Food

Kora by Tom Kitchin

07/07/22

Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh

The Southside Scran was always our go-to place for great quality seasonal cooking – and, when it closed its doors just before lockdown after a disastrous flood, we were very sad to say the least. We couldn’t walk up to Bruntsfield without casting hopeful looks towards its shuttered premises as we went by. After what seemed an eternity of waiting we finally spotted a sign bearing a brand new name and started counting down the days. Indeed, we’d have been here on its opening night if the dreaded COVID hadn’t stepped in with a disastrously-timed delaying tactic.

Finally, my isolation period is over and we are able to take our seats in Kora, which has a fresh new look and now offers tempting bar snacks for those who aren’t looking for the full dining experience. We are greeted at the table by Tom Kitchin himself, who tells us a little bit about Kora’s ethos and presents us with two glasses of fizz and a delightfully spiced broccoli tempura, as an example of the aforementioned bar snacks. This new venue, he tells us, is all about seasonal cooking, about creating a relaxed and informal place to dine. He’s put together a young and enthusiastic team to help him deliver his new creations.

For starters I sample the day boat squid which comes with delicious crispy jambon, runner beans and girolle mushrooms. To describe it as ‘tasty’ would be doing it a disservice. It is absolutely delicious, right down to the final succulent mouthful. Susan’s courgette flower tempura, stuffed with ricotta, and accompanied by olives, tomato and chickpeas is just as assured.

The main courses are faultless too. I’ve gone for the crispy Ayrshire belly pork, a generous chunk of tender meat with a gratifyingly crunchy topping, lying on a bed of cabbage and black pudding. Mmm! Susan has the Errington goat’s cheese tart with sweet red onion and pine nuts. Accompanied by glasses of cold Sauvingon Blanc, the course is an absolute delight, and it’s hard to imagine how these dishes could be bettered. They are note-perfect.

The puddings can sometimes be the element that lets a meal down, but not so here – my Blasgowrie gooseberry fool with oatmeal granola certainly has the wow factor and looks every bit as good as it tastes – as does Susan’s praline – which is actually a island of soft meringue floating in a sea of custard. There’s really nothing here to fault and we leave feeling that the Southside has a worthy successor. Kora is another wonderful venue to add to Tom Kitchin’s impressive collection.

Will we back? Most definitely!

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Green Island Bistro

12/06/22

High Street, Rhuddlan

Take one small-ish Welsh village (population <4000). Add six hungry people seeking lunch. Factor in a vegan, a vegetarian, some lactose intolerance and a wheelchair. Expectation: we’ll need to drive somewhere. Reality: the answer is on my parents’ doorstep. Almost literally.

Green Island Bistro opened in October 2020, an inauspicious time to launch a new venture, what with COVID and all its attendant chaos. But owner Sarah Turner clearly welcomes a challenge. Sure, plant-based diets are all the rage, but still – are there really enough vegans here (even part-time ones) to make this work? It turns out the answer is a resounding yes, as evidenced by the tiny eatery’s Best Café/Bistro in North Wales award.

Things get off to a good start early in the morning, when Sarah sends me a detailed message in response to my query about wheelchair access. It’s the kind of thoughtful approach that lets you know this is someone who really cares about customer satisfaction and wants to get it right. She includes photos of both exterior and interior seating, and a close-up of the small step that leads inside. Dad’s impressed, and reassured that his needs will be met.

Tucked behind Rejuva beauty salon, next door to the King’s Head Pub, Green Island Bistro has space for just sixteen covers inside, but there’s a sweet little courtyard too, which can seat the same number again. It’s not especially warm today though, so we opt to go indoors. The reception is relaxed and friendly; we’re immediately at ease.

Only one of us is actually a vegan, so the rest of us are expecting to feel the weight of compromise, but the short menu looks interesting, and we all find something that sounds good.

Both I and my sister-in-law opt for the daily special, which is a seitan kebab – and really enjoy it. The flatbread is clearly home-made, and the seitan (which I’ve never tried before) has a lovely savoury flavour, and a pleasingly firm texture. There’s also a spicy sauce, which adds a welcome hit. Philip and my mum have the hoisin duck flatbread, and are delighted with it. Philip says he can’t taste the difference between this and ‘real duck’ – and he likes the way it’s presented too, on an impossibly long board. My brother – our favourite vegan – has the cheese platter. He acknowledges that he’s taking a risk because some vegan cheeses are beyond the pale, but these four are all delicious. I sample one to check, and he’s not wrong. It’s like a cross between cheese and hummus, and a real pleasure to eat. That just leaves dad, who has a baked potato with vegan cheese and beans. They’re all simple dishes, but they’re perfectly executed, and we’re happy with what we’ve had.

