yolk, Black Pepper Oil

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Wild Duck, Raddish (and some other things I can’t remember)

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Wild Duck, Black Garlic, Yarrow Flowers, Funnel Chanterelles

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The view from under the leaves

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Parsnip Crisps, Licorice Mousse, Brown Butter

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Apples, Yeast Ice Cream, Whisky Caramel, Vinegar Salt

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Freshly Baked Carrot Cake – warm from the oven

 

Posted in 10/10, Restaurant review, Travel | Tagged | Leave a comment

Smokehouse : North London Sunday Lunch

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I called this blog Every Meal Matters because I really do think that. I want every meal to be delicious and satisfying and as I’m lucky enough to live in a first world country and have a good job, I really don’t think there is any reason why it can’t be. I realise that this can make me a pain in the ass and I’ve seen my friends and family rolling their eyes as I’ve refused to put up with a Ginsters pasty on a long journey or to be excited by the 2 meals for £8 deal at the local pub but I just can’t help it. I love food, I love eating and I don’t want to waste a single opportunity.

To show that I’m not an entirely odious being in this respect, I should point out that I do occasionally “take one for the team” without comment or complaint and I have been known to politely munch my way through some unspeakable pub meal, fresh from the freezer or a ready meal, which I’m convinced is 99% horse meat, in order to make others happy. It’s just that I’d really rather not.

Sunday lunch in an excellent example. A good roast can be one of the most nutritious and satisfying meals but this just makes it all the more disappointing when you have a bad one. It’s just so easy to find a bad one. Frozen Yorkshire puddings, soggy veg and poor quality or overcooked meat are often the culprits. Then there’s the gravy – the magic that brings everything together – bad gravy or not enough gravy can ruin a perfectly fine Sunday lunch in a single blow.

There really is no excuse. It’s not about skill. All you need is good quality, fresh ingredients cooked with a little care and attention and served in generous quantities. Simples. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting a cheap and cheerful lunch, if you don’t want to spend more than £5 then don’t go out for Sunday lunch – you can guarantee it is going to be dreadful.

As a result of the number of terrible roast dinners I’ve eaten in my time, I tend to rely more heavily on reviews and recommendations for Sunday lunch than I do for other meals out. Having recently had a fabulous one I felt it was my duty to spread the word. If it’s Sunday lunch you are looking for, Smokehouse in Islington might just be the answer.

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I must say, I really feel in love with the place. For a start, it’s a great venue. Striking just the right balance between cosy, relaxed pub stylee and modern day cool, I loved the decor and the space. There is a slightly more formal restaurant section at one side where you can book tables and then a bustling bar area, which is first come, first served. Take your pick, depending on what mood you’re in.

The staff were also great – relaxed, attentive and chatty – although I did get the impression that they’d had a better (and much later) night than me the night before!

The second thing to win me over was the drinks list. As a pregnant non drinker, I was delighted with the extensive selection of non alcoholic beverages and even though it wasn’t on the list they made me a fantastic virgin mary. The real selling point was the beer selection though. They have a huge range of varied and interesting beers spanning from pale ales and IPA’s to smoked beer and even an espresso stout from a micro brewery in Malton, North Yorkshire (where I happen to have grown up).

In fact, I was so excited by the extensive beer selection that I accidentally texted a man who was fixing my bathroom insisting we immediately get a date in the diary for him and his husband to come down to London so we could all go back and they could try the beers. He doesn’t have a husband and politely replied “thanks for the invitation but I think you sent it to the wrong person!!!!!” Whoops.

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The last big tick was for the main event, the food. I had high expectations as the chef, Neil Rankin, was responsible for the delicious food at Pitt Cue Co once upon a time and he did not let me down.

It was great. The starters all looked so fab, we couldn’t resist. Mr E went for spicy ttebokki & Cornish mussels, which sounded right down his street – once we had ascertained from the waiter what ttebokki actually was of course! Turns out it’s a Korean snack food made from soft rice cake, fish cake and sweet red chilli sauce. He loves broth, he loves asian food and he loves mussels so it really was a no brainer.

I broke all the pregnant woman rules and had a runny egg. I know, horrifying isn’t it?! Just look at it though. You can’t present a woman who hasn’t had a runny egg for 6 months with burnt leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, parmesan & duck egg on a menu and expect her to resist. Plus, in my defence, the NHS website reliably informs me that runny eggs don’t actually cause any risk to the unborn human I’m currently subletting my body to, it’s just that I might get salmonella which would be more unpleasant than usual as you can’t take the antibiotics usually prescribed to sort it out. Turn’s out it was worth the risk – I very nearly licked my plate clean it was so delicious and there was not a stomach cramp in sight.

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Spicy Ttebokki & Cornish Mussels

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Burnt Leeks, Jerusalem Artichoke, Parmesan & Duck Egg

Next were the all important roasts. Pork for me and beef for Mr E (I’m not a total rebel – I do adhere to the no rare meat rule).

Now this is how to do a roast dinner. Good quality meat, a good selection of veg, crispy roast potatoes, fluffy Yorkshire puddings. My single and only complaint would be the amount of gravy, which was delicious by the way, but I asked for more and was given a nice big jug straight away so no harm done.

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Roasted Highland Beef

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Roasted Pork Rib Eye & Smoked Shoulder

Finally, the puddings. We really didn’t need one but we were having a lovely time and they all sounded so good. …

An excellent decision. We went half and half and both hit the spot. The double D tart is based on a double decker. Packed with chocolate, nougat, rice crispies and nuts and served with pistachio ice cream, it was a winner. As was the cheesecake. Light, creamy and perfect with the lemon sorbet, we gobbled it down in no time at all.

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Double D Tart

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White Chocolate Cheesecake

In short, I loved the Smokehouse and I will most definitely be back (with or without the local plumber) – 9/10.

Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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The Scran & Scallie : Gastro Heaven in Edinburgh

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My second fabulous meal during a recent jaunt to Edinburgh was a world away from the sophisticated and refined Ondine. We were looking for somewhere for a relaxed Sunday lunch and as soon as our friends mentioned that Tom Kitchin had opened a gastro pub in Stockbridge we were sold.

Back in 2009 my husband (then boyfriend – who I was secretly hoping would propose during that trip, he didn’t!) and I had one of the best meals we have ever eaten at The Kitchin and have been talking about going back ever since. The problem is that there are always so many new places to try and we are always so short on time that it seems naughty to go back to an old favourite when you could be discovering something new. This, therefore, seemed the perfect compromise. I could finally satisfy my hankering for fish and chips, having resisted the day before, and we could be confident that this would be a cut above the usual pub lunch if Mr Kitchin had anything to do with it.

Other than the rather comical menu and website, which follows the “Scran and Scallie” theme and has lots of Scottish sayings such as “Sit ye doon yer welcome!”, “Yer starters” and “Nae meat, Nae fish”, I do not have a single criticism of the Scran and Scallie.

The first good sign was that I could happily have eaten anything on the menu. It all looked fantastic and as waiters walked past me with plates of food I must have changed my mind about five times, wanting everything that I saw.

The venue was also gorgeous, exactly what you want from a gastro pub. It had a cosy feel but was spacious and had lots of quirky decor – there was even a play room for kids in the corner, not that I’ll be needing that quite yet!

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In the end I stuck with my initial instinct and went for the fish and chips, served with chunky tartare sauce and of course plenty of vinegar and ketchup. Sometimes nothing else will do and this hit the spot perfectly. Delicious flakes of cod covered in light, crispy batter and plenty of big fat chips. A huge piece of fish and not a hint of grease, I was one happy customer.

In fact we all ended up choosing a dish that we’d decided we fancied before actually looking at the menu. Mr E went for a fish pie, Lisa had the steak pie and Jamie joined me for fish and chips.

Sometimes pictures speak louder than words, how could you not want to dive right in?!

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We were pretty stuffed after all that but the pudding options looked so good that we couldn’t resist. An apple crumble bursting with sticky fruit was the perfect warming dish for a windy day. I think the idea was to choose custard or ice cream but why choose when you can have both? The waiter didn’t seem to think it was a strange request and happily brought us an extra jug of custard.

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And finally a magnificent chocolate brownie. Served with stout ice-cream and a chocolate caramel pouring sauce, it lasted for about 90 seconds with everyone diving in for more!

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The Scran and Scallie provides everything you could wish for from a pub lunch. If I lived in Edinburgh I’d be there all the time – if only they’d open one in London! Pretty please.

9/10

scranandscallie.com
1 Comely Bank Road, Stockbridge,
Edinburgh EH4 1DT
Telephone: 0131 332 6281
Email: info@scranandscallie.com

 

 

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Ondine Restaurant Edinburgh: Sustainable and Magnificent

I’m a huge fan of Edinburgh. It’s a such beautiful city, with loads to offer and it delivers two of my favourite pastimes in abundance; theatre and dining. I absolutely love going to the Fringe Festival in August to see an array of weird and wonderful shows and there are fabulous pubs and restaurants aplenty to keep even the most fussy of food critics happy for a week.

Perhaps this should go without saying, it is the capital of Scotland after all, but compare it to somewhere like Leeds with a population of around 50% more people and you soon realise that the residents of Edinburgh are very lucky indeed.

Apart from the weather that is. I honestly think I would move there if it wasn’t so blummin cold! 

On my latest (rather windy) trip to Edinburgh I had two fantastic meals and found a delightful little coffee shop as well. The first was at Ondine, a seafood and shellfish restaurant just off the Royal Mile, which prides itself on being passionate about the sourcing, seasonality and sustainability of its ingredients.

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The fabulous oyster display as you walk in gives you a good idea of what you are in for, no less than four options to choose from, this is a place that takes its food seriously.

The menu is mainly aimed at those of a seafood persuasion but there are a few non fishy items on the menu; a chicken and foie gras terrine, a whipped goats cheese and beetroot salad and Orkney fillet of beef. But however tempting these might sound, I can’t imagine any fish eater opting for them when there is so much else on offer.

We sampled preposterously light tempura squid, generously dunked in a delicious sour, salty vietnamese sauce. Razor clams with rich, spicy chorizo. Fresh, thickly sliced oak smoked salmon with classic horseradish, red onion and caper accompaniments. Each dish was simple but perfectly executed. A classic act one, satisfying but leaving us eager in anticipation for what was to come.

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Mains included a generous fish stew finished off with a dash of pastis, which my husband referred to as “mental”, an affectionate term only ever used once before, to describe Glynn Purnell’s Masala Spiced Monkfish.

I was so tempted to have the fish and chips but I felt like I might be missing out so instead I went for grilled lemon sole with lashings of parsley, garlic and caper butter and a side of broccoli with hollandaise, it was faultless.

The moules marinière and the diver-caught scallops with spicy pork sausage also got a resounding thumbs up.

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To finish, our deserts of treacle tart with clotted cream and an orange and almond cake with ice-cream were great, light but decadent and very precise – which I’d say sums up the food at Ondine pretty well.

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If you love fish, a trip to Edinburgh would not be complete without a visit to Ondine. Generally I much prefer meat but I’d have happily gone back here for a second helping the next day!

The service was fabulous, the chef was both charming and talented and a great time was had by all. 9/10

If you’re on a budget I would recommend trying the lunch or pre-theatre menu. At £25 for 3 courses it won’t break the bank and I very much doubt you would feel short changed with 3 choices for each course.

Ondine on Urbanspoon

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