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

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

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

Slug and Lettuce, Tower Bridge

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

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

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

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

Spanish sun in a glass

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

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

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

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

Tanqueray 10 with grapefruit

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

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

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

As they say Chin Chin!

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

The Good and Wicked Witches of Oz

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

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

Helen Woolf as the shoe loving glamorous Glinda

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

Amy Ross as the strange outsider, Elphaba

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

Steve Pinder as Professor Dillamond

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

The Emerald City

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

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

Amy Ross (Elphaba) and Fiyero (Aarfon Sidwell)

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

Defying Gravity – a magical musical number by the ensemble

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

Edinburgh Playhouse

18 – 22 Greenside Lane, EH1 3AA

Tuesday 8th May to Saturday 9th June, 2018

How to book Tickets:

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

Tel. 0844 871 3014

Groups – 0333 009 5388

FOR A GREAT NIGHT OUT

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

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

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

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

Reservations: opentable.co.uk

Phone: 0131 558 1628

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Vestige 2017-20,|Michael Craik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vestige 2016-12, Michael Craik

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

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

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

Fever (Death Bells), J C Jones

 

Michael Cortland Jones & Michael Craik

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

& Gallery, 17 Dundas Street,  Edinburgh EH3 6QG

andgallery.co.uk

Vestige 2016-13, Michael Craik

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. 

 

Stay at Thatched Cottage for a relaxing break, outdoor adventures and cultural heritage around the New Forest

Brockenhurst, Hampshire has been officially declared ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful Place to Live’ by Leaders Estate Agent due to its “bundles of charm and history.”

Brockenhurst village

This is the largest village in the New Forest, an historic National Park for outdoor sports, natural heritage, wildlife,  woodland and waterways,  as well as churches, castles and miles of coastline to explore. The name Brockenhurst is perhaps derived from the local habitat of badgers, or brocks,  while an alternative source is the Pre-Norman Brocenhyrst, meaning  a ‘broken wooded hill’ – a hill criss-crossed by streams.

If you are planning on hiking and biking your way around the New Forest, the best way to travel here is by train with regular services from London Waterloo, Southampton and Bournemouth. The first impression on arrival is like stepping into the film set of an Agatha Christie period drama,  as you wander through this quaint English village.

A recommended place to stay is “Thatched Cottage” – just a five minute stroll from the station.

Thatched Cottage

As you can imagine, the 400 year old, Grade 2 Listed, “Thatched Cottage” oozes tradition and character with its low ceilings, timber beams and quirky décor and design. There are fourteen bedrooms – beautifully furnished Historic rooms within the Cottage and modern Chalet-style Garden rooms.

Pouchkin – Historic double

I was allocated Pouchkin, an Historic double on the ground floor which is simply delightful, with pretty chintz curtains, flower paintings, a white wrought iron double bed, soft pillows /duvet, and a collection of antiques and curios, such as a vintage stone hot water bottle.

The en suite shower room is compact in size but offers all necessary facilities such as quality towels and toiletries.   Tradition is the theme but expect modern comforts – Tea/ coffee tray with home baked Burley Rails shortbread and bottled water, free WiFi and a Television. On this winter time visit, it was most welcoming to find the radiator was switched on to provide a cosy room, day and night.  It’s all very homely.

An Historic Superior Room, Darjeeling, on the ground floor is more spacious, with dressing table, sofa and a bathtub, for a little extra luxury.

Darjeeling – Superior Historic double room

Garden rooms have the advantage of a communal kitchen to make drinks and snacks. The two bedroom Suite is extremely good value for a family or friends with lounge and dining areas and kitchenette.

Garden room

“Thatched Cottage” is a B&B, Tea Room and Gin Bar. Guests and non-residents can indulge in a traditional Afternoon Tea – a feast of sandwiches, scones and cakes after an energetic day out in the New Forest. This can be an alcoholic version with a cheeky G&T on the side!.

