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The Edinburgh Food Festival 2019: 19th to 28th July @ George Square Gardens – a fun, foodie Summer Picnic Party for all ages

Edinburgh Food Festival, the annual foodie event, is back again for the 5th year, bolder, brighter and bigger than ever.  Before the Edinburgh Festival Fringe kicks off, Assembly George Square Gardens is the perfect, environmentally green location for a summer picnic from 19th-28th July 2019.

Surrounded by tall trees with the ground covered in a soft astro turf carpet, to protect the grass, it’s a fabulous place for all ages, couples, party groups of friends, family holiday time with the kids to enjoy a great day or evening out.

Food and drink for all the family in the garden

Jarvis Pickle’s Mushroom & Chestnut Pie

The deliciously appetising programme offers a feast of good food and drink supplied by 20 local producers and exciting, ethnic dishes served up around the stalls.

Tried and tested at my recent visit at the weekend are the scrumptious Jarvis Pickle Pies from Berwickshire. These traditional hand-crafted and baked  pies have a thick pastry and range of fillings, such as the richly flavoured Vegan Mushroom and chestnut with truffle. The pungent earthy scent is divine.

And to drink?  I recommend Bellfield Brewery’s gluten free, vegan Craft beers: Session Ale, (delicate fizz), Bohemian Pilsner (light, hoppy, happy), and the refreshing Lawless Village, IPA.

“The perfect combination of science and art” is the logo for Bellfield’s award winning beers – sample a few here at the Food Festival and the new Tap Room. soon to be launched at their Brewery, Abbeyfield, Edinburgh

Healthy meat-free eating is very prominent at this year’s FoodFest: FacePlant Foods travels around Scotland selling their vegan goods which you can sample at their pop up stall here.  Travel the culinary world as you stroll around the garden with such international cuisine as Mana Poke’s freshly prepared Hawain dishes such as diced raw fish and rice.

Punjabi Junction, “The food of the Punjab at the Heart of Leith,”  will be dishing up some amazing authentic Indian dishes – the spicy lentil dhal with rice is superb. Great to support this community café,  which serves traditional home-cooked dishes while supporting women from Edinburgh’s minority ethnic backgrounds.

Punjabi Junction – authentic Indian spice

Plenty of meat and fish too, of course, such as the Fox Hat BBQ experience and Alanda’s Scottish seafood and fish & chips based in East Lothian. For dessert?, Alanda’s Ice-cream of course!

Summer would not be summer without a perfectly poured, ice cold G&T.  Edinburgh’s Pickering’s Gin will be showcasing their award-winning spirit from their quirky red Japanese airport fire engine, EnGINe 47.  Sample a range of cool cocktails as well as the classic Pickering’s gin and tonic, with ice and slice.  Cheers!

Pickering’s for a refreshing G&T or cool cocktail

Whatever your taste and appetite, there’s a fantastic choice of tasty food and drink galore, from Prosecco and pizza, beer and burgers, cookies and chocolate. See the full mouthwatering list of producers and street food below!

The good news is that it is Free Entry to the garden with the Festival running from 12 noon till late so that visitors can enjoy Scottish and international dishes from brunch and lunch, to Afternoon Tea and Cocktail hour, snacks and supper.

The Masterchefs showcasing their culinary talent

Check out the special events, Meet the Producers and Chef demonstrations which include Scott Smith from Fhior, Barry Bryson at Cater Edinburgh, Jérôme Henry, Le Roi Fou, Italian-Scot, Carina Contini, and former MasterChef winner Derek Johnstone now at Borthwick Castle. These events are free and non-ticketed, but limited space so it’s first come first served. For dates and times see the website and social media links below.

With all the food stalls, beer tents and showtime marquees, experience a colourful Carnival mood and Garden Party ambience.  It’s so relaxing and fun with your family and friends selecting and sharing a summer picnic of street food,  sitting at tables or lounging on the grass.

Street food picnics at this Summer Garden Party

Rain or shine, do visit the fabulous Tree Top Bar, a unique drinking den for adults, where you can lounge about on sofas and sample a few tipples.

