Archive by Author | vivdevlin

Kick off your Bank Holiday Weekend at the Slug and Lettuce Gin Festival: 25 – 28 May 2018

It’s the last weekend in May and time for the Spring Bank Holiday weekend.  The weather forecast looks fabulous with a mini heatwave across the British Isles.  Time to chill out in the sunshine with a refreshing, ice cold G&T.

So congratulations to Slug and Lettuce which has planned their very own Gin Festival across 77 venues.

Slug and Lettuce, Tower Bridge

If you don’t know the brand .. here’s the low down: “Slug & Lettuce, in a nutshell  —we are dozens of bars across the country who love to serve great quality food, fabulous cocktails and delicious wines, world lagers and beers in a comfy, safe, welcoming environment.  From a relaxed daytime we transform into a lively night time venue perfect to meet friends, dance, hold parties, listen to great music – whatever you fancy.”

So what a great idea to host a nationwide Gin Festival to celebrate Springtime and heading into Summer mood.

From 25th – 28th May, party goers can visit their local Slug and Lettuce in Bath and Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow, Leeds and London, Manchester and Milton Keynes, Woking and Worcester  et al, to sample a selection of prime gins, creatively combined with a sparkling Fever Tree tonic, ice and a slice.

The S and L mixologists have invented some summery concoctions with various herbal, floral, fruity and citrus flavours so that you can experiment with your gin own tasting to find a personal favourite cocktail.

Spanish sun in a glass

A speciality gin on offer is the Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla, which oozes the warmth of the Spanish Mediterranean sunshine with the bittersweet tang of Seville Oranges. Fragrant botanicals and the fresh citrus flavour is well paired with Fever Tree Tonic and a slice of orange.

The classic cucumber sandwich is the epitome of British Afternoon Tea which would be perfectly complemented with Hendrick’s Gin, topped up with Fever Tree Elderflower and the essential garnish – cucumber. Juniper and floral tones enrich this much loved Scottish gin,  with subtle infusions of cucumber and rose petals.

Bloom Gin is a perfect summer tipple creating the scents of a country garden: camomile, pomelo and honeysuckle botanicals create a delicately flavoured gin ideally served with Fever Tree naturally light and a sweet strawberry.

Plenty of Vitamin C can be found in Tanqueray No. 10 when partnered by Fever Tree tonic and pink grapefruit. The citrus gin is distilled with hand-picked, fresh fruit and botanicals, including white grapefruit, orange, lime, juniper, coriander and camomile.

Tanqueray 10 with grapefruit

If you are planning a barbecue or picnic over the holiday weekend, just make sure there is no slug in your lettuce.  Instead, head over to Slug and Lettuce to join in the Gin Festival fun.  I shall head off to my local S and L on George Street, Edinburgh.

Slug and Lettuce – cool and contempory decor and drinks for party time with friends.

The Slug and Lettuce Chin to Gin Festival runs Friday to Monday over this Spring Bank Holiday weekend. Tickets are just £13* per person. (note that the price vary across individual venues).

As they say Chin Chin!

Check out your local Slug and Lettuce Gin Festival details here – https://www.slugandlettuce.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

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Experience a wonderfully, Wicked musical adventure over the rainbow to the Land of Oz @ Edinburgh Playhouse

Wicked has been seen by over 55 million people around the world since its premiere on Broadway in 2003, winning a Tony Award,  now in its 12 year in London and is one of the most successful musicals of all time. This 2018 production is flying around UK & Ireland and has arrived for a month long residency at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

118 years ago, L Frank Baum wrote the children’s whimsical fairytale, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”  which turned into a series of 14 books about the colourful characters and animals of the land of Oz. This magical world was perfectly adapted for the screen starring Judy Garland and her cute dog Toto in the classic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” – you don’t have to have seen it to enjoy this show, but it may help.

The inspiration for the imaginatively conceived Wicked (written by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman) is based on “Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire, the untold story of Elphaba and Glinda.

The Good and Wicked Witches of Oz

Scene one: the Munchkins and Glinda The Good Witch are celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the West, who tragically dissolved when a farm girl threw a bucket of water over her.  We are then taken back in time to follow the lives and loves of two students after they arrive at Shiz University.  The question posed at the start is “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?”  The perennial Nature or Nurture debate.

As a glamorous young blonde, Glinda is perceived as a spoiled, Paris Hilton styled socialite used to getting her own way, with only two concerns – to be beautiful and popular, catching the eye of the most handsome guy, Fiyero.

Helen Woolf as the shoe loving glamorous Glinda

In contrast the shy, diffident outsider, Elphaba has endured an unfortunate childhood, dysfunctional family, a disabled sister, Nessarose, and not least, she was born with green skin. But beneath her vulnerable façade, she is a sharp cookie with a bright intellect.

Amy Ross as the strange outsider, Elphaba

Shiz University is soon revealed as a Hogwarts-styled Sorcery academy for those with secret bewitching powers: Elphaba and Glinda are inspired by the charming goat, Professor Dillamond, (brilliantly played by Steven Pinder with gentle poignancy) until the motherly, yet domineering Headmistress Madame Morrible claims that “animals should be seen not heard”.

Steve Pinder as Professor Dillamond

The dark, dastardly plot is peppered with quick witted humour, jokes and puns from “The Wizard of Oz,” through all the quick changing scenes, colourful costumes and pantomimic fun and games… not least the rather terrifying, flying monkeys.  The spirited choreography is spot on from the energetic ensemble with the action flowing along by the melodic score, powerful ballads, romantic lyrics and chorus numbers.

The Emerald City

Leading the cast are Helen Woolf as Glinda – (so reminiscent of Reece Witherspoon as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, with a lot of hair tossing and fabulous frocks) – and Amy Ross – on first encounter – as the evil-eyed, green- tinted Elphaba.  As they unwittingly become room mates and best friends, it’s gradually revealed that Elphaba has a kind heart as a freedom fighter for social and moral justice.

These are roles which require strong dramatic and vocal talent and they both shine throughout as stars of the musical stage with real passion and sensitivity through all the romantic twists and turns of the narrative.

Amy Ross (Elphaba) and Fiyero (Aarfon Sidwell)

While many of the lyrics may not be singalong classics, the performances are superb. No One Mourns the Wicked, Popular, I’m Not that Girl,  Defying Gravity and As Long as You Are Mine are all showstoppers.

Defying Gravity – a magical musical number by the ensemble

Grab your glittery red Dorothy shoes and broomstick and rush off to see this spectacular, wonderfully wicked show – pure magical entertainment for all ages – from around 8 to 88.

Edinburgh Playhouse

18 – 22 Greenside Lane, EH1 3AA

Tuesday 8th May to Saturday 9th June, 2018

How to book Tickets:

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/wicked/edinburgh-playhouse

Tel. 0844 871 3014

Groups – 0333 009 5388

FOR A GREAT NIGHT OUT

Before the show, enjoy a relaxing supper at Mamma Roma, which offers a warm welcome, superb, authentic Italian cuisine, bar drinks and friendly service. 

