Gusto, Edinburgh

Our trip to Gusto was yet another occasion where I was wishing I had a proper camera and not just my phone! I’m sad to say my pictures do not these delicious dishes justice, thus I will just have to be as descriptive as possible.

Having attended the Perrier-Jouet tasting dinner at Gusto on George Street in Edinburgh, when I was asked to review the new menu, it was an easy yes. Gusto is a chain of Italian inspired restaurants you can find in many of the big cities up and down the country. To be specific, the restaurants are “inspired by the traditional grand cafes of Europe, Gusto is all about making the everyday exquisite.” It’s suppose to be ‘everyday decadence’… that’s something I can get on board with.

Edinburgh’s Gusto is located at the Charlotte Square end of George Street. The set up downstairs is a mix of round booths and high bar stool tables. We were taken upstairs to the mezzanine level and sat at a table overlooking the restaurant – a great spot for watching everyone coming and going, for there is a lot of that with it being a fairly large dining space.

Our waiter, very friendly and polite, was straight over with the wine list and menus. Being mid-flat move, Mr. F&P was on the sparkling water as unfortunately we had chores to complete that evening, however I opted for a glass of Novita Trebbiano, correctly described as ‘wonderfully easy drinking’.

I love when waiters or waitresses recommend dishes from the menu, so when I ordered the calamari and our waiter suggested the Fritto Misto instead, it was a no brainer to change my order. What was thinking just going for calamari when I could have with sardine, prawn, calamari, and courgette as well?! I made the right decision. The batter was so incredibly light and nicely peppered, and spiced tomato mayonnaise reminded me of a dip that is served at The Outback in America when you order their famous ‘Bloomin’ Onion’. A joy of a dish to start the evening off.

Fritto Misto

Fritto Misto close up

Fritto Misto sauce

Mr F&P tucked into salmon tartare which was served with a soft boiled quails egg (inside the salmon tower – a fun touch) and some crème fraîche and red gazpacho. Another delicious, and very pretty looking, plate of food. 

salmon tartar

salmon tartar plate

And that’s the quails egg, right there in the middle.

quails egg

For my main I ordered the 6oz chargrilled fillet steak, medium, which came with garlic butter, roasted vine tomatoes and fries. The steak was cooked exactly to my liking. What can you say about garlic butter, other than it’s totally delicious, by far by steak sauce of choice. I’m not convinced the chargrilling added much, however certainly it didn’t detract from a very flavoursome, juicy piece of meat. The ‘vine tomatoes’ were just one large vine tomato, but no problem with that, and the fries were lovely and crispy. No need for the dish.

fillet steak plate

steak medium

steak close up

I was less convinced by the pasta dish – white crab, chilli, garlic and fresh lemon spaghetti. Perhaps we eat too much pasta at home and I don’t appreciate it as much when I go out. I also find it fairly easy to make a damn good pasta dish at home, thus when I go out I really expect to be wowed. That said, the spaghetti was fresh, the lemon sauce coated the spaghetti well, not too much, not too little. Just not a patch on my steak, but perhaps I am trying to compare apples and pears.

crab spaghetti

A little break as we surveyed the dessert menu. This is where I struggled… I am fairly confident I would have enjoyed absolutely every dessert listed. This is a dessert menu for chocolate lovers.

dessert menu

I was torn between the nutella and mascarpone calzone and the ‘bombolini’; homemade mini doughnuts with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Thinking I may not have room for something that called itself a ‘calzone’ I chose the mini doughnuts and was rewarded with a really simple, but yummy, dessert. Bizarrely light for pudding of doughnuts, the chocolate sauce had an edge to it which I’m putting down to some sort of liqueur. Again, too many dishes on the plate for my liking, or perhaps a different shape of under plate would work better.

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The star menu was the ‘Baked Flaming Alaska’, served and lit at the table, it glowed purple for a good 30-40 seconds. As you might have guessed by the quails egg inside the salmon tower, I’m fairly easy amused and I thoroughly enjoyed the dramatics.

