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Archive for November, 2012

I’d been in the relatively recently opened Jamie’s Italian in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh for a quick lunch before and I had thought is was OK. We had friends visiting from Lancaster who were keen to try it so we booked an evening meal there – it’s very busy and even booking several weeks in advance, we couldn’t get the time we wanted on a Saturday evening.

We arrived a few minutes early and were asked to wait in the bar. We ordered drinks and I asked them to put it on our tab. Normally, this involves simply giving your name and maybe signing a bill. Here, I had to hand over a credit card which they put in a case and they then gave me the key to the case. This I did not like – leaving aside the fact the they obviously had a mechanism to open the case and so get to my card, the signal this sent was – “we don’t trust you” – not a good start to the evening.

We were shown to our table in the lower part of the restaurant, by the kitchens at the time we had booked. The menu is, I believe, standard across the chain – a selection of antipasti, pasta, and main courses with a couple of specials each night.

I choose the meat plate as a starter and it was top class – a selection of cured meats, mozzarella cheese and pecorino. Excellent quality ingredients – the ham was silky – and very nicely presented.  The special winter vegetable soup looked good and was pronounced to be excellent.

Antipasti in Jamie’s Italian. Meat Plate

I was delighted to see that black truffle risotto, one of my favourites, was on the menu. It’s quite hard to get this right – a strong stock or too much butter can overwhelm the delicate truffle flavour. The chef here obviously tried to avoid this here but they went the other way – it was nicely flavoured with truffle but it really was rather watery – it needed some cream or mascarpone, I think, to add a bit of richness. I’m not sure what rice was used with it – very small grains. Not a problem although I probably prefer larger grain rice. Others in our group were delighted with their main course pasta.

Black truffle risotto

 The atmosphere in the resto was good – lots of buzz with diners of all types and ages from couples to larger groups. Excellent service from Andrew, our waiter. It was pretty noisy though so if you prefer quiet conversation, this is not the place for you.

Would I recommend Jamie’s Italian – a definite maybe. I don’t think it is as good as Centotre along the road although it is probably a bit cheaper (we were about £30 each for 2 courses and 3 glasses of wine in Jamie’s). Nor is it nearly as good as Nonna’s on Morningside Road which, IMHO, is the best Italian resto in Edinburgh.

The evening visit confirmed my lunchtime impression is that Jamie’s is OK, especially for a chain – I wouldn’t rush back but wouldn’t refuse an invitation to eat there either.  But they really should think about the poor impression that the credit card thing behind the bar presents – given the technology they have, there should be no problem in linking the drinks tab to a booking.

Apologies for the quality of the pics – the light was very poor and my phone flash is not up to much.

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Kings Wark, Leith

The Kings Wark always has a flower on the table

We’ve been to the Kings Wark – a pub in Leith – several times for a Saturday lunch and I thought that I had blogged about it before. But, apparently not so I thought I would write a few words about it.

It’s an old Leith pub (15th century) rather than one of Leith’s newcomer restos but it’s a far cry from a traditional Scottish boozer. It’s very definitely a place to eat rather than a place to drink and they pride themselves on the quality of their food. In the past, I’ve mostly had fish there but today I decided to try the vegetarian option – chick peas, red onion and feta samosas with a chilli sauce.  They really were rather good – one of the best lunchtime dishes I’ve had for a while. At £7.75, I thought they were excellent value.

 

Chick pea, red onion and feta samosa

Previously, I’ve had excellent smoked haddock risotto and my daughters tell me that it is super place for Sunday brunch. I would definitely recommend it for a Leith lunch.

Smoked haddock risotto

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I’ve eaten fish recently in a few places that I’ve written about before in this blog – Wedgewood in Edinburgh, the Seafood Restaurant in St Andrews and the Tolbooth in Stonehaven. The Seafood Restaurant and the Tolbooth specialise in fish but Wedgewood has a more general menu.

At Wedgewood, the starter was lobster thermidor creme brulee, which was absolutely superb. I was worried about it being too rich but they got it just right – creamy lobster with a slightly cheesy crust. Main course was perfectly cooked seabass with a Lanark Blue cheese risotto. Very nice French Sauvignon Blanc wine which was not stupidly overpriced. Faultless meal – they must be on course for a Michelin star. No pictures as it was too dark.

At the Tolbooth, I started with smoked haddock tart, which again was excellent – the balance of flavours was just right. Main course was a whole sole simply cooked in butter. Sometimes simple is best and this was a very good piece of fish. I only eat pudding occasionally but was tempted here by the trio of local strawberry dishes – a strawberry and basil soup, marshmallow and strawberry sorbet and strawberries with meringue. I was not disappointed.

Smoked haddock tart

Whole sole in butter

Trio of strawberry desserts

My final fishy outing was to the renowned Seafood Restaurant in St Andrews. Like the last time, they messed up our booking and told us when we turned up at the time they said that they were too busy at that time and we should never have been offered it. Again, like the last time, this did not cause any problems at all in practice but why they treat customers as if it is a privilege to eat there I really do not know.

My starter was Pittenweem crab which looked great but which I found a wee bit disappointing – it was too cold and I thought rather tasteless. Main course was mackeral which was a better choice – simply cooked and very tasty. Apple crumble for pudding, which was OK but not outstanding. Stupidly, I forgot both camera and phone so no pictures.

Which was the best?  Wedgewood I think, although it is not a specialist seafood place. The Tolbooth definitely had the edge on the Seafood restaurant which wasn’t quite as good as the last time I was there. It’s good but maybe a wee bit over-rated. The Tolbooth on the other hand had definitely improved.

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