Sunday, 11 December 2016

Edinburgh is Delicious: The Empress, Broughton Street

The Empress is the latest addition to Edinburgh's thriving bar scene, bringing craft beer, cocktails and relaxed dining to the cool Broughton Street area. Situated near the top of the street with a distinctive bright blue exterior, it's the type of venue that you'd be comfortable having a quick pre or post-shopping lunch in, or parking yourself in for the afternoon going through their extensive craft beers and eclectic menu. We were so excited about being invited to have lunch there and hang out in this gorgeous space and it didn't disappoint at all.

We were lucky enough to nab a window seat with comfy leather booths, perfect for people watching and admiring the impressive interiors. There's a lot in the details here and it has a hipster/steampunk feel with old fashioned bottles used as lighting, a candelabra style chandelier and a portrait of the Empress staring down at visitors, heavily tattooed and looking cool as fuck. This is Maud Wagner, a tattoo artist from the US who also worked as a circus performer and fits right in with the cool crowd.

There's a mix of textures in the interiors which have great juxtapositions - matt black walls, exposed stonework, plush velvet seats and dark wood panelling. The menu is pretty extensive and takes up a decent portion of the table so to start with we had a few coffees to warm up with which were very good indeed. There were some great sounding options for lunch, with a selection of burgers, salads and winter warmers on offer, like a pot of mussels and venison stew. However we took the recommendation to try the selection of flatbreads that the Empress specialises in, along with a few different starters.

A brunch menu was also on offer with a full Scottish, and other favourites like French toast and Eggs Benedict with bacon and avocado which is definitely something that we'd like to come back to try.

We tried a beetroot, goats cheese and hazelnut flatbread, peach prosciutto and rocket flatbread and a slow cooked brisket flatbread for sharing (£6 each).  Alongside this we added southern fried buttermilk chicken (£5), and haggis & black pudding bon-bons with chilli and whisky jam (£4.50). Obviously we also needed chips and the Empress has a choice of four - skinny, handcut, sweet potato matchstick fries and paprika halloumi fries. On a chilly day it seemed right to opt for chunky chips and so we opted for the handcut (£3.50).

The small flatbreads were much bigger than expected and made it a bit of a feast. They were very light, thin and crisp and the flavour combinations worked well together, particularly the beetroot option which is flavoured with balsamic and caraway.  The fried chicken fillets were tender from the buttermilk and cooked really well, the only complaint being there could have been more honey mustard dip to accompany them. The bon-bons were also really tasty and again, a generous portion, with the chilli jam lightening the dish.

The range of drinks to accompany the delicious food would please any craft beer lover with five fixed beer taps and eight rotating draught lines to choose from.  Alongside this there are a huge number of bottles and cans of beer and cider with an emphasis on small batch and craft beers. Added to this is an impressive cocktail menu (all priced at £7.50), with standards, classics with a twist and original creations available. One of the more interesting options was the parmatini, a mix based on the classic combination of melon and parma ham. Inspired by a unique meloncello liquor, this adds gin lemon juice, egg white and has parma ham over the side of the glass where you should drink the cocktail from. Definitely something to try on a visit there if you're after something a little more unusual!

We decided to share a pudding and the chocolate brownie sundae (£4.50) was a lovely way to finish our meal. Heavy with chocolate sauce and warm fudgy brownie, it was gooey, sticky, sweet and just what we were after. We were pretty impressed with the Empress who can hold her own against some pretty stiff competition on Broughton Street and we are looking forward to visiting again soon.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Foraging in Edinburgh: Store with Century General Store

The past few years has seen foraging have a little renaissance, as the principles of slow living and using our green spaces to the fullest have grown in popularity. Century General Store invited us to their autumn event, Store, which embraced these principles and the importance of keeping these traditions alive in a beautiful way, with Anna Canning from Floramedica as our guide.

Edinburgh is particularly green and ripe with foraging opportunities, with parks, forests and hills within the city itself. We can munch on some wild raspberries on a walk on the Water of Leith, find some sloes to make some festive gin or go somewhere fancy like Wedgwood, Aizle or Forage & Chatter for a foraged feast. Anna showed us much more than this on a walk near Century General Store's Abbeyhill branch, in particular that foraging can be done year-round basis.

