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Calling all Champagne lovers: Fizz Feast is back in Edinburgh on Saturday, 17th November

A timely reminder that Fizz Feast returns to the Edinburgh Academy this weekend, an informative, inspiring event where you can sip a few delicious tipples and meet the expert winemakers to learn all about the wonderful world of Prosecco, Cava, Cremant and Champagne.

It’s the great opportunity to find your favourite Festive Fizz for Christmas and New Year parties.

So book your tickets and join in the seasonal fun at Fizz Feast 2018.

Tickets from £22.50, available from www.WineEventsScotland.co.uk

Saturday 17th November, 2018 – Two sessions, 12 – 3pm; 4 – 7pm

Edinburgh Academy, 42 Henderson Row, Edinburgh EH3 5BL

Whether you are planning a family dinner or a casual get together with friends, with a few bottles off Fizz to share, it guarantees to be a sparkling occasion.  Cheers!

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Join in the Absolutely Fabulous Fun at Fizz Feast 2018 – Saturday 17th November, Edinburgh Academy

Christmas party?  Pop the Champagne

The clocks have been turned back an hour, we heading full speed into November, the weather is decidedly frosty and it’s time to start whispering the C word … and all that this implies … Christmas, Celebration, Cards, Chocolate, Cheese, and of course Cava and Champagne.

The really great news is that all your browsing and shopping for Festive food & drink and gifts galore can be found under one roof at Fizz Feast – back again for the 3rd fabulous year.

Save the date –  Saturday 17th November 2018   

Where:  Edinburgh Academy, Henderson Row.  Time: Two sessions,, 12 – 3pm; 4 – 7pm

If you have not experienced this super, sparkling show, what’s it all about?

Organised by Diana Thompson of the award winning Wine Events Scotland, Fizz Feast is the only exhibitor event in the country for consumers to meet wine producers, sample tastings, purchase and order a diverse selection of Champagnes and Sparkling wines.

Ladies loving Fizz and Fizz Feast

This year, Fizz Feast is showcasing Champagne, Prosecco, Cava & Sparkling Wines from vineyards and wine makers worldwide, literally from A – Z,  Ambriel English Sparkling Wine to Zonin1821 Prosecco from Italy.

What could be more perfect for toasting family and friends than a coupe or three of Taittinger Champagne.?!

First established in 1734, the world famous House, Champagne Taittinger Reims,  produces high-quality champagnes, a distinctive blend of grapes –  Chardonnay (35%) Pinot Noir (50%) and Pinot Meunier (15%), to reflect the unique Taittinger style.  This is the finest region of the Champagne country stretching from the Côte des Blancs to the Vallée de la Marne and the Montagne de Reims.

When it comes to champagne it is hard to beat Taittinger. The Brut Reserve is renowned for its golden yellow colour, hints of fresh fruit, brioche and honey. A delicate, fresh and elegant wine – an excellent aperitif.” Frost Magazine.

To learn more about this Rolls Royce of deluxe brands, from Brut Reserve to Prestige vintages, reserve a place for the Taittinger Masterclass at 12.30pm with Master of Wine Mark O’Bryen. (Tickets £7.50 )

The first Cava labelled Vilarnau was created in 1949 made from grapes grown on the “Can Petit i Les Planes de Vilarnau” estate for several centuries.  Today Vilarnau Cava, a  small aritisan, cutting edge winery near Barcelona offers a modern, artistic concept to wine making and presentation. Their colourful floral labels reflect the Spanish sunshine, nature and “the character and spirit of Vilarnau: contemporary, elegant and minimalist.”

Artistic bottles – Vilarnau Cava

There’s a fizzing selection, such as Vilarnau Demi Sec, Vilarnau Brut Reserva, Brut Reserva Rosé,  Brut Nature Vintage.  Cavas which are aged for longer, the bubbles are much finer and rise slowly, creating a long-lasting mousse. Vilarnau is a pioneering Cava house also creating two Organic wines, Vilarnau Brut Nature and Vilarnau Demi-Sec.

Hamish Breden will introduce the various editions of this award winning Vilarnau Cava at a special Masterclass taking place at 1.45pm.  Just a fiver a ticket to be booked in advance.

Greyfriars vineyard, Surrey

Greyfriars in Surrey produces high quality sparkling wines using the traditional method of secondary fermentation and ageing. The vineyard is planted with the three classic Champagne grape varieties; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which suit the unique chalk soil conditions and climate of the North Downs.

Greyfriars English sparkling wine

At Fizz Feast you may be able to sample of Greyfriars wines – Cuvee Royale, Blanc de Blancs, ‎Non Vintage Sparkling Cuvée, Sparkling Rosé  Reserve et al.

Greyfriars Sparkling Rose Reserve “ A delicate pale colour reminiscent of a rose from Provence. Hints of vanilla and summer fruits on the nose with fresh fruity flavours of berries.”   

