Food

The Bombay Bicycle Club

06/10/21

Brougham Place, Edinburgh

We’ve lived in Edinburgh for six years now and The Bombay Bicycle Club has been there the whole time, in various hues of garish colours, up at the top of Brougham Place. We must have walked past it hundreds of times but, for whatever reason, we’ve never thought of eating there. Until tonight.

It’s a chill October evening, we’ve just had our regular stroll across The Meadows and and we’re planning to head off for a drink at The Cameo. In the gathering darkness, the curry house looks warm and inviting and I say, ‘Maybe we should give that place a try?’ And we both realise that, at this particular moment in time, we really REALLY fancy a curry. Maybe it’s a symptom of having had to carefully plan restaurant visits in advance for far too long (thanks, COVID), but, almost before we know what’s happening, we’re seated inside, enjoying some drinks and perusing the menu.

Of course we start with some papadums – not too many, because we know how they can erode your appetite long before the main courses arrive – but we’ve time to appreciate how good the accompanying pickles are, the mango chutney in particular has a deep, gingery tang and the lime pickle is one of the best we’ve tasted.

Then out come the starters, a fish pakora and a tandoori salmon. The former has been deep fried, which is often a turn off for us, but its been expertly done, crispy rather than greasy, with a nice, flakey texture within. The salmon is a delight, marinated in a spicy sauce and oven baked until it’s bursting with flavour. It’s a promising start.

We’ve both opted for naan bread. I’ve gone for the plain variety which is light and slighty crisped at the edges, an absolute delight. Susan’s peshawari naan is another revelation, filled with a delightful blend of mango and coconut. For the main courses, there’s a fabulous king prawn biriani, baked in a pot with a covering of bread, which, when opened, reveals the filling in all its sticky, aromatic glory. And there’s also a bowl of the Bombay Bicycle Club lamb curry, tender chunks of meat basking in a thick, mouthwatering sauce, just perfect to dip chunks of naan into.

Of course, we tell ourselves, we can’t possibly finish everything that’s in front of us; we’ll surely have to ask for something to take the delicious leftovers home in… except that, somehow, we do finish every mouthful and we’re full and happy and we have nothing to criticise.

The moral of this story is, I suppose, to take notice of what’s right on your doorstep. Hopefully we won’t wait another six years before returning to this little treasure of a curry house.

4.5 stars

Philip Caveney

Toast

04/10/21

The Shore, Leith

We’re meeting friends. Hurrah! This still seems like a big deal as we slowly ease our way back to a semblance of normality, and we’re keen to make the morning a success. Said friends are on their way further north, with a camper van and two dogs to look after, so it doesn’t make sense for them to come into the city centre. Instead, we agree to meet them at the Shore, where they can take their pooches for a beach walk and park with relative ease. As we’re less au fait with Leith, I ask the Hidden Edinburgh Facebook group where’s good to go for a dog-friendly breakfast, and Toast tops the list.

So Toast it is.

It’s a bright, sunny morning, so Philip and I decide to make the most of it and walk there, along the Waters of Leith. It’s three and a half miles of absolute pleasure, all dappled green light and sparkling water. And we’ve certainly built up an appetite by the time we arrive.

We start with coffees, which are good and strong, then spend some time perusing the menu. Philip opts for toast Benedict, which comprises toasted sourdough, two poached eggs, two rashers of smoked bacon and a hollandaise sauce. It looks delicious, and he declares it a triumph. The eggs are perfectly cooked, and the bacon, only subtly smoked, is superb quality. I have the French toast, and so does one of our friends. It’s the same sourdough, this time dipped in egg, vanilla & cinnamon, before being fried in butter. I add crispy praline bacon, hazelnut & maple syrup to the mix, because, well, why wouldn’t I when it’s on offer? The portion is huge, but I make my way through it womanfully, because I’m nothing if not stoic, and only a fool would leave any of this on their plate. I don’t lick the plate clean, but I can’t say it doesn’t cross my mind. I bet my friend is thinking the same thing. Our other friend has a toasted sourdough sandwich with sausages and eggs. He doesn’t say a lot about it; he’s too busy eating. He looks happy enough though.