Finlay Wilson, the Kilted Yoga Master

Join in one or two of the Workshops – rather a misnomer as these are fun experiences!. The Kilted Finlay Wilson runs his daily Yoga classes, Hipsters and Hobos, Find, Forage, Ferment, Raw Pop Up – the fine art of “shucking” hand dived scallops, and especially for the kids, the Edinburgh Food Social Taste Adventure and Hands On Cooking Show.

The Festival welcomed over 25,000 visitors in 2018 and with this year’s event running for ten days, the number will certainly rocket. Where better to go this week with the fabulous summer sunshine.?

“We can’t wait to take part again this year with our selection of freshly caught Scottish seafood, old school fresh fish and chips and multi-award winning gelato. We look forward to welcoming more visitors than ever in 2019.”  Alanda Black, East Lothian’s Alandas Scottish Seafood, Fish & Chips and Gelato

Alanda’s Seafood & Fish ‘n Chips

Experience a taste from this banquet of fine food and delicious drinks from:

Jarvis Pickle, Chick & Pea, Poco Prosecco, Bellfield Brewery, Pickerings Gin, Face Plant Food, Mana Poke Bowls, Thinking Chocolate, Pickering’s Gin, Alanda’s Scottish Seafood Grill, Alanda’s Gelato, Paddle & Peel, Punjabi Junction, Edinburgh Food Social, Scoff, Cargo Burger, Cargo Spud, Crepe & Waffle House, Genius, Seabuckthorn Scotland, The Scottish Bee Company, Kabbabar. #CookieDough by R&G Catering. Norelli – Neapolitan Street Food, Umami Spice Girl, Fyne Ales, Moskito Bites.

Find out all about the Edinburgh Food Festival here …

Keep up to date with all news of Edinburgh Food Festival 2019 at http://www.edfoodfest.com 

Social media:  Facebook (www.facebook.com/EdFoodFest), Instagram (@edfoodfest, #EdFoodFest19) and Twitter (@EdFoodFest, #EdFoodFest19).

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“Grazing by Mark Greenaway” at the Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh: modern fine dining – artistic, imaginative, casual and fun.

“The essence of Mark Greenaway’s genius in the kitchen is his seemingly endless inventiveness.”  Ian Rankin

It was the week of the Big Tease back in March before Chef Mark Greenaway revealed the secret location of his much anticipated new Restaurant.  There was a relish of rumours and soupcon of social media messages: 1st March: “Goodbye New Town .. hello ??,”  followed the next day by a video clip of someone walking along Princes Street with a view of the Castle and the tag line, “Where do you think the new Restaurant will be?”

The next big hint was the enigmatic line, “Fancy a meal in the  West End?” and then finally, a quirky aerial shot of the planet zooming in to the actual location.  And what a prestigious address it turned out to be!.

Mark Greenaway outside the Walforf Astoria

On 8th March, the news broke that the Chef was taking over the former Galvin Brasserie de Luxe at the Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian, with an opening date in mid April.  Having known his ingenious style of cuisine for over ten years, Ken and I recently went along to visit “Grazing by Mark Greenaway” to experience this exciting new venture.

In order to appreciate the enormous significance of this exciting venture, it would be timely to have a brief look back at Mark’s culinary and creative journey over the past 25 years.  After school, he stared his first job in a hotel kitchen near Lanark, where he persevered as a KP until given the opportunity to train as a chef.  The seed was sewn and moving on to another hotel, he mastered the art of a pastry chef, winning an award for his elaborate “Milk chocolate mousse, raspberries in caramel with lattice tuile”.  This was the springboard for adventure down under, heading off to Sydney, for a steep learning curve under a tough task master – as he relates, “every plate had to reach absolute perfection 100% of the time.”

Back in Scotland, as Head Chef at Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, his imaginative dishes were rewarded with a Chef Médaille d’Or for Dinner Excellence (2009).   Soon time for change, launching his own eponymous restaurant on Picardy Place, Edinburgh, showcasing seriously inventive dishes. (Rising Star Chef of the Year, 2011).  Now as a renowned chef in Edinburgh, he was then selected, for two years. running to represent Scotland in “Great British Menu” on BBC 2.

The next bold step was the launch in 2013 of Restaurant Mark Greenaway with an intimate setting for his distinctive style of cuisine. With the honour of 3 AA rosettes, it was placed #13 in Square Meal’s list of the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants and named runner up as Best Restaurant in Observer Monthly (2013, 2015, 2016). An enticing review too in the Michelin Guide, 2016:  “The well-travelled chef employs interesting texture and flavour combinations. Dishes are modern, ambitious and attractively presented.”

