Shaking Things Up

The Bon Vivant, Thistle Street, Edinburgh, cocktails and food 1 (2)

This week was all about cocktails in my world. Whilst one of my favourite Edinburgh haunts earned an incredible title – the best bar in the world, I spent some time honing my French Martini making skills. More on that later, first up, let me tell you about this gem of place…

The Bon Vivant on Thistle Street picked up the glittering title of Best International Restaurant Bar, at the Tales of the Cocktail 2014 Spirited Awards. I already knew, from lots of sampling of cocktails, that I was lucky to have this kooky, little bar on my doorstep, but what I did not realise is that this is the first time a Scottish bar/restaurant has scooped this impressive award.

You’ll find this stylish bar on Thistle Street, a beautiful cobbled street in itself oozing cool restaurants, bars and upmarket boutiques, bang in the middle of Edinburgh’s main shopping distinct.

On entering, to the left you have the bar, manned by some of Edinburgh’s finest bar staff, often sporting impressive beards and bow ties – these guys look like they know how to mix you a good cocktail. At the back is the dining area where the walls are covered in french inspired prints and posters, and wax candles in bottles on the tables create a cosy atmosphere. Finally in front of the bar is a collection of mismatched tables, chairs and stools – my favourite being the giant champagne cork stool.

The food offering is almost tapas style, with lots of little “bites”, “middles” and “sides” on the menu – my kind of dining. We usually go for a selection of bites to start, giving you a chance to try everything from hand dived scallops, to haggis bon bons to grilled halloumi – these are just some of the delights on the menu last time I was there.

And of course, they mix a reeealllly good cocktail! You just need to take one look at their instagram feed to see what treats they have in store for you.

It’s well worth a visit, even if it’s just so you can say you’ve been to the best bar in the world. If you can’t make it to Thistle Street, you can visit them in Stockbridge as well, and they have an excellent sister bar and restaurant in the Old Town – read my review of The Devil’s Advocate here.

Now, let me tell you all about these French Martinis! An easy peasy summer cocktail you can make at home with friends. Whilst I love a good cocktail, I’ve never actually been taught how to make one, and I was dubious my efforts would pay off. I have decided to start with a French Martini, mainly because I already had the ingredients to hand.

French Martini ingredients

Chambord and Vodka

All you need is a cocktail shaker, measuring device, Chambord, Vodka and pineapple juice. At first I followed this recipe, but it didn’t give me the bright pink colour I was after. So I adapted to this:

Serves  2 and bit for tasting…or if like me, you’re not great at cocktails yet, spilling:

30ml/2fl oz vodka
30ml/½fl oz raspberry liqueur
50ml/ pineapple juice

Now the fun part – pour all the ingredients in your cocktail shaker with ice and go for it. Just shake, shake shake, pour, and sip immediately! The result will be delicious…

Cocktail shaker

French Martinis

Cocktails

And a close up of that froth…

Froth close up

A fresh raspberry or two would have finished these ice cool cocktails off perfectly. Now that I’ve mastered this one, I have a valid excuse to have some fun hunting down some proper cocktail glasses – roll on a fun summer of cocktail making.

The Devil’s Advocate, Edinburgh

When I heard the guys at Bon Vivant on Thistle Street in Edinburgh were opening a third restaurant in the old town I knew I had to check it out.

Looking up Advocates Close
Looking up Advocates Close

Unless you were lost, I’m not sure you would ever “stumble across” The Devil’s Advocate. The bar and restaurant is tucked away on Advocate’s Close, just off the Royal Mile, and this location gives it a selective vibe, like you had to be in the know to go there.

From the old town close, heavy and clean cut wooden doors with large glass panels give way to a very open downstairs bar space. Against the opposing wall and behind the bar there are rows upon rows of bottles, some I recognise, but most I do not – lots of bourbons and whiskys. To the left is a mezzanine level with tables.

On arrival we get a drink at the bar, I’m on a glass of prosecco and my other half enjoys a whisky old fashioned. The dining area upstairs is softly lit. Candles on tables and low ceiling beans make for a cosy space and the Friday post work hubbub from the bar downstairs creates a nice buzz as we turn our attention to the menu.

For starters I go for Haggis bon bons with coriander, cumin and chilli sauce and my other half tucks in to smoked haddock, leek and pear barley risotto. The haggis is full of flavour and the sauce adds a nice kick.

RissottoHaggis Bon BonsFor my main course I ordered the fish and chips – ceilidh battered pollock with shrimp tartar and chips. Is it just me or is shrimp becoming a popular side dish? I feel like I’m seeing it on a lot of menus, however, I’m not complaining as it was a great accompaniment. The pollock was nice and juicy and the batter was crispy and light. I must admit I was quite jealous of the lamb rump on haggis mash that my other half was tucking in to. The lamb was nicely pink in the middle. My other half thought there was a bit too much haggis in the mash, but he enjoyed the dish nonetheless. I loved the little roasted shallots and the accompanying jus was really rich and silky.

Fish and chipsRump of LambWe tried a bottle of red wine, one which we had not drank before, and knew nothing about! As it was a Beaujolais we thought it would be quite light (I’m not a huge lover of “gritty” red wines), but this was not the case. Note to self, ask the staff, I’m sure they would have told us that!

ice creamAs always, my other half enjoyed his trademark dessert, a single scoop of vanilla ice cream. The ice cream was deliciously creamy – you can imagine he greatly appreciates the quality of vanilla ice cream when there is nothing else on the plate to make a fuss about.

By the time we finished, all the tables upstairs and the bar downstairs were packed – the weekend in full swing.

I must admit my pictures on this post do not do the food justice, and make want to look into a proper camera for future blogging exploits…

Dinner for two, with a bottle of wine and a couple pre-dinner drinks came to about £70. Much like Bon Viviant, I can see The Devil’s Advocate will be a great go-to place for a relaxed meal out. It’s another example of why I love Edinburgh in comparison to huge cities like London – good quality food and drink are plentiful and can be found at reasonable prices. I should also add that for whisky lovers this is the place to go as the whisky list is extensive.

The Devils Advocate
9 Advocate’s Close
Edinburgh
EH1 1ND

0131 225 4465

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