With expert knowledge, Anna picked out various leaves, trees, berries and flowers which can be used for food and explained the concept of food as medicine. Organic foraged food is supremely nutritious and the variety of ways it can be used is fascinating. Nettles were growing in abundance and it was impressive how Anna was able to pick these with minimal sting. Her experience meant that she obviously had an amount of tolerance helping to prevent this! Nettles are one of the most versatile plants, which can be used medicinally for itchy skin and osteoarthritis, and have been used practically as dye and string. We tried some straight from the ground, crushing it with our fingers and it was very green tasting and surprisingly delicious. Anna also emphasised the respect that we should have for nature when we do forage for food and that we should never take more than we need.

After an hour or two of hunting through the city's leafier areas, it was then back to Century General Store's shop & cafe to try some of Anna's recipes and make use of the bounty we'd picked. She provided us with some information on the plants she'd mentioned and we were then able to make some of her recipes to enjoy. The foraged flora was put to good use in a nettle kimchi, hawthorn tapenade and elderberry balsamic; all super easy to make and delicious. It was so rewarding to know first hand how these plants can be pickled and preserved and just how healthy they are.

We were able to use Century General Store's gorgeous Weck glass jars to store the preserves, which are part of their beautiful homewares selection. It's such a joy to visit their Abbeyhill shop and browse their lux range of interiors which are selected to fit their ethos of making everyday living beautiful. There will be more events coming up with Century General Store soon so keep updated with their new Events page and Facebook page.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Edinburgh is Delicious: Autumn/Winter dining at Checkpoint

Now that November has arrived, it's the perfect time to escape the cold with cosy dinners and comfort food. We were super excited to be invited to try Checkpoint's new autumn/winter menu. Based on Bristo Place where the old Forest Cafe used to be, it's a very large and airy restaurant with utilarian chic wooden tables, black piping and speckled floors. It's easily a hipster hangout but had a very welcoming atmosphere and the wait staff were lovely and attentive.

The evening menu has a bites & bowls section that can serve as nice little sharing starters which is what we did. Asking the waitress for her top picks, we chose the sweet potato fries with za'atar yoghurt and heritage roasted carrots with toasted seeds and honey (both £4). Other interesting starter options include a rose harissa, carrot & tumeric bowl with vegetable bhaji and a chorizo, kale & mixed beans with walnut & spinach pesto (both £5). There's a clear emphasis on seasonal produce and our bowls were full to them brim with these delicious goodies that felt quite nutritious as well as a little bit naughty. The za'atar yoghurt was an excellent accompaniment for both dishes and we should have asked for more as it very quickly disappeared before either dish was halfway through. The heritage carrots were roasted well with some bite retained and had a sweet honey dressing and pumpkin seeds. Sadly this yummy sauce was mostly at the bottom of the bowl so the carrots were not quite as covered in it as we'd have liked.

Main courses were divided into fish/meat options, vegetarian plates, burgers and salads. After much swithering we decided on roast cod & pistou cockles served with pan-fried greens (£13) and the ricotta & Parmesan dumplings, hazelnut and sage brown butter with pumpkin puree (£12). Top picks from the nearly-ordered list were a slow roast duck leg, chorizo braised lentils and butternut squash samosa (£15) and a toasted freekah, roasted pumpkin, Mediterranean vegetables and harissa goats curd salad (£7.50). These flavours and ingredients are some of our favourites so it was a really hard choice and even though we were pretty full from our sweet potato and carrots starter, very much looking forward to trying the mains. They arrived relatively quickly and were beautifully presented. The roast cod was a clear winner, cooked perfectly with crispy skin. The plate was covered with abundant greenery which was beautifully seasoned and delicious to eat. The ricotta dumplings were a very generous size and had the pumpkin puree hidden underneath, with brown butter sauce and whole hazelnuts swirled on the plate. The dumplings could have done with being a little smaller just so the proportions of the dish were balanced as there was a more dumpling than sauce which was a shame towards the end of the dish. But overall it was very tasty and the whole hazelnuts added a nice dimension of crunch.

