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Chef Dean Banks – a dynamic, culinary and spiritual entrepreneur: Lunun Gin, Mond Vodka, Dulse, HAAR and The Pompadour

 “I would always categorise myself as a seafood chef inspired by the world’s larder. My passion would be cooking fish simply with a sauce and vegetables.’

Chef Dean Banks

Chef Dean Banks has spent his life being passionate about cooking from childhood, growing up in the fishing town of Arbroath, famous for the Arbroath Smokie. His great grandfather was a Baker in Wick and as a young boy, his mother would let him choose a recipe, buying the ingredients and practicing dishes. He was also inspired by the TV Chefs, his heroes to further the inspiration.

“I was trained at Rick Stein’s, The Seafood Restaurant, Padstow, but I have never stopped learning and never will – cooking always develops, just like fashion.” 

Banks then worked in Michelin starred restaurants in Scotland, before travelling the world in search of different cuisines across 40 countries – the cultures, skills and flavours of cooking.  

In 2018 back in the UK, he decided to enter the BBC series, ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’ in which he wowed judges by his global culinary knowledge, experience and creativity.  

MasterChef was a fantastic platform to showcase my cooking abilities to the nation –  so many challenging moments in the competition, very fast-paced and high stress, but I loved every moment.   When I got through to the final I felt very humble, excited and nervous all at once. All the other chefs who got through were absolutely amazing.”

The finalists of Masterchef 2018. Laurence Henry, Oli Martin, Dean Banks

Given this boost of culinary confidence, the next year Dean opened his own restaurant, HAAR in St. Andrews, with the ethos to source sustainable produce and being as carbon sensitive as possible. This first venture he calls “an expression of myself,” presenting Nordic/Asian fusion cuisine in fine dining fashion.  The name reflects the mists which roll in along the East Coast. Here are reviews from recent diners:

Always consistently five star. Amazing food, impeccable service and ambient atmosphere. Every course was a culinary masterpiece. We love our food adventures at Haar .. a superb dining experience.’

Inspired by his favourite peaceful and secluded beach in Angus, he then created Lunun, a premium craft gin with an Asian twist.  Gold Winner at the Scottish Gin awards 2021 – a prestigious achievement due to the fact that 45 expert judges took part in a blind tasting of 300 gins from 67 distilleries. Lunun is created in a single-fold distillation process and includes six key botanicals: kaffir lime leaf, sea buckthorn, Sichuan pepper, kombu kelp, ginger and lemongrass.

A major event of summer 2021 was the launch of ‘Dean Banks at The Pompadour’ at the Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian.  First opened in 1925, this glamorously designed, Parisian Belle Epoque-style restaurant offers seasonal Scottish produce to take you on a sensory journey, inspired by his travels and international cuisine. With his exemplary background in hospitality, from the Michelin-starred Number One, The Balmoral to The Pompadour, Waldorf Astoria, and Gleneagles, Daniel Ashmore is the group Executive chef, overseeing all the bars and restaurants across Chef Bank’s portfolio.  

The Pompadour, Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh

In July 2022, Chef Dean Banks opened Dulse, (named after an edible seaweed), a speciality Seafood bistro and wine bar at the West End of Edinburgh.  Opening at just the right time just before the Festival season, the place was buzzing through the summer and has quickly become very popular with locals and visitors.  

Dulse wine and cocktail bar for sophisticated drinks

So time to dine at Dulse: cocktail and wine bar downstairs (comfy sea-blue banquette seating), and two bright, light intimate dining rooms upstairs, attractively designed with pale aqua painted wood and seashore-themed artwork; the sandy beach picture tablemats are made from recycled plastic recovered from the ocean.

The menu might seem minimalist in length and description of dishes, but the diner is in for a banquet of amazing scents, flavours and texture. For the ideal foodie experience, my partner, Ken and I were presented with sharing plates of Arbroath Smokie Tart, Octopus, Trout Pastrami and Half Shell Scallop.

But first we start with Cumbrae Oysters as an amuse bouche. This family run company founded in 1995 has their own oyster farm and fishing vessel. Delivered to Dulse from the West Coast island every day to assure quality, these sea-salty, juicy molluscs hit the spot and tantalise the taste buds.

Cumbrae oysters

With these, we sip the most delectable Dulse Martini – Lunun Gin with seaweed essence, touch of saline, and as a perfect accompaniment, a teaspoon of Caviar – with a divine soft texture.  At Exmoor Caviar farm, sturgeon fish are reared in fresh, cool mineral water in the Devonshire National Park, the caviar flavoured with Cornish Sea Salt.​ Exmoor Caviar is served at over 80 Michelin Star restaurants in the UK.

Dulse Martini with Exmoor Caviar

The Arbroath Smokie Tart (the traditional smoked haddock which has protected status like Parma Ham and Champagne), has a melt-in-the-mouth flaky pastry case, filled with a creamy fish mousse, sprinkled with dulse seaweed.  

Arbroath Smokie Tart

Our seafood feast continues with a couple of delicately seared scallops in a seaweed-infused butter sauce, served in a half shell. Octopus, slow cooked for many hours until tender, served with a richly aromatic ‘burnt’ tomato sauce and lemon scented barley. An exemplary combination of flavour and texture.   If you are a fan of smoked salmon as I am, the Trout Pastrami – wafer thin slices of coral-pink smoked fish with a fennel seed coating, is a truly luxurious alternative, simply served with a Crème fraiche and crunchy rye bread toast – (a little too high baked to be edible.).   

 The menu also offers main course dishes such as Baked North Sea Cod, Goan Curry-style, Whole Crab, Red Thai – which clearly show the innovative fusion cuisine curated by Chef Banks.  The provenance of ingredients is clearly given such as St. Andrews Lobster Thermidor, and Day boat fish of the day, fresh from crate to plate.   The wine list from only across Europe is carefully selected for environmental sustainability.   

Lobster Thermidor

The head chef at Dulse is Rob Vaiciulis, from Lithuania where growing food and cooking with his family as a child inspired his career. He moved to Edinburgh around 4 years ago, and working at Dulse he found a love for Scottish local seafood and cooking inspiring dishes. The artistic presentation of all the dishes in earthenware blue, grey, white and black bowls, with shells resting on a pile of pebbles, certainly adds to the foodie experience.

Connor Hargrave – mixologist extraordinaire

Connor Hargrave is the very enthusiasatic bar tender and experiemental mixologist who started working in bars before he could legally drink alcohol:

I started bartending at 16 as a part time job in Southampton and by 18 had became a bar manager, later influenced by working under Victor Lorenzo at The Savoy. At Dulse, Chef Dean really helped my passion for cocktails allowing me to make a menu using fermentation and ultra sonic infusion. He says that I am a bar tender who thinks like a chef. This is one of the top 50 bars for sustainability and newcomer bar of the year.’

Connor Hargrave – the culinary King of Cocktails at Dulse

After lunch, we relax in the Wine bar downstairs to watch Connor at work, who gives us a taste of his own unique version of bitter chocolate flavoured Scottish Campari. He must spend hours preparing ingredients, citrus fruits, berries, champagne sorbets, spice-scented tinctures.

As digestif we sip a Mond Oyster Martini, – a secret recipe including oyster juice – which certainly captures the overall seafood themed food and drink menu.

Mond Vodka, made from Scottish grain is so named as it’s filtered through diamonds for a silky smooth, clear taste and texture. This sounds like the ideal spirit for a James Bond (Diamonds are Forever) Vesper cocktail.  

Do call into the Dulse Bar for a glass of wine, Lunun gin and tonic, Mond vodka martini or another signature cocktail – the perfect place for an aperitivo and platter of oysters.