The only slight negative is the peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake Philip orders afterwards. We’ve been sitting a while, ordering more coffees, chatting, and the cake cabinet is right in front of us, so it is very tempting. Sadly, he makes the wrong choice. The cheesecake is vegan (which the lovely waitress does inform him). He decides to try it anyway, but there’s none of the gooey naughtiness of dairy, just a not-quite-sweet enough, worthy, healthy tasting snack. It’s not awful, but it doesn’t feel like a treat. Luckily, our pal (who has also fallen prey to the allures of the sweet counter) lets him sample a pear tart, which is exquisite. He’ll know what to order next time.

And there’ll certainly be a next time.

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield


Wahaca

01/09/21

South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh

We’re slowly getting used to the loosening of Covid restrictions, but it’s tricky, navigating our way through a world that is, still, much riskier than ‘normal.’ We’re desperate to enjoy ourselves, but a little nervous too. We’re deliberately choosing quiet times when we venture out (Wednesday is the new Saturday, right?), and at least Scotland’s approach is more measured than England’s “let’s pretend it’s all over” free-for-all. Thankfully, Wahaca is the perfect place for the Covid-cautious: it’s big, airy and spotlessly clean, with lots of space between groups and perspex screens separating the tables. Phew!

We start with a freebie from the ‘summer specials’ – a cricket salsa served with tortilla chips. It sets the tone: this is going to be fun. The chips are fresh and well-seasoned, and the salsa tastes great, although I’ve no idea what part of the flavour combo is the insect’s doing. Philip orders a bottle of Corona, and I opt for a glass of a Picpoul de Pinet. Both arrive quickly, and we’re soon sipping contentedly.

We’ve decided in advance to try the ‘favourites’ set menu, because we’ve never been here before and want to sample a range of what’s on offer. It’s £42 for the two of us, which is, let’s be honest, great value. It consists of seven small dishes, and each one is, I’m pleased to say, delicious.

The Trealy Farm chorizo quesadillas arrive first, and they’re sumptuous, filled with crushed potatoes and a generous portion of cheese as well as the titular chorizo, the crisply baked tortilla providing a welcome crunch.

The next three dishes arrive at once: crispy cauliflower bites with lime and a roast jalapeno allioli, Devon crab tostadas and buttermilk chicken tacos. I’m quite fussy about deep-fried food; I tend to avoid it usually, because I don’t like it at all if it’s greasy, and can tell immediately if the oil’s not been hot enough. But the cauliflower bites are done just right, and so’s the chicken, so it’s a pleasure to eat them both. The cauliflower in particular is very more-ish. My favourite, though, is the crab; it’s so fresh and absolutely bursting with flavour. It zings. I love it.

The final three dishes arrive, along with a second round of drinks. There are pork pibil tacos, which Philip loves, but which are a bit too rich for me, although I like the intensity of the flavour. I prefer the grilled halloumi ‘Al Pastor’ tacos, which are vibrant and a little lighter on the palate. The chipotle lime slaw is crunchy and ‘clean’ and flavoursome; it’s good.

It’s all good. And, of course, we were never going to leave without sharing a portion of churros with a dulche de leche caramel sauce. It’s sheer indulgence. Oh my.

So, all in all, we’re delighted with the way our Wednesday’s turned out. We’ve put off visiting Wahaca because, you know, it’s a chain, and chains offer bland, uninteresting food, don’t they? But tonight’s dinner proves that Wagamama isn’t the only exception to that rule.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield

The Kitchin

16/06/21

Commercial Quay, Leith

A 50th birthday celebration is a great excuse to push the boat out – and the fact is, we’ve been trying to visit The Kitchin ever since we first moved to Edinburgh, some five years ago. We’ve managed to dine at all the other Tom Kitchin restaurants over that time: The Scran and Scallie, The Southside Scran and even The Bonnie Badger out in Gullane, but, mostly because of our complete inability to organise booking months ahead of time, we’ve never been able to find a suitable slot at his flagship venue. Until today.