After a delicous meal,  it’s just a two minute walk across the road to reach the Playhouse in good time for curtain up.

Good value Pre-theatre and A la Carte menus with wines by the glass, carafe and bottle.

Mamma Roma,  4-7 Antigua St, Edinburgh EH1 3NH

Reservations: opentable.co.uk

Phone: 0131 558 1628

 

 

 

“Taking Shape” – a bright, colourful show for Springtime at Lennon Art, Edinburgh

Lennon-Art is a most welcoming gallery in the cultural (and culinary) hub of Stockbridge, Edinburgh, founded by the artist Alan Lennon.  The current collection Taking Shape very much celebrates the birth of Spring with a refreshing cocktail of colourful paintings and prints by Stephen Holmes, Alan Martin and Alan Lennon, interlinking a theme of abstract artwork with both lighthearted humour and thoughtful insight.

“The world doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”   Pablo Picasso

Stephen Holmes studied Graphic design and has been influenced by surrealism, wildlife and children’s book illustrations for his cool quirky images of animals, people and places which primarily focus “on the relationship between free-form shapes and colours.”

Cat, Stephen Holmes

With sharp edged red, blue and orange cubes and triangles like a traditional Harlequin’s suit.  his painterly style echoes the modern masters – Mondrian, Picasso and Miro – but which is in no way a blatant duplication.

Figures and dog in front of the sun, Miro

In his own refreshing manner, Holmes captures the naivety and innocence in childlike images of cats, houses, city park and caricatures of people which will make you smile.

Red Haired Girl does a drunk dance, Stephen Holmes

A vivacious “Red-haired girl does a drunken dance”  evokes rhythm and energy while his rather sombre “ Self Portrait” is, of course, most revealing, akin to Joyce’s literary version, “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.”

Self Portrait, Stephen Holmes

Whatever the subject matter, there is pure inventiveness in each picture depicting an enchanting landscape with a wild and wondrous imagination.

 “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso

Moving down the route of abstraction, Alan Martin presents a patchwork of geometric shapes around curving lines described as Doodles using mixed media, mainly acrylic with pen and coloured pencils on card or canvas.

Archeology 3 – Alan Martin

While he has a strong interest in archaeology, astronomy and the seashore,  he says, “ I find it hard to talk and explain about individual paintings …  I simply enjoy playing with line, colour and shape …  manipulating the randomness that can result from using collage.”

Composition 23, Alan Martin

There’s a two-dimensional flatness over the canvas and the bold compositions would also be ideal for cushions, rugs and Fashion design too – the swirling patterns and bright prints by Emilio Pucci and Jonathan Saunders are perfect for flowing silk and soft fabrics from floaty summer dresses to swimwear.

Abstract print bikini, Emilio Pucci

The diverse range of Martin’s work also covers a porfolio of birds, fish, people and still life with a darkly, dramatic, Dali-esque narrative.

Cheers, Alan Martin

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards, you can remove all traces of reality.” Pablo Picasso

Alan Lennon’s oil paintings specialise in figurative work with a recurring theme  of a thoughtful,  philosophical mood.  Through a series entitled Essence, Substance and Silence, he has gradually developed a less representative dimension along the lines of Picasso’s manner of fragmentation.

Aspiration, Alan Lennon

These reflect a hidden depth of emotion and spirituality handled through facial expression and subtle gesture of crossed hands and feet such as in “Reflection” and “Aspiration”.

Reflection, Alan Lennon

Le Reve, Picasso

Lennon admits his figures are not based on people he knows.  Instead through his own imagination (and perhaps subconsciously adding an aspect of himself), presents a quiet, joyous Zen-like beauty of the world.  He is also a fine sculptor especially constructing a face, eyes and furrowed brows depicting sadness or love with extraordinary poignancy.

Sculptured heads and figures, Alan Lennon

“Taking Shape” is a well curated showcase of three artists who complement each other with their individual approach to reconfiguring the notion of the everyday, life and humanity with imaginative vision.

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place, from the sky, from the earth, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web”  Picasso

Catch this exhibition if you can before it ends on 10 May … but whenever you visit there is always a varied collection of paintings, prints and sculpture throughout the year.

Taking Shape: 13 April – 10 May, 2018

Lennon-Art,  83 Henderson Row, Edinburgh EH 3 5BE

Open Mon-Sat, 12pm – 6pm.

Tel. 0131 556 6888

www.lennon-art.co.uk

Revolutionary, hot and happening – @ Pizza, Edinburgh is Where it’s At!.

“Be the Revolution” is the motto of @Pizza which claims to make the World’s Fastest Pizza so my partner Ken and I went along to check  out this record breaking achievement for ourselves.

Revolutionary re-imagined Pizza design

In 1889 during a visit to Naples by Queen Margherita of Savoy, Chef Esposito created the iconic pizza named after her – Basil, Mozzarella, and Tomato, the colours of the national flag and put the humble savoury flat bread in the spotlight.  Today Pizza is beloved the world over and chefs have always tried to replicate or even improve upon the original Neapolitan classic.

@PIZZA is the brainchild of founders Bhasker Dhir and Rupert Lyle who experimented, researched and sourced ingredients and recipes to re-invent their own healthier, calorie-counted style of pizza for the 21st century.

As Bhasker believes “The essence of Italian cooking, in fact any cooking, is great ingredients and this has been the basis of our development. We set out to create the best pizza possible, not just once, but every time”.

And they have also re-imagined the typical Pizzeria in the UK to create a new, revolutionary casual dining experience, perfect for a meal out with family and friends. “ The concept has been designed to be simple, .. our vision is to change the way people eat pizza by changing the way it is served.”  Rupert Lyle.

@Pizza – chic, sleek, modern, minimalist design

Intrigued at what this revolutionary concept is all about, we arrive at the smart, sleek restaurant on Charlotte Lane, a cobbled street of bars and bistros at the West End. Formerly an office block, the interior design retains an industrial look, all clean lines furnished in wood and steel,  café chairs, bar stools and banquette seats with small and large tables to suit couples, friends and families.  Ceiling lights rigs are like a theatre stage or art gallery and the paper napkin dispenser looks like a toaster. In muted colours of grey, black and white, it’s modern, minimalist – designed with function and purpose.

@Pizza – Open kitchen for casual, stylish fast food

Central to the space is the open kitchen with a long counter where diners queue up to order their Pizza. Yes folks, be prepared for self service but it’s much more fun than your usual fast food place.  It’s not just a case of ordering from the menu, you design your own from an enticing array of ingredients covering meat, fish, vegetables, sauces and spices. This is so inspirational giving the freedom to choose exactly what you want on your pizza, with no rules that you cannot mix,  say, chorizo and pineapple or broccoli with bacon. You are your own chef as it were, artistically mixing and matching to create a colourful culinary feast.