“Greyfriars Blanc de Blancs is a cracker. It comes from the estate’s Chardonnay grapes and is fuller, rounder and creamier and nuttier with a rich softness like lemon curd smeared on a warm brioche.”

Established in 1821, Zonin has become Italy’s largest privately-owned winery and Zonin Prosecco is made from the Glera grape, native to the Veneto region. Zonin Prosecco Brut NV DOC  is described as light and refreshing, a palate of fresh pear, dessert apple, with a floral and almond aroma.

Prosecco is the beginning of almost any Italian celebration, whether as an aperitif or enjoy it throughout the meal. A bottle of Zonin Prosecco is the easy way to make any experience truly Italian and one that enhances the joy of life.

It is not just a sparkling wine, but a wine that sparkles”.

Francesco Zonin, Vice President, Zonin1821.

Digby Fine English Wines is a most inventive brand co-founded by Jason Humphries and Trevor Clough who employ the exemplary Irish winemaker Dermot Sugrue to source fruit from farmers across southern England, to create their Sparkling winesIt is fascintating to learn that Digby is named in honour of Sir Kenelm Digby, a 17th century pirate who was involved in developing the modern wine bottle. Cheers to that!

Digby is the first pure English Sparkling Wine Negociant – and to hear more about the story of this finely crafted fizz and a famous pirate, book a ticket for the Masterclass taking place at 5.45pm.

Most inspiring and extremely vital for a growing consumer market, Vegan Tipples is making their first appearance at Fizz Feast having only launched in 2018 as a one stop shop for quality drinks with the use of no animal products.  Eggs, milk, Isinglass (fish bladders) and sometimes Gelatin, are used in the process of alcohol production and many drinkers (vegetarians or not) may be unaware of this.   The company is the supplier of a wide range of 100% organic drinks – beers, wines, and spirits sourced worldwide.

Their Fizz selection includes Pierre Mignon Champagne, Cremant de Loire, Blanc de Blancs, Cava Brut, Sparkling Chardonnay and Shiraz.  Vegan Tipples is based in Leith so very handy if you wish to visit the store to stock up on a box or two!

The very well established firm, Cockburns of Leith was founded in Edinburgh in 1796 by Robert Cockburn, brother of the famous literary figure, Lord Cockburn. Spanning four centuries, its customers have included Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens and King George IV.

Scotland’s oldest wine merchant serves retail, corporate and trade customers offering champagne, sherry, and port,  red, white, and sweet wines.  Cockburns will be presenting a selection of Champagne, sparkling wines as well as an innovative juicy red Prosecco.

Jonathan Simpkin of Woodhouse Wines will be back this year presenting another excellent tasting event combined with his expert advice, knowledge and passion on the subject.  High Street stores, Oddbins and Lidl will also show off an enticing display of cool, crisp fizz for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Whether you sip a classy Champagne or a cheeky Cava, an aperitif is complemented perfectly with a few nibbles or indeed serve with festive oysters, lobster, fish, meat, cheese and desserts.  Festival goers will also find an appetising feast of quality foods to sample and purchase such as Tobermory Smoked Trout and other seafood from the Isle of Mull, Sardinian speciality foods,  chunky cheddar from Damn Fine Cheese, Flavour Magic spices and Fairtrade organic Pacari Chocolate from Ecuador.

Pacari Brand Ambassador Juan Santelices will join Fizz Feast organiser Diana Thompson to match this superior chocolate with the perfect fizz in an inspiring Masterclass at 4.30pm. (Book tickets on line).

For a refreshing change of tipple, perhaps try and G&T with Caorunn Gin and slice of red apple.  Around the Feast Hall will be candles, crafts and artisan foods –  perfect Christmas gifts, as well as tasty treats for the Festive season.

Fizz Feast has been a sell out success over the past couple of years as these visitors testify:

What a fabulously fizzy, effervescent event, huge thanks” – Jonathan Ray, author & exhibitor
“What a fabulous event. Well done Diana!”  – Joanna, visitor
“Fantastic excitement and fun.  Loved every minute” – Zoe, visitor
“Spectacular! We all really enjoyed it, thank you” – Janine, visitor

So book your tickets and join in the seasonal, sparkling fun at Fizz Feast 2018!

Tickets – starting from £22.50 – available from www.WineEventsScotland.co.uk

 Saturday 17th November, 2018 – Two sessions, 12 – 3pm; 4 – 7pm

Four Masterclasses – Taittinger Champagne, Vilarnau Cava, Pecari Chocolate & Fizz, Digby Fine English.  Advance tickets, £5 – £ 7.50

Fizz Feast – sociable, informative, inspiring fun

Fizz Feast is organised by Diana Thompson of Wine Event Scotland,  a qualified Wine & Spirit Education Trust tutor with almost 30 years in the wine industry.  Year round she hosts wine courses, workshops and masterclasses with wine producers, importers and Scottish independent retailers.