Of course we have pudding, sampling a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, a chocolate fondue, some lemon drizzle cake and a gluten free carrot cake. The cakes and the fondue are beautifully made and presented. We’re not super keen on the ice cream: it tastes nice, but we don’t especially like the texture. Still, it’s a very minor quibble, all things considered.

We have some drinks too. I have my first ever espresso martini. It won’t be my last. The menu also boasts bottled beers, a few nice wines, and a range of coffees and soft drinks – and we put a fair few away between us.

We’re impressed. Green Island Bistro ticks all the boxes, and we’ll certainly be back for more.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield

Grazing by Mark Greenaway

14/05/22

The Caledonian Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh

After sampling a note-perfect tasting menu at Dean Banks’ Pompadour, we’re keen to try a similar offering from Grazing by Mark Greenaway, which is located in the same building. The Pompadour’s offer was for lunch time, while this is available in the evening, so along we dutifully trot at the appointed time to find the place busy and bustling, which – after so long in the doldrums of the lockdown – is gratifying indeed.

The staff are charming – particularly the bubbly waitress who handles our table – and we opt to try the matched wines. We’re in good spirits.

Things get off to a great start with Greenaway’s signature treacle and stout sourdough, accompanied by whipped butter. (Yes, I know it’s only bread and spread but, seriously, it’s absolutely gorgeous.) We also have the crab toast, which is served in a shell and features melt-in the-mouth crab meat with shellfish butter and almond cream. It’s light, delicious and we make very short work of it.

Up comes the first wine, a Californian chardonnay. We’re normally ABC people (Anything But Chardonnay) but, when sipped with the next course, a salt cod croquette, the astringent flavour really cuts through the intense tomato fondue and goat’s cheese that accompanies the fish. This course is faultless.

Next up there’s a wild mushroom and hazelnut ragu and this too is just fabulous. It’s topped with celeriac, which neither of us is wild about, but this version tastes terrific and a glass of Riesling-style wine proves to be the ideal match. So far, so impressive.

But the main course – slow roast chicken – proves to be a little bland. It comes with haggis crumble and roscoffe onions, the latter a little undercooked and chewy. It’s not terrible, you understand, but after such perfection, it feels like a false note. The pinot noir we drink with it helps to boost the flavours a little.

Next, there’s cranachan ice cream, which is sweetly vibrant but neither of us is mad about the little doughnut which encloses it. It’s served cold and has a chewiness about it.

We’ve added a cheese course to the basic offering and, when it arrives, it turns out to be the evening’s biggest disappointment, a postage stamp-sized affair comprising a couple of soggy crackers and some tiny nodules of cheese in a tangy source. It’s tasty enough, but is gone in a single bite like an amuse bouche – but we’re not feeling particularly amused, considering we’ve paid a £9 per person supplement. Happily, a glass of champagne arrives to lift our spirits.

Finally, there’s a second pudding, a chocolate and stout cake served with malt ice cream and honey. Again, we’re not bowled over by a ‘sweet’ that tastes predominantly of beer – and, lest we forget, Grazing is the home of what is probably our all time favourite dessert, a sticky toffee pudding soufflé, the closest thing to heaven on a plate that I’ve personally encountered. This boozy creation frankly isn’t in the same league. Our final drink of the evening is a robust port, which does at least help to disguise that slightly odd flavour.

A game of two halves then. Three absolute winners, followed by a series of steadily declining misfires. One thing is for certain: when it comes to tasting menus, consistency is key – and in the ‘Battle of the Caledonian,’ Dean Banks wins by a knockout.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Dean Banks at the Pompadour

30/04/22

The Caledonian Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh

Once upon a time, we’d have saved a lunch like this for a special occasion. But, in this uncertain decade, we’ve learned not to put things off. Who knows when another lockdown might be imposed – or, indeed, what else might occur? So we’re seizing the day, and making the most of opportunities as they arise.

