In the end we ended up at Amarone

Edinburgh Castle

I have been to Edinburgh many times for work and have eaten out there when staying overnight. I had an excellent French meal back in November 2019. However though I have been there for work I have never been there for a personal visit. So when planning a short holiday for the summer we decide we would visit Edinburgh in August for a short city break.

On our first night we decided that we would go to Bella Italia, but they were full, so we then decided we would visit Wagamama which was just around the corner from the hotel. You can’t book a table for Wagamama, you just have to turn up and hope for the best. Alas there was a long queue for Wagamama so we needed so go somewhere else, and of course we hadn’t booked anywhere else either.

I was looking at booking a place on my phone when we checked across the road from Wagamama and there was an Italian restaurant called Amarone which was open and had free tables.

Amarone

So in we went and were shown to a comfortable booth. The decor was nice if a little over the top really, however as the place had once been a bank you realised that explained the high ceilings. It reminded my of Harrods with the lights and pillars and use of brass.

There was quite a good menu, however it was a limited menu due to Covid restrictions in the kitchen.

I chose a pasta dish, the rest of the table, one had a vegan pizza, the other two had gluten free pizza.

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare, this was mixed seasonal fish and shellfish with olive oil, garlic & parsley. I was given a choice of rich tomato or bianco sauce, I had the bianco sauce.

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare

This wasn’t a huge dish of food, but there was a generous serving of fish and shellfish. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce was delicious. I really enjoyed this plate of food.

The vegan pizza was interesting and tasty. The Ortolana Vegana was a hand-stretched & stone-baked sourdough pizza base, vegan mozzarella, marinated and grilled courgettes, aubergine, mixed peppers, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.

Ortolana Vegana

I had a slice and it was interesting and tasty, not so sure about the vegan mozzarella.

The gluten free pizza were simplistic but tasty.

gluten free pizza

The service was warm, friendly and efficient. We had a lovely welcome and given time to both order and eat despite the busyness of the place. Certainly somewhere I would go again if I was back in Edinburgh.

Mushroom and Tomato Omelette

For my breakfast this morning I made a mushroom and tomato omelette with cheese and basil.

I took three eggs which were then beaten together. I seasoned the eggs with salt and pepper.

Using my omelette pan (which I also use for pancakes) I put soem butter and cooked some mushrooms. When they were nearly cooked I poured in the egg mixture to which I added some chopped fresh tomato and torn basil leaves.

When the egg had nearly set I grated some parmesan cheese on top. When the egg was virtually cooked I folded the omelette over and slid it onto a plate.

Time for a tasty pizza (again)

When it comes to chains, I really do like eating at Zizzi. Unlike some other chains, I don’t think I have ever had a need to complain. The branch at Cabot Circus is very nice and I have been there quite a few times. Despite the openness of the restaurant it doesn’t feel crammed with tables like a canteen, even when it gets busy.

We had a warm welcome and we could choose where we wanted to sit, which was nice. 

There is quite a varied menu, but in the end I went with the Classic Pinoli Pizza. This has goat’s cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.

Classic Pinoli Pizza. This has goat's cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.

Checking the blog I realised that I had been to this branch of Zizzi in Bristol back in March and had ordered the same pizza then as I had this time.

Back then it was tasty and this time it was equally tasty. Last time I had it on a rustica thin and crispy base, this time I went with the doughy classic base.

The service was quick and efficient, but we weren’t rushed at all.

It was a nice pizza

I do like the rustica pizzas you can get at Zizzi, the thin and crispy base is a tasty alternative to the solid doughy bases you can sometimes have at other (especially American style) chains.

This time I went for the Pinoli Pizza, which can be had with the rustica base. This has goat’s cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.

Pinoli Pizza Goat's cheese, mozzarella, caramelised balsamic onions, sunblush tomatoes, pine nuts, riserva cheese & basil.

The pizza was cooked well, the base was thin and crispy with a hint of soft dough at the edges. The topping, though in my opinion, a little sparse, was tasty and delicious.

The service was warm, welcoming and friendly.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

This year I have written 36 blog posts.

Tenth post was over ten years old, Chorizo Frito al Vino which was my thoughts on cooking Chorizo sausage in wine.

Chorizo

Ninth place was also about Chorizo, this was about Sainsbury’s Cooking Chorizo. Having used cooking chorizo from Tesco, Marks and Spencers and Sainsbury, I much prefer using the chorizo from Tesco or Marks and Spencers.

