Girl Versus Food

Reviews, recipes and thoughts from a Scottish food blogger

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Sicily at Six by Nico Edinburgh Review  

From Palermo in the north to Catania in the east, with active volcano Mount Etna towering over it, Sicily is a treat for the eyes and the belly. A couple of friends of mine travelled around Sicily this summer and I was glued to their Instagram! The sights and food looked equally breath-taking. So when Six by Nico announced their latest menu was going to be Sicily themed, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Sicily has been inhabited by the Greeks, Arabs, Spanish and the Normans at various points over the centuries and these influences come across in both the culture and the food. The soil is fertile due to volcanic eruptions and the warm climate makes it perfect for growing lemons, oranges, tomatoes, olives and pistachios. Fishing is also important to the island and local catches include tuna, sardine and swordfish. With these ingredients to work with, I was excited to see what Nico and his team would come up with.

If you’ve not been to Six by Nico yet (where have you been?) the concept is a new themed six-course tasting menu, every six weeks. The menu is very reasonably priced – £28 for the six courses and you can add matched wines for an additional £25.

To begin, there were three different types of arancini to try. My favourite had to be the red pepper with smoked mozzarella. The risotto balls were a good start to the meal and left me wanting more.IMG_6102

Next up was slow cooked aubergine served with creamy ricotta and Trapenese pesto. So both of the first two courses were meat free but certainly not lacking in flavour or substance. It worth noting that there is also a vegetarian menu, or if desired individual courses can be swapped out for the vegetarian alternative.IMG_6121

The fish dish was beautiful, fresh seared tuna served with puttanesca, a caper and raisin purée and some crispy kale. The tuna was cooked perfectly and the accompaniments complimented the fish and allowed its flavour to shine through.IMG_6126

Then it was on to a pasta dish of saffron pappardelle and ox cheek ragu. The ragu had been slow cooked for a deep, rich flavour. The dish was topped with a cheese crisp which was a bit like when you make a cheese toastie and some cheese runs out and crisps up. Delicious!IMG_6136

There were more traditional Sicilian flavours coming through on the pork fillet and sausage dish which had an orange and pistachio dressing. This dish was tasty, but maybe a little too filling straight after the pasta.IMG_6145

Dessert was a Sicilian Lemon Tart with whipped creme Fraiche, granita and candied rosemary. I’m not going to lie, I had been hoping for some Cannoli for dessert! However the lemon tart was certainly not a disappointment. It was zingy and fresh and the perfect ending to the meal.IMG_6151

This was another brilliant and inventive menu at Six by Nico. It runs until the 28th of October at both the Edinburgh and Glasgow restaurants. The next menu has just been announced as a Middle Eastern theme and I must say, it sounds absolutely delicious.

 

MP’s Bistro, Edinburgh

This week, I was invited along to sample the menu at the MP’s Bistro at Parliament House Hotel which is just a five minute walk away from Waverley Station at the foot of Calton Hill. The building has a fascinating history with the oldest part dating back to the 1760’s. It has had many uses over the years and was even home to the office of ‘Trainspotting‘ author, Irvine Welsh. During the latest refurbishment, when the property was changed into a hotel, the original range cooker was uncovered and forms part of the restaurant décor.

DSC_0829Original range cooker

 

I loved that the old lift had been transformed into a charming phone cubicle; as modelled by my friend and dinner guest, Kerry!

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The menu has a strong Scottish theme, with lots of locally sourced ingredients. It’s also fab value with the 3 course pre-theatre menu coming in at £20.50. To start, we both went for seafood – I chose crab cakes while my dining partner had a classic prawn cocktail; both were generously portioned.

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For the main, I opted for lamb steaks and Kerry chose the hake fillet with a caper, shrimp and leek butter.

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Desserts, I must say, were the highlight of the meal. I had a heather honey pannacotta while my friend had a baked lemon cheesecake. The desserts were rich, indulgent and beautifully presented. The perfect end to the meal.