Today’s opportunity appears in the guise of a special offer: a nine-course lunchtime tasting menu for £55 each. We’d budgeted for more eating out than we managed on our recent holiday to Shetland (we were there pre-season, and the few restaurants that were open had very limited availability), so the timing seems fortuitous. And it’s only a five minute walk from our apartment. We’re in!

We’ve eaten in this room before, back in 2017, when the Galvin brothers ran it. It’s a lovely space: all light and air, with huge semicircular windows and pastel hues. Not much has changed since Dean Banks took it over last year: the only visible difference is the addition of a model boat and a few fishy statues, hinting at the prominence of seafood here.

The service is formal but friendly. There’s the option to have an extra course – lobster – for an additional £35, but we decline. Nine courses should be plenty, right? We do, however, decide to go for the matched wines, because – why not? It’s £45 for five glasses, all carefully selected to complement the food.

Everything – and I mean everything – is note perfect, from the delicate saucisson sec & wild garlic tart to the intensely orangey (well, sea-buckthorny) dulse shortbread cream and everything in between. The corn and sunflower coblet might well be the nicest bread I’ve ever had, and it’s served with three butters: sesame, miso and salted. The miso is a particular hit, so much so that we’re planning on trying to make some at home. The north sea hake is ridiculously pretty, so that we almost don’t want to disturb its construction by biting into it, but then, of course, we do, and it’s delicious. There’s a Scottish-Asian theme throughout, with local produce enhanced by flavours such as gochujang and kimchi. It’s all perfectly balanced and delightful. The beef cheek is the richest dish; if it were any bigger, it’d be too much, but it’s expertly judged, and just the right amount. Pudding is spectacular: a matcha parfait with mango, yuzu and a black sesame ice cream. The latter is wonderfully weird: nowhere near sweet enough to be eaten alone, but a superb counterpoint to the fruity creaminess of the parfait.

If I have a quibble, it’s about the words ‘nine course’. And it’s not really a quibble because I don’t want anything more than I’m given, it’s just that amuse-bouches, bread and petit fours aren’t normally counted as ‘courses’, are they? I’ve had six-course menus before, and these have featured alongside. But still, what’s in a name? Our lunch smelled just as sweet.

We’re smiling as we leave, slightly squiffy on all that lovely wine. What a pleasant way to spend a Saturday!

5 stars

Susan Singfield

Six by Nico

23/04/22

Hanover Street, Edinburgh

This one’s been a long time coming. When Six by Nico first opened in Edinburgh, way back in 2018, our lovely friends mooted it as an option for an evening out. But it was so popular, we couldn’t get a booking. We kept trying to find a suitable date, but to no avail. Then the pandemic happened and everything was put on hold. We ate a couple of Nico’s ‘at home’ meals, which were very nice, but the authentic Six experience still eluded us. Even tonight – when, finally, both we and our pals are free, and the restaurant is open – we’ve had to settle for a 9.15pm booking, which is definitely too late for us, but we can’t let this opportunity slide. This rendezvous carries a weight of expectation…

Six by Nico‘s concept is well known by now: it’s become a mini-chain, firmly established in eight cities around the UK and Ireland. It’s a fresh, simple idea: a themed tasting menu of six courses, which changes every six weeks. The presentation is very much ‘fine dining’, but the prices really are not. It’s £32 all in, and £27 for five matched wines. There’s no denying this is cheap.

Sadly, however, it appears that sometimes the old adage is true: you do get what you pay for. The current menu is called Ancient Rome, and it sounds promising on paper. But, although there are glimmers of excellence, it doesn’t cohere to make a pleasant meal.

Philip and both of our friends opt for the standard menu, which includes meat and fish. I go veggie for the evening, because I want to. The first course is the same for everyone: it’s ‘Cacio e Pepe, which is crispy pasta , black pepper and parmesan royale. (Mine’s supposed to be goat’s cheese, apparently, but it tastes of parmesan, so I don’t think it is. I’m not actually vegetarian though, so I’m not too worried, and I like the flavour anyway.) This is a tasty little morsel, if a little too creamy for my liking, and it bodes well for the meal.

Next up is ‘From Eggs to Nuts’ for all of us. This comprises a crispy egg, some white asparagus, hazelnuts and brown butter. The eggs, nuts and asparagus are good, but the ‘brown butter’ takes the form of a creamy sauce again, which proves a tad rich.

