Friday, 30 March 2012

Smoke Stack: another post about Steak!

After we'd had our afternoon drinks at the Cumberland, we decided to head to Broughton Street for a bite to eat. We ummm'd and ahhhhh'd till decided on STEAK!
We hadn't reserved but Smock Stack still found room for us. Inside were very minimalistic and a little rustic, with ambient lighting and candles, really comfortable.

We ordered a round of drinks then looked at the menu to make our choices for dinner.

Starter and Mains chosen, we chatted and sipped on our drinks.

In a very timely fashion the first course arrives.
My shrimp tail were delicious, with that wonderful burst you get when you bite into a fresh prawn that had been cooked just right. The batter was light, flavoursome and had a fantastic crunch. The from-the-bottle chilli sauce was very disappointing.

 K had the cheesy garlic bread.
 G had Chilli Con Carne.
L had the pate.

One of the things that really not troubled nor confused me... just I found a bit weird... was the way the menu was written regarding steaks.
I probably would have gone for the Sirloin (bigger the better) but, and G agreed, we were both put of by the fact that a steakhouse is somewhat promoting well-done steaks. It as I said, I'm not even sure how it made me feel, but definitely left me furrowing my brow.

My fillet steak, done rare with mash potato and house salad served with Drambuie and mushroom sauce.

This was one of the best steaks I have ever tried. it was soooo packed full of flavour, honestly one of those moments where the steak went on and on forever. It was cooked to perfection and was perfectly juicy but retained the moisture rather then just have it flow all over the plate with every cut.

The sauce was interesting, and the Drambuie added a sweetness that I'm not used to having with a steak, but it was really enjoyable.

The house salad was one of the best I've had, chock full of black and green olives, ripe tomatoes and sweet peppers.

The mash was also lovely, and made for a nice change from the usual chips I often order with steak.

And for my co-diners:
 K had the shrimp and avocado salad with blue cheese dressing. Those shrimps look awesome, and look how much avo they gave her!
 G;s Sirloin, blue cheese sauce and chips. G said both the sauce and the chips were fantastic.
L had the chicken fajitas.

Everyone seemed happy with their meals. L mentioned that the fajitas were a bit saucy for her taste, but G agreed that the steak was fantastic.

I've really started enjoying desserts lately, but have also become quite good at saying no. Instead having a digestiv or liqueur instead. G, however was more than happy to order a serve of banoffe pie, and L some fruits of the forest sorbet. Both which look really tasty.

Service was average to good most of the time, but dipped to poor by the end of the evening, which is such a shame, cause I would love to love this restaurant!

In Search of the Ultimate Beer Garden: Cumberland Bar (Fish Cakes and Chips)

My friend S and I have been searching for the perfect beer garden so as not to waste all the perfect weather we have been having.

The Pear Tree is fantastic, but located the other side of town to us, and generally swamped with students
Google search let me know what I had already suspected, Edinburgh doesn't have very much in the way of Beer Gardens at all.

But closer to us, was the Cumberland Bar, and the garden looked promising. We also figured if we got there before the workers got out we should be able to get a table.
Photos courtesy of

The first of our party arrived just before 3 and snagged us an excellent sunny table.

I arrived shortly after, and after procuring myself a bottle of Sav Blank from the bar £16.95, went down to join him.

The guys had ales and Miss K ordered a Carona. G said he could tell that his beer was the first of the day ie: from the lines, but apart from that all drinks were enjoyed.

I decided to order a wee snack, and decided on the haddock and spring onion cakes with chips (option of curly fries).

Well, did I get excited when I saw the beautiful mountain of golden fresh crispy chips on my plate. From previous posts you may have noticed Edinburgh is pants when it comes to chips. Really good, golden, crunchy chips are almost impossible to find here, but these ones looked like a really strong contender.
 Well, oh my... they were perfect, so crispy, and stayed crispy till the very last chip (sign of REAL good chips), fluffy on the inside, a couple of extra crunchy ones as well... I was, and still remain, super happy with the chips.

The fish cakes were fine, delicious, but could have used a bit more fish I felt. The spring onion worked perfectly to add a bit of zing.

The lemon mayo didn't really go it for me, garlic mayo or plain would have sufficed.

The salad was crisp and fresh but undressed. There may have been dressing inside with the condiments, but I hadn't grabbed any.

For me this was top notch beer garden nosh!

