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Archive for June, 2013

Calistoga is a Californian restaurant in central Edinburgh which has had good reviews and I’d fancied trying it for a while. We decided at the last minute to go out to eat on a Saturday evening and started phoning around to find somewhere that wasn’t booked. Calistoga had tables free so we decided to go for it.

It’s in a pretty grim location – in a lane at the back of Rose St, opposite some bins but the interior is fine, if a little dated. The menu looked interesting but, unfortunately, the food was rather disappointing.

I started with clam and corn chowder, which was competently executed but nothing really to write home about. I followed this with a seafood platter – langoustine, prawns and two different kinds of deep fried fish. The langoustine was fine but, sadly, the fish was a bit overcooked and the chips as an accompaniment were a bit soggy. I couldn’t help but compare it with the seafood platter which I had in the Eagle Barge at Laggan Locks – the same price but so much fresher tasting and more interesting.

My wife Anne had pork loin which was really quite tough – it looked well-enough cooked so I suspect it wasn’t the best quality meat. I wasn’t convinced by the glutinous rice accompaniment either.

My pudding was rum and raisin parfait with a caramel sauce – which was excellent but Anne’s pannacotta had a bit too much gelatine and so was rather bouncy.

The wine (Californian sauvignon blanc and Californian Muscat as a dessert wine) was very good as was the service. But, I don’t think that we’ll be back. We were about £38 each including wine and for that we could certainly have eaten better elsewhere.

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The Honours  is a companion restaurant to Restaurant Martin Wishart in Leith – the best resto in Edinburgh I think. The Honours is more of a bistro with simpler food – cheaper but by no means cheap. We went there for my daughter’s birthday dinner. On a Wednesday evening, it was really buzzing with a great atmosphere. It’s quite dark inside – which my wife and daughters like – but I’d prefer a wee bit more light.

No complaints about the food though – an interesting menu with a mix of unusual dishes, bistro standards such as rabbit with mustard and grills. I started with sea bream tartare with pickled cucumber – fresh raw fish really is very good – and this was a fresh tasting dish with the cucumber providing an interesting contrast.

Sea bream tartare

Sea bream tartare

My main course was veal sweetbreads – which, for lots of people, means yuk! You don’t see them on menus very often and I think they are probably easy to mess up. But not here. These were melt-in-the mouth good. Absolutely fabulous and thoroughly recommended.

Veal sweetbreads

Veal sweetbreads

The Honours as you would expect from Martin Wishart, the food in the Honours is top quality. It is not cheap – with wine it was about £45/head but probably as good as you’ll get for that price in Edinburgh.

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I’ve been to the Edinburgh Larder, a cafe in Blackfriars Street a couple of times and have always enjoyed the food. I’ve tried to go there more often and it’s a measure of its quality that it was always full.

So, when the same people opened the Edinburgh Larder Bistro in what used to be Howie’s in a basement on Alva St as a bistro, I was keen to try it. I’ve now been there a couple of times – once for lunch and once for dinner and I really enjoyed the food. They focus on local ingredients from Scottish suppliers – but sometimes with a bit of a twist. Our most recent experience was a family birthday dinner – it was a Tuesday night so the resto wasn’t full but there were enough people there to create a good atmosphere.

My starter was brioche with Stornoway black pudding and a quail’s egg – simple but the quality of ingredients meant it was very good indeed. My main was home-smoked pollack, a previously unfashionable fish, with cauliflower and heritage potatoes.

Smoked pollack

Smoked pollack

I enjoyed this but I thought the smoking was a wee bit unsubtle – but this may be my changing taste as I’ve recently come to prefer lightly smoked rather than heavily smoked dishes.

I don’t often eat desserts but I’d just finished a big walk across Scotland so needed some calories -rhubarb doughnuts with custard and nut brittle, which was outstanding.

Rhubarb doughnuts

Rhubarb doughnuts

I really admire the way that the Edinburgh Larder focuses on high-quality Scottish suppliers – the food is proper bistro food – simple and unpretentious and I’d thoroughly recommend it. I wish it wasn’t in the basement though – on a summer evening, it’s good to get some daylight.

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