“Best Hospitality & Drinks Industry Marketing Company – Scotland”  Lux Magazine

Wine Event Organiser of the Year, Lux Wine & Drink Awards

“Wine Event Organiser of the Year” – Scottish Enterprise Awards 2018

 

Colonsay Gin from Wild Thyme Spirits captures its wild Hebridean sense of place – in a bottle

“From the lone shieling of the misty island,  Mountains divide us, and the waste of the seas

Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland, And we in dreams behold the Hebrides”.  

Canadian Boat Song, 1829

The tranquil, timeless beauty of the Hebridean Islands, Scotland

There are few more romantic, beguiling and bewitching destinations than the Highlands and Islands, rich in ancient history and natural scenic beauty. Listed in “1,000 Places to See before you Die” by Patricia Schultz, the Scottish Hebrides should be on your Bucket list.

Plan an island hopping Cruise on board the luxurious floating country house, Hebridean Princess, on one of the charming Majestic Line boats,  or explore independently with your car, bike or on foot by CalMac Ferry.

The Cal Mac Ferry from Oban to Colonsay

From Oban it’s just a two hour crossing to reach Colonsay, located between Mull and Islay, an unspoilt peaceful haven of craggy heather-wrapped hills, wild goats, abundant flora, woodland, a quasi tropical garden and stunning white sand beaches.  Just around eight miles long and three miles wide, island life and work revolves around sheep farming, oyster and lobster fishing, arts, crafts, honey-making and tourism with a hotel and self catering holiday accommodation.

Seeking a taste of the Good Life, in August 2016 Finlay and Eileen Geekie, left their well established home in Oxfordshire and moved to this tiny Hebridean island of around 135 residents.  They had both spent childhood holidays in the Western Isles and then brought their own children here too, such that they had always dreamt about escaping the rat race to live on a Scottish island.

But what work could they do in this remote community?

Gin Entrepreneurs

Inspired by the modern day Gin Craze and the fact that 70% of gin consumed in the UK is distilled in Scotland, with pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit, the Geekies spent a year researching and developing a business plan and then the task of concocting the recipe.

Perfecting the art of the artisan distiller, Wild Thyme Spirits was born.

Their small batch Colonsay Gin is described as a classic London Dry style rich in juniper flavour blended with carefully selected botanicals including angelica root, calamus root, coriander, orris, liquorice and orange peel.

I followed the suggested serve and had my first taste of Colonsay Gin with Fever Tree premium Tonic poured over the rocks in a large tumbler, with a slice of orange. On the nose,  the neat gin has a subtle earthy scent, which is delicately transformed when sipped as a G&T.

Colonsay Gin with sweet orange or green chilli

There is certainly a well crafted, complex flavour, bittersweet at first and then a spicy, salty taste on the tongue derived from the coriander and ginger-based calamus root.  Ice cold with the effervescent tonic, this dry as a bone gin is exceedingly refreshing, the fresh orange reflecting the tasty tang of sweet citrus notes. To create more of a contemporary cocktail, you can also try an innovative garnish – a slice of green chilli to draw out the aromatic botanical spices with fiery gusto.

A colourful Celtic folk tale has been imbued within the creation of  Colonsay Gin.  The Gaelic name of the Geekie’s island home is Tign na Uruisg which translates as Home of the Spirit. So they developed a story of the legendary Alva, a red-haired supernatural Sprite whose vivacious image illustrates the artistic label on each bottle, the inspiration of Wild Thyme Spirits.

Alva, the Celtic Spirit of Colonsay Gin

On the nearby island of Islay, Laphroaig is a most distinctive whisky, distilled right on the seashore. The 10 year old single malt is described poetically as “Peat reek, soft oak, craggy coastline, screeching gulls.”  Likewise, Colonsay Gin embraces the heritage and wild beauty of its rugged land and sea, the fresh, pure salt sea air of the island encapsulated as a poignant aroma in a glass.

The Gin Lover’s Retreat on Colonsay

Gin Lover’s Retreat

 So why not visit Colonsay to find out more the gin’s spiritual home?.  Finlay and Eileen Geekie suggest that you leave the car behind and take the ferry over to Scalasaig where you will be met at the pier for the start of your getaway escape at their beautifully designed Guesthouse. Expect a chill out weekend of outdoor adventures, scenic seascapes and relaxation combined with gourmet meals and a unique gin tasting experience.

Their “Bar” offers no less than 200 gins from around the world and, of course, the opportunity to sample their artisan Colonsay Gin.  Wild Thyme Spirits has also created Red Snapper, a gin-based Bloody Mary, a Bramble liqueur and an alcohol lite Gin Solas.

The rocky cliffs, grassy machair and sandy beaches are a natural habitat for seals, otters and abundant bird life – kittiwakes, cormorants and guillemots with the chance to see a golden eagle.  A destination for artists, photographers, watersports, hill climbing and golfing too.  At the Scalasaig Pier, there’s a gallery (knitwear, arts and crafts), and visitor centre while the grounds of Colonsay House has a woodland garden featuring rare flora and  rhododendrons.

Kiloran Bay, Colonsay

Year round there are Art, Music and Book Festivals through the seasons: from Wednesday 10th to 24th October 2018, the Colonsay Food and Drink Festival celebrates the fine local produce, harvested, fished, grown, brewed and distilled here.  As natural as the island itself.

If you are a keen mixologist, here is the recipe for a special cocktail entitled “Kiloran Waves” which certainly captures the essence of the sea splashing over the sand.

50ml Colonsay Gin, 1 tsp Greengage Jam, 20ml Seaweed and tea syrup,* 5ml Smoky Scotch  Whisky (e.g. Islay Malt), 25ml Lime juice, 1 Egg white

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fine strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of salt, spritz with twist of lime and decorate with an edible flower.   *To make the syrup: add 1tsp loose leaf breakfast tea and 1 sheet (2.2g) Nori seaweed as well as 500ml caster sugar to 500ml of hot, not boiling, water. Dissolve the sugar and leave to infuse for 10 minutes before straining.

And on a final note, Colonsay Gin won a Silver Medal at the Global Gin Masters 2017.   Cheers.!

Wild Thyme Spirits – Information, Ordering and Stockists

www.wildthymespirits.com

Email:  wildthymespirits@btinternet.com

Gin Lovers Retreat:  www.wildthymespirits.com/gin-lovers-retreat/the-experience/

 

A fresh, new look for Lancers Brasserie celebrating its fine Indian heritage in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

The Bengal Lancers

The Bengal Lancers, the Indian Regiment during the British Raj was founded around 1803 when the East India company required an army of native horseman to protect British trade interests in India.  The son of a Lieutenant Colonel, James Skinner, born of mixed British/Indian race with Scottish ancestry, was given the task of recruiting soldiers for the Regiment first named “Skinners Horse” or the Yellow Boys due to their uniform.

Lancers Brasserie in Stockbridge, Edinburgh commemorates the pioneering life of Abdhul Samad Choudhury, a hard working cook in the Bengal Lancers – as a Pacifist he would ride backwards into battle.  His son then ran a Biryani House in East Bengal. With an adventurous spirit, Abdhul’s grandson Bodrul Hussain  left his village on the Barak River and travelled first to Paris and then Edinburgh, where in 1985 he opened this Indian Restaurant.

Thirty three years on, time for a decorative face lift and revamped, modernised menu.  The design across two rooms combines royal blue plush fabrics, banquette seating, basket cane bentwood chairs, rose and beech wood, brass and chrome gilt, decorative lamps with woven cane also used in the framed artwork.

Royal Blue and Gold design

Around the plain walls, perhaps there could be  the addition of colourful illustrations of the smart horsemen of the Bengal Lancers to reflect the family’s Indian heritage.

Comfortable booth  corner table for 2 or 4

Start the evening with an aperitif – there’s a fine list of Cocktails and Spirits to suit all tastes. My partner Ken selected the ’85 Old Fashioned, served here since day one, (Glenfiddich whisky, orange and angostura bitters), garnished with a strawberry rather than the expected orange twist.

Central Bar with Stools for an Aperitif

While studying the menu, I sipped a Pomegranate Martini, (Edinburgh Gin, Cointreau with lemon and pink Pomegranate juice). Alternatively, Lancers Royale (cherry brandy and prosecco), Mojito and Daiquiri.

The real taste of the British Raj is of course a classic G&T with a varied selection of brands including Jin-Dea from the Goomtree Estate, India and made from First Flush Darjeeling Tea, a floral Himalayan black leaf ‘Champagne of Tea’.

This lemon & grapefruit citrus based gin is infused with aromatic spices, peach,  apricots, coriander, ginger, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon and angelica.  Jin-Dea is ideal for all highball drinks,  G&T’s, Tom Collins and a Classic Martini with a twist of grapefruit.

“I am a gin person and this is the best. I had it in Scotland in a gin and tonic and it was the most delicious and memorable G&T I ever drank.” Mary, Texas

A choice of beers too, from Scottish Brewdog Punk IPA to Kingfisher – The Real Taste of India – on draught for the perfect accompaniment to a spicy curry.  Mocktails, non-alcoholic beer and soft drinks for drivers and non-drinkers.

So to the food:  A diverse choice of Nastha (Starters) from classic vegetarian Pakora and Samosa for a tasty bite, Sheik Kebab (minced lamb), and King Prawn Bombay Street Tacos. Mallu Fried Chicken is from Kerala – deep fried marinated chicken tossed in curry leaves served with peppers and onions.