Cutlery, condiments and S&P were help-yourself, food orders taken at the bar, and plates brought to the table.

He had brilliant sunlight till around 5. The sun was lovely and warm but the breeze had an evil iciness to it, and the moment the sun dropped behind the adjacent building temperatures plummeted.

In conclusion, yes I think this may be my new favourite place to drink in Edinburgh. At least as long as the sunny days hang around.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The next time I crave Potato Bake... (Roast Pork Loin w/ dauphinoise Potato)

I had had a craving for Potato Dauphinoise (Or pah-tay-dah bake as we call it back home) for days now... the niggling craving that never leaves your mind.

A clever move would have been to pick up a single serve potato bake from Tesco. No, I got home and decided that my tatties were to be accompanied by roast Pork Loin, roast veg, a sauce and broccoli. Oh no-one was home, just me. It just felt like the thing to do.

 I picked up a pork loin reduced to £2 from £8 (WHAT?!) At the Co-Op.
No real prep, just oiled up the pan, heavily seasoned with salt and pepper, threw in some chunky chopped carrots and shallots (skin on- TRUST ME).
 Here is my Dauphinoise in its embryonic stage: very thinly sliced new potatoes, thinly sliced onion and single cream to cover, plus a secret ingredient.
Add a bunch of cheese... pictured- cheddar and parmesan... and ground black pepper, and it's done.
 Oh... the secret ingredient? Vege soup mix. Mix it in with the cream. It is totally good. Seriously. Try it.

So I popped both trays into my preheated oven to 225C to give it an early blast of heat. I was really trying for crackle.

After 10 minutes I turned the heat down to 180.

 After 30 mins I came in to baste the mean and turn the veg.

Total time for the meat and veg was 45 mins with 15 minutes to rest (taking it out of the oven, covering in foil and wrapping in tea towels to hold in a bit of the heat. It stays warm anyway).

And here she is at full time.

Leaving the skins on the shallots and garlic is great... not just because do don't have to spend hours peeling them, but the insides still caramelise, but they don't burn. Thanks for the tip Jamie (Oliver).

 Just before the Tatties were finished and the meat had rested for about ten minutes, I made a cheat gravy of pan fried mushrooms, boiling water and gravy granules, white wine and cream; and briefly boiled my broc.
How I long for a gas stove top.

Cutting of the meat!
 The beautiful bake... pictured: where I mashed my fork in to have a taste before remembering to take a photo.
 Ta Dah!

Roasts are so easy! And including prep it took me 1 hour 20 total. (40 minutes I was sitting watching Come Dine With Me.

The meat was a tad overcooked for my liking, but I am funny with meat, and the lovely fat around the outside added to both flavour and texture.

I did manage the slightest crackle sliver on the very edge of the skin.

Needless to say I had seconds and now I have to write this horizontal in my bed, 'cause I can't move. Whoops.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Happy Kitchen Candy Hamburgers

This is adorable!

I had one not dissimilar when I was young. But mine was just the molds and rollups were used for the cheese, biscuits for the bun etc etc: it tasted terrible. This one is meant to taste like hamburgers. Hmmm.

No surprise really... word is, that McDonalds' Cheeseburgers need the pickle, because without the veg content and with the sugar content as it is, it would actually come under 'confectionery'. Not complaining tho.

Two Vegiful Dinners.

Feeling a bit blugh and bloaty? I have been... the easiest fix i know is getting as many doses of fruit and veg in as possible.

Last night, on the way home from the gym I ducked into the Co-Op very quickly, picked up an armful of salady bits and some tuna and headed home.

I threw together a salad containing baby leaf salad mix, finely sliced cabbage, celery, the tips of young brocolini and very finely diced shallot. I dressed it with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and pear balsamic vinegar.

I wish I could be happy with just a green salad for dinner, but I can't. I'd be hungry in 15 minutes if I settled on a salad with no protein.

To a bowl I added tinned tuna steak, 2 tablespoons of whole-egg light mayo (light not by choice) some lemon juice and tobasco and mashed together.

I plated a good heap of salad then piled the tuna on top.

A very delicious dinner, and one I will be doing again.

I think the salad and dressing base would be great with just about any protein: chicken, fish, poached egg, roast veggies. Nummmmm.

Tonight's recipe came from ehhmmm, laziness and a want to not walk to the store to pick up any dinner.