@Pizza making by numbers

First choose the base, (which is long and oval in shape), either sourdough or ancient grain which is 100% spelt flour, which are both slow-proved 48 hours in advance, here in the kichen. Then select a tomato or perhaps a smoky barbecue sauce, cheese (including Scottish vegan),  and all the toppings of protein and vegetables. The servers behind the counter do all the actualpizza  preparation (it is not DIY!), and will advise on the selection and what you might like to add to ring the changes.  Then when your masterpiece is complete it is popped into a High Tech oven heated to a temperature of 600 degrees F, to bake each pizza in just 90 seconds.  Then for the final flourish, add perhaps a drizzle of basil oil, chilli flakes and salad leaves to jazz it up to perfection.

It is best to study the choice of ingredients at your table and have an idea of what you might like, before lining up as you might not wish to rush the decision making.  The menu clearly states vegetarian and vegan food as well as the calories for each topping.

Happy Pack of @Pizza makers

Ken and I enjoy this process: I select sourdough with tomato sauce, Scottish mozzarella, mushrooms, roast peppers, a smattering of fresh Jalepeno chillies, spinach and king prawns. Once baked, I ask for a few olives and garlic oil for the final garnish.   For Ken, he selects his favourite  fish –  Tuna, with pesto sauce, red onion and a pile of rocket leaves drizzled with chilli oil.

Ken’s pizza – tuna, feta, rocket & more

The thin dough is soft and foldable – best eaten with your fingers – and as we had devised our own personalised pizza, we could not quibble with the choice of ingredients. Every bite of my seafood, cheese and veggie Pizza was simply delicious. And artistically created in record time – just a few minutes from start to finish.

Red pepper, prawns, olive mozzarella and rocket

The Bar Drinks menu has been carefully selected for quality rather than quantity. Have a mini bottle of Prosecco or a Mojito cocktail as an aperitif perhaps, and then one of the local craft beers – Paolozzi Lager is light and so refreshing, or an Italian wine, (Chardonnay, Merlot or Rose) served in individual “vegi-plastic” glasses.

Minivino individual glasses of wine

A wider choice of wine and also served by the carafe or bottle would be welcome – after all this is a sharing kinda place.  Interesting choice too of non-alcoholic Sodas, iced tea, lemonade and low sugar fruit juices.

Paolozzi beer is perfect with pizza

For those who cannot decide on how they wish their Pizza to look or taste, there are eight Designer recipes including, of course, the classic Margherita, called the Icon and ‘Eat Meat Repeat’, rich in Pepperoni, spicy sausage, ham and beef meatballs.  ‘At Tiffany’s’ is cleverly devised like a full Scottish Breakfast, with bacon, sausage and egg, but not quite the same as the coffee and croissant enjoyed by Audrey Hepburn standing outside the famous Jewellery store in New York in the movie.

Audrey Hepburn “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

Another welcome aspect to the @Pizza style of dining is that all the Pizzas are priced at £9.95, whether created by yourself or designed by the Chef.  (Just a wee charge of £1.50 for the succulent, juicy King Prawns).  The quality ingredients are locally sourced as well as speciality produce from Italy and packaging is environmentally friendly with excellent waste aware process.

The staff  – known as the Pack – are super friendly and enthusiastic –all selected and trained by the management to ensure a consistent, professional approach to service.  The ambience is casual and relaxing, perfect for families with kids, (who will love making their own pizza), as well as cabaret-style Open Mic music gigs on Sundays each month, and students can enjoy a half price feast on Wednesdays.

Jody Avirgan tweeted this photo with the tagline “ My daughter just tried pizza for the first time”  showing her expression of rapturous glee, which went viral.  To date, it’s been liked 265,994 times and retweeted 64,397 times. Viewers tweeted back “I still do this!”.

The first glorious taste of pizza

“It’s where it’s at” is an idiom meaning a place that’s fashionable, popular, hot or where the action is.  So visit @PIZZA soon whether with your partner, group of friends on a lively night out or family treat and you might tweet photos of happy eaters like this little Pizza lover!

@PIZZA ,  4 Charlotte Lane, Edinburgh, EH2 4QZ

Opening hours: Sun-Thur, 12 noon – 10pm; Fri & Sat, 12 noo – 11pm.

Tel. 0131 285 5940 

Website – atpizza.com

Take a magical carpet ride to BABA Cocktail Bar & Restaurant for the exotic, spicy taste of the Levant

Principal Edinburgh – Charlotte Square

Overlooking a charming private garden, The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square has been fashionably remodelled in a major refurbishment of the former Roxburghe Hotel. Across seven Georgian townhouses are elegantly designed bedrooms and suites,  colourful, comfortable lounges and a glass-roofed indoor Garden for Twilight Tea, gourmet snacks, champagne and cocktails. For its glamorous revamp, The Principal was named “Style Hotel of the Year” (Edinburgh) at the Scottish Hotel Awards 2018.

The Courtyard Garden

Vintage styled suite with travel trunk

A retro design theme is observed from the moment you walk into the lobby with its battered leather suitcases, books and an antique hat stand to evoke a time travel trip into the past and to exotic places.

This fits perfectly with the culinary theme of the BABA Cocktail Bar and Restaurant serving classic Levantine cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean.

BABA’s cocktail bar is located through the hotel beyond The Garden, or also accessed around the corner and up the steps at 130 George Street – a cool blue, dark, dramatic space, with large sofas, piles of cushions, soft candle light and a long Bar counter with row of high stools.

A mural illustrates a fictionalised character, Mr Baba, based on a vintage photograph found in a Turkish souk: this mysterious gentleman is the inspiration behind the exotic food and drinks based on his travels around the Ottoman Empire.  This is a similar scenario to The Voyage of Buck, William Street, former home of William “Buck” Clarence before his adventures to Paris, Cairo, Havana and India: the Bar’s cocktails reflect the people and places en route.

BABA cocktail bar for cool cocktails

On arrival at around 5.15pm, the BABA Cocktail bar was unfortunately (and surprisingly) closed so my partner Ken and I were unable to experience this romantic hideaway for an aperitif before dinner.  We therefore ventured next door to the BABA Restaurant and shown to a spacious and comfortable booth (shown here) in the corner.

Vintage decorative design with Turkish delight

The décorative design is all about distressed green and teal paint, colourful tiles, vintage lamps and Kilim wall hangings – a quirky, colourful blend of industrial chic with Moorish vintage vibes. A funky jazz soundtrack too hits the right, laid back mood.

“Railway carriage” Booths and Communal table

The Levant covers the modern states of Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria, southern Turkey, and Cyprus all sharing strong Levantine influences – falafel, tabbouleh, hummus and baba ghanoush as well as grilled fish and meat. Mezze is an ancient tradition of the Greeks, Romans, medieval Arabs and Ottoman Turks, derived from the Persian ‘Mazza’ meaning ‘taste’ or ‘relish’ and designed as lighter dishes rather than hearty meals.