The eighth most popular post on the blog was about the Pret A Manger Italian Chicken Salad I had in 2013. I have had it quite few times since.

The number seven post was Beef and Mushroom Stew with Dumplings. The post had a lot of thoughts about mushrooms.

The sixth most popular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers Pork Medallions.

My fifth post was about retro chocolate. How many of these can you remember? Which were your favourites?

Retro Chocolate

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the fourth most read post on the blog.

Climbing two places, the third most popular post was Basil & pine nut margherite, a simple pasta recipe.

Second most popular blog, having been top for two years was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

In at number one Chilli Squid from Wagamama, maintaining it’s top position as the most popular post on the blog.. This post was one of the many on the blog about squid, however it is now quite old being from 2011.

So popularity appears to be dependent on older posts being found via Google searches.

Time for a Coffee: Top Ten Blog Posts 2017

This year I have written 41 blog posts. In 2016 I wrote 28 posts.

In the Birdcage

The tenth most popular post on the blog was about the Pret A Manger Italian Chicken Salad I had in 2013. I have had it quite few times since.

Ninth place, was a reminder from 2013, that if I ever go to Frankie and Benny’s again, don’t order the pasta! I have never had pasta again at F&Bs.

The post as number eight was about Sainsbury’s Cooking Chorizo, Having used cooking chorizo from Tesco, Marks and Spencers and Sainsbury, I much prefer using the chorizo from Tesco or Marks and Spencers.

The number seven post was from ten years ago, Pasta in Tomato Sauce. A recipe for a very quick and easy dish with a lovely piquant tomato sauce.

Pasta in Tomato Sauce

Sixth post was about the Wagamama Pork Ribs I had in 2011.

Post number five for last twelve months was Basil & pine nut margherite, a simple pasta recip.

Reminiscing about Newquay Steam Beer was the fourth most read post on the blog.

The third most popular post was not about just any pork medallions, but Marks and Spencers’ Pork Medallions.

Second most popular blog, having been top for two years was Sirloin for Beef Wellington? This was a response to the high ranking of another post about using sirloin steak in a Beef Wellington rather than fillet steak due to the way people were (at the time) searching Google.

In at number one is Chilli Squid from Wagamama, climbing one place. This popular post was one of the many on the blog about squid, however it is now quite old being from 2011 and the visit was the same one that I had the ribs.

So popularity appears to be dependent on older posts being found via Google searches. Hopefully 2018 will see more posts and more people seeing those posts.

Rusty Pizza

There are times when I want to eat pizza and then there are times I do not. Then there are times when I have no idea what I want to eat, I am hungry, but the choice on the menu is giving me a challenge on what to choose. It was the latter challenge when on a recent Saturday we decided to have lunch during a shopping trip to Bristol. We chose Zizzi in Cabot Circus in the main as we had some vouchers to use there, so at least that was a choice I didn’t have to make!

Though this is a modern shopping mall, and despite that, I do like the decor of Zizzi and the environment. The use of old cupboard doors on the walls for example add a really rustic, yet modern feel to the space. It was quite early for lunch when we arrived, but even so they had no four cover tables left, so we had two twos stuck together in a quieter part of the restaurant. Well I say quieter, there was a large table reserved for a party, which thankfully didn’t arrive until after we had finished and left.

The welcome was warm and we spent a little time looking over the menu. There were lots of things on the menu which took my fancy, but in the end I went with the Autumn Special: Smoky Chorizo & Wild Boar Rustica Pizza.

Smoky Chorizo & Wild Boar Rustica Pizza.

This stretched thin crust pizza was described as coming with smoked mozzarella, Trealy farm smoked chorizo salami, wild boar meatballs, sunblush tomatoes, grated riserva cheese, purple basil & chilli threads.

Alas I didn’t get the purple basil, just the regular green kind. I also didn’t read the menu so wasn’t sure what the threads were until I checked the website later, they were certainly not spicy.

I do like the rustica style of pizza from Zizzi. The crust was nice and the toppings were really tasty.

Thai style stir fry

Thai style stir fry

I do like Thai food, one of my favourite places to eat in Oxford was Sai’s Thai in the covered market. As I have never actually been to Thailand I couldn’t say whether what they cooked was authentic, or typical of the cuisine. What I can say, is I really liked their food and what they served. I have tried quite a few times to recreate the experience at home, sometimes with an element of success and sometimes it was just okay.

