Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Edinburgh is Delicious: The Blackbird, Tollcross

The Blackbird is celebrating the summer with a delicious new menu to enjoy, with a lovely mix of light and healthy eats, sumptuously filling salads along with classic favourites. We were invited to sample their new menu and really loved it. It's rare that you can find a place to eat that caters for those who want to stay healthy and those who just need to have a burger. Surely that's all of us at some stage or another right?

We were both keen to try the light salads for starters and tried the walnut and caramelised pear salad and sumac-crusted halloumi. The pear salad was served with kale, smoked cheddar and fresh raspberries and the combination worked superbly. The halloumi was served very simply with a balsamic glaze and fresh raspberries, for a salty-sweet experience. Both dishes were of a good size, not too filling and just enough to get started. Some of the other starter options we were tempted by included the wasabi and panko crusted tiger prawns, and the crispy chicken with sancho pepper, tequila, fresh lime and sour cream - a summery sounding combination.

For mains we went with the crispy Gressingham duck and a superfood salad with grilled tiger prawns. The superfood salad was both delicious and virtuous, and was a generous portion size with plenty of healthy greens in there - avocado, broccoli, kale and garnished with green tea, fresh lemon and chia seeds. The prawns were juicy and plump and ensured the meal was both light and filling. The crispy duck was gorgeous, served with roast beetroot, mandarin, golden squash, lemon thyme and toasted peanuts. The duck was the star of the dish, with juicy cuts making a perfect combination with the beetroot and mandarin, in both flavour and texture. The menu had so many tasty sounding options that I'm sure we'll be back soon enough to try out the sticky lemon chicken with udon noodle salad, the cauliflower fritters with quinoa and mango, and the grilled red mullet with charred asparagus, pomegranate and honey. Traditionalists should note that. in addition to these delicious but worthy-sounding eats, there are also good old burgers, fish and chips and steak pie on the menu too.

We decided to share a dessert and we were recommended the warm chocolate brownie with chocolate fudge sauce and pistachio ice cream. The brownie was dark and gooey, just like it should be and the pistachio ice cream complemented it beautifully. Next time we'll try the tarte au citron with gin and tonic ice cream which sounds like a lovely summer treat.

In addition to the new menu, there are summer cocktails specials too. In keeping with the existing imaginatively-named cocktails, there are The Girl with the Dragon Yuzu, Ol' Dirty Mustard and, a favourite of ours, The Adventures of Sherbert Holmes. These are bursting with fresh flavours of blueberries, mango liqueur, orange blossom water along with the more exotic Yuzu lemon sake, aloe vera juice and Pamplemousse rose. It's definitely worth a visit to try these menus out and enjoy these summer flavours while they're here!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Etsy Favourites: White Rabbit Skincare

If you're a beauty and skincare geek like me, you'll be all over the wonderful Caroline Hiron's Beauty Mouth blog, where she gives no-nonsense reviews, recommendations and cheat sheets on skincare routines and products. Scotland-based skincare brand White Rabbit were given a shout out on the Beauty Mouth blog, recommending in particular their Comfort Cleansing Balm as an alternative to Eve Lom's cult favourite - with a more purse-friendly price and no mineral oils. I'm actually really happy with the cleanser I'm currently using (another Caroline Hirons pick, Emma Hardie's Moringa cleansing balm), but was intrigued to follow up White Rabbit's skincare range, especially being handmade in Scotland and their use of essential oils. I'm interested in moving my skincare towards more natural products so was delighted to see the large range of natural products they have. Even better, they are all vegan and bunny-friendly - tested on humans only.

I settled on a few products from White Rabbit's Etsy shop - two day moisturisers, one night cream and a serum. A few days later they were delivered, along with a cute White Rabbit canvas bag. It was perfect timing as my old moisturiser was running out and  it was good to feel excited about using some new products!
The Cell Renewal Serum, has a blend of oils with a bright hit of citrus scent from neroli oil. This is my favourite product to use and my skin felt instantly smoothed without the greasy feeling you can get with some oil serums. I currently use this every evening and on occasion in the morning if I feel like my skin needs an extra hit of moisture, and I really feel like it makes a difference. The night cream, It's All About M.E.! is suitable for all skin types, helping to soothe and calm skin, whilst firming and improving elasticity. This has a light floral scent and a lovely whipped texture and is a great combination with the serum as it's not too heavy. £1 of each pot goes to the M.E. Association so it's a nice charity boost as well. The other moisturisers I've tried are the Coconut and Rosehip Calming Cream and Dew Soft Day Cream. The calming cream is for problematic skin, whether that be a breakout or itching, and also contains witch hazel, tea tree and lavender oil. This is the creamiest in texture of the three and has a more-or-less neutral scent, with a slight lingering of tea tree oil. The day cream is indeed soft and dreamy with a light texture that still has real moisturising power behind it and is good for my sensitive skin days.