I had some new potatoes and carrots which I left skin on and boiled till just ready. Then sat down to watch Come Dine With Me.

As the scores were given and show ended I made my way back to the kitchen to try to make a decision as to what I was going to do with my carrots and spuds!

I managed to scrape together chestnut mushrooms, spring onions, asparagus, parmesan and salami.

I sliced all these ingredients and shaved the parmesan, with the vague idea of a veggie fry up.  Heated some oil in the frypan, and added the mushrooms till they started to brown, then the stalks and tips of the asparagus and the salami for just a minute or 2. I then added the tatties and carrots which had cooled sufficiently to slice quite chunky, with the spring onion on a high heat, and waited till the tatties became brown and crunchy around the edges. Right before removing from the heat I added a generous amount of freshly ground pepper, salt and cajun mix.

I added a dollop of mayo to my plate, then scooped the contents out and topped with the shaved parmesan and some spring onion..

All the veg were cooked perfectly, the asparagus had a lovely crisp bite. The salami has become crisp and the tatties and mushroom had help their shape.

This was awesome. And got my five a day!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Gu Puds: Key Lime Pie

I picked up these little puddings from The Co-Operative last week, just out of curiosity.
All I can say is OMIGOD! I honestly can't believe a pre-packaged dessert could be quite as special as these were.

Opening the box reveals 2 individual portions of key lime pie (in this case), in glass ramekins sealed in a foil lid.
After peeling the foil back, you are treated to a very velvety white cream-cheese top layer. Digging the spoon in, and withdrawing, you notice the trio of layers, the lovely biscuity base, the tart lime curd middle, topped off the the beautiful cloud of cream cheese on top.

The ratio of each was perfect, the tartness from the curd is quite striking initially, but is so quickly neutralised by the cream cheese. The base is just sweet enough, and retains it's own sense of texture.  MMmmmm.

Being a dessert, not surprisingly these aren't the healthiest treat ever (just undid my 40 mins of swimming on this one wee tub), but given that (and it's no REAL surprise) it's a beautiful after dinner snack, and I suppose the good thing is, that unlike, say, I full size lemon key pie, you are restricted to a single serving (unless you eat both), so I would call that completely justifyable.

Wedgwood the Restaurant

A group of six of us decided we'd like some fine dining, and booked well in advance but the Saturday night arrived and we were off to Wedgwood the Restaurant, located on Cannongate, Edinburgh.

I arrived (fashionably?) ten minutes late and was shown downstairs where my party was awaiting my arrival.

My first impression of the restaurant was that the decor was very understated, dare I say, plain? There are 2 rooms for dining, one up, one down. I was more than happy that we had a table downstairs, as upstairs seemed to have a lot of foot traffic, and a few too many tables packed into the space. Downstairs was small albeit comfortable. White linen tablecloths, crystal glasses and mirrors a plenty.

As everyone had already ordered their drinks before I arrived I quickly grabbed the wine menu in order to catch up. The waitress was very attentive and saw that my thirst was quenches as possible.

I asked if they had any New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and they did, but not by the glass. I was shown another NZ wine which was 'nothing like a Sauvignon Blanc' or a French Sav Blanc, which I chose, tentatively.

It was promptly delivered, and although it wasn't as crisply cold as I like it, it was soooooo delicious. A gentle sharpness (with fear of sounding oxy-moronic).

We chatted and looked at the menu, chatted, didn't make a decision, we asked for more time and chatted some more.

We realised after almost an hour we should consider ordering.

We all opted for the amuse bouche: Glass of Paul Dangin Champagne and today’s amuse bouche selection £9.95. 

At this stage we were also ready to order our starter and mains. I was delighted that around the table we had a varied selection. (Though with variety also comes the prospect of food envy, but these are the ricks we take.)

I had decided on Lobster thermidor crème brulée £9.95 w/bloody mary sorbet, parmesan shortbread. We had discussed this dish earlier as one of my co-diners who had eaten here before had mentioned upon ordering this starter previously, had been taken aback that I was served cold... it was this premise that got my curiosity going crazy.

Around the table, other starters ordered included Confit pork belly £8.95 w/crisp black pudding, tarragon aioli, sweet pickled apple; Diver caught king scallops £12.95 w/cauliflower korma, pistachio and peanut dust, pineapple and capers and Stir fried shredded beef fillet £8.95 w/pear, rocket and spring onion salad, thai sesame and honey dressing.

