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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Review - Ondine

So, a belated write up of a trip to Ondine, Roy Brett's new(ish) restaurant in Edinburgh; you might not have heard of Roy before but you'll have certainly heard of his food with 4 years as exec. chef at Risk Stein's place in Padstow and another 4 years heading the operation of the Dakota hotel chain and specifically manning the helm at the award winning Dakota Forth Bridge where he was garnered with awards including Scottish Seafood Chef and Scottish Hotel Chef of the year.

Anyhoo, Roy has now fulfilled a long held ambition and opened his own restaurant in Edinburgh City Centre – it's a bright and open room which is part of the Missoni Hotel building (but not part of the hotel); for those without local knowledge, a large glass wall overlooks Victoria Street and specifically the entrance to "Espionage" a club much beloved of students and stag parties, I suspect this may be where to sit for the best views of street theatre on Friday and Saturday nights. We went for lunch but for some reason I'm finding this really amusing and can't wait to go on a weekend night.

So, the food – as one would expect from a chef with such a seafood pedigree (and a restaurant named after a water nymph), the menu is predominantly seafood with a good lot of crustacean and a few other options as well as a selection of both daily and weekly specials.

We couldn't decide what oysters to have while perusing the menu so they had no problem providing a selection of Fine de Claires, Maldons and Cumbraes – all good but for the price the Cumbraes were far superior to the Fine de Claires. Starters were shared in so far as I had half of Fiona's treacle cured salmon and wouldn't let her near my barbecued salt and pepper squid; I despise reviews that constantly glow but in this case I can't fault either dish, both were far above average.

I then had half a dozen langoustines with cocktail sauce for a main, and just to be sure a portion of the beef dripping chips; the langoustines were mammoth and juicy and the cocktail sauce perfectly adequate but I'm never sure why cold seafood tastes better in France than it does at home - both use Scottish produce! Perhaps it's a state of mind? Anyway, both the cooking and produce were spot on and the chips! The chips came from an old uncles' memory when everything smelled and tasted better, I can't wait to have them again. I can't remember what Fiona had, I think it was Grilled Seabass with brown shrimps, she seemed to like it but I was too busy protecting my langoustine and chips to pay much attention. For not fishy people, there are several other good options based on both meat and veggies.

Pudding was the only disappointing note of the meal, we shared some doughnut thing which had a white chocolate custard thing to dip the d-nuts into; it was all just a bit too sweet and a bit too much for us, not exactly in keeping with the rest of the menu.

Service was great (especially as we managed to pitch up without a reservation in the opening week) and we were made to feel completely welcome by everyone, despite being a bit scruffy and having a 6 month old with us. On the downside though was a junior Maitre d' (I think) who seemed to enjoy bossing about the waitresses and from my observations, made every single error of service in the room that lunchtime; the waitresses and the real Maitre d' seemed to put up working with him well, I'd probably have knocked him out if I had to work with him.



Here's a question – what's the point in authenticity?

That's a strange question for someone who loves his food, you might think; that flies in the face of accepted foodie wisdom you may even say, but indulge me a little on this one.

I have spent most of this year flirting with Northern Asian, Chinese and South East Asian food and I have been loving it – especially all the Vietnamese dishes I had during the muggy part of summer, but as I have never eaten in a Vietnamese restaurant, let alone visited the country, how do I know if the flavours were authentic? Simply, I don't. That said my lemongrass beef salads were great and my "Korean barbeque" pork was amazing – and this is my point; I created these dishes using inspiration from Asia but let's face it: my Mongolian hotpot will have been very different to one eaten on the Steppes and therefore not authentic but was it any less enjoyable? No.

And so, why do we get hung up on authenticity; if something is enjoyable can't we accept that? I've come to the realisation that inspiration and influence is more important than authenticity and that while the Pho in Ho Chi Min city is probably far better than mine, as there's no chance of me popping over with 2 young kids in tow I shouldn't forgo my still enjoyable approximate facsimile.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Review - Hibiscus

Simultaneous business trips to London on my wife's birthday provided the excuse for a visit to Hibiscus earlier in the month.

I'd booked it a couple of months ago so turning up and discovering the tasting menu available midweek was exciting, discovering the prices had been increased since booking wasn't. Not that it was a huge increase (£5 per head on the à la carte) but did have Fiona pondering the notion of prior advice of the change, especially as they had my email address; what can I say – she's a lawyer.

