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.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Happy Galentine's Day!

Image via Smart Girls

Valentine's Day is all well and good but we are much more down with today's alternative, Galentine's Day. Devised by the wonderful Amy Poehler's character Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, it's celebrated the day before V-Day and is basically a day for ladies to celebrate ladies, the friendships that we have and our ongoing female awesomeness. Yeah! If you're down with Galentine's Day too, give your lady friends a compliment, tell them what they really mean to you and what you appreciate about each other.

Here's some other cool Galentine's stuff you can do:
♥ Go and visit Amy Poehler's Smart Girls to read articles on inspiring women and female empowerment.
♥ Smash the patriarchy over brunch - waffles are the traditional Galentine's meal and you can get some great ones from Papii's on Hanover Street.
♥ Listen to Rookie's tip top Galentine's playlist which will have you singing along straight away - who run the world? Girls!
♥ Remind your BFF that it's always hoes before bros and ovaries before brovaries with this instant download card from Etsy.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Argento Jewellery and 20% discount code

Argento are an online boutique selling gorgeous jewellery from a variety of brands, including Pandora, Thomas Sabo and Links of London along with some smaller exclusive companies. They have a huge range of jewellery, from quirky charm bracelets and pendants, classic watches, oversized cocktail rings and glittery gemstones.

Argento very kindly sent an August Woods necklace to us ahead of Valentine’s Day, a beautiful piece with a silver and grey looped design. It’s modern in design and classic enough to be teamed with either the most simple plain top or something more bold and patterned too. Stunning! August Woods have such a great range, I've got my eye on a lovely geometric silver spike necklace too. Argento sent some other goodies too; some luxury tanning lotion and chocolates and it was so lovely to be spoilt ahead of Valentine’s Day! It’s the perfect webpage for Valentine’s Day browsing for yourself or a loved one.

They have some brilliant offers on at the moment  - use the code LOVE20 to get 20% off your Argento purchase. And with a purchase over £50 you receive a free selfie stick! I must admit, it’s not something I would have purchased myself but it’s actually pretty cool. It’s nice to be able to get pictures of me and my boo without our huge faces being the main attraction and it’ll be great on holidays too. I’m not sure how high the embarrassment factor of waving one around in a crowded city would be but I’m looking forward to using it on a planned trip to Aviemore and capturing us with the beautiful Scottish countryside. And ensuring it captures everything sparkly that I'm wearing too!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Blogging on the go in Edinburgh

One of the best things about writing a blog with one of your best pals is the fun we have with the process itself. Jane & I meet up regularly to chat about future posts, Instagram ideas and how much we love Pinterest - usually over tea, cake and/or lunch! I had become used to lugging my laptop around with me, an unwieldy 15 inch slab which is fine for using at home but a pain to heave around town. Luckily, Logitech recently sent us their Keys To Go stand-alone keyboard. to try out, which connects to all iPads via bluetooth and fits neatly into an everyday bag. It's thinner and lighter than a notebook, and has a lovely feel to it when typing. It's so nice to have more room in my bag and my shoulder appreciates the lighter load too! It's covered in a water-repellant fabric skin which helps protect this from any dirt and spills. Not only that, I can stand my iPad up on a table and settle in a comfy couch and write away with the keyboard on my lap. The perfect blogging experience!

I thought it would also be nice to give a shout out to some of our favourite places to meet up & blog. They all have free wifi, plugs to keep everything charged,  delicious coffees and cakes, and are happy to have folk hanging around for a few hours.

♥ Hemma Bar is located near the bottom of Holyrood Road and is stylish and spacious, with two floors of seating. Plentiful couches, fab brunches and lovely staff make this the unofficial Edinburgh Etiquette weekend HQ.

♥ Loudons Cafe is a very popular weekend hangout for folk working away on laptops, but it's roomy enough for all with lots of seating. The menu has healthy eats and cakes from their own bakery and the table service means you can sit for a good hours and get work done without having to move.

♥ Brew Lab is the smallest of the three hang-outs and based in the heart of studentville in the Old Town so it's always good to get there early. They take their coffee very seriously so it's the best place to go when you need a jolt of caffeine to help you get on with your work.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Edinburgh Events: Things to Do in February

February's not just for lovin', it's also about eating pancakes, watching ballet, fine foods and getting arty - check it:

CoppeliaThe Nutcracker & Swan Lake
10-14 February / Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre, 18-22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA /
The Russian State Ballet are bringing a trio of some of the most magical and elegant ballets to Edinburgh - Coppelia, the Nutcracker and Swan Lake. We loved the Scottish Ballet's Nutcracker at Christmas and these are sure to be equally beautiful productions that will delight and inspire.

Pancake Weekend
13-15 February 2015 / Joseph Pearce's, 23 Elm Row, EH7 4AA
If there is one big day in February that is closer to my heart than Valentine's, it's Pancake Day! This year it's on the 17 February and JP's is having a Pancake Weekend to celebrate. Pop in any time for a stack of them to go along with the usual fine food, beers and Swedish inspired cocktails.