Prawn Bombay Streeet Tacos

Ken selected Okra Fries while I ordered a favourite – Squid.  I love to eat these crisp calamari rings with my fingers but a drizzled coating of spicy masala and mayo softened and spoilt the batter. The panko-coated Okra was presented the same way. A little jug of the sauce or garlic aioli served on the side would be better to maintain the texture.  While tasty, the portion size of both dishes was extremely generous, each suitable for three or four people.

With our meal we sipped the House Red Wine, a French Merlot, giving a ripe juicy fruit balance for aromatic spicy food.  The House White is a French Sauvignon Blanc while the Wine list ranges from Argentina and Spain to Australia and New Zealand, as well as Prosecco & Champagne.  A glass of Prosecco might be popular or offer individual bottles.

Carnivores will relish a diverse range of classic and innovative main courses divided between Tandoori, featuring chicken, lamb chops, beef ribs, marinated for 24 hours in a ginger and garlic masala paste for a rich flavour.

Tandoori bone chicken

Under the title Handi Se are hearty curry dishes, such as Lahori Haleem – slow cooked goat meat cooked in lentils, barley and spices, and the Viceroy’s Jalfrezi, chicken thighs with onions and peppers.   A traditional Goan dish is Venison Vindaloo (the game is sourced locally from Bower’s butcher on Raeburn Place), and a choice of Biryani with either spiced meat, fish or vegetables cooked in layers with rice, street-food style.

Vegetarian curries are served either as a main course or as a side accompaniment to your meat and seafood curries, such as Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower), Sag Aloo, (spinach and potato) or Dhal – the staple of the Officer’s Mess.

These small portions of vegetarian curries are also ideal for sharing like Indian Tapas. Ken and I selected three – Katti Baigain, Sag Paneer and Tarka Dahl as well as a Peshwari Naan and Pilau Rice.

Perfectly cooked rice

Two well heated blue flower pattered plates were placed on the table and we were soon surrounded by a selection of small bowls: we thoroughly enjoyed the combination of softly roasted  sweet aubergines, spinach and creamy paneer cheese, and classic lentil dahl.  The freshly baked, nicely charred Naan bread was again a generous size but quickly devoured along with the perfectly cooked, light fluffy grains of rice.

Four small vegetarian dishes to share would probably suit two hungry diners, depending on the number of starters, sides and desserts ordered.

An Indian Feast to share with friends at Lancers!

A feast it certainly was and we finished the wine at leisure without indulging in a sweet treat such as a Mango sorbet and Luca’s Ice-cream, or Gulab Jamun, Indian doughnuts with rose syrup.  Or finish with a whisky, brandy or liqueur with coffee.

Open seven days from 5pm – 11pm, the service is casual and relaxed by a front of house team of five waiters under the Restaurant Manager Derek Young with Mukta Hussain overseeing his chefs in the kitchen.

The re-imagined new style from decor to cuisine Lancers brings a fresh wind of change to this well established family business to complement the appetising range of international restaurants – Japanese, South American, Chinese, Italian, Scottish et al. nearby.

Abdhul Samad Choudhury of Skinner’s Horse would surely be proud of his legacy as an Indian chef which has been carried on by Bodrul and Mukta in the Foodie urban village of Stockbridge beside the Water of Leith.

What do other diners say?

“ I went for the venison vindaloo – delicious and the Gulab Jamun dessert was excellent!   Will be back.”

“The reason we decided to dine here was it was Sunday, a perfect day for a pint and a curry and when there is a great Indian restaurant on your doorstep, why not support local”.

 “Really nice atmosphere and the staff were friendly and efficient. Very impressed and will be back.”

Lancers Brasserie

5 Hamilton Place. Stockbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 5BA
Tel: 0131 315 4335

http://www.lancersbrasserie.co.uk

 

An Indian Feast at Lancers!

Experience a classy G&T, cool cocktails and classic wining & dining at the Printing Press Bar & Kitchen, Edinburgh

 

The Principal, George Street

The George Hotel opened to its first guests in 1881 within five Georgian townhouses. After a major refurbishment a couple of years ago, it was rebranded as the Principal Edinburgh with classy, classic-contemporary style.  Accommodation, lobby lounge, Cocktail bar,  Brasserie and buzzing Coffee shop create the ambience of a quintessential American City hotel.  In 2017, it was named the Scottish Hotel of the Year.

Printing Press Bar with Editor’s Cocktail Bar upstairs

The design theme reflects the literary heritage of this former home of novelist, Susan Ferrier and Oliphant publishers. Hence the name of The Printing Press Bar, Editor’s Cocktail Bar and Kitchen for drinks, cocktails, wining and dining day and night.  Before going through for dinner, my partner Ken and I very much enjoyed a leisurely Gin Master Class with Chris Smart, the Bar Supervisor who certainly understands the brands, botanicals and garnishes for the perfect Serve.

