Being Scottish, I often lament that St Andrew’s Day isn’t celebrated as widely as St Patrick’s Day. I just don’t understand it. We Scots drink as foolishly, ceilidh as hard, and eat as many potatoes as our buddies across the Irish sea. So how come no American cities dye their rivers, er, tartan, for this big event?
I wouldn’t mind but St Andrew was way more hard working than St Paddy. Sure, St Patrick managed to rid Ireland of snakes but St Andrew isn’t just the patron saint of one little country. St Andrew is the patron saint of four (that’s right, four) countries and four towns. Back in the day he was Patron Saint of Prussia and The Order of the Golden Fleece, and his cross is used on quite a few flags; including (apparently) the Confederate flag of the United States.
If you’re celebrating St Andrew’s Day on Wednesday but can’t get your hands on a haggis, I’ve come up with a few alternatives.
109 Hanover Street Edinburgh, EH2 1DJ 0131 226 6992
The 90’s are coming back in a big way, and that only serves to show how old I am. Take That, Boyzone, and The Backstreet Boys have all reuinited. The trailer for American Pie 4 has taken YouTube by storm. And with the Royal Wedding, Union Jacks have been more popular than ever this year. In fact, I’m off to a 90’s themed party tonight!
For one night only, Chez Jules on Hanover Street used science to transport us back to 1990, where it all began; well it wasn’t exactly with the help of a capacitor du flux. Instead they used the science of economics to jiggle their prices around and offered a 3 course meal for £5.90; the price it would have cost over 20 years ago.
I’ve spent more money than this on my lunch before, so when I saw the announement on Twitter I thought it was a bit too good to be true. Nevertheless, I got my intrepid dining partner to call the restaurant and we reserved ourselves a little corner of France for the evening.
Saturday was a bit of a write-off in terms of sobriety. Why, you ask? Well James and I had tickets to the Woodwinters Big Winter tasting, procured via Bite for the bargain price of a tenner. Starting at 4pm in the hallowed halls of Hawke & Hunter, there were 60 delicious wines to taste and three hours to taste them in.
It’s no wonder that we were feeling a little bit giddy by 6:30pm (I think the end total was 22 wines for James, and 25 for me- anyone following me on Twitter would have noticed an epic amount of WineDemon spam).
You can read more about the event over on Regular Wino, as I fear that I’m going off on a wine based tangent!
As we stumbled out I made sure to order a few bottles of white port. People who know me well will know that I bleeping love white port, and at the bargain price of £11 I thought it was worth letting a few moths out of my purse (ala Scrooge McDuck).
The wine had given us serious munchies, so after an aborted attempt at getting a table in Café Marlayne we took ourselves down Broughton Street. We slowly eliminated all options (or they eliminated us) and as we stood pondering Khushis, a glimmer of hope shone from across the street. Where the Polish café used to be there is now an Italian restaurant, named Asti. We asked for a table for two and were duly seated.
Most of the time, going out for dinner should be an experience. I’m a big fan of lingering over my dinner; as long as my wine glass and my plate are topped up regularly, I’m happy.
Slowly lingering over a bottle of good wine as course after course is produced, conversation sparkling like the bottled water.
But some of the time, that’s not necessary. Sometimes I’m in a hurry; perhaps it’s lunchtime and I need to get back to the office, or maybe I’ve left my car parked on an expensive meter. Or, as was the case on Thursday, I have tickets for a show that starts at 7pm and I finish work at 5:30pm.
It’s times like these when I thank the Lord for places like Biblos.
51 West Nicolson Street Edinburgh, EH8 9DB 0131 662 0828
There’s something so simple and evocative about slurping up noodles. Deliciously tender strands disappearing into your mouth, leaving a trail of sauce down your chin. It’s not first date food, or second date food. In fact it’s probably not food you want to eat in front of your partner until you’ve already passed the lounging around in your tracksuit bottoms watching Hollyoaks stage.
The premise of Red Box noodle bar intrigued me. You get to customise your own noodle dish, from the type of noodle used to the sauces and right down to the veggies. The staff cook it fresh before bringing it out to you in one of those kitsch cardboard boxes you often see in American TV shows and films. Althought it’s 1.5 miles from my office, I knew that I was going to have to make the pilgrimage for a lunchtime treat.
My boyfriend James has been craving a nice peanuty noodle dish for a while now, and noticing that one of their sauce options was satay, I decided to let him accompany me.
Wolfits is one of my favourite lunch haunts. Ever since I was an intern doing onliney things for Shelter on South Charlotte Street, I’ve had a soft spot for this wee Rose Street deli. It’s handy location near my current office almost makes up for my no longer being near Domenicos, Number 1, or Fleurs.
Usually I bother the staff two or three times a week for a toasted wrap, panini, or a hot baguette. They have loads of fillings to choose from as well as a lovely selection of juices, crisps, and snacks. But for my sins, the one thing I hadn’t tried until now was their baked potato.
Luckily for me, there was precisely one left when I arrived for my mission. I decided to be a bit more adventurous the nusual and forgo my usual topping of cheese & beans. Instead I asked for cheddar cheese, pesto, and chicken; a topping that was always done well by The Allotment- now sadly defunct.
