The Tastiest of Thistles

For most people a visit to Edinburgh is likely to stir up thoughts of The Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat, Princes Street, castles, museums and palaces. Steep hills, stone steps and cobbled streets ooze history. Then there is the incessant din of those bag pipes as you stroll from one quintessential Scottish souvenir shop to the next (all selling the same range of stuff). But, enough of these time fillers, when it comes to the serious business how does Edinburgh stand up to satisfying your appetites? Savouring Auld Reekie comes with impressive surprises.

‘How do you like your eggs?’ is a very pertinent question of any culinary adventure, whatever time of the day it happens to be. But, what about your bee pollen, goji berries, pak choi and whisky sauce (but not all in the same meal)? Traditional Scottish fayre has certainly taken on an altogether more exotic flavour.

Starting the day needn’t be a boring tradition! At the Urban Angel in New Town, just around the corner from Thistle Street, the eggs might come baked with a tomato sauce accompanied by chorizo and black pudding. Just add an Acai Bowl of goji berries, bee pollen and coconut flakes, alongside your avocado on sourdough, with a freshly baked almond croissant. Just make sure you book a morning seat, because this place is deservedly popular.

So, you’ve loaded up on history and culture, or good old shopping. But, what you’re really focused on is the potential provenance of that next meal. What is it currently doing… quacking, mooing, baaing, or maybe gently gliding some slinky watery moves.

Cafe Marlayne on Thistle Street doesn’t go in for the over elaborate menu choices, but what it offers comes with a side of style. Swoon over a crispy fried egg and asparagus starter, complete with a grainy Freekah (whatever Freekah is).

Then, it’s time to offend Daffy’s sensibilities, with neatly presented duck breast, carrot and ginger puree, pak choi in sesame oil, spring onions and a hoisin glaze.

Fishers in the City, on Thistle Street (yes, there again) offers good old fashioned Scottish tradition with a modern twist. Scallops, salsify puree, and Stornoway black pudding was just begging to be eaten long before the ubiquitous photograph could be taken.

Then there was the national treasure… Loch Duart Salmon simply presented but delicately flavoured, served with new potatoes, green beans and a sauce vierge. It just called for a side of perfect chips, and Fishers duely obliged. This was my kind of Fish & Chips!

Before you start thinking Edinburgh only does British dishes, albeit in quite some style, Cafe Andaluz on George Street in New Town (parallel to Thistle Street) sets up a fine range of tapas. OK, so you need longer to read the menu than to eat the food, but each dish was presented in a way that says ‘we want you to plan your return… very soon!’. You’ll have to guess the range of dishes here, but somewhere in there lies a black pudding dish that deserves its own Michelin star.

So, what about traditional Scottish Haggis? Well, the Haggis & Whisky House on Cockburn Street in the Old Town (what, not Thistle Street in the New Town?) shows that even tradition can be tinkered with to great effect… Haggis, tatties and neeps in a whisky sauce showcases the dish in all its finery. OK, so chips aren’t the natural accompaniment, but when they’re this good, tradition can be left outside the door.

Until we speak again, all of the above delights, except the Haggis & Whisky House, were found within a 200metre walk within New Town. Why expend unnecessary energy searching for fabulous food. There is even a most fabulous coffee place on Thistle Street where the beans are often roasted while you wait, and believe me, the wait is worth it.

Lost & Found

In Wales, the impact of the pandemic is once again easing, as we find ourselves topping the world table for progressing the vaccine rollout. But, what did you miss during the long winter months of lockdown restrictions?

Apologies and sympathy to those of you having to downgrade from Heinz to Own Brand baked beans. Juno’s View is that quality always trumps quantity, so Heinz for a day or two less a week would be my heartless advice!

In pursuit of that quality, it is the idea of a favourite independent restaurant re-opening that kept stirring my imagination. And, one such establishment seems to have taken the opportunity for an internal refurbishment during the months of closure…

Getting in an early booking, before the arrival of most other desperate punters, provided an opportunity to see where some of the felled rainforest ended up! Though it does make for a relaxed space for fine dining.

This was always a place for a limited menu of high quality local produce. So, would a re-vamped menu trouble any prior expectations?

Not wishing to overload the meat feast… a starter of asparagus and poached egg, with avocado, cherry vine tomatoes and hollandaise sauce offered an instant reminder that I’m not at ‘chez Juno’s View‘ at this point. Here, presentation combines with a delicate assault on the taste buds. Not for me, the fleeting thought of eating out of the carton/bag or whether to use a cheap porcelain plate!

Then there is the whole reason for dreaming and wishing… that poor Daisy has been grazing the ranch for months with no chance to provide a pleasurable outcome for others… Yes, the Fillet Steak experience! OK, so I cooked a couple of good quality ones at home over Christmas. But this is what getting out of bed on a rainy Tuesday morning in May is all about…

Just add some buttered greens, triple cooked chips and pink peppercorn sauce, and the picture is complete…

Until we speak again… what, you thought I’d share more of my steak with you? I’m too busy sipping the accompanying smooth Argentinian Malbec. Enjoy your Own Brand whatevers.

Train cancelled, but…

It’s that frequently annoying situation. Your train arrives in the station on time, only to find your connection is cancelled with a two hour wait for the next service.

When in Salisbury next, I suggest you hope for such a situation! 5 minutes walk brings you to the fabulous Lebanese restaurant of Baroushka

This is a place where a leisurely approach to lunch is required; maybe even absolutely demanded…

A starter of grilled halloumi with a rocket salad accompaniment was the perfect balance of baked exterior with a delicately soft cheese interior. Looking like perfectly toasted slices of bread this provided a light appetizer…

The main course of pear glazed duck breast on a bed of cous cous with an orange salad provided a delightful range of contrasting tastes and textures. Even the designs of plate and table cloth add to the overall welcome sensual assault, to remind you that relaxation need not be a mindless exercise…

A Turkish Coffee came with a range of ethnic paraphernalia, including a cube of Turkish Delight

The Spiced Ginger Beer was a further addition to the assault on the taste buds. Is this placed licensed? You bet, with an extensive range of beers, wines and cocktails. But this is lunch, right… and some of us have yet to navigate the dysfunctions of the privatised rail system with a clear head!

Until we speak again, apologies to any readers stranded by rail cancellations elsewhere… you really are in the wrong place.

The Sunshine Trap

Here’s one that Juno would have approved of, during one of those fleeting waking moments, when the priority slides from the dreamy to the tasty.

Take a picture of this… it’s a hot and sunny day at the lake in City Park, so you find a perfectly submerged branch in order to simply bask in the bright sunshine…

Before

A few hours pass, and you are left wondering how you managed to end up in a dish at one of the city’s fine dining establishments…

After

Until we speak again, it may be a gloomy autumnal, drifting into winter, kind of day in the UK, but don’t overdo the temptations of sunshine when they come a calling. You could end up in the soup!

Gone Fishing!

Whatever your level of budget or taste you can bet New Orleans is going to come up with something that will add to your lifetime gastronomic mind map. My relationship to fish is generally one of appreciating their grace and beauty rather than their taste; but there is a small range of the critters that had just better watch out when I am around!

When the company is right for a spot of the fine dining I recently found that there is no better place in the French Quarter than GW Fins (aptly named for a seafood joint).

Okay, maybe I did cheat a bit with a Crispy Belly Pork & Watermelon appetiser; but you would to if you had the chance! In any case, my companions were diving straight into the pond after the Fried Snapper Belly (complete with fin)…

Fried Snapper Belly and Crispy Pork Belly

However, it didn’t take me long to cross swords with the finest tasting Blackened Swordfish with Fried Shrimp, whilst viewing my companions Spearfished Cobia across the table.

Spearfished Cobia and Swordfish dishes

And, just for variety, there was also an example of the house speciality Scalibut

Scalibut

Until we speak again, feel free to suggest further gastronomic challenges you would like me to take on your behalf… there is no end to the level of personal sacrifice I am prepared top make on your behalf. In the meantime check out GW Fins menu and wine list for salivation (definitely not salvation) purposes…

 

 

What’s in a name?

Strolling down Cardiff’s infamous Caroline Street (aka chip alley) it is easy to see how we can become accustomed to a familiar name when treating ourselves to that special dining out experience. Tony’s may have been around for some time, but for truly satisfying ‘chips and chicken curry off the bone‘ then it has to be Dorothy’s, serving Cardiff’s late night inebriates since 1953.

Caroline Street at night

With many other neighbouring establishments churning out British and faux Mediterranean nosh at speed, there is clearly no room here for Marco and his comfortably relaxed approach to cuisine. No, for Marco Pierre White another run down part of the city centre would need to upgrade in order to accommodate an altogether different way of dining.

The once dilapidated Dominions Arcade has had a makeover, with Dominions House recently accommodating the Indigo Hotel

On entering the old entrance to the arcade bypass the hotel reception and take the lift to the 6th Floor, because you don’t have to be a hotel resident to partake of the roof terrace restaurant that landed in November 2017…

Indigo Hotel entrance

Checking out the menu provides plenty of good reasons for making the elevated journey, with Rillettes of Pork and Armangnac Soaked Prunes providing a starter never to be found on Caroline Street! They only provided two of the prunes over a pate of pork, as no doubt a bowl full of the devils would seriously impede your subsequent ability to walk (though it would be a delightful anatomical challenge!)…

Prunes starter

As this was an occasion for two guys to celebrate Christmas 2017 in August 2018 (if you don’t understand that one, don’t ask), the interesting vegetarian options on the menu were comfortably placed in the ‘not to be disturbed’ section of the culinary brain. Tempting as the steaks were we were both a bit filleted out of late. So, it was time to distribute patronage more liberally around the animal kingdom… sheep and pigs were put on high alert to do what they do best!

For me the temptation of Roast Rump of Lamb A La Dijonnaise was irresistible. And a side of French Beans with Toasted Almonds was a personal nod to the possible delights that the world of vegetables can offer to us dedicated carnivores…

Rump of Lamb

As for my visiting companion, only a porcine assault in the form of The Pig Mixed Grill with Triple Cooked Chips would satisfy… something that the sausage and chips down Caroline Street would never be able to compete with!

Pig feast

Until we speak again, Juno would only have agreed to put her name to this blog if it was going to be a true reflection of her views and experiences of Cardiff and elsewhere. As for Marco Pierre White, it seems he is so confident in his name he even includes it on a specially created bottle of wine (though the water was pure Welsh!).

Wine and Water

 

Vegetarians nightmare

Why do us cats eat meat? Why not is my answer? Greenery was always something I was brought up to look out of the window at. A vegetarian’s dream dish of fennel and kale resembles nothing more than lush coloured tumbleweed, and certainly doesn’t satisfy the same sense of achievement in knowing that my meal once had a name and roamed the prairies, or whatever.

So, I was very keen to send my apprentice carnivores off to test out a place in St Mary’s Street in Cardiff, somewhere with a name that instantly struck a chord with my culinary sensibilities…

The Meating Place [1]This is a small but very cozy restaurant in a busy part of town for socialising and entