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