Anyway, that was a talking point and certainly didn't detract from the meal; predictably we opted for the tasting menu which was adapted from the àlc with a few augmentations and kicked off with a chilled Hibiscus soda with spherified pineapple and black pepper; it reminded both of us (pleasantly) of an unnamed drink from childhood holidays in Brittany.

Then came a single, monstrous scallop with a granny smith and hazelnut crust and a pork pie sauce; all lovely though there could have been more of the unctuous sauce. In fact, I would happily have had a glass of the sauce on it's own. Next up was a ravioli of cevennes onion with a salad of grelot onion, granny smith and a spherified potato "gnocchi", I'm a huge fan of the onion/potato combination and the addition of apple enhanced the flavours; I was also impressed by how distinct the two types of onion were, both sweet and oniony but also individual and complimentary.

The following course was red mullet accented with an onion salad, bone marrow and onion toast, smoked butter and civet sauce which stood up to the sprout leaves which tarnished the plate (entirely a personal prejudice, Fi happily relieved me of the offending leaves, strange woman). The bone marrow/onion toast was amazing and went far too quickly – I'd have loved more but Fiona wondered if it may be too rich for a larger portion, no matter the course was a triumph and left us looking forward to the next.

Which was a disappointment, Fine de Claire oysters poached in their shell with a shallot and sherry vinegar gel and lemon caviar; I have no idea why anyone feels the need to cook oysters but I also don't have Claude Bosi's accolades so we tried with an open mind. I really wish we hadn't bothered. The oyster was fine, spoiled slightly by the poaching but the gel was horrificly acidic, the flavour dominated everything else with the shallots and lemon caviar undetectable. I hope the gel was made my some commis on a stage as whoever did make it has a problem with their palate.

The next course resumed the otherwise excellent balance of the meal; roast foie gras with fig compote and raspberry vinegar purée. It was great – though I think I'm getting a bit bored of foie gras; that really does sound louché doesn't it? Ah well, on with the Grouse...

Which was what was next, roast Scottish Grouse with a sourdough puree, sweetcorn and curry gel and black pepper oil; the grouse was cooked to perfection and not too high, the sourdough puree and the gel complimenting it perfectly.

For desert there was a granny smith puree, sweet celeriac jelly and cream of chestnut which wasn't bad but didn't make as much of an impression as the preceding courses and then came a mystery desert. To be honest I'm a bit over the whole "we'll tell you what it is once you've finished" thing but this time it was fun. So, we had a mystery tart with a pear sauce and a vanilla & smoked caramel ice-cream; the accompaniments were good but the tart was perplexing, slightly grainy in texture but beautifully put together. We wondered on chestnut but as it was in the course before I decided it must have been nutmeg; turns out it was parsnip, just not like any parsnips I've ever had before.

Throw in a couple of Kirs, a bottle of dry Aussie Riesling and a lovely Savigny les Beaune and we have a lovely evening; I'm still not sure about the room, it felt uncomfortable slightly but I'm not sure why, it didn't spoil anything though. Interestingly my wife's now keen on spherification and gels – she's always been unsure at my home attempts – so it looks like I can get the algin etc. out again.

Friday, 22 May 2009


Is it the credit crunch that's doing it, making every other paper/TV channel/media start a campain to change my back lawn from a toddler's playground to dysfunctional version of The Good Life?

Am I the only one who thinks this is all a bit ludicrous? Let's face it, modern properties don't normally come with gardens large enough to have a veg patch (and greenhouse) big enough to make it worth while; vegetables are seasonal as well, meaning that you're not just going to plant something today and be able to eat it next week - unless you started months ago it's going to be Autumn before you reap the fruits of your labours and next year before you get the real benefit.

Also let's not forget that the majority of us have no clue about gardening any more; my father is a good gardener yet I learned nothing about it growing up, my mother likes gardening as well but I've not inherited her green fingers; the closest I've got to gardening recently was planting a rose bush in the front garden because my wife told me that all that digging was "man's work". My point? Simply idiots like me can't expect to plant a huge seed crop and for it to all work, at least half will fail because of my ineptitude and then my wife would moan that I've ruined the kid's favourite corner of the garden.

