Showing posts with label French. Show all posts
Showing posts with label French. Show all posts

Review: La Garrigue – Fine flavours of the Languedoc, to counter a dreich capital day

Painting of La Garrigue restaurant.
La Garrigue (courtesy of the restaurant's website).
It's the end of April and today is, once again, one of those days this month when it's blowing a hoolie. What's more, the gale force wind only serves to ensure that the accompanying hail and sleet is near horizontal. I do love Scotland, but sometimes I long to escape its weather for more warm and sunny climes. But not being able to jump on a plane to Spain or the South of France, last Friday my other half and myself decided to do the next best thing - we injected a little culinary sunshine into our evening by dining at the southern French eatery, La Garrigue.

Located a stone's throw from Waverley Station, on Jeffery Street, this bistro has been a fixture on the Edinburgh gastronomic scene for 12 years. It specialises in the cuisine of the Languedoc (or 'Le Midi') region of France, hence the name which references to the aromatic, herb-dominated scrubland common to the area. So shunning yet another sharp April shower, JML and I were greeted by the restaurant's welcoming French waiters and seated in front of the bistro’s huge picture windows that provide stunning views of Calton Hill.

Within a couple of minutes of the menus being delivered to us we were asked if we would like an aperitif. Now in my book, this is always a good start to dinner, and quite typical of Mediterranean dining. So sipping 'un pousse rapier' - a sort of champagne cocktail - and a nicely chilled Muscat sec, we made our dining choices. Not an easy task as, going by the dish descriptions, everything on the menu seemed inviting.

JML chose to start with the pig's head 'fromage' accompanied by a gribiche sauce. A very inviting slab of succulent terrine arrived which was moist and full with rich pork flavour. The creamy, eggy sauce that accompanied it - sharpened by capers, tarragon and cornichons - made for an excellent counterpoint to the meat. My first course choice of 'traditional' fish soup with croutons and rouille was every bit as good as I had hoped for - a dark vermilion bowl of intense seafood tastes that could have come straight from a Mediterranean port, paired with crisp toasted bread slices and home-made saffron mayonnaise.

Beef cheek with parsnip purée.
Beef cheek with parsnip purée.
Whilst we were still discussing how good our starters were, our meaty mains were served. I had decided upon rabbit stuffed with walnut and liver farce, on a bed of salsify and winter veg (the veg chosen to match the weather, I assume). Now rabbit is a real litmus test of a good kitchen. Cooked badly, it is dry and tough. My lapin was the polar opposite, being succulent and bathed in a flavoursome, but not overpowering, gravy. The dish really shone thanks to the addition of the stuffing which added a real depth of umami. JML's slow cooked cheek of beef, with glazed carrots and parsnip purée was equally impressive. I love beef or pig cheeks, especially when slow cooked and served with lashings of sauce from the casserole. This meltingly tender morsel ticked all the right boxes in that respect.

Rabbit stuffed with walnuts and a liver.
Rabbit stuffed with walnuts and a liver.
We paused for a while, and sipped on our very pleasant glasses of Languedoc red wine (Les Acrobats 2011), before ordering pudding. This provided an opportunity to take in the ambience of La Garrigue, which matches chunky, stripped wood tables and chairs with bright lavendar walls, all providing a nice bistro vibe to the restaurant's quirky layout. Yet by the time our final course arrived, and with all covers occupied, the restaurant was a wee bit too southern French in one respect - it was becoming decidedly too warm.

Review: Café St Honoré - A French gem with a Scottish Twist

Front of Cafe Saint Honore.
A wee bit of Paris, in Thistle Street Lane.
We visited Café St Honoré on a freezing spring evening, having been keen to experience this French-influenced exponent of “slow food” for a while. Despite the cold weather, the welcome was immediately warm as we stepped into the restaurant which, if you forget it is hidden just of Edinburgh’s Thistle Street, would be entirely at home in Paris’s Latin Quarter.

Café St Honoré specialises in using seasonal, locally-sourced produce to create bistro-style cuisine, and the passion of it's chef-director Neil Forbes with this regard has lead to the establishment being rated as Scotland's most sustainable eatery in 2012. As already mentioned Whilst the ambience of the restaurant is very obviously French, its insistence on using - wherever possible - Scottish ingredients creates an ‘Auld Alliance’ of classic cuisine français in combination with quality Scot’s flavours.

From the several alternatives available, we decided to go with the ‘café classics’ menu which provides diners with a choice from two options for each course and offers great value at £22.50 for starter, main and pudding. My partner opened proceedings with a dish of potato and herb dumplings with Highland Crowdie cheese which were, as anticipated, satisfyingly both herby and cheesy and provided a good balance of flavours. The real star of our first course, however, was my cullen skink which was packed with delicious smoked haddock and potatoes, all bathed in a luxurious creamy sauce that had assumed the smokiness of the fish during cooking.