I’ve mentioned in previous posts; July is a great month for birthdays. After a couple of interesting meals to celebrate friends getting a year older (21212 and Miros Cantina), we ended the month with a trip through to Falkirk for my bestie Sarah’s fiance’s 26th. It was quite a big occasion, as this will be his last year as a ‘free man’ (next year at this time they’ll probably be on their honeymoon).
Not wanting to let the occasion go unmarked, and knowing how disorganised boys can be, Sarah secretly booked a table for 14 and a high chair at his favourite tapas bar (and possibly the only one in Falkirk); La Banca. I would normally link to their website here, but when I tried to get into it I got a trojan warning from my virus scanner.
After a few dismal restaurant experiences in recent weeks (I’m looking at you, Igg’s) I’ve started to wonder if really I’m better off staying at home. The food tastes how I want, the wine is better quality, and generally there’s less to stress out about. A mid-week Irish stew/cobbler which I threw together with my other half pretty much reaffirmed this.
I’m not sure if it’s actually an Irish recipe, but since my Irish boyfriend taught me it, and since it was passed down from his mother who’s also Irish, I reckon their people should get some credit.
After ripping Iggs a new one in my previous review, It’s good to be able to write about a positive dining experience- even if it is just a kebab shop.
For years the people of Edinburgh have relied on Palmyra Pizza on Nicolson Street for their falafel fix, and rightly so. The cafe is in prime position for festival goers and students alike, and I’ve often found myself in there cradling a baba ganoush wrap after a night out (or when I’m simply craving some carby goodness).
But I reckon there’s a new contender for best falafel: Zenobia (although they are owned by the same folk as Palmyra: thanks for that tip, Mario!)
Located at the bottom of North Bridge near Hunter Square, Zenobia is in an iffy location. Within ten seconds you could be at a Greggs, a Subway, and a chip shop. It’s also within walking distance of Palmyra. For the lunchtime (or drunken) crowd these other more established choices might just win out. This could have led to the demise of Quizno’s Sub, the previous tenant of Zenobia’s building.
15 Jeffrey Street Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 1DR 0131 557 8184
To say that the service in Igg’s is terrible would be like saying that Edinburgh’s tramworks are a wee bit delayed. In other words, a huge understatement. If you want to have the full experience of dining at Fawlty Towers without traveling to Torquay then book a table immediately.
Or if you’d rather read about one of my worst restaurant experiences to date, then read on.
46 Queen Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, EH6 7EX
0131 555 3103
So has everyone seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 yet? I was super geeky and booked some tickets for Friday with my friends Lynne and Sam. We decided to make a night of it and have a girly dinner and drinks beforehand. Since we were going to the cinema at Ocean Terminal, and because I’ve been hearing very good things about this restaurant, we decided to pop into E:S:I.
The menu is seasonal, but because Sam likes it so much she’s only seen the summer offer. She discovered it at the start of the season and has been back four times since. A pretty good endorsement, but then when my fussiest friend of all announced that it’s his favourite restaurant too, that went a long way to convince me.
James gave me a pasta maker as a housewarming present. Although he was worried that I’d never use it, I’ve really enjoyed making my own pasta over the past few months. I do need to trouble-shoot my recipe as it can be a bit too sticky and wet sometimes, and it does make an almighty mess of the kitchen (flour everywhere!) but after eating fresh home-made pasta I don’t think I could go back to eating the dried stuff again.
One evening when planning dinner, I found a few recipes online for a pasta sauce I’d never heard of before. Puttanesca; a fiery sauce made with anchovies, olives, capers, tomatoes, garlic, and chilli. The sauce is so salty and flavoursome that it doesn’t need the addition of salt, pepper, or cheese. But what really attracted me was that the name ‘puttanesca’ is derived from the Italian word for whore. There are loads of rumours of how it got it’s name but my favourite is that a woman could spend all day in bed with her lover then whip this up in 10 minutes and convince her husband she’d been slaving over a hot stove all day.
This is the second time I’ve made it, and after seeing a wine recommendation from Guardian Wine columnist Fiona Beckett to try it with a Vinho Verde, I thought I’d invite my fellow blogger Regular Wino over for a bit of a tasting session. You can read all about the wines on his blog (we went to Tesco and got one bottle of their cheapest Vino Verde and a bottle of the pricier one).
