Showing posts with label bar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bar. Show all posts

Feature Article: A brilliant Berlin culinary odyssey


Brilliant Berlin beer.
Things have been a bit quiet on Scrumptious Scran of late, for which I must apologise. Don’t worry; I haven’t suddenly lost my enthusiasm for food and drink – quite the reverse. It’s just that recently I have had to prioritise starting a new job and celebrating my other half’s 40th birthday, over writing culinary copy. Fortunately though, part of JML’s birthday celebrations involved a trip to Berlin. This has provided an opportunity to compose the first Scrumptious Scran Odyssey article, giving an insight into some of our favourite dining and quaffing experiences in this wonderful city.

Not having visited Berlin before I must admit that we weren’t entirely certain what to expect, in culinary terms. Like any large city, Berlin has a diverse range of restaurant cultures – with Italian appearing to be a particular favourite – but for this visit I was keen to hone in on food that was typical of Berlin or Germany.

Our base was central Berlin’s “Mitte” district, a stone’s throw away from the former Checkpoint Charlie, one of few official crossing points between the former communist East and capitalist West sectors of the city. Our hotel – Gat Point Charlie – was great and very boutique-esque, even though the surrounding area was slightly underwhelming; it’s Berlin’s commercial and government hub being mostly populated by modern multi-stories. However, wander a little and it is possible to find a Germanic culinary gem, such as Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt – a cavernous eatery that serves traditional Bavarian fare and excellent beer. Be warned, however, so popular is this place that at peak times it is neigh on impossible to secure a dining table, meaning that we had to be content with sitting outside (it being a balmy October evening) whilst consuming a couple of glasses of “hell”.

And I should also point out that when strolling round Berlin's Mitte district, anyone with a sweet tooth should be sure to call into Fassbender & Rausch - reportedly the world's largest chocolaterie. Not only does its three floors offer 200 varieties of chocolate, it also features a chocolate volcano and a architecturally accurate model of the Bundestag - made from chocolate.



Cracking currywurst.
Checking out Berlin’s “Museum Island” and surrounding environs provided an opportunity to sample two things I love: sausages and micro-brewed beer. The former came courtesy of Oranium, located in the “Scheunenviertel” or “barn quarter”; an old neighbourhood that found itself on the eastern side of the infamous wall – here’s a hint, if you see a tram you are in former East Berlin… Having perused the menu, I just had to try the Würstchen Trilogie - Berliner Currywurst, Thüringer Rostbratwurst and Nürnberger sausages skewered with leek, onions, and capsicum, served with yellow and red curry dip. Each variety of porky morsel was delicious, even if some flavours were slightly unexpected. I’d heard that Berliners are mad for currywurst – a curry-infused banger. Maybe I was expecting a casein-coated balti, but the spice mix was more akin in its flavour to the sort of curry sauce served by Chinese takeaways – flavoursome yet unusual. For tip-top beer we ventured just south of Alexanderplatz to Brauhaus Georgbraeu. Located in the shadow of the city’s imposing Television Tower, not only are their superb pilsners brewed on the pub’s premises – try the dark lager with its great malty flavour – but these can be enjoyed on a terrace overlooking the River Spree.

Edinburgh Restaurant Review: Prayers answered at The Safari Lounge

Safari Lounge entrance.
A wildly great pub lies inside.
If I were religious, I would swear my prayers had recently been answered. For years I have been chanting the mantra “please might someone open a decent pub, with really good food, somewhere between Jock’s Lodge and Leith Walk”. But Edinburgh’s equivalents of the goddesses Edesia and Bibesia must have been sat atop Arthur’s Seat with their fingers in their ears – until now!

For the last few weeks, as I trudged back and forth between Scrumptious Scran Towers and my place of work in central Edinburgh, I noted that the old Station Bar on Abbeyhill’s Cadzow Place – a very traditional Scottish boozer – had been shut for a bit of a repaint. Then the posters appeared in its picture windows, announcing the arrival of The Safari Lounge. Might this be, at last, a decent new boozer in Edinburgh’s East End? Praise the lord! Or lady, or whatever be your deity of choice.