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Fancy trying out the MP’s Bistro for yourself? They have a brilliant offer on just now where if have dinner in the restaurant before 30th April 2015, you can go back and enjoy a main course for free in May! You can book a table here.

 

 

*Please note, this meal was courtesy of MP’s Bistro

Review of The Jolly Botanist, Edinburgh Gin Bar

The Jolly Botanist is Edinburgh’s newest gin bar, located on Morrison Street, close to Haymarket Railway Station. As a lover of all things gin, it had been high on my ‘To Do List’ since it opened earlier this month.

When I visited for post-dinner drinks, the bar had a buzzing Saturday night atmosphere. The clientele were a mixture of couples and groups of friends. Despite the place being busy, I only had to wait a few minutes at the bar before being served and I also managed to find a seat at a long table with bar stools.

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I counted around forty different gins on the extensive drinks list which has helpful suggestions on which tonic and garnish would be best paired with each. I decided to try out something different and went for Opihr – an oriental spiced gin which was lovely and warming on a cold February night. I followed this up with a Rhubarb and Ginger liqueur from Edinburgh Gin. Mr GvF opted for a deliciously crisp Scottish Caorunn gin which was garnished with apple. Next time I visit I would love to see even more Scottish craft gins like Rock Rose, Eden Mill and Daffy’s.
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The bar has had a £730k renovation to transform it in into something completely unique. The Victorian style decoration is quirky and theatrical and I loved The Jolly Botanist winged character adorning one wall. In keeping with the shabby chic décor, the drinks were served in heavy crystal glasses. The toilets were clean and beautifully decorated with shiny white tiles embellished with oriental blossom.

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I’d definitely like another rendezvous with The Jolly Botanist soon and next time I hope to sample their food and some delicious gin cocktails which come in gorgeous tea cups on stems.

Cheers from Girl Versus Food! ximage4


Valentine’s Menus 2015

Although, I’m not a massive fan of card and present buying for Valentine’s Day, I think any excuse to enjoy a delicious meal with someone you love should be jumped at! I’ve done the hard work for you and below is my pick of what Edinburgh and Glasgow have to offer this year.

If you’re a seafood fan I would recommend trying Gandolfi Fish in Merchant City. I’d definitely opt for the monkfish tail Bourguignon for my main (£21). Alternatively, Fish restaurant in Edinburgh has a Valentine’s menu which comes in at a very reasonable £30 including a glass of Prosecco. The roast scallop starter with apple is a classic combo not to be missed!

If you fancy something a bit different, why not try out pop-up dining experience from The Scratch Series? Chefs Ben Reade and David Crabtree-Logan, who have worked in some of the UK’s top kitchens welcome guests for supper Thursday to Saturday at Iglu in Edinburgh. For £45 you can try out their ever-changing seven course tasting menu.

Sharing’s caring and I love the idea of the Valentine’s Sharing Menu at The Butchershop, Glasgow. Priced at £49.95 per person, the starter is a sharing platter which includes house cured salmon. You can then look forward to a 500g Chateaubriand steak for the main followed by a selection of three desserts.

Right now is Perigord truffle season and Pompadour by Galvin are making the most of the seasonal delight with a truffle risotto starter. The Pompadour dining room is just gorgeous, perfect for a romantic meal. There are three course and five course options depending on when you want to dine.

For a really special treat, it has to be Number One restaurant at The Balmoral Hotel. The Michelin-starred restaurant is offering a 6 course or 8 course Valentine’s Tasting Menu. The menu includes delights such as smoked salmon with caviar and quails egg along with an Orkney beef fillet main.

Whatever you get up to, here’s to a love and food-filled Valentine’s Day!

Girl Versus Food x

Seven Days, Two Burgers

While everyone else has started January diets and detoxes, I’m tucking into big juicy burgers. Purely in the interests of Girl Versus Food, of course!

You’d have to be in a coma not to notice The Rise of The Burger’ over the last couple of years. There’s been a massive number of independent burger places join the Edinburgh and Glasgow dining scene. In fact, there’s even a fabulous blog dedicated to the humble (and sometimes not so humble) burger; check out James Vs Burger for the ultimate guide.

Read on to find out about my visits to Burger Meats Bun in Edinburgh and Jacker De Viande in Glasgow.

First up Burger Meats Bun just off Broughton St in Edinburgh (also on West Regent St, Glasgow)

The Burgers: I loved that they have both a Seasonal and a Daily Special Burger. Unfortunately, they had run out of the daily special during my visit so I went for the humorously named seasonal special ‘No Thyme Like The Pheasant’. This consisted of Breaded Pheasant, Sri Lankan Curry, White Pudding, Carrot Salad and Lime and Coriander Mayo.

BMB Burger

BMB Burger

The burgers arrived in cute wrappers via the friendly waitress. Friends I was dining with opted for the Hot Chic chicken burger and the Smokin’ Bacon beef burger which had a nice line of pink through the middle. My pheasant burger was delicious, though the coriander mayonnaise was slightly overpowering for my taste. The Thai Chili Cheese Chips were yummy and had a considerable kick to them, not for the faint hearted!

BMB Burger and Chips

BMB Burger and Chips

Desserts: The square dipping doughnuts were warm and tasty, and served with a blood orange dip. I’d love to see a choice of dips (perhaps a chocolate one?) next time I visit.

Dipping doughnuts at BMB

Dipping doughnuts at BMB

My second burger was at Jacker De Viande on West Regent St, Glasgow. The restaurant is at basement level and boldly decorated with red and white meat-themed wall mural.

The Burgers: I went for the BBQ Pulled Pork Beef Burger and my dining companion the Pulled Short Rib of Beef Burger. We were asked how we wanted the burgers cooked; we both opted for medium and they came with a perfect pink middle. It would be great to see a bit more information on the menu about what is included in each burger – not that I was at all disappointed with my burger, but it might have made the decision making process a little easier! The burgers were juicy, the toppings were great and I loved that there was a huge onion ring topping it all off! All nestled inside a lovely soft brioche bun.

Jacker De Viande burger

Jacker De Viande burger

There were five variations of chips available; I opted for the Bacon & Cheese Fries. They were shoestring fries, well-seasoned with cheese all the way through to the bottom of the dish and plenty of crispy bacon.

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Desserts: Jacker De Viande went for quality over quantity with only two desserts to choose from (though they also have a very tempting range of dessert cocktails which I intend to try next time). I opted for the homemade honeycomb and vanilla ice-cream which was deliciously creamy and came with a jug of hot chocolate sauce!

Honeycomb ice-cream at Jacker De Viande

Honeycomb ice-cream at Jacker De Viande

Two delicious burgers in seven days, what a lucky girl! A great burger joint makes for the perfect relaxed evening, catching up with friends and neither of these venues disappointed. I have no idea if the burger craze will sustain through 2015, but I truly hope that both Burger Meats Bun and Jacker De Viande will be around for the long-haul.

 

 

Best of Supermarket Prosecco

Light on the palate and considerably cheaper than its French counterpart, it’s easy to see why Prosecco has seen a massive surge in popularity over the past few years. It’s an affordable luxury that can make any day feel like a mini celebration. Amongst my group of friends, it’s now a rare occasion that doesn’t start with Prosecco! The sparkling wine is made from the Glera grape, produced in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions of north-east Italy. With Hogmanay just around the corner, it seemed like excellent timing to review the best of what the supermarkets have to offer. Read on to find out which bargain Prosecco came top of my taste test.

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The Test:

In order to provide a comprehensive review, I engaged a few associates to help out – it’s a tough life being friends with a food blogger, but someone’s got to do it! My five fabulous taste-testers have qualified to ‘expert’ status through years of regular Prosecco drinking! One in particular, has the extra credentials of having lived in the north of Italy for a number of years and has sampled some of the best bubbles the country has to offer. This was, of course, a blind taste test and all labels had been removed beforehand.