It’s the sixteenth of June and we’re sitting at a table in The Kitchin, sipping our welcome glasses of champagne. The place is swish and comfortable and, though busy, it’s socially distanced enough for us to feel relaxed. We’ve walked the three miles from home to Commerical Quay, so we’ve managed to work up a decent appetite en route. On the other side of a glass partition, we can see Tom himself, hard at work on his latest masterpiece. We’ve opted for the Chef’s ‘Surprise’ menu, which means that we won’t know what we’re having until it arrives. The waiter gives us ample opportunity to rule out any ingredients we have an aversion to, but the fact is, we like most things and part of the thrill of dining at this level is to hand over control to the seasoned professionals on the other side of that screen.

We’ve also opted for the matched wines. This is going to be pricy, but hey, you’re only fifty once, right?

We start with an amuse bouche – a Swedish potato and seafood cake, which is essentially a little mouthful of salty heaven and a great way to get the old taste buds woken up. Goes well with the champagne too.

This is followed by a pea and lovage velouté, intensely flavoured but light as you like and we cannot resist mopping up that rich, green sauce with handfuls of freshly made soda bread. ‘Go easy on the bread,’ I keep telling myself, but I just somehow can’t make myself do that.

A glass of wine arrives (I’m not going to list all the wines, suffice to say that they are expertly paired with each dish), and then we’re presented with scallops in puff pastry. These are cooked in their shells and sealed with a ring of pastry, so they have to be opened up by the waiter, revealing melt-in-the-mouth tender scallops floating in a vibrant, citrus-infused sauce. If there’s a standout for me in this list of knockout dishes, this may just be it. But happily it proves to be a close-run thing.

Another glass of wine arrives, and then our next dish. This is pork cheek with truffle and asparagus, ladled with béchamel sauce and it’s every bit as good as it sounds. Truffle can be overpowering but not so here – there’s just enough of it to lend an extra burst of flavour, while the pork cheek is tender and expertly spiced.

The next dish is John Dory with fennel and it’s a bit of a revelation, this one. For one thing, I’ve never eaten John Dory before and I have to say that I enjoy the experience; the white flaky fish is deliciously seasoned. Also, I’d be the first to admit that fennel has never been my favourite food, but this is cooked in a tangy lemon sauce and is absolutely delicious. I vow that the next time I cook with fennel, I’m going to try a similar approach.

A switch to red wine signals what is no doubt intended as the main course in this menu, lamb rib, loin and jus – though, like all the other dishes, it is perfectly proportioned, because we still have a way to go on this food odyssey. An earthy Lebanese wine makes the ideal accompaniment to the succulent meat, which is ladled with a rich, marrowbone gravy. In a vain attempt to be critical, I observe that the first mouthful of lamb is chewier than I anticipate, but that’s the only criticism I manage to summon up. The second and third mouthfuls are fine.

We’re expecting our pudding around now, but out comes an extra one, just because they can, and this is an oat mousse with strawberry jus, light, intensely flavoured and just the thing to cut through the lingering notes of the meat dish we’ve recently finished. Think of it as a delicious palette cleanser.

Now comes the actual pudding and seriously, this is just perfection in a bowl, an apple crumble soufflé that features all the flavour of the traditional favourite, but is so light and fluffy that it almost threatens to float away from our spoons. The apple is just tart enough to cut through the sweetness of the soufflé and I have to resist the impulse to applaud. This is up there with B & B’s all-time favourite pud, Mark Greenaway’s sticky toffee pudding soufflé.

Just when we’re telling ourselves that we can’t possibly eat another thing, out comes a little lemon birthday cake with a candle on the top, and we happily share it, before ordering some coffee.

There can’t be any more… can there? Well, yes there can, actually, because here’s a dainty chocolate almond financier and I challenge anyone to turn a blind eye to that when sipping a latte! I know we couldn’t.

So, that’s it, we’re finally done. We’ve been here for something like two and a half hours, we’ve eaten some extraordinary food, we’ve drunk quite a bit of wine (so sue us) and we can honestly say this is a meal so special, so unique, we’ll never ever forget it.

And that’s the object of the exercise, right?

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Home X – Roast by the Loveable Rogue

01/05/21

home-x.com

Oh dear. I suppose it had to happen some time. Over the last fourteen months, we have sampled seven ‘meal kits’ from different restaurants, and they’ve all been very good. We’ve missed eating out, of course, and are keen to get back to it as soon as we’re both fully vaccinated, but – for now – the ‘at home’ experience is what we’ve got. And Roast’s chicken dinner looks like a winner, winner. 