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On a side note, Baked Alaska is a dessert that never ceases to amazing me, just the science behind it, how does the ice cream stay cold? But let’s not get into that just now…

With the departure of The Living Room from George Street, Gusto will be a good staple haunt for large groups – plenty space and something for everyone on the menu. What I liked most about Gusto is that it did not feel too much like a chain. I’ve yet to visit the one newly opened in Glasgow, but my overall feeling is they take on the character of the buildings they live in, hopefully making each one a tiny bit different.

Make a trip, I promise your dishes will be look more spectacular than the ones captured in this post, and I hope they are just as tasty. For now I’ll weigh up the cost of a new camera and think some more about baked Alaska.

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Gin and lawn bowls

Heading north to Perthshire...
Heading north to Perthshire…

Since I can remember my family has been going Crieff Hydro for weekend breaks, family reunions, the odd bank holiday Monday. So when my fiancé and his family announced we were heading there for a surprise birthday weekend, I was 100% on board. 

There is something extremely comforting about going to a hotel or resort that you know like the back of your hand. It may not be the most luxurious place in world, but it is the familiarity of Crieff Hydro that makes me so fond of this family retreat. Not to mention the hundreds of indoor and outdoor activities on offer, both for children and grown ups, the swimming pool and spa facilities, various eateries to choose from, the list goes on. 

Crieff Hydro exterior

Crieff Hydro sign

 Crieff is a mere hour and half from Edinburgh city centre. We left promptly after work on Friday and arrived in time for dinner. First thing I want to mention is the fillet steak I had in the Brasserie on the Friday evening, because it was absolutely delicious. Now, with the surprise birthday celebrations and, if I am honest, the hunger we had worked up driving there, I don’t have a single photo to show you, do you will just need to take my word for it.

Over the course of the weekend we made the most of good weather and lots of the activities on offer. The grounds of the hotel are vast and inviting so it was easy to spend most the Saturday running around outside in the sunshine.

Crieff Hydro grounds

hotel frontAs we were staying in the hotel on the dinner, bed and breakfast rate, Mr F&P’s nephews were given packed lunches in the Winter Garden. The boys refuelled after morning of soft play, football and trampolining, and the adults enjoyed some gin and lawn bowls. The grand Victorian front of the hotel gives the perfect setting for such a civilised game, and we weren’t the only ones to think so – the lawn was mobbed all weekend. Caorunn gins in hand, a quick lesson from Mr F&P on the rules, we chose our end, rolled the jack and got to work. 

front of hotel instagramGin and Lawn BowlsMaybe it was beginners luck, or perhaps the gin, but I very quickly came to appreciate everything about a game of lawn bowls. If only I had discovered this earlier in the summer!

Later in the day, half of our group hit the pool and the birthday girl hit the spa after a morning of horse riding. Mr F&P and I decided to go for a walk up The Knock. Not really knowing where we were going, we set off into the woods behind the hotel and found ourselves at the top much sooner than we though. 

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top of the knock

 Our walk up and down The Knock was no longer than 40 minutes. For the proper hill walkers out there, the Perthshire is a stunning area to explore. Plus, the lodges on site at the hotel mean you can take the dog with you for the weekend and they also allow you to be completely self sufficient. 

On Saturday evening we dined in the Meikle Restaurant and I must be honest and say I much preferred our more casual, relaxed dinner in the Brasserie on the Friday night. On Sunday Mr F&P and I had a slower start to the day. We enjoyed some breakfast followed by coffees outside in the sunshine with the Sunday papers. 

Soon it was time to head home. We all made one last stop at Gloagburn Farmshop (more on that later) before saying our goodbyes and going our separate ways.

Crieff Hydro is perfect for a family weekend away. It is just really easy. Everything is in the one place, the staff are really friendly and there is something for everyone to do. For those wishing to venture into the town it’s a quick 15 minutes walk away, or you can go further afield and explore Perthshire. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be everyone’s cup of team. For example, the hotel is not ideal for romantic weekend away – there are kids everywhere and you need to be OK with that. That said there are some gorgeous luxury lodges which would be a better bet for some peace and quiet. 

Until I have the opportunity to go back, I’m off to find my local bowls club…

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!