The four proseccos selected for the taste test were:

Sainsburys Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco currently £7.50 (normally £10)

Asda Extra Special Prosecco £6.00

Aldi Belletti Prosecco Spumante £4.79

Morrisons Signature Prosecco Spumante £9.99

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The Results:

Morrisons Signature was very frothy and had a head a bit like a pint of lager when first poured! The tasters said that this smelt the nicest but felt it was a tad on the sweet side.

The Aldi offering kept its bubbles for longest and was less sweet than the others. If you are a fan of a drier Prosecco, this may be the one for you. An excellent buy at £4.79.

Runner-up from the review was Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference which smelt great and had a very smooth, creamy finish. The was the most expensive of our selection, but at the time of writing it is on offer at £7.50.

However, Asda Extra Special came out as the clear favourite. Just the right amount of fizz with small, even bubbles. It was the lightest in colour of the four and although my testers weren’t wowed by the smell, the taste was great and neither too sweet nor too dry. So there you go, our top pick for New Year’s Eve bubbles is the purse friendly Asda Extra Special Prosecco. Cheers!

 

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Edinburgh’s Best Festive Menus

There are many traditions for work Christmas do’s – cheesy secret Santa gifts, inappropriate outfits and someone vomiting in the loos by 3pm. More often that not, the Christmas lunch itself can lack a bit of originality! If you’re tired of turkey or had a bellyful of brussel sprouts, read on for my top three inspired Christmas offerings in the capital. Oh and they are all under £40 per head. Here’s my pick of Edinburgh’s best Festive Menus:

1. Kyloe, Rutland Street.
This is a very well balanced menu with fish, meat and veggie options – something to please everyone. Always happy to see a beef offering on the festive menu of my favourite steak restaurant. However, after some consideration, I would opt for the smoked fish to start, followed by the Ayrshire pork with black pudding and finish with the vanilla creme brûlée
Check out the full Christmas Menu here.
Lunch £28, Dinner £35

2. Pompadour, Caledonian Hotel, Princes Street.
A petite menu with two choices per course but this is the true meaning of quality over quantity. My choices would be the salmon ravioli, followed by the Perthshire pheasant and finishing with the chocolate pave.
Read the full Festive Menu here.
£35

3. The Witchery, Castlehill
The Witchery has one of the best reputations in Edinburgh for good reason! Very difficult to narrow down my choices on this one, but after some chin scratching, I would start with the terrine of game with foie gras. For my main I would go for the Glasgow Fillet (a beef cut from between the shoulders suited to slow cooking) and I’d round off the meal with the Rum Baba
See the full Festive Menu here. Lunch £35, Dinner £39.50

I’d love to hear about your favourite Christmas menu; you can comment below. Happy festive dining!

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My cat wearing a Christmas hat. Just because.

Ubiquitous Chip, Glasgow, November 2014

Ubiquitous Chip has been a Glasgow institution since the early 70’s. The restaurant’s cobbled courtyard is filled with foliage and twinkly lights which transported me a million miles away from a cold November night in the city. Who would imagine (without Google) that the Ashton Lane venue used to be an undertaker’s stables?

Seated next to the fish pond, I had my fingers and toes crossed I wouldn’t be asked to choose my dinner from a live selection! Thankfully it’s not that kind of plaice (geddit?) and koi carp was off the menu. There was, however, a lovely seafood selection including Islay scallops and Shetland cod. In the end, I opted for a double deer delight; venison haggis with mash potato to start and roe deer haunch for my main. No pics of the food unfortunately as the aforementioned twinkly mood lighting does not equal good photographs. But trust me when I say, you’ve never seen haggis look as pretty as this! The roe deer was cooked medium-rare and melted in the mouth.

There was a great selection of wine and the knowledgeable sommelier was happy to let us sample a couple before coming to our decision.

‘The Chip’ as it’s affectionately known can’t be matched for its unique charm and delicious menu of locally sourced produce. If you’re a game lover, I would recommend checking out their upcoming Game Supper which is a very reasonable £30 per person and sounds like a great way to celebrate St Andrews Day.

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