A collection of short Restaurant reviews...
David Bann, 56-58 St Mary's Street, Edinburgh
I downloaded the drinks and food menu from the David Bann website.
Particularly nice were:
Marinated vegetable and goats cheese salad
Chilli and smoked cheese with chocolate coriander sauce
Scottish strawberry pannacotta with a homemade whisky and raspberry chocolate
Chilli Margarita
- Chilli infused José Cuervo, lime juice.


Some lovely ideas here, we had a
seared Sea Bass with a vanilla sauce
and a fantastic dessert combination of a
hot Soufflé and a freezing Lemon Sorbet.


The Banff County Hotel
Not only does chef Eric do a fantastic barbecue, but he serves the best Cullen Skink I've ever tasted.


Kalpna Indian Restaurant, 2-3 Patrick Square, Edinburgh
I think I discovered the Kalpna in the mid-eighties when I first moved to Edinburgh with my long-suffering vegetarian flatmate Sara. (I have a funny story about Sara and a boiling pig's head - but some other time...)
My Mum and I have been coming regularly, if infrequently, ever since she became a vegetarian Buddhist. Or is that a Buddhist vegetarian?
Their menu tends to be short, and doesn't change very often (despite losing the Baingan Bharta: one of my favourite staples), but the quality has been consistently high.
Funnily enough I often hear vegetarians comparing it favourably to the Annapurna restaurant opposite. All I can say is that they must be vegetarians without tastebuds; I kid you not - one of the dishes served when we decided to give the Annapurna a try was a tin (a tin!) of curried patra leaves, opened, sliced into rounds, fried, and dumped on a plate. Avoid!

On this occasion Mum and I had a lovely Palak Aloo with methi, onion, garlic and tomato in the spinach.
Also a particularly nice Matka kulfi flavoured with khus (vetiver), honey and cashew nuts.


The Wee Restaurant, North Queensferry
Really nice meal
the Smoked Haddock, Crab and Saffron Risotto with Pesto
starter was delightful (though contained a rather unfortunate piece of crab shell), and my main course extremely well prepared.

Mum's Crispy-Fried Salmon with Samphire, Spinach and Buckwheat Blini
was a nice attempt at combining samphire and spinach which I though worked well together, and would have been well complemented by a balanced amount of salmon, but there was far too much and the dish was quite overwhelmed by it - the result was somewhat oily

The Rhubarb Crème Brûlée with Hazelnut Meringue
was excellent.

And all those flea bites that I acquired some time that day could have come from anywhere!


Restaurant Number One, The Balmoral Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh
Dinner from the À La Carte menu with my friend Flora in a truly elegant setting with quite excellent food. They really hit the big base notes in their cooking though seem to lack a little in the treble range. However, if their dishes are not as adventurous as Wishart, they have a better cheese board and port trolley!

Our Wild Leek Velouté Amuse Bouche was well executed I thought, but served with a slightly odd tapenade-like drizzle, which I didn't think complemented the soup. I would have gone for something less salty and earthy to lift out the flavours.
Flora's Sea Bass had an intriguing potato purée which turned out to be flavoured with Tonka beans; not something I'd come across before - nutty but with a touch of vanilla. The skin of the fillets was seared beyond perfection. Wish I could achieve that level of crisp flavour.
The Challans Duck with Pineapple and Clove Glaze main course I chose was beautifully cooked, with a deeply flavoured reduction and onion confit, though not as dazzling as I had hoped. However, my Truffled Scallops starter served on purée'd savoy couldn't have been better. In fact I mistook the delicate green purée for asparagus. They were topped with a shard of astonishingly thin and crispy pancetta, a black Perigord truffle shaving, a sliver of crisp chicken breast, and came surrounded by diced vegetables freshened with sherry vinegar and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Whilst I was not particularly impressed with my Praline Soufflé dessert - which seemed ever so slightly leathery,
Flora's Olive Oil Ice Cream was inspired, and more than made up for the Basil Flavoured Chocolates.
I think I made the right wine choices with a delicate, fruity Sancerre 'Les Baronnes' Henri Bourgeois 2007, and a terrifically rich Malbec Reserva, Terrazas, Mendoza 2006. I wish I could remember the Port I had - it was fantastic.

I only hope the meal more than made up for Flora's embarrassment of having to be rescued (again) by one of the sailing school rescue ribs when Bob the Cherub sank underneath us in 40 knot winds off Hawes Pier in the Firth of Forth. Thanks Guys!


Wedgewood, Canongate, Edinburgh
A very long overdue review of an absolutely gorgeous little restaurant that oddly seems to have missed out on Edinburgh's Michelin prizes.