I'm all in favour of allotments but really, who has time in this modern age? Families, jobs, there are so many other calls on ones time that they're just not practicle unless you're a bit older or have less demands.

Instead I'm going to keep supporting my local farm shops, organic boxes and vegmongers; it's the best for us all, don't you agree?

It's Barbecue time...

I love Barbecues, I really do - my grill even has a name: "The Beefmaster", though this is a brand and not a flight of insanity on my part. Except for the hardy few who'll use their barbecues as wood or coal-fired ovens the year round, May is the start of grill season so here's a few of my handy tips and maxims:

  1. Get yourself a grill brush - they're only a few quid, are easily found in garden and DIY stores and are the best way to clean the grill; once you've discovered that brushing it while warm has a better effect than soaking for hours in the kitchen sink, you'll never make a mess of your kitchen again (and will probably barbecue every other night).
  2. Also get a spray... thing? (what are they called, misters? I use the same type as my wife waters the houseplants with), this can dampen any flare-ups caused by dripping fat and stops things getting unpleasantly burned.
  3. Think about the charcoal you buy, charcoal production causes huge deforestation in some areas but it's easy to find sustainably produced charcoal in B&Q's and lots of other places.
  4. Also, think about what you're cooking when you choose between lumpwood and briquettes, lumpwood burns hotter but doesn't last as long where briquettes give a longer, lower heat; I often use a mixture of the two.
Now, as for what to cook, try some imagination - a single rib of beef, oiled and seasoned will slice into the most wonderful steak for 3 people (or 2 greedy bastards), a leg of lamb butterflied and marinaded in garlic, thyme and lemon for a few hours is fantastic, chicken is a similar marinade or one of harissa lightened with oil or yogurt, a recent discovery of mine is pork leg/shoulder/loin in a Korean marinade, simply heaven. Serve all this stuff with a decent salad and some bread and you can carve it table side, just to show off your masculinity and make your guests (who invariably just chuck supermarket sausages on a barbie) feel inadequate!

Review - Restaurant 21212

On Wednesday I attended the opening night of Paul Kitching's new operation, Restaurant 21212 and it was really rather good; the restaurant is the ground floor of a Georgian Townhouse (the old 3 Royal Terrace for those who remember) with a drawing room and private dining area on the 1st floor and plush rooms above. It's been decorated in sympathy with the period features yet has a contemporary edge; it feels as effortlessly stylish as Per Se coupled with a relaxed and welcoming ambiance.

Anyway, we arrived to a warm welcome and were invited to repair to the dining room for some opening night Champagne, all very civilised. It was here that we saw Paul popping in to speak to the waiters, checking they were ready for the night ahead; he looked understandably anxious but still made time to say hello.

The menu was as billed, a choice of two starters, a soup, two mains, a cheese course and two desserts; bread was offered which was stuffed with pistachios, dried fruit and curry notes, I found it lovely though my wife, who doesn't like dried fruit, was a bit disappointed in the lack of choice. Technically it was great, light and airy, it excited the palate without being filling.

To start I had the Chicken BLT while the rest of the table opted for Scallops with "seven peas". The Chicken was a wonderful deconstruction of an otherwise indifferent sandwich, the distinct flavours all worked together and were stunning individually. The Scallops were almost as nice, I suspect they were butter-poached as they were plump, succulent and scallopy, the "seven peas" seems to be peas prepared in seven ways, most successful though my wife and mother-in-law felt some of the peas were too hard, I tried a couple and suspect they may have been dried.

Next came the soup, it was cauliflower, carrot and apple with a slice of salami and, randomly, a confectionery apple string; for all this was the stand out dish of the evening, every mouthful brought a different combination of flavours that were a wonderful symphony in ones mouth. Seriously, I can't rave enough about this, equally I can only hint at the depth of flavour - as it constantly changed it would take far too long to describe.

For the mains I opted for the Turbot and Chorizo while the others had the Beef. The Turbot was as good a piece of fish as I've had in a long time, accompanied by lentils, caperberries, a baby chorizo and a couple of sauces which I couldn't even identify but were wonderful (am I beginning to overuse that word?), the lentils were slightly underdone for my taste but didn't bring the dish down. The others enjoyed the beef, it was served with what looked like some gremolata and they reported further lemon hints coming from what they called "the white stuff", not too technically helpful but they loved it.