I'm really enjoying using the White Rabbit products, with my top pick being the Cell Renewal Serum and its heavenly scent. I am looking forward to trying more products and the range seems to be developing all the time so I will be keeping up with what they've got to offer and if you love natural cruelty-free skincare, you should too!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Edinburgh is Delicious: The Colonnades Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is one of life's more luxurious pleasures and we may have just experienced one of Edinburgh's finest, at the Colonnades, based at the Signet Library. We've been lucky enough to have afternoon tea at Signet Library in previous years at their annual Pommery Champagne Bar but as it is only usually available over the summer period it's been a total but oh-so-fleeting joy. After a £250,000 venue refurbishment, the newly renamed Colonnades introduce their elegant afternoon teas as a gloriously year-round fixture in Edinburgh. The venue has always been a stunning space, but it has been painstakingly restored with the highest attention to detail, from the intricate gold leaf, fluted Corinthian columns, handwoven carpet and mirrored tables to the bespoke stamped silverware and tea sets. Everything is perfection and we haven't even started raving about the food yet!

Part of Heritage Portfolio's collection, the afternoon tea changes seasonally to reflect the finest and freshest ingredients in Scotland, with produce from their gardens in Leith being incorporated into the menu. Rather than the traditional three tiers of an afternoon tea, the Colonnades place as much emphasis on the savoury elements as the sweet, so we began with an entire stunning stand of savoury goodies, including delicious bites such as fresh prawn cocktail with mango salsa, a brioche Aberdeen Angus mini-burger and Edinburgh Gin-infused smoked salmon on oatcakes.
The sweet treats that came next - another whole stand - were the stuff of dreams. Particular favourites were a tart lemon sorbet, passion fruit and mango eclair, lemon meringue tart in a crisp pastry adorned with stunning sugarwork and a classic mille feuille, with homemade pastry layers, organic cream and Perthshire berries. The scones were served warm with clotted cream and a divine strawberry and champagne jam.
An afternoon tea cannot be complete without, of course, the tea - with a selection supplied by the Wee Tea Company, we enjoyed unlimited cups throughout our sitting. Both the scented apple fruit infusion and the cherry tea proved lovely accompaniments. Glasses of fizz catered to those of the bubbly persuasion.

The Colonnades is now open for weekday bookings of afternoon tea and light lunches and there are plans to open on weekends for special occasions. We can't wait to visit again and we thoroughly recommend a visit for one of the most decadent afternoon tea experiences in Edinburgh.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Edinburgh Events: 12 Tub Cinema Club - whisky ice creams and films from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

It's finally sunny in Scotland and what better time to announce that the Scotch Malt Whisky Society have teamed up with S Luca's to make the most delicious-sounding whisky ice creams - a surefire winning combination in Edinburgh! These whisky-laced ice creams will be served all summer long at their Queen Street venue and will be launched with at a series of film screenings being held to celebrate their central venue, the 12 Tub Cinema Club, being open to the public.  Named after the number of ice creams available (and the number of single cask whiskies to accompany them), the North View room will be transformed into an intimate cinema, complete with bean bags, deck chairs and ushers serving the ice cream and drams. All of the films shown will be linked to whisky and will kick off with Ken Loach's recent bittersweet themed comedy, The Angels' Share. Other choice picks include Barfly, Withnail & I (epic whisky intakes in both films), Lost in Translation ("Imagine you're talking to an old friend!") and Casablanca (the classiest dram knock-backs seen on the screen). The screenings run from Friday 19 June and run until Saturday 11 July, with more details and tickets available via Eventbrite. Our whisky-expert friends Adele and Stuart from Braw Spirit blog were at the preview event and reported back on the amazing looking venue and the divine ice cream, with flavours including Maple Bacon Crunch, a sweet syrup and smoky bacon flavour combined with a peaty whisky and Banana Dram-a, banana and marshmallow ice cream with a sweet, fruity and mellow whisky. So start summer in style, have a scream for ice cream and go book it up!Photos courtesy of Adele Erwin and Stuart McLaughlin