Overall, this beautifully curated, culinary experience at Dulse is akin to a luxury picnic on the beach: the taste of each delicious fishy dish and sip of an ice cold brine-tinted cocktail, has an evocative whiff of a fresh, sea salty breeze.  

Chef Dean Banks and his talented team have created a unique and most inspirational culinary journey to savour the finest Scottish food and drinks enhanced with the spice of life from the around the world.

An exciting new venture is the Limited Edition Dulse at Home box which offers many of the restaurant’s favourite dishes.  Haar at Home has its Festive collections, as well as fine food, there’s Dean’s Mulled Wine and Lunun Gin crackers.  These which are also great gifts for family and friends – little preparation involved meaning a restaurant-quality meal can be on the table in less than half an hour. Check out the Haar at Home & Lunun Gin websites.  

For more details on Dulse and book a table –

Lunun Gin  – 

Dean Banks at the Pompadour –

Haar at Home –


Jamie Primrose, ‘Winter Impressions’- serene, scenic views around Edinburgh @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh. 

Since 2003, Jamie Primrose has presented over forty solo exhibitions, specialising in city, land and seascapes from Scotland to the south of France.  Back again at the Dundas Street Gallery this week for his second show of 2022, ‘Winter Impressions’ features fifty oil paintings, prints and Indian ink drawings depicting crisp snowy days and panoramic views around Edinburgh.

Jamie Primrose winter season showcase at the Dundas Street Gallery

I’ve captured glistening light streaming through the trees in The Meadows creating shimmering reflections and snowy shadows to vibrant, wintry twilight paintings in and around the Royal Mile.’ 

Jamie Primrose

The Athens of the North has a unique and commanding setting, built around seven hills – a regular stomping ground for Primrose to sketch and take photographs of the changing light across the sky from dusk to dawn.  Winter vista over the city from Arthur’s Seat is a majestic scene, the viewer placed in the centre as if standing on a snowy bank, overlooking the city with the distant Castle and tall church spires under a wide expanse of mauve-tinted, criss crossing clouds. 

Winter Vista over the city from Arthur’s Seat, Jamie Primrose

Half a Capital and half a country town, the whole city leads a double existenceArthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills that so quietly look down on the Castle with the city lying in waves around it. The soft northern sunshine throws everything into a glorified distinctness.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

Sharing a mutual passion with RLS for the unique setting of Edinburgh, this quotation illustrates the artist’s signature style – ambitious panoramas of the majestic, magical city skyline juxtaposed by the rural landscape of rolling, green hills.  Shimmering Light in the Pentlands offers another atmospheric scene with coral-pink streaks across the sky in the pale winter sunshine. Harlaw Reservoir looks as if it has a thin layer of ice and the crisp snow almost makes one shiver due to the raw realism of the scene. 


Shimmering Light in the Pentlands, Jamie Primrose

Likewise, the bare branches along an avenue of trees look frozen, like white marble sculptures, as the early morning shards of rosy light cast slender, dark shadows on the powdery snow in Ethereal Sunrise on the Meadows.  

Ethereal sunrise on the Meadows, Jamie Primrose

Many other colourful, dramatic views around the city streets, parks and open ‘urban’ countryside, bathed in soft, glimmering sunlight with Turner-esque vision: tranquil serenity is emphasised by the rich golden-amber glow against the silhouetted woodland in Winter Sunrise over Duddingston Loch.

Winter Sunrise over Duddingston Loch, Jamie Primrose

The colourful, cobbled Victoria Street from George IV Bridge to the Grassmarket is the place to shop for antiques, books, cheese, whisky, tailored tweed as well as the cosy Bow Bar.  Devoid of the usual madding crowd, this chilly scene, Winter Impressions brilliantly captures the slushy car tracks up the road and the curving path cleared by pedestrians on the pavement, under a clear blue sky.

Winter Impressions on Victoria Street, Jamie Primrose

Also, a fine series of monochrome drawings in Indian Ink highlight the artist’s talent for architectural draughtsmanship, such as the towering turrets of the Assembly Hall, decorative design of Ramsay Garden and Castle Rock in Late Afternoon on the Mound.

Late Afternoon on the Mound, Jamie Primrose (Indian Ink)

In addition to the original oil paintings, there’s a selection of affordable, limited edition prints of these evocative winter scenes.  

So take a visit to the Dundas Street Gallery this week for a tour around the historic Old Town and treelined parks, then a brisk trek around icy lochs and crisp white, snow-covered hills.  

Winter Impressions is indeed another artistic ‘love letter’ from Jamie Primrose to illustrate the timeless, romantic beauty of Edinburgh.

Winter Impressions – Jamie Primrose

Dundas Street Gallery, 6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Monday 7th to Friday 11th November, 11am – 6pm.

Saturday 12th November, 11am – 5pm.

Paradigms – a prime perspective of paintings by the Arion Art Group @ Whitespace

Paradigm: ‘a typical example, pattern or model; a standard perspective or set of ideas.’

The Arion Art Group has an evolving membership of visual artists based in and around Edinburgh, who share ideas, influences, style and technique through their own artistic perception of the world.

This pop up exhibition at Whitespace Gallery features the distinctive work by four Arion artists, Louise Todd, Catherine Young, Hazel Brady and Jayne McIntyre, covering portraiture, figurative studies, abstract land and seascapes.

Louise Todd specialises in visual culture, Festivals, events and tourism as Associate Professor at Napier University. This academic research informs her artwork through the observation of people and places. the experience of the tourist through photography and sightseeing: this is the art of travel, past and present.

Louise Todd, Deckchairs, somewhere

Louise crafts meticulous cool, crafted compositions which capture the faded look of those vintage, out of focus snapshots lurking in a family photo album.

The apt title Deckchairs, somewhere clearly implies a long-forgotten holiday, now just a hazy memory of a couple sitting in the sunshine, who stare directly at the photographer. The girl in a lilac dress has her arms folded and legs crossed, as if not entirely at ease with having her picture taken. The thick brushstrokes create a blurred, washed out veneer with a soft rosy pink glow, across the sky, perhaps denoting sunset.

Several figurative studies capture similar moments as if posing for the camera lens: on a voyage of discovery, at an Intermediate stop off: Port of call, two cruise passengers stand at the railing of the ship against a backdrop of the sweeping bay of a coastal resort and looming mountains beyond.

Louise Todd, Intermediate stop off, Port of call

‘I am interested in narratives of visual culture in tourism, and the tourist gaze, how we experience and perform tourism. My artwork intersects how we gaze as tourists with curiosity and a reflected artist’s gaze upon tourists’.

Louise Todd 

‘Hotel Room’ (1931) by Edward Hopper captures the loneliness of the modern city, a central theme in his work (Hotel Lobby, Nighthawks). A woman sits on the bed in an anonymous hotel room, her coat lying on a chair beside her suitcase. We are voyeurs observing this solitary, rather sad figure, intently reading a brochure, lost in thought. 

Edward Hopper, Hotel Room, 1931

The intimate, private space of a Hotel Room is also the focus for Louise Todd as part of her voyeuristic gaze on travellers on vacation away from home. Here, a shadowy figure perches stiffly, rather than relaxing, on the edge of the bed, again reading, perhaps a city guide book. The curtains are open to reveal the dark night sky outside, the whole scenario like a freeze-frame from a movie.

Louise Todd, Hotel Room

With a similar filmic approach to portraiture, Jayne McIntyre presents a series of stunning, striking faces in close up, expressing sadness and emotional conflict: in Pensive, the shimmering facial expression depicts narrowed, blank eyes, pursed lips and furrowed brow.

Jayne McIntyre, Pensive

I work from observation, photographs and memory. The cropped, blurred or unfocused source material allows me to fashion the narrative and emotion I am trying to convey to the viewer’.