Tea and Breakfast room

Gin Bar

The cute little Gin Bar (doubling as Reception desk) offers almost 80 distinctively different gins from across the globe –  Caithness to Cornwall, Isle of Wight to New Zealand,  from fruity and floral to spicy and Navy Strength.  Try a Gin flight tasting session of three gins such as local craft gins to unusual creations , flavoured with Seaweed or Black Tomato.  Every gin is served with the perfectly matched tonic, ice and garnish – lime, orange, cucumber, basil and rosemary.  A few Cocktails too  – such as Gin Martini –  as well as wine and beer, so relax over an aperitif or two before going out for dinner.

Gin flights to sample a few

While there is no in-house restaurant this is no inconvenience whatsoever as you’ll find a varied choice of  pubs (Foresters Arms, literally next door), bistros and brasseries (Italian, Indian, Thai) nearby.

Hearty breakfasts

After a peaceful and most comfortable sleep,  experience a hearty Breakfast each morning.  The rather small buffet selection comprises cereals, sliced melon (complete with the rind), yogurt and chocolate chip pastries. Perhaps a little more choice – juices, bananas, citrus fruits, prunes, apricots and croissants?

Tea is served in your own individual pot, while Coffee is only per cup but my server kindly invented a Cafetiere in a tea pot with a jug of hot milk. Sorted!

The selection of hot dishes is excellent – Full English (eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, beans) with a Vegetarian option.  The menu offers a choice of Eggs Benedict every which way with meat, fish or spinach.  The Eggs Royale was perfectly cooked to order in the theatre kitchen with two soft poached eggs and succulent smoked salmon on a toasted muffin. A perfect start to the day touring out and about.

What to see and do?

Cyclexperience located ideally at Brockenhurst station will set you going on two wheels and suggest a variety of routes. The Cycling in the New Forest App is free to download to your phone or check out the routes online, such as Balmer Lawn, Ornamental Woods, Beaulieu and a Seaside Ride to Lymington on the Solent.

New Forest Activities offer outdoor adventures for families, couples and groups of all ages and abilities: wildlife watching – red deer, ponies, birds – canoeing on the Beaulieu River nature reserve, sea kayaking,  archery and horse-riding to keep the kids healthy and active.

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is a must for all petrol heads, Top Gear fans and it’s truly fascinating for anyone with an interest in design and heritage.

Colourful vintage vehicles

It is the most representative collection of over 250 vehicles, artefacts and vintage travel posters, relating the history of motoring through every era, with examples of legendary, luxury marques, racing cars and original vehicles from the movies such as Harry Potter’s Ford Anglia which magically flew over the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

The era of stylishly designed cars

The Palace House at Beaulieu, home to the Montagu family since 1538,  is a grand Mansion where you can tour the magnificent drawing and dining rooms furnished with antiques and paintings, Victorian Kitchen and gardens.

Family treasures at Beaulieu

The owners of Thatched Cottage also run Escape Yachting with exhilerating sailing opportunities on the Solent including Champagne lunch & dinner day trips.

Escape Yachting on the Solent

If you want to sail in a sunnier climate, they also organise yachting holidays in Croatia and the Caribbean.

For a great escape, plan a trip to the New Forest to enjoy outdoor adventures, natural scenic beauty and, yes, “bundles of charm and history.”

Thatched Cottage has been the best we stayed in – this is our fourth year visiting the New Forest and will return again. We highly recommend this place”.   All the rooms are packed with character and well equipped. The hotel’s unique feature is its gin bar.  Nothing was too much trouble for the very attentive and friendly staff. Breakfast was a highlight.”   (Guest comments)

Thatched Cottage, 16 Brookley Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7RR

Tel. 01590 622005

www.thatchedcottage.co.uk   reservations@escapeyachting.com

Go New Forest – visitor information:  http://www.gonewforest.com

New Forest – wonderful wildlife

The Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh and Laings “Diamonds & Pearls Afternoon Tea”: a truly sparkling, romantic, luxury experience

The original Caledonian hotel 1903

The magnificent, pink Permian sandstone Caledonian Hotel, Edinburgh opened in December 1903, to offer a taste of opulence from décor to hospitality. The Telegraphic address was simply “Luxury Edinburgh”.  After a lavish re-design, the hotel was launched anew as the world class, 5 star Waldorf Astoria in 2012  reflecting the glamorous art deco ambience of the original Railway Hotel. The old station clock hangs in the magnificent, glass-roofed  Atrium, Peacock Alley,  the place to see and be seen for morning coffee, a light lunch, champagne, cocktails and traditional Afternoon Tea.

