Hard Rock Cafe Southern & Smoke Launch

When Hard Rock Cafe got in touch with me to ask if I’d like to cover their Southern & Smoke launch, I knew that there was only one man for the job. Yep: it’s time for another snazzy blog from my roving reporter Euan! Take it away, pal…

What on earth is liquid smoke?!

It was a dreich Thursday and I had been at a very dull meeting until 6pm. But my day was about take an exciting turn as I headed into the Hard Rock Café on George Street! Again, I had the fear that my name would not be on the list…but it was! Jack and I were led past the usual punters to a small function room in the back. Absolutely brilliantly Kirsty from Indigo Buttons was there too, the night was getting even better!

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Euan, Kirsty, and chums

Initially the surroundings were a bit confusing. The seats were very close together and it took me quite a bit of manoeuvring to find “my spot”. There was quite a lot of raw meat on display, most prominently two chickens, aptly named ‘Frankie’ and ‘Benny’. After being stocked up with Corona’s the executive chef came out and spoke to us all. He has quite and impressive CV! Having worked in Michelin Starred restaurants and managing the catering for our troops in Afghanistan, he has found himself in the kitchen of this George Street hotspot. Lucky they are to have him!

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Portioning a chicken!

My Hard Rock prejudices were starting to melt away…

The chef began by explaining that the Hard Rock Cafe is the only chain restaurant in the UK that do all of their own smoking. Something I did not know! I foolishly assumed that the kitchen would just be a giant microwave, apparently not! Very impressive. He demonstrated on poor Frankie and Benny how to portion a chicken before one of the other guests made an admirable attempt on the second one. We explored the ingredients which go into the Hard Rock Café’s finger lickin’ barbecue sauces and rubs. This is where I saw liquid smoke! It is the weirdest thing. The chef explained that all it is is smoke ‘infused’ water. That put my gas at a peep, I was thinking this was a strange concoction of chemicals and additives.

Before getting onto the main event (tasting the food!) we were shown how to prepare whole piggy legs and gigantic racks of ribs. I was always a bit scared of eating ribs after I found out in standard grade biology that the meat was called ‘intercostal tissue’ (boak), but I occasionally put my reservations aside (for the right person!). The pork in the Hard Rock Café is always from the UK, apart from the ribs which come from France, bit odd I thought!

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Explaining the porky goodness

We had an eeeeennnnnnoooorrrrrmmmmoooouuuuusssss wait for the food, but we were kept well stocked up with beverages and the chat was pretty top notch. Silly move taking the car! Eventually the food arrived and looked extremely appetising on the plate. A bit of a weird guy took a  SHARING platter, a knife and fork, and sat facing the wall eating the whole thing! That’s just not cricket! There was plenty of other food though, but seriously, what a freak.

I kicked off proceedings with the chicken wings. The Tangy Bar-B-Que sauce was my absolute favourite. They wings were really meaty and the sauce had just the right amount of spiciness. I’d genuinely just go back for them.

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BBQ sauces

We were then treated to the real smokehouse grub, prepared, smoked and cooked in house! The portions are tremendous and the meat is just lovely. The chicken and ribs fall off the bone and after each mini plateful I was re-enacting my favourite ‘Curly Sue’ scene.

Behind the Tangy Bar-B-Que wings, my next favourite was the smoked pulled pork. Oh my goodness, fond memories. I think, served with the authentic vinegar or Hickory Bar-B-Que based sauce, it could make the perfect accompaniment to anything. Sandwiches, roast dinner, Special K, blancmange. Seriously, nothing would not be improved by the addition of the Hard Rock Café smoked pulled pork. Mmmmm!

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Rubs!

In conclusion, my reservations about the Hard Rock Cafe were blown out the water. The food was delicious and the hosting was so warm and friendly. It really is great to know that all the prepping, smoking and cooking happens in house overseen by such an experienced and passionate chef.

I will definitely be back, possibly not for a romantic meal with silver service, but for an opportunity to face plant some delicious pulled pork and get in a complete state with chicken wings. Cant wait!

Hard Rock Cafe on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: The Atelier

I was back in Edinburgh for about ten days just there, and oh my god what a whirlwind it was! Thankfully I had a wonderful send-off, spending my last night with a gang of lovely foodies in one of the West End’s (is Morrison Street the West End?) fabulous new restaurants, The Atelier.

Despite spending nine months living in France, my French pronunciation is still pish. As I told my best pal (and sometimes guest contributor, Euan) where we were going for dinner that night he thought I was saying “The Italia”. D’oh.

Anyway, we managed to get there before everyone else: even before Mr LunchQuest himself, who is usually always promptly on time. Soon we were joined by a bunch of lovely Yelpers, and I was sat beside the lovely Claire, Yelp Edinburgh’s foremost gluten free expert and book lover extraordinaire. Fabulous company for a rainy Thursday, but how did the food match up?

It matched up well, I’d say.

Everything on the menu sounded wonderful, so I decided to just do something a little bit odd and went for the most expensive starter and the least expensive main course. Really I just fancied the cheap main, which was a puy lentil and lanark blue salad with some sundried tomatoes, and I got the pricey starter to make myself feel less tight fisted.

Pig's Ear never looked so good
Pig’s Ear never looked so good

My starter, crispy pig’s ear (my dog used to eat those!) with scallops and a seafood mayo was yummilicious. The crispy pig’s ear was so very tasty that I had it in mind to drive right up to Pets at Home and grab one to munch on later. I joke. Really, it was very nice. The scallops were done to perfection, nice and soft and moist and juicy and mmm!

Then the main courses arrived, and with it my food envy. Here’s a picture of Euan’s fishy dish because my salad wasn’t very exciting to look at. Yep, those are wee chunks of pork belly.

Fishy dishy!
Fishy dishy!

My My meal paled in comparison. It was pretty tasty but could have done with more cheese. Then again, that’s my answer to everything. “How’s the wine Miss Porter?” “Mm it’s fine but it could do with MORE CHEESE!” This is one reason I reckon I’ll probably never have babies, the thought of giving up ooey gooey brie, stinky minky epoisse, and tangy bangy (?!) roquefort for nine months just does not sit well with me.

Anyway, I digress. The salad was tasty enough and left me with that self righteous feeling that can only come with eating a great big plate of lentils when everyone around you is porkin’ it up with steak, crisp fried fish skin, and pork belly. In all it was pretty triumphant.

We were all stuffed, so we said no to dessert. I seem to remember saying no to coffee, but I honestly can’t remember now. I remember the days when I could sink a whole bottle of vino and now a half gets me tiddly.

As for cost? It really wasn’t that pricey. I paid in the region of £25 for a starter, main course, and half a bottle of wine. Considering that I spent almost that in Vittoria’s for a half pizza/half pasta and a wee espresso, the same in Phuket Pavillion for a curry and some rice, and bloody £5 more the next night in London for a feckin’ curry and dessert (all with a half bottle of wine too of.c.), I’d say it was a bargain!

It’s the kind of place you can take a date that you’re trying to impress. Romantic, pretty posh, and very tasty. I’ll be taking the other half when we’re back in Edinburgh next year.

The Atelier on Urbanspoon