Restaurant Mark Greenaway, North Castle Street, Edinburgh, 2013-2018

Branching out, with a new challenge, he also opened Bistro Moderne in Stockbridge. As I wrote in my review in January 2014:  ” .. a touch of Blumenthal in this scientifically-inspired, smoke-filled, deconstructed, unique cuisine.”

With his passion for local, seasonal produce on his menus, he decided to promote the best of Scottish food and compiled his beautifully designed cook book, “Perceptions: Recipes from Restaurant Mark Greenaway” (Relish Publications).  

With mouthwatering illustrations and step by step recipes, it’s aimed at the masterchef and keen amateur, with culinary tips and a list of his own suppliers so that you can create the quality of his fine dining food at home.  A few months later, much to Greenaway’s surprise, “Perceptions” was named the best cookbook in the world at the Gourmand Awards, 2017.

“Perceptions” – Best Cookbook in the World

The success of Restaurant Mark Greenaway and “Perceptions”  must have been an incredible boost to morale and further ambition.  It might be a short walk from Castle Street to Princes Street, but this is a truly impressive step up, opening his own Restaurant at the five star, Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian.  Enter either through the Hotel lobby and Peacock Alley loung, or the main entrance around the corner on Rutland Street.

The green carpet for the launch of “Grazing by Mark Greenaway”

“Grazing by Mark Greenaway” is a classic Brasserie in design with comfortable, blue banquette seating and well spaced tables with smart crimson & blue plaid chairs. Appetising suggestions for food & drinks and sharing plates are listed on blackboards around the walls.

Diners can also sit on stools at a couple of high tables at the front, or the central island bar for a quick, casual meal.

Take a stool at the Island Bar

Guests are invited to “relax, unwind and graze.  You can share a starter, main or dessert, or indulge and have something all to yourself.”   This is a fresh new concept, showcasing a blend of traditional, modern and sharing plates based on seasonal Scottish ingredients.   “Fine dining” has been reinvented here to create a casual, leisurely ambience without linen tablecloths and uniformed waiters. The attractive, welcoming space accommodates 170 for lunch and dinner as well as private dining and a Chef’s table.

The Grazing menu is well laid out and so flexible to suit all tastes and appetites, divided into various sections: Snacks, Small and Big Plates, From the Grill, Grazing for Two.  The set price for each Plate is very reasonable. As dishes are designed for sharing as well as for one person, it is wise to ask your server to explain the sizes of different portions.

BBQ Shiitake Mushrooms with truffle on toast

Under Grazing for Two, all dishes are for sharing such as Barbecue truffled Shiitake mushrooms, a cured meat and choux pastry Picnic served in a basket, and Fish Pie.  From game and haggis to seafood and steak, this is modern Scottish cooking such as 11-hour Slow Roast Pork belly with apple and mash, and a rich dessert which has already become famous, Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle

So where to start and what to choose.? Our charming waiter Gwen suggests that we share a few Snacks to enjoy with a Cocktail.  As a simple twist, sip a Scottish Martini and a Scottish Negroni, both served with a Scottish Gin. (Edinburgh, Daffy’s, Rock Rose, Hendricks et al).

Cool Cocktails with a Scottish twist

Perfectly shaken and ice cold, my Martini hits the spot and  Ken’s pink tipple, (gin, campari, red vermouth) was created for Count Negoni, exactly one hundred years ago. Cheers!

Superb, artistically crafted “Snacks”

With these we were presented with four gourmet canapes to share: Puffed cod skin, Potato chip with caviar, Carrot tartlet, and Smoked Salmon mousse (in an egg shell), a light as air fishy foam, which just melts in the mouth. Each of these snacks is elegantly exquisite.

Soft Shell Crab on white, shell shaped plate

For my starter, Tempura Soft Shell Crab has an amazing delicate crunchy texture  – a generous portion but Ken was happy to sample his share, while he quickly devoured a colourful salad of Mackerel with apple and beetroot, a fine balance of salty and sweet flavours.