Gin Master Class is ready – with tumblers, ice, tonic, garnishes and lots of Gin

The table is set around a comfortable booth with a selection of distinctive styles of Gin: Botanist which is dry and peppery, Bloom, sweet and floral, Martin Miller’s with spicy notes, and the signature No. 25 created specifically for the Principal Hotel.

Chris Smart, Bar Supervisor and Gin Connoisseur

Botanist is made at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Hebridean island of Islay, world famous for its smoky whiskies with the flavour of peat and the sea. The Gin is hand crafted with 22 hand picked local botanicals – berries, herbs, seeds, bark and peel such as mint, sage, juniper, thistle, cinnamon, heather and lemon balm.  This is served with Fever Tree Tonic and a slice of grapefruit and a sprig of rosemary to draw out the herbal and citrus flavours.  An alternative is to try Botanist with ginger ale for a refreshing kick.  The subtlety of the flowers, general smoothness and balance is excellent.

Twenty odd years ago, when ordering a G&T at your pub, (before cocktail bars led the way), there would probably be just be one Tonic available, (advertised as Schhh – you know who).

Founded in 2005, Fever Tree is a major global brand which has embraced the Gin and Cocktail revolution, concocting quality Tonics with a range of flavours – Indian, Refreshingly Light, Mediterranean, Elderflower, Aromatic (pink in colour and aniseed in taste) Lemon and Cucumber.  Throughout the fascinating lesson, we each sample different ones to see how the humble G&T is enhanced with a well selected Mixer.

Fever Tree Tonics

Bloom is a London Dry Gin created at the G&J distillery founded in 1761. As the name suggests, the spirit is inspired from nature and the three main botanicals are chamomile, honeysuckle and pomelo to create a refreshing, garden-scented spirit.  The perfect serve is with quartered strawberries and a few rose petals.  It could be served with Elderflower or Lemon tonic or classic Tonic to let the fruity garnish sing.  This is indeed Summer in a Glass.

It is said that Martin Miller kicked off the whole gin renaissance in 1999 with the launch of his own eponymous brand, an idea sparked by his love of romance and adventure.  The secret is a blend of Tuscan juniper, angelica, coriander, Seville citrus peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, liquorice root and Icelandic spring water. Serve with strawberries sprinkled with black pepper and Elderflower Tonic adds a little more sweetness.

Finally we move on to No. 25, the House Gin is crafted in collaboration with Ray Clynick of OroGin in Dalton, Dumfries and Galloway. Like a traditional London dry, it is delicately scented with juniper, citrus, lavender and violets, with a velvety smooth finish, best served with a slice of orange and lavender.

At the launch last winter it was described thus: “Principal Gin is a perfect blend of both style and taste, inspired by the timeless elegance and luxurious ambiance of the hotel. The handpicked botanicals offer a real sense of exotic and Mediterranean blend that fuse beautifully together.”

The Printing Press Bars offers a selection of Principal No. 25 Gin Cocktails, including a very fashionable The Devil Wears Principal, (with cranberry, mint and soda).  As an aperitif we sampled the classic 75 (with Taittinger, lemon, lavender) and a deliciously sharp Martini straight up with a twist.  If you like Principal Gin, bottles are available to buy here at £39 to take home and enjoy a tipple at your leisure.

After this hugely enjoyable. educational – and rather tipsy – guide to tasting and serving gins by Chris Smart, we made our way to the Printing Press restaurant next door.  The smart design is like a Parisian Brasserie, all dark brown leather banquettes, wood panelling and chequered floor.   The menu embraces traditional British cuisine, deconstructed and redesigned in a modern manner.  For instance a tasty starter of Smoked haggis, pureed neeps and crispy potato, Chicken Terrine with prunes,  Blue Cheese and poached pear salad.

Having sampled the gin in a glass, I selected the No 25 Gin-cured Trout which was colourfully presented with a few pickled mussels, avocado and beetroot puree topped with a large spoonful of caviar for a gourmet taste of the sea.

No 25 Gin-cured Trout wiht avocado & caviar

Across the table, Ken quickly finished of his plate of tender, succulent hand-dived Scallops, carrot remoulade, all drizzled with basil and lemon butter.

Fat and juicy hand-dived Scallops

The Wine List is extremely well selected with around 10 white and red House wines served by the glass (175/ 250ml) and bottle, ranging from an Australian Pinot Grigio to a Chilean Carmenere, as well as a fine range of quality French and New World wines.  We were recommended a bottle of Journey’s End, a rich Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa. The experts describe this as a blend of  rich blackcurrants, black plums, white pepper, mixed spice with a velvety texture.  Exactly so.