So how did Wolfit’s measure up?
We’re talking city center prices here, and this tattie came in at just a smidge over £3. This is fairly average in town.
The inside of the potato was cooked to fluffy perfection. Light, floury, and melt in the mouth. One thing I would say is that it was a bit colder than expected. Baked potato is supposed to be a hot and fulfilling treat.
The skin was a strange colour; very dark brown, almost verging on black. It wasn’t crispy as it looked, but instead a little bit soggy and dare I say greasy. I didn’t eat much of it.
Quality of Fillings
Pesto: I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with pesto; I don’t really like it on pasta, but if it’s a dressing for a salad or smeared on a sarnie I’m well into it. This was nice pesto, albeit clearly from a jar.
Chicken: Although I asked for normal chicken, I was given the cajun stuff. I’m glad though, as it added a nice hint of spice to proceedings. Thick slices of slightly watery roast chicken; not the best I’ve had, but most certainly not the worst. The main problem was that the chicken was cold as it was taken straight from the deli counter; warming it for a few secs in the micro would have gone down very well indeed.
Cheddar: This was the nondescript sandwich shop cheddar that doesn’t taste like much and is day-glo orange. I was gutted when my server put the cheddar on last! I want it to melt, dammit!
Really, I didn’t enjoy this. The cold chicken, pesto and cheddar didn’t go well with the warm flesh of the potato, and the greasy skin was a bit off-putting too. I didn’t finish it: once I got to the stage pictured below I decided I was done. Basically, it gave me the boke.
At the end of the day I do love Wolfits. But in the future I’ll stick to their toasted wraps, and give their totties a wide berth!
I still fondly remember the pub that sat where The Constitution does now. Sure, it was rough around the edges, but the portion sizes were phenomenal. It didn’t appear to have a name, but we all knew it as the “Baby’s Head Burger Place” (because the burgers were the size of a baby’s head, not because they were made out of small children).
This closed down last year, and in it’s place a shiny new bar opened up; The Constitution. All new wood, tasty food, and a boudoir like back-room with leopard print chairs that can be rented out for parties and other such gatherings. Although it’s not the most adventurous dining spot down The Shore, it’s somewhere that I’ve often found myself having a quick spot of lunch.
And that’s exactly what happened on Saturday when my bezzie buddy Sarah popped through to visit me with her 2 year old son. We wanted somewhere child friendly that sold tasty food, and as we were walking in a man offered us a 20% off voucher.
Although I’ve been to Illegal Jack’s a number of times since starting this blog, I’ve put off writing a review until now. This is partly because everyone in Edinburgh already knows that it’s a great place to go for some quick and tasty food (as they cheerily declare in their Christmas video “even the novelist Ian Rankin likes it”), and partly because if I don’t review it I always have an excuse to go back another time.
But who needs an excuse for ooey gooey yummy scrummy deep down and dirty Tex Mex?
Since the new evil chain restaurant has opened up at the bottom of Lothian Road, I thought it was time to give Jack some love and remind you all why so many Edinbuggers love this quirky little independent so much.
There’s a level of debate amongst my friends about when winter truly begins. Many of them argue that since it’s still November, right now can’t be considered winter. We’re still technically in Autumn. But I reckon that when it’s dark outside at half past four, texting on the go is a no-no (unless you want frost-bite) and stepping outside without a big faux fur coat on results in noisy teeth chattering, we’re probably not a kick in the arse off it.
Every year I say “this is the last summer I’m going to spend in Scotland” and every year I mean it. The problem is I get distracted over the summer and think it’s not so bad. But I forget what it’s like queuing for ages at a bus stop for a bus that doesn’t come, wading through six inches of snow in a pair of canvas shoes, and the general darkness of it all.
I’m going to try hard not to be grim. There are lots of nice things about winter, too. The way that the frost glitters on the ground, Christmas, and (best of all) the perfect excuse to cook comfort food without feeling like a big fat heifer. Beef and Guinness pie, anyone?
I whipped this up a couple of weeks ago, basing it on Donal Skehan’s recipe. I served it with roast winter veggies and creamy mash. I’m still not 100% there yet, but it was damn tasty and I wanted to share. If you try making this let me know how you got on, and thanks to Donal for the inspiration.
294 Leith Walk. Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH6 5BX 0131 625 1360
Another new addition to Leith’s dining scene I reckon you should all run out and try is The Stupa. It’s a Nepalese and Tibetan restaurant slash takeaway that opened a few months ago on Leith Walk (where Chimei used to be). I’ve been meaning to visit for a while so after wine tasting class this week I finally dropped the excuses and popped in. It’s open til 11pm which is always good, as it can be very difficult to find somewhere warm for a munch after 9pm on a Monday evening.
There’s probably a good reason for that, as not many people were out and about. Things were pretty quiet in the restaurant; we were the only customers, and the waitress assumed we were after a takeaway. We asked if we could sit in and she was extremely obliging; unlike in other venues where you are seen as a nuisance if you turn up towards the end of service. She then ran around the café feeling the radiators trying to find somewhere warm for us to sit.
So far the service was good. But what about the scran?