Peacock Alley

Diamonds and Pearls, cakes and candies

A dazzling Diamond and Pearl themed Teatime has been created to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  To add authentic sparkle, Laings, the famous jewellery company has been the inspiration for this event as well as VIP diamond-themed weekends with champagne and special gifts.

The partnership between the Waldorf Astoria and Laings is the perfect match, both sharing a sense of traditional heritage oozing the epitome of luxury. Established in 1840 by two brothers James and William, Laings is Scotland’s oldest family jeweller, with a collection of boutiques for memorable birthday and wedding gifts as well as bespoke diamond Engagement rings –  a girl’s best friend!

And so with a Springtime mood of Love in the air, on a cool February day, my partner Ken and I arrived at the Peacock Alley to experience this sparkling Afternoon Tea.  Sitting in huge comfortable armchairs, the ambience is elegantly casual with soft music on the soundtrack.  The table is set with white crockery, silverware and crisp white linen napkins, wrapped in a Laings blue silk ribbon.

Perrier Jouet Champagne flute

We are presented with menus packed with information on the wide choice of teas, finger sandwiches, pastries and cakes.   Our waiter than offers a glass of Perrier Jouet Champagne, served from a neatly designed drinks trolley. The unique PJ Champagne  bottles and the pretty flutes are both hand painted with pink and white flowers, which are simply fabulous.

I select the fragrantly smoky Lapsang Souchong tea while Ken is keen to try the Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria’s own blend, a secret combination of teas, fruit, spices and herbs.  Both are most refreshing and full of flavour.  Then a tall sandwich and cake stand arrives featuring a wonderful array of sweet and savoury treats –  Goat’s cheese mousse & red pepper cannoli, Smoked salmon and avocado,  Asparagus and green pea torilla, Smoked chicken and mushroom on rye toast – all deliciously light canapes for a contemporary-styled Afternoon Tea.

Tradition is preserved with Scones, (rather too large!) with thick clotted cream and strawberry jam.  Another cup of tea is poured as we slowly move on to the colourful cakes. First a tiny white frosted Red Velvet Cupcake:  the Waldorf Astoria, New York City claims it is the birthplace of the iconic Red Velvet cake, a popular menu item from the 1950s, (although research reveals the original flavour was invented in the 1920s by the Adams company).

Waldorf Red Velvet cupcake

Chocoholics will be in heaven when sampling the selection of artistically decorated pastries, from white chocolate cheesecake to a triple chocolate dome.   The Oreo Chocolate Truffle is wrapped in a sugar-coated, (edible), red Ruby ring to reflect Laings gorgeous gems and jewels.

Oreo Chocolate Truffle with Ruby ring

As part of the “Diamonds & Pearls” event, all guests are given a voucher for an exclusive diamond cleaning session at one of the Laings stores.  While there, you can view the range of jewellery and watches covering the most famous, fashionable global brand names from Rolex and TAGheuer to Cartier and Chanel.

Laings fashionable jewellery and time pieces, 1840 – 2018

Over three hours, we nibble little egg sandwiches and taste rose petal macaroons, sipping delicious tea, and an indulgent flute of ice-cold Perrier Jouet champagne.  Gracefully served, Afternoon Tea at the Peacock Alley is the perfect opportunity to meet family and friends (or of course your loved one) for a leisurely and relaxing sociable experience.

Laings bridal jewellery

This joint venture to celebrate Valentine’s Month is an imaginative concept.  The ethos of Laings is based on the fact that everything they do is for a memorable occasion.

Likewise at the Waldorf Astoria, where the fine hospitality revolves around exemplary wining and dining from the cocktail bars and Galvin Brasserie de Luxe to the Pompadour Restaurant. Following the romantic connection, Weddings are also a key speciality!.

“Laings share our passion for creating truly unforgettable moments for our guests” Dale MacPhee, General Manager, Waldorf Astoria

Diamonds and Pearls Afternoon Tea:  9th – 28th February 2018.   12 noon – 5pm.  £45 per person.