“ Mezze is a relaxing custom that can be enjoyed at any time of the day as an appetizer, snack or as a buffet spread, served in small quantities and shared at a leisurely pace.”   Mezze, Small Plates to Share – Ghillie Basan

First of all the essential Cocktail to kick of the evening in sophisticated style.  Ken selected Barberry Sour – Glenkinchie 12 year old single malt, date and barberry syrup, Cointreau, lemon and egg white, – a subtle citrus, smoky flavour to give the whisky a sharp kick.   As a devout Gin fan, I order the SesaMartini, a concoction of Sesame Gin, dry Vermouth, orange bitters and halkidiki olives, a clever twist to a Dirty Martini.

Sesamartini & Barberry Sour

Other inventive concoctions include Bloody Mariam, a B. Mary jazzed up with ras-el-hanout, sumac and harissa, and a Peach Baba-llini, in tribute to the Harry’s Bar classic.

With a bowl of olives to accompany our Cocktails, we studied the extensive menu. Our waiter explained that each Tapas style dish is about the same portion size and diners should choose about three each – six to share between the two of us from the Mezze, Grill and Sides.   BABA has an open kitchen where you can see the Chefs at work, with its specially commissioned Charcoal Grill to cook a variety of fish and meat, Levantine-style over coals.

BABA open kitchen

We selected Baba Ganoush, pomegranate and mint, & Beiruti Burrata (Mezze), Monkfish & Hake (Grill) and two Sides – spicy Cauliflower & Carrots.   It might be helpful if the menu had symbols to clarify all vegetarian and vegan food, especially if unsure of a few unfamiliar ingredients – Muhummara (roasted red pepper dip),  Labneh (yogurty cream cheese) and Za’atar (a spice like oregano).

Our order of dishes, we are warned, would be presented any which way as prepared .. and sure enough, (far too quickly as we had only just started to sip our cocktails), the two Mezze salads appeared with warm flat bread; this  was delicious with the perfectly pureed, garlicky aubergine dip, dotted with pink pomegranate seeds and fresh mint leaves. Then the Side dishes arrived, followed (again too swiftly), by the grilled Fish. Our BABA banquet was served!

Seafood, cheese, dips,  vegetables, bread, olives – dishes to share

The Wine list is eclectic to complement the cuisine with a specialist Mr Baba Cellar collection from Cyprus, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece, as well as house wines, such a crisp Spanish Sauvignon Blanc or a blackberry-ish Syrah from South Africa.  Also all bar drinks – Fizz, beers and ciders.

Divine grilled carrots

We sampled creamy Burrata cheese, a slice of cauliflower beautifully seasoned with ras-el-hanout, (an exotic blend of seven spices), blackened  char-grilled Carrots,  a delicate white slab of monkfish in a rich saffron, tomato & chickpea broth, and Hake with yellow split peas and butter sauce.

The plates are rather small so just take a little spoonful of each, then go back for more, mixing flavours and textures, cold and hot food together.  Sharing a meal in this way is always such fun, when you talk about little else but the taste of the food!.

The BABA Grill  – cooking with fire

Meat lovers can sample Shawarma dishes, (Arabic for “turning”), the traditional method of slowly grilling chicken, beef and lamb on a horizontal or vertical spit over hot coals or firewood.  Just like the Turkish Doner Kebab, this Lebanon delicacy ensures that the meat is equally cooked on all sides. At BABA you can try Baharata Beef Kofta with butternut, yogurt and Aleppo chilli, and slow-cooked Pork Belly with baked celeriac and raisins. Finish perhaps with a Chocolate Cremaux and Tahini ice cream or a rich Arabic-styled coffee  infused with dates and cardamom.

There is a large team of young, friendly staff but it would be better if each table had a designated, named waiter to offer more personal attention.  With the speedy service of our meal at the same time as pre-dinner cocktails, this is not in keeping with the tradition of Mezze, to be enjoyed at a relaxing, leisurely pace.

The imaginative concept of BABA has been created in partnership with the Principal Charlotte Square by Katherine Arnold and Robbie Bargh of London’s Gorgeous Group.  They travelled all over the Eastern Mediterranean looking for inspiration for the menu and design to capture a unique environment to appeal to hotel guests and Edinburgh residents.  As well as the main Restaurant, around the corner are a smaller dining room,  Map Room and Salon for more intimate drinks and snacks with ephemera and artwork on a world travel theme.

The entrance to BABA, 130 George Street

Enter this magical world where the stage is set for an exciting, romantic, visually-theatrical and culinary journey to entice all the senses; experience a fantastic feast of fine Scottish produce with the exotic tastes and traditions of the Ottoman Empire, following in the footsteps of Mr Baba.

BABA 

Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square

38 Charlotte Square & 130 George Street, Edinburgh.  

Restaurant dining: 12 noon – 10pm.

Cocktail Bar: 12 noon – 1am.

Tel. 0131 527 4999     http://www.baba.restaurant

 

A BABA banquet

“Crazy for You” – a vivacious, vintage rom-com musical with heart @ Edinburgh Playhouse (and on UK tour)

The 1930 musical Girl Crazy, with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin – with Ginger Rogers in her first leading role and Ethel Merman making a stunning debut – launching such hit songs as “I Got Rhythm,”  “But not for Me” and “Embraceable You. ”

1930 poster

1943 movie poster

It was later adapted as a movie, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

Fifty years later, wanting to recreate this golden age of Hollywood and Broadway,  Ken Ludwig  revised the show, selecting a collection of  those classic songs to devise a new Gershwin musical comedy, “Crazy for You.”  This Broadway smash hit ran for 1,422 performances and won the 1992 Tony Award  for Best Musical.

Broadway Playbill 1992

Frank Rich, New York Times theatre critic, known as  “The Butcher of Broadway”  for his damning reviews, was seriously impressed: “When future historians try to find the exact moment at which Broadway finally rose up to grab the musical back from the British, they just may conclude that the revolution began last night at the Shubert Theater, where “Crazy for You” uncorked the American musical’s classic blend of music, laughter and dancing with a freshness and confidence”.

After a successful run at the Watermill Theatre last Summer, this revival of ‘Crazy For You’ is now touring the UK.  This romantic comedy embraces the typical Show within a Show narrative, (Funny Girl, Cabaret, A Star is Born et al) in which Bobby Child, a wealthy New York banker has a dream of swapping the Waspish world of Wall Street for the glittering limelight of showbiz.  Desperate to show off his talent, he gives an impromptu audition to the Hungarian producer, Bela Zangler, gleefully pirouetting across the stage in a bid to join the Follies show.

Bobby’s audition for Bela Zangler

Disillusioned with work, life and love, he seems trapped between two strong minded women, Irene, his fiancee of five years, and his domineering mother who insists he goes on a business trip to a one horse, mining town in Nevada. Given the ultamatum by Irene, to choose between “Me and Deadrock,” he decides to leave his troubles behind and escape to the mid West.  This is the era of the Depression and times are rock bottom in Deadrock – the Gaiety Theatre is being forced to close by the bank and that Bobby Child is on his way to end the family business run by Everett Baker and his daughter Polly.