Jayne McIntyre

These intriguing, hidden narratives imbue a feeling of empathy for the sitter’s state of mind, such as the dramatic portrayal, Despairing – the woman holding her head in her hands with such a haunting, lost expression.

Jayne McIntyre, Despairing

This is clearly reminiscent of the iconic vision, The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch, inspired by “a gust of melancholy .. anxiety and fear’ he felt one day when out walking with friends. His message written in pencil on the frame, ‘Could only have been painted by a madman,” depicts his sense of alienation from the real world.

Edvard Munch, The Scream (1893)

Jayne also brilliantly evokes a dark, melancholic mood in Worried, in which the girl’s anxiety is etched across her face and in her wide blue, tearful eyes, crafted as a textured collage of mixed media, acrylic and tweed. Another mesmersing, haunting portrait indeed.

Jayne McIntrye, Worried

The world of nature captures the imagination for Catherine Young who has a decorative, free-flowing, calligraphic style, akin to Chinese or Japanese ceramics and illustrations. While minimalist in detail, the abstract landscape, Riverside does envisage the flowing movement of the river and shapely, shadowy trees reflected on the water. A lovely, languid sense of silence and solitude.

Catherine Young, Riverside

The natural environment provides a rich source of inspiration to explore both form and shape. Colour is very important to create both mood and atmosphere through layers and texture – my work may appear spontaneous it has been carefully considered’. Catherine Young

The soft shades of pink, green and aqua create a luminous sheen to Shore Edge, almost giving the translucent effect of watercolour. The fluid, crisscrossing effect of brushstrokes is loosely layered, framing the overall shape of the scene in a delicate, precise pattern with a subtle glow of light.

Catherine Young, Shore Edge

Sharing Catherine’s passion for the natural outdoors, Hazel Brady loves to be surrounded by trees, the key subject of her artistic endeavours. At the Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, the tranquil pond with Monet-esque waterlilies is a popular spot to sit and relax, where children throw bread to the ducks.  

The border of trees around RGBE, Pond cast a marvellous mirror image on the calm, rippling surface of the water. This enclosed, partially hidden oasis is a natural habitat for birds including a rare kingfisher; the dark shadows and rose-coral light suggests this enchanting view of the duck pond may depict a quiet moment towards the end of the day.

Hazel Brady, RBGE Pond

Studying Herbology at Royal Botanic Garden has given me an in-sight into the power of plants and trees .. and how form and colour are affected by light and the perception it has on the human view’.

Hazel Brady  

With a brighter rainbow palette of emerald, lime, indigo and orange under a glorious sky bathed in peach tones, Garden View illustrates the colourful, exotic world of the RBGE. Thick brushstrokes create a glossy shine over the lush green foliage – in the foreground could be a cluster of Gunnera manicata – the giant leaves are a natural umbrella. Trees and plants were originally brought back here by intrepid collectors from distant lands a century ago – the Monkey Puzzle trees, orchids and fragrant flowers which still flourish in the Botanics for us all to enjoy today.

Hazel Brady, Garden View

Paradigms: Louise Todd, Jayne McIntyre, Catherine Young, Hazel Brady

Whitespace Gallery, 76 East Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 9HQ

29th October – 2nd November 2022 : open 10am – 5pm.

Fizz Feast is back!  Experience the sparkling showcase of Festive fizz and good food at the Edinburgh Academy

After a two year leave of absence, it’s time to pop a few corks and take a celebratory swiping slice with a sharp sabrage to launch this most enticing and appetising event. 

Legend has it that when Napoleon and his troops returned home victorious after the French Revolution, the townspeople greeted them with champagne. As they were on horseback, they used their sabers to crack open the bottles. Another version of the story claims that Madame Veuve Clicquot gave Napoleon’s officers champagne in return for protecting her land during the political unrest.  

This dexterous, dangerous technique requires a careful, quick “whack”  of the saber at the weakest point of the bottle at the seam of the neck.

Diana Thompson, founder of Fizz Feast performing the Sabrage to launch the event, 2019

Fizz Feast is the perfect opportunity as we head towards the Festive season, to sip and sample a wide range of champagne and sparkling wines and taste a selection of quality artisan food. Every visitor receives their personal gift of a Riedel Champagne flute on arrival for sipping and sampling fizz as you meet the wine makers from international vineyards, importers and local suppliers.

In 1668, in the village of Hautvillers, a monk-turned-cellar master, Dom Pérignon, is said to have discovered how to make sparkling wine; while the same technique is used all over the world today, the region of Champagne is the only place which can produce authentic, classic champagne.

In the Fizz Hall browse around the wide selection of Champagne Houses and Sparkling Wine companies – Taittinger, Franciacorta, Crémant de Loire, South African Cap Classique. Also major supermarkets, Waitrose and Lidl and independent suppliers including Vino Fandango, Sugar Bird and Goldenacre Wines.

The proud Taittinger Champagne family today – father, son and daughter

The Taittinger family has managed their famous Champagne House for nearly a century and its aim has always been the pursuit of excellence:

Having our family name on a bottle places demands and responsibilities ..the name conveys both the skills and knowledge of the past and a commitment to the future”. Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger

Pierre with his son, Clovis and his daughter, Vitalie create a very close-knit family business, preserving tradition as well as moving with the times to reflect a modern lifestyle. Through glamorous promotional images, the message is to relax and enjoy the perfect romantic Taittinger moment.

Clovis is an ambassador constantly searches out new, prestigious partnerships around the world. From 2014, Taittinger became the official champagne for the FIFA World Cup.

There is something universal about Champagne that no other wine possesses . 

Champagne is the best way of saying “I love you” in any language’. 

Clovis Taittinger

In 1912, Edouard Langlois and his wife Jeanne Chateau took over the business of the Maison Delandes estate to create Langlois-Chateau, now owned by the Bollinger group. With a reputation for sparkling wines, their Crémant de Loire is an affordable alternative to French Champagne. The signature Langlois Crémants de Loire Blanc Brut combines elegance and freshness – pale yellow and complex nose of quince, peach, and grapefruit. A fresh, delicate taste with an elegant roundness which pairs perfectly as an aperitif with hors-d’oeuvres and smoked salmon; also a Quadrille vintage and a seductive Rosé Brut.

Langlois Chateau Cremant de Loire

More than a century ago, two Piedmontese adventurers, Mr. Sella and Mr. Mosca arrived in Sardinia and transformed sheep farming land between sand and sea into the Sella & Mosca vineyard, now one of the most extensive wine estates in Europe.

Sunny Sardinia – Sella & Mosca vineyard on the coast

As amateur Egyptologists, their winery logo, shows ancient Egyptians pressing grapes. Terre Bianche Cuvèe is one of the signature wines, which pairs well with fish and seafood and has a delicate taste.

Sella e Mosca, fine wines founded over a century ago

The Cap Classique Producers Association (CCPA) was established in 1992 by a group of like-minded producers in South Africa who share a passion for bottle-fermented sparkling wines.  Made in the same way as Champagne (Méthode Champenoise) this collective promotes these quality Cap wines with national identity.  

Wine writers have commented that they are the very best value, traditional method sparkling wines in the world.  The majority of Cap Classique comes from Stellenbosch, Paarl and Robertson, as well as across the Cape. The majority focus on the Champagne grape varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Cap Classique wines of South Africa

Jonathan Simpkin is an experienced and passionate wine expert who launched Woodhouse Wines in Inverbervie more than 20 years ago, supplying hotels and restaurants, as well as private buyers.   

 ‘Gancia Pinot di Pinot Brut N.V. Italy is a great alternative to Prosecco. This lovely spumante has a hint of toast and sweetness. Angel & Four Brut Gloucestershire is a light fresh and fruity English fizz – not trying to be Champagne but ideal as an aperitif.’ Jonathan Simpkin

Jonathan Simpkin of Woodhouse Wines

Celebrations are just better with bubbles with a wonderful selection of sparkling wines at Vino Fandango from France, Italy, Spain, South Africa and to accompany sushi, oysters, and seafood.

 ‘I set up Vino Fandango to help the consumer navigate their way through the vast range of wines available in the UK. We will give you as much information and guide you through our range.’ Alan Chapman. 

Great reviews – ‘ a small business with a HUGE selection and great customer service’.

Vino Fandango – a global collection of wines

Wine writers have frequently commented that Lidl’s budget champagnes are actually pretty damn good, award-winning in fact, without a doubt the most affordable and palatable fizzes on the market. Best sellers include Lidl’s Crémant de Loire AOC Brut – not technically a champagne (French sparkling wine) but it’s just as good. Lidl’s Comte de Senneval Brut NV – in an expert blind taste test of 145 champagnes, conducted by Which, this fared better than some premium brands costing more than twice its price. There are sure to be more excellent sparkling wines for your Christmas parties available to taste at Fizz Feast 2022.

Waitrose was named Supermarket of the Year in the 2021 Decanter awards as well as Runner-up in the Champagne & Sparkling Wine and England & Wales categories.

The wine cellar includes Waitrose Blanc de Noirs brut. ‘ crafted by champagne house, Alexandere Bonnet’. Gosset Grande Réserve Brut, the tiny bubbles and biscuity aroma of this wonderfully smooth Champagne make it iconic. (Although the Gosset name may be unfamiliar, it’s a favourite among wine trade insiders).  Valdobbiadene is a most flavoursome and textured Prosecco ideal for special celebrations.  Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, considered one of England’s best sparkling wines. Anna de Codorniu Brut, ‘a stand out Cava with floral flavours’.

In the Feast Hall, enjoy an appetising tour around the stands selling a wide range of delicious gourmet artisan produce –  cheese, charcuterie, honey, chocolate, spices and chutneys.

Ailsa Proverbs of the Big Cheesemaking kits

Ailsa Proverbs, MBE, is the culinary entrepreneur behind The Big Cheese Making Kit. When Ailsa first tried making cheese at home, she had no idea her passion would be awarded with an MBE for services to the Food Industry. These easy cheese making kits don’t need lots of equipment with a wide choice of Kits for all tastes – Vegan, Goat’s Cheese, Crowdie et al. whether for yourself or a gift for a foodie friend.

Pacari means nature in Quechua, an Andean indigenous language, and that’s what we’re all about, making the most of nature’s ingredients. Pacari is a family-owned Ecuadorian company producing quality, organic dark chocolate in a most ethical and sustainable way, and has won over 350 international chocolate awards.  Arriba Nacional cacao beans, “Fino de Aroma’, are known for their rich, full taste and fruity and floral notes. The chocolate bars are made from 60% of cacao or more and only unrefined or coconut sugar.  The perfect treat for you, friends and family this Christmas. 

This preview is a quick browse around a small selection of the Champagne houses,  vineyards, wine suppliers and food producers at Fizz Feast 2022. Also various masterclasses on champagne and sparkling wines – book your tickets quickly for these popular events, first come, first served.

Why not join the party at Fizz Feast. Informative, entertaining and celebratory fun.!

Leonardo DiCaprio in glamorous Gatsby party style – cheers!

Fizz Feast is on Saturday 19 November 2022 at The Edinburgh Academy, 42 Henderson Row, Edinburgh. Two sessions: 12-3pm and 4-7pm, and Wine masterclasses. Tickets start at £25 per person. 

Click here to join us

The Fizz Hall busy with happy drinkers, buyers and wine sellers at the Edinburgh Academy

The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh launches a glamorous Season of Celebration for the 120th anniversary of this grand hotel.

The Edinburgh city skyline with the Clock Tower of the Balmoral Hotel

The ‘Balmoral Hotel’ is one of the most iconic, luxury hotels in the world – timeless, elegantly sophisticated and, quite literally, majestic.  

In 1895, an open competition to design the new ‘North British Railway Hotel’ was won by W. Hamilton Beattie and A.R. Scott, their Victorian Baronial design linking the old Scottish architecture of the Old Town with the neo-classical style of the New Town. The hotel opened on 15th October 1902 with the prestigious address, Number 1 Princes Street, featuring its landmark clock tower, began the tradition of setting the time three minutes fast so that people would not miss their train at the adjoining station. 

From Royal families and heads of state to media celebrities, lavish weddings, wining and dining and all manner of private and corporate events, gracious hospitality has always been the hallmark of this famous, 5 star world class hotel.

This is a brief look through the timeline of its history and heritage:

July 1919, HRH The Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor) stayed here while in Edinburgh to receive the Freedom of the City. 

Hollywood silent comedy legends Laurel & Hardy were guests in 1932 whilst on a promotional tour, where they were mobbed by cheering crowds at the North British Station and then arriving at the Hotel.

This is captured in a marvellous vintage film from 1932.

Many other stars of film, sports and music too through the decades – Elizabeth Taylor, Paul and Linda McCartney, David Beckham, Tom Hanks, Vanessa Hudgens et al. The Queen Mother was a regular visitor during the 1970s.

In 1983, the Gleneagles Hotel Company acquired the famous hotel and five years later it closed for a major £23 million refurbishment programme, the building wrapped in scaffolding and a giant protective cover. As part of the Balmoral International Hotels, it reopened in February 1991 under the new name, The Balmoral Hotel – a plaque commemorates the major event, officiated by Sir Sean Connery.  For Edinburgh residents, it took quite some time not to refer to the former and much loved ‘N.B.’  The name Balmoral means “majestic dwelling” in Gaelic  – hence the British Royal residence, Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire.

Rocco Forte established a distinctive brand of luxury hotels in 1997, handpicking ‘The Balmoral’ as the first in the international collection, now with 14 properties in Italy, Germany, Brussels, London, and two more properties opening in Milan next year.  ‘Honour the past, embrace the future’ is the motto for 25 years of Rocco Forte Hotels.

Watch this delightful video!

Family doube act: Rocco Forte and his sister Olga Polizzi,Director of Design, Rocco Forte Hotels

In January, 2003, the then Executive Chef, Jeff Bland, was awarded a coveted Michelin Star for culinary excellence in the hotel’s Number One restaurant which is retained to this day.

And in 2007, J.K. Rowling completed the last novel in her phenominally successful Harry Potter series while residing at the hotel – a writer’s retreat – for a few months. Now the J.K. Rowling Suite, room 552, is a truly magical place to stay especially for diehard Potter fans who can see a signed statement by the author on a marble bust of Hermes: “J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room on 11th Jan 2007″.

The J.K. Rowlng Suite where the author completed her final Harry Potter novel

Inside the Balmoral: Scotland’s Finest Hotel was a four-part Channel 5 TV series screened in 2021, capturing the behind-the-scenes story during a year in the life of the historic Hotel.  

27 September, 2022: Most timely, in this the 120th anniversary year, ‘The Balmoral’ has recently been awarded the special accolade of the 2022-23 AA Hotel of The Year Scotland, at the AA Hospitality Awards in London. 

It is an honour for The Balmoral to receive this award, it reflects the dedication and hard work of the team .. providing our guests with an incredible and unforgettable experience. We have so many exciting plans for the future of the hotel to ensure our guests leave with their expectations exceeded. We are truly humbled to receive such recognition.” Richard Cooke, General Manager, The Balmoral Hotel

So step inside for a tour around – greeted with a warm smile from the smart doormen and concierge team wearing the bespoke Balmoral tartan trousers and kilts, produced by the prestigious family firm, Kinloch Anderson, Tailors and Kiltmakers.