We were very nearly full so decided to share a dessert of pecan & bourbon pie with vanilla ice cream (£6), which felt very seasonally appropriate. The pie wasn't overly sweet as some pecan pies can be and the vanilla ice cream was divine, with a caramel underneath. An excellent espresso later and we were off back into the bracing Edinburgh air, with our bellies full and smiles on our faces. We thoroughly recommend a visit to try their new menu full of seasonal goodness; it's warm atmosphere and tasty food is definitely worth the journey!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Edinburgh Events: Spa in the city 2nd & 3rd July

Spa in the City is one of our favourite events in Edinburgh and we can't wait to attend this year! It has a fresh new look via a gorgeous watercolour logo and a fabulous array of treatments available, as well as workshops, talks, activities, cocktails, tea, chocolate and frozen yoghurt!

St Andrews Square is to be transformed into an urban escape with a boho festival vibe and attendees are spoilt for choice with free treatments being offered, from brands at Harvey Nichols, John Lewis, Boots, Jenners, Debenhams and Superdrug as well as Toni & Guy, Neal's Yard Remedies and one of our favourites, Lush. There are also various events, workshops and masterclasses taking place in the Health and Beauty Heroes Marquee, including a summer make-up trends for 2016 masterclass from Jamie Genevieve and Beauty and Beyond: Panel Discussion (tickets here).

Mango Meets Mexico tequila cocktail at Element; makeovers by NYX

East India Company on George Street - tea and chocolate tastings

We had a sneak peek of what to expect at the Spa in the City bloggers event, held at Element bar and the East India Company. Element is a wee gem of a bar on Rose Street and are holding a cocktail masterclass at Spa in the City. Their cocktails are super delicious, with their signature cocktail - Edinburgh Rhubarb Rocks, laden with Edinburgh Gin and Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger liqueur - being particularly easy to drink. Their brunch bites were good too and there was a red lentil dahl that we couldn't get enough of, as well as french toast with berry compote. Yum! The East India Company has recently opened their Edinburgh branch on George Street and it is utter stunning. No expense spared in detail or design, their teas have a rich history and the variety is astounding. They will be holding tea and chocolate tastings over the weekend which we would thoroughly recommend.

There was also a little taste of the pampering sessions to come. A hand massage from Lush, using their beautifully scented massage bars, was blissfully relaxing and NYX were holding a mini-makeover session. They are newly stocked at Boots and their lipsticks are incredible.

It's being held on the weekend of 2nd and 3rd of July; if you love beauty and free stuff, clear your diary and head out there!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Creative Christmas Shopping & Crafting with Tiger

NOT BREAKING NEWS – Christmas is upon us! I think I spied my first mince pie back in August actually, so it’s been glittering quietly in the wings for a good while, but now it’s Officially Here, novelty reindeer antlers blazing. Being full-on Team Christmas, I am utterly delighted – and was even more so when the wonderful people at Scandiavian Santa’s grotto Tiger offered up a little shopping spree to kick the festive season off.

I wrote about Tiger as one of my top Christmas high street shops a couple of years ago, and in that time my love affair really hasn’t waned. For anyone not familiar, Tiger is a sort of Danish equivalent of a Japanese Yen shop, where you can get anything from homewares to toys to crafty supplies to snacks, spices and cake toppers. It’s the veritable Aladdin’s cave of goodies, with a super purse-friendly price tags and tons of that inimitable Scandi style.

Now, given all this, I’m happy to visit Tiger at any time of year, but it really does come into its own at Christmas time. Prices start from just £1, so it’s a brilliant destination for stocking fillers, Secret Santa gifts, or dear-me-merry-christmas-love-me treats, plus it’s sheer Christmas crafting heaven with shelves heaving with baubles, bells and ribbons for making your home and your gifts look stylishly festive.

I’m a big fan of interior design so had rather a lot of fun playing around with my lovely new things last Sunday afternoon – here are some of the gems I picked up:
As you can see, from gorgeous ceramics to classic candy-striped decorations and even cheeky novelty penguins (and dinosaurs), there's quite a range to rummage through at Tiger. They don't have an online store yet, but have shops all over the UK, with one right here in Edinburgh city centre in the St James Centre. Go enjoy your own festive trolley dash here now!

