Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Holyrood 9A

Fuller Thomson pubs have been springing up all over the place, and The Holyrood 9A is one of them.  It’s not our usual end of town, but we had been tempted down there by a friend’s leaving ‘do’ and the promise of a fine burger.  A table had been reserved for us thankfully, as the place was absolutely heaving; fair enough it was a Friday night, but still clearly a very popular place. 

‘Great beers, Great burgers’ is their strap-line and there are indeed a good selection of beers and ales on offer, as well as a tempting selection of burgers.

The chilli burger was chosen by a number of our party including me and I waited for it eagerly while sipping an Erdinger.  It arrived and looked good.  It tasted good too, but nothing to really get excited about.  The burger itself was tasty - we didn't get asked how we wanted it cooked - it was well done.  Topped with pickled jalapenos, chilli cheese, fresh green chillies, sour cream and death sauce I had hoped that it would pack a bit of a punch, but disappointingly it didn’t really register on the scoville scale for me.  In fact it all tasted quite sweet funnily enough.  Sourdough bun was good but not a sourdough by my standards and the chips were average.  Accompanying coleslaw was good but meager, and overall I was left feeling like I could almost eat another burger (and I’m not that much of porker, honest!  The other half thought so too.)

The Red Squirrel is another Fuller Thomson on Lothain Road, and so much more handy for us.  The formula is pretty much exactly the same as far as I can tell, but while I might be tempted in for a pint am unlikely to venture there in hunger.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Restaurant Mark Greenaway

Restaurant Mark Greenaway was another one of those places in Edinburgh that I noticed when it opened, but then eyeballed speculatively from a distance until I started to hear enough good murmurings to warrant a visit.  I remember a while back that the food at The Dryburgh Abbey Hotel was rated, but hadn’t realised until just recently that this was the Chef’s previous haunt.

So, it was the dual challenge of 1) trying somewhere new; and 2) appeasing the in-laws, that found us sitting down to a late lunch in No.12 Picardy Place’s light and airy dining room.  

Between us we tried all of the three starters on the exceptionally good value £20 for three courses Market Menu.

The parsnip veloute was smooth, silky and packed full of earthy parsnip flavour.  Completely more-ish.

Parsnip veloute, confit parsnip, curried oil, parsnip crisps
The picture below doesn’t do justice to the goats cheese and herb raviolo unfortunately - the delicate pasta pillow with its tangy goats cheese filling is hidden beneath a crown of foam (previous viewers will know foam isn’t one of my favourite things, but it felt more purposeful here, and did actually taste of basil).

Goats cheese and herb raviolo, basil emulsion and crispy sage
 Ham Hough and Granny Smith Apple ‘Pie’ was served with a plump scallop and proved to be just the cutest take on surf and turf I’ve seen in a long time.  I didn’t get to try it - it was dispatched very quickly in lip-smacking fashion by the father in-law. 

Ham Hough and Granny Smith apple 'pie', seared west coast scallop, parsley mayonnaise and pickled shallots
Mains didn’t overtly display the flair of the starters, but more than made up for it in execution and taste.  

Three of us having roasted hake fillet meant we were didn’t have to share; something we were all delighted about.  The deceptively simple looking mild and delicate piece of fish, cooked to moist flaky perfection was complemented beautifully by the salty, buttery, seafood and vegetable broth-thing. 

Roasted Hake Fillet

For once however I was enviously eye-ing up the mother-in-law’s vegetarian main - a spelt risotto.  I’m realising I’ve come a bit late to the spelt party, but our cupboards are now stocked with organic spelt as recommended by our waitress.  Grains of aniseed-y spelt ‘popped’ satisfyingly in your mouth, lubricated by the yolk of the perfectly poached egg. 

Chestnut and spelt risotto, poached hens egg, coriander and tarragon crumble
Desserts got us back to the presentational flair of the starters.  The dark chocolate pave with tonka bean ice-cream (I’m loving tonka bean right now!) was a delight, and the kumquats were cleverly chosen bursts of flavour.