The split level stage set is brilliantly designed, shifting from the Zangler Theatre, NY to the run-down Gaiety, complete with ornate decor, box “ashtrays,” curtains, lighting rigs, costume rails and props.  The backdrop neatly switches from skyscaper buildings to the barren, sun-drenched red rock Nevada desert.  In his pin-stripe city suit, Bobby looks a tad out of place when he arrives, parched and panting, in Deadrock to find a local posse of dungaree clad, gunslinger cowboys lining up the Saloon.

He’s immediately attracted to Polly, a tough talking, ‘Calamity Jane’ kinda gal who quickly shows off her beer bottle skills in an hilarious slick slapstick scene at the Bar.

Charlotte Wakefield as Polly, the cute cowgirl

As she clearly won’t be seduced by his dastardly deeds as a banker, the only way to win her over is to plan to save  – not close the theatre.  Exit Bobby Child into the wings and enter the suave, thickly-accented Hungarian, Bela Zangler, fooling Polly by his impersonation. The pop up Producer then magically entices the Zangler Follies to take part in a spectacular show and bring the Gaiety back to life.

So that is the crazy plot, a sugar sweet, spirited cocktail blending farcical comedy, mistaken identity, romantic entanglements, the narrative interlinking with the gorgeous Gershwin lyrics.

The band, singers and dancers

The ensemble of cowboys and chorus line is also the onstage band strumming guitars and banjos, playing alto sax, flute, clarinet, double bass and piano with gusto, to add an extra dynamic to the performances. Costumes are all very colourful with the Chorus Line swiftly changing from short frilly green outfits to slinky silk  pink, mauve, blue, orange and gold gowns.

The Zangler Follies

Nathan M Wright’s inventive choreography throughout is exquisitely mastered with pace and precision, moving seamlessly from jiving jitterbug and lively Lindy hops to clickety click tap shoes.  Perfectly cast as Bobby, Tom Chambers,  renowned for Strictly Come Dancing and his dazzling performance in ‘Top Hat,’ captures the enthusiasm, boyish charm and exemplary, all round showmanship as actor, singer and dancer.

Charlotte Wakefield brings out Polly’s complex personality, a gutsy cowgirl with a sweet natured, feminine vulnerability.  Her voice is smooth as silk with a rich creamy depth for such beautiful ballads as “Someone To Watch Over Me.”  Spine tinging moments too in the duet, “Embraceable You” and Bobby’s soulful solo, “They Can’t Take that Away from Me.”

Tom Chambers and Charlotte Wakefield as Bobby and Polly

Centre stage, Chambers and Wakefield express the similar, unique chemistry of the Astaire –Rogers  double act in a graceful, embracing waltz and vivacious show stopping numbers,  “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and the fabulous  “I Got Rhythm” tap dancing routine.

Show stopping numbers

Talk about energy!  Bobby throws himself into scary stunts, sliding down spiral stairs and abseiling a pillar with acrobatic high flying flair.

Tom Chambers shows off acrobatic skills

Sharply, smartly directed by Paul Hart as a fun, frolicking comic caper, the dialogue is peppered with witticisms: when it’s suggested the Gaiety could be used for gambling, the barbed response is “who would travel all the way to a casino in Nevada!”  And a couple of British tourists, dressed in safari shorts and hats, are in Nevada to write a guide book – their name? Patricia and Eugene Fodor.

Claire Sweeney as Irene with Bobby (Tom Chambers)

It is curious that the cameo role of Irene, Bobby’s glamorous girlfriend (played with vampish style by Claire Sweeney), is listed as a leading lady. This is a small, underwritten character, mainly as a foil to pretty Polly (in her old fashioned gingham frock), to illustrate their contrasting lifestyles in New York and hillbilly country.

From the opening clarinet solo with the opening melody of Rhapsody in Blue to all the vintage classics, this is a spectacular celebration of Gershwin’s timeless, emotionally charged music.  The lyrics say it all – “I got rhythm, I got music, I got my man, who could ask for anything more?”  – in this deliciously zany, totally crazy show. Imagine “The Waltons” blended with “42nd Street” and you’ll get the picture.

Edinburgh Playhouse : 3 – 7 April, 2018  http://www.atgtickets.com

UK tour until 9 June 2018: http://www.crazyforyoutour.com/

Bobby and Polly – crazy in love

Vapiano Edinburgh – casual, creative Italian wining and dining for a healthy, happy life

“Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano” is an Italian proverb which roughly translates as “slow and steady, wins the race,” or more philosophically, it means with an easy-going, relaxed attitude, you’ll enjoy a long and healthy life.

The kitchen brigade making the freshest pasta dishes to order

This is very much the motto behind the Vapiano group of Italian restaurants. First launched by Mark Korzilius in October, 2002 in Hamburg, Germany, it is now a global franchise brand with around 200 restaurants in more than thirty three countries on five continents, and many more planned for the future.  The Euro-chic, casual cafeteria-style Vapiano concept of freshly made pasta and pizza has clearly caught on.

As early as the 14th century, Italian chefs were cooking up ravioli and macaroni with spices and parmesan cheese in Aristocratic kitchens but later pasta, as well as cheap pizza, became the staple diet for poor communities especially in Naples and Sicily.

Two boys munching macaroni, Naples, c. 1900 (Library of Congress)

In 1787, Goethe, the German Poet tasted the local speciality with gusto:  “This macaroni was exquisite … The pasta seemed unparalleled to me in its whiteness and fineness.”

Macaroni makers drying the pasta in the sun

Seen as an exotic dish, spaghetti with tomatoes was first invented in the 1840s.   Around fifty years later, during a visit to Naples by Queen Margherita of Savoy,  Chef Esposito named the iconic pizza after her, featuring Basil, Mozzarella, and Tomato, the colours of the national flag which put the humble savoury flat bread in the spotlight.

Margherita Pizza

At this time millions of Italian immigrants were forced to travel for work across Europe and to USA, bringing recipes with them. During the 20th century, Americans in particular developed a love affair with pizza and of course pasta – on the big screen, spaghetti played memorable roles in films such as Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.

The Lady and the Tramp

Vapiano Edinburgh is a very smart, spacious, three floor venue on South St. David’s Street, located between The Ivy on the Square on the corner, and T K Maxx.

Vapiano Edinburgh

Enter the glass doors to be welcomed at the central Reception desk where you check in with the host/ess and given a credit-style card, like a room key.  No you can’t stay overnight!.  This is used to scan the price of your selected food and drinks throughout your meal, and then use it to pay.

Ken and I were shown around by Jackson, the duty manager, who explained the system of ordering your selected dishes – pasta, pizzas, antipasti, salads, desserts – at the separate theatre kitchens on three levels.  First, time to settle down and relax;  we are shown to a table at the end of the mezzanine level, the location of the Bar (very handy!), with a long banquette as well as armchairs with small, low tables.