So this Friday, JML and I dropped by to see what pleasures this revamped Victorian bar might hold. Oh my! Walking into the place it doesn’t immediately look like a lot has changed. There is still much of the dark brown tongue and groove and ornate plaster work in evidence, except the walls are painted a subtle tangerine and white - taken together all vaguely reminiscent of a liquorice allsort. The original wooden bar has gone (despatched to another venue, to allow the nine rotten joists that lay beneath it to be replaced, apparently). And at the end of its subtly trendy replacement is a small kitchen – but what a kitchen…

A busy bar and kitchen at the Safari Lounge.
A busy bar and kitchen.
As we ordered drinks at the bar and scouted round for a table, it became apparent that the place is much bigger than I had realised, with a comfy, offset area to the rear of the bar, and a separate “Tiger Room” beyond that. Our drinks arrived – chosen from a great range of lagers and craft beers – together with a couple of menus. And that is when I realised why this place is confident enough to site an open kitchen at the end of the bar. At first glance it may appear a typical pub menu of salads, mezze, ‘lite bites’ hotdogs and burgers. Yet read on, and it isn’t just your standard bar food at all. It’s a menu put together with real care and thought.

So, we ordered a main each of a “Safari Dog” and a “Momo Fuku” Pork Bun, accompanied by a side of skinny fries and the intriguing “popcorn mussels” and watched mesmerically as the two chefs in the open kitchen grabbed ingredients and cooked and assembled the dishes before our eyes. Within ten minutes of ordering, the food arrived. JML had chosen what transpired to be very posh hotdog – a meaty, flavoursome sausage nestling in a brioche roll, drizzled in a mustard dressing and surrounded by a tangy onion and cider chutney. It was simply smashing. My shredded pork belly buns – there were two – consisted of beautifully succulent meat with vinaigrette coleslaw, all encased in ghostly white rice baps. Intriguing in how they looked, delicious in how they tasted. Both mains were served with a generous accompaniment of freshly prepared, perfectly dressed salad.

Review: The Skylark – All aboard the Skylark

The Skylark by night
The Skylark by night.
Living on the east side of Edinburgh, it’s always a pleasure to visit the city’s “Riviera” that is Portobello. Though it may have lost some of its Victorian sea-side grandeur, “Porty” – as it is affectionately known – still boasts a great beach and promenade and some fine architecture. What’s more, its villagey feel seems to be continually enhanced by the ever-increasing number of establishments providing decent food and drink.

A relative newcomer amongst these is a smashing wee café-bistro called The Skylark, which is located on Portobello’s High Street (241/243). Open since July 2012, it occupies two former Victorian shop frontages which have been tastefully combined to form a very inviting bar/café/kitchen space. The premises are certainly striking, with the owners having chosen to strip back the décor to reveal bare brick and original architectural features. This goes very well with the mish-mash of shabby-chic tables and chairs with which the place is furnished. Plus, the bar and kitchen area is also open to the rest of the café – always a good sign/brave move if chefs are happy to prepare food in sight of punters. Personally, I love being able to glance at chefs busy preparing my order.

Scrumptious Scran is born...

So, after (what is probably) years of threatening to set up a blog as a means of sharing my passion about food and drink, I’ve finally got my metaphoric finger out and Scrumptious Scran is now live. But why establish a food blog?

Well, anyone who knows me will be aware that I love food and drink. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sophisticated fare. What, for example, can compare to an egg, bacon and mushroom sandwich on sourdough bread, accompanied by a decent cup of coffee, to kick off a Sunday morning? But it has to be flavoursome and put together with care, attention and – hopefully – some passion.

Ideally, I also like the food I cook and eat to be seasonal, and sourced as locally as possible. I’m realistic, however, and know that it isn’t always possible to do a complete weekly shop at the likes of the terrific Edinburgh Farmers’ Market (more about this Edinburgh foodie institution in a later post on the blog). But my ideas about food do share much in common with those of the Slow Food Movement.

So what can be expected from Scrumptious Scran over the coming weeks, months and (hopefully) years? Well, my intention is for the blog to be a mixture of updates on how I’ve been ‘engaging’ with food and drink, including:

  • What I have been buying, and where from.
  • The recipes I have tried at home.
  • The restaurants, cafés and bars I have enjoyed (or even, not enjoyed).
  • The books, magazines and other blogs that have influenced my culinary perspective.

And, given the fact that it is nigh on impossible for one person to keep abreast of all the latest gastronomic developments, I will certainly be welcoming suggestions of any restaurants or products that might be worthy of a feature in the blog, via [email protected].

And so my literary, culinary journey begins! I look forward to hearing from those of you who follow its progress.

Chris