(A new Spring menu for Afternoon tea will thereafter be served at the Peacock Alley)

AfternoonTea.Reservations@waldorfastoria.com

A luxury, romantic weekend break – caledonian.reservations@waldorfastoria.com.

For information on accommodation, bars and restaurants, private events: http://www.waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com/

Laings – www.laingsuk.com

72 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 3BX – tel: 0131 225 4513

(also in Glasgow, Southampton and Cardiff).

Laings,  72 George Street, Edinburgh

The Bistro at Brunton Hall, Musselburgh, East Lothian: a warm welcome, wonderful food (and a fine theatre too)

Musselburgh on the seashore

Musselburgh is a charming, historic market town named after the mussel beds along the shore of the Firth of Forth. The Coat of Arms depicts three mussels and three anchors referring to the 12th century fishing port – still a prime spot for landing seafood today.

Musselburgh Racecourse is the oldest in Scotland,  the 9-hole Musselburgh Links (1672)  is the oldest Golf club in the world,  and there’s also the Championship Golf course, both members of the Golf Coast, East Lothian

As child, my family visited North Berwick holidays as well as regular day trips to the beaches at Yellowcraigs, Longniddry and Gullane.  We would never drive through Musselburgh without stopping for ice-cream at “Luca’s” which has a fascinating heritage: Luca Scappaticcio left his home in Cassino, Italy and moved to Scotland in the 1890s, working as a  hotel chef  which inspired him to create his own special ice-cream. In 1908, he and his wife Anastasia opened their first ice cream parlour in Musselburgh. It is probably, 110 years later, the creamiest ice-cream you may ever taste.

Brunton Hall

Another reason to visit Musselburgh is The Brunton Hall, a well established Theatre, staging a year round programme of drama, comedy, music,  dance, children’s shows, Christmas pantomime and films.  There are two well designed venues which canm be transformed into function halls for private and corporate events, weddings, dinners and conferences.

Venue 1 Theatre

The Bistro at Brunton Hall is a very popular place for coffee and cake, soup and sandwiches,  lunch or evening meal. It was founded in 2006  by two friends, Norma Buchan and Zandra Borthwick  as an innovative development from their successful catering business. They manage a large team including Head Chef Ron Park and his kitchen brigade as well as the front of house waiting staff.

The bright and spacious Bistro

Before a marvellous production of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” by the London Classic Theatre Company, Ken and I arrived at 5.45pm to enjoy a pre-theatre supper.  The reasonably priced menu (£11,00/16.95/£19.95 : 1/2 / 3 courses), offers a choice of fish, meat and vegetarian starters and main courses, emphasising fresh, local seasonal produce and creative homely dishes.

First a large bowl of Cauliflower soup with chunky brown bread for Ken, while my Belhaven Smoked Trout on a nest of delicious roasted golden yellow beetroot and salad leaves.

Smoked trout salad

The Wine list is well selected with House Wine (Chilean Sauvignon Blanc & Merlot) priced at £4.00 (175 ml glass) and £15 (bottle).  Mini bottles of wine (18.7cl) is a great idea too, as well as Baby Prosecco for one.  Beers and ciders too.   With our meal, we sipped a crisp, ice cold South African Chenin Blanc.

Time for the next course: Coley Fillet with a herb crust,  drizzled with a seafood Thermidor sauce on a mound of mashed potato, all artistically presented (as shown here), with a cute wee prawn perched on the top.

Coley with crab and prawns

The vegetarian option for me was simply perfect – a tasty nut roast smothered in a red pepper coulis and a baked, soft and fluffy sweet potato.  These were both generous portions of hearty good food.  No dessert for us but there was Rhubarb and Ginger crème brulee or Cheesecake.

The Bistro serves Breakfast, (croissants, rolls, scrambled eggs – 9am – 12 noon),  morning coffee, Lunch –  ranging from Soup & sandwiches, to Haddock and chips, Burgers, Macaroni Cheese etc.,  traditional Afternoon tea, (2pm – 4pm), pre-theatre supper and also early evening meals with an a la carte menu.