Sadly, it just doesn’t work for us. It’s too complicated, and – unlike the other home kits we’ve had – we have to work out the timings ourselves. Confusingly, we’re supposed to roast the chicken at 180˚ but the potatoes and veggies, we’re told, need 200˚. How are we supposed to arrange that? It seems a bit much to assume that everyone has a double oven available. We certainly don’t, in our tiny tenement kitchen. 

I’m not sure why we’ve been sent batter instead of pre-cooked Yorkshire puddings. We have to cook them in advance because of space and temperature considerations. They emerge from the oven looking all golden and puffed up but, by the time we come to eat them an hour and a half later, they’re stodgy inedible lumps. I can make a decent Yorkshire pudding; I’m beginning to wish we’d just ordered a chicken from the butcher’s and done it all ourselves. (The reason we didn’t was because this was supposed to be both easier and more luxurious. Like the roast from Kyloe that we had just six short weeks ago. It can be done.)

It’s not all bad. The starter – a caramelised cauliflower and apple veloute with croutons and an apple and curry dressing – is absolutely delicious, silky and creamy and packed with flavour; the curried apple really makes it zing. And the pear and vanilla custard trifle we have for pudding is rather lovely too, particularly the almond crumb. 

But there’s no getting away from the fact that the main course – the roast itself – is a let down. There’s a rich chicken sauce that is indisputably wonderful. The roast potatoes and the vegetable ecrase are both… okay. But the honey glazed root vegetables are dry and flavourless; the cauliflower cheese is nondescript – and the Yorkshires are a disgrace. 

Following the instructions to the letter also means that our chicken is cold. It has to be. It’s supposed to rest for ten minutes, but we have to let it sit for much longer, because – once it’s been removed – we have to wait for the oven to heat up to 200˚ before we can pop in the rest of it (and the cauliflower cheese needs twenty minutes). It’s a good chicken, tasty and succulent, but I’d much prefer to eat it hot. 

All in all, this is a disappointment. Luckily, we have laid in a few decent bottles, and we’ve got an Oscar-winning film lined up to watch, so our evening isn’t quite lost. Still, it feels like a missed opportunity. And £55 is a lot to pay for that.

2.7 stars

Susan Singfield

Home by Nico: Cooking ‘Vietnam’

07/04/21

http://www.home-x.com

In the current situation, the best chance of enjoying a memorable meal – short of making it yourself – is either the perennial takeaway or one of those ‘cook at home’ boxes. Over the past year, we’ve sampled quite a few of the latter, from different sources, with varying degrees of success. Something about the ‘Vietnam’ menu from Home by Nico hooks us, so we book it in for a suitable evening and, on the appointed day, within a designated one hour time slot (always useful), a box with the approximate dimensions of a small continent arrives at our door.

Once opened up, and unpacked, it’s apparent that the Nico team have put quite a bit of thought into this. We notice for instance, that the containers holding the various courses are composed of recyclable materials with a removable plastic veneer. This cuts down considerably on the inevitable landfill. We’ve often felt guilty about the wastage on some of the earlier meals we’ve sampled, so this feels like an important step in the right direction. The chefs have also tried hard to make us feel like we’re being suitably spoiled. They’ve provided enticing little boxes of garnish for each course and, though there is a certain amount of preparation required on our part, it’s no great hardship, with every step carefully explained. You’d be hard put to get it wrong.

For starters there are Duck Bao Buns – gloriously sticky steamed confections with a generous shredded duck filling and a selection of appetising garnishes including pickled vegetables, hoi sin roasted peanuts and crispy shallots. To say that the course is flavoursome would be something of an understatement: it is vibrant with flavour, as indeed is everything else about this meal. And the aromas are exquisite!

Next up there’s Hot and Sour Pho – a bowl of smoky broth, with earthy rice noodles, enoki mushrooms, lemongrass and chilli oil. This is perfectly spiced, just hot enough to set my taste buds alight but never overwhelming them. The pho is studded with red chillis and miniature sweetcorn and we polish it off very quickly indeed.

At this point, we take a short break and enjoy a couple of glasses of the accompanying wine, The Rambler, a fruity South African white that makes a perfect cooler after that fiery broth.

