Saturday, 18 February 2012

Valentine's Day

A quick post about our Valentine's meal - in part prompted by some really interesting articles about food's relationship to this day of declarations of love - and partly for the more simple and shallow reason that I took some photos of the food!  

We certainly subscribe to James Ramsden's belief that sharing and enjoying food together is at the heart of a good relationship, but equally have long abandoned restaurants on this most over-hyped of days, for reasons described beautifully in this Oliver Thring article.  

So, having endured countless poor quality and over-priced meals on such a popular restaurant day, the only answer for us now and for a good number of years has been to cook together at home - with a good bottle or three of champers - our most enjoyable Valentine's meals have come from our kitchen at home.

So to the menu - I never used to like prawn cocktail until the hubbie made me a truly home-made and delicious marie-rose sauce.  I’ve never looked back - the retro-ness just makes me love it more.  So for these reasons this was the perfect starter.

And then it had to be steak.  Our steaks were excellent quality grass fed 28 day aged Scottish rib-eyes.  I regret now though deviating from my own tried and trusted cooking method to try Heston’s suggestion of flipping the steak every 20 seconds.  The heat in the pan dropped and I didn’t get the desired level of Maillard browning.  Still damn tasty but would have liked more of a seared crust.

Heston’s triple cooked chips however are truly things of wonder - time consuming but not difficult by any means, and totally worth it.

So there we go.  A great meal at home with the only downside being potential squabbles over doing the dishes - but that can always wait until morning.

Monday, 13 February 2012


Two blogs about steak in a row and, with the week ahead I’ve got, there will be more.  Granted it’s taken me a while to get round to writing up my review on Kyloe, but it’s not just because I’m spectacularly lazy (which I am) or that work has rather rudely been taking up too much of my spare time (which it has).  It’s because I’ve been seriously mulling over why I didn’t like it very much while it’s getting quite good reviews elsewhere.   

It was not the steak abomination of Gusto - the steak at Kyloe was good.  But was it the best steak in Edinburgh?  And was it a gourmet steak - whatever the hell that really means?  And there’s the kicker - no.

Let’s go back to the beginning.  Kyloe opened screaming it’s own praise, and to be fair it had me interested.  Steak is my kind of food, but it is hard to eat steak out and 
1. be confident of it’s origins and credentials, and 
2. for it to be cooked well.   

To see bavette, onglet and feather steak on the menu (albeit all in one dish) started to get me a little bit excited.  Maybe this was a place that knew it’s steak after all?  

The slightly kitch cow decor in Kyloe has been well covered elsewhere.  It didn't get me much excited, and anyway I was there for the steak.  The view did though remind me how utterly miserable Princes Street is at the moment.

Despite their name Kyloe don’t serve Highland beef, but their website does let us know that Hardiesmill are one of Kyloe’s main beef suppliers.  This is a good sign.  Hardiesmill supply pedigree grass-fed Aberdeen Angus and are highly rated, including by Mark Schatzker in his excellent book ‘Steak’.  Unfortunately they are not Kyloe’s only supplier, and so I don’t know that the steak I had that night was one of theirs.  I would have asked the waitress - as is suggested on the menu - but the fact that she couldn’t tell a rib-eye from a rump didn’t fill me with confidence.

Once I had the right steak in front of me, my rib-eye was good, with nice depth of beefy flavour, though it was cooked medium rather than medium-rare.  The 45 day aged rump was more disappointing on flavour, surprisingly tasting a bit watery, and again was overcooked medium-rare instead of rare.

Side dishes will really rack up the cost of your meal - we easily added £20 on to our bill for necessary sides.  Beef dripping chips come in at a hefty £4 and were fine but a bit underdone in the middle.  Other sides of creamed spinach and flat mushrooms were good but relatively small portions.  The onion rings though are a must and some of the best I've had. 

So, all in all, rather average.  I do wonder though how you qualify for the title of ‘steak restaurant’ let alone 'best steak restaurant'?  Steak comprises maybe half of the Kyloe menu at a push, and I’ve had better steaks in Edinburgh at restaurants that do and don’t choose to have steak in their title.  I think I would have been less annoyed with Kyloe if they hadn’t raised expectations with their own meaningless hype, which they definitely don’t live up to.  With another exciting steak restaruant opening this week, it may be time for them to reconsider.

Friday, 3 February 2012


I feel kinda bad writing a review on somewhere I really didn’t have high hopes for, and pretty much expected to be average.   I’d love to say I was proven completely wrong and it was fabulous, but it lived right up to expectations.

The Edinburgh branch of Gusto, which is a small-ish chain of Italian restaurants, sits very much at home on George Street among the many other soulless restaurant and bar chains.

The interior is nice enough; they’ve succeeded in making quite a cavernous space feel relatively cosy and there’s a nice buzzy atmosphere.   The menu has standard offerings of pastas and pizzas, with some seafood and meat mains that indicate they’re trying to elevate themselves above your bog standard pizzeria.

Starters were calamari and beef carpaccio.  The calamari was lovely and crisp and thankfully not of rubber-band texture, but bizarrely lacked any flavour whatsoever.  Dipping in the accompanying lemon mayonnaise only made it taste of bad commercial mayonnaise.  Beef carpaccio was much better, though the meat was drowned out rather than complemented by the ubiquitous rocket, grana pandano and truffle oil.

A shared garlic pizza makes me now wish I had played it safe and had pizza for main course, as this indicated it might have been pretty good.  But I didn’t, I had a steak.   Now, I’ll lay my cards on the table and say that I’m a hard girl to please when it comes to steak.  The meat, the cooking, and the seasoning all have to be impeccable so, having such low expectations of Gusto, I really only have myself to blame.

I’m fairly certain the 28 day aged 10oz rib-eye was a decent piece of meat before it was cooked.  But then something bad happened to it.  I can’t be sure of all the gory details but it probably involved chargrilling over gas and maybe burnt/old oil on the grill.  Whatever, it resulted in a steak that was medium-rare as requested, but which had an unbelievably bitterly flavoured exterior that lingered well after the meat was swallowed.  Chips weren't great.  Asparagus out of season - pointless.
 A whole salt baked sea bass fared much better, kept succulent by its salt crust coat, though accompanying rosemary and garlic roast potatoes were undercooked and greasy. 

 We had dessert - “Bombolini” -  mini doughnuts with chocolate sauce and cream, and a nutella and marscarpone calzone.  Neither were really worth writing home, or here, about. 
OK, so Gusto wasn’t awful (putting the steak aside) but it was decidedly average. Of course the George Street crowd will ensure Gusto is packed to the rafters every Friday & Saturday night, but I won’t be back to join them.