Mackerel with apple and beetroot

Meanwhile we sipped a glass of one of the house red wines, Cuvee, Jean Paul Syrah & Grenache, France, South West (2017), a classic Rhone with notes of rich fruit and soft spice. I could not resist the Cod Cheeks, fat juicy goujons, lightly fried. Posh pub grub!

Fried Cod Cheeks, crispy kale, green salsa

Ken selected for his main course, Heritage Beetroot Wellington, wrapped in a thick pastry parcel. We shared a side of Kentucky Fried Cauliflower with garlic aioli, and Ugly Potatoes smothered in melted gruyere. These extras are delicious, inventive veggie dishes in themselves.

Kentucky Fried Cauliflower

After this feast, no space for dessert – a tempting choice for those with a sweet tooth, Frangipane Pear Tart, Ice-Cream, Chocolate Doughnuts, Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle, as well as Farmhouse Cheese with oatcakes.

No wonder that within seven weeks of opening in April, “ Grazing by Mark Greenaway” was presented with the much deserved accolade of 2 AA rosettes. As he commented:  “This is a huge achievement for such a young restaurant ..  at the beginning of our Grazing journey … a great start as we make our make in the city.” 

As 2019 is the centenary of Hilton Hotels, plenty to celebrate at the Waldorf Astoria.

Plan your visit soon for a light lunch, (Grazing Plates, £9 each. 2 Plates + 1 side, £20), a “Grazing for Two” romantic dinner,  Cool Cocktails and canapes at the Bar, or a Sunday Roast with family and friends.

As always, Mark Greenaway is a culinary genius due to his signature slant – a touch of molecular magic in the kitchen, artistic vision on the plate with a sense of theatricality for a truly exceptional, exciting and unique dining experience.

“Grazing at Mark Greenaway”

Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian,

Rutland Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB

Lunch: 12 noon to 2pm.  Dinner, 6pm – 10pm.

Email: grazing.reservations@waldorfastoria.com

Tel. 0131 222 8857

Postscript: There has been a flurry of 5 star reviews from happy diners:

Great concept, lovely design and warm, professional, friendly service.

Enjoyed it so much. A lot to choose from and all made with love.  Desserts were outstanding,

Soft shell tempura crab,  divine, and the icing on the cake, Sticky toffee pudding soufflé. 

Sunday lunch: Roast beef platter to share ..the tastiest, juiciest roast beef, perfect roasties, big fluffy Yorkshire and vegetables. Amazing value at £28 for two for such quality.

Mark Greenaway outside his new Brasserie “Grazing” at the Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian.

 

 

 

 

Experience a taste of modern French cuisine – with a refined Edinburgh accent – @Brasserie Prince

Simple, heritage French cooking at Brasserie Prince

The Balmoral, Edinburgh, a Rocco Forte hotel, has long been a destination to stay, eat and drink with superb hospitality at its Number One Restaurant, Palm Court and Scotch bar. If you’ve not visited for a while, the former Hadrian’s Bistro has been completely transformed into a distinctively creative dining experience.   As part of the influential Roux dynasty of chefs and restaurateurs, Alain Roux and his father Michel Roux, O.B.E. have collaborated in the launch of “Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux.”

Chefs Michel & Alain Roux

To appreciate the importance of this significant partnership, it was in 1967 when Michel Roux and his brother Albert, co-founded Le Gavroche in Mayfair, London, which today remains a legendary institution with his son Michel Roux Jn. in charge.  Michel’s Waterside Inn has held three Michelin stars for longer than any restaurant in the world outside France. After training as a Master Pâtissier in France, Alain joined his father at the Waterside, taking on the role as Chef Patron.

For the past decade, Scotland has long benefitted from the family’s culinary expertise, with Albert Roux overseeing “Chez Roux” at four hotels, Greywalls, Cromlix, Rocpool and Inver Lodge.  The team of father, son and granddaughter,  Albert & Michel Roux Jn. joined by his daughter Emily Roux, also opened two fine dining Restaurants at Inverlochy Castle and Crossbasket Castle.

The Roux Scholarship, founded in 1984 by Albert and Michel, continues to be an important culinary competition encouraging young chefs to aspire and achieve excellence.  Their astute recognition of talent began with the first recipient, Andrew Fairlie who soon became a renowned chef, running his eponymous 2 Michelin star restaurant at Gleneagles from 2001 until his early death this year.