The main course is Caramel Belly of Pork Hot Pot – which is every bit as appetising as it sounds. There are four thick slabs of succulent meat, which need to be fried off, with a covering of aromatic sticky glaze. This is served with stir fried slaw, ginger and chilli. There are also two side dishes – some Sautéed Asian Greens with garlic and ginger; and a Clay Pot Aubergine, with green beans and chunks of potato. Individually, all the elements are good, but, when put together on a plate, they create a kind of magic.

Our past experience has been that the sweet is often a disappointment in these home boxes, but happily, this is not the case here. The Vietnamese Coffee turns out to be a thick, smooth pannacotta, with coffee sponge and a layer of crispy coffee crumb on top. It’s deliciously indulgent, almost velvety in its smoothness – and the fact that it comes in a re-useable glass jar is an added bonus. This pudding is irresistible right down to the last spoonful.

All-in-all, this might just be the most accomplished ‘meal at home’ we’ve tried and it serves to exemplify the Nico brand, offering sophisticated cooking at an affordable price. I can’t recommend it highly enough and I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for their next offering.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Kyloe at Home

15/03/21

http://www.kyloerestaurant.com

We’re in the middle of a pandemic and we’re both longing for a proper Sunday dinner – you know the kind of thing: a succulent roast joint, crispy potatoes, lashings of gravy. Of course, not so very long ago, such meals could be found at the drop of a hat in any number of restaurants and bars around our home city. Kyloe was always first choice for the old Sunday dinner, though. There’s much to be said for that wonderful feeling of anticipation, as you watch a huge joint being carved right in front of you before being dispensed onto dining plates…

Ah well, until those days can be properly recaptured, Kyloe has set up an ‘at home’ dining experience – which is why on the first available Sunday, we find ourselves wandering over to McLaren’s on the Corner in Bruntsfield (it’s part of the same group, Signature Pubs), where we collect a surprisingly huge cardboard box containing everything we need to create the kind of repast we’ve been dreaming of.

The first thing to say is that Kyloe have thought this through very carefully. The ‘dine at home’ experiences we’ve tried thus far have varied in how simple they are to put together. This one is reassuringly easy. We switch on the oven at 180 degrees and, at clearly designated intervals, we add another container to those already there, leaving ourselves free to indulge in a couple of aperitifs. We’ve ordered a dinner for two and, working on the B & B belief that a side of mac’ n’ cheese goes with just about anything, we’ve added that for a fiver extra.

Once arranged on a plate, the dinner is both generous in proportion and everything you’d expect from this kind of meal. The roast rib of beef is sumptuous, the potatoes crispy, the cabbage and bacon mouthwatering. There’s a container of horseradish sauce to be served hot (not usually a favourite of ours but this one rocks) and naturally there’s a pair of large, crispy Yorkshire puddings, which, when filled with the other veg and ladled with a rich, red wine gravy are just what we were hoping for.

Puddings, I hear you ask? Well, yes, there are some perfectly serviceable sweets – a vanilla cheesecake with raspberry jus and a sticky toffee pudding with a thick gooey sauce. Only the latter of these is a bit disappointing (a portion of custard might have been a welcome addition) but if I’m honest, this is really all about the main course and Kyloe have done an excellent job of providing a spectacular Sunday dinner at home.

Not that I wouldn’t prefer to dine in their excellent restaurant, but fingers crossed on that score.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

No 11: Five Course Festive Dinner

30/12/20

Brunswick Street, Edinburgh

Like many people, I have a birthday and I try to confine myself to just one a year. It does, however, seem to keep coming around with annoying regularity. In the normal run of things, I like to indulge in a slap-up meal to mark the occasion, but 2020 – as we all know – has been anything but normal and, in level 4 lockdown, a trip to a restaurant is frankly out of the question. Nor do I (or my wife, for that matter) fancy constructing said slap-up from scratch.

What to do?

