Monday, 17 March 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: Steak

Chargrilled on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside – that's how I like my steak (food), and that's exactly how Steak (the restaurant) serve it. Steak by name and steak by nature, this eponymous eaterie have recently launched a new lunch-time menu which is well worth getting your teeth into: two courses for £9.95 with a main option of rump steak, bĂ©arnaise sauce, fries and home-made condiments.

On a rainy Edinburgh Sunday afternoon, I arrived at Steak slightly soggy and in need of warming up. The interior is certainly entrancing, and no matter the conditions outside, it'll always feel like an atmospheric evening, and most likely cocktail-hour, inside. Cavernous, dark with mood lighting: long benches, a large picture of a cow with all the steak cuts explained, contrasting warm wood and metal hangings, I half expected a flash-mob haute-hoe-down. It's certainly an interior that can't be ignored in itself, and is half of the Steak dining experience itself.
For the meal itself, I chose the blue cheese, apple and walnut salad followed by medium-rare rump steak. The salad was a nice portion to precede a steak lunch: not too big, but not too small. The blue cheese was creamy, the walnuts chunky, crunchy and quite sweet. And the steak: it was perfectly cooked. It had been battered quite flat, and yet still miraculously chargrilled to be black-streaked flavour-filled, yet still red and juicy on the inside. The fries were a nice portion, and the home-made condiments were delicious (their ketchup is less sweet than Heinz, and all the better for it.) The lunch menu also has non-steak options like chicken escalope, a vegetarian gnocci dish, and fish and chips.
It was fairly quiet on a Sunday at 1pm, and I do think it's a restaurant that is very well suited to evening dining, with it's low lighting and lack of windows. Yet Steak was also a lovely spot for a lazy long lunch, and £9.95 for two courses, including the rather lush rump steak, can't be sniffed at as a great value lunch and a meal of the best quality. If it's rainy outside, this is a great place to seek warm shelter; and if we are blessed with any spring-time sun, the chargrilled flavour is even better than any Meadows make-shift BBQ!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: the Lioness of Leith

Weekend mornings. Despite having long bid farewall to my hungover student days (ah, memories), mine still generally involve lazy long lies, endless cups of tea and TV in bed. However on hearing more than a few good things about the Lioness of Leith, newly-opened eaterie on Leith's Duke Street, I decided it was time to trade in my PJs and head out for some brunch with partner-in-blog Katey.

Other discerning diners had clearly heard similar things and we were welcomed to a friendly and buzzing restaurant. Between Instagram snaps and reviews I had a pretty good idea that the Lioness of Leith would fall into the quirky rather than traditional pub category, and the space definitely lived up to expectations, decked out with retro pinball machine, deer heads topped with tiaras, a neon marquee sign and an enormous roaring lion mural.

It's a kind of styling that from some sniffy quarters might draw criticisms of "hipster chic" but I thought it was pretty cool - I love the fact that more new openings in Edinburgh are delivering something different, fresh and characterful, and have no objections to places that pay attention to style, so long as the substance is there too.

Happily there is, in spades. The weekend brunch menu is split into two classic but extremely commendable themes - fancy eggs you won't make at home, and a marvellous "build your own" classic British roast, which lets you pick and choose your sides, or indeed your whole dinner, which means vegetarians (and those on a bit of a niche diet, like me) can get in on the action. Katey and I opted for the latter and it hit the spot very nicely indeed - a delicious platter of tender, herby chicken and veggies, with special mention in particular going to the orange and vodka-braised fennel and the gloriously creamy helping of cauliflower cheese. Perfect Sunday lunchtime fodder.

With a number of adorable wee pooches enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon along with their owners, the LOL gets a thumbs up not only for food, but also for their dog-friendly policy, so it's a lovely spot for non-human members of the family too. 

In Edinburgh we're pretty spoiled for good places to eat on a lazy weekend, but I think the Lioness of Leith is certainly worth a repeat visit. Definitely re(arrrr)commended.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Exploring Edinburgh: Blackford Hill

The temptation to escape a windy, wet winter can have you wander-lusting over winter-sun-kisses beaches and long weekends in cultured European cities. But wait! It can become all too easy to overlook all the places Edinburgh provides on your doorstep, that are just made for tourist-days at home.