Now time for our main course.  Again the menu offers classic favourites such as Lamb Rump, Pork Belly and Ale Battered Fish and Chips as well as Sirloin, Ribeye and Flat iron Steak from the Josper Grill cooked to your liking with choice of sauces.

Stone Bass with peas and baby gem

I selected Stone Bass, served with peas and charred baby gem, and aded a side of Chips to share with Ken, who had ordered one of the three Vegetarian dishes, Charred Cauliflower.  While M&S recently launched and then removed their rather expensive Cauliflower Steaks,  this humble vegetable is extremely versatile,  not just smothered in cheese sauce.  Here it was deliciously spiced up with curry oil like a reinvented Indian  dish, Aloo Gobi.

Charred Cauliflower, Indian style

While we did not finish with Dessert, the selection of puddings include Pineapple Upside- down cake with coconut ice cream for a tropical treat,  Dark Chocolate Parfait,  as well as a platter of Cheese and oatcakes.

Experience fine hospitality, quality drinks and cuisine at the Printing Press Bar & Kitchen – the buzzing heart and hub of this world-class Hotel.  Gin and Cocktail Master Classes are a new venture and highly recommended for a most informative but entertaining tasting session.

Visit The Principal George Street for a relaxing, luxury city break or for cocktails, a perfectly poured G&T, glass of wine, lunch or dinner soon.   This literary heritage hotel is certainly worth writing home about.  On a postcard please!

Hotel, Restaurant and Bar Facts:

The Printing Press Bar and Kitchen @ The Principal Hotel,

21-25 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2BP

Tel. 0131 240 7177   www.printingpressedinburgh.co.uk

Gin & Cocktail Master Classes – email: events@printingpressedinburgh.co.uk

The Principal Hotel, George Street.

https://www.phcompany.com/principal/edinburgh-george-street/

Printing Press Kitchen – French style Brasserie serving modern Scottish classics

 

 

Celebrate World Gin Day 2018 at the Juniper Gin Festival, Summerhall, Edinburgh – a sparkling summer party with lots of G&T

Gin lovers of the world rejoice as World Gin Day returns for its tenth year on Saturday 9 June 2018 with celebratory events across the planet.

Hurrah!  Edinburgh will celebrate a week earlier to get into the spirit over the first weekend in June with the Juniper Gin Festival taking place from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd June at Summerhall, Edinburgh.   First launched in 2014, this is the 5th anniversary of Scotland’s Best Gin Fest.

Juniper Gin Festival, Summerhall

This year visitors can experience a wide range of specially curated events entitled the Makers and Mixers Edition.

The Distillers Room, will bring together over 20 distillers to offer a unique opportunity for gin enthusiasts to sample a prime selection of gins and learn all about new and established brands. Meet the innovative Makers whose alchemy and art turns natural herbs and spices into the classic G & T.

Festival goers can also try a few Gin Cocktails by expert mixologists blending carefully selected gin brands with a range of ingredients to create the perfect summertime tipple.

Book up for a Masterclass – free informative talks from the experts to learn everything you were afraid to ask, from the history of tonic to sustainability in the gin industry.

Pickerings vintage red van

Above all this is a summer Festival in and around the Courtyard at Summerhall to appreciate the opportunity for Gin Sampling from a distinctly different range of brands crafted, created and concocted in Scotland, UK and worldwide.

Here’s a few of the Juniper Spirits which will be showcased at the Festival with reviews from happy drinkers.

Arbikie at Lunan Bay, Angus, is renowned for their Potato Vodka at the unique Farm to Bottle Distillery. Their premium ‘Kirsty’s Gin’ embodies elements of the ocean, rock and land around the 2000-acre estate featuring locally foraged Scottish Kelp, Carline Thistle and Blaeberrys for a refined depth, character, quality and taste. It is named after its creator, the Master Distiller, Kirsty Black.

The Arbikie Distillery, has a wonderful motto: “Our farm, our field, our soil, our seed, our water, our still, our skill. That’s our difference.”  Talk about being natural and organic!

“Tried this with Fever tree tonic, a twist of orange and a strawberry. Utterly delicious.”

No-one is associated more with the Martini than James Bond. In ‘Casino Royale’ James Bond orders a Vesper made of part gin and part vodka to symbolise the double agent Vesper Lynd, the love of his life. Why not shake up a Vesper with Arbikie Vodka and Gin for a cool, sophisticated cocktail.?

Vesper Martini Bond Style

Produced at the Oss Distillery, Norway, Bareksten Gin takes inspiration from the mountainous landscape and icy fjords. Winner of the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. A gin that’s been crafted to represent the spirit of Norway, dark, wild and dramatic, earthy and rich, it suits a Dry Martini, Negroni or a G&T.