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Edinburgh is Delicious: Madamoiselle Macaron's Fabulous First Birthday

Do you need a bit of French chic in your life? Stepping into Madamoiselle Macaron's wee shop you'll find her very own sweet and sophisticated slice of Paris with an Eiffel Tower display, chaises longues and Edinburgh/Paris map mash-ups decorating the walls.  Elegant patisserie is set alongside gorgeous bright macarons clothed in beautiful packaging for your delectation. Madamoiselle Macaron herself spent time in Paris, learning to make macarons at the Alain Decasse cookery school and we are super pleased that she has now settled in Edinburgh to make them for us! They are very special bite-sized treats with delicious classic flavours like pistachio, raspberry and chocolate co-existing side by side with gingerbread, Hendricks gin and Irn Bru flavours as well as our favourite florals like lavender, rose and fleur d'orange. Madamoiselle packages her treats in gorgeous illustrated boxes - pink, topped with grey ribbon, inspired by the beautiful bakery in Grand Budapest Hotel.

On the occasion of Madamoiselle Macaron's first birthday at Grindlay Street (joyeux anniversaire!), we were invited for a party and to have a look around after a recent refurbishment. It's such a lovely space to enjoy a coffee or hot chocolate with your macarons and the daily offerings of patisserie that are available. There is also a big quartz table at the back of the shop, and you can book a macaron class to learn how to master these little beauties yourself.  Groups are welcome (think a chic little hen do or birthday party) and there are plenty of macarons for all.  Thrillingly, to celebrate the shop's first birthday, there is a celebratory giant champagne oyster macaron which has a strawberry champagne filling, pearlescent sheen and an adorable fondant pearl. C'est tres magnifique, Madamoiselle Macaron!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Saturday Celebrations at Jamie's Italian Edinburgh

In my book, Saturday lunchtimes are a time for celebration. Hopefully nestled at the end of a luxurious lie in, you can lazily toast the rest of the weekend with a glass of booze and enjoy a couple of cheeky courses in the resplendent knowledge that there's no office to return to, no emails to answer, and no deadlines to meet. I love food and take my lazy weekend lunches quite seriously, so was really delighted to be invited along to Jamie's Italian on George Street to sample an Italian-style spin on this particular weekend tradition.

Now, obviously Jamie's Italian is a chain, but it's important to mention - in particular to out-of-towners not familiar with the restaurant's home within George Street's Assembly Rooms - is that this is not a cookie cutter outfit. Jamie's Italian Edinburgh is housed within a truly a unique venue, with a multi-million pound refit and refurb that has brought together modern murals of Edinburgh and industrial lighting with the lovingly-restored 18th-century splendour - crystal chandeliers, sumptuous scarlet walls and intricately stuccoed ceilings all surrounding a parma ham-adorned marble antipasti bar. It sounds a bit mad, but it looks beautiful and it's an utterly gorgeous place to enjoy a meal.

We kicked things off with a crisp glass of prosecco - super dry and delish - and browsed the menu. It's set out in authentic Italian style, with antipasti and small pasta plates to start, followed by larger meat and fish dishes (large plates of pasta for main courses are available too).

To start with, I opted for a wild mushroom bruschetta scattered with ricotta, lemon and lots of rosemary. Ali, my dining companion, went for crab spaghettini with capers, chilli, fennel, parsley, anchovies & lemon. Filled with fresh, light flavours, both were really tasty and a great start to the meal.
However, the main courses were the true standout of the meal. Although there were some cracking options on the main menu, we both chose from the specials board. I went for slow-roasted lamb, which was melt-in-the-mouth tender, and sitting atop an indulgent, cheese, sage-infused polenta. Rich, warm and filling - perfect for a not-terribly spring-like March afternoon.
Ali's seafood special was a perfectly-cooked fillet of sea bass with mussels, clams and a garlicky salsa verde. It was perfectly complimented by roasted golden beetroot and a butternut squash puree. Much simpler and fresher than my stew, it was no less delicious.

The main courses were very generously apportioned so we decided to pass on dessert, but on a return trip I'd be keen to try out the chocolate, pear and honeycomb pavlova or the sour cherry, amaretti and almond tart.