Katey and I were discussing all the things to do in Edinburgh, one of them being exploring the cityscape and countryside on long, rambling walks. Inspired by Edinburgh Spotlight's list of Places to Walk in Edinburgh, here's my first snap-happy advice on discovering a lush, magical spot right behind The Grange on the Southside: Blackford Hill and the Hermitage Braid.
You can come at the hill from a few different ways: via the Observatory, which will take you up a very steep street followed by a fairly steep straight climb up the side of Blackford Hill. I always think this area would be perfect for sledging when the next bout of serious snow hits!
A panorama from the top of Blackford Hill, near the Observatory. Arthur's Seat in the distance. And a fist in the centre of the photo, due to experimenting with 'running past panorama on the iPhone!'

Or you can enter via the 'middle' of the hill, near to the pond. This is at the bottom of the Grange Hill, and has a nice wee bit to park cars, tie up bikes, and allows you to go either right to the Hermitage Braid, or left to the pond and hill.

Or you can enter via Morningside, which is known as Hermitage Braid. It's all woodland, foot and bike paths, dog walkers and muddy patches next to a river. Wellies are advised, and watch out for muddy dogs jumping up for a friendly hello!
The river flows through the whole of the woods, and there's a path on either side. Try going 'across' the river and taking the high road, quite high up...!
Perfect for passing kids, a tree percussion set. Each log does make a different pitch.

Local 'artwork' or grafitti dotted about all over the place. Poor trees.

A friendly labradoodle surveying his wooden Kingdom.

I call this one "Tr-octopus".

Whichever way you enter, I suggest walking the full length; although my favourite is via the Observatory, getting the steep climb out the way first, taking in the breathtaking, wind swept view of Edinburgh from a different angle to Arhthur's Seat, and then descending into the woods and river, coming out at Hermitage Braid, and back up Morningside and Bruntsfield for a cosy fish supper in Henrick's or a hot chocolate and cake at The Chocolate Tree.

One of my favourite places to ramble in Edinburgh; about a 20 minute walk from the Meadows, and a feeling like you're completely out in the countryside, and not on the edge of a cultural Capital city. You half expect to find Bambi and his pals, or a wee gathering of Flower fairies nestled under a bush somewhere. (Or maybe that's just me.)

All photos taken by Jenny. For a few more of Blackford Hill, have a look here.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Super Easy Baking: Angel Cupcakes, as light as a feather

These little angel cupcakes are somewhere between a cake and a marshmallow - think of the fluffiest, lightest, softest little cakes you can imagine and it's a little bit lighter than that.  These are essentially made by making a meringue and then folding in some flour and sugar to give some body.  The secret of success with these is not to fold the dry ingredients in too vigorously, just gently fold them in a few spoonfuls at a time so there's enough air from the meringue that they'll keep their shape.  That's pretty much it - just a few ingredients and these are ready within half an hour.  The recipe below makes about 6-12 little fluffy clouds, depending on the size of your cupcake liners.  Simply topped with whipped cream and raspberries, these are pretty much perfect.    

Angel Cupcakes

30g sifted plain flour
85g caster sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
a few drops of almond extract

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celcius and line a muffin tin with some cupcake baking liners.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flour and 40g of the sugar.  Whisk to combine the ingredients together and set aside.
3. Find a large mixing bowl for whisking your egg whites and make sure it's completely clean and dry. Add the egg whites and beat at a low speed until they begin to foam.
4. Add the salt and cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium, beating until the whites are opaque and form soft peaks.
5. Gradually beat in half of the sugar (3 tablespoons) until very shiny and hold their shape.

 6. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat just enough to blend.
7. Add the dry ingredients onto meringue gradually, 1 to 2 spoonfuls at a time, folding gently after each addition.
8. Using a spoon, drop the batter into the cupcake liners and distribute the batter as you drop it in. Smooth down the surfaces and bake for 18-20 minutes.

9. Enjoy them plain or top with whipped cream and raspberries or a light glaze made with icing sugar and milk.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Miss Dixiebelle's Salon Relaunch

Miss Dixiebelle's Boutique in Bruntsfiled is the home of vintage hair & beauty in Edinburgh.  They are the best at beehives, do perfect pin-curls and a trip to their salon transforms you into a vintage vixen (check out my before & after visit shots for evidence).  They recently relaunched their salon to include more space for authentic vintage hairdryers and chairs (from Violet Hairdressers in Southside), and now offering cuts, colouring and perms.  There's also a new nail bar set up for CutieCool Nails, who specialise in Shellac vintage nail art.  Have a look at their amazing nail gallery - think Dita von Teese style half moon manicures, love heart tips and rockabilly cherries.  