Cream seems to be a bit of a recurring thing. Did the ancient Romans really eat so much of it? The third (veggie for all) course is ‘Cavolo Hispi Arrostito’ and, honestly, I’m starting to feel a bit queasy now. The dish consists of pasta (again), roasted hispi cabbage, pickled girolle mushrooms, truffle foam and pecorino sardo. I’m expecting the mushrooms to have a vinegary tang, so that they cut through the dairy fat, but they don’t really. The acidic wine (this one’s Duas Margens) helps, but our friends have soft drinks, so there’s no such respite for them.

Course four (‘The Bay of Naples’) brings my favourite of the savoury dishes: a risotto of parsley, garlic and porcini mushrooms. It’s a bit repetitive with the fungi, but the risotto is delicious, with bold flavours and nicely firm rice – and there’s no cream, which is definitely a bonus. The others aren’t so lucky. They have sole, smoked mussels, lovage, white turnip and mussel… cream. This looks great, and there’s a theatrical flourish, as it arrives wreathed in smoke and covered by a glass cloche. Once the smoke has cleared, the fish turns out to be well-cooked and the smoked mussels are a hit, but none of them likes the pairing of sole with turnip, especially as the neeps are deemed ‘uncooked’ and ‘rock hard.’ “Unpleasant” isn’t a word you want to associate with your dinner.

The fifth course is called ‘The Great Feast of AD14’. For the meat-eaters, this means a small plate of pork (belly, rib and fillet), with fennel, bean ragu and a date and apple sauce. The pork fillet is very pink, which makes one of our friends uncomfortable, and the meat in general is declared ‘underwhelming.’ The date sauce gives it a boost, but the bean ragu has something creamy mixed in, so no one’s much in the mood for that. It’s a mean-looking dish, which doesn’t conjure up images of a great feast of any kind. Not that we want more. We’ve kind of had enough.

Again, I fare better. The veggie option is baked globe artichoke, with leak, curd, toasted hazelnut and walnut foam. There’s bean ragu on my plate too, but the creamy stuff is next to it rather than mixed in, so I can just leave it – and the ragu is delicious without, all tomatoey-smoky loveliness.

We’re disappointed and we’re flagging, but there’s still a course to go. Our young waitress is lovely – she’s trying really hard, and is all gauche charm and friendliness – so we rally, give her a smile as she rattles through her memorised lines about the wine, and wait to see what pudding brings.

It brings a ray of sunshine. At last! The finale is excellent. The simple title (‘Honey and Cheese’) is deceptive. This is a honey parfait, served with ricotta cheese, preserved quince, fizzy grapes, pear and citrus. It’s bursting with fresh, zingy flavours – all complementing each other, each mouthful a delight. It shows us what this meal could have been.

But it’s not enough to save it. All in all, the menu just doesn’t work for us. There is no logical progression between the courses, no awareness that the dishes need to be more distinct (two courses with mushrooms, two with pasta, two with hazelnuts, five with cream). The next menu is ‘Hollywood’ and it reads well, but I don’t think we’ll be back. There are too many good restaurants in this city for us to bother with this again.

2.9 stars

Susan Singfield

The Dowry

12/03/22

Commercial Street, Lerwick

We’re in Shetland, mainly for the purposes of researching a book I’m working on. But it would be rude, wouldn’t it, to pass up the opportunity to try out some of the local dining venues? We’re based in Lerwick and a wander around the town doesn’t reveal anywhere that looks particularly promising. However, an online check reveals that a place called The Dowry has several good reviews, and it turns out the place is only a short walk away from where we’re staying.

It’s a lively cafe bar, run by friendly young people and we’re soon enjoying a convivial drink while we peruse the menu and listen to a selection of Manchester music. Hang on, isn’t that Blossoms? Susan used to teach drama to the keyboard player! A case of synchronicity, I suppose.

The concept here is shared plates so we order a starter of Gordal olives, sweet bell peppers and smoked almonds. Of course, there isn’t much preparation involved here but it’s a little triumph, the huge firm smoked olives making all other olives seem meh by comparison, the bell peppers sweet and stuffed with a creamy cheese filling and the almonds – though the first spicy/salty mouthful is disconcerting – quickly grow on me until they’ve become incredibly more-ish.

