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“Timeless Places” by Anne Butler: an expressive meditation on our natural world with ‘joie de vivre’.

Timeless Place, Anne Butler

ANNE BUTLER

Solo exhibition “Timeless Places:” 

15 – 20 September 2018
Dundas Street Gallery,  6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Opening times: 10am – 6pm.  

Anne Butler is renowned for abstract landscapes and floral studies with a vivid, vivacious use of colour. Last year in September, I visited Dundas Street Gallery to view her showcase of paintings entitled “Land and Sea” featuring most evocative scenic views.

As I wrote at the time, “ There is a recurring theme of time,  memories, ghosts of the past, the flow of the seasons, Spring flowers to migrating geese. Colour is clearly the dominant aspect of Anne’s vibrant green and blue land and seascapes.”  

This new exhibition “Timeless Places” takes the viewer on a journey from the idyllic Hebridean island of Iona to the Canal Du Midi in France, as well as an artistic reflection on a recent loss in her family.

Anne spent a month on Iona in the early part of this summer. As she recalls, “ I like the changing weather on Iona. It can be misty in the morning, wild and windy in the afternoon and calm in the evening.” 

North End of Iona, Anne Butler

The great pioneering Impressionist painters Monet and Cezanne found that they could capture the transient effects of sunlight by working quickly, “en plein air” rather than in a studio.

For me a landscape hardly exists at all as a landscape, because its appearance is changing in every moment, but it lives through its ambience, through the air and the light, which vary constantly.”—Claude Monet

Likewise she works outdoors and in all weathers, painting in acrylic to build up layers with a rich colourful texture.   This creates a marvellous perspective of sand, sky, sea, grass, rock, wild flowers through thick brush strokes to bring an intangible freshness to the scene.

Sweeping the North End, Anne Butler

Standing in front of these wildly abstract paintings, it feels as if you are there too on the sandy beach with the breeze of salt sea air and the sound of lapping waves.

Iona has attracted artists for decades most notably the Scottish Colourists.  After painting scenic views in Venice and along the Cote d’ Azur, it was on a trip to Iona where Francis Cadell realised that the light on the West Coast of Scotland was perfect and he visited Iona almost every summer from 1912 for the next two decades.  He felt very much part of the island community as described in his poem One Sunday in Iona, 1913.

The North End of Iona, Cadell

Warmed by the sun, blown by the wind I sat
Upon the hill top looking at the sound.
Down in the church beneath, the people sat
On chairs and laughed and frowned.

No chairs for me when I can lie
And air myself upon the heather
And watch the fat bees buzzing by
And smell the small of summer weather

A View from Iona, Cadell

Let them bow down to God unfound
For me the sound that stretches round
For me the flowers scented ground
Upon the hilltop, looking at the sound.

Iona has preserved its symbolic status as the birthplace of Celtic Christianity since St. Columba arrived here from Ireland in 563 AD to build a monastery.  Today the Medieval Iona Abbey has daily church services and residential Retreats.

“Pilgrimage” was painted after chatting to a visitor who had travelled from Minneapolis, just one of thousands of people who come to experience both the religious heritage and the restful, unspoilt beauty of the island.

Pilgrimage, Anne Butler

Shimmering shades of blue reflect both sky and sea against dark grey blocks which could represent the Abbey or rocks on the shore.  A sleek streak of aqua paint drips down the centre, creating the fluidity and movement of light and water with a dreamlike, meditative mood.

Tranquility too along the Canal du Midi, Languedoc which has attracted generations of artists.  Here, Anne depicts  the colourful expanse of vineyards and fields which flourish with pink poppies, lavender and golden sunflowers.

Canal du Midi, Anne Butler

Around the walls are marvellous impressionistic landscapes re-imagined like a patchwork quilt as well as more realistic scenes such as Autumn trees, farmhouses and the grassy meadow around Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh.

There is a bold immediacy working on a scene while in the scene, a snapshot of the fleeting quality of light amidst  painterly patterns.  In this masterly new collection or artwork, Anne Butler captures the lingering, lost atmosphere of place, the underlying tranquil timelessness of beauty in our natural world with an expressive joie de vivre.

