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Posts Tagged ‘restaurant review’

In the circles that I move in, business lunches are not normally something to look forward to. These are not lavish affairs but are usually sandwiches filled with some kind of mayonnaisey gloop and crispy unidentifiable things. You don’t really know what you’re eating, it looks industrial and it never tastes very healthy.

However, this was an exception. We had a working lunch in Granite Park, a restaurant in the centre of Aberdeen and it was definitely a good deal better than normal. We went for the fixed price 2-course menu. This offers a choice of 6 starters, mains and desserts for £15.

All of the starters sounded good – I finally settled on the open tartlet of goat’s cheese with poached pear and candied walnuts. I’m not normally a great fan of deconstructed food but this really was more of a poached pear on a pastry base than a tart. Served with honey, it looked and tasted really good.

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Open tartlet of goats cheese with poached pear and candied walnuts

Mains included the now-standard posh burger, fish and chips, mussels and seared beef. I really enjoy traditional fish and chips so I decided to go for this.  It was a large piece of fish served on a bed of chunky chips with some home-made tartare sauce. This is a standard and Granite Park did it well.

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Fish and chunky chips

We didn’t have puds but had coffees and were served some tasty petits fours.

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Petits fours served with coffee

This was a good lunchtime experience – good service, a pleasant setting and I didn’t even have any problems finding a parking space. We don’t eat out much in Aberdeen in the evening but I’d be happy to go back to Granite Park. 

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We decided last Thursday at 9pm to get away for the week-end – maybe the last sunny week-end of the year. By 10.30. we had chosen and booked a hotel and set off early on Friday afternoon for the Ardeonaig Hotel on the south bank of Loch Tay.It’s a very nice hotel – we stayed in a shieling, which is a separate building in the hotel grounds. But, as this is a food blog, I won’t dwell on the facilities but focus on the food. We ate in the hotel on both Friday and Saturday and also had two breakfasts – so this is a kind of amalgam review, rather than a review of a single meal.

On Friday, we had the tasting menu which offered a number of options then, on Saturday, selected from the main menu. Apologies for the picture quality here – the dining room was very dark.  Both started with a pumpkin soup – an intensely flavoured experience which contrasted nicely with the crunchy pumpkin seed topping.

Pumpkin soup with roast pumpkin seeds

Various starters were on offer – I tried the smoked salmon and the partridge with Puy lentils and Anne had the crab tian. The smoked salmon was fine but it was smoked salmon – not too unusual. However, the partridge was superb – perfectly cooked. It’s easy to dry out partridge but not here. My taste of the crab tian suggested that it was also first class.

Partridge with Puy lentils

Crab tian

The fish dish in the tasting menu was Gigha halibut – which I also had for my main course the following day. It went really well with the braised chicory. On the tasting menu, this was followed by two meat courses – Glen Lyon mallard and pork. I expected the duck to be quite strongly flavoured but it was really very delicate and interesting, served with quince paste; there were two types of pork – a piece of fillet slow-cooked in a bain-marie and pork cheek. By this time, in the tasting menu we were feeling pretty full – and I forgot to photograph the pork.

Gigha halibut

Glen Lyon mallard

Pudding time – both days we had a pre-dessert of mango cream and diced mango, which really lightened the palate after the fish and meat. Then on the tasting menu, we had a chocolate ganache – which was much better than I expected. Chocolate puddings are usually too sweet for me but this one, made from chocolate from the Dominican Republic, was almost savoury – absolutely superb. The next day, I had duck egg lemon tart with blueberries – also very good but the chocolate had the edge.

Mango pre-dessert

Chocolate ganache

We had a selection of wine recommended by the sommelier with our tasting menu then a bottle of Pouilly Fume the next day – not cheap but very good. The wine selection matched well and, unlike some selections, was not stupidly expensive.

Dinner is normally £49.50 each – the tasting menu is normally extra but it was included in our hotel costs.

I normally find something that’s not quite right in my resto reviews but I really couldn’t find fault with the food at the Ardeonaig – it’s a gem.

The breakfasts were pretty good too.

Melon with blackcurrant sorbet

Melon with blackcurrant sorbet

Poached haddock and egg

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We had dinner in Sweet Melindas last December (review here).  We enjoyed it and resolved to return and, as my daughter Ali had never been there, we went with her this weekend.  I started with octopus and squid salad and Ali had smoked duck and melon salad. But my wife Anne’s starter of pate looked rather grey and unappetising – it tasted ok but not fantastic.

Octopus and squid salad

Duck and melon salad

We all had fish for main courses – Ali and I had hake and Anne had sea bass. Sweet Melindas specialises in fish and they do it well.

Hake

Sea bass

So – the food was generally good but the service was a bit lacking. Our wine took a while to arrive and we had to remind the waiter when our starters arrived. And they made a total mess of the bill – 3 separate mistakes and an overcharge of about £40. Rectified and the costs of coffees knocked off but it shouldn’t have happened.

As before, 2 courses each plus a bottle of wine (Muscadet sur lie) came to just over £30 each.