The sauce doesn’t take long to cook, so I like to prep my ingredients first. (like peeling the garlic, and opening the tin of tomatoes instead of scrambling for the tin opener while everything’s sizzling away). Chop up some olives, too; I used a mixture of black and green olives cos I’m fancy like that. I’d probably recommend green ones for the saltiness, if I had to choose one.
Start off by frying a couple of anchovy fillets until they start to break up. These add a slight fishiness but that’s not the point; the point is the salty tang. Pro-tip; when you’re buying your anchovies get the jar instead of a tin. You only get around 6 fillets in a tin but you get about 20 in a jar, and you can keep the jar for later.
Once your fillets have started to break up, grate in a few cloves of garlic. We love garlic here so I used about 4 but if you aren’t planning on scaring Edward Cullen away then maybe just go for 2.
The next step, once your garlic starts to go golden, is to toss your tomatoes in. Add the olives, a teaspoon of capers, and a pinch of chilli. I used chilli flakes, but if you prefer it fresh then go for it. I don’t often use chillis to cook so I know that having a fresh one around it wouldn’t get used, but a jar of flakes comes in useful. Put your pasta on to boil now.
Leave the sauce to sizzle for a few minutes so that the flavours can infuse. Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and toss it in with the sauce. Give it a good coating, and then serve it up.
Preferably with an ‘astringent red vinho verde’, but if you can only get white then so be it. Puttanesca is a very strong and flavoursome sauce. If you want to beef it up a bit, I’d recommend adding seafood like scallops or other shellfish. Avoid putting cheese on top as it’s salty enough already, but as an accompaniment we had garlic baguette with chevre.
Even though I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to spicy food, I really can’t resist the promise of a good curry. Obviously I’m restricted to the tamer side of the menu, usually going for a korma or a passanda (usually super creamy and sickly sweet), but even still I enjoy the aromatic smells of the spicier foods of those around me. Plus I love naan breads, poppadoms, and mango chutney. Mmm.
So obviously I was interested when James told me about the best curry he’d ever had in Edinburgh. In a small, hole in the wall joint just off Nicolson Square by the name of Kebab Mahal. I had a wee look on Edinburgh Spotlight to see what they had to say, and unsurprisingly they gave it a great review.
We decided to head up for a Sunday lunch, and although it doesn’t look like much from the outside I have to say I was definitely impressed.
184 Rose Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH2 4BA 0131 225 4376
July is a good month for birthdays. After celebrating Flatmate becoming a year older with a Michelin star trip to 21212 (followed by a slightly less savoury experience at All Bar One), it was my other half’s turn to take his middle brother out for a birthday dinner. We ended up being a party of five; James, his two brother’s, and their Portuguese friend Fabio.
My boy was keen on taking his family somewhere interesting, as his brothers are fairly recent arrivals in the city. Since I work on the West End of town and pass Miro’s very intriguing specials board every day, I suggested we go there.
Until a few years ago, if you wanted Tex Mex food in Edinburgh you’d either have to search the back-streets for a cramped and cosy cantina or visit a big American chain like TGI Fridays and look for enchiladas in amongst the usual fare of burgers and ribs. But then some game changers arrived on the scene; the much praised Illegal Jacks on Lothian Road, and the smaller Los Cardos on Leith Walk, which has built up a cult following of its own.
I remember when I discovered Los Cardos. Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t. Although I’ve only really started popping in in the last few months, it feels like it’s always been a part of my life. Situated on Leith Walk it’s in prime position for the Irishman (James) and myself to nip in after a long day of work to stuff ourselves full of cheese and meat.
Although I go out for dinner quite often, I really enjoy cooking at home too and experimenting in the kitchen. I’m a pretty lucky girl because my other half also enjoys cooking, and trying out new recipes. Often staying in for dinner is as much of an event as going out.
On Friday night we couldn’t decide what we wanted. All we knew was that we didn’t want to order a take-away, because the last few times we have it’s been super disappointing and not as good as anything we can make ourselves. We were also feeling a bit lazy and didn’t want to go to too much effort. That’s when James came up with a great idea; we’d make our own kebabs. Grilled lamb in pitta bread with salad and hummus.