Food

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

L’alba D’oro

l-alba-d-oro

27/06/20

 Henderson Row, Edinburgh

It should be simple enough, right?  We haven’t eaten fish and chips since well before lockdown began, three months ago, and we really, really fancy some. But good fish and chips, you understand, not the greasy lukewarm sludge that sometimes masquerades under that description around Britain’s fair cities. We certainly don’t want to repeat the experience we once had, when, fuelled by a few drinks at The Cameo, we called at a high street chippy (which shall remain nameless), waited ages for some ‘freshly prepared’ nosh, took one bite each and promptly threw the lot into the nearest food recycling bin.

I mean, how difficult can it be?

Of course, in usual circumstances, there’s an easy solution. A quick trip to Berties on Victoria Street and the problem is solved, plus you get to dine in a swish, open-plan restaurant. But these are unusual times, so who can deliver a tasty fish supper direct to our door? We put out a call for help on Facebook and three friends come straight back with the same answer. L’alba D’oro in Stockbridge is the establishment we are looking for. These are all people we trust, so we order online and the food soon arrives, packaged in cardboard and smelling suitably enticing. As the establishment doesn’t offer any Manchester Caviar (mushy peas), we take the opportunity to heat up a can from our larder. We’ve also got our own swanky home-made tomato ketchup (we’ve had time on our hands, okay?), so we are all ready to dine.

Our friends were correct. This is exactly what we’ve been craving. A generously sized portion of haddock, encased in light, crunchy batter, the fish perfectly cooked: white, flaky and aromatic. The chips are crispy on the outside, and all soft and flavoursome within. You’d think it would take quite a while to down such a massive portion, but we demolish it in no time at all.

So, in short, if you’re in Edinburgh and you’re longing for perfect fish and chips, you know where to order from. (L’alba D’oro also offer other tasty treats, plus a different fish special every day.)

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Dine at Home

13/06/20

dineedinburgh.co.uk

We know the drill by now; this is the third lockdown ‘restaurant meal in your own home’ we’ve had, so we’re feeling like old hands. This one has a lot of heavy lifting to do though: it’s my birthday treat.

It’s not actually my birthday until Tuesday but, like most of the fine dining establishments offering takeaways for the first time, Dine are limiting themselves to Fridays and Saturdays, which is probably a sensible move. And I’m more than happy to stretch out even weird, isolated celebrations over a few days.

The food arrives at 1pm in a socially-distanced drop-off. It’s in two neat boxes, and there’s a bottle of Prosecco too (did I mention it’s my birthday?). For £49 we’re getting three courses for two people and a bottle of wine, although there is a £2.75 delivery charge, and the upgrade to Prosecco costs us another £7.50. Still, for just under £60, this is a nicely indulgent meal, and it’s well thought out in terms of the amount (and complexity) of cooking we’re required to do.

There are some olives to nibble, which is a nice touch, and then we kick off with our starters. These are both cold, and just require assembling on the plate. Philip has smoked salmon and cream cheese, which is served with a beetroot and charred shallot salad and a slice of Pumpernickel. It’s delicious, very rich and creamy, but there’s not enough Pumpernickel for the generous portion of salmon pâté, so he adds a couple of crackers to his plate (the salmon is too tasty to leave, but definitely needs some kind of base to carry it). My cured ham, melon and mozzarella is the prettiest dish of the night, and again the portions are far from meagre. There are two slices of ham, a big piece of mozzarella, and a scrumptious caper and white sultana purée. Weirdly, the biggest revelation is the grissini, which are the only bread sticks I’ve ever had that have tasted of anything. We’re off to a cracking start.

My main is a seafood, chorizo and summer vegetable stew served with a lemon and herb rice. It tastes fresh and clean, and is liberally stuffed with clams, prawns and squid. Philip’s Asian style sticky pork belly comes with pak choi and sweet potato, and is bursting with flavour. Both can be microwaved, but we choose to cook them in the oven. The menu has clearly been designed carefully to minimise our workload: both meals require 20 minutes at 170°. Easy!

Puddings are also cold, so we only need deal with presentation (and, having finished off the Prosecco by this stage, we’re honestly not too concerned about what they look like). Philip’s cranachan comes with candied hazelnuts and a satisfying raspberry sauce; my carrot cake has frosted icing, and a side helping of orange and praline cream. I’m sure they’re both perfectly fine individually, but that’s not what happens here. We split them in half and make a hybrid dessert that tastes utterly divine. Well, we are in our own home; we can do what we like, right?

All in all, this is the best of the ‘at home’ meals we’ve had so far, with every course a hit.

Hurrah. And happy birthday to me.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield

Wedgwood at Home

24/05/20

wedgwoodtherestaurant.co.uk

It’s Week Ten in the Year of Our Lockdown, and I am missing eating out. I love the whole restaurant experience: the theatre, the bustle. But, if that’s not available, I’ll settle for just the food.

Like many establishments across the country, the normally premises-bound Wedgwood Restaurant (Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh) is offering a takeaway service at the moment: a three course meal for £22. This is a ‘cook at home’ menu and, to be honest, there’s a little bit too much cooking involved: we have to write down the timings so we don’t mess it up, and it doesn’t feel very relaxing. Maybe it would work better if we had an open-plan kitchen-diner, but we don’t, so we’re scuttling between the table and the stove, conversations left hanging or shouted between two rooms.

Still, the food is very good, and the evening does feel special.

To start, Philip has a smoked salmon and dill paté, which is served with crumbed oatcake, blistered tomatoes, baby gem and toast. The paté has a pleasant citrusy flavour, but there’s a lot of it and not much toast. I have roast cauliflower velouté with a coriander and cashew crumb and red pepper oil. It’s lovely: a creamy, indulgent delight.

My main is roast smoked mackerel, with a spring onion and black olive potato cake, green beans and a chorizo hollandaise. It’s perfectly judged, the intensely flavoured fish well complemented by the robustness of the olives and chorizo. Philip has a lemon and thyme scented confit chicken leg with braised fennel, lentils and a gorgeously shiny honey and grain mustard jus. The whole meal is delicious, but it’s the jus that makes it.

We add in our own cheese course, because we want to, because this is our ‘date night’ and we want it to last. We have a subscription to Pong cheese, so we share three small pieces, with some onion chutney and home-made crackers.

Then pudding. We share a sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and a dark chocolate brownie with milk chocolate cremeaux, white chocolate and sweet cicely pesto and raspberries. This final course is the winner: every mouthful feels like a treat. It’s sticky and sweet and wonderful.

Wedgwood offer wine with their menu, but we have laid in a good stock from Majestic, so we open a bottle (okay, two) of Chenin Blanc (La Baume de La Grande Oliviette), and enjoy.

And, all in all, for a night in, this is pretty good.

But I’d still prefer a night out. Without the washing up.

4 stars

Susan Singfield