We were invited to their relaunch party and were welcomed by the Miss Dixiebelle ladies who looked gorgeous as ever and enjoyed some cranberry, vodka and fizz cocktails in teacups and delicious Marshmallow Lady key lime pie marshmallows.  The new salon area is as stylish as you'd expect with retro posters and pink flamingo wallpaper, and there's still plenty of vintage inspired dresses, accessories, corsets and make-up available too.  You can try out the new salon at their new Easter Parade pin-up makeover and photoshoot event on Sunday 16 March - think corsets, bunny ears and cotton tails.  So even more reasons to visit Miss Dixiebelle for a perfect vintage look!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Edinburgh Spa Life: Lush Spa

On a recent trip to Princes Street, I popped into Lush to have a look at their lovely new Valentine's Day products (usually guaranteed to include something pink, fluffy and smelling like cakes).  As it was relatively quiet, the girl at the counter asked if I'd be interested in having a look at their treatment rooms downstairs.  They've been open for since last year and I've been lucky enough to have had their foot treatment, The Spell.  But I'm always interested to see the treatment rooms in a spa and have a good nosy, especially one as beautiful and unique as Lush Spa. 

We're big fans of Lush and I've written before about their vintage chic styled spa but it was great to be talked through other treatments and view some of the rooms there.  The waiting room and kitchen area look like the country house of my dreams and there's a bathroom filled to the brim with Lush products where you can take a shower and freshen up before a treatment.  If only I had that many in my bathroom!

The ambient lighting had been set up in each room with the treatment music playing.  Each treatment at Lush is accompanied by its own unique soundtrack by Simon Emmerson and meant to take you on a journey, be it through an English garden or by sea, depending on what treatment you're having.  These are gentle soothing lullabies designed to enhance your experience and are just lovely.  It's touches like these and little apothecary design details like pots of tea and dropper bottles which make the experience really special.  Sadly photos of the treatments rooms were difficult to take as they are the polar opposite of the clinical bright white rooms you sometimes find, and instead use shadow and colour to help relax you.  Beautiful to view but very difficult to photograph well!

I really hope I get to visit Lush Spa again soon, their treatments sound divine.  My top picks would be The Comforter, an exfoliating massage treatment where you are wrapped up in a warm duvet, which sounds perfect for the chilly weather right now.  The Sound Bath incorporates sound therapy into your massage, using vibrations to help relax you completely.  And finally their signature treatment, the Synaesthesia Massage, which is completely tailored to your needs and feelings, creating sensory elements that are personal to you.  

Have you ever visited the Lush Spa, or would you like to?  These kind of treatments aren't to everyone's tastes so I imagine they'd mostly appeal to those who are already Lush fans but they just sound so imaginative and different I'm sure they would be a unique experience for anyone who visited!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Orla Kiely x Clarks = Shoes We Love

We have so much love for Orla Kiely and were super excited about her collaboration with Clarks, creating a capsule collection of shoes for spring and summer 2014.  Not only is everything she designs perfectly structured and beautiful, working with Clarks means that the collection would likely be budget-friendly and affordable (more so than her highly covetable collection of handbags at any rate). The styles were previewed at the OK SS14 London Fashion Week Show, with plenty of modern retro styling with buckle details and block heels.

The collection features five different styles in bright colours and patent and natural leathers, all featuring her iconic coloured multi-stem print on the soles.  My favourite styles are the Matilda, particularly the gorgeous kelly green ones and Milly, pictured below, a 60's style mary-jane sling back with punched flower details that I immediately fell in love with and knew I had to have in my life.
After agonising for ages over which colour to buy (they come in navy, mustard, cream and red) I decided to get the mustard coloured ones.  It's not often you find a perfectly coloured pair of mustard shoes and these are just right and very wearable.  They look quite elegant and dainty but are sturdy and very comfortable indeed (no surprise there with a Clarks shoe!).  This gorgeous colour features on two of her other styles as well - Maggie, a sling-back mid-heel with oversize buckle and Marianne, a 70s style platformed high heel.  

The Orla Kiely website seems to suggest that a further addition to the collection will be available at the end of February, a glossy sling-back loafer called Muriel which would be exclusively on their site. Exciting news for further collections!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Edinburgh Events: Things to do in February

January has been a long ole month, but finally payday and February are here!  Here are our top picks of things to spend your long-awaited pennies on this month.

Photo credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire
Two free exhibitions for you to enjoy this month!  Ninety brightly coloured 2.5 metre tall terracotta warrior lanterns have taken over the University of Edinburgh's Old College quad, making it even more magical and Hogwarts-esque.  These were created by Chinese artist Xia Nan for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and this is the first time the Warriors will be showcased in Scotland, from now until 7 February.  Meanwhile in St Andrews Square, Bruce Munro's installation Field of Light has 9,500 acrylic stems gradually light up as darkness falls, with visitors able to wander through the collection.  Both are sure to be a very beautiful and striking installations and obviously best viewed at night!

