Citrus-scented with the tang of a salt-sea breeze, Fidra Gin is a summer day on the beach distilled in a bottle.
The glorious Gin Craze has no sign of slowing down with a fine flourish of Artisan gins across Scotland to capture a sense of the wild landscape. Speciality, small batch distilleries now pepper the Hebridean islands – Barra, Isle of Harris, Colonsay – and all around the coastline, from Seven Crofts, Ullapool over to Rock Rose, Caithness and south to Fidra Gin, East Lothian.
The founders of Fidra Gin are two friends, Emma Bouglet and Jo Brydie who brought together their respective experience in investment banking, corporate hospitality and as business entrepreneurs. Sharing a passion for gin they were motivated by the story of three women who craft Lussa Gin on the island of Jura. At the Scottish Gin Awards 2017, they met Walter Mickelthwait of Inshriach Distillery who offered expert advice and assistance. And with this perfect nspiration, “our gin dream was born!”
After purchasing a 5 litre still called Sadie, the most important aspect was to use locally grown ingredients sourced from sand dunes and hedgerows along the East Lothian seashore. After careful experimentation in Emma’s kitchen to select the best blend of botanicals, Fidra Gin was launched in September 2018.
The name Fidra is taken from a tiny uninhabited islet – a puffin and seabird sanctuary – just offshore from Yellowcraig Beach, near North Berwick. An ideal location as the seashore along here has a colourful spiritual history!
Gullane, Aberlady Sands, Dirleton Links, Canty Bay and south to Eyemouth was a gold coast in the early 19th century, where smugglers raided and wrecked ships for barrels of Dutch Gin and French brandy. Imported food and drink (salt, tea, coffee, chocolate, currants, sugar) was highly taxed and the challenge was to escape the exciseman with a cargo of valuable contraband.
As a child, Robert Louis Stevenson played pirate and smuggling games, hiding in caves and coves along the sandy beach at North Berwick.
He later recalled his summer holidays here an essay: “a genial smell of seaweed, two sandy bays, a file of grey islets .. a wilderness of hiding holes alive with popping rabbits and soaring gulls.” ‘The Lantern Bearers’, RLS, 1888.
Fidra lighthouse was built in 1885 to the designs of his father Thomas and his cousin, David Alan Stevenson – Robert visited the island to observe its construction.
This was during the time when he was writing his famous seafaring adventure story, “Treasure Island” about pirates, buccaneers and buried gold. The map of his fictional Skeleton Island has a similar horseshoe shape to Fidra with its inlets and rocky bays.
Most imaginatively, the vintage illustration of the island on Fidra Gin labels is like an old treasure map too, featuring the Lighthouse and ancient ruins of Castle Tarbert & St. Nicholas Chapel. This evocative Label was designed by John Smart of Collaborate Creative which won the silver medal at the 2019 Harpers Design Awards.
The tall, slender style of the glass bottle also celebrates the shape of the Stevenson lighthouse, with a charming gift tag around the neck to explain the story behind the name of this Coastal Scottish Gin.
Fidra Gin is made in small batches using six key ingredients – juniper, elderflower, lemon thyme and thyme, (these two types of thyme are grown in Jo’s garden and Archerfield Walled Garden) as well as locally foraged sea buckthorn and rosehip. The task of extracting and infusing the selected essential oils, floral, herbal and citrus flavours is a creative, technical process – with perhaps a touch of magical alchemy!.
While currently crafted under the expert guidance of Walter Mickelthwait at Inshriach Distillery, Aviemore, Emma and Jo have secured premises with plans underway to make and bottle Fidra Gin at their own distillery in East Lothian.
Just a year after its launch, in September 2019 Fidra received a Highly Commended medal in the best London Dry Gin category – voted 5th out of 45 finalists – at the Scottish Gin Awards.
So let’s get going to sample, test and taste this award winning Gin.
On the nose the aroma is juniper-rich with a fresh, earthy-pine fragrance; on first sip, the initial mellow sweetness, from the elderflower and rosehip, gives way to a subtle salty tang which is cool, crisp and so refreshing.
Sea Buckthorn is a medicinal plant high in Vitamin C, also known as Seaberries; the fruit has the aroma of pineapple and is now a fashionable ingredient in gourmet dishes as seen recently on Masterchef. As a key ingredient of Fidra Gin these tart berries, foraged along the sand-dunes, bring an aromatic, citrus flavour with a whiff of the salt sea breeze.
For a G&T, Jo and Emma suggest keeping it simple, just ice and a slice of lemon with a premium tonic; a garnish of a sprig of lemon thyme will add colour and further zingy freshness.
An ideal choice would be Fever Tree Mediterranean Rosemary and Lemon Thyme Tonic which has less quinine and lighter in flavour. The taste of Italian sunshine.!
13th May is World Cocktail Day so I have enjoyed trying Fidra Gin in a selection of my favourite classic cocktails. I started with a Gin Martini – not quite as dry as Noel Coward insisted: “a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy.”
Other connoisseurs prefer to swirl a little vermouth around the glass and then discard before adding the pure, ice cold gin. According to the eminent Bar tender, Salvatore Calabrese, the recipe is thus: 80 ml Gin with 1 – 2 drops of Extra Vermouth. A little strong perhaps?
This is the recipe I sampled: 50 ml, Fidra Gin, 15 ml Dry Vermouth into a mixing jug filled with ice. Stir (do not shake) and strain into a cocktail glass and then a twist of lemon peel. An olive or two would also suit Fidra to draw out the soft salty flavour.
Vermouth is a fortified wine infused with herbs, roots, bark and flowers and beautifully enhances the fragrant characteristics of Fidra Gin. This creates a marvellous Martini, the aromatic wine just taking the edge off the sharp strength of neat spirit, with a smooth bitter-sweet after-taste.