A timely alert on Facebook tips me off to the fact that No 11, a brasserie where we’ve dined before, is offering a five course festive menu to be consumed at home – what’s more, at time of ordering, it’s available at a hefty 50% discount on the usual price. We flex the debit card before somebody changes their mind. On the big day, snowstorms notwithstanding, we set off for Brunswick Street, where we collect a couple of hefty containers, which we promptly ferry homewards. Upon unpacking the contents, we are delighted to note that some considerable thought has gone into this dining experience. They’ve even included a candle in a glass holder (bless!). The various courses come with a selection of matched wines, which – to me – is always a welcome bonus. As per the restaurant’s recommendation, we begin with a glass of prosecco, which is the best way to start most things (with the exception of driving or operating heavy machinery).

The starter is a ham hock and black pudding terrine, served with homemade piccalilli and a slice of fresh wholemeal bread. The terrine is satisfyingly chunky, arranged in thick, chewy layers and that zesty piccalilli gives it a peppery punch that makes it extra special.

Now we enjoy a glass of sauvignon blanc, before digging in to the second course, which is smoked trout. There are big chunks of fish accompanied by an avocado and rocket salad and a brown shrimp dressing. The wine has sharp tones of lime and peach which cut perfectly through the smoky flesh of the trout.

Next up, a wee bowl of carrot and ginger soup – well, why not? Soup can sometimes be meh, but not in this case, because the flavours are perfectly judged and there’s a thick, creamy texture that makes for a calming contrast to what went before. While we eat, the main course is browning nicely in the oven and giving off an appetising aroma.

When it’s ready, we pour a couple of glasses of a rich, red merlot and tuck into a delightful turkey Wellington, which is of such ample proportions, we decide to share just one of the servings, keeping the other for a cold snack the following day. The Wellington is beautifully done, the meat wrapped in bacon and encased in a thyme crepe, before being sealed into a crispy puff pastry lattice. There are layers of cranberry sauce in there too, plus a traditional sage and onion stuffing. It’s served with excellent roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, an al dente carrot and some wicked pigs in blankets, plus lashings of rich red wine gravy.

It’s suitably festive and effortlessly spectacular.

For the moment, we’re too full to continue, but luckily it’s time for a Zoom meet-up with my lovely daughter and her partner, during which I open my presents before we indulge in some rather brilliant online games, which are new to me and which, with the liberal addition of more alcohol, makes for a pretty decent birthday.

Once finished with the entertainment, we’re finally ready for dessert and it’s Christmas pudding cheesecake, which is very good, though I have to confess that the accompanying Drambuie cream is, for me, the one small misstep on the menu – it has a disconcertingly bitter flavour. I guess the simple truth is, I’m just not a fan of Drambuie. At any rate, it’s a minor niggle in what has been a very satisfying dine-at-home experience; indeed, it’s up there with the best that we’ve sampled so far during this infernal pandemic.

My fervent wish now is that this time next year, I’ll be able to dine in a restaurant, like in the old days before the world got sick. I’ll raise a glass to that and take the opportunity to wish all our readers a better 2021.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney

The Scran & Scallie: Scran at Home

28/11/20

Stockbridge, Edinburgh

We were devotees of the short-lived (but hopefully one-day-to-be-revived) Southside Scran, which opened up in our neighbourhood just two years ago. Indeed, we banged on about it so much that, last Christmas, no fewer than three people bought us vouchers for the place. We were delighted! But we only got to spend two of them before disaster struck: the ceiling fell down, and the restaurant shut while repairs got underway.

And then COVID.

The Kitchen Group announced the permanent closure of Castle Terrace, another of their restaurants in our vicinity (truly, we were spoiled), and also confirmed that Southside Scran would be closed for the rest of 2020. A double blow. For them more than for us, of course. But we feel the loss too. We chose our flat because of its location, its proximity to the theatres and cinemas and restaurants and bars. All closed. All gone.

So we seized upon the news that The Scran & Scallie has started offering an ‘at home’ menu for collection or delivery. At last! The chance to indulge in some of our favourite food for the first time since last January. And we could put our remaining voucher towards it too.

It’s not as good, of course, as going out. Even though we do, literally, go out, because we opt for collection rather than delivery, so drive down to Stockbridge to pick up our order. (Usually we’d walk, but it’s forty minutes each way, and we don’t want a cold dinner.) But it’s as good as not-going-out can be: each course perfectly executed, each mouthful a delight.