Until the cheese came, all conversation at the table was suspended when the dishes arrived, only to resume while waiting for the next course. I would say we fell silent in reverence at the altar of Paul Kitching, but that might be a bit too melodramatic. It was seriously good though.Anyway, the cheese course allowed us to eat and talk, there was a great selection of 10 British and French cheeses served with porridge biscuits and a couple of others which I ignored. Can I just commend 21212 for having this as a separate course and for having it in the correct place (jamais le sucre avant le sale).

A pre-dessert came out of coconut and porridge infused milk, served in paper shot cups from a cute cow-shaped milk jug; this was great and fun, the flavours developed in the mouth like those of a good wine with the coconut surging and then ebbing to leave a delicious oatyness. Not too impressed with the paper cups though, they do look like something you'd find containing ketchup in an Ikea canteen, shot glasses would be preferable.

For dessert I had a baked custard which was flavoured with cumin and caraway and loaded with sultanas and kumquat and which was accompanied by a raspberry and linseed trifle; both dishes packed a flavourful punch that I'm still salivating over. The rest of the table enjoyed cheesecake and a fiery ginger sorbet that was so well received I didn't get to try any of it.

We had to leave at this point, our substitute babysitter having a time limit, so we didn't have time for coffee but Katie kindly presented both my wife and mother-in-law with some bon-bons to take home. I've eaten my wife's as I'm writing this, they are unctuous and mellow and could almost have converted me to dark chocolate. Fiona's going to kill me when she finds them gone.

Anyway, in summary: Restaurant 21212 is fantastic, Paul's dishes are going to challenge the culinary status-quo in Edinburgh by offering intelligent and complex flavours that excite the palate, all done with humour and a deft and skillful had. Even at Per Se, I only had one dish that made me this excited, at 21212 I had 5.The wine list is rather good with some interesting bottles there, though I do wonder if some of the mark-ups may be more London than Edinburgh (I'm thinking of a £60 bottle of Frank Phelan here, it was only a 2005 and I'm sure the last bottle I bought at retail was £17). The staff are pretty much faultless, welcoming and attentive but informal; they are really quite knowledgeable and seem to be proud of where they work. Justifiably.

On the down side, this was an opening night and there are a few things I think we'll see tweaked over the next weeks and months, lack of choice in bread, some of the cutlery is a bit more style over substance - I'm thinking of the two pronged forks that the others were given for the beef in particular and I don't think the room is large enough to be served napkins from a tray, it was nice but perhaps just impractical.

Is this worth £60 per head? Certainly.
Is this deserving of stars? Definitely 1, a few tweaks and possibly 2.
Should people go? Yes, but not too many of you, I always want to be able to get a table.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Hold on, I've just realised it's May!

And that means I'm just days away from my favourite veg, the humble but delightful Broad Bean.

Everyone bangs on about fresh, British asparagus, and it is lovely, but it can't hold a candle to the broad bean; you see, asparagus starts deteriorating much faster then most other veg so unless you've had something from the farm down the road picked that morning, you may as well buy frozen.

But even fresh asparagus reminds me of that gorgeous girl in the office who everyone lusts after but when you eventually take her on a date is slightly bitter and disapointing. Broad beans however are the girl in the flat next door, the one that you've always liked and then, when you go for a coffee, you find intoxicating, exciting and wonderful dressed casually in a coffee shop, dressed to the nines for a night out and most impressive when lighly steamed and in a salad. Or in lingerie, it's all good.

Vegging out...

I know that I prefer the nicer things in life, rare breed meats, heritage and organic veg and fine, estate wines; I also know that these are more expensive than other options and in this time of credit crunching, how can we afford it?

Well, one thing I'm doing is going veggie twice a week.

I don't mean that at weekends I become a woolly jumper wearing Guardian reader, just that on two nights through the week we have a meat-free meal. It's cheaper, healthier and I find it can prove an interesting challenge of I want to be stretched, or I can just make some scrambled eggs if I'm feeling tired, it's all good.

NB: I am not endorsing or advocating vegetarianism; humans are apex predators and pretty much have the right to eat any animal or vegetable they want.

The best thing that can happen to a steak...

