Stockbridge: The Best Place to Live

Stockbridge has been named the ‘Best Place to Live in Scotland’ in the recent Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide. This won’t be news to locals, but for those of you who are just discovering this cute pocket of Edinburgh, where should you hang out? I’ve pulled together a rundown of my favourite places to eat, drink, shop and generally mosey around in Stockbridge… Continue reading “Stockbridge: The Best Place to Live”

Serrano Manchego

Stepping into Serrano Manchego is like being transported to a proper little, bustling, Spanish tapas bar. For starters, you certainly don’t feel like you are half way down Leith Walk in Edinburgh, and on a Friday night, by the time we left the place was rammed with a total mix of people. Continue reading “Serrano Manchego”

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”

A Foodie’s Guide to The Open, St Andrews

All eyes are on St Andrews this week as The 144th Open Championship gets underway. It is an honour to welcome the Championship back to St Andrews for 29th time, and through doing so an equally exciting opportunity presents itself to local businesses, especially those in the food and drink sector. Continue reading “A Foodie’s Guide to The Open, St Andrews”

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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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!

wpid-IMG_20140131_194725.jpg
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!