Festive Toffee Tipples

I did a little bit blogging with Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer for Foodies Festival, which has led to trying out the new Red Square Toffee Vodka – not something you’d usually find in our drinks cabinet. Continue reading “Festive Toffee Tipples”

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.

Spa Deliciousness at Sandy Lane, Barbados

Sandy Lane, Barbados
Sandy Lane, Barbados

If you’ve just finished reading about the ridiculously delicious white chocolate sauce dessert at Daphne’s in Barbados, prepare for another few paragraphs of paradise because you’ve just jumped from food heaven to spa heaven!

Sandy Lane in Barbados opened it’s pearly white gates back in 1961 and has been the go to spot for jet setters looking for an outrageously luxurious Caribbean get away ever since. When my Mum announced that she had booked treatments for myself, my sister-in-law and her at the famous spa, I was beyond excited! If you, like us, are not staying at the hotel you can book in for treatments and use the spa, but only until 3.30pm – I can only presume that’s when the George Clooneys and Kylie Minogues of the world appear, as they were nowhere to be seen when we were there!

After giving our names at the gates, we drove into the vast grounds of the hotel and spa. The gardens were stunning and completely immaculate. As we walked towards the spa, even the AIR was perfumed and amazing! Honestly, it was as if they had planted little air-fresheners full of deliciousness about the grounds.

The spa is nestled behind the waterfall which fronts the enormous hotel pool. Quaint, white bridges dotted about taking you across the pool to the spa, and on the other side, the poolside bar, make it this an enticing area for hotel guests. wpid-20140425_211515.jpgwpid-img_20140425_211246.jpg

Before being led down to the spa we sat in the huge, marble atrium filling in the usual spa forms and enjoying calming ginger tea and some water, room temperature or cold, should you want the options! The therapists were so friendly and welcoming, and urged us to enjoy our day at the spa by making use of all the facilities before, and after, our treatments.

I was booked in for a back, neck and shoulder massage. This was a Swedish style massage which also used hot stones and I was given the choice of two Sandy Lane Signature oils, Sunrise or Sunset. I chose the latter and for 45 minutes I was the most relaxed I have felt in forever! I left feeling completely de-stressed and my skin was luxuriously soft and had soaked up all the gorgeous smelling coconut oils. After my massage I had an eyebrow tint, which was just as relaxing and the therapist took such time and attention to make sure she used just the right shade of dye for my complexion and hair colour.

The spa facilities are, of course, fantastic. Outside there is a hydrotherapy pool complete with air beds and a jacuzzi, and on the other side of the patio, an array of experience showers, each with a different water temperature and scent designed to awaken the senses. The cold room, set at 6 degrees C, was delightfully cooling, and I must admit with temperatures outside at 28 degrees I didn’t venture into the sauna. Indoors there is a stunning relaxation room where you can sip an amazing selection of teas, enjoy fresh fruits and juices, and quite simply chill out. 

All robed up and ready to relax...
All robed up and ready to relax…
View of the hydrotherapy pool from my deck chair
View of the hydrotherapy pool from my deck chair
Panoramic view of the outdoor spa patio
Panoramic view of the outdoor spa patio
Gorgeous garden and waterfall at the back of the spa
Gorgeous garden and waterfall at the back of the spa
The ultimate chill out zone
The ultimate chill out zone

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After our treatments we floated back upstairs to the spa cafe for lunch. There was no need to change out of our robes which was great, and the lunch menu had lots of fresh salads and light snacks – exactly what we were in the mood for! I enjoyed Gazpacho, a cold, Spanish, tomato and onion soup. Served with a dollop of sour cream, the soup was refreshing and tangy, exactly how I remembered it from my time in Spain. My sister-in-law had a california roll and my Mum went for a colourful Greek salad.

Refreshing gazpacho soup with sour cream
Refreshing chilled gazpacho soup with sour cream
Sushi - the perfect spa snack!
Sushi – the perfect spa snack!
Greek salad with feta and olives
Greek salad with feta and olives

After lunch we retreated back downstairs for one last final hour of zen before heading across to the main hotel area for celebratory cocktails. The perfect end to a perfect day…  and now I am left wishing every day could spent in the sunshine and luxury that is the Barbados Sandy Lane Spa!

Balcony overlooking the  terrace and beach
Balcony overlooking the terrace and beach
One Mojito and one Monkey in a Tree cocktail!
One Mojito and one Monkey in a Tree cocktail!
Love the SL cocktail sticks!
Love the SL cocktail sticks!