I hear the Corncrake, Anne Butler

“Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing sensations.”—Paul Cézanne

 

 

 

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“Berlin in Stone” – a photographic journey through place and time with classic artistic vision by Eion Johnston

Berlin in Stone – Photographs by Eion Johnston FRPS

The Life Room, 23B Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QQ

Tuesday 11th   –  Sunday 16th September 2018  (open 10.30 – 17.30)

From Berlin 1945 by Eion Johnston

Award-winning photographer Eion Johnston, FRPS,  who lives in Edinburgh, has visited Berlin regularly over the past thirty years observing its architectural heritage, past and present.  This two part exhibition captures a snapshot of a crumbling building damaged during 1945 and the remaining fragment of the Berlin Wall. These are more than just photographs – these are artistically crafted compositions to reflect, through hindsight and contemporary viewpoint, the aftermath of a city at war.

From Berlin 1945, Eion Johnston

Through a series of panels, Berlin 1945 depicts a stone wall, punctured with bullet holes and blasts of shrapnel which pierced the fabric of the building.  With extraordinary juxtaposition and layering of black and white photographic images, here too we see the ghosts of war captured like a classical sculptured frieze, human figures frozen in mid-movement, representing aspects of comfort, hope, despair and death in their war torn and destroyed city.

The main focus for Ancient Greek artists was to depict ultimate beauty and harmony, the physicality of man, his Olympic strength and endeavour in sport and in battle.   With extraordinary vision, Eion Johnston has replicated the stylistic, athletic pose and poise of classic sculptures with images of slim, toned models in Berlin today. The background has a grainy textured quality which emphasises a forgotten, faded sense of place and time.   One or two people viewing these photographs were convinced that these were real, historic decorative friezes carved on a wall in Berlin.

From Eion Johnston

What is most moving about combining the bullet blasted stone with modern life studies is that the figures represent both the citizens who suffered and died during World War II and also young Berliners today, surrounded by memories still present within the ruins of the past.

From The Wall, Eion Johnston

The second part of the showcase, The Wall follows a similar artistic format whereby life studies of models have been placed against the stark grey concrete of the Berlin Wall.  About a kilometre has been preserved as a valuable historic monument, a living symbol of the physical and political divisions between East and West Berlin, 1961 – 1989.  Now partly destroyed, strips of steel supports are visible which gives the impression of prison bars holding back the male figures, viewed from behind, as if trapped against a cell wall, while another has his arms out stretched as if to represent the Crucifiction.

From The Wall, Eion Johnston

This dual perspective of Berlin in Stone reflecting the city’s tragic heritage, presents re-imagined classical mural iconography with contemporary vision which is simply breathtaking in its power and poignancy.

A selection of photographs from Berlin 1945 was submitted to the Royal Photographic Society last year, for which Eion Johnston proudly received the award of  “Fellowship of the Year, 2017”.  A most prestigious honour in recognition of this memorable and masterly collection.

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

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

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

Canadian Boat Song, 1829

The tranquil, timeless beauty of the Hebridean Islands, Scotland

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

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

The Cal Mac Ferry from Oban to Colonsay

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

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

But what work could they do in this remote community?

Gin Entrepreneurs

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

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

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

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

Colonsay Gin with sweet orange or green chilli

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

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

Alva, the Celtic Spirit of Colonsay Gin

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

The Gin Lover’s Retreat on Colonsay

Gin Lover’s Retreat

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

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

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

Kiloran Bay, Colonsay

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Thyme Spirits – Information, Ordering and Stockists

www.wildthymespirits.com

Email:  wildthymespirits@btinternet.com

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

 

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

The Bengal Lancers

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

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

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

Royal Blue and Gold design

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

Comfortable booth  corner table for 2 or 4

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

Central Bar with Stools for an Aperitif

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prawn Bombay Streeet Tacos

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

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

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

Tandoori bone chicken

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

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

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

Perfectly cooked rice

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

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

An Indian Feast to share with friends at Lancers!

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

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

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

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

What do other diners say?

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

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

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

Lancers Brasserie

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

http://www.lancersbrasserie.co.uk

 

An Indian Feast at Lancers!