Next up we share a small plate of sesame Halloumi, which comes on a bed of Tabouleh, and is liberally decorated with blobs of yoghurt. There are two generously-sized chunks of cheese and, while this is a little bland, it’s more than made up for by the rich Moroccan flavours of the tabouleh and that tangy yoghurt.

Two large, colourful plates follow. There’s a lovely pan-fried halibut which comes with brown rice, pickled veg and a deliciously sweet red pepper purée. The fish is perfectly cooked, a delightful flakiness under the crispy fried coating. There’s also a seafood stew, which features a couple of langoustines, some exemplary mussels, several beautifully cooked scallops, ling and monk – all ladled with a sublime lemongrass and coconut sauce. Everything on the plate is good save for the langoustines (and this is by no means the fault of The Dowry), which offer the usual dispiriting evisceration of heads, legs, carapace, only to leave an insubstantial scrap of flesh, which is gone in seconds. I’m beginning to feel the same way about lobster. It always looks so imposing on the plate yet hardly seems worth the effort. But I digress.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience: the food adventurous, the atmosphere buzzing and it’s excellent value for money. Unusually, we’re both too full to sample the puddings, though they sound worthy of further investigation another time.

So, if in Lerwick, do check out the Dowry. It’s worth your while.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Topolabamba

23/03/22

Lothian Road, Edinburgh

We’ve had a fun day. Philip’s been visiting schools in North Lanarkshire as part of the Read to Succeed author tour, and, as I’m not working today, I’ve been acting as his chauffeur. We’ve been blessed with glorious sunshine, and have managed to squeeze a lunchtime walk around Drumpellier Park into our itinerary, as well as a quick visit to sculptor Andy Scott’s fabulous Kelpies, that loom over the motorway on our way home. So we’re feeling great, and want the good vibes to continue. Why not pop out for dinner?

Mexican restaurant Topolabamba is a two minute walk from our flat, but – thanks to its location, right by Byron, Wildwood, Nando’s, etc. – we’ve always assumed it’s part of a mega-chain, and so dismissed it as “not for us.” But a chance remark on someone else’s Facebook post makes me realise this is not the case. Topolabamba only has two branches (the other is in Glasgow), and, what’s more, the menu looks exciting. We’re sold.

Inside, the restaurant is a cacophony of colour: it’s a lively place, full of quirky wall-art and vivid lighting. The service is friendly and efficient, relaxed and unfussy. So far, so good.

We spend a long time choosing our dishes. There are ‘mains’ (called ‘The Big Boys’) but the majority of dishes come under the headings ‘Street Food’ and ‘Classics,’ and there’s a note on the menu recommending an order size of three to four dishes per person. We take this as gospel, and do as suggested, which leads me to my only real complaint: it’s too much food. It barely fits on the table. And if it’s too much food for me and Philip, then I’ll wager it’s too much food for most people (we both have hearty appetites).

Thankfully, it’s all delicious.

We share a range of dishes as eclectic as the decor: guacamole with tortilla chips and salsa; two lots of tostadas (prawn, cucumber salsa & guacamole and crab ceviche); quesadillas with smoked chicken & Oaxacan onions; classic queso fundido (basically a cheese fondue); Baja surf chowder, and some chipotle honey ribs. They’re all delicious and absolutely bursting with flavour. The standouts include the chowder, which is packed full of fish; it’s rich and intense and very more-ish. The smoky quesadillas are the very definition of comfort food, and the prawn tostadas are fresh and zingy with lime.

We’re pleasantly surprised by the bill. All of that mouth-watering fodder, as well as a large glass of house white and a pint of El Borracho, comes to a grand total of £65.39 – and that includes service!

We leave, smiling. How lucky we are to have such a fabulous eaterie on our doorstep. We’ll definitely be back. Next time, however, we’ll order as we go along – making sure there’s enough space on the table as well as in our bellies.

4.3 stars

Susan SIngfield

Maki & Ramen – Omakase Sushi Bar

13/02/22

Fountainbridge, Edinburgh

It’s what can only be described as a dreich night in Edinburgh. The rain has been coming down for hours and shows no signs of letting up. An attempt to seek solace at our usual haunt, The Cameo, backfires when we discover the place has been taken over for a quiz about ‘Chick Flicks’ – which is in neither of our wheelhouses. Then we remember, we still haven’t spent the money my in-laws gave me for my birthday back in December…

We make a quick call to Maki & Ramen and they have a table for us. Result!