Compound butters, be they garlic, maitre d' or harissa are all well and good, but for when you want to be really nice to both yourself and that prime Rib Eye you've just got from Well Hung and Tender:

Take a bunch of tarragon and strip the leaves. Chop finely and throw them into a small pan with 125 ml or so of sherry, red wine or champagne vinegar (or a mixture of the 2 or three, sometimes I'll also use tarragon vinegar), 2 shallots (or 1 large banana shallot) and a teaspoon of black pepper that's been bashed and cracked with a mortar and pestle.

Reduce this down 'till it's almost dry, do it slowly or it'll burn and the vinegar will stink the kitchen out.

While that's reducing place a block of unsalted butter, preferably French, weighing about 225/250g into another small pan and melt it gently.

When the reduced tarragon has cooled place mixture in a heat proof bowl and beat in an egg yolk. Now place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and beat in another 3 egg yolks, beat constantly until the eggs look foamy and thicker. This isn't scrambled eggs so if it looks like it's beginning to scramble or split, take it away the pan and add just a touch of cold water and whisk furiously; it may work and recombine, if not - go back to step 1. Also, use the best and freshest freerange, organic eggs you can get your mitts on, don't even waste your time with this if you're going to use some supermarket value egg that's been in hte fridge for a couple of weeks. Also also, have the yolks at room temperature before using.

When the yolks and reduction are combined, foamy and thicker, start to add the warm butter, spoonful by spoonful. Do this carefully because you don't want any milk solids (that white stuff in the bottom of the pan) getting into the sauce, keep whisking and whisking. Once the butter's almost all gone (except for the white crud), taste the sauce.

Season it with some salt and pepper, and serve it immediately beside that steak and some chips. Real chips, not frozen or oven chips, you've just made a kick-ass Bearnaise so why spoil it with frozen chips?

Review - Pani Solinska

Talk about an itinerant appetite, I set off for lunch with one of my regular chums, heading firmly in the direction of a new Korean restaurant that's opened in Edinburgh and we ended up in a Polish cafe. Not that there was anything wrong with the Korean joint, we just managed to walk past it, engrossed in gossip and were too hungry to head back.

Now I'm not a huge fan of the Polish food you tend to get in the UK, I normally find it too stodgy and with confusing flavours; certainly more suited to a winter's dinner than a spring lunch but chummy's blood sugar was dropping and that makes him grumpy, so hey ho...

No bad thing either.

Anyway, the cafe is a clean, modest but welcoming place which offers a range of dishes and sandwiches, mainly variations of protein on a theme, with a take away option as well. We opted for a tasting platter of Polish meats (£7.50) which came with a selection of homemade salads and a "Polish Soft Drink", a Pierogi - home made dumplings filled with sauerkraut and topped with fried onions and sour cream and a portion of sauteed potatoes with herbs and garlic.

The platter was nice with a decent selection of charcuterie and the salads were in reality some great pickles, the best was a sweet carrot and cabbage pickle which I've already tried to recreate. The dumplings were lighter than expected and had a nice balance and depth of flavour, the accompanying onions were slightly oily but nicely cooked. As for the sauteed potatoes, they were a bit dull and pasty, not parboiled therefore hard in the middle and the only discernible herb was dill which is, in my view, a bit dull.

Perhaps I'll leave the puns to someone else.

Anyway, the service was good and attentive with an authentically Polish waitress changing my mental image of Polish women to the better (much to the better).

The bill came to £21.45 for 2 mains, 1 side, 1 beer and 2 weird yet pleasant carrot and strawberry juices.

Not a bad place for lunch to be honest, though I'd have doubts about it as an evening venue. Do you want me to score it? i always think score are a bit trite, but if you want me to I will.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

So what's all the fuss about foraging?

It seems that everywhere I look right now, all the foodie experts are extoling the benefits of foraged food with the prime example, wild garlic, making an almost ubiquitous appearance in every sunday paper and on UKTV Food's Market Kitchen daily for the past fortnight.

Now, I have nothing aginst wild garlic, in fact I quite like it - it cropped up in the organic veg box I used to have delivered; but am I going to forage for it? Am I buggery.

I'm relatively aware of what foods look like, I grow my own herbs and don't expect veg to come in nice shiny bags, but the simple fact remains that I have no idea where all these foods grow or time to go looking for them on the off-chance. I only come across wild garlic when I'm taking my boys for a walk by the riverside (the garlic smells fantastic); no problem so far, but this is a walk popular with more than parents and toddlers, there's lots of dogs for one thing and I'm not keen on the thought of eating something that's been hosed down by half a dozen golden retrievers.