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

 

The Principal, George Street

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

Printing Press Bar with Editor’s Cocktail Bar upstairs

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

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

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

Chris Smart, Bar Supervisor and Gin Connoisseur

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

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

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

Fever Tree Tonics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No 25 Gin-cured Trout wiht avocado & caviar

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

Fat and juicy hand-dived Scallops

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

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

Stone Bass with peas and baby gem

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

Charred Cauliflower, Indian style

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

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

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

Hotel, Restaurant and Bar Facts:

The Printing Press Bar and Kitchen @ The Principal Hotel,

21-25 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2BP

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

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

The Principal Hotel, George Street.

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

Printing Press Kitchen – French style Brasserie serving modern Scottish classics

 

 

Escape the city life for rejuvenating, relaxing Me Time at the Spa – Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square

The Principal, Charlotte Square

The Principal Edinburgh, Charlotte Square – formerly the Roxburghe Hotel and first opened in 1848 –  has had a multi-million-pound refurbishment, now transformed into a smart contemporary Boutique hotel within its seven grand townhouses, overlooking Charlotte Square Garden.  With vintage travel ephemera and quirky, colourful design across bedrooms, bars, bistros and lounges, it was named the Edinburgh Style Hotel of the Year 2018.

Junior Suite, Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square

The Spa has also had a makeover to create a relaxing retreat in the centre of the city for pampering treatments and leisure time around the pool, sauna and steam room. Located on the lower ground floor, the cool, quiet, interior space has a calming ambience which envelops you from the moment you arrive at the Spa Reception.

The Apothocary themed Spa

The thematic decor is all about reflecting the fragrant scent and traditional medicinal properties of herbs, plants and dried flowers which fill the large vintage bottles to represent a 19th century Apothocary.

Herbal Art display at the Spa

This follows through into the ingredients of the Signature Spa products – OSKIA is a specialist skin care formula created for luxury facial treatments to enhance a healthy complexion.

Oskia, multi award winning beauty products

The other skincare range is ishga, developed from natural, organic seaweed on the Isle of Lewis. In order to experience both of these Spa products, I selected the OSKIA Glow Facial while my partner Ken would be trying the ishga Face and Body Sensation.

We were shown to the Locker Rooms downstairs– very spacious and well laid out, where we changed into towelling bathrobes and slippers. From here, there is a direct access to  the swimming pool and thermal suite.  We then sat for a few minutes in the Relaxation room until our Therapists came to collect us for our respective beautifying treatments.

Tranquil Treatment Rooms

The rooms are small but decorated with soft, subtle shades of cappucino and taupe to enhance the sense of calm. Sitting on a hard wooden stool (?!), I was asked to select my preferred scented oil for either energy or relaxation. Lying on the massage bed, I was wrapped up under a duvet and towels, while a CD of Mood music provided a soothing soundtrack.

The OSKIA facial was extremely comprehensive covering the face, neck and décolletage with a flowing series of various creams and a mask to exfoliate, cleanse, tone and moisturise.  I always love the contrasting sensation of cold lotions followed by a hot towel to refresh and open the pores.  The application of a warm oil, drizzled over my face, was like basting a chicken – but I was not going to be roasted!  A gentle massage in circular movements works to penetrate and plump up the layers of skin.

Georgie Cleeve

OSKIA was created in 2009 by Georgie Cleeve after she damaged her knee in a skiing accident.  Understanding that race horses are given BSM, a natural sulphur supplement, she used this on her knee which helped to repair the tissue and cartilage joint. This was the springboard to create a therapeutic skincare range – the name is derived from ancient Greek meaning beauty and nutrition – which promotes collagen production and has anti-inflammatory elements for a brighter, younger-looking complexion.

Meanwhile Ken was next door for a Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage with ishga seaweed body oils to nourish the skin, pummelling the muscles to release knots and alleviate tension.  Other ingredients in the products include lavender, lemongrass and juniper which sound like the botanicals in a perfectly curated Gin!  This was followed by a rejuvenating Facial which showed amazing results.

Hebridean Island seaweed

Ishga marine skincare – named after the Gaelic for water – was founded by Malcolm, a Scientist, Joanna his wife, a beauty therapist, and Martin a seaweed expert.   Based in Lewis, the Outer Hebrides,  they source seaweed harvested from the sandy beaches combined with local salt water, the purest in the world as is the fresh water taken from mountain springs.