Jaeger: Boutique shopping on George Street

Jaeger have recently re-opened in Edinburgh to join some of the best premium boutiques on the much coveted strip of George Street towards St Andrews Square. Having previously been located towards the West End of George Street, this new location suits the brand much better and has been opened as one of Jaeger's flagship concept stores. As you'd expect from this heritage brand, the interior comprises of understated and modern neutrals, with beautiful touches such as bronze fittings on natural wood displaying key pieces from the seasons. The shop is split over two levels for both women and men's shopping and has opened just in time for Christmas so that Santa can bring you the lux items you deserve!

Jaeger are best known for their gorgeous coats, an obvious staple in any Scottish wardrobe. You're spoilt for choice with the range of colours and styles but it's best to visit and actually feel the quality of the wool and cashmere; you'll realise this is a coat for life, not just a season. Their classic funnel neck coats are super stylish, particularly belted up. One of the more directional pieces to cover up with is the belted duster coat, in black mohair or beige alpaca wool blends. Utterly lush and ideal for any swish holiday parties. Another key AW15 piece is their range of long line gilets, the perfect transitional piece between seasons or even to swan about indoors with during the colder months. They look far more chic than the usual crumpled cardigan or blazer and give a clean silhouette when you need to layer up.

The other items on our Jaeger lust list are their classic cashmere jumpers, with lovely jewel tones joining the usual dark and neutral tones. There's also a number of great Breton tops that you can wear with anything, our top pick being this batwing Breton number. And the range of leather accessories is oh so fabulous too. We're looking longingly at soft leather gloves (with suede trim), small boxy bags and chic waist belts too. So make sure you visit Jaeger's beautiful new boutique next time you're on George Street to browse their gorgeous collection and treat yourself or someone special!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Fairytale Fitted Winter Boots from Ted and Muffy

Ted & Muffy have recently opened their gorgeous boutique shop on Castle Street, promising a 'fairytale fit' for their beautifully designed boots. Formerly Duo, they have re-branded to Ted & Muffy to return to the original ethos of the founders which is finding perfectly fitting footwear with an emphasis on their boots. With winter now fast approaching, it was perfect timing for them to hold an evening for bloggers to discover their range of classic designs and modern twists on trends and have a fitting with their specially trained staff.
It was a great opportunity to view their range of shoes, from ankle boots to brogues and most importantly winter boots. Their boots range is amazing, from classic riding boots exquisitely made with the finest Italian leathers, soft suede cranberry coloured heels to dramatic buttoned up over-the-knee boots. Their tailored boot fitting service takes in calf width size which ensures your 'fairytale' boot which fits you exactly.

Katey was keen for a flat pair and to try the Midnight riding boot but the lovely fitting assistant recommended the Huntsman style which had a more tailored ankle fitting  and an interesting asymmetric cut. The Huntsman was a far more flattering fit and has three classic shades to choose from: black, tan and navy. It was a gratifying shopping experience compared to other shoe shopping expeditions where we have just been given my requested type and gotten on with the decision myself without fitting advice or recommendations.
It was a gorgeous event, with each blogger getting a personalised key to pin on a very on trend branch tree and getting to browse in style sipping fizz and munching on treats. We were so thrilled to be invited and can't wait to start wearing our beautiful boots around town!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Edinburgh is Delicious: Kyloe Restaurant and Grill

Scotland is rightly famous for its steak and, if you love a good one, then you're due a visit to Kyloe Bar and Grill, Edinburgh's gourmet steak restaurant. Located centrally in the West End above the Rutland Hotel, they take their beef very seriously (Kyloe is an old Scots word for Highland beef cattle), using cuts from pedigree Aberdeen Angus from Scotland's top farms and butchers. Their love of cattle continues with a cow motif throughout the restaurant, an uber-Scottish tartan cow to greet customers outside and cow hide wallpaper and seating.  Even the artwork is cow-themed!

If you're a steak novice or just like a good chat about what kind of steak you're in the mood for, Kyloe's friendly waiting staff are there to help. After being left with the menu for a wee bit after arriving, we were presented with a board of cuts and talked through the various steak options and specials available. This is particularly helpful if you're unfamiliar with some of the rarer steak cuts, such as feather cut. We were told that all of the steaks are aged for 28 days to enhance the flavour and juiciness, with the option for a 60 day dry aged steak to ensure the tastiest choice possible. The select breeds were also discussed, including the 100% Aberdeen Angus from Hardiesmill Farm from the Scottish borders and on this particular day, an American Black Angus steak, rich with marbled fats.