Philip’s starter is the duck terrine with pear and raisin chutney, which is rich and gamey and delicious. I have the goat’s cheese tart with walnut condiment, and it’s light and creamy, all soft cheese and delicate puff pastry, with the walnut providing a welcome crunch.

My main is a gnocchi and blue cheese gratin. I rarely order gnocchi because they’re often awful, but I know I’m in good hands here so I take the risk. It’s a good move: this dish is like posh invalid food: intensely flavoured and utterly indulgent. Philip opts for the special, which today is sea trout with beetroot, hispi salad and salsa verdi. We share a side of chips, because, why not? And the sea trout is the standout of the evening, which isn’t a surprise: we always seem to love the Kitchin Group specials. It’s cooked to perfection, the flesh succulent and flaky, the skin as crispy as can be.

We wait almost an hour before moving on to our cheese course, which we do ourselves, because we’re at home, and we can. I’ve made some crackers, and we’ve a couple of new arrivals from Pong, so we have a little nibble on those, and drink another glass of wine.

And then it’s back to The Scran & Scallie‘s offerings: sticky toffee pudding and chocolate custard with honeycomb, which we share. They’re both glorious, and we luxuriate in the sugar fix.

We’re at home, so there’s the washing up to do, but – you know what? – that’s okay. We’re smiling; we’ve had a lovely time. I wash; he dries. And we spend the whole time enthusing over the meal we’ve just had.

4.8 stars

Susan Singfield

Hotel Du Vin

04/11/20

Bristo Place, Edinburgh

It hardly seems possible, but a quick glance back through the diary confirms it: we haven’t visited a proper restaurant since March.

Yes, that’s right. March.

Oh, yes, we’ve been in socially-distanced cafes and we’ve had swanky restaurants deliver food to our door to be heated up and consumed at home, but really, enough is enough. Another lockdown’s looming and we’re determined that it’s high time we dined out, so we cast around for places where we can possibly eat al fresco in November. In Scotland. Then we remember that the Hotel Du Vin does have a very pleasant courtyard and, what’s more, it is even equipped with patio heaters should the weather prove too brisk.

So here we are, at a table in said courtyard, nibbling at warm bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and discussing the unfolding horror story that is the American presidential election. Meanwhile, we lament the fact that today our discussion cannot be lubricated with something containing alcohol, but hey, them’s the rules – and you can’t have everything. The staff are friendly and attentive, and ensure that they observe social distancing at all times. We feel very relaxed.

For my starter, I choose sautéed mushrooms on toasted sourdough and it turns out to be a good choice. The generously sized mushrooms are soaked in a rich Madeira sauce and virtually melt in the mouth, while the crispy toast provides a perfect contrast. Susan has a baked St Marcellin cheese fondue which is rich and creamy and is accompanied by new potatoes, cornichons and croutons. It only takes a mouthful of our respective starters to make us appreciate how much we’ve missed doing this and, happily, we’ve chosen a good place to break our fast because both meals are pretty much note perfect.

Next up for me is haddock and king prawn gratin, baked in a cream sauce and glazed under breadcrumbs with thick, stringy layers of Gruyère. It’s a gooey, aromatic treat, generously stuffed with chunky prawns and accompanied by sides of frites and cauliflower cheese. Susan opts for mussels frites, a big bowl of moules marinère steamed in white wine, cream, shallots and garlic. Despite me selflessly helping her to eat it, the portion is too generous to finish.

After this, we’re feeling pretty full but we’re not ready to leave, so we have coffee and more chat, just to ensure that we’re absolutely certain there’s definitely no room for pudding.

And of course, in the fullness of time, it turns out there is room, and who knows when we’ll have this opportunity again? So I order an apple and blackberry crumble, the fruit still with a little bite left in it and served with an indulgent hot custard. Susan finishes off with a perfectly executed crème brûlée, the top scorched just enough that it breaks with a satisfying snap when tapped with a spoon. Voila!

By the time we head for home, the evening is already descending and we find ourselves thinking of all the incredible meals we’ve enjoyed since we first moved to Edinburgh. For now, we can only cross our fingers and hope that one day soon, those happy times will return, and that visits to places like Hotel Du Vin will once again be commonplace.

But right now, this was really just what we needed.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney