French Excellence in Edinburgh

Last November I was off to Scotland, staying overnight in Edinburgh, for some meetings and events. I took an afternoon flight from Bristol. I took the tram to the heart of Edinburgh and then walked over to the hotel the Radisson Blu. The room was nice and modern. After dropping off my stuff I went for a walk around Edinburgh.

I realised as I walked around Edinburgh having checked into my hotel, that I have been to Edinburgh many times over the last twenty years for work, but have never actually visited the place in a personal non-work capacity. I go to London a lot for work, but also go there with family to visit and explore. So I am thinking about possibly visiting Edinburgh in the future to explore and have a proper look around.

It was getting dark even though it was only 4pm, well it was November. I walked around the old town before heading up to the castle.

It was way too late to visit the castle proper so I just took in the evening views across Edinburgh.

There was a couple of shops I wanted to have a look at before I went back to the hotel so walked further into the heart of Edinburgh with the intention of walking around Princes Street and back to the hotel. On my way I passed what looked like a really nice French place, Petit Paris on Grassmarket. The menu looking really interesting and inspiring. They had a pre-theatre deal that looked good value. It was not as though I was going to go to the theatre, but  could take advantage of the deal.

As it was afternoon, I continued to explore Edinburgh, however as I walked around the weather got worse, so I stopped at a Caffe Nero for coffee and catch up with work stuff. I went back to the hotel more directly to get changed and then I headed out to get something to eat.

I went out to Petit Paris for dinner. The place was quite busy and I was given a nice welcome, before being taken down into the basement where there was a free table.

I looked over the menu and there was so many tempting dishes on there. I had to make a choice though, so for my starter I went with the garlic mussels.

This dish reminded me of snails in garlic butter, but this dish was done with mussels. It had just come out of the oven was really hot, so I was careful not to scald my mouth when eating it. Very strong garlic flavours, slightly overpowering the mussels, but still a nice start to the meal.

There was a lot of choice for the main course, in the end I went with something that I probably wouldn’t have ordered, but did so as I wanted to try a new kind of dish. I went with fish in a cream sauce with mashed potatoes.

It was delicious and very nice. The potato was smooth and creamy, the sauce was tasty and not too rich and the fish was cooked really well.

I didn’t want a sweet end to the meal and I like cheese so I went with some cheese.

There was a nice choice of cheeses.

Overall this was one of the best meals out I have had for a long time, the food was delicious.

If I get a chance to get to Edinburgh again I think I will try and visit Petit Paris again for a meal.

Christmas time at the Mud Dock Cafe

December is often the time for office Christmas meals. With the number of staff in our office, the main Christmas meal we have is often dictated by the availability of the venue and to be perfectly honest I have not been too impressed with the food at the last few I have been to. The fact you also need to order your choices weeks in advance is also a little annoying. What I fancy eating in November, may not be what I actually want on the day. Then again do you really go to an office Christmas meal for the food?

Having missed the main office Christmas dinner (intentionally) last December, I was looking forward to our team Christmas meal which was taking place the week after. There was only going to be a few of us so it wasn’t going to be that massive crazy kind of event. The plan was to have a meal at the Mud Dock Cafe in Bristol.

We had a meeting before heading off to the venue. What I did like about this meal was that we could choose from the menu. As I looked over the menu we were impressed with the salad that a neighbouring table was eating. However we couldn’t work out what it was and didn’t appear to be on the menu. I then cheekily asked the neighbouring table what they had ordered, they were very happy about the query and told us it was the Caesar Salad from the specials board up on the wall!

One of my colleagues was impressed enough that he ordered the salad for his meal.

It looked really impressvive and delicious. Though I was tempted by the salad, in the end I went with the Festive menu. For my starter I had the ballotine confit of turkey leg, cranberry compote and dressed leaves.

This was rather tasty, though as with these kinds of dishes, I could have done with more bread.

I wasn’t sure what kind of main course I wanted, but when I read truffled mushroom I went with the homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream.

This, though rather hot (as in temperature) was a rich comforting plate of food. It was tasty and I really enjoyed it.

I was persuaded to have a desert, so I went with the selection of West Country cheeses.

A rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

Overall it was one of the better Christmas meals I have had. It was nice to have a choice and choose on the day, rather than days or weeks in advance.

This year I don’t think we will be having any kind of festive office meal but if and when we can do that kind of thing, I hope to return to the Mud Dock Cafe.

Truffled Cauliflower Cheese

I quite like cauliflower cheese and I have been enjoying eating this dish from Marks and Spencer’s with some recent Sunday lunches.

It’s described as cauliflower in a cheddar cheese and truffle sauce, topped with a  cheese, mushroom and chive ciabatta crumb.

There is plenty of caulifower and just the right amount of sauce. I liked the addition of the truffle and though I did think it needed more topping this was a personal preference, and I did enjoy the topping which browned nicely in the oven..

Back in January…

So there I was going though some photographs from January when I saw some delicious looking dishes from Wahaca. I realised that I had this great meal and hadn’t written (well I had started but not finished) a blog post about it.

Well, so back in January I was in London for a morning meeting, so I had been up early and was feeling hungry so was looking somewhere for lunch. I know how much I had enjoyed the food at Wahaca I decided it was pretty much a no brainer to go there for lunch, especially as I had a special offer in my email inbox.

The nearest branch to me was the Covent Garden one. Each Wahaca branch has its own style and feel. The Covent Garde branch is downstairs in the basement, but does feel quite bright and open.

There was a lovely warm welcome from the staff and I sat at the table and viewed the menu.

I had a special offer which meant I could get a dish for a pound.

Pack your January with veg and treat yourself with our ultimate range of vegetarian street food dishes. From buttermilk cauliflower bites to our mushroom and grilled cheese tacos there’s plenty of delicious veggie dishes to add to your meal. Just show this email to your waiter to get your dish for £1 

For me that was an easy choice and I went with the crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

crispy cauliflower bites, crispy buttermilk-battered florets, with roast serrano allioli.

These were delicious crunchy florets with a soft melt in the mouth centre, accompanied with a tasty allioli. I really like these and enjoyed these.

I had another dish, the prawn cocktail tostada. 

prawn cocktail tostada

This was sustainably sourced prawns with red chilli mayo, crisp lettuce & avocado on crispy tostada. This was the Wahaca version of the prawn cocktail. It was not as good as I hoped, the prawns lacked flavour, as did the avocado, but it was still fresh and tasty.

My third dish was grilled mushroom & cheese tacos.

grilled mushroom & cheese tacos

These were sweet ancho rubbed mushrooms with crispy grilled cheese. The mushrooms were delicious and I really enjoyed that strong flavour of funghi and spicy ancho. I do find that Wahaca often add crispy grilled cheese to dishes, which I don’t always see that it adds anything to that dish.

I was feeling hungry, so I went with another dish and went with the steak and cheese tacos.

steak & cheese tacos

This was chargrilled steak served with grilled cheese, chipotle salsa & avocado. Again more grilled cheese. This use to be an optional extra, but now was part of the dish. I’ve had this dish a fair few times, and this was not the best version I’ve had of this dish, but it was still quite tasty.

Overall I enjoyed my four dishes, the mushrooms and cauliflower were certainly the ones I enjoyed the most.

Waffling

This is one of our quick favourite meals, savoury grilled waffles.

I had an electric waffle iron for years (over twenty) and then it eventually stopped working, so we bought a double sized waffle iron, so we could make two at once.

My waffle mix is as follows, take a cup of self-raising gluten free flour, a cup of milk and one egg, Whisk the ingredients together until you have a smooth batter.

If you are making sweet waffles add some sugar and some vanilla essence.

I cook the waffles in the iron and then set them aside.

You can then choose which toppings you want. Some in the family like the classic ham and cheese, whilst others (like me) go for spinach,  mushrooms with onions and pepper, with cheese on top.

The waffles, complete with toppings are then finished off in a hot oven for about ten minutes.

Cheesy

grilled cheese toastie

Near to my office are various eating places, I often drink coffee at the Exchange and have heard good thing about many of the places on Old Market, but apart from buying bread from the Assembly Bakery I’ve not actually eaten at many of the establishments.

So it was with some hopeful anticipation that I went for lunch at 25A Old Market. From what I was told they usually offer a range of (posh) sausage rolls and cheese toasties. On the day we went only the toasties were on the menu.

The welcome was warm and friendly and after placing our orders we went downstairs into the basement and our food was brought down to us.

There was a choice of two toasties a five cheese one and a meat one. I went with the meat one.

It arrived hot and toasty with a really nice side salad. They use the sourdough from the Assembly Bakery and it was really tasty, good strong flavoured cheese and great bread. I think I would have been perfectly happy with the cheese variant, not sure how much extra the salami added to the toastie.

I am not usually a toasty or panini fan, but this was a really nice toasty.