It's a very small and slightly cramped restaurant, with not the most comfortable of furniture, but the staff are friendly and helpful and we were lucky enough to get a table with a fine view of the kitchen, and more importantly, of the dishes as they vended their way out.

The menu is absolutely chock-full of intriguing dishes, some with quite inspired flavour combinations, and virtually everything that we tried was cooked to perfection.


L'Artichaut, 14 Eyre Place, Edinburgh Now closed
It seems that L'artichaut has since morphed into what appears to be a branch of an unrelated, non-vegetarian Languedoc restaurant called La Garrigue in the New Town, which then also closed. It's not really the best spot.

A new and well-reviewed vegetarian has just opened for my Mum's latest visit to Edinburgh. Well, obviously it didn't open for Mum's visit, but the timing was handy for entertaining a pesky Torian, so we decided to check it out.

And we were very impressed by the early signs - a good wine list (we chose the fresh Chateau Haute Cariziere Muscadet), a nicely mixed Ricard (water, ice and a slice of lemon), pleasant starters, and some entertainingly quirky furniture.
From their ripe time menu we went with the
Rosemary and thyme pancakes
spinach and feta Filo parcels
which were both light and well-balanced for flavour.

Unfortunately the main courses
spiced cauliflower and date tagine
spicy black bean stew
were not so well produced.
The stew was harshly flavoured with spices that tasted as if they had not been properly cooked, and consisted of massive soggy lumps of cauliflower floating in an undifferentiated bean slop that was overwhelmingly dull, whilst the quinoa tagine was sweet, and cloying, but limp in both flavour and texture. Nothing better than canteen food to be frank. Some of the main course was salvaged by our rather pleasant side dishes
potato and fennel salad
rosemary chips
The crisp fat chips were particularly good, but I was also impressed by the vegan salad dressing - apparently consisting of soya milk, oil and spices, though I would have sworn it contained mayonnaise or at least yoghurt.

At least the meal ended on an high note - the desserts were intriguing and tasty
lime and pink peppercorn meringues
salt-baked baby pineapple
the pineapple is apparently rubbed with salt over the cut surface before baking (I'm not convinced I could taste the salt, but perhaps it helps to bring out the flavour), and the lemon curd and chocolate sauces were solid, well turned out, and went nicely with the delicately spiced meringue shells.

On the whole - worth a visit, but don't travel very far. You can have fun playing spot the wood patch with the tables and chairs and you might want to skip the main courses!
Despite the apparently reasonable prices we still ended up spending a hundred quid, but that may have been more to do with the drinks than the food.


Sadly now closed.
RIP Vintners Rooms, The Vaults, 87 Giles St, Leith
Wow! What a whisky collection.!
And what a wine collection!
Who cares what the food tastes like.

In fact the food tastes pretty damn good - the menu is short, but most everything we had was extremely competently produced and well turned out.
It's a while now since we took the place over for our Erin crew get-together, so I'm a little hazy on some of the foody detail (though that might be down to those excellent whiskies), but my chargrilled scallops starter was just fine, though I recall thinking that I'd had more luscious scallops. However I do remember being impressed by my main course of Duck Breasts with roast plums.
I made the wrong choice of dessert though - against my better instincts I skipped the Tarragon Ice Cream because I didn't fancy the accompanying Tarte Tartin and went with the Raspberry Millefeuille with Crème Chantilly. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but it was just a bit meh. And I spent the whole time eating it being jealous of people wolfing down tarragon ice cream.

Everything was nicely oiled along by our Château Croix de Rambeau, Saint-Emilion and topped of with a lovely roughty Grappa from their extensive Grappa collection.
They might not always be able to find the whisky you want, and you might have to shuffle out of their way while they grapple the bottles down over your head with a grabby-sticky thing, but WOW what a whisky selection!

Oh, and the guy who seemed to run the entire show, playing Maitre D', Head Waiter, Sommelier, Coat Attendant (and, for all I know, Chef and Bottle-Washer to boot) did a terrific job of keeping us all fed, watered and entertained.
Highly recommended.

Wing Sing Inn, 147-149 Dundee Street, Edinburgh
This is what you imagine a Chinese restaurant would be like in China.
The restaurant is full of Chinese customers, the menu is full of questionable items that no self-respecting westerner would allow into their kitchens never mind their mouths and questionable spelling - including hilarities such as flogs legs and a dish called also, with. But is probably as authentic as hell. It's certainly as tasty as hell. Oh, and it's pretty cheap too!

You can eat your fill of various intestines and tripes, the turkey gizzards are apparently rather tasty, though they were off last time I was there, but watch out for the hotter dishes (like the pork in chilli oil soup). They tend to be really hot. In fact I couldn't actually see the pork for the dried red chillies.
Make sure to get a good mix of dry and wet dishes - the dry ones tend to be very dry.
Otherwise, just dive right in to the menu and have fun.