My main (which I had decided on ages ago) was to be Wild Scottish deer, creamed leeks £23.45
venison haggis, beetroot, basil pesto, truffle jus. And around the table Rabbit wrapped in pancetta, wild mushroom and spinach £19.95 w/black pudding, carrot and vanilla puree; Mackerel, roasted rhubarb £16.95 w/capers, sweet potato, watercress.

 Our amuse bouches arrived to gasps of excitement.

 Presented beautifully with 2 people to a platter, I was busy snapping while the waitress explained what was on the plate... A cold beetroot soup, smoked salmon with anchovy oil and capers and the little pastry rabbit pie stack with truffle ice cream. We had a brief discussion as to which order we should eat them... I decided I'd eat in order that she explained them, (yes although I actually wasn't listening)

The soup was creamy and flavoursome, I could have had a whole starter of it. Very nice combination of the soup and the cream.

The salmon dish was rather bold but very delicious and fresh.

My favourite was the delicate last one... the light flaky pastry teamed perfectly with the rabbit meat 'pattie' beneath,and almost a shock to the senses when the ice cream touches the roof of your mouth, making it quite a sensory experience.

The champagne was beautiful.

It was a wee wait till the starters made their way out, and we were brought bread and herbed olive oil. The bread was dense and chewy (in the good way) and very tasty.

The starters then triumphantly descended upon our table. I knew they were going to be beautiful, but they were BEAUTIFUL!

There were giggle as i cracked though my crispy parmesan lid on my brulee with the excitement of a child.

I believe my statement half way through was 'savoury things served cold are my new favourite thing'. This was such an interesting and new experience for me. The brulee was such an exciting thing: the tradional cracking thru the brulee to get to the custard underneath crossed with such new flavours to be served in this way. The flavours were sumptuous... The parmesan top, that I had been concerned would be too overbearing against lobster actually lifted the beautiful lobster-meat laced custard. The sorbet I ended up seasoning fairly heavily with salt and pepper, but it was a strange and refreshing side. The shortbread, I felt neither added, nor detracted from the dish.

Around the table, the pork belly stole my heart, it looked stunning. The black pudding was apparently a show stealer. The scallops looked lovely too.

More drinks ordered, and a delightful palate cleanser shot of raspberry, coulis, sugar and ginger beer.
It was lovely, and served its purpose to a tea.

After this, we waited a while before realising that the mains had actually taken quite a while, the waitress must have noticed our restlessness, as she came to tell us the meals were not so far away.

Perhaps ten minutes later the mains arrived.

My main of deer was a very memorable meal. The meat was cooked exactly to my liking. The potato was a real standout for me. The beetroot however I could have taken or left. The stack in the centre containing the leak and venison was a smack of flavour. Compared to regular haggis this was ten times as flavour-packed, almost too much when eaten by itself, but when combined with a sliver of meat: a divine mouthful. The sauces were very complimentary.

Across the table from me, beautiful fishy fragrances wafted from N's plate in my direction. Very strong, but genuinely delicious fishy smells. N said he enjoyed his Mackeral very much, but struggled cutting the rhubarb with a fish knife.

3 of our party ordered the rabbit, and I must say, it was a truly splendid looking plate.
There was so much chat about the carrot and vanilla puree, and I managed to have a taste: what a spectacular combination of flavours. Carrots have always been very close to the top of the 'most boring vegetable' list for me, but alas, that seems to be changing.

All the mains went down a treat, and contented smiles were all about.

Dessert menus were offered, but I was literally at bursting point, and made a valiant effort by saying no to desserts, instead ordering an Amaretto. It was so difficult to say no to sticky toffee pudding, my most favourite pudding ever. But around the table choices of the sticky toffee, and chocolate peanut butter mousse were ordered.

Behold the beauty of the peanut butter mousse. I tasted a wee portion, but decided this was far too rich for me. The banana and honey ice cream was beautiful.
And... the dessert that brought a tear to my eye: it REALLY DID! This was a truly godlike dessert. I can't do it justice in words I'm afraid. I'm sorry, I just cant.

Overall, we had an amazing night.

I feel for the tables that were downstairs with us, as we were a cheery bunch and hearty laughter from our table often flooded the room.

I cannot recommend this restaurant enough for a modern take on lovely Scottish fare.