Bar level with city of Florence backdrop

On the far wall is a huge mural of  the skyline of Florence, the Italian city twinned with Edinburgh.   Elsewhere, throughout the restaurant, there are long oak communal tables with stools like a wine bar, ideal for groups of friends, families or to create a sociable ambience meeting other diners. With cool music on the soundtrack there’s a party vibe at Vapiano.

The extensive menu covers Pasta (vegetarian, with meat, fish and green ingredients), Risotto, Lasagne, Insalata, Pizza, (same range as Pasta), garlic bread, sides and extras. The beauty of the Vapiano style of eating is that everything is prepared freshly for you: at each service station, give your order directly to the chef, mix and match your favourite ingredients to create your own special salads, pizza and pasta.  As Jackson remarked, the cleverly creative Vapiano concept combines “Italian freshness with German precision.”

First stop is the Bar for an aperitif – perhaps a Vapiano G&T, (Hendrick’s with cucumber and rosemary) or a classic Aperol Spritz.  We had an ice cold glass of Prosecco each to kick off our Italian meal.

Vapiano Edinburgh with bar and kitchens over three floors

Time to order our starter and we went off to view the selection of cold dishes and salads at the Counter where we asked the chef for a Vegetarian antipasti to share.  We were given a small “pager” which would beep when this was ready for collection.  A few minutes later Ken collected a huge platter of grilled vegetables, artichokes, mozzarella, pesto, fat olives, and chunky bruschetta:  fresh, colourful ingredients for the summery taste of the Mediterranean.

Superb Antipasti salads

Bruschetta Gambertti

After a breather, time to consider ordering our main course  -it is all so leisurely as you plan your meal, course by course, in your own time.  We were both keen to try a Pizza and the menu lists all the favourites but, of course, you can adapt these by adding your preferred toppings to create your own style.  The pasta and pizza dough is made daily on the premises and all management staff are trained to be able to assist the chefs with rolling out the dough in case extra staff are required.

Upstairs at the Pizza kitchen, Majid, the French Algerian Pizzaoili was most helpful with suggestions – I ordered Gamberetti e Rucola. King prawns, rocket, olives, mozzarella and tomato sauce, while Ken chose his favourite Tonno, Tuna with red onions, tomato and mozzarella with extra rocket. I asked for mine to be extra soft so that the crust is not too crunchy.  Again we were given a timed pager to alert us when the Pizzas were cooked.

From the wine list we selected a bottle of Montepulciano (a very reasonable £16.95), rich in spicy berry fruits.  Within a few minutes, the pager beeped and we were off again to collect our pizzas. Mine had been taken out a minute early that the normal baking time for a softer texture – and we carried these back to our table.  This self service concept is fine to a degree, but I didn’t really like having to clamber down the steep stairs with my plate in one hand, and clutching the hand rail in the other, expecting to trip any second!.   On the tables are bottles of olive oil and fresh basil plants so that you can add herbs and flavour to garnish your dish.

Pizza with king prawns, olives and rocket – yum!

Sipping our wine and munching our delicious fishy pizzas, this was a feast, especially after a huge salad to start, so I asked if it were possible to take half of mine away. No problem and it was quickly boxed up.  Good news – Vapiano offer a take away service so that you can enjoy this freshly made, seriously good food at home.

Our passion in the UK too for Italian cuisine has no sign of falling out of favour and a global favourite of all ages so no wonder Vapiano are opening more and more restaurants across the globe.  The opening in Edinburgh was the first in Scotland, (fifth in the UK), with a Glasgow restaurant just recently launched too.

Vapiano, 7 South St David Street, EH2 2BD Edinburgh

tel. 0131 285 6123

Mon. – Thu. 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Fri. – Sat. 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sun. 11:00 am – 11:00 pm

http://www.vapiano.co.uk

Pizza to take away too

Michael Cortland Jones & Michael Craik at &Gallery: cool, calm Rothko-esque Abstract artistry

Jeffrey Corland Jone, from Ohio, USA and Michael Craik based in Fife, Scotland, have been brought together in this innovative exhibition of their finely crafted Abstract paintings, which complement each other perfectly. Courtship (Second Still), J C Jones

Jeffrey Cortland Jones, who lives on a small farm in Southwestern Ohio, received a Masters of Fine Art from the Cincinnati College of Design, Art, Architecture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Tennessee. As well as working as a painter and curator, he is Professor of Art at the University of Dayton.  He has exhibited in solo and group shows across the USA – Dallas, New York, Miami, Cincinnati and Europe – Amsterdam, London.

Vestige 2017-20,|Michael Craik

Michael Craik studied Fine Art at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen before completing an MA in European Fine Art in Barcelona. Based at his Sea Loft studio in Kinghorn, he is a full time painter as well as enjoying gardening, and busy family life. A major award winner,  his work has been exhibited throughout Europe, from Berlin to Barcelona and is represented in several corporate companies, including The Fleming Collection, Mastercard, Royal Bank of Scotland,  Coopers and Lybrand.

Twenty five works of art by both artists are well displayed together across the two light filled rooms at & Gallery, rather than separate shows.  It is so impressive to compare and contrast the styles, colour and media.  Jeffrey specialises in enamel on acrylic panel and while, on first inspection, they appear to be very simple blocks, the actual geometric shape and subtle shade of each composition is meticulously handled.

In such works as Slayer (With Desire) and Courtship, (Second Still), the integrated sections and squares, some almost invisible, feature the softest tones of white, cream and grey. Also most striking is Surface (Ritual Veil), with architectural dark and light rectangles, visually most pleasing in its patterned structure. Surface (Ritual), JC Jones

There is a deft use of colour in his work too which give more of a representational aspect: X (Variant Parts) with moss green streaks of paint which could almost depict a grassy meadow beneath the sky.  Fever (Death Bells) in soft shades of lime is like a Gin cocktail with ice and a slice!  Seawaves, JC Jones

Given a more detailed title, Seawaves captures the distinctive blending of glossy grey, glistening green and watery wavy blues. Creating sheer, transparent tones and palest pastels, apparently, he has acquired the reputation of being an artist who paints white on white.

Then shift your gaze to the unique minimalist paintings by Michael Craik. Using acrylic on aluminium, this Vestige collection features a series of squares (20, 28 or 50cm)  which appear to be one colour, across a palette of mauve, turquoise, pink and yellow, but this is almost an optional illusion.

In close up, you can detect the layers of paint and graduation of colours such as Vestige 2016-12, where the dominant lilac-blue has a border of vibrant crimson-plum, seaping and splattered like dried blood underneath.

Vestige 2016-12, Michael Craik

From golden corn to dove grey, the colours are perfected like Farrow & Ball paint charts (given such quirky names as Nancy’s Blushes, Elephant’s breath and Dorset Cream.)  Here is Vestige 2017-21, a fluid, fuschia block underlaid and surrounded by a decorative navy blue “frame”   Vestige 2017 -21, Michael Craik

Due to the painstaking layer by layer painterly concept, each one can take around two months to complete.  The result?  A shining, shimmering texture enhanced with a beautifully translucent, glassy glow.