Fidra Gin has a carefully crafted, complex botanical balance blending perfumed, floral, citrus and salty notes. This gives the flexibility on how you enjoy it – either as a long, cold drink with ice and tonic, or letting the crystal clear spirit sing, almost solo, in a Martini.
As a regular traveller with Silversea cruises, a speciality cocktail was invented to celebrate the launch of a new ship in 2010, Silver Spirit – and remains a popular favourite tipple on board. Instead of Plymouth Gin in the original recipe, try this for a marriage made in heaven.
Silver Spirit Cocktail
60 ml Fidra Gin
60 ml St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
40 ml New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine
15 ml Lime juice
Add all the ingredients in a Cocktail Shaker filled with ice and thoroughly mix and pour into a glass with a wedge of lime.
St. Germain is the world’s first artisanal French liqueur, made with 1,000 fresh, wild, handpicked elderflower blossoms in every bottle. This delicate sweet flavour is reminiscent of peach, pear, citrus and a hint of honeysuckle. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a distinctively crisp wine with notes of grapefruit, gooseberry and cut grass.
A Silver Spirit cocktail perfectly complements Fidra Gin – simply divine. Alternatively, add a little St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur to a G&T to draw out the floral flavour.
Emma and Jo have certainly been on an exciting adventure around East Lothian, immersing themselves in the natural and literary heritage of Fidra Island.
“ The dens and sheltered hollows redolent of thyme .. the air at the cliff’s edge brisk and clean and pungent of the sea.” Robert Louis Stevenson
His childhood memory of the East Lothian seashore could equally describe the fresh outdoor aroma and taste of Fidra Gin. He would likely serve it neat, on the rocks. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Gin!
“Whenever I smell salt water, I know that I am not far from one of the works of my ancestors,’ wrote Stevenson in 1880. ‘When the lights come out at sundown along the shores of Scotland, I am proud to think they burn more brightly for the genius of my father!’
Fidra is a Scottish coastal gin which artistically embraces the stunning seascape by distilling the essence of local herbs, flowers and salt sea breeze – like a summer day on the beach in a bottle.
For more details and where to buy Fidra Gin – www.fidragin.com
Facebook: Fidra Gin
Stop Press: During the Covid-19 lockdown, local home deliveries in East Lothian have been transported by bicycle and motorbike – a welcome gesture when bars and pubs are currently closed. When possible, a future plan is to use this 1970s Ukrainian Ural Motorbike & Sidecar for your supply of Fidra Gin.
Whether for a romantic retreat, active, outdoor adventures, gourmet getaway, relaxing Spa break or planning your Wedding, Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal is the destination for all manner of travel trips and family celebrations.
Surrounded by 43 acres of woodland, on the lakeside with the dramatic Bluestack Mountains as a stunning backdrop, this is a five star Country House hotel and Spa, voted the World’s Best Luxury Country House, (four times) and in the Top 10 of best places to stay in Ireland. On the site of a 15th century Castle, the original turreted mansion, built in the 1850s, was recently refurbished with a 40 million Euro investment to restore, develop and create this luxury leisure Resort.
There are nearly one hundred guestrooms, from traditional luxury Suites in the mansion with 4 poster beds, clawfoot baths and fine antiques; the Tower Suite on three levels is beautifully furnished, giving fabulous views over the Lough Eske and Estate.
Modern-styled, comfortable Garden and Courtyard Rooms (within the former Stables) are dog friendly for a homely hideaway, and there’s ideal accommodation for families with children..
Dinner in the elegant Cedars Restaurant showcases modern, gourmet Irish cuisine with superb, seasonal produce from land and sea. This north west coastline is famous for its oysters, sample local honey and the chefs go foraging for wild, natural ingredients.
For a more casual meal, a menu of hearty gastropub food is served in the Lobby Lounge.
Father Frank Browne (1880-1960) is renowned for his extraordinary collection of photographs due to an unexpected change of travel plans. Browne, a young Irish Jesuist priest, boarded the Titanic in Southampton on 10 April 1912, settling into his first class cabin at the start of the maiden voyage to New York.
But within a day or so, he received a telegram from his superiors with the message, “get off that ship” and was obliged to disembark at Cobh, Ireland. Following the tragic sinking of the Titanic, his unique black and white images taken on board were published on front pages of newspapers around the world and preserved today as a valuable archive. An avid traveller and prolific photographer all his life, his visionary eye through the lens is compared with Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Doisneau.
Today, a selection of his vintage images taken on board The Titanic are displayed in the Father Browne Bar. Relax here with a dram or two and raise a glass in tribute to a remarkable man who, having obeyed orders, unwittingly saved his life.
The smart, sophisticated spot for cocktails is the Gallery Bar, within what was the former Ballroom. The drinks menu is extensive with a fine list of Irish Whiskey, Bourbon, beers, wines, champagne and all favourite tipples.
In the former conservatory is the CARA Organic Beauty Spa, with a thermal suite with indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, infinity pool, sauna, jacuzzi and eight treatment rooms. Experience indulgent, therapeutic pampering with soothing beauty brands, espa and Anne Semonin for facials and massages.
Lough Eske Castle is a prime destination for bespoke weddings, perfectly tailored for each couple. International visitors, especially from North America, have enjoyed planning memorable three or four day events. Whether a grand occasion for 280 guests in the glamorous ballroom or an intimate family party, the wedding planners will create your special celebration.
But let’s wind back .. first comes the Engagement and what could more romantic than a Helicopter trip and a picnic in this glorious countryside as part of a relaxing stay with fine wining and dining.
And of course (Irish) Oysters and champagne is the classic aphrodisiac. 14th February is Valentine’s Day and as 2020 is a Leap Year – ladies, you are free this year to pop the question.!