Ishga skincare – inspired by the seashore on the Isle of Lewis,

Seaweed has been used for centuries for its healing properties, and its vitamins, minerals and amino acid are ideal for people who suffer from acne or dry and itchy skin conditions.   Cucumber extract, Macadamia, Jojoba Oil, Thistle Oil, Hebridean Sea Salt and Aloe Vera are other natural ingredients as well as anti-oxidants to maintain a healthy and youthful skin.  As Ken noticed afterwards, his face was moisturised, toned and tightened for a brighter, smoother appearance of the skin.

This was a marvellous escape for the afternoon at the Principal Spa – around an hour and a half of recuperative, calming, Chill Out – Me Time followed by a rest in the Relaxation room.  The Leisure club is a myriad of corridors, rooms and staircases – the changing room (with the loos) are a bit of a trek and directions are needed to find your way back here.

Afterwards we went upstairs to The Garden – the indoor Greenhouse Conservatory Bar and Café –  for a refreshing Cocktail, a Rhubarb and Ginger Sling for him and an Elderflower Collins for me, all very fruity and healthy.

Cool Cocktails in the Garden

With sunlight streaming in from the glass roof and surrounded by flowers, it was like sitting outside – perfect for  ‘al fresco’ coffee,  tea, snacks, bar drinks, lunch or supper, whatever the weather.

The Garden – for all day drinks and good food.

The Spa offers a diverse menu of massages, facials, manicures and beauty treatments.  For a special treat, book an indulgent Spa Day such as Champagne, Deluxe and Signature Lunch or Twilight Tea packages.

While you may visit the Spa as a non-resident as we did,  why not plan to stay here for a mini city break.  Hotel guests in a Standard bedroom can enjoy the leisure facilities free of charge from 7-9am and again from 6-9pm. Those staying in all other Superior rooms are free to go at any time.  As well as the Pool, keep fit in the gym with Intenza Fitness cardio machines and equipment for stretching and strength training.  Studio classes offer yoga, zumba, spinning and bootcamp sessions.

Spa Facts:

Opening hours, Monday to Friday, 6.30am – 10pm, Saturday and Sunday, 7am – 8pm

Address: The Principal Charlotte Square, 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4HQ.

Website: http://www.theprincipalhotel.com/edinburgh-cs

Telephone +44 (0)131 240 5500

Email:. leisure@theprincipalhotel.com

A Hamper ..and a Haven  ..of health and beauty at the Principal Spa

Join a lively gathering of artists for a Summer Garden Party at Union Gallery, Edinburgh

Yes, it’s all sunshine and roses for the Summer Garden Party at the Union Gallery, an exhibition of regular, favourite artists, including Patsy McArthur, James Newton Adams, Megan Chapman, Lucy Jones, Colin Brown and Sophie McKay Knight and Joyce Gunn Cairns.   Expect a distinctively diverse showcase of amazing abstracts, fabulous flowers, posed portraits, lavish landscapes, architectural artwork, galloping horses, punchy Pop Art and comical Caricatures.

On the dove-grey painted wall to the left as you step inside, is a row of five stunning Abstract Expressionist “landscapes” by Megan Chapman, under a series title, “Echoes and Memory.”

Echoes and Memory, Megan Chapman

The foundation of my work is in the balancing of shape and line with colour, texture, and atmosphere. I enjoy creating meditative places to get lost in, such as how we dance between our inner and outer selves  .. to explore our connection to the world as we navigate the push and pull of life.”

Having been brought up in Arkansas, USA, Megan has recently returned to Edinburgh (where she now lives and works), from a trip back home to visit family in Winslow, (population 300), very much rural countryside of this Southern State.  Using mixed media, her colour palette is soft and subdued with a smooth, smudged blend of grey, charcoal, teal, ochre, cream which is easy on the eye.

‘In the Shallows’ offers an inkling of a realistic place, perhaps a tranquil seashore and beach, but equally, it may reflect a more dreamlike image. Bold brush strokes create an essence of the outdoors, of air, water and sand. (See image in poster above).   Certainly more meditative is ‘All That I Am,’ a darker, moody scene where thin spattered, streaks of paint drip like raindrops – or perhaps tears –  down the canvas giving the fluidity of movement.

All That I Am, Megan Chapman

Understanding the artist’s raison d’etre to these works adds a personal dimension.  In ‘Return Home’ you can envisage the rich fertile earth of field and grassy meadows, a river and soft clouds on the horizon, as seen through  distant memories, a distant past life.   Her use of shimmering shades crafted with a cool, delicate touch is simply mesmerising in their imagination – fragile fragments of space, place and time, to capture the precious, elusive landscapes of the mind.

Return Home, Megan Chapman

James Newton Adams is a sculptor and painter, who explores Scottish land and seascapes as well as the inherent people, animals and objects to compose a humorous narrative.  Here are charming, quirky illustrations such as “Queensferry Lovers” –  a couple embracing against a backdrop of the iconic Forth Bridge;

Queensferry Lovers, James Newton Adams

With colourful boats and lobster pots, “Wellies and Creels” is reminiscent of a children’s story book as well as clearly portraying the culture and heritage of small town life around a fishing harbour.

Wellies and Creels, James Newton Adams

For those who know and love the rather eccentric portraits of women by the late Pat Douthwaite,  a similar figurative style is employed by Sophie McKay Knight with her wildly colourful and fashionable ladies. ‘The Queen of Swords’ (see poster above), and a Priestess show off their exuberance, passion and joie de vivre.  ‘The Writer’ is a fascinating profile, with no pen or book in sight, simply a madcap Bohemian girl, her serious expression as as frozen focus on whatever she is observing with intent interest.

The Writer, Sophie McKay Knight

Thematically, my work is concerned with the human figure, nature, science, transformation and magic. Although it mostly depicts people, many other things inform my imagery – often a scene I have witnessed, a story I have read, an historical character or event.”  Sophie McKay Knight.

Yellow Tulips, Joyce Gunn Cairns

And a Garden Party is not a complete without flowers.  A vase of ‘Yellow Tulips’ by Joyce Gunn Cairns is an integral part of her trademark subtle sketches of domestic scenes where there are also cats of many colours who lurk and curl in peaceful comfort beside their doting Mistresses, apparently lost in quiet thought.

What Remains, Joyce Cairns Gunn

Aine Divine is also inspired by the natural world of colour and scent with her mixed bouquet of flower paintings, such as gaily patterned jug of ‘Sunflowers,’ as well as delightful ‘Oxi Daisies” and fragrant ‘Freesias’.

Sunflowers, Aine Divine

As Aine says,  “You can understand why Monet was so taken by his garden. The thing that strikes me about flowers is that it’s hard to beat the real thing. I’ve never seen a more beautiful painting of flowers than a Renoir Still Life – they seemed alive and moving on the canvas.” 

This overview offers just a brief snapshot of this inspiring, insightful exhibition rather than illustrating the full picture.  Take a stroll around this painterly Garden over the next couple of weeks to view the spirit of life and living, a marvellous, magical world as seen through the eyes and minds of these artists – and many others – across the spacious two floors of the Union Gallery.

And view too a flourishing window box of blossoming flowers too within this sunny Summer in the City scene.

Summer Garden Party – 12 July to 4 August, 2018.

 Union Gallery, 4 Drumsheugh  Place, Edinburgh   EH3 7PT

 Open – Monday to Saturday, 10.30 – 5.30pm. Closed Sunday.

 www.uniongallery.co.uk  – tel. 0131 225 8779

 

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

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

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

Juniper Gin Festival, Summerhall

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

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

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

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

Pickerings vintage red van

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vesper Martini Bond Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickerings – perfect for cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 1st June – 5.30pm – 10pm

Saturday 2nd June – 12pm – 4.30pm

Saturday 2nd June – 5.30pm – 10pm

Sunday 3rd June – 12pm – 4.30pm

Tickets are priced at £22.50 and on sale now:

www.solid-liquids.co.uk/juniper

Happy World Gin Day – Cheers!

 

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

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

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

Slug and Lettuce, Tower Bridge

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

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

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

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

Spanish sun in a glass

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

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

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

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

Tanqueray 10 with grapefruit

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

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

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

As they say Chin Chin!

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

 

 

 

 

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