Standing in the centre of the back room gallery, in particular, you can view the distinctive work of each artist side by side.  These cool, calm Rothko-esque compositions with a pure sense of light, shade, shape and structure create an amazing sense of peace and solitude.  A most inspiring, imaginatively curated exhibition. Go see!

Fever (Death Bells), J C Jones

 

Michael Cortland Jones & Michael Craik

3 – 24 March, 2018
Tuesday to Friday: 10am-5pm   Saturday: 10am-4pm

& Gallery, 17 Dundas Street,  Edinburgh EH3 6QG

andgallery.co.uk

Vestige 2016-13, Michael Craik

Grid Iron & Stellar Quines present Bingo! – a boisterous, bawdy Musical Comedy with a sharp bite!

In the 1960s, when Variety Theatres began to close, the Bingo Halls took over as a major attraction for women of a certain age for a good night out with friends – more entertainment than pure gambling.   Today, over 300 Bingo clubs across the UK entice over two million players each week – a new 1,000-seater venue recently opened in Southampton.  The idea for Bingo! a new Musical Comedy was sparked by Jemima Levick, (Artistic Director, Stellar Quines), who was introduced to Bingo by colleagues when working at Dundee Rep.  Whilst they rarely won anything she was hooked.

The makings of a drama were all there – a distinct community, family & friends, all hoping that a Jackpot win will change their lives.  Written by Anita Vettesse & Johnny McKnight, with music by Alan Penman, Bingo! is an innovative co-production by Grid Iron and Stellar Quines.

The curving thrust stage at the Assembly Hall is meticulously designed with half a dozen tables and chairs, the Bar complete with spirit dispensers,  Fruit machine, walls painted bright blue and glittering pink with matching striped carpet.  At the side, the Ladies Loo with two cubicles (one, Out of Order).

The show opens with a heartfelt song about a windfall of Lotto cash, wishing that their “worries will disappear .. .. just a couple of hours to get out of debt.”   Getting ready for the evening session are Betty, the Caller, and her best gay friend Danny the Barman in their corporate purple uniforms.

Betty and Danny (Jane McCarry and Darren Brownlie) in Bingo!

First to arrive are Ruth, a new mum, looking dishevelled in casual T shirt and trackie bottoms, and Danielle, a travel agent, in a smart navy dress, her hair piled high with blonde extensions. Sorting themselves out with red wine and Red Bull, they are clearly up for a fun time.

Striding purposefully through the double doors comes Mary, bold and brassy from hair to voice, dressed in a sequined top and black trousers. She selects a chair at the central table, drink and lucky mascot to hand, virtually ignoring the two girls – Danielle is in fact her daughter but clearly not on speaking terms.

Mary (Wendy Seager) in Bingo!

Act 1 kicks off with a series of laugh-out-loud, short, sharp Variety-style character sketches.  Jo Freer is brilliant as the frazzled, frantic Ruth describing in graphic detail, the pros and cons of breast feeding.

Ruth (Jo Freer) in Bingo!

On the phone to Davy, her helpless, hapless partner Davy, she is apoplectic with rage when she hears he can’t find the chicken in the fridge and has fed the baby Nutella.

Darren Brownlie as Danny minces around, all swaying hips and cool camp charm, handing out Pink Stetsons to the Gals for Betty’s much anticipated Hen Do trip to Las Vegas. But in the Ladies loo, shamefaced and shaking with guilt, Danielle admits to Ruth that she’s spent their hard earned holiday funds with which she was entrusted. She can only pray that she is Lady Luck tonight.

But first a surprise visitor, Joanna, in twin set and pearls carrying a large bag and Henry the Hoover, her prize possessions after being sent packing by her adulterous hubbie.  Barbara Rafferty captures her disoriented (and later rather tipsy!) state to a T, as she is welcomed warmly and invited to join in.

Danielle and Joanna (Louise McCarthy and Barbara Rafferty) and Henry in Bingo!

The Game begins as a battle of wits and a flurry of dagger-dabbing pens as bubbly Betty (Jane McCarry) calls the numbers at speed while Mary attacks two Bingo books at once to double the chances. To illustrate the tension, the scene is choreographed in slow motion, with facial gestures and raised hands frozen in time, before they hit the next number with energetic glee.

Ruth, Danielle and Joanna in Bingo!

Sound effects of chatter and clinking glasses give the realistic impression that a few dozen players are packing out the Club.  Danny is bemused at the hysterical ladies, their desperate plight to win, win, win in “ A sea of hope and Primark.”   After the comic banter, we are drawn into a surreal and shocking scenario.  Talk about Women behaving badly with brutal, bruised results, reminiscent of the macabre tales of “Barney Thomson”, the barber with a scissor-sliced body on his hands.

Danielle and Mary in Bingo!

Here in the Bingo Club, while a spicy Bloody Mary would have been the perfect cocktail, the shrieked order at the bar is for a double voddy with full fat coke.  As the crime drama intensifies  each character reveals personal secrets, regrets, hopes and dreams. Louise McCarthy as Danielle neatly portrays her Jekyll and Hyde persona, from cool and confident to a desperate, emotional wreck.

As a Musical Comedy, the plot is interlinked with a smattering of sassy songs, ranging rfrom country and soul to raunch rock.  Wendy Seager as Mary gives a spine tingling rendition of “Cold House”, reflecting on hard times while the ensemble raise the tempo in such rousing numbers as “Pay it all back” and “Viva Las Vegas”

A show stopping number in Bingo!

Described as a cross between “ Miss Marple & The Steamie,”  throw in a blend of River City & Casualty into this musical mash up of Soap Opera, Burlesque and Black Comedy which explodes into a boisterous, far fetched Farce.  The narrative could be tightened up to speed up the action with a couple of false, show stopper endings for Act 1. Performed with sparkling energy and astute characterisation, the cast deliver the quick wit, bawdy banter and bittersweet songs with panache and a sharp bite.

The focus of Bingo!  is not the lingo of Legs Eleven et al,  but about the close knit community of players taking part. This Bingo Club is about camaraderie, motherhood, friendship, falling out and forgiveness.  At a time of personal crisis and despair, loyalty speaks louder than words, with a Spartacus-style generosity of spirit. A good night at the theatre? You bet!

Tour dates:

Assembly Hall, Edinburgh: 6-7 March 7.30pm (previews) and 8-17 March 7.30pm (not Sunday 11th), 10 & 17 March 2.30pm (matinees)

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling: 22-23 March 7.30pm, 23 March 2.30pm (matinee)

Ayr Gaiety Theatre, Ayr: 27-28 March 7.30pm

The Brunton, Musselburgh: 31 March at 2pm and 7.30pm

Tron Theatre, Glasgow: 12-14 April at 7.45pm

Eden Court, Inverness: 19-21 April 7.30pm, 21 April 2.30pm (matinee)

For more information and booking tickets:

http://www.bingocomedymusical.com

http://www.stellarquines.com & http://www.gridiron.org.uk

Production Photography: Mihaela Bodlovic

The cast of Bingo!