There's plenty on the lunch menu to tempt away even a dedicated beef eater, such as the grilled smoked Finnan haddock, served with Mull cheddar rarebit and a plum tomato salad (£11) and fresh linguine, with peas, broad beans, asparagus and crumbled goats cheese (£9). Other more meaty options include the classic mixed grill, a beast of a dish with lamb cutlet, pork sausage, rump steak, lambs' kidneys, grilled tomato, flat mushroom and fried egg (£13) or the lighter option of a Thai beef salad with crispy vegetables and soy dressing (£12).

It was hard to resist the steak though and we sampled the Aberdeen Angus and the Black Angus, cooked medium and medium well respectively. I'd enquired about ordering a steak whilst pregnant and cooked to 75 degrees medium well is perfectly safe in pregnancy, with the rich fatness of the Black Angus cut meaning that it could be cooked for longer without losing any moisture. The staff at Kyloe were so knowledgeable and answered all of our queries in a friendly manner. It was really nice to experience this service in a restaurant of this quality, there was no snootiness here at all.

Whilst the steaks were being cooked, we had some delicious freshly baked bread with butter and a chunky tomato dipping sauce. Our steaks soon arrived, cooked to perfection, with the medium well Black Angus having stayed juicy as promised. Beef dripping chips were a decadent accompaniment and the sauces were an excellent complement to the steak. The peppercorn had a sweetness with a nice wee kick at the end and the bone marrow had a rich flavour which enhanced the steak with every bite.

The steaks took a while to finish and it was great to take it slowly and have a natter whilst getting through these beauties. We were presented with the dessert menu and couldn't resist having a peek. Every single dessert sounded sublime but our favourites were the rhubarb and custard soufflĂ©, served with rhubarb crumble ice cream (£7) and the plate of orange desserts, which consisted of a caramelised orange pudding, iced orange parfait and citrus rice pudding filo (£6.50). We were so pleased to have decided to fit these in as they were absolutely stunning and were some of the most beautiful we have tried in the city. The rhubarb soufflĂ© would be our top recommendation, it was light and sweet with a punch of rhubarb flavour. The trio of orange desserts was also beautiful and a refreshing option for after a steak, with the ice orange parfait being a particular highlight.

Lunch at Kyloe was such a pleasant experience, a really lovely way to while an afternoon, eating one of our favourite meals. An essential Edinburgh experience for the serious steak lover!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Scottish Spotlight: Weird Crushes & Tom Pigeon Prints

Remember years ago there was that L'Oreal advert featuring Jennifer Aniston swishing her golden locks and trilling "I've fallen in love...with a shampoo..." and we were all like "RACHEL'S HAIR" and ran out to Boots? Well I've been thinking about it a lot lately, because I've developed a bit of a weird crush too. In fact, I've fallen in love. With a pigeon. A pigeon called Tom.

Which, with two fingers up at tenuous segue haters, introduces the brilliant work of Scottish lovely stuff creators Tom Pigeon. I've recently purchased their wonderful Largo print, which is sitting pretty in my hall, but I'm generally obsessed with their entire range, and so felt compelled to do my own wee bit to spread the bird. Bare wall sufferers of the world, rejoice! Here are some of my faves from their latest collection:
Top of the list is the dreamily stargazing "Luna Collection", three gorgeously shiny foiled prints featuring the crescent moon at Dawn, Day and Dusk (£35 each). I think they would look very swish indeed on my bedroom wall.

I also utterly adore the geometric Harbour Collection in blocks of very on-trend blush and mint. Inspired by local harbours, they're £50 each. From L-R Harbour 1, Harbour 2, Harbour 3.

In summery shades of pale pink and blue is the Constructing Worlds trio. Originally designed for an exhibition at the Barbican, you can pick up them up for £60 each.

And finally - how apt? I really do want everything from Tom Pigeon, so this print has to be a must. It's £50, and comes with a twin print "Anything" in black and white for a lovely monochrome contrast.

The team at Tom Pigeon also do a stunning range in geometric jewellery - check it out here.
And like any true crush, you've got to do a little light stalking on social media (WE ALL DO IT) - follow them on Instagram and Twitter for beaut pics and design inspiration galore. Heart U Forever, TP. Love, your biggest fan, Jane ; )

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!