Afternoon Tea

On the night we were there,  The Bistro was bustling with theatre goers – the most relaxing way to start an evening out. The friendly attentive team of waiters rushed around ensuring everyone was fed and watered before curtain up.  With a warm, welcoming atmosphere, this is a popular social hub for the community and visitors to town, day and night.

The Bistro girls

So, if you are booking tickets at the Brunton Theatre,  coming to Musselburgh for a round of golf or attending a Race meeting, do call in to The Bistro for a superb choice of seriously good food and bar drinks.  Be sure to book a table in advance!

Happy diners at The Bistro. 

“We are regular visitors to The Brunton Bistro at lunchtime. The soups are the star of the show, full of flavour and wholesome. Freshly made sandwiches as well as scones and cakes. A selection of substantial main meals too. Excellent”.

The Bistro at Brunton Hall, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh,
East Lothian,  EH21 6AA

Tel: 0131 653 5250

Email: bistro@bruntonhall.co.uk

http://www.bistroatbruntonhall.co.uk

Opening hours from 9.00am – 7.30pm, Monday – Saturday; (until 5pm if theatre is closed)

Sundays – closed except on performance days.

Private events welcome.

Gluten free cakes

Tempt your taste buds with a feast of global cuisine at the Edinburgh Restaurant Festival 2018

Returning for the fourth year, the Edinburgh Restaurant Festival 2018 offers locals and visitors a marvellous opportunity to dine around an eclectic range of bars, bistros and brasseries.  Following the colourful Christmas lights and Hogmanay street party, it’s the ideal time to celebrate to brighten up the winter season.  This popular initiative is created by Essential Edinburgh to showcase our first class dining destination and superb Scottish hospitality:

The Festival is a wonderful way to highlight our blossoming restaurant scene and showcase the diversity on offer. In Edinburgh, you really can go on a culinary journey around the world, and the city is bursting with different styles, flavours and menus, all served up to a world class standard.’ Roddy Doyle, Essential Edinburgh

The theme of the 2016 Festival was to entice people to try something new and it’s certainly the motto again with the focus on new places to eat as well as great global cuisine.  To promote the launch of the Festival, a group of chefs and restaurateurs paid homage to the iconic New York ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’ ..

Lunch atop a Skyscraper

…transported to a girder here with a backdrop of the city’s architectural landmarks.

Sky-high dining in Edinburgh (2018)

The Edinburgh Retaurant Festival line up shows Kandice Rosser, eteaket, Andrei Doja, Gusto, Eric Garnier, The Ivy on the Square, Anand Ghotikar, Dishoom, Jamie Robertson, Gaucho, Mateusz Warzocha, 1780, Raymond Sutherland, Badger & Co. Natasha Goldie, Las Iguanas, Fraser Spratt, Jenners and Dawid Rompca, Wahaca.

The Festival runs from 5 – 25 February 2018, with a fabulous programme of food and drink events to tempt your taste buds around a couple of dozen or so cool, contemporary and classy restaurants.  Scottish, British, Indian, Italian, Thai, South American and hot Mexican flavours can be sampled around town from Amarone  – via Browns, Chaophraya, Contini, Element, Hard Rock Cafe, Rosehip, Tigerlily, Taco Mazama – to the Voodoo Rooms.

Eteaket – elegant cups for tea and treats

Each partner restaurant is offering special discounts, Festival menus, speciality cocktails and delectable desserts.  Good food for gourmands is complemented by inventive cocktails, wine, beer, fine teas and tipples along the way.

So, what’s Cooking?

The Moveable Feast is back after sell out success last time.  Embark on a magical mystery tour on foot to enjoy five delicious courses touring around five locations – starting with fizz and canapés, then starter, main course, dessert and a final nightcap, served up around the city centre.  The feast sets off on 6, 13 and 20 February. Advance Booking essential.

Having experienced this brilliant and highly entertaining concept at the ERF 2016,  some Restaurants suggested that it could run year round or certainly through the summer season. (Essential Edinburgh, please take note!)