A warm welcome from the Concierges and Doormen in the uniform of the Balmoral Tartan

This grand hotel has 167 rooms and 20 suites, many with prime views of Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat and the Old Town. The interior décor is personally curated by Olga Polizzi, Director of Design for Rocco Forte hotels.  Juxtaposing Edwardian architectural features with an artistic, contemporary style, the soft, painterly palette evokes the heather-clad hills, lochs and woodland of the wild natural Scottish landscape.  Beautiful bedrooms are draped in velvet, leather and tweeds and marble bathrooms (which may feature vintage photographs of Sean Connery as James Bond) – expect all homely comforts with a lavish feel of luxury and romance. 

The Scone & Crombie Suite, named after Scone Palace, Perthshire and Crombie Castle, Aberdeenshire, is decorated with co-ordinated, custom-made wallpaper, opulent fabrics, furnishings and fine art collection.

The artistically and graciously designed Scone & Crombie Suite

First class personal service and hospitality for leisure and corporate guests can be enjoyed across a wide choice of bars and restaurants; traditional Afternoon tea served in the glamorous Palm Court, sip champagne and cocktails in the smart-casual Prince Bar and at Brasserie Prince (created by Alain Roux and the late Michel Roux), the Parisian theme is authentic French cooking meets Scottish produce. The well-established Michelin-starred restaurant Number One presents fine dining in a warm, romantic setting. 

Take an inspirational journey at SCOTCH to learn a little about the background to the choice of 500 unique varieties of whiskies from across Scotland – the collection is one of the largest in Edinburgh.  The perfect place for a pre dinner drink or leisurely nightcap – one just needs to suggest a flavour, scent, taste or style which you prefer and the knowledgable and passionate whisky Ambassador will climb the ladder to find the perfect dram to suit your palate, or suggest something different, e.g. an 18 year old, Auchentoshan, triple distilled, vanilla and American oak with citrus notes, or a Speyside Benromach rich in peat smoke. 

The charming SCOTCH bar with 500 whiskies

The Spa is a tranquil oasis to embrace Forte Life and take time out for perfect, peaceful relaxation, face and body treatments, as well as keeping fit in the gorgeous swimming pool and the Technogym.   

The Balmoral Spa – an urban oasis of calm

Rocco Forte Kids ensures that children of all ages are most welcome: cots, menus, bedtime milk, teddy turndown, games & a babysitting service are provided, including a magical Balmoral bedtime story of Bonnie the baby owl, who lives high up in the clock tower!. This imaginative, unique programme for families won a Gold Laurel at the Scottish Hotel Awards.

Rocco Forte Kids – bedtime biscuits and stories

The Balmoral is a 5 star City Resort for a relaxing, romantic break, family holiday or business trip in the heart of the city centre. For excellent shopping, Harvey Nichols, Louis Vuitton and other major designer fashion stores are a short stroll away.

Step through the door into the elegant grandeur of the original North British, to experience the leisurely lifestyle creatively and luxuriously re-imagined for the 21st century world traveller.  

A luxury heritage hotel matched by a glamorous, conrtemporary lifestyle

A Season of Celebration has just been launched in October 2022 to commemorate the hotel’s inspirational history and heritage as an iconic city landmark for 120 years. As well as preserving the architectural splendour, the clock is still set three minutes fast to help travellers rushing to catch the train at Waverley Station.

So this Autumn season is the perfect opportunity to plan a visit either for a few days for a cultural break or book a table for drinks or dinner with friends and family. Perhaps you are celebrating your own special occasion.?

The Pastry team has created a special anniversary Afternoon Tea, accompanied by a glass of the finest Champagne in the Art Deco Palm Court, often to the accompaniment of graceful music on the harp.

The elegantly stunning architecture of the Palm Court

Amidst the sumptuous comfort of the Prince Bar, relax over a drink with the sounds of jazz, blues and country music throughout October, with performances by Amy Reader, Hayley McKay and Simon Armitage. The mixologists have created two delicious, limited edition cocktails – the 1902, Balmoral gin stirred with aperol, antica formula and grapefruit bitters and the Forte 25, Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru, orgeat syrup, maraschino liqueur, fresh lemon juice and topped with elderflower water.

The Ambassadors in SCOTCH have created a special birthday cocktail ‘Here’s tae the next 120’,  a potent, sparkling blend of Highland Park whisky, bramble liqueur, meadowsweet cordial and Champagne.

To celebrate the anniversary, the hotel is offering the ‘One Twenty Experience’, where guests will enjoy a memorable two night stay with five star Scottish hospitality which includes all these treats:

  • £120 hotel credit voucher
  • A bottle of house Champagne on arrival
  • Two nights, starting from an Executive View Room
  • Daily breakfast

You may spend the £120 voucher where you wish from Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court, an indulgent afternoon in the Spa, a classy, classic Martini in Bar Prince or a dram at the SCOTCH bar.

To the ‘Balmoral Hotel’ – Happy 120th Birthday. Cheers! Slainte Mhath! Yes, here’s tae the next 120 years.

To make a reservation or to book any of these special experiences, just contact

Or call:  0131 556 2414.

Discover more about The Balmoral’s ‘Season of Celebration:’

Season of Celebration | Rocco Forte Hotels

Competition time:

Win a ‘One Twenty Experience’ as detailed above. The prize is valid Sunday to Thursday from 1st November 2022 to 15th December 2022, subject to availability. T&Cs apply.

To enter, click here:…/

Celebrate Sober October with Pentire Adrift and Seaward botanical spirits from Cornwall

The most delicious non-alcoholic spirits.”  Gordon Ramsay

The celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay posted a video on Instagram about how much he enjoys sipping Pentire drinks. With 9 million followers, this was shared widely and soon promoted by other restaurateurs including Rick Stein, Nathan Outlaw, Paul Ainsworth and Emily Scott.

Launched in 2019, Pentire distils non-alcoholic spirits inspired by Cornwall: 100% plant based, natural botanicals, vegan friendly, free from artificial flavourings and sweeteners.

Alistair Frost and Edward Grieg-Gran have always loved north Cornwall and amazing sporting, surfing adventures along the seashore. Collaborating with local botanists and distillers, their spiritual journey began with the aim to capture the essence of those feelings, smells and tastes of their Cornish lifestyle and wild landscape in a refreshing drink

Founded on this passion for active, outdoor living, Pentire has always been aimed at those who value the magic of being outdoors and keeping active – the name comes from a local headland. 

Catching waves until dusk, to feel the salt water on my skin, the fresh air and smells of this wild British landscape.  Camping on cliff tops and foraging hedgerows for unexpected bounty.  We wanted to bottle that experience and create a drink that harnesses the power, beauty and flavours of plants.”

Alistair Frost — Founder

Their first creation was Adrift which was an immediate success, soon followed by Seaward.  The pure quality of Pentire drinks is due to the provenance of Cornwall’s coastal ingredients like rock samphire, sage, sea fennel and natural seasalt.

 ‘I went to meet a local botanist on a National Trust farm to chat about plant life in the area .. a really unique climate, especially for sea herbs, and over a thousand plants growing in the area. The flavours that you get when you are standing on a headland looking out to sea’.  Alistair Frost

While Pentire isn’t technically a gin, it’s easiest to describe it as a non-alcoholic spirit of the gin category, a thirst quenching drink served with tonic.

Pentire Adrift with a sprig of rosemary

Pentire Adrift is made with native botanicals including rock samphire, sea fennel, sage, citrus and Cornish sea salt, either sustainably sourced or organically grown.  To serve, fill a glass with ice, pour in 50ml Pentire Adrift, top up with light tonic water and garnish with rosemary.