Another visit….

the view from Waterloo Bridge

Back in London for a meeting and needing a bit for lunch, I did consider where I should go for lunch, and if I should go somewhere new, but did like the idea of Wahaca again. It wasn’t that long since I had been, but I had really enjoyed that meal. So off I went, over Waterloo Bridge to the South Bank to partake in some Mexican street food. So once more I went to the Street Food section of the menu to make some choices.

I hadn’t had quesadillas before so chose one from the menu. These are large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella, chorizo and potato. This is British chorizo, made to a special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

Quesadillas Large toasted tortilla oozing with melting mozzarella and classic Mexican ingredients.  British chorizo, made to our own special recipe, with diced sauteéd potatoes and fresh thyme.

The large tortilla is folded and then cut into two. I did initially think that I had been given the wrong dish, as I didn’t think there was much potato or chorizo in the dish. There was more in the second though. I did enjoy the quesadilla it was nice and spicy.

My other dish was the smoky tomato fideus. These were east coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese and topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat.

Smoky tomato fideus East coast Mexican angel hair noodles in a chipotle tomato sauce, with sliced fresh avocado, capers & crumbled Lancashire cheese, topped with a touch of hand picked white Devon crab meat. #wahaca

This was a much larger dish than I thought it was going to be. When Wahaca recommend 2-3 dishes, I usually go with three, but if this is one of them, then I think you can get away with just two, even if you are hungry.

This is very much thin noodles in a tasty spicy tomato sauce. I liked the avocado and cheese. There was a nice topping of crab, which to my surprise was chilled and hadn’t had a chance to warm up. I did like this dish and it was full of flavour, and something I wouldn’t expect in an Mexican eatery.

For my third dish, I did order a dish I had before, and went once more with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa. They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole.

Tacos flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa with crisp grilled cheese

These were very generous filled with steak, more than I have had when I had these tacos before. These were delicious, I really enjoyed the chargrilled steak and the different textures and flavours.

The service was excellent, friendly, efficient and lots of smiles.

So what’s close by?

I have really enjoyed my previous visits to Wahaca, visiting central London and looking for somewhere to eat, I did wonder if there was a Wahaca close by, a quick search and 0.2 miles away on Charlotte Street.

This is a very different establishment to the one on the South Bank, more traditional in appearance from the outside. Inside it felt more like the one on the South Bank, the furniture was very similar. The staff were friendly and welcoming. Inside there were the similar tables and chairs, but as the place isn’t made from shipping containers, the walls were brick and the ceilings high.

Looking over the menu, I decided to go with one of the specials as they were different from those at my last visit. There was a choice of two, so I went with the lamb taquito, this was slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla.

slow-braised lamb shoulder marinated in ancho chilli and orange rolled in a crispy fried tortilla

Unlike my previous experience with taquitos, these were very tasty, strong flavours. The fried tortilla was nice and crip and I enjoyed the accompanying slaw.

I also went with the Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

Tostadas, two crispy corn tortillas topped with fresh, light layers of Mexican flavour, served chilled.

These were smoky chargrilled chicken, avocado, guacamole, chipotle mayo and fresh slaw. This was delicious and refreshing. A wonderful combination of tastes and textures.

I did also order a dish I had before, and went with the tacos, three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa.

three toasted soft corn tortillas with flash grilled skirt steak with chipotle salsa

They also came with raw diced onion and some guacamole. As before they were delicious. I was asked if I wanted grilled cheese with them, I said no, but they arrived with the grilled cheese. I felt this added very little to the dish and wasn’t really needed, pleased that I wasn’t charged for this extra.

Another enjoyable visit to Wahaca and some great food.

Grilled Halloumi

halloumi

One staple of many of the salads I have been making over the recent weeks has been grilled halloumi. I don’t recall the first time I had this Greek cheese, but I have over the years found it a tasty addition to salads. Halloumi is a Cypriot semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk.

I usually slice mine into 5mm slices and then fry (so not grilling) in a hot frying pan with a little olive oil. They only take a few minutes to cook on each side. The end result is a crispy outer and a soft salty inside, that complements the greenness and freshness of a salad.

Some people like to add a little rock salt to their halloumi, but I find it salty enough.

One thing I have not tried yet is cooking it on the barbeque.

Grilled Halloumi

Grilled Halloumi Salad #photo365 #fb

This is a quick and easy addition to any salad or as a starter.

Halloumi s a Cypriot semi-hard, unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk. I slice the cheese into 5mm slices and these are then placed under a hot grill, cooked on both sides until browned.

For speed though I have been taking a large frying pan, using some a little olive oil and then frying the slices until browned on each side. You need to take care, as it can be easy to overcook the slices.