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Archive for September, 2010

The Malmaison in Aberdeen is part of the boutique hotel chain and we visited on a Sunday night when many restos are closed. The evening did not start well – we had booked for 8 o’clock but when we arrived they said they had the booking was for 8.30 so we had to wait. But, to be fair, we were offered drinks on the house.

The interior is simply weird – traditional granite exterior but the interior is predominately black. The dining area has been designed as a warehouse with exposed services etc. I didn’t like it much. The weirdness increased when we were finally seated beside the glass fronted meat room. So, we dined looking at pieces of raw meat and steaks. I’m not squeamish about such things but I’m sure some people would not be happy.

The food wasn’t bad. Starter was guinea fowl stovies – guinea fowl with potatoes – which is hardly a normal type of stovies but it was quite tasty. Main was a fish pie – fish with a crispy pastry topping – but, for no obvious reason, it was served in a pan with a handle. Pudding was flapjack (bit too chewy) with drambuie ice cream.

Meal was reasonably priced (£17.95) for 3 courses and well cooked. Wine was stupidly expensive – the markup is a disgrace, with no reasonably priced house wines. We ended up with an English rose – which was OK but not memorable.

Visited, September 2010. I doubt if we’ll be back – food was not good enough to compensate for the weirdness and the pricey wine.

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I was given a present of a day’s course at Nick Nairn’s Cook School and attended a session on Modern Scottish Cooking where the focus was on cooking fish, shellfish and desserts. The format of the day was demonstrations by the instructor (John Webber) then we worked in pairs to do the cooking.  We then ate what we cooked.  The starter was Spicy Mussel Broth which was basically mussels cooked in a thai broth – absolutely delicious. This was followed by Hone, Whisky and Dill Roasted Salmon, which was good, but I thought could have been more strongly flavoured, with a dessert of Apple Sauce cake with Apple crisps. Again the dessert was outstanding. John also demonstrated some other dishes – Prawns with Mint and Cous cous and Vanilla Panna Cotta.

Overall a really good day (10-5). The instruction was excellent, I met a nice bunch of people and there was lots of wine with lunch. Some really good cooking tips.

The only jarring note was that I had to change my originally booked date (with plenty notice) and I was charged £10 for this – something of a rip-off I thought.

Visited, September 2010

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A guest post – from my daughter Jane, who is a much better writer than me.  The resto comes v. highly recommended.

The Kitchin – part of Leith’s holy trinity of Michelin-starred restaurants (along with The Plumed Horse and Restaurant Martin Wishart) – is the eponymous eaterie of Masterchef and Great British Menu alumnus Tom Kitchin. We went for my friend Sally’s leaving party after she requested a “memorable” last night in Edinburgh, and The Kitchin served up an evening that was memorable indeed, in the most positive way.

Throwing caution to the wind, myself, Sally, and 3 other greedy foodie friends all opted for the Land and Sea Surprise Tasting Menu, which was priced at £65. Cheap, no, but for 8 unusual, exceptionally-executed and utterly delicious courses it delivered indisputable value for money. The full menu is listed below but I’ve pulled out personal highlights from an all-round superb meal.

First up, our third course of the evening, Arisaig Spoots (razor clams), which were served very pleasingly in their shells with finely diced vegetables, chorizo and lemon confit. For me, this course really demonstrated Kitchin’s flair for creating food that is both delicate and mouth-filling, not to mention packed with flavour. The dish was warm and creamy, with the faint smokiness of the chorizo and subtle citrus of the confit providing an understated baseline that let the fresh flavour of the clams shine effortlessly through.

The next special mention must go to our “middle course” of rolled pig’s head with scallop and sautéed pig’s ear. Straying into controversial offal territory, even the most intrepid diners at the table cocked a dubious eyebrow – but fears were quickly allayed by meat (resembling nothing like a pig’s head, as it happens, and tasting more like shredded pork belly) that fell effortlessly apart on the fork and a golden, caramelly, gloriously crispy pig’s ear which could be described, with no amount of exaggeration, as the sort of pork scratching they might serve in heaven.

Dessert was a fresh-but-velvety cherry soup that found the perfect balance of tart, sweet and juice. Accompanied by a silken champagne mousse and gently fizzy champagne sorbet, it comprehensively demolished, with one sublime bite, my twin prejudices against fruit-based puddings and champagne that doesn’t come served in a glass. Rounding off 6 previous courses, I found it a very well-judged conclusion to the meal, offering the palate that post-main course snatch of sweetness without being cloying or filling.

At Kitchin, you lay down your cutlery feeling not stuffed, just pleasantly full, and very very satisfied.

The star of Tom’s Kitchin is unquestionably the food, but undeservedly brief mention must also go to the attentive and patient serving staff – they really know their stuff – and to Tom himself, that clever and kindly poodle, who invited our Wakefield-bound Sally into the kitchen as a special adios.

To shamelessly tear apart a metaphor, the Kitchin may see you spending considerable bucks – but you’ll certainly get a very big and delicious bang for them. Start saving now.

Tom Kitchin’s Land & Sea Surprise Tasting Menu @ The Kitchin

Appetiser: Beetroot soup served with creme fraiche

Sea Trout: Tartare of sea trout from Montrose, served with apple, beetroot and a lemon creme fraiche dressing

Razor Clams (Spoots): Razor clams from Arisaig, cooked to order and served with diced vegetables, chorizo and lemon confit

Pig’s Head & Scallop: Boned and rolled pig’s head, served with seared hand-dived Orkney scallop, and a crispy ear salad

Sea Bass: Roasted fillet of wild sea bass from Mr Pullar served with wild garlic gnocchi and local St George’s mushrooms

Lamb: First of the season rack of spring lamb, sourced by Peter Flockhart and served with asparagus and asparagus puree

Dessert: Cherry soup served with champagne mousse and a champagne sorbet

Coffee and petits fours

Jane Sommerville, Visited, 3rd June 2010

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