New for this year is the Secret Dining Experience on 15 February where lucky guests who grabbed a ticket, meet at St. Andrew Square and are then escorted to the undisclosed and surprising dining venue.

An innovative Pop Up “Movies and Shakers” cinema will be on offer at Harvey Nichols Forth Floor combining a Movie and a Meal with a cocktail, followed by a sport themed film: Jerry Maguire (13 February)  and Cool Runnings (27 February ).  And, of course, a bucket of Pop Corn, is supplied.

To ring the changes, join in the Cooking with Beer Dining Experience.  1780 Restaurant on Rose Street is joining forces with The Ferry Brewery on 15 February and with Cross Borders Brewing on 22 February, when you can tuck in to a 3 course meal or selection of tapas, with the food expertly paired with selected beers and craft ales.

The Festival map covers a wonderful selection of eateries around St. Andrew Square, Rose Street, George Street and Princes Street.

Having wined and dined my way around a few of the Restaurants taking part, here is a taster of what to expect from recent reviews:

Element Bar and Bistro

Element: “offers a true sense of tradition in its design and decor: blue panelled walls, tweed armchairs, antique curios and art deco lamps. Brunch (served 10am to 5pm daily), lunch and dinner .. imaginatively created dishes, reinvented pub favourites and cool cocktails  in a casually sophisticated wine bar-gastropub environment.”

Element offers a Scottish themed menu for the Edinburgh Restaurant Festival: £20 for 2 courses, £25 for 3 courses, with an optional whisky flight per course. 

Cadiz:  “Seafood, Cava, Sherry, Wine, Cocktails – the taste of sunny Andalucia comes to Edinburgh.  Oysters, Calamari, Crab Cakes, Scallops, Lemon Sole and Lobster, as well as Scottish ribeye and fillet steaks for the carnivore. For a quick snack, drinkers are welcome to take a high stool at the Bar for Champagne or Cocktails – perfectly matched with a platter oysters.”

Cadiz, George Street

Visit Cadiz for a special Festival menu of superb Spanish food – £16.95-£20.95 for  2/3 courses

Contini:  ” Viktor and Carina are passionate, pedantic and purist about seriously good Italian food and their modern approach is an inspired, artistic vision. The motto is fresh, simple, seasonal, specialising in quality Italian produce. Since 2004, Contini Ristorante has been the D&G, the Ferrari, the Versace of eating and drinking enhanced with fashionable style.  Bellisimo!”

Indulge in a complimentary Bomboloni (home made doughnut flavoured with caramel and limoncello) for dessert when ordering a starter and main course.

The classy Cocktail and Wine Bar at Contini

Dishoom:“From Bombay with Love – the inspiration behind Dishoom were the Iranian cafes in Bombay opened by immigrants in the early 20th century.  Authentic furnishings, chandeliers, mirrors, fans, faded photographs and green leather banquettes, reminiscent of a railway carriage. From breakfast to late night cocktails, the atmosphere is vibrant and buzzing …..perhaps just like the Iranian cafes.”

Lamb Raan bun

Experience the Lamb Raan Bun special .. juicy, slow-cooked pulled Scottish lamb in a soft sourdough bun or book a party table for cocktails in the Permit Room bar.

Badger & Co:  “The curious name is from “Wind in the Willows,” the riverbank tales about Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger, by Kenneth Grahame who was born at this address on 8th March 1859. This elegant Townhouse features a sequence of colourfully designed salons – Bar, cosy Lounge and stylish Dining Room.  Homely,  classic British dishes + cocktails, wines, beer = fictionally inspired feast”.

ERF offer at Badger & Co: 3 courses and a drink for just £22.50

Traditional dishes at Badger & Co.

This is an appetising Festival for Foodies to celebrate the flourishing ‘dining out’ atmosphere around the Capital –  which boasts more restaurants per head of population than any other city in the UK.  So be inspired to try somewhere new and exciting different cuisines during the Festival .. and through the year.

Bon appetit!

For the full Festival programme of diary dates, list of Restaurants, special offers, menus, Dining Experiences and for Reservations visit the official websites:

https://www.edinburghrestaurantfestival.com/

http://www.edinevents.com/edinburgh-restaurant-festival/