Sunday, 13 July 2014

Edinburgh Restaurant Review: Clouds and Soil - Grandiose surroundings, fairly decent food

Samosas with raita.
Pulled pork samosas with saffron raita.
If there is one part of Edinburgh where visitors will never struggle to find somewhere to eat or drink it has to be the area that encompasses the top of Leith Walk, Picardy Place, and Broughton Street. This is a region of the capital that is chock-a-block with bars and restaurants of varied styles and cuisines. However, such is the competition in this culinary hotspot that every now and again a venue will pull down the shutters, only to be quickly transformed into a new food or drink-based enterprise.

One of the area's venues that appears to be in a constant state of reincarnation is the impressive Georgian townhouse at 4 Picardy Place. Since being converted from a TV production studio a few years back, this place has hosted: (the appallingly named) Thai Me Up restaurant; the GHQ bar/club/boutique hotel complex; and the Fiddler's Elbow pub. All these enterprises have now gone by-the-by. My interest was pricked, therefore, when I discovered that the team behind Leith Shore's trendy Bond No 9 had taken over the place, transforming it into "... a cocktail and wine bar, restaurant and four rooms" under the intriguing moniker of Clouds and Soil. Might this venture prove more successful than its predecessors, I wondered?

Queen scallops in lemon butter.
Queen scallops in lemon butter.
So a couple of Friday's ago, JML and I decided to give Clouds and Soil's restaurant a test drive. Crossing the venue's threshold we were greeted by... an empty hallway. So we popped our heads into the ground floor bar - which was certainly stylish, if not exactly bursting with punters - to be directed up the staircase to the first floor. The restaurant occupies two conjoined, grandiose Georgian rooms which have been tastefully decorated in sage green and decked out with oak flooring. An equally stylish bar area is nestled at one end of this space, with the majority of the covers occupying the larger area which boasts stunning views from its huge sash windows. Initially impressive. Yet did the food match the decor?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Savour - a new Edinburgh culinary festival worth - well - savouring...

[Other committments have meant posts on Scrumptious Scran have been a bit scant of late. Apologies, as normal service is about to be resumed.]


Busy Savour food festival Edinburgh.
Cullinary action-packed Savour festival.
I do like a good food festival, hence – as I mentioned in my last post – my excitement at attending the recent Savour festival in Edinburgh. So did the festival warrant my enthusiasm? Well, initial signs were promising, given that JML and I were issued with our own sets of cutlery and a wine glass each, as soon as we stepped through the entrance of Summerhall. Guided up the labyrinthine venue’s stairs, we emerged in to the bustling part of the venue that housed Savour's "Main Course" area.

It was immediately apparent that this wasn't going to be a bog-standard food event. Summerhall's Dissection Room (don't fear, this was once a veterinary school) resembled a cross between a continental market and a banquet, with a plethora of inviting stalls positioned around the periphery that were, quite literally, feeding the rows of tables occupying the centre of this cavernous space. The premise was straightforward: peruse a stall; select your food or drink of choice; find a seat, consume and contemplate. So what proved a hit with our collective palettes?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Savour - looking forward to experiencing this new Edinburgh food festival

Savour Festival logo.
A question for all you food, and drink, lovers out there. Who amongst us doesn't love a good food festival? Glancing around the virtual room, I see all of you have your hands up. Excellent. Yet sometimes I wonder if, like me, fellow foodies can find the scale of some of the big food festivals a wee bit overwhelming, and their offerings slightly unfocused. Well, a new Edinburgh food festival might be about to change all that.

Taking place at Edinburgh's splendid Summerhall on Sunday 15 June, Savour is billed as a laid-back and convivial event, where visitors "can taste, explore, enjoy and journey around a carefully curated selection of food and drink from some of Edinburgh's finest local wine merchants, chefs, mixologists and artisan food and drink producers." Sounds marvellous. So what exactly does Savour offer?

Well, the inviting culinary attractions of Savour are set to include:

The Beer Lab - curated by students from Queen Margaret University's pioneering MSc in Gastronomy, this promises to be a multi-sensory journey through the history, culture and making of a range of different beers, culminating in a blind taste test. Maybe I need to do some revision in advance...

The Main Course - Fancy dipping into the world of the savoury flavours that Edinburgh has to offer? Well this feast of delicious small dishes - composed from produce on offer from Edinburgh's chefs, producers and retailers - allows punters to do just that. Yet it isn't merely about food, as it will be possible to pair your scran with some smashing wine, beer, cocktails and soft drinks that will also be readily available.

The Wine List - is a strand that will bring together some of Edinburgh's finest merchants - including Callistoga and Sideways Wines, Vino Wines, Bacco Wines, and Appellation Wines - to serve a fantastic range of vino from around the world. And if you sometimes struggle to decide what wine to pair with a particular food, you can experience a glass that perfectly complements some of the dishes available in The Main Course.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Edinburgh restaurant review: Gusto - A stylish take on Italian, just right for summer

Salmon tartare on a plate.
Summery Salmon tartare.
I love new things. I am probably what marketing people would refer to as an "early adopter"; the sort of person who laps up the latest technology, queueing to be first to purchase a "just released" gadget. Well, I would be, were it not for the fact that sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice that's available these days. Plus, I actually like to wait a wee while to see how a new arrival beds in, before I will give it a try.

This approach often applies to my choice of restaurants, as much as technology. Which probably explains why I hadn't got round to dining at Gusto, despite the Edinburgh branch of this chain of Italian restaurants being open for a few years now. However, last week I was invited by a friend of a friend - who happens to be part of Gusto Edinburgh's management team - to sample their new spring and summer menu. Try something new? Yes please!

Warm aparagus salad with a Caesar sauce.
Tasty asparagus with a Caesar sauce.
Pass through Gusto's, somewhat unassuming, George Street frontage and you enter a large, stylish dining space which is simply and tastefully decorated in black and white. Forgoing faux-rustic Italian adornments, the restaurant is decked with banks of arty monochrome photographs, stylish lighting, and furniture that has a timeless, classic-design feel. It's a look that wouldn't be out of place in a trendy Milanese eatery.

Seated in a comfy semi-circular booth towards the open kitchen (always a good sign if it's possible to see one's food being prepared) JML and I were offered an aperitif whilst we browsed the - very extensive - menu. A kir royale and a basilico (a cocktail mixing gold rum and apricot liqueur with amaretto, lemon and fresh basil) really hit the spot. So too did the tasty, warm focaccia and marinated olives that accompanied our drinks.

Now I've already mentioned that Gusto's menu is expansive, featuring antipasti, pasta and risotto, pizza, as well as Italian-inspired salads, and mains based around seafood and meat. So being there to try what was new for summer, we called on the help of our - very knowledgeable - server, who promptly directed us to over a dozen dishes.