The Wave Pictures concert
10 February / Sneaky Petes, 73 Cowgate, EH1 1JW / £9
The Wave Pictures are one of our favourites and they'll have a new album out in February - yay! And they're playing in Edinburgh too - double yay! Hear some of the songs from Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon and swoon over the epic guitar solos.

The Scratch Series pop-up restaurant
Iglu, 2B Jamaica Street, EH3 6HH / £45
Scratch Series is a pop-up based at New Town eatery Iglu. Chefs David Crabtree-Logan and Ben Reade have taken over Iglu's upstairs restaurant space until the end of March, running every Thursday-Saturday at 7pm. At £45 it's a bit on the pricey side, but they promise to showcase the best local produce and plan to dazzle with seven course suppers of "refined, whimsical, thought-provoking and, above all, delicious food." With a description like that, who could resist?

Rail pop-up gallery & shop
Until 24 February / 9 South College Street, EH8 9AA
Run by University of Edinburgh students, this pop-up shop aims to combine art installation and shop, where even the clothes rails are specially designed sculptures. You can get a peek of what to expect from their Instagram account; they want to give visitors an experience where art is collaborative and the creative process is tangible. The pop-up will be visiting London in a few months so visit whilst you can.

Edinburgh Student Arts Festival
5-13 February / Venues throughout Edinburgh
This is the inaugural event, a collaboration between higher and further education institutions throughout Edinburgh. There should be a myriad of visual art, music, dance, exhibitions, talks, workshops, stalls and theatre shows, showcasing the work of 250 students. Expect wonderful things from Edinburgh's up & coming artists.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Edinburgh is Delicious: The Basement Bar, Broughton Street

Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Princes Street is Broughton Street, which has a small strip of cool bars and shops to visit at a more leisurely pace than Edinburgh's city centre. At the top of the street is the Basement Bar, an under-the-stairs hideaway which is a bit of an Edinburgh institution for cocktails and Mexican food. After a makeover in the past year it's a pretty sweet place to visit so I snapped up their invitation to try their menu

The dining space at the back of the bar is surprisingly light for a basement bar, with exposed brick, brightly coloured chairs and greenery decorating the walls. We were seated by our lovely waitress and perused the drinks menu with interest. As a Mexican bar, there was no surprise in the extensive tequila presence on the drinks menu or the sangrita, a palate cleanser intended for the moments between sips of tequila. There's also a fun cocktail menu too and, as a dedicated lover of everything passion fruit, I had to try their passion fruit and blueberry mojito. It was fresh and lovely, not too sweet due to the passion fruit kick to it and the traditional hint of mint. 

Their small bites menu has a lot of great choices on there, with some of our top picks being the seabass, scallop and prawn ceviche and the corn fritters with feta crema. After some deliberation, we settled for some crispy empanadias, filled with chorizo and spiced potato and some freshly made guacamole with tortilla chips. At the Basement Bar, you can be assured that freshly made guacamole really means freshly made, as they make this up right at the table. Scooping out a whole avocado and adding in red onion, garlic, lime and chili to your liking, it's mashed up in front of you ready to eat, a great touch. We were also presented with three bottle of hot sauce with varying degrees of heat - chipotle, jalapeno and for the bravest of souls who can take it, the intimidating x hot sauce. It's a good way to portion out spices when sharing dishes and the mountain of chips with the guacomole and delicate puffs of empanadias disappeared quickly.

The large plates have some favourite Mexican classics listed, like burritos, fajitas and baked enchilada, the latter of which was my dining companion's choice. It arrived as a huge flour tortilla covered in salsa and melted cheese, filled with chicken tinga, peppers and jalapenos. Served with rice, it was perfect with the hottest of hot sauces and deliciously filling. I thought the chilli negra sounded like an interesting choice of beef cooked with beer and dark chocolate, as did the Mexican blackened hake which was served with a seafood bisque and green rice. However I opted for the fish tacos, something I'd never tried before and thankfully, after stuffing myself with tortilla chips, the lightest dish on the menu. This was a tortilla crusted deep fried coley served on soft tortillas, with salad and mango salsa accompaniment and a good dollop of hot sauce. 

By the end of the meal we were pretty full, however something on the dessert menu had caught my eye, warm pineapple poached with chili and served with coconut ice cream. As a lover of tropical fruits, this ticked the right boxes for me and it was a lovely fresh way to end the meal. It was beautifully presented and accompanied with a sauce that I wasn't quite expecting, like a thin custard. While pleasant enough, I would have preferred the pineapple without the sauce, with the natural sweetness of the pineapple contrasting with the chili, but that was probably the only thing I'd change from our overall experience. We're looking forward to visiting again when we're next on Broughton Street as it's the perfect place in town to forget the cold and think warm sunny thoughts whilst tucking into freshly made guacamole!