Back when we were first in Edinburgh, this venue housed the ramshackle but rather delightful Kampong Ah Lee, which specialised in delightful Malaysian cuisine and spectacularly tacky wall art. Now the place is part of a mini-chain of restaurants, all in Edinburgh city centre, and the cuisine is Japanese (indeed, I visited it briefly in 2017, shortly after its name-change, while it still hadn’t settled on its game plan). When we arrive, the place is bustling with other bedraggled customers seeking refuge from the rain, but the friendly staff are well-organised and pretty soon we’re sipping our drinks and perusing the menu. Since ‘omakase’ literally means ‘dishes selected by the chef,’ we’re happy to let our waiter recommend some dishes she thinks we might enjoy.

We start with a grilled sushi set which is very good indeed: seven pieces of seafood (salmon, clam and prawn) wrapped around sticky rice, and so tender, they virtually melt in the mouth – as does the side of pork gyoza, which is accompanied by a portion of crisp endamame beans.

On a night like this, of course, a big warming bowl of ramen is an appropriate choice. I opt for chicken karaage, the chunks of tender meat encased in a really light and fluffy batter, while Susan chooses the salmon ramen. Both bowls come to the table piping hot, the broth fiery and satisfying. And both bowls contain a perfectly soft boiled egg and a selection of greens.

I’d like to tell you that while we’re eating the rain gradually recedes, that the skies roll miraculously back and (despite it being after eight o clock) the sun blazes benignly down upon us. Obviously, none of this happens, but for a while, I can actually imagine it. And, as far as a ‘pick-you-up’ goes, this is exactly what we needed.

We’ll be back before very much longer.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

Rockpool Café & Restaurant

07/11/21

The Square, Cullen

Philip’s working in Moray tomorrow and, as it’s a four-hour drive from Edinburgh, we’ve come up a day early. This gives us a very welcome opportunity to explore some more of Scotland’s beautiful northern coastline. Friends have recommended Cullen and Findochty as ‘must-see’ places, and a google search has yielded the Rockpool Café and Restaurant, which sits on a corner, a few hundred metres from the sea.

Of course, we need to stretch our legs after sitting still for so long in the car, and we can’t think of a better way to build up our appetites than to take a stroll along the shore. I say ‘stroll.’ The wind is so strong today that ‘struggle’ might be a more appropriate term. Any lingering cobwebs are well and truly blown away. It’s glorious.

An hour later, we walk (okay, toil) the short distance up the hill to the Rockpool, our cheeks glowing and our hair awry. We’re definitely hungry now. We’ve talked about ordering Cullen Skink, given that we’re actually in Cullen, home of the aforementioned smoked fish soup but, once we’re sitting with a couple of coffees, warming up, and looking at the menu, we change our minds. Because this is quirky with a capital Q, eclectic to the nth degree. There’s nothing coherent about the short list, and yet it somehow works. It’s intriguing. Whatever we expected a seaside café to offer, it certainly wasn’t this particular chef’s special: Korean chicken bao buns

The Rockpool is a traditional looking place: all white wood and pale blue accents; a cake counter full of tray bakes and scones; scrubbed pine tables and a bustling yet laid-back vibe. The staff are friendly and efficient; they know their stuff. “We’ve only one portion of the stovies left; the sausages are pork today, not beef.” We order the bao buns. Obviously. And a croque monsieur. We call the waitress back and add a side of fries to each sandwich. I mean, why wouldn’t we?

And when the food arrives, we know we’ve made the right choices. It’s all delicious – and nicely presented too. The bao buns are soft and pillowy, the chicken perfectly judged. It’s sticky and more-ish, served with a little pot of kimchi and a gochujang sauce that really brings the dish to life. The croque monsieur is delightful too: generously filled with a rich, creamy sauce, lots of smoky ham and topped with cheese. This is simple food prepared by someone with real skill – someone who clearly loves to experiment in their small kitchen, and who knows exactly how to hit those flavour notes.

So, we’re impressed. As for the Cullen Skink, we’ll just have to come back another time to give that one a go. Now, off to find our glamping pod. Because who doesn’t want to sleep in a shed on a hill in a howling November wind?

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield

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