What to see and do nearby? Donegal is on the West Atlantic Way, the longest coastal route in the world. Visit the tallest sea cliffs in Europe at Sliabh Liag and explore Glenveagh Castle set within a National Park, nicknamed the “Coolest Places on the Planet”.
Outdoor sports galore: hiking, biking horseback riding, hill walking, fishing on the lake and golf. Donegal Town is just ten minutes drive away, a place to browse around and shop for Artisan arts and crafts – especially Donegal tweed – to take home a slice of Irish cultural heritage.
‘The Journey not the arrival matters,’ said T. S. Eliot. The best way to travel to Lough Eske Castle is to fly into Donegal Airport, the second most scenic in the world with stunning panoramic views along the coast.
This is the start of your cultural, culinary and romantic adventure and experience a true taste of Irish hospitality. Cead Mile Failte – 1000 welcomes – as they say.
Perhaps plan a tour around Ireland, visiting Belfast and Dublin or explore the West Atlantic Way from Country Cork to County Donegal.
Find out more and book your visit to Lough Eske Castle here:
Reviews by happy guests:
“Lough Eske was our third stop on our four castle tour of Ireland, a trip my husband and I took for our honeymoon. Donegal Seafood Chowder, Guinness Stew, comforting, home food experience. Overall, Lough Eske was exceptional.”
“Staff and Facilities 5*. Spa, Sauna and Jacuzzi, amazing!”
“We spent Christmas at Castle Eske in one of the garden suites with our two little dogs Ruby and Bella – our third visit to the Castle. All I can say is that we had the most wonderful time”.
In a wide bay on Loch Broom, the charming, white washed village of Ullapool in Wester Ross, was established in 1788 by the British Fishing Society with a settlement of just seven houses. It soon developed as a thriving herring port and in the 1970s, became the base for a fleet of Russian “Klondykers”, factory ships to process and transport tons of mackerel back home.
Those original seven crofts and the wild scenic beauty around Ullapool were the inspiration behind the name of a new Scottish Gin created, curated and produced by the Highland Liquor Company. Their logo brilliantly captures, in just a quick caricature, the waves of the loch, the town and rugged hills all around.
This gin has been five years in the planning, development, testing and tasting by the owners Helen Chalmers and Robert Hicks and their spirited team. It was a challenging period of experimentation, trial and error with no less than 96 separate combinations before they selected their final unique recipe for Seven Crofts Dry Gin.
Seven Crofts is composed, not surprisingly,of a seven key botanicals – juniper, pink peppercorns, angelica root, coriander seeds, cubeb berries, cardamom, fresh lemon peel.
A few usual suspects in the ingredients, but two distinctively different spices here. Cubeb berries are from Indonesia and so often called Java Pepper, tasting like allspice with a trace of nutmeg. In gin, cubeb gives an aromatic pepperiness with pine and floral notes.
Cardamom is native to Southeast Asia and Guatemala, one of the most expensive spices, along with vanilla and saffron, and when used as a botanical in gin, it adds a grassy, grapefruit aroma.
This handcrafted small batch Gin is produced in twin copper stills named Little Ella and Little Ruthie, where Ben Thomson in charge of the fine art of Distillation. The Botanicals and grain spirit are heated over open flames and condensed using pure Highland water to release the full fragrance, flavour and character. Then its’s time to wait patiently, as the gin is allowed to mature slowly before bottling.
The bottle and label design by D8 in Glasgow was inspired by old traditional Genever bottles. The glass reflects the watery shimmer and soft pine green of the loch and landscape; its tall, slender shape is attractive to look at, comfortable to hold. This elegant and timeless style has been picked for the Top 10 Spirits Artwork and Bottle Design in the World.
I then added a few cubes of ice, a good splash Fevertree Tonic, a slice of orange and zest of the peel. The rich blend of botanicals is certainly complex presenting a spicy, smoky, almost salty, taste, cut through with the sweeter citrus tones of lemon peel and orange garnish.
What the experts say:
Nose: Rich, round aromatic notes of juniper, pepper with a noticeable hint of ripe plum
Taste: Opulent notes of perfumed forest fruit and a suggestion of woodland. The juniper is assertive with spicy hints of coriander and pink pepper and a long, warm finish.
Finish: A fresh, clean G&T with balanced and elegant yet distinctive flavours of juniper, pepper, orchard fruit and a poised, spicy finish.
The Perfect Serve: Serve in a straight glass with lots of ice, a good quality tonic (1 part gin to 2 parts tonic) and garnished with a slice of orange.
Seven Crofts Gin, with its aromatic fragrance, is also perfect in a range of classic Cocktails. Who can resist a Martini? Simple but so sophisticated.
8 cl Seven Crofts Gin (ice cold)
A tbsp Extra Dry Vermouth
Stir together in a chilled Cocktail glass – the classic method.
(or alternatively add ingredients with ice in a Shaker, then strain into the glass).
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel or an olive as preferred.
It is believed that Her Majesty the Queen is partial to a Zaza, a variation of a Martini with Dubononet, the French fortified wine with herbs, spices and quinine. Its spicy, fruity taste would blend well with Seven Crofts.
Named after a 1915 silent movie based on a French play about a cabaret singer, this is one of my favourite apertifs, which hits the spot with the kick of gin given a smooth, mellow fruity flavour.
6cl Seven Crofts Gin
6cl Dubonnet Red
Dash of Aromatic bitters (optional)
Shake the ingredients together with ice and strain into a Martini glass and add a twist of orange.
The Negroni is the ultimate Italian cocktail invented by Count Camillo Negroni at the Caffè Casoni bar in Florence in 1919. Seductively crimson red, bittersweet and perfectly refreshing. Fashionable for 100 years.
2.5 or 3 cl Seven Crofts Gin
2.5 or 3 cl Campari
2.5 or 3 cl Sweet Vermouth
Stir or shake up three ingredients with very cold ice until blended. Strain into a tumbler over a large ice block and garnish with a twist or slice of lemon or orange.
Although only launched in 2019, Seven Crofts has already been selected by Buyers and Bars across the world including Nauticus, Edinburgh, The Savoy, London, Michael Caine’s Lympstone Manor and sipped from New York City to Singapore
Ullapool is located on the ever popular North Coast 500 – Scotland’s equivalent to Route 66 – and offers the great escape to explore the area with its majestic scenery, cosy pubs, freshest seafood, from crate to plate, Music Festivals, fishing heritage, outdoor adventures, hill climbing, wildlife, boat and ferry trips.
What could be a better destination to experience the distinctive taste of Seven Crofts Gin, its birthplace: the essence of Highland loch and landscape encapsulated -artistically distilled – in a green bottle. Cheers!
Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019: Market stalls, Fairground fun & Festive foodie feasts at this cool Winter Festival
“Life is not measured
by the number of breaths we take,
but by the places and moments
that take our breath away”
So begins Patricia Schultz’ travel book, “1,000 Places to See Before you Die.” Not surprisingly Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of those 1,000 breathtaking places across our planet.
Hogmanay, (New Year’s Eve) in Scotland’s Capital is part of the Winter Festivals season which kicks off in mid November, a perfect time to visit for Festive entertainment, a foodie feast, music and culture for all ages.
As a lifelong Edinburgh resident, I’ve experienced the classic, cool Christmas and New Year celebrations over the decades, and often think I should become jaded by the annual arrival of Christmas Trees, glittering fairy lights and the Funfair taking over Princes Street Gardens.
But no. Whenever the Big Wheel starts turning beside the Scott Monument, with the scent of mulled wine wafting in the air, I am thrown into the magical mood as Edinburgh begins to sparkle.
Created and staged by Underbelly, the Live Entertainment Company, since 2013, Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was launched on Light Up Night with a family friendly gathering on the Royal Mile, with a stunning flying visit by Father Christmas on his sleigh.
The lights on the Christmas Tree (a gift from the people of Hordaland, Norway) at the top of the Mound were switched on and the countdown to 25th December and New Year celebrations had begun.
Edinburgh’s Christmas was open every day, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 10pm, from 16th November 2019 until Saturday 4th January, 2020.
In East Princes Street Gardens presents a wonderful Carnival of Fairground rides such as the Star Flyer, whizzing up to a rather scary 60 metres or take an exciting whirl on the Forth 1 Big Wheel. These sky-high Rides are located on either side of the iconic Scott Monument – so you can take an energetic trek up the spiral staircase of 288 steps inside the tower to a height of 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 metres) for panoramic views over the city.
The wee ones will have fun on the Carousel and Santa Train, then play hide and seek in the maze of Christmas Trees: 25p from the price of each ticket for the Santa Land Maze supports the Greenspace Trust Tree Time, a local initiative, to fund the planting of new trees in Edinburgh.
The pedestrianised Castle Street was home to Santa’s Grotto, while parents can slide down the adult-sized Helter Skelter before time for hot chocolate or mulled wine.
A colourful programme too of free events such as the Scottish Norwegian Advent Concert at St. Giles Cathedral, the Nativity concert on the Mound and Carol singers around town. It’s the time of year for Good Deeds, with free tickets and donations provided to local charities, community & youth groups, schools and Food Banks through fund-raising Carol concerts and events over Edinburgh’s Christmas.
As many visitors have posted on social media, a disappointing omission at Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was the Ice Rink which has always enticed a happy crowd, day and night.
Skating is the essence of a traditional, romantic Christmas. Ice Rinks are a major seasonal attraction across the UK – London, Swansea, York et al – and, of course, at Rockefeller Centre, New York City, as witnessed in many Festive, feel-good movies. Let’s hope we can don our skating boots again to add the ICE-ing on the cake at Christmas 2020.
Browse around the traditional Market of wooden chalets – bigger than ever in 2019 with 163 stalls – for gifts, jewellery, craftwork, chocolates, French cheese, gloves, socks, hats, Loch Ness Leather, a family Highland business showcasing handmade products. Authentic Monster leather!?
A fine taste of British and European food and drink: Gluhwein, Greek Grill House, Salmon roasting over an open fire, Yorkshire Puddings, Rekorderlig Cider Lodge serving hot & cold cider cocktails and Swedish food.
After a good walk around, you could head over to The Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar to warm up and sample a dram or two, whisky cocktails and hot toddies.
Christmas entertainment too around the city theatres: The smash hit musical, The Lion King at the Playhouse (running until 29th March), the fabulous 5 star Pantomime, Goldlocks and the Three Bears at the King’s Theatre (until 19th January), The Christmas Carol at the Lyceum and Scottish Ballet staged the premiere of The Snow Queen at the Festival Theatre.
In previous years, the Spiegeltent popped up for the Festival season in St. Andrew’s Square or Festival Square: Storytellling and shows for Kids, and Limbo, a spectacular dare-devil Acrobatic extravaganza – such a special ambience in the vintage Spiegeltent, a Big Top Circus had come to town. (Please bring it back!).
Visit Edinburgh during the Festive season for a truly enchanting time in the crisp, cool winter air – and it might snow! Inspirational shopping for unique gifts, cashmere and tweed, cosy cafes, quaint old pubs, hearty food, gourmet restaurants, whisky galore, ghost tours, Harry Potter, art galleries, museums, City of Literature walks, explore the Royal Mile from Castle to Palace, climb Arthur’s Seat – as well as the Festival fun for all ages.
The extended Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens on various levels, with improved accessibility for all, has been a sparkling success.
A total of 2,631,154 people passed through Edinburgh’s Christmas, 4.85% more than 2018. Just under 650,000 tickets were sold for the special Festive events, attractions and Fairground rides. There was an impressive 23.9% rise in the number of Edinburgh Residents with an EH postcode, taking the advantage of a 20% discount.
And this is what visitors thought about their experience of Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019:
It’s simply the best Christmas Market and even tops Bryant Park in NYC ! Please bring back the ice rink, that’s a huge attraction and not quite the same without it
Couldn’t believe how big it was. Plenty of stalls to browse and Carnival rides for the kids. Loads to eat and drink. Definitely worth a visit
A fantastic place to visit and in my view it’s the best Christmas Market in the UK.
Why not plan to visit Edinburgh’s magical Winter Festivals in 2020.?
Michael’s Grill and Seafood Place, Eyre Place Edinburgh: classic Scottish cuisine with creative, contemporary style.
Michael Neave is a talented young, entrepreneurial chef, who has recently opened his third restaurant in Edinburgh. In 2012, aged just 22, he opened the Michael Neave Kitchen and Whisky Bar off the Royal Mile, just a short stroll down Old Fishmarket Close. What a perfect address for a chef who specialises in the finest Scottish steak, game and seafood.
His culinary motto: “The best of Scotland’s Larder … will naturally feature heavily in my cooking. I have met the growers, the farmers, the fishermen and appreciate I am only a part of this endeavour to get the food to your plate.”
The next step was to launch “Michael’s Grill and Seafood Place” down the Royal Mile on Jeffrey Street, specialising in locally sourced, prime beef and seafood. The perfect location for city residents as well as visitors staying in the heart of the Old Town.
Absolutely gorgeous. We had the shellfish platter, cooked perfectly.
I had huge crab claws and the steak was also delicious. Overall very welcoming – will definitely return.
A hidden gem. Cannot recommend enough.
With such a success it was time to create the same dining experience in the New Town with a branch of “Michael’s Grill and Seafood Place” on Eyre Place, an ideal neighbourhood district between the urban villages of Stockbridge and Broughton.
For those who know the area, the venue was formerly Duck’s (now in Aberlady), then the French bistro, L’Artichaut, followed by the The Roamin’ Nose, and then over the past year or so, a Spanish Restaurant, Casa Mara.
Having opened at the end of October, 2019, Michael’s is well and truly open for business and Ken and I booked a table for dinner to experience his renowned style of Scottish cuisine. It is a cosy, intimate space with large orange and cream leather booths as well as a flexible layout of tables around two adjoining rooms.
Attractively designed to showcase the original thick stone wall on one side, wood flooring, soft colourful lights and a small gallery of abstract artwork. A featured artist is Tamsin Ghislaine Cunningham whose cool, crafted drawings explore the natural world of land and sea, waves, rocks, coastline through dreamlike abstract images.
As we study the enticing menu – like that of a typical French Bistro – we order a couple of aperitifs to get the taste buds going. Ken selects a favourite, a spicy, citrusy Negroni, while I choose an ice cold Gin Martini, straight up with a twist. £5 cocktails too – such as the popular pink Cosmopolitan and Mojito. Beers, cider, Scotch, Irish & American whiskies and various spirits too.
Now what to eat? The speciality here, of course, is The Grill, with fillet, prime rib and rump steaks, as well as seafood galore: Hot Shellfish Platter, Lobster Thermidor and classic Fish & Chips; Chicken, Burgers and inventive vegetarian dishes, such as Beetroot and Goats Cheese Gnocchi with wilted kale.
For a lover of shellfish, I am in my element: a starter of six oysters from Loch Fyne, with a choice of dressings, Shallot, chilli and coriander, Scottish Vodka Bloody Mary, Lemon and fennel.
A huge black box arrives with a bed of ice on which are placed the six shells and dishes of dips. Loch Fyne oysters are indeed “fine,” due to their provenance, quality and sustainability, with 2.5 million exported around the world each year to luxury hotels, 1st class airline cabins and Michelin starred restaurants .. and served at Michael’s.
Drizzled with each distinctive dressing, the salty molluscs are enhanced with a fresh spicy flavour, and the succulent texture is divine.
Ken selected the vegetarian Spiced Bean Haggis bon bons –the alternative to the Crisp Haggis Croquettes also on the menu. Well presented without being overly fussy, they have a good hint of spice, accompanied by a crunchy salad and artistic blobs of curry mayo around the plate.
After our cocktails, we order a bottle of French Sauvignon Roussane, which has a real similarity to a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with its crisp gooseberry notes. The wine list offers several House Wines served by the glass and bottle, with additional advice on which white and red wines would pair well with, say, poultry, steak, oysters, smoked fish and with a sweet dessert.
Mussels are offered in either a half kilo or kilo pot. Even for a main course, the half kilo was adequate for my appetite, but hungry folk might tackle the full kilo portion. A choice of broths too – White wine, shallot and garlic, Curried coconut, sallion and cilantro or Spanish chorizo and tomato. The service is professionally done, with a small finger bowl (warm water thankfully), and the lid of the pot is placed at the side for the empty shells.
I create my own Moules-Frites (the national dish of Belgium where the dish was invented), with a side of Skin-on Hand cut chips. These are either cooked in beef dripping (more appropriate for the steak) or sizzled in vegetable oil. The fat juicy Moules were softly textured (not at all chewy), ‘swimming’ in the creamy, garlicky sauce, all quickly devoured along with excellent chunky frites.
On the other side of the table, Ken was enjoying Shetland Salmon which was a large steak rather than a thin fillet. Cooked to his specification, (almost rare), it was served on a generous mound of new potatoes as well as a large serving of samphire, completed with a drizzle of chive hollandaise sauce.
This was a gourmet feast of simply but imaginatively composed and artistically presented dishes – classic Scottish produce jazzed up with contemporary style. No space for dessert – but for those with a sweet tooth, indulge in Sticky Toffee and Banana Pudding, or Bitter Dark Chocolate and Whisky Pot.
We are looked after all evening with professional, personal, friendly care by Naidene, who is most knowledgeable about the dishes, ingredients and dietary advice. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming with a variety of easy listening music on the soundtrack.
The menu at Michael’s offers a foodie journey around Scotland and excellent to see the Provenance given on the menu – Arbroath smokies, East Lothian crab, Eyemouth Lobster Loch Fyne oysters, Arran mustard mash, mussels and salmon from Shetland. John Gilmour of East Lothian supplies the Scottish beef, Welch Fishmongers of Newhaven, Belhaven Smokehouse for fresh and smoked seafood.
Visit Michael’s for lunch or dinner with special offers. Sumptuous Sundays –a traditional Roast lunch, 3 courses and bottle of house wine for 2 @ just £45. Bring the family and friends and kids under 7 eat free.
Wednesday Steak Night and Thursday Lobster Night. The new Christmas menu (from 28 November), is amazing value – 2 or 3 courses under £20/25. The choice of dishes is mouth-wateringly tempting.!
Take a look at the website for menus with excellent special offers and book your table soon.
Michael’s Grill and Seafood Place
14 Eyre Place. Edinburgh, EH3 5EP
Tel: 0131 466 4576
Tues – Thurs: 12pm – 2.30pm & 5pm – 9.00pm
Fri – Sun: 12pm – 3.00pm & 5pm – 9.30pm
Chef Stuart Ralston is the renowned chef-patron behind the mega successful Edinburgh restaurant, Aizle, which he runs with his wife Krystal. It is listed in the Michelin guide 2020: “Well balanced, skilfully prepared dishes are a surprise as the set menu is a long list of ingredients” to create a six course dining experience.
Aizle has recently been named the Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award winner as the top fine dining restautant in Edinburgh and voted 5th best across the UK.
Five years after opening Aizle, he has recently launched an all day, casual dining concept, NOTO on Thistle Street, featuring an imaginative menu of sharing plates with a cuisine inspired by his time working in New York.
It is named in tribute to the late Bob Noto, a well known eccentric and man about town in New York City who became an inspirational friend when Ralston worked in NYC for four years, under several chefs including Daniel Humm & Gordon Ramsay and at the private members’ club, The Core.
The décor across two dining areas is fresh and minimalist, with decorative twigs and branches on the white walls, green plants, dark wood floor and tables, vases of feathery grasses – all bringing a sense of nature and the outdoors, inside.
There is an adjoining cocktail and wine bar where you can also sit on a stool to enjoy a wide array of drinks and order food.
Ken and I visited for a late lunch and instead of conventional starters and mains, the menu offers a diverse selection of small and larger plates ideally to share. We were advised to select two to three dishes each. The menu (on lovely textured parchment paper), is attractively designed with the ingredients of each dish set out in lower case – all very appetising.
We select three of the smaller plates, “north sea crab, warm butter, sourdough,” “berkswell cheese croquette (3pc)” and “jerusalem artichokes, truffled cheddar, walnut.” And one large dish, “squid, clams, XO, koshihikari rice.”
Like most restaurants offering Tapas and sharing plates, they are prepared and served in any order which adds to the surprise element of the foodie experience.
First, cocktails for an aperitif: a spicy Bloody Mary, (Blackwoods vodka, pickled celery) which hits the spot.
And for Ken a perfectly shaken Negroni which was invented by Count Negroni in Florence in 1919 – so celebrating its 100th birthday this year.
We settle in for a relaxing lunch with a quirky, varied music soundtrack playing in the background.
A large crab shell arrived with a creamy, buttery soup with thick chunks of crab, best eaten with chunks of bread rather than a spoon. The shell-bowl was quickly scraped clean.
The award winning Berkswell Cheese is made by the Fletcher family at Ram Hall farm, near Berkswell, West Midlands. Unpasturised ewes’ milk, from their own East Friesland flock, is used with a traditional artisan method made in small vats, and left to mature for at least 6 months. The taste is sweet and nutty similar in style to a Pecorino.
The small Berkswell croquettes were smothered in a fluffy white cloud of grated cheese, like a sprinkling of snow.
Soft, rich texture, tangy, smoky flavour = simply delicious. (Just not sure why there are three croquettes to share between two people, meaning we have to cut one in half.)
Then the Jerusalem artichokes oozing the gorgeous aroma of truffle even before tasting. Totally different from globe artichokes, these root vegetables are from the sunflower family and look like a piece of ginger. Imaginatively cooked, they were like mini baked potatoes stuffed with the pungent-scented cheddar cheese and sprinkled with walnut shavings. (also three to share).
Our three courses are slowly consumed with the topic of conversation firmly about the distinctive food and combination of ingredients. Cocktails finished, we now select a glass of Sicilian Cielo Bianco to sip with the final large dish.
The “squid, clams, XO and koshihiari rice” arrived in a large bowl with flakes of Japanese tuna (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna) – Katsuobushi – on the top. The warmth of the dish makes these wave and dance which was magical to watch.
The spicy condiment XO was created in Hong Kong, made with chilli, garlic, dried shrimp and cured ham, but vegetarians are offered a mushroom alternative. This gives this seafood risotto a real kick!. Koshihikari is a premium, small grain rice, soft, slightly sweet and is used for sushi. This Asian seafood risotto was simply divine, each flavour, texture and taste blending together in harmony.
The dinner menu offers a slightly larger selection of dishes with a real Fine Dining touch: “oyster, cucumber mignonette, dill,” “partridge sausage roll, apple & sage,” “ beef tartare” and “confit duck leg, Scottish mushrooms, fried egg”.
The kitchen has four full-time chefs, managed by Chef-patron Stuart Ralston and his Executive Sous chef Ash Fahy – (who both work on different days at NOTO and Aizle).
NOTO is open all day so ideal for lunch, brunch, afternoon/ evening meal or a leisurely dinner. With stools along the bar, you can eat here too or just a cocktail or drinks anytime; a tempting idea is to pop in for a glass of Cremant or Champagne and share a platter of oysters.
Expect a creative culinary feast, presented with such artistic style and relaxed sophistication in true NYC manner.
47a Thistle St, Edinburgh EH2 1DY
Open daily, 12 noon to 9pm (Fri-Sat till 10pm)
Bar open till late.
T. 0131 241 8518
The announcement of the Shortlists for the Scottish Portrait Awards for both Fine Art and the Richard Coward Photography Awards took place two weeks ago, (see previous article, The Scottish Portrait Awards, Every Face Tells a Story).
After careful deliberation by the Judges, there was a most inspiring reception at the Scottish Arts Club on 13th November to announce all the winners.
Michael Youds works at the Scottish National Galleries in Edinburgh, assisting visitors to experience the world class collection of Scottish and International art. On his days off, Michael is an artist himself, mostly portraits and still life, which has now paid off handsomely. His Fine Art portrait, I was Blue, He was Red was selected for the overall winner receiving the £5,000 Scottish Portrait Award.
The portrait features Michael and his twin brother David inspired by a photograph taken as babies, when their parents dressed them in red or blue to tell them apart. It is also a charming homage to David Hockney who is renowned for his large scale double portraits.
In “I was Blue, he was Red”, they wear the correct colour of T shirts with David browsing through a book of Hockney paintings and Michael holds the childhood photograph which was the inspirational starting point for this nostalgic double portrait.
Saul Robertson’s portrait of his two charming daughters, Us into Others, Others into Us, came runner up with a prize of £1,000 – which he describes as “an honest representation .. as a way of expressing my love for them”.
Li Huang came in third place (£500) for his portrait of his mother, Kinship, depicting a proud but emotional expression as she recollects memories his late father.
Mark Roscoe was given a Commendation for his Self Portrait 2019, which is certainly an uncanny likeness in his striped Breton T shirt with a nod to Picasso. His 7 year old daughter and his five year old son take a creative interest in his work as astute critics.!
There were also awards for Young Fine Artist of the year, (16 – 25 years old), presented to Robin Page for her portrait Land of White Mist, receiving a cheque for £500. The sitter is her partner, lying in bed to relax and escape from his tiring work as a carer.
Grace Payne-Kumar won a Commendation for her Portrait of Niccolo, who is a life model in Florence, composed in the style of a traditional Old Master.
The Scottish Portrait Awards also present the Richard Coward Photography Awards, in memory of the extraordinary life and work of the late photographer, renowned for iconic, black and white fashion shots and also for prints, abstract painting, etching and film-making.
A black and white portrait of Govanhill resident Alan Tanner by Simon Murphy was selected to receive the £3,000 Richard Coward Scottish Portrait Award in Photography.
Simon began photographing Govanhill when he lived there in the early 2000s and met Alan Tanner in Milk, a social café in Govanhill that supports refugee and migrant women. Tanner told stories of his time in London in the 60’s and 70’s, when he lived near Jimi Hendrix, and designed album covers for Hawkwind and Procol Harem.
For the photograph, “Alan raised a cigarette to his mouth – I asked him to look directly into the lens and I clicked the shutter. .. a gritty realist style…to reflect the harsh experiences that face so many Govanhill residents.’
The 2nd Prize of £500 was awarded to Jo Tennant for her atmospheric image The Eve of Women’s Day, an exhilarating snapshot of Jenny snapped on a winter’s day, the eve of International Women’s Day as she braves the elements and ice cold sea with a lovely grinning smile. Jo was also in the water but wearing a wet suit not a swimming costume and comments that “This portrait of Jenny in the sea speaks of daring, joy, belonging.”
The 3rd Prize of £100 went to Ruby Rose O’Neill for her silhouette mise-en-abyme image of the artist Derrick Guild, a reflection through glass, which links through to her work as a filmmaker.
A Commendation prize was also presented to John Post for his moody, shadowy photograph of Lou Moon, a drag artist, snapped off stage in a dressing room, painting her lips as part of her identity and character transformation.
The SPA Young Photographer Award is presented to artists aged 16 – 25. Brenna Collie (now aged 17), is the winner this year for her self-portrait, Trapped, receiving a prize of £500. When she was just 14, she suffered a stroke and the image portrays the doctors shining torches in her eyes, when she felt trapped in her own body and mind ..”but it is hopeful as it captures the start of my recovery.’
A Commendation for the Young Photographer was awarded to Mark Shields for his portrait Late News Final illustrating one of the last remaining news vendors still working in central Glasgow, as the newspaper industry slowly moves from print to the internet.
The SPA exhibition of sixty portraits across Fine Art and Photography –featuring the twelve shortlisted works with all the winners now revealed – is now on show:
Scottish Arts Club, 24 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BW.
Dates: 2-30 November 2019, Monday to Saturday, 2 – 5pm.
SPA on tour: Glasgow Art Club from 16 January to 15 February 2020 and the Kirkcudbright Galleries from 14 March to 24 May 2020.
The SPA will welcome entries for next year’s competition from 2nd April until 30th June 2020.
Credit: Photographs of the winning artists beside the potraits by George McBean
Roma Mediterranean Restaurant, Glasgow: Pizza and a glass of Pinot Grigio – the perfect pre-theatre treat
The idea of a Mediterranean cuisine originates with Elizabeth David’s A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950), who defines the region as “those blessed lands of sun and sea and olive trees” – a healthy diet rich in olive oil, fruit, vegetables, salads and seafood. Italian food is arguably the most popular cuisine enjoyed worldwide, characterised by its simplicity, fresh, quality, seasonal ingredients in such dishes as risotto, pizza and pasta.