Pentire Seaward is a botanical spirit featuring locally foraged sea rosemary, sea buckthorn, wild seaweed, zesty hints of pink grapefruit and floral woodruff. To serve, fill a glass with ice, pour in 50ml of Pentire Seaward, top up with light tonic water and garnish with a slice of fresh grapefruit.

Pentire Adrift and Pentire Seaward & Tonic

This summer, Pentire Drinks launched its signature serve, Pentire & Tonic, in ready-to-drink 330ml cans.   This was after almost a year of recipe development, tested by surfers, runners, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs and bartenders alike.  The perfect solution to enjoy these botanical spirits wherever you are, at home, a party, on the beach, on the move.

A crate of handy Pentire & tonic cans

Pentire – pre-mixed with the house light tonic​​​​​​​​, super low calorie, natural ingredients in a recyclable can​​​​​​​​ – ‘grown, distilled & canned on the Cornish coastline.’ ​​​​​​​​Created with no added sugar, artificial colouring or flavouring, these 100% natural, non- alcoholic, alternative ‘Gin and Tonic’ drinks should be served extra chilled.

The Taste Test:

Pentire Adrift & Tonic

The sharp, citrusy zest of lemon is immediately to the fore, but then a range of intriguing herbal, grassy notes linger on the tongue, followed by a slight hint of a salty aftertaste comes through.  The plants include purslane, (an edible and nutritious weed), ice lettuce (a clean lemony flavour), and sea beet (a wild green, related to beetroot and chard). The profile of both soft floral and bitterness of the brine is all very well balanced.

While of course this drink is designed to be sipped straight from the can, as I am not keen on the metallic taste I poured this P & T over ice in a glass and added a slice of lime to enhance the citrus.  To draw out the herbaceous flavour, it is also perfect with a spring of rosemary. A most refreshing and extremely healthy tipple at about 305 calories for the 330ml can.

Pentire Seawards & Tonic

The first sip reminded me of bitter lemon, a tad too sharp but let’s give it time. In fact, the ingredients include orange juice, as well as sea buckthorn, (a hedge plant with golden berries – full of vitamins and minerals), meadowsweet (sweetly scented like hay, almond or vanilla), and rosemary (a pungent lemony-pine herb, often described as minty and peppery).   

​​​​​​​​ Again, this was served over a large block of ice, this time the suggested garnish is a slice of grapefruit.  The fresh, tart juicy fruit notes counter balanced the bitter orange well, while the underlying herbal and sea salt create a complex floral, citrus and mineral flavour. 

For this feature, I was sent these two Pentire drinks ready mixed with tonic in a can. Therefore, unlike my dozens of other drinks reviews on Smart Leisure Guide, I have been unable to taste, test, sip and sample Pentire Adrift and Seaward botanical spirits to experiment with other mixers, shake up mocktails – or even cocktails. 

Cornish Made, Globally Loved

Pentire is an environmentally-focused Cornish business which has put sustainability at its heart, producing a drinks range that quite literally distils the essence of Cornwall into healthy premium drinks. 

There’s now a wide selection of alc. free beers, wines and spirits, a change from just a few years ago and perhaps to counteract all those Quarantini cocktails during a boozy lockdown at home.  The global non-alcoholic beverages market is expected to grow from $923 million in 2020 to more than $1.7 trillion by 2028. 

Sea breeze mocktail with Pentire Adrift

With an ever-growing fan base, happy drinkers have enjoyed ditching the gin or vodka for Pentire botanical spirits with these glowing comments:

Been looking for a sophisticated, herbaceous non-alcoholic cocktail drink for years. No more sickly sweet fruity mocktails! Pentire Adrift is absolutely brilliant.

I am really enjoying Pentire with tonic in the evening. It has allowed me to cut my alcohol units without sacrificing flavour.

Love Pentire spirits – tastes exactly like good quality alcoholic gin.

Such a brilliant alternative to alcohol, and I have always been a dedicated gin drinker.!

So why not buy a couple of bottles to shake up a few Pentire Adrift & Seaward mocktails, or try the ready mixed Pentire & Tonic in a can. Time to embrace Sober October. Cheers!

Check out the online shop on the website as well as inspirational serving suggestions.

“Sleep when you’re dead”  – mystical, dreamlike landscapes by Adrian Gardner @ Whitespace Gallery, Edinburgh

The American rock singer, Warren Zevon is often credited with coining the mantra, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” or as Bon Jovi stated, “Gonna live while I’m alive, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Adrian Gardner graduated in Fine Art at the University of Central Lancashire as well as studying at the University of Lisbon, and now lives in Edinburgh.  After a difficult time during lockdown when he could only exhibit work on line, this showcase of new paintings and prints is based on a narrative theme – the importance of living life to the full:

I try to express what it means to be alive, connections, love, tragedy, existence .. I’m keenly aware of the magic and fragility of it all – a connection to the past and hopefully the future’. Adrian Gardner

Walking into the Whitespace gallery, a lush, languid landscape on the far wall stands out: Off Grid illustrates a couple of hikers trudging downhill towards, perhaps, a Highland loch, with rugged mountains beyond. An intriguing colour palette, switches from soft pastel pinks to shimmering green hills and dark grey clouds with an evocative sense of escape.

Off Grid, Adrian Gardner

A snowy winter day in Wish You Were Here depicts a fun family day out with the artist sitting on a sledge as his son, Charlie stands beside him at the top of the hill.  The ice-blue snow is criss-crossed with tracks while the skeletal bare trees are bathed in a rosy glow at dusk. 

Wish you were here, Adrian Gardner

Observing the panoramic view of jagged, rocky mountains in Transitions, it’s reminiscent for me of a majestic cruise on the Silver Spirit while circumnavitating South America, gliding gracefully along the Glacier Valley, Patagonian Fjords.  

However, Gardner explains that this is based on the dramatic Himalayan mountains in Nepal, although he has never actually travelled here: ‘I paint what I see, what I imagine, places I have been and places I haven’t.’

The Himalayas, Nepal

The Himalayas stretch across Nepal, northeast India, Tibet and Myanmar – as well as the land of the mythical Shangri-La. 

James Hilton imagined Shangri-La in his bestselling novel Lost Horizon (1933). After a plane crash in the Himalayan mountains, British diplomat Hugh Conway claims to have found the utopian world of Shangri-La where the people live in perfect harmony with nature, a paradise on earth.

People make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a damned dull time if they believe too little.” James Hilton

Shangri-La is often used as an analogy for a life-long quest for something elusive.  As well as the fictional Conway, only intrepid mountaineers are ever likely to visit the remote, hidden valleys of Nepal.  

Transitions. Adrian Gardner

Transitions is a spectacular, mesmerising landscape of the mind, portraying perhaps his own elusive, lost horizon, conjuring up memories and dream-like imagination.   

The mirror image of the mountain range delicately coloured in pale pink and glistening gold, is like a glimmering reflection on water, a view which is similarly described in painterly fashion in Lost Horizon :

‘The whole range paled into fresh splendour; a full moon rose, touching each peak in succession like some celestial lamplighter, the long horizon glittered against a blue sky.” James Hilton

The soft shades of oil paint in all these landscapes give a luminous effect on the textured quality of the linen.  Gardner has a particular technique, priming and sanding the paint with several coats for a smooth finish.

​One wall features a series of Op Art decorative designs in Bridget Riley-styled geometric stripes and circles with the addition of miniature sea and landscapes in the bullseye centre. Sleep when you’re dead’ has a whirring, whirling sense of movement while the tiny image of a winter tree and snowy field is all about rural peace and tranquillity.

Sleep when you are dead, Adrian Gardner

Another illustration is Seascape, a miniature painting of calm waves and distant horizon as if to say, forget the flurry of life’s problems surrounding us, to focus on the beauty of nature beyond.