A weekend wandering around Edinburgh

One of the reasons I love living in Edinburgh is being able to walk everywhere, and after a night out on Friday a little stroll around the city is just what I needed to blow the cobwebs away.

Friday night’s dinner at Time 4 Thai on Friday night was excellent and was followed by cocktails at Lucky Liquor on Queens Street. First time there, I had a Blue Steel, vodka based with an interesting peppery after taste, and my friends opted for the Megawatt. After admiring the cool presentation we decided was a bit gimmicky and tasted a bit like a Smirnoff ice – taking us back to our younger drinking days!

A Megawatt, £6.50, at Lucky Liquor Co.
A Megawatt, £6.50, at Lucky Liquor Co.

On to Saturday. Pancakes, streaky bacon and maple syrup, russelled up by my other half, was the perfect start and good fuel for my wanderings.Pancakes, Bacon & Maple Syrup

Cakes (say hello, she’ll probably feature on here quite a lot) and I set off from Bruntsfield and walked down to Stockbridge where we joined the Water of Leith walkway all the way down to, you guessed it, Leith. We walked at what I like to call a gossiping pace and it took us just over 1 ½ hours.

Cakes wandering along the Water of Leith Walkway
Cakes wandering along the Water of Leith Walkway
Arriving down at The Shore, Leith
Arriving down at The Shore, Leith

We rewarded our efforts with some food and drinks at Bond No. 9. Sitting in the conservatory looking out at the sunshine and the canal was great, and their light bites deal was just what we were after. Two “light bites” and a cocktail for £12. We enjoyed haggis balls with mustard mayo, pitta breads and humus, lemon chicken skewers, and some more warm breads and oils.

A French 72 and a Bramble at Bond No. 9
A French 72 and a Bramble at Bond No. 9
Light bites at Bond No. 9
Light bites at Bond No. 9

The Honours, Edinburgh

GalleryOn Friday evening I was treated to dinner at The Honours, one of Martin Wishart’s restaurants in Edinburgh. Located on North Castle Street, there are plenty of nearby options for pre dinner drinks, and we decided to go to Tonic, a cocktail bar a few doors along from The Honours.

Some of the cocktails on the menu
Some of the cocktails on the menu

Take a peek online at their cocktail menu, I think you’ll like it as there are lots of fun combinations to try. On this occassion I opted for a Rasberry Kiss. Made up of tanquery gin, grapefruit, homemade rasberry syrup topped with prosecco, it was yummy! The Haribo lips sweetie on top, is a good reflection on the sweetness of the drink!

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Raspberry Kiss – tanquery gin, grapefruit, homemade raspberry syrup and prosecco

After a couple drinks I only had to totter a few steps down the hill in my heels to arrive at The Honours. Unfortunately I don’t have any of my own pictures of the meal, so hopefully we descriptions will do the dishes justice! You can take a look at the menu online here, and I’ll try and talk you through the yumminess!

To start I opted for the crab cappuccino, and I’ll admit I was not quite sure what the expect. I was greeted with frothy and intense crab soup. It came in a large shallow bowl and had lovely pieces of soft crab and garlic through it. I’m a huge garlic fan, the more the better, so this was right up my street. The size of the dish was deceiving and due to the richness of the cream based soup I wasn’t able to finish it which is extremely unlike me!

For my main course I enjoyed the fillet steak, which the waitress informed me was cooked on the bone. A technique,  she told us, used to hold in the flavour and juices from the meat when cooking. I had never tried fillet on the bone before, so that was quite exciting. The steaks are are served with vine tomatoes and choice of sauces, I went for a bearnaise sauce and ordered a side of potato dauphinoise (see, garlic again!) and shared some green beans. The steak was cooked to perfection – I like it medium and it melted in my mouth. Absolutely delicious and totally worth the special occasion price tag (£32).

Dinner was washed down with a bottle of Fleurie. This wine, in my opinion, (and I have to say I’m no wine expert, at all) is a really light red wine – perfect for those who are eating red meat but aren’t wild about red wine!

The dessert menu was extensive, and after two very filling courses all I could manage was a scoop of passion fruit sorbet. All the ice creams and sorbets on the menu are offers as a whole dish or simply a single scoop. A really nice touch for those who aren’t quite finished but can’t manage a whole dessert.

After coffees and a desert wine we decided to call it a night. I mentioned that our trip to The Honours was a treat, and I’d love to say I’ll be back in a flash, but the prices simply don’t allow for that. However at the end of the day we were looking for a special evening we would remember, and that was exactly what The Honours gave us. So, thank you!