And have you considered mushrooms? Nice wild mushrooms are wonderful in principle but simply Russian Roulette in practice; I once went on a professional mushroom hunt and my wife and I were the only couple that managed to pick some mushroom which, in small quantities, Mongolian shaman use to travel to the spirit plane and which if ingested in larger amounts ensures a permanent place with departed spirits.

Now I do know what a cep looks like and a morel and even a chanterelle but am I brave enough to risk mis-identification? Not on your nelly. I also know what can happen if I get it wrong.

In his excellent cookery book, Essence, David Everitt-Matthais espouses the use of foraged ingredients and then mentions the forager he uses if he's unable to go out; I'm guessing that'll be most of the time. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of his restaurant but there's no way the head chef of a 2 Michelin star joint spends his mornings poking about a hedge looking for the odd sprig of Lemon Balm. No, he's in the kitchen letting the professionals do the work outdoors.

So, if you really want to show off with something foraged at home, do the smart thing and just buy it. Or do the smarter thing and serve some butter poached lobster tails a la Thomas Keller.

A quickie, in more ways than one?

Here's a quick thought - is McDonalds the culinary equivalent of a one night stand?

Think about it, they both tend to happen when judgement is affected (through alcohol or hunger), they both tend to be extremely satisfying at the time and they both frequently lead to feelings of remorse, guilt and a longing for a shower.

Obviously I'm speaking from memory here; I'm married so it's been a very long time since I've been involved in a one nighter and, as my wife considers McDonalds and one night stands with similar disdain, almost as long since I've had a quarter pounder with cheese.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The importance of being regular...

Thinking of my favourite suppliers reminded me of the importance of being a regular customer; apart from the obvious economic benefits of providing custom to keep these guys going (and therefore ensuring the supply of food that tastes good and not supermarket standard cardboard meat), being regular means you'll get the good stuff.

The trick's quite simple, talk to the guys in the farm shop or at the market, tell them what you did with that last joint you got, how it tasted and what you're going to do with the next one. They're proud of their product (they're in this business for love because they're not making much money out of it) and they like the feedback. And then, once you're a regular, you'll find yourself being pointed to the best of the best, maybe the odd freebie to try and certainly you'll be given priority if you need to order that joint for a special occasion (especially Christmas/New Year and Easter).

There is a downside however, you can aquire a reputation beyond your ability as happened to me at Eddie's Seafood Market; some time ago I went to collect an order of Red Snapper* when my girlfriend noticed some lovely dressed crab that she fancied for lunch, I asked for a crab and Eddie promptly went over to the tank in the corner and pulled out a massive, live, brown crab. I had never dealt with a live one but I was too stupidly macho to admit I didn't know what to do; on taking the crab home I consulted Rick Stein while the Katie the Crab (as it had been christened) went to sleep in the freezer. Rick recomends placing the crab into cold water and then bringing it to the boil to prevent auto-amputation of the legs, all this did was wake Katie up, who then started banging on the sides of the pan, unnerving my girlfriend, and trying to escape. Long story short there was an ensuing fight between Katie and myself which I remember as similar to the squid scene in 20,000 leagues under the sea, by the time it was over the kitchen was soaked and I'd lost my appetite. What a waste.

* That Red Snapper almost prevented that girlfriend becoming my wife, I'll tell that story some other time.

Some people I like...

Just back from the local Farmer's Market (Haddington) and I thought I'd share some of my favourite producers:

  • Ballencrieff Pedigree Pigs - Peter and Elma grow rare breed Berkshire, Saddleback and Gloucester Old Spot naturally and you can tell by the taste, they have won rakes of awards for their bacon (my favourite is the unsmoked middle) and sausages and also supply me with the raw ingredients for my attempts at ham and sausage making.

  • Well Hung and Tender - Donald and Sarah farm wonderful Aberdeen Angus in the Scottish Borders, it's all well aged and grass fed leading to lots of Omega-3 fatty acids in the beef, so basically this beef is as good for you as oily fish (and while I like salmon, give me a ribeye anyday). Also Donald won a Nuffield scholarship to study beef and while I don't know exactly what that is, my best mate was awarded a medical Nuff. Scholarship and told me they were very prestigeous.