The Lido, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis – a chic, sleek American Diner-Pizzeria-Restaurant for superb Italian cusine with the taste of the Hebrides

Luskentyre Beach, Isle of Harris

For the great escape, the Outer Hebrides offer the visitor a distinctively different, magical destination,  rich in ancient history and cultural heritage.  These beautiful islands are easily accessible by plane and ferry, where the visitor will find a wild, natural landscape, long sealochs, stunning sandy beaches, and the warmest hospitality.

Stornoway is the main town and port on the Isle of Lewis, the perfect start or end point as part of an exploration further afield to Harris, Uist, Barra et al – but do stay in town for a while.

Hebridean wildlife boat trips

Stroll along the waterfront of Stornoway Harbour packed with fishing boats as well as wildlife boat trips for a thrilling seafaring adventure.

Lews Castle, Stornoway

Surounded by lovely gardens and woodland, the turreted,  19th century Lews Castle,  on a hill overlooking the town, has been transformed into the Natural Retreats – luxury, self catering accommodation. Next door is the marvellous Museum nan Eilean with its historical treasures including the Lewis Chessmen.

After an energetic tour around town, time for good wholesome sustenance.  For lunch and dinner, highly recommended is The Lido, a most welcoming, family run, Italian-Scottish Café-Bar-Bistro with the cool, casual ambience of an American Diner.

While I’ve not actually been there, it reminds me of Katz Deli Diner in New York, made world famous in the wonderful romantic movie, “When Harry Met Sally” with its hilarious lunchtime sandwich scene.

Katz Deli Diner in “When Harry Met Sally”

The equivalent to Katz Diner in Stornoway is sleek and chic, all shining grey marble and silver chrome with a central theatre kitchen, long bar counter with stools, banquette seating around the walls, Bentwood chairs and neatly spaced dark wood tables.

Smart interior design at The Lido

Launched in May 2017, The Lido is run by an entrepreneurial couple,  Emma, the Manager,  her partner Lee as Head Chef and their friendly young team of staff.   The design is really superb with decorative lobster crates and collection of vintage photographs of Stornoway through the decades to give a charming sense of Island heritage.

Vintage photographs of Stornoway

I visited for lunch (very wisely served to 3pm for hungry tourists),  with a most enticing menu on offer. Chunky Ciabatta sandwiches, Burgers (lamb, chicken and Chick pea/beetroot), and several healthy but hearty salads, a key speciality here are the unique home made Pizzas. Depending on the season, there’s a varied choice with some seriously inventive creations: what about Butter Chicken Curry, or Salami, Prosciutto & Peperoni Pizza?

Italian meatball ciabatta

I selected a vegetarian Pizza with creamy mozzarella, tomatoes, sprinkled with red onion and colourful peppers.  Onions and peppers can often be left raw and crunchy but these were roasted well.  The hand stretched dough is super thin, lightly textured with a slight salty flavour – just perfect to roll up a triangular slice and eat with fingers!.

My perfect cheese, tomato, green pepper Pizza

To accompany my delicious pizza, I sipped a glass of crisp cold Pinot Grigio: a well selected, reasonably priced Italian wine list as well as share a bottle of Prosecco sparkling fizz.

No wonder the Lido is popular when Cocktails are being shaken up not stirred. The House cocktail – Smirnoff Vodka, Blackberry and lemon zest sounds divine, alongside classic tipples,  Martini, Mojito and the girl’s fave, the  Cosmo.

Colourful cocktails galore

Quality Beers too, and gin lovers should try the local Isle of Harris Gin scented with sugar kelp to give a whiff of the sea. Harris Gin is also used in desserts such as a creamy Pannacotta to give it a spirited kick.

Salt see flavoured Isle of Harris gin

In the evening, The Lido transforms into a romantic Restaurant with beautifully set tables (tea lights, black napkins) for a casually sophisticated ambience.  Locally sourced produce is emphasised in the modern Scottish cuisine such as an Indian spiced Stornoway Black pudding croquettes, and the freshest, crate to plate Scallops for starters. For main courses, Venison and Partridge Pie with red wine gravy and vegetables, Pork steak with haggis bon bons, Salmon served with seaweed polenta fitters.

Shellfish linguine

Local seafood  is proudly celebrated with catch of the day specials such as classic Lobster Thermidor. Talk about the taste of the Hebrides!.

Lobster – fresh from crate to plate

Superb Vegetarian dishes too such as Goat’s Cheese salad and Spicy Moroccan Sweet potato cakes; to finish your meal, homely puddings, Chocolate brownie and Gelato.

Vegan, gluten free banana muffins – yum!

Call in here for coffee,  tea and home made cakes, rum and raisin scones and Vegan gluten- free  banana muffins while Pizzas are available also for Take-away.

Browse their colourful Facebook pages with topical news, menus, dining  and drink offers and special Pop Up events such as Valentine’s, Mother’s Day and Easter treats for the kids.

Cromwell Street is a quiet, pedestrianised lane, so on warm days, sit outside for an alfresco feast with a view down to the harbour.

Due to its terrific fan base (local and far and wide), The Lido has been voted into the top ten in the category of best Newcomer in the forthcoming Scottish Entertainment and Hospitality Awards 2018, the winners announced on 29 April.  Good luck!

As you will see from the comments below, don’t just take my word for it. The Lido is a brilliant dining concept, fresh, home made Italian dishes with a Scottish accent and flavour.  It is almost magical how it changes in character and style, day to night from coffee house, Pizzeria,  Cocktail bar and fine dining Restaurant.   With Spring and Summer around the corner, new seasonal menus are coming soon, to entice local residents and island visitors to call in for a superlative snack, drinks, lunch or dinner.

For their artistic and culinary vision,  passion and commitment in creating their new business, Emma and Lee deserve great success.  Visit Stornoway soon and be sure to reserve a table at The Lido.!

The Lido

5 Cromwell Street,  HS1 2DB Stornoway,

 Open daily, 11.30 – 3pm; 5pm to 9pm.   Tel.  01851 703354

 https://www.facebook.com/TheLidoStornoway/

What other diners say:

Best pizza in town by a mile. In fact, best pizza I have had in years. Thin, crispy, light and really tasty.

Absolutely brilliant, Staying in Stornoway we loved “The Lido” so much, we returned twice.  Amazing food – highly recommended.

We absolutely love the Lido. The best Smoked Salmon and Lemon Risotto I’ve ever had!

5 stars!.  Chicken liver and Harris Gin Pate with plum jam to start – excellent. My friend had the scallops and black pudding – great! The lamb burger with sweet potato fries was also superbly tasty with crisp fries. Chocolate brownie dessert topped it off.