Seascape, Adrian Gardner

As a pure abstract, Bright Futures is aptly named, depicting the warmth of summer sunshine and happier times ahead. 

Bright Futures, Adrian Gardner

This is an enchanting, inspirational exhibition of mystical, magical places expressing moments of silence and contemplation.  Gardner is an artist and also a philosopher whose evocative, rose-tinted vision of the world may encourage us all to dream a little more and find our own personal Shangri-La.     

‘It is an innate human condition to imagine and explore in our minds. The world seems small with modern technology, but is immense, giving a perspective on the now’.  Adrian Gardner

Sleep when you’re dead

Adrian Gardnera solo show of reasonably priced, original paintings, (oil on linen), large and small scale; Limited edition prints.

30 July to 3 August, 2022: open 11am- 5pm

Whitespace Gallery, 76 E. Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 9HQ

The Old Course – St. Andrews: classic and contemporary paintings by Davy Macdonald @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Art history: ‘the study of aesthetic objects and visual expression in historical and stylistic context.’

Davy Macdonald is a most innovative artist, specialising in dramatic scenes, inspired by meticulous research into Scottish cultural heritage: Herring Lassies, Harris Tweed, Gothic Edinburgh.  This exhibition showcases a diverse range of his artwork, both realism and abstract, but centre stage is a new and topical Figurative theme, The Old Course – St. Andrews.

The 1st Open Championship was played at Prestwick in 1860, with just eight players; in July 2022, the 150th Open featuring 156 players in the field, aptly took place at the world’s Home of Golf.   Cameron Smith produced one of the all-time great rounds in Open Championship history to pip Rory McIlroy to glory at St. Andrews.

Davy Macdonald has researched the cultural golfing heritage of St. Andrews with meticulous and magical detail.  In the first half of the 20th century, Staycation in the British Isles meant visiting the seaside on day trips or holidays and travelling by train was imaginatively promoted through colourful advertisements.

LNER travel poster for St. Andrews, A.C. Michael (1933)

This evocative poster for the London & North Eastern Railway, dating from 1933 and designed by the Welsh artist, Arthur C. Michael features two golfers with their caddies, teeing off in front of The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse. West Sands is visible in the background.

The fabulous fashion and leisurely lifesetyle of the 1920s and 1930s are beautifully illustrated in these attractive vintage and now extremely valuable travel posters.

With his own inimitable style, Davy Macdonald has created his own stunning series of paintings depicting a line up of women golfers enjoying Tee Time around the Old Course. Against a threatening grey sky, this determined lady, dressed warmly in a red sweater and plaid skirt, eyes up her shot with a follow through of her club. Beyond are the rolling sand dunes and in the background, the church spires and castle of the old town.  

Old Course, # 1 Davy Macdonald

Here she is again, with no caddy to carry her golf bag, standing proudly on the Swilcan Bridge with neat, period detail of her curled hair, tasseled white shoes and ankle socks. This iconic bridge, beloved by golfers worldwide, was built over 700 years ago so that shepherds could move their flock across the Swilcan Burn which meanders across what is now the 1st and 18th fairways.  

Swilcan, Davy Macdonald

While Mary Queen of Scots played on the historic links in 1567, golf here has has long been a traditional sport for gentlemen. Finally eight years ago, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (founded 1754) decided to allow women to join the Club for the first time. In another railway poster, men and women enjoy a round of golf in the sunshine.

Vintage LNER poster to promote golfing holidays in St. Andrews

Refreshments are essential after a round of 18 holes and The Jigger Inn (1850s) was the Stationmaster’s lodge. The Old Course Resort is built on the site of the former train station which sadly closed in 1969.  This cosy pub is decorated with golfing memorabilia, open-hearth fires, hearty good food, Scottish beers and their own Jigger Ale. Here, a young girl poses elegantly with her club over her shoulder as she heads jauntily into what’s known as the 19th Hole!.

The Jigger Inn, Davy Macdonald

The pioneering and influential Abstract artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, (1912-2004) was born in St Andrews and attended Edinburgh College of Art in the 1930s before moving to St. Ives. Her love of the sea shore is captured in her minimalist drawings, such as West Sands (St. Andrews) and North Sea Fife.

Inspired by Barns-Graham’s linear meditations on waves, sand and wind, Macdonald also relishes the freedom of non-realistic expression to depict a sense of rhythm and energy, such as the swirl of blues and sunshine yellow in Flow #1.

Flow #1 Davy Macdonald

I am fascinated by the power of nature such as skies, seas, atoms and galaxies all in constant change.  My current approach is to work with both hands simultaneously with willow charcoal sticks, brushes or palette knives .. a duet, comparable to a pianist or drummer, both hands working independently yet together creating balance’. Davy Macdonald

Likewise, Flow #3, a mesmerising maze of apparent, ad hoc, quick, red and grey brushstrokes, balanced by a scatter of precise, bold black lines – horizonal and perpendicular.  As the eye follows the ebb and flow of shape and space, there’s a soft jazzy rhythm lurking here in its improvised pattern.      

Flow #3 Davy Macdonald

Having viewed his previous Abstract paintings in recent years, once again, Davy has a real touch of Jackson Pollock (with a more controlled structure), as well as the fluid grid patterns of early Mondrian (e.g. Sea and Starry Sky, 1915).

The truly modern artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.”  Piet Mondrian

As well as original paintings, the decorative designs of the Flow series would create most attractive fabric, textiles and wallpaper.

A large scale, (6 – 4 foot) Abstract composition, Among the Floe, is extremely impressive in both inventive design and experimental technique.  A floe is a sheet of floating ice, all the more visible due to the melting of glaciers and icebergs from the Patagonian Fjords to the Polar Regions.  A flurry of brash brushstrokes splash icy streaks of thick white paint across the canvas with an effective sense of dramatic mood and movement.  


The exhibition also includes work from previous Figurative series, such as At the End of the Day and Herring Lassies at the Harbour Wall – portraits of fisherwomen whose bandaged fingers are the result of shucking oysters, gutting and salting the herring. 

This new collection of nostalgic, vintage scenes of the Old Course, St. Andrews juxtaposed with modern Abstract Expressionism illustrate Macdonald’s evolving, imaginative style and aesthetic vision criss-crossing the world of art history.

Visit the Dundas Street Gallery this week to view these contrasting classic and contemporary original paintings as well as Limited Edition Prints on paper and canvas.

The Old Course – St. Andrews

Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ

21 – 31 July, 2022; open 10am – 6pm, daily.

Herring Lassies at Harbour Wall, Davy Macdonald

‘word is’… by Catherine Sargeant – the abstract visual art of language @ Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh

After achieving a 1st class degree in Drawing and Painting at the Edinburgh College of Art, Catherine Sargeant became the first recipient of WASPS new graduate award. Her art practice covers printmaking, drawing, photography, painting and bookmaking, she is a professional member of the Society of Scottish Artists and teaches at Leith School of Art.

Catherine Sargeant, ,SSA – a passion for painting and a love of language.

“I use text in my art, not as a writer or poet but as a collaborator. So many words, so many ways to create. I collect words from various sources: individual favourite words, quotes from the great and good, dictionary definitions, the poetry of Robert Burns, the list goes on’.

Catherine Sargeant

In this collection of paintings and screenprints, using a diverse range of media, “word is” is inspired by the beauty of specific words and the shape of each letter of the alphabet. In family matters, just visible beneath the surface, the original text has been erased to leave a few letters highlighted to create a message about love and kinship in an artistic pattern.

family matters, Catherine Sargeant

This is reminiscent of the experimental literary style, Concrete Poetry, first coined in the 1950’s – Poesia concreta originated in Brazil quickly spreading to Europe: the dissection of words into separate letters constructed in a layout of grids, columns, spirals or the shape of the poem’s subject.  Edwin Morgan was a unique contributor to the avant garde movement, delighting in visual wordplay with intellectual wit.  ‘Message Clear’ repeats the biblical verse from John 11:25 (‘I am the resurrection and the life’) removing different letters to make new phrases.