A big thanks to the team at Jamie's Italian Edinburgh for having us along - a perfect celebration for Saturday, and indeed for any other day of the week too.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Edinburgh Events: Scottish Ballet Presents A Streetcar Named Desire

The Scottish Ballet have revived their award-winning take on A Streetcar Named Desire, in the 65th anniversary year of Tennessee Williams' play. The story is an intensely emotional one, telling the tale of Southern belle Blanche DuBois and how she is affected by guilt, the events in her past and by her sister Stella's brutal husband Stanley when she comes to stay with them in New Orleans. In a near-wordless performance the story is powerfully told in movement and sound, to great effect. The narrative is in chronological order and begins with dancing and songs that carry the innocence of love and youth, with the music becoming more haunting when Blanche's life begins to unravel. Peter Mansel's score really shines when events take place in New Orleans with modern jazz and rising tension as the story reaches its climax.  Whilst the New Orleans setting lends a backdrop to vibrant dance scenes, some of the most compelling parts of the ballet are performed in silence, with only the sound of steps and beating hearts to accompany them. The show was developed in collaboration with theatre and film director Nancy Meckler, who ensured the story could be effectively translated into dance and encouraged natural movement in the dancers.

We were lucky enough to be invited to the opening night by the Scottish Ballet and to meet principal dancer Luciana Ravizzi, who performs the role of Blanche (there is an alternating cast each night). Luciana was lovely and spoke very passionately about Blanche, saying it's one of the most emotionally draining roles that she's performed. Blanche's descent can bring her to tears by the end and the recovery after a performance is as much an emotional as a physical one. Thrillingly, she also had some costumes to show us and explained that Blanche's outfits became darker as the ballet progressed, reflecting her state of mind. Luciana's favourite costume is a waist-cinching, dark pink 50's dress with beautiful black belt detail that Blanche wears for the majority of her stay in New Orleans and it was amazing to see the details of the dress up close. She also spoke of the superstitions that dancers have and of enjoying a good glass of wine!

Streetcar runs until Saturday 21 March at the Festival Theatre before it heads off on tour to London and the USA so if you're able to get a ticket for this stunning production in this limited run then you should do so; we absolutely loved it.

Photos courtesy of Scottish Ballet

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Edinburgh is Delicious: Mimi's Beforenoon Tea

We're frequently asked about where our favourite places in Edinburgh are, particularly where we love to eat. We're both quite picky about what we like and lucky enough to live in a city that has an abundance of lovely places to visit and enjoy fine food so it's with great fanfare that we can sound our New Favourite Place klaxon in honour of Mimi's Bakehouse!  Mimi's has revolutionised brunch as we know it and come up with their game-changing Beforenoon Tea.

Mimi's are already legendary for their afternoon teas, and their daytime menus are also immensely popular (as anywhere with a menu featuring a stovie-of-the-week should be). However, they have truly upped the stakes with their new concept of Beforenoon Tea - taking the traditional three tiers of afternoon tea and adding breakfast components to make the Perfect Brunch.

The lower tiers of Mimi's Beforenoon tea are devoted to delivering the classic salty-savoury-warmly-stodgy elements of the Scottish breakfast butty combined gloriously with the afternoon tea staple, the scone. We kicked off with soft bacon focaccia rolls, filled with layers of Ramsey's of Carluke smoky bacon, followed by a middle tier of moreish cheese scones with a whipped chive cream tea infusion.
Onto the top tier... well, as avo tea aficionados will know, the top layer of any before/afternoon tea is always the most exciting. This particular top tier laid before us Nutella and raspberry mini-muffins, pancake towers sandwiched with dulce de leche, lavishly-iced cinnamon rolls and blueberry-topped granola.  There's also a choice of Teapig's finest teas, frequently attended to and topped up by Mimi's lovely staff.
We found the balance between savoury and sweet to be pretty much perfect for our tastes - just the right amount of both - and loved the brunch-meets-teatime concept. The experience is on weekends from 9am to noon, and priced at a fabulously affordable £13.50 per person, particularly as you're unlikely to eat anything else until tea time. It looks like this is going to be our new choice for special occasions or to take visitors to show off how fab our city is! Brunch is dead! Long live Beforenoon Tea!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Edinburgh in Springtime: Daffodils and a To Do List

So, Spring. It’s reluctantly on the wing, despite the decidedly wintry sleet raining mushily against my living room window right now. There’s a wee bit of warmth in the sun, snowdrops are out and the biggest YAY of all, it’s light at 5 o clock (insert your celebratory emoji of choice).