“It’s a blast ….a shot of frozen Scandinavia to be enjoyed slowly. Truly a rich smooth and elegant gin . .. neat, with tonic or as a dry Martini.…”  

Boasting probably the most glamorous label of all gin bottles, the multi award winning Daffy’s the iconic brand image of the Goddess of Gin created by Robert McGinnis (well known for classic 1960s film posters), depicts the exotic charm, beauty and complexity of the spirit.

The distinctive scent is woody, floral, oaky with a fresh taste of citrus, Lebansese mint, red fruit and juniper.  Just add lime wedges, and fresh mint leaves for the perfect D & T!.  “By a clear margin, the most magical gin experience. Sweet, floral and intensively moreish!”.

The essence of Jin-dea is derived from the Goomtree Estate, India, a speciality gin made from First Flush Darjeeling Tea, a delicate and floral Himalayan black leaf ‘Champagne of Tea’.

This lemon & grapefruit citrus based gin is also infused with aromatic spices, peach,  apricots, coriander, ginger, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon and angelica.  Jin-Dea is ideal for all highball drinks,  G&T’s, Tom Collins and a Classic Martini with a twist of grapefruit.

“I am a gin person and this is the best I’ve ever tasted. I had it in Scotland in a gin and tonic and it was the most delicious and memorable G&T I ever drank.” Mary from Texas

For the health conscious, weight watchers and alcoholic unit counters, Minus 33 is a low alcohol Gin (that isn’t gin), bursting with juniper, elderflower, lavender and angelica, just 46 calories per serving. The recipe has no refined sugars replaced by naturally sweet ingredients such as liquorice root. Enjoy neat, with a quality tonic or soda water, and a garnish of hibiscus; a sachet of dried flowers accompanies each bottle.

“Refreshingly light, great with a wedge of orange and holds up well in the cocktails. …I like it, something a bit different & at fewer calories per glass, I can drink more!”

With its distillery at Summerhall, Edinburgh, Pickering’s Gin has developed a popular brand due to clever marketing – not least the Gin Baubles which sell out to decorate the tree at Christmas time.  The gin is blended in three different styles: Pickerings, (the smooth one), Navy Strength (the stronger one) and Pickerings 1947 (the spicier one) based on an original 1947 Indian recipe featuring juniper, coriander, cardamom, fennel, anise, lemon, lime, cloves and cinnamon. These are respectively served with grapefruit, lime and orange. The result? Summer’s day flavours, easy-going, classic sweetness and orange fruits.

Pickerings – perfect for cocktails

Pickerings 50/50 Martini recipe:
• 37.5ml Pickering’s gin
• 37.5ml St Germain (elderflower liqueur)
• Stirred down over ice
• Garnish with lemon peel

Scapegrace (meaning a rogue or scoundrel), is the name of a Kiwi Gin from New Zealand, featuring 12 native botanicals – juniper, coriander, nutmeg, cardamom, lemon peel, orange peel, orris, cinnamon, cassia, angelica, clove and liquorice, with pure water from the Southern Alps. Expect citrus tones with a hint of spice – the recommeded serve is with bitter lemon, a slice of orange and cracked juniper berries.

“Tried this gin neat over ice at a gin festival….beautifully smooth with huge aniseed notes. A great sipping gin.”

At the very northern tip of the British Isles lie the Shetlands where the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, and where the Saxa Vord Distillery on the remote island of Unst has created the Shetland Reel Craft Gin. The recipe includes sweet scented leaves of apple mint giving an authentic flavour of Shetland, combined with juniper, mixed spice, citrus and a sharp tang of mint.  Complement with Fever-Tree Original, Pink Grapefruit, a sprig of mint and lavender with plenty of ice or try it in a Negroni to make the most of its subtly sweet qualities.

“This gin smells like the sea and has the most refreshing taste. I tried it at a gin tasting event with smoked salmon and wow – it was by far the best of the night. I’d personally put a slice of apple in this one, with tonic.”

The overall aim of the Juniper Gin Festival is to offer a truly immersive experience to learn about and taste a superb selection of Gins in an informative and inspiring manner:

“We’ve always been proud to offer guests the opportunity to meet the people responsible for making the products, and this year we’re taking that one step further by allowing them greater access than ever before – a chance to meet the makers – no brand reps, no bartenders, just Distillers.”  Martin Duffy, Director of Solid Liquids, the Mastermind behind Juniper Gin Festival

With music, entertainment, Scottish street food, craft stalls, expert masterclasses, tastings and cocktails, The Juniper Gin Festival runs from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd June 2018, with a choice of afternoon and evening sessions.

Friday 1st June – 5.30pm – 10pm

Saturday 2nd June – 12pm – 4.30pm

Saturday 2nd June – 5.30pm – 10pm

Sunday 3rd June – 12pm – 4.30pm

Tickets are priced at £22.50 and on sale now:

www.solid-liquids.co.uk/juniper

Happy World Gin Day – Cheers!

 

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/

 

 

 

 

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

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

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.