On a visit to Glasgow recently to see Scottish Ballet at the Theatre Royal, I booked a table for an early supper at Roma Mediterranean Restaurant on Bath Street, a five minute stroll from Queen Street station and afterwards, just a short walk around the corner to the theatre.
Roma offers an enticing, set price, pre theatre menu, ideal before going to a matinee or an evening performance.
The well designed restaurant is so attractive, creating an authentic Italian ambience decorated in the national colours of red, green and white, glamorous lights and “ancient Rome” artefacts. Caricature models of a waiter and a chef placed at the entrance offer a warm welcome.
Comfortable seating from the row of tables for two at the window, to cosy booths and spacious banquettes around the side walls, ideal for drinks, lunch or dinner party with family and friends.
Settled into my booth like a vintage railway carriage, time to study the menu over a chilled glass of Prosecco. This is served as a mini bottle (200ml), Vino Spumante, the perfect aperitivo!
The cool Cocktail list features a Cosmo, the favourite of the “Sex and the City” girls, Vesper Martini, invented by Ian Fleming for James Bond – (gin, vodka, kina lillet, lemon peel) and house Roma Special– (vodka, peach schnapps, Amaretto, orange) and many more tempting tipples.
A wide choice of starters – Minestrone soup, Mussels in Beer, Crostini Caprino (garlic bread with peppers and goats cheese), and Aletti de Polo (chargrilled chicken wings)
I selected Gamberoni Fritti. These fat, juicy prawns covered in a thin crisp batter, just lightly sauted, were simply delicious, served with a red, green shredded cabbage salad. Unlike the ubiquitous coleslaw in mayo, the crispy cabbage was just drizzled with a herby vinaigrette.
By 5.30pm Roma was getting busy with other early diners, couples and friends meeting after work or shopping before going to the cinema or theatre. A buzzing atmosphere, as the music switched gradually from popular Italian tunes and romantic American songbook to orchestral versions of pop ballads. A well selected soundtrack which is more upbeat later on in the evening and at weekends.
On the Pre -Theatre menu, main courses include classic Lasagne al Forno, Pollo al Pepe, Risotto Funghi, Spaghetti Aglio Olio (Shrimp with garlic), Branzino com Gamberi, ( Seabass in a butter sauce), and carnivores will no doubt select the 9 oz Ribeye Steak with salad and chips. (just a small extra charge to set price).
Amo La Pizza! So what to choose as my topping on Pizza Margherita.? Salami, ham, spicy chicken, onions, courgette, aubergine, peppers, cheese. The Pizzaiolo (the Pizza chef) is extremely proud of his home-made, hand-baked pizzas, preparing the small round balls of dough, 24 hours in advance which are then chilled. Gluten-free dough is also available at Roma. Pizzas are made to order, rolling out the dough in a sprinkle of flour on a cold marble table top in the kitchen. Tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella plus your selection of toppings, before it is stone baked in the oven, at a temperature of 320 degrees Celsius.
For my Pizza Margherita, with peppers, courgette and aubergine, I add a special request that it has a soft base with no hard crunchy crust – into the hot oven and out again.!
As this is being hand crafted by the Pizzaiola, I sip a glass of Sicilian Pinot Grigio – a light, dry white wine with a citrusy tang. The wine list is very well priced, £4 to £5 or so a glass, and choice of bottles to share under £20. Many wines from Italy, of course, as well as South America, Spain and South Africa.
My pizza is out of the oven, perfectly baked to my preference – creamy melted mozzarella, with a scattering of healthy vegetables – I love the inventive touch of spicy paprika on the tomatoes. Already sliced for me, I was able to pick up and fold over a delicious soft, cheesey wedge and eat with my fingers.!
Desserts too for those with a sweet tooth – Tiramisu, Sticky toffee Pudding and Ice cream with perhaps a cappuccino or espresso to finish off a fine meal.
The pre-theatre menu (or indeed post-theatre menu after a matinee), is excellent value at 2 courses for £12.95 and 3 courses for £14.95, available seven days a week, from 12 pm to 7.30pm. You can expect a team of smiling, helpful staff, stylish setting, cool music, lively ambience, freshly made food and wide choice of drinks.
The Restaurant is open every day from 12pm to 12 midnight which is so convenient and flexible to call in for lunch, pre theatre meal, and a leisurely dinner late into the evening. Everyone is clearly welcome – couples, families, children, girls’ night out and party groups. Alternatively, call in for a glass of wine or cocktails – you do not need to order a meal if the restaurant is not busy at say, Aperitivo time, 5 – 7pm. Chin Chin!
No wonder Roma was selected as the winner of Glasgow’s best Italian Restaurant, 2018,
It is not too early to think about planning your Christmas celebrations and Roma is open for lunch and dinner serving a special festive menu from 18th November to 5th January, including Christmas Day.
“Roma honours tradition while creating unique, inspiring dishes. We hope that once you have arrived, you will feel it was well worth the journey.”
Yes indeed.! Whenever you plan to visit, you can expect an authentic Italian experience – design, hospitality, classic dishes and delicious wine, cocktails, spirits and beers.
Read on to see what other diners have to say!
We enjoyed our Penne Rustica and Tagliatelle with Shrimp and Asparagus. Nice selection of wine and beer.
Lunch at Roma before going to the theatre. Fantastic food, great service, reasonably priced.
Dinner with my family – the waiters were so polite and all the food was amazing. I recommend this place to everyone.
Roma Mediterranean Restaurant
46 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 1HG
Telephone: 0141 332 9641
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.
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
“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!.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.