A fragment from Message Clear, Edwin Morgan (1966)

As a literary visual artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay also specialised in the fragmented format of words within circles and geometric shapes across the page as in ‘Cork Net’ and ‘Broken Heart.’

Catherine makes clear that she is not a poet per se, but celebrates the interpretation of language in minimalist manner to communicate a subtle subtext – ‘often in collaboration with contemporary creative friends – writers, poets, musicians, – adding yet more layers to my work, both literally and metaphorically.’

A chilling message with echoes of Hitchcock’s Psycho and other murder movies is captured in hollywood moment: “A sensual, per f ect scream”.

hollywood moment, Catherine Sargeant

Catherine enjoys experimenting with various fonts although much of the text resembles the typeface of a vintage typewriter, such as in red web and reddest.  Like the clue for a crossword puzzle, each word can be prefixed by the colour red.

red hot, Catherine Sargeant
red web, Catherine Sargeant

Observing how text communication today dominates modern social life, she also focusses on the abbreviated use of language; the selection of edited, altered, blackout phrases lets the viewer interpret their own meaning.  orrizonte (Italian for Horizon) illustrates the definition – ‘the limit of one’s experience’ – as well as the artistic symbol of a compass and fluidity of sea waves. This is a screenprint on paper over a wooden board with resin.

orrizonte, Catherine Sargeant

An intriguing series, Sea Circles captures the changing mood and movement of the waves – from calm to stormy days:  Dream, Silence, Squall, Magical, Sound. These 17 cm round abstract paintings (gloss, graphite and oil on plywood) are so delicately crafted, a soft swirl of blue and white and one single solitary word for calming, meditative thought.

What is so appealing is the simplicity, brevity and clarity of the artwork.  Here are graphic patterns of letters, words and symbols – with an emphasis on the ampersand –  in which the typographical image is more important in conveying an essence of emotion and mood than overall literary significance.

A magical composition is velvety night, which draws the viewer deep into the seascape where a scattering of words – stars, sound – are almost drowned by the flowing waves under a shimmering moonlit sky.  Such a dramatic atmosphere of night-time darkness – a time and place of peace and solitude.

With such imagination, inventiveness and originality, Catherine Sargeant combines both linguistic and visual expression in painterly poems with such precision and creativity.

The Art of the Word.

velvety night, Catherine Sargeant

word is ……. Catherine Sargeant

Doubtfire Gallery, 28 NW Circus Place, Edinburgh EH3 6TP

13 July – 13 August, 2022

Opening hours, Wednesday to Sunday, 12 noon – 4pm.

Homeland @ Dundas Street Gallery: explore the Outer Hebrides and the wider world through the art of travel by Donald Libby and Eilidh Jamieson.

The Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh is a marvellous space for an eclectic range of pop up art exhibitions.  This week there’s a superb collection of hand crafted, sculptured ‘seascapes’ displayed on towers of white boxes complemented by colourful, decorative maps around the walls.  

Homeland – sculptured seascapes by Donald Libby and decorative maps by Eilidh Jamieson

Donald Libby and Eilidh Jamieson both live in Stornoway and their contrasting artwork is inspired by their homeland, the Isle of Lewis.  Eilidh was initially due to be exhibiting with another artist, and so it was by chance she was introduced to Donald who agreed to collaborate on this joint showcase. 

I find that being born and brought up on an Island shapes you as an individual and as an artist – surrounded by the sea, rugged coastlines and beautiful beaches is where I find my inspiration’.

Donald Libby

His art materials are sourced from beachcombing walks to find salvaged driftwood, water bottles, rusty nails, fishing nets and mooring buoys, washed up by the waves on to the sand.  Working in his Studio Shed, Libby has such a magical imagination to transform these found treasures into unique, hand crafted sculptures.  Each specific shapely piece of timber, metal, glass and plastic is selected to create such realistic miniature cottages perched on a rocky seashore with cute wee dinghies, complete with miniature oars.

Sailors Warning, Donald Libby

The detail is exquisite with washing lines in the garden, twig ‘trees,’ and the creative use of salvaged planks of wood, perhaps from an old boat with peeling red and blue paint, as in Sailors Warning.

These 3D seascapes capture the atmosphere of living on a Hebridean island – you can almost catch a whiff of the fresh sea breeze around harbour walls and sandy beach.  In Approaching Shower, see the pounding waves crashing against the rocky cliff, with the lighthouse keeping sailors safe at sea.  

Approaching Shower, Donald Libby

Libby doesn’t identify exactly the location of each particular scene although a few scenes depicting tall, slender stacks are reminiscent of St. Kilda, such as Gannet Rock. 

Gannet Rock, Donald Libby

Having enjoyed travelling and living abroad made me realise what a privilege it was to be born on the stunning beauty of the Outer Hebrides. It evoked the desire to create art which would inspire nostalgia and a sense of Home’. Eilidh Jamieson:

In 2013, Eilidh was just 19 years old and working on the far side of the world, Mount Isa in the Australian desert and missed her home on the Isle of Lewis. She came across an online shop which could emboss an image of one’s own country onto the cover of a travel journal. This began her love affair with Maps.  

At the gallery you can see a collection of her delicately designed paintings and prints, an enchanting world atlas of islands and countries from the Isle of Lewis to Australia, Asia to South Africa, Canada and the Caribbean. 

World maps: the art of travel in watercolour paintings, Eilidh Jamieson

The Outer Hebrides are named after the Norse word, Harbredey, loosely translated as “Isles at the edge of the Sea.”  A map of this archipelago depicts the 130 miles of wild, rugged, undulating coastline, around cliff tops and white sand beaches.  It is not just the geography and location of the islands which Eilidh is trying to capture but the cultural heritage of her homeland, renowned for Harris tweed and the ancient Standing Stones at Callanais.

The Outer Hebrides etched in gold, Eilidh Jamieson

These unique hand-painted watercolours, decorated with colourful inks and pinpointed specific places on the map sprinkled with flecks of copper, silver or gold for a glittering piece of artwork.  The curving coastline of islands, the curving shapes of borders and boundaries evoke memories of family holidays and romantic journeys of discovery around the world.

A blue tinted watercolour of Scotland, Eilidh Jamieson

With little opportunity to jet off over the past couple of years, we can still appreciate memories of journeys past, and these maps offer an original illustration of favourite places through Eilidh’s innovative art of travel. 

We study maps to be inspired and to daydream of planning a bucket list of where to go on our next wanderlust adventure.

Through her company, EJayDesign, she accepts commissions for personalised bespoke maps with the addition of your own text and title. Printed on giclèe fine art paper or unstretched canvas using pigment inks, they are completed by hand with sparkling of acrylic gold.  These would be perfect birthday, wedding and anniversary gifts for family and friends. 

Scotland maps for personalised gifts

The planning, organisation and travel to set up this exhibition has been a huge effort, having to drive a truck, by road and ferry from Stornoway, with an extensive range of artwork to Edinburgh.  Do take a visit if you can to the Dundas Street Gallery this week to see Eilidh and Donald’s artwork – prices are very reasonable for these finely crafted maps, seascape models and also useful key holders – perfect presents too.

This is a creative debut collaboration between two distinctive artists who share a dramatic imagination and evocative sense of place.  I do hope this review will encourage a gallery on the Isle of Lewis to offer the two artists the space to show off their inspiring artwork in their own Homeland. 

Dundas Street Gallery,  Dundas Street, Edinburgh

Tuesday 5th – Saturday 9th July 2022