For this recipe I took some chicken thighs and cut them into strips, I prefer using chicken thighs over chicken breast, as the flavour is much better and it cooks better in a stir fry, staying moist and tender, whilst breast can dry out.

The chicken is mixed with soy sauce and I used some rice flour (one of the family is on a wheat-free diet). I mixed the chicken until it was all evenly coated.

This was then cooked in a some sunflower oil in my trusty wok. The chicken is stir fried until just cooked and removed from the wok. What happens next depends very much what is in the house and in the fridge.


First goes some garlic and usually a combination of onions, pak choi, green beans (or mange tout), sliced mushrooms, baby sweetcorn, broccolli, basil and spinach. I had fish sauce and more soy sauce. You can add some chopped red chilli for heat if you want. I do like to get Thai Basil if I can, but I have found normal Basil an okay replacement. This is all stir fried, and when this is nearly cooked, the spinach has wilted, I add back the chicken and some cashew nuts. A little more stir frying before serving on a dish (and sometimes topping with more cashew nuts).

I find this quite a simple, yet very tasty dish, serve with plain steamed rice or noodles.

You need more staff…

I like great service, actually I almost expect great service. Generally most people do not go out to a restaurant to eat, they go for the whole experience. The welcome, the opening drink, the perusal of the menu, the choosing, the ordering, the anticipation, the actual eating, the reflection and leaving the table, knowing you don’t need to do the washing up. It’s the atmosphere, the furniture, the music, or no music, the ambience. A good restaurant will try and ensure that the whole experience is just right, and good customer service, is critical for a positive dining experience.

Down in London for a short break, we went to Pizza Express in Kingston, in the Rotunda. Though they said the air-conditioning was broken, it wasn’t that hot, so it didn’t appear that was going to be an issue.

Looking over the menu I decided upon the Toscana Romana Pizza, which is described as having a bigger, thinner, crispier pizza, topped with crumbled chilli & fennel sausage, mozzarella and tomato finished with baby mozzarella, Gran Moravia cheese, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil.

Toscana Pizza

Though on my pizza I got slices of sausage rather than crumbled sausage and I think the pizza works better for it. The Toscana Pizza was delicious and I really enjoyed it.

My wife went with the Leggera Superfood Salad, this is made with baby spinach and seasonal mixed leaves, roasted butternut squash, beetroot, light baby mozzarella, avocado, pine kernels, cucumber, lentils and fresh basil, finished with balsamic syrup.

Superfoods Salad

She really enjoyed it, she though was disappointed that it had no seafood in it! Always read the menu carefully.

Unfortunately, a lack of staff meant for me that the dining experience, specifically the service, was not as good as the pizza. We had to wait long amounts of time between getting the menu, placing our food order, ordering additional drinks and getting the bill. One of the results of the lengthy service delays was in the end we decided not to have pudding.

I don’t mind slow service sometimes, it’s nice to take your time and not be rushed, however, I do find there is a difference between slow and indifferent, which appeared to be the issue here. Too often we were ignored even though we had indicated or even said we wanted some attention. I got the feeling that this was down to a lack of staff, who were probably too rushed and forgot about the key elements of good customer service.

The food was great, just a pity about the service.

Sasi’s Thai

Within the Oxford Covered Market are many places to grab lunch, either to eat there, or to take back to the office.

One place I like for lunch is Sasi’s Thai in the Oxford covered market. They serve a variety of Thai dishes, as well as salads, cakes and coffee.

They have a counter, the food is cooked in an upstairs kitchen, and a range of tables, chairs and soft chairs. It can get busy, so you can’t always get a seat. It’s quite a nice and busy environment, with a pleasant ambience. If it is too busy you can always do take away.

My usual choice is either a single selection from their range of dishes or two served with rice.

This time I chose the chicken with cashew nuts and the crispy pork with basil.

Thai #photo365

The chicken dish was fresh and tasty with good flavours and I always enjoy the crunch of the cashew nuts. The crispy pork consists of deep fried pork belly combined with Thai basil, peppers, onions and chilli. Tasty combination of flavours and textures long with a nice bit with the chilli.

If I was to make one criticism I do think that sometimes their portions are a little on the small side, but that is just a minor point. The day I took the photograph above, the dish was a good size.

Their range of dishes include green and red curries, egg and cinnamon soup, pad thai I have also had some quite nice fish dishes too.

I’ve not yet tried the salad or even the coffee, but the food is great and well worth checking out.