Sunday 2 February / 99 Hanover Street, EH2 1DJ / 12pm / £5-7
There's always something in your closet you no longer wear, particularly this time of the year after ill-advised sales purchases and Christmas party dresses that you can't wear to next years work-do, so this winter fashion swap is a perfect way to recycle them whilst picking up something new which may be perfect for you!  You can bring up to 10 items to swap on the day at the lovely 99 Hanover Street and enjoy some teas from Eteaket while you're there, along with stalls from Sarah Murray Beauty and Nicci Weston makeup artist offering express treatments.  You can bring between 1 and 5 items for £5 or 6 and 10 items for £7 and there's a free drink on arrival too.

1 & 15 February / Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ / £8.20
The Filmhouse are continuing their Irish History screening in February with two very different but compelling films.  Up first on Saturday 1 February is Good Vibrations which focuses on the life of Terri Hooley, who was responsible for discovering The Undertones and enabled alternative music to be heard and to flourish in Belfast during the darkest days of Northern Ireland’s Troubles via his record shop and label Good Vibrations and gig promotion. There'll be a talk with writer Colin Carberry after the screening.  In contrast, Hunger is about the last few months of the life of Irish Republican hunger striker Bobby Sands, whose death had a huge impact not just in Northern Ireland but all over the world.  Described as "brutally unflinching", it's sure to be an intense viewing.  It's being shown on 15 February and will have a panel discussion afterwards.

Wednesday 12 February / Panda & Sons, 79 Queen Street, EH2 4NF / 7pm / £15
Panda & Sons opened their speakeasy style cocktail bar late last year to much acclaim.  Their cocktail menu is extensive to say the least, and now you can join them for a fun, informal evening to learn about foams, smokes and liquid magic from some of the hottest mixologists in Edinburgh. You'll get to enjoy three cocktails and learning how to recreate them at home.

Friday 28 February / National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, EH1 1JF / 7pm / £18
We're big fans of the Museum Late evenings but this one is sure to be pretty special, with Radio 1 DJ Vic Galloway hosting and a headline performance by The Pictish Trail (Lost Map Records el presidente and all round good guy).  There'll also be a DJ set from Marnie from Ladytron (which I imagine will be electropoptastic) and their usual silent disco, face painting, art installations, photo booth and more – plus some wild and woolly surprises.  You can even look at the new exhibition, Mammoths of the Ice Age, without having to push small children out the way!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Lighting for my Scandi-dreamhome

Having watched a lot of Scandi-dramas in the last few years I've slowly progressed from my crazy rainbow polka dot explosion fantasy decor to dreaming about a minimalist-Scandi design dream home.  White airy rooms with stylish, functional furniture and perhaps a hint of Marimekko pattern to brighten things up.  Another way to brighten up and make a huge difference in a room is lighting and I've been looking at John Lewis' gorgeous range of LED lighting, having some serious want.  All of these pieces below are beautiful in their own way and would look perfectly in place in my spacious bright Scandi dream home. 

White table lamp
Curvy sculpture lamp / Tilted arm lamp
Ceiling pendant light
Black angled lamp

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: EH15 Edinburgh College Restaurant

Edinburgh College had an open day this weekend and invited us to try lunch at their EH15 restaurant at their Milton Road campus.  It's run by their catering students (supervised by the head chef) and has very decently priced meals indeed, with a simple pricing system of £3.50 for all starters and desserts and mains at £7.95.  

The menu was interesting and had plenty of choice, including some specials for the day (haggis with clapshot starter and cranachan dessert, in honour of Burns Day).  We were well looked after by the waitress, with orders being taken promptly and water being topped up when needed.  The food arrived quickly, was delicious and presented beautifully too - although this is a training restaurant, you would never guess as the standard of the meal and service were extremely high.

Their rooftop balcony has beautiful views of Arthurs Seat and the Forth and would be a perfect place for drinks and a meal on a sunny day but unfortunately it was a dreich and miserable day so didn't have a chance to enjoy it.  It was relatively busy with a lot of folk obviously keen to take advantage of the reasonable prices and good food.  We'd definitely recommend a visit if you're in the area, or of their other restaurant, The Appentice at their Granton Campus.

EH15 Menu
Pot of earl grey tea
Haggis with clapshot
Smoked salmon & poached eggs on a potato scone
Wild mushroom risotto with goats cheese
Poached salmon with bernaise sauce and chips
Banana tarte tatin