Brasserie Prince menus

Bringing his own distinctive flavour to Edinburgh, Alain Roux has the position of Signature Chef at Brasserie Prince located in a prime corner site on the ground floor of The Balmoral.  This inspirational Forte-Roux alliance showcases authentic French cooking, inspired by seasonal Scottish produce:

“This exciting brasserie will be defined by irresistibly simple, delicious food led by fantastic Scottish ingredients. I want to serve the dishes that I love to cook myself at home and seek out with family and friends when we go out to eat.  A menu informed by my French heritage but totally inspired by Scotland.’

Alain Roux, Signature Chef at Brasserie Prince

Happy Birthday Brasserie Prince

Tuesday 11 June 2019 celebrated the first birthday of this charming Brasserie and clubby Bar Prince, so time for Ken and I to check out the new summer menu.   Arrive either through the ornate Hotel lobby or the direct entrance up a few steps from the street.  With a fresh, colourful design, the first impression is of an open plan, free-flowing Restaurant and Bar.

Modern-classic interior design at the Brasserie Prince and adjoining Bar Prince

The L shaped layout neatly divides the two casual and comfortable drinking & dining venues. The interior design was a partnership between Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte Hotels’ Director of Building & Design, and who is Sir Rocco’s sister.

On arrival at 12.15pm, we start with a leisurely cocktail before lunch in Bar Prince; (I agree with the late restaurant critic Michael Winner, who insisted that an aperitif  is essential to the dining experience!).

Bar Prince – a relaxing lounging ambience

The furnishings are akin to a traditional Lounge, with fireplace, bookshelves (with Roux cook books of course), vintage-style lamps, a sleek art deco chandelier, floral wallpaper from House of Hackney in a painterly pattern of verdant palm leaves, spacious booths and peacock- blue leather armchairs with marble-top tables.

Morning Glory

The Bar drinks menu has a wide selection of gin, whisky, wines & Signature Cocktails such as Prince Royale (Mulberry Slow (sic)  – this should be Sloe – Gin, Campari, cherry Marnier and champagne)

Classic Cocktails offer a Mary Pickford, (Bacardi, pineapple juice, maraschino liqueur), Lemon Drop (Vodka with Cointreau and lemon juice),  and a Penicillin, (Lagavulin, ginger liqueur, honey water, lemon juice).  Surprisingly, with a clientele of American and European guests, there is no mention of all our timeless favourites : Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Negroni, Margarita.

From this so-called choice of Classics, Ken selects a Morning Glory (Dewars, 12 year old, lemon juice, absinthe, soda water), which is light and refreshing. Going off piste, I order a spicy Bloody Mary, perfect for midday as a tasty appetiser before lunch.

This is served in a copper tankard, with a stick of celery, olives, sun dried tomatoes and there is certainly a dash or three of Tabasco to hit the spot.

The attractive Bar sweeps round the corner with a row of high-backed tan coloured stools; large communal dining tables in the centre are ideal for a quick office lunch or casual bar supper with friends.

It’s 1pm and time for lunch.  The Brasserie itself is a long, slender, elegant dining room with banquette seating all the way around, with light flooding in from the extensive windows facing North Bridge and Arthur’s Seat beyond. The extensive use of mirrors around the walls reflect the light even more and add to the sense of space.

Smart casual is the ethos of design and dress code.

Contrasting the wood panelling, the soft colour palette is a crafted balance of blue, green and pink. Art deco lighting, natural timber, soft leather and mohair wool are inspired by Scotland’s heritage and the Edwardian architecture of this grand 1902 hotel.

 A collection of artwork includes a classic travel poster, ‘North British Station Hotel Edinburgh’  depicting the former N.B. Hotel, before its re-launch in 1991 as The Balmoral.  Also watercolours of the Highlands and Islands, from Duart Castle to Loch Fyne.

Vintage poster of The North British Station hotel, now The Balmoral

Seated at a Banquette table, we are given the set price Express Menu, 2 or 3 courses (£19.50/£25), with a choice of three dishes per course. First of all, a basket of freshly baked bread with slices of soft baguette and sunflower/ poppy/ caraway multi seed,  served with a olive tapenade, as well as butter and Epoch organic olive oil.  The soft cotton Brasserie Prince napkins are like small tea towels – an innovative idea.

