Monday 27 July 2015

Blackfriars, Edinburgh

When deciding where to eat in Edinburgh, as usual, I turned to my trusty Michelin Guide to see what the city had to offer. Including Castle Terrace (which was already “on the list” thanks to a friend’s recommendation), the Scottish capital boasts five starred restaurants. Customarily, “ticking off” the starred places would be high on my agenda but then I saw Blackfriars in the listings.

The menu represents just what I want from a restaurant these days – a short menu offering “honest, produce-driven cooking served with care’ and, even better, just £18.50 for 3 courses! We all know, when food is simple it has to be perfect… and it was!

A starter of cured sea trout was perfectly balanced with the zesty dressing, radish and fennel; house-made black pudding and lamb meatloaf were a hearty delight and a whole grilled mackerel looked fabulous on the plate, a sharp rhubarb relish adding vibrancy.

What Michelin say, ‘Hidden behind the castle is this intimate, nature-themed, neighbourhood restaurant, which is well run by its experienced owners. Produce is seasonal and dishes take their influences from around the world; the local game is a must-try.

Soda Bread – with treacle added to the dough for a robust earthy taste

Cured sea trout, radish, lemon, fennel

Our black pudding, fried egg, toast, parsley, capers

Whole grilled mackerel, rhubarb, leaves, potatoes

Lamb meatloaf, pearl barley, hispi cabbage

Churros, chocolate

With warm and friendly service to boot, Blackfriars was an absolute joy of a place to visit - the type of place I wish was at the end of my road. 

Sunday 26 July 2015

Timberyard, Edinburgh

For the last couple of years, the “plan” had been for my wife and I to celebrate my 40th by visiting Tokyo.

I’d dreamed of the dazzling neon-lit cityscapes and delicate sakura; exploring the depachika, yokocho alleys and checking out the yakitori at Shimbashi; feasting on ramen; easting kaiseki, watching kabuki and avoiding karaoke.

Instead, I found myself sat on a tartan blanket in an old wood yard in Scotland…

Fortunately, the old wood yard in question was the excellent Timberyard restaurant, one of Edinburgh’s finest – the tartan blanket, part of the homely feel that the Radford family have created in their unique and special restaurant.

What Michelin say, ‘Trendy warehouse restaurant; its spacious, rustic interior incorporating wooden floors and wood-burning stoves. Scandic-influenced menu offers 'bites', 'small' and 'large' sizes, with some home-smoked dishes and an emphasis on distinct, punchy flavours. Cocktails are made with vegetable purées and foraged herbs.

Each dish was beautifully crafted, highlighting the quality of the ingredients used - ‘supplied by small, local, artisan growers, breeders, producers, suppliers & foragers’ - the only flaws in the cooking for me were with the pigeon and pheasant back mushrooms, which both lacked the expected silky tenderness.

Highlights included a delightfully light, summery bite of ‘crab & pea’, the ‘duck heart’, the ‘sole, squid & artichoke’ dish and the stellar ‘salsify’.

The salsify, topped with the éclat, sweet mustiness of shaved black truffles was one of the finest things I’ve eaten for some time – the oyster like main component forming a wonderful synergy with the sweet, earthiness of the Jerusalem artichokes, the umami undertones of charred onion and the robust malt and hazelnut crumbs.

Bread – wholemeal sourdough with whipped butter, lovage salt & cracked black pepper with juniper.

Bite: Raw Venison, pear, toast, mustard

Bite: Duck heart, liver, mushroom buckwheat

Bite: Crab, pea, radish, sorrel

Small plate: Bass, clams, coastal herbs, cider

Small plate: Pigeon, celeriac, mushroom, tarragon

Small plate: Sole, squid, artichoke, shallot, salsify, apple, samphire

Large plate: Salsify, artichoke, truffle, onion, mushroom, hazelnut

Sweet: Raspberry, verbena, yoghurt, brioche

Coffee & petit fours

Thursday 16 July 2015

Tattu, Manchester

Here are some pics from a lunch I had at Tattu a couple of weeks back. It’s not a ‘full post’ as I only shared a few dim sum dishes and a dessert with a couple of pals.

Also, as a week day lunch, with only one other table occupied I’m not able to report on the full “experience” as the place lacked any semblance of an atmosphere.

What we did eat was a mixed bag – some dishes were good; despite impressive presentation, others either lacked flavour or were overly complicated for my tastes.

As something different from the more traditional offerings in and around Chinatown, I think Tattu is okay. If you’re hoping for somewhere with comparable quality of London’s Yauatcha, HKK or Hakkasan, then I think you’ll be disappointed.

For me, the best dishes were the Chicken truffle shumai, Chilli salt squid and the Crispy duck spring rolls; the most disappointing were the lacklustre Black cod & prawn,  Beef & foie gras gyōza and the Queen of fruit dessert.

Chicken truffle shumai – fresh shaved truffle & truffle soya

Crispy duck spring rolls – yuzu plum sauce

Beef & foie gras gyōza – teriyaki & soya beans

Black cod & prawn – saffron & soya beans

Hand dived scallop – sweet soya noodle & caviar

Chilli salt squid – sweet chilli, spring onion & red onion

Sea bass kuai – grapefruit, crispy leeks & chilli soy pomelo

Steamed mixed vegetables, ginger & garlic

Duck egg & sausage fried rice

Queen of fruit – mangosteen, white chocolate & liquorice

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