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.

Flipping good summer crepes

Seeing as we are having an amazing summer so far, we need to get some cracking desserts on the go too.

Enter The Raspberry and Nutella Crepe!

Sweet, easy and so flipping good you’ll wish you’d made a second batch. Plus, for such a quick and easy pudding they look quite impressive if you are serving them for friends and not just scoffing them all yourself…

So, what do you need? Well, the obvious part, some raspberries and nutella. I absolutely adored nutella growing up (read: still love the stuff) and I really hope I never feel to old to enjoy it.

Nutella and raspberries

For the crepe mixture, I used Nigella’s crepe recipe which worked a treat. However, I have it on good authority that two cups of milk, two cups of plain flour and two eggs works well too.

For Nigella’s recipe you’ll need:

  • your chosen pancake pan, flipping device and a ladle
  • 30 grams unsalted butter melted (plus more for frying)
  • 150 grams plain flour
  • 325 ml milk
  • large egg

As this doesn’t take long, first thing to do is get your pan on the heat. I use a proper pancake gridle (oooh la la), one that looks like this, but a normal, shallow frying pan will work too. Even though mine is probably now well seasoned and has built up a good non stick coat, I still wipe a very teeny, tiny amount of oil over the surface. Just blot some oil on a piece of kitchen roll and wipe across the surface of the pan before putting it on the heat. Top tip, use oil in your pan, not butter – the crepes are less likely to stick.

Melt the butter and put it aside – a quick 30 seconds in the microwave will do the job. Then, put the flour in a bowl, and whisk in the egg and milk. Once the butter has cooled a little, whisk that in too. The mixture should now be slightly thicker than single cream.

Ok…it’s crepe time, grab your ladle and take a deep breath! Pop about 3/4 of a ladle full of mixture into the pan. Either swirl the batter round in the pan by picking it up using the handle, or use the ladle to spread the mixture out – small, circular motions pushing the ladle into the mixture on the pan, starting in the middle and getting bigger, will give you a good crepe shape.

Leave the crepe to cook for a minute or so and do a decent, dramatic flip when you start to see bubbles appearing…

crepe cooking

crepe bubbles

Once flipped (hopefully in the pan and not on the floor) cook the crepe on the other side for another minute or so, then take off the heat. This amount of batter will give you 6-8 crepes, I always discount the first one or two, and my last couple are always the best in shape, size and colour.

plate of crepes

plate of crepes 2

last few crepes

And onto the main event – the filling. So easy and yummy! Spoon half a teaspoon of nutella on the crepe, sprinkle a few raspberries and roll. Repeat.

teaspoon of nutella

crepe filling

Drizzle a little nutella over the rolled crepes and for a final touch, sieve a tiny bit of a icing sugar over the whole lot. Top tip number 2 – pop a little nutella in the microwave for 30 seconds to loosen it up for drizzling.

Now, simply serve us a watch them disappear!

Crepes rolled

Crepes

close up crepe

close up crepe 2