First of all, drinks. Scottish Speyside mineral water is the house brand and we select Spanish dry white wine, a Sauvignon/Verdejo (2017), from the Castilla Y Leon region, Vina Garedo, with the fresh, citrusy taste of summer.  The wine list offers six white and red wines by the glass, and by the bottle, the list is divided by country, from a most reasonable £ 22 – £24.  Or why not kick off your meal with a flute of Champagne Michel Roux.?

I start with a generous portion of Smoked salmon, served simply with capers, onion lemon and rye bread,  was of the utmost quality, thickly sliced and oozing subtle saltiness.

Smoked Salmon with capers and rye bread

Meanwhile Ken had chosen Parisian Gnocchi, equally large for a starter, made from Pâte a choux gougères (cheese doughballs), and covered with rocket and slices of grilled red pepper.

Parisian Gnocchi

I then sampled about half of a green mountain of Pearl Barley Risotto with edamame beans, grilled courgette and sauce vierge.  Unfortunately, despite all the ingredients, no distinctive flavours shine through in this rather bland and gloopy dish lacking texture – rather heavy and hearty at lunchtime.

Pearl Barley Risotto with edamame beans, & courgettes

Across the table, Ken was tasting a white as snow fillet of Monkfish à L’Armoricaine, served with Camargue wild rice and broccoli, a fish stew from Brittany cooked in wine and tomatoes, traditionally flambéed in cognac.

Monkfish Armoricaine with Camargue wild rice

A choice of three, overly sweet desserts, (Ice cream, Raspberry soufflé, Crème Caramel) so we finished with an Double Espresso instead – perhaps a selection of Fromage could perhaps be offered for those without a sweet tooth.

The Express menu is served Monday to Friday, 12 noon to 2.30pm, & 5.30pm-6.30pm. Recent selections have included Shetland Mussels, Beef Bourguignon, Lyonnaise Salad with poached egg and asparagus, Roast chicken & potato grenailles.

The extensive A la Carte menu for lunch and dinner is divided into bites, sharing platters, soups, salads and a feast of classic French dishes: Frogs’ legs, Lobster thermidor,  Steak Tartare. Each day a selected Grand-mere Special – Coq au vin, Cassoulet de canard, Brandade de moru gratinee – recipes from the family’s country recipes.

 The only quibble on this occasion, was the variable standard of service from a team of young staff with a few inexperienced waiters, (“Who’s having the salmon?), who lacked the personal, professional attention to detail.

Ken and I certainly enjoyed our initial taste of such authentic French cuisine created with passion by Michel and Alain Roux.  Another appetising aspect of the Brasserie is the Raw Bar, where diners can sit on a stool at this theatre kitchen to sample the freshest Fruits de Mer – a platter of oysters from Gigha or langoustines from the Isle of Skye.  Perfect with a chilled glass of fizz.

The Raw Bar – the place to share a dozen oysters and champagne

In case you are thinking, surprisingly the culinary French word “Roux” was not actually coined by the Roux chefs.  The definition orginates from around 1805. Roux refers to the red brown beurre (butter) created when mixed with flour to thicken a sauce.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Borrowing its name from this classic French story, ‘Le Petit Prince’ menu welcomes children to this family friendly Brasserie, where younger diners are catered for and seen not heard with colouring books and crayons.  The Balmoral has won an award for its Families R Forte facilities – kids’ passports, mini bathrobes, games and teddy turndown.

To celebrate the first birthday of Brasserie Prince there is a special Seafood Menu available for lunch and dinner from 28th June until 9th August., 2019.  Bar Prince is a classic, classy joint and if you call in on Wednesday and Thursday evening, relax with a drink with live piano music served on the side.

So this summer why not plan visit for a taste of modern French cuisine, champagne and cocktails and feel as if you have jetted off to Paris or Nice.!

Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux

The Balmoral Hotel

1 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ

https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/the-balmoral-hotel/restaurants-and-bars/

E. brasserieprince@roccofortehotels.com   Tel. 0131 557 5000

Art Deco meets contemporary design at Brasserie Prince

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!

I Love Lucy Party GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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/