Dark chocolate pave, tonka bean ice cream, and kumquat syrup
Lemon and honeycomb parfait was similarly well thought out, with surprising and interesting cherry mousse and rum and raisin syrup accompaniments.

Lemon and honeycomb parfait, kiln dried cherry mousse, rum and raisin syrup
As mentioned in my CastleTerrace post, Restaurant Mark Greenaway got pipped to the post in the Most Innovative Restaurant of the Year category at the Scottish Restaurant Awards this year.  A crying shame, in my opinion.

BTW the wine list at Restaurant Mark Greenaway warrants a very special mention - good-value, interesting and some seriously tasty wines.

Oh, and the in-laws are still raving about it.  Top all this with endlessly smiley, helpful and knowledgeable staff.  One word. GO.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Castle Terrace

What an uncanny knack I’ve got on bad timing for reviews.  Boring old stupid work gets in the way of writing up blogs, and I’ve once again missed the boat on a timely review of a fabulous meal, ingested mere days before Castle Terrace swiped Restaurant of the Year and Most innovative Restaurant at the Scottish Restaurant Awards.

Though to be fair, with credentials like being backed by Tom Kitchin and with Dominic Jack as Head Chef, didn’t we all know that it would be getting laudits before long?  So, it was definitely high time we got ourselves along there.

The d├ęcor in Castle Terrace is very similar to The Kitchin, but the space and layout overall feels slightly awkward.  The same style of slick service applies.

Appetisers of crispy squid ink ravioli and mini margherita pizza were nothing special, but then, a liquid filled green jelly blob on a crouton exploded in to a ‘Caesar salad’ when popped in to our mouths.  Mind boggling.

This was followed by another intense taste sensation in the form of a carrot and coriander amuse bouche which was topped with what only can be described as cumin ‘ash’.


Starters of squid and crab were both delicate and interesting, as well as being beautifully prepared and presented.  The squid infact turned out to be the absolute stand out dish of the entire meal.

Freshly picked brown crab from Newhaven, served with mango, avocado and black olive.
Sauteed North Sea squid, with potato gnocchi, parsley and garlic

Mains of plaice and lamb were both delicious, but each had an element that we just didn’t think quite worked.  Plaice was absolutely perfectly cooked, but the onion puree was quite overwhelming, frankly not that nice either in taste or to look at, and was on the plate in excess quantity.  Lamb was deeply flavourful and succulently pink, but I wasn’t taken with the homely chickpea concoction.  However I’d happily gorge myself on a plateful of those braised shoulder crispy balls.

Poached fillet of North Sea plaice, with a Barwheys cheese crust, crushed 'pink fir apple' potatoes and onion puree

Roast rump and braised crispy shoulder of Inverurie lamb, served with chickpea, cumin and coriander
I wasn't sure what to expect from my pear and yoghurt cake dessert and so awaited it with slight trepidation.   But it was like the best kind of light and refreshing cheesecake ever, and was perfectly complemented by the zingy lemon ice-cream.

Pear and youghurt cake served with lemon ice cream
As soon as we saw they adopted the same trolley approach to cheese as the Kitchin, it just had to be done (although it’s still done best at one of our favourite restaurants, No.1).  While the all blue cheese choice prompted a slight raised eyebrow from our waitress, it did mean we were introduced for the first time to the fabulous Biggar Blue.  Homemade oatcakes and walnut bread were good, but we thought the offering of one tiny square of quince, one stick of celery and two grapes was rather mean.


Drinks-wise we started off with a glass of lip-smacking Bille Brut and then matched our lunch with the wine package, which turned out to be an excellent decision.  Not only was it great value but also a fantastic way to try some different wines.  In particular the ‘Antic’ Rivesaltes Ambre fortified wine served with the cheese was a revelation.  

Comparisons with The Kitchin are just unavoidable from the moment you walk in the door, but we just can’t rate it quite as highly due to some main course niggles.  Overall however a hugely enjoyable meal. 

p.s. Co-incidentally we visited Restaurant Mark Greenaway the very next day - review to come - and let’s just say we were surprised that Castle Terrace pipped him to the post in Most Innovative Restaurant of the Year category.