Which means it’s time to goodbye to hibernation, my electric blanket, and cold dark weekends spent entirely in the thrall of Netflix, and hello to days out enjoying Edinburgh, which as locals would know, looks mighty beautiful in springtime. Let's take a moment to savour, shall we?

Daffodils at Edinburgh castle.
 Arthur's Seat, the Crags and a mystery gorgeous labrador
 Edinburgh's prettiest walkway - the candy floss cherry Bs on the Meadows in May
Golden view over the city.
 Daffys again in Princes Street Gardens.
 Photos courtesy of Ian Sommerville - thanks Dad!

In addition to drifting ethereally through meadows of daffodils with my hair in a perfect fishtail plait, here’s some of the things on my springtime to do list for 2015:

Eat yummy food in cool places: I'll be trying out artisan pizza with a Swedish twist at the newly-opened Soderberg (brought to you by Scandi food ninjas Peter's Yard, who appear to be taking over the world one heavenly cardamom bun at a time); sampling a carb-busting meatball and spaghetti flatbread wrap from mega-trendy purveyors of Italian Street food Civerinos (find their exposed brick heaven on Hunter's Square); faceplanting into a plate of apple and haggis pakoras at Edinburgh's (and I think possibly the UK's) one and only craft beer and curry house VDeep, taking up residence in The Vintage's old cornerside dig in Leith; and finally, enjoying breakfast in three-tiered afternoon-tea style with Mimi's Bakehouse's new glorious, indulgent, technicolour Beforenoon Tea.

Drink beer: Although it's been open for several weeks, I still haven't managed to get along to the Hanging Bat's sister bar Spitfire - specialising in American, Canadian, German, Swedish and Belgian beer, it's going to be a must for toasting the arrival of spring's light nights.

Being really cultural: Checking out vintage video games exhibition Game Masters at the National Museum of Scotland (Yes! It's a legit exhibition in a proper museum an' everything); heading up to Calton Hill at the end of April for the annual Beltane fire spectacle; enjoying Hidden Doors, Edinburgh's May-time visual arts and music festival - venues tbc, but an old street lighting depot on Kings Stables Road is rumoured to the festival's quirky and characterful home; and learning about the Science behind Game of Thrones, just one of several awesome looking events at the always excellent Edinburgh International Science Festival in April.

Which barely scratches the surface I'm sure - what will you be up to to celebrate Spring in Edinburgh?

With love, from Edinburgh - Jane xxx

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

SS15 - Favourite Spring Picks

It's perhaps a little too early to get excited for Spring in Edinburgh just yet (brrr!) but I am excited about some of the SS15 collections that have been recently released. It's been a long old winter so it's so cheering to see some big bursts of florals, gorgeous pastels and super cute influences like Charlie Brown and colourful dinosaurs. Here are some of my favourite things!

How awesome is this dinosaur jacket from The White Pepper? Answer: very & I want it now please. Dinosaurs are a big theme in their latest collection, with dresses, leggings and separates featuring these colourful little guys. The rest of the collection is equally as playful, with these bright platform boots and the extreme peter pan pleat collar dress making my wishlist.

We're both huge fans of Tatty Devine and the latest collection's floral and fairground themes are a delight. Tatty Devine know better than most how a statement necklace can transform an outfit and my favourite from the new collection is this flower decoupage necklace. The colourful wildflowers are spot on for spring and will brighten up any grey day. The detailing on the carousel horse and raindrop cloud brooches are adorable and I need them to remind me of all the good things in the world.
Cambridge Satchel Company have just released a new range in collaboration with Peanuts, featuring satchels with the iconic Charlie Brown stripe in all sizes. There's also a range of A4 leather zip pouches with four different illustrations to choose from. I love the clutch with all of the Peanuts gang - seeing all my favourites like Lucy, Peppermint Patty and Linus with his blanket makes me so happy! And coming soon is a very cute dog collar, which have the Charlie Brown stripe and my favourite Peanut, Snoopy, on the pendant. 

I always look forward to viewing Orla Kiely's shows and her latest LFW show didn't disappoint - beautiful colours and prints as always with a strong floral theme in prints, installations, planters and cupcakes! The latest collaboration with Clark's continues this flower theme in bright colours like these yellow and coral bursts - the flower prints and cut-out punch heels are gorgeous, along with the bolder bright flower trim of the navy heels. But my favourite of the collection are the 70's style t-bar platforms in a tan snakeskin with adorned with a trademark flower - just amazing.