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The feted celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has a chain of Italian restaurants and the eponymous Jamie’s Italian has recently opened in Edinburgh.  We haven’t tried it in the evening but I went in for a quick midday lunch with my wife and daughter, when I was between  meetings.

General view of the restaurant

It’s quite a large space in the Assembly Rooms in George Street, decorated in dark red with no natural light (hence photos below are flash). There are tables on two levels with the lower level also including a central food bar, where salads, bruschetta, etc. are prepared. The restaurant was fairly quiet when we went in at 12.30 but by one o’clock it was almost full.

Food bar at 1 o’clock

We all just had a single pasta dish – Wild Rabbit Tagliolini, Sausage Papardelle, and Penne Arrabiata. Mine was the sausage – Italian sausage, which had a pronounced fennel flavouring with red wine and served with ‘crunchy, herby breadcrumbs’. It was good as were the tastes I had of the other dishes.

Wild Rabbit Tagliolini

Sausage Pappardelle

It’s hard to judge somewhere from such a brief experience – the pastas were better than standard Italian average and certainly comparable with those in the better Italian restaurants. They were not overpriced.  The restaurant had a very good atmosphere and friendly and helpful service. Certainly worth an evening visit and a more extensive menu exploration.

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I’ve written about Nonna’s before and we always intended to go back. After getting home late from holiday on Saturday, we had no food in the house on Sunday so decided to go out for lunch.  Everywhere was busy but Nonna’s managed to squeeze us in.

As well as it’s normal menu, Nonna’s always has a lot of daily specials – mostly whatever fish are available that day. We all chose from the special menu – Anne had sea bass, Ali had linguine with giant prawns and I had spaghetti vongole – spaghetti with small clams.

Spaghetti vongole, Nonna’s Edinburgh

This was just clean tasting with the sauce flavoured by the juice of the clams.  Just as good as the same dish which I’d had in Italy. The others were equally complimentary.

The service and helpfulness of the staff in Nonnas is superb – it is remarkable how they can remember all the specials. But beware if you are ordering specials – they are not cheap and there are no prices on the blackboard. We went for a quick, cheapish lunch and ended up paying £20+ each for a main dish, glass of wine and coffee. But we thoroughly enjoyed it.

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La Garrigue is, without doubt, my favourite French resto in Edinburgh. I hadn’t eaten here since June 2010 – since then, they’ve been on a Gordon Ramsay programme on telly and twice we’ve tried, it’s been full.

La Garrigue - 31 Jeffrey St

So we booked well in advance for my birthday dinner – it was a Thursday night – busy but not full. As always, the ladies started with La Pousse Rapiere – the house cocktail made with an Armagnac liqueur and sparking wine. As La Garrigue specialise in the cooking of southern France, I went native and had a pastis – although it’s not quite the same as drinking it in the sun.

The menu changes with the seasons and the winter menu, as you’d expect, had lots of warming stews and slow-cooked dishes. I started though with their Roquefort souffle – which, looking back was what I had the last time. It is simply superb and highly recommended.

Others had the pigeon which was pronounced to be excellent – the morsel I tasted confirmed this.

Roquefort souffle with walnut and pear salad

My main course was the traditional cassoulet with a walnut salad. Beans, confit of duck, pork and Toulouse sausage. I always enjoy this although it’s certainly not a refined dish. The tastes of the slow-cooked lamb shank and the beef cheek which I had were also very good.

Cassoulet with walnut salad

We shared a lemon tart for pudding – another repeat.

Wine was a southern French red from the Languedoc called ‘La Garrigue’ – no direct relationship with the restaurant as far as I know. Spicy and herby – we really enjoyed it.

Dinner was £25 for 2 courses but with drinks, wine and coffee were were about £40 each. Much better than most restaurants in France. If you haven’t tried it – go there!

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Le Mouton Noir is a French bistro in the heart of Bruntsfield. We ate there shortly after it opened and were very disappointed in the food then we went back a couple of years ago – the food was definitely better but not so good that we were anxious to go back.

We decided last Saturday to give it another try – and it was much improved. It was busy and bustling and 8 o’clock when we arrived – a slight glitch when they said we had cancelled our booking was quickly sorted.  A short menu on a blackboard with wines by the pichet as in France.

We decided that the best approach was to try and be as traditional as possible so our starters were foie gras and oefs en cocotte – baked eggs with ham, mushrooms and cheese.

Foie Gras

Oefs en cocotte

No complaints about either of these – both nicely cooked and tasty. Served with crusty French bread that, unlike many places in France, was quite fresh.  Our main courses were French classics – cassoulet (duck, ham and beans) and tartiflette (potatoes, onions, ham, cream and cheese). Both were hearty winter warmers – simply cooking that worked well.

Cassoulet - confit of duck, ham, sausages and beans

Tartiflette - potatoes, onions, bacon, cheese and cream

We each had two courses plus a 1/2 litre of house red and 1/2 litre of house white – the wine was OK but a bit overpriced. About £30 each.

 Altogether, a much better experience than our previous visits – we will be back.

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