The Tail End Fish Bar, 15 Albert Place, Leith Walk, Edinburgh
Doctor Jenny, Alex and I came here to celebrate Jenny's birthday.
The venue was her choice, well, the style of venue was her choice - I picked the Tail End, because it is reputed to be one of the best chippies in the city and has the pedigree of being owned by Colin Cromar who used to run the award-winning Anstruther Fish Bar - which we have both visited on many a sail to Pittenweem.

The range of fishy choice is a little limited I thought, but tradition is well provided for and we pretty much all went for battered fish, chips, mushy peas and tartar sauce.
Out of a sense of adventure I ordered the cod instead of the default haddock, and was rewarded with a fillet about half the size of everyone else's, but a more delicate flavour I like to think.
Everything was absolutely top-fish-shop-notch. The light, crispy batter excellent, the fish terrific, the tartar sauce very good and the chips fine.

The starters were a little less satisfactory - I thought the whitebait were a bit large and a bit oily (though who would be to blame for that?), and though the grilled scallops were perfectly well cooked they weren't particularly special.
The surroundings are pretty basic and the tables slightly cramped - but hey, it's a chip shop. The waitresses were pleasant and helpful, and didn't mind a bit that I brought Jenny's birthday cake along with us and asked them to bring it out to us for dessert. Maybe it helped that they all got a piece.

I'd eat there again, wish it was close enough to be my local chippy!

EE-USK North Pier, Oban, Argyll
Nice modern restaurant with a great view across to Karrera. Their seafood is of terrific quality, and well prepared too. They had a good range of beers and whiskys (though sadly limited in vodkas), and the service and presentation were just fine for a pretty reasonable price. I had a round of Lismore oysters (fabulous) and scallops with a delicious mornay sauce, a very well done salmon risotto a robust, but somewhat out-of-place sweet potato mash and some slightly leathery green beans tied up with chive.

Definitely to be recommended, though they really couldn't compete with John Ogden's Seafood Temple (or Og's Bog as I believe it was affectionately known due to it being housed in an old public lavatory) for quantity or sheer self-indulgent richness.
Shame John sold the place really. The bastard.
I'm hoping to get my own back by persuading his daughter to steal me his awesome recipe for Chowder though. (Rosy? How's that secret plan coming?)

Champany Inn Linlithgow, West Lothian
Finally got to check out this one-Michelin-starred restaurant with Jenny after yacht racing one Wednesday night. Though it was actually their slightly downmarket associated pub The Chop and Ale House in which we ate - their website claims that the quality of the fresh food and the enthusiasm of the staff [is] in every respect the same. Well, I certainly hope that isn't true about their chips - because they were rubbish. Which is a bit disappointing for a restaurant which largely trades on its reputation for steak and chips. How on earth can you fail to cook a plate of chips?
So, I hear you asking, how was the steak?
Well I'm glad you asked, because the steak was a quite bizarre combination of superb letdown:
First it was probably some of the best-cooked steak I have ever had, perfectly grilled, to just the right degree with a gorgeous blackened crust and perfect burgundy centre.
Secondly the texture was very good, soft and tender, approaching melt-in-your-mouth.
But thirdly, the meat had all the flavour of carpet underlay.
I simply don't understand it. It was like eating perfectly grilled packing material. Where did it all go wrong? Was the cow not fed properly? Was it not happy enough in it's self? Was its field not manured sufficiently? Was its meat not hung well enough for long enough?
Well who knows, I certainly don't - but the restaurant didn't do itself any favours I'm afraid.

As for the rest of the meal - it was all a bit fine really. The starter was fine, the salad was fine, the service was fine, the dessert was fine. Actually I remember that my dessert was good, but since I can no longer remember what it was it can't have been all that good.
Although cheaper than the restaurant, the pub is by no means a bargain, and I definitely wouldn't say we got our money's worth.
Maybe the restaurant itself is worth a visit just to be sure, but they're getting no stars from me for that meal.

Incidentally - we did wonder why they called the place The Chop and Ale House given that they serve neither chops nor ale.

Always on the lookout for a rival to the Kalpna to take my Mum to on her visits, this place was recommended by Dave at work, and since he's a vegetarian too he must know what he's talking about.
Turns out he did - the food was really excellent, and beautifully spiced if very mild; probably some the best haute Indian cuisine I've ever had.

According to our waitress Mithas is the sister establishment to what claims to be Edinburgh's first Indian restaurant - Khushi's opened in 1947 and now moved to Antigua Street, at the top of Leith Walk. And also possibly related to Khushi's Diner on West Nicolson Street. Though it's quite hard to be sure - there seem to be plenty of Khushi restaurants in Edinburgh almost all of them claiming to be either the oldest, the famous or the original one.

Actually I understood the waitress to be saying that Khusi's was her sister's restaurant, but I think that was just her poor English talking.

Mum had already decided her starter from the online menu and went with the intriguing Spinach and Fig Tikka which were more like little patties. It turns out that the two do go quite well together, though they flavours were perhaps a little submerged in the collection of vegetables and mild spices.
I had Grilled Scallops with Coconut Milk Sauce which arrived in their shells with a colourful, delicate, if thin sauce. The scallops were perfectly cooked (which would be astonishing in any run-of-the-mill Indian restaurant), and the sauce excellent.
Whilst waiting we sipped away at our Mango Lassis - which were just fantastic. I have no idea what they put in them, but they were definitely the best I've tasted. I wondered if perhaps they had used palm sugar, or jiggery or something to give them such a deep sweetness, but our waitress assured us that it was just plain white sugar.
But then she thought her sister owned Khushi's so what did she know?

We were also served small cups of a slightly Spicy Tomato Soup to keep us occupied, which reminded me a little of Mulligatawny. It was full, rich and gently warming. A most excellent soup.

My main course of generous hunks of Monkfish Tikka was well-spiced, and more than filling, but perhaps a little dry. It came with no sauce. Fortunately we had also ordered side dishes of Brinjal Masala and Mushrooms and Chestnuts which offered plenty of moisture though in fact the leftover coconut sauce from my scallops was perhaps a better match.
At least, we believed we had ordered Mushrooms and Chestnuts, which we thought sounded pretty interesting, and particularly as Mum brought me up a bag of Kentish cobnuts from her recent visit to my sister in, wait for it, Kent. I'd found a Raw ceps with cobnuts salad to try them out, and this dish seemed coincidentally very similar. Anyway, it turned out to actually be Mushrooms and Water Chestnuts - a rather different dish. But it still worked. In fact it probably worked better - the water chestnuts weren't so crunchy as to overwhelm the mushrooms and they complement each other pretty well.
We thought the brinjal (aubergine) wasn't quite up to the Kalpna's standards, but since they don't make theirs any more this is the only brinjal game in town.

I was dubious about Mum's choice of Red Mullet Masala since my experiences of Indian fish tends to include eyes, tails and a full skeleton. But I needn't have worried, they had successfully filleted out almost all the bones and there was no head in sight. The sauce was rich, thick and vibrant, and I quite liked their little joke of tucking a few chips underneath the fish too.


Unfortunately, due to their odd refusal to provide us with the leftovers in doggy bags - rather snidely announcing that they were not a takeaway we were forced to eat all our over-enthusiastic orders and had no room for dessert.

Which is a pity, because according to Dave their desserts are the best part.
Sigh
Maybe next time.

Mind you, given that we spent £76 on what we had (and yes, that's without drink - they are BYOB), maybe it was a good thing we couldn't eat any more!


And, of course, all the wonderful places yet to visit...
The Tower Restaurant
Edinburgh
The Witchery
Edinburgh
1 Michelin star
Abstract
Edinburgh
As recommended by Becky and Greg but now closed. Rumour has it that it is to be taken over by Tom Kitchin and renamed Castle Terrace so we'll have to keep an eye on it. Not that I was exactly impressed by Kitchin's first restaurant!
The Horseshoe Inn
Eddleston, near Peebles
Described by my colleague Simon in ways that made me want to eat there, though that was not, I think, his intention.
21212
A new Michelin-starred venue. The food was described by my colleague Aly as 'weird'.
Been there!

And Especially:
The Fat Duck
Bray
3 Michelin stars

Plus some suggestions from my friend Lesley
Who, being one of those highly valued banker-types
gets to spend large amounts of time entertaining other bankers
in fine restaurants at their customers expense
not that I'm bitter or anything...
Wedgewood
Canongate, Edinburgh
Lesley recommends the cous cous encrusted lamb
"Not posh at all & do a good value weekend lunch menu."
Vintners Rooms
Leith, Edinburgh
"good for meat"
Ducks At Aberlady
Moved from Le Marche Noir in Edinburgh
Cafe Marlayne
Thistle Street and Old Fishmarket Close, Edinburgh
"really good, honest food. Not posh."
Atrium
Lothian Road, Edinburgh
I'd forgotten that I'd eaten here - on my first date with Rachel How Could I?
It's pretty nice, I remember that they had some lovely little seeding herbs on their amuse bouche. Sadly, now closed, though the owners have since opened the Timberyard
ITRI
rustic Italian Also now closed - must move faster, must move faster!
Iris
Thistle Street
"Inexpensive, good food but on reflection, think Wedgewood better on balance."
Ondine