  • J&M Craig, Briarneuk Nursery - Simply some lovely tomatos, many varieties with real flavour - try some and I doubt you'll ever want to have some of the tasteless, imported red pulp that you get in supermarkets. You can find the Craigs at Farmers Markets across Scotland.

  • Clark Bros. of Musselburgh and Eddie's Seafood Market of Marchmont - two brilliant fishmongers; both Clarks and Eddie's carry a wonderful range of fresh fish and seafood, live lobster and crab, frankly anything you want. They will also source specific orders if asked nicely. Whenever I go looking for something, I always leave laden with crab, oysters and lots of other goodies (hence myoysters followed by seabass with pea risotto last night). Clarks - 0131 665 6181 Eddies - 0131 229 4207

More to come as I think of them...

Friday, 24 April 2009

Good news for Edinburgh

Paul Kitching's long awaited restaurant has announced it's opening date, press release follows:

**save the date** save the date** save the date** save the date** save the date**

Paul Kitching – restaurant 21212, Edinburgh – to open 20 May 09

The official opening date of Michelin-starred chef Paul Kitching’s new restaurant 21212 has been confirmed as Wednesday 20 May 09.

For Paul it’s the culmination of his dream to set up 21212 and run it in his own imitable style. When it opens in the third week of May facilities will include three luxury bedrooms, a 38 seater restaurant, bar, reception area and private dining. In terms of contrasts it’s night and day in comparison to their eponymous restaurant Juniper. The listed Georgian townhouse over four floors is light, spacious and airy whereas Juniper was an onstreet property which was a former an estate agents. The couple and their business partners* have invested £4.5m into the project and have been heavily involved in restoring the elegant townhouse to its former glory since inception and although they have retained many period features they primarily wanted to transform the restaurant into a 21st century environmentally friendly restaurant.

A glance at the menu carefully constructed and considered by Paul shows that he is staying true to his modern French style of cookery which he championed at Juniper but with a more grown up approach to his menu combinations. For £60 per person the dinner menu consists of an exciting combination of dishes prepared by Paul and his team of eight chefs, which includes his sous chef from Juniper Kate Johnston. The five course gourmet menu consists of a choice of two dishes on the starter, main course and dessert courses, hence the restaurant’s name. The lunch menu priced from £20 per person offers diners the flexibility to choose from a 2, 3, 4 or 5 course menu. It’s also a marked departure from other restaurants as there won’t be a separate a la carte or taster menu – just a well thought out combination of exciting flavours for each course.

When asked about the vibe of his new establishment and his hopes for the future he advised. ‘When we left Juniper we were looking for a new challenge. Edinburgh where we had spent some considerable time in the past was the ideal place for us and Katie who is originally from Scotland has been a delightful tour guide and we have been enjoying exploring the city and the rest of Scotland together in what little spare time we have had over the past couple of months. To new diners coming to the restaurant that are unfamiliar with my style of food I don’t have a uniform style of presentation on the plate and my dishes are a composition of flavours that make the whole dining experience. In the past I have been called experimental but I would say that my dishes are intricate, feminine, interesting and vibrant in colour and they are delicately assembled with a build up of flavours. Each course is made up of a variety of components that could be represented in isolation but I think that new diners will find the food interesting and seasoned Juniper regulars will find our new venture a refreshing take on his original style and one that they will enjoy. For us as well as the food – it’s always been about the whole dining experience so from the décor to the added extras in terms of to the service it’s about our style and attention to detail and we think that will shine through’.

Bookings are now being taken on and from 27 April phone reservations can also be made for the restaurant and bedrooms – on 0845 22 21212**. Bedrooms, which are priced from £250 per night can also be booked. 21212 will open five days a week –Tuesday through to Saturday for lunch and dinner with meals served between 12.00 -1.45pm and 7.00-9.30pm.

It begins...

So, I'm not quite sure what this blog is going to be about yet, is it about cooking and my own attempts in the kitchen and with charcuterie or is it about the places I eat and the things that I (from time to time) discover?

I don't know, I guess only time will tell.

What I can tell you is the name relates to my changing appetites for wine and food; from rustic to premier cru, from McDonalds to Per Se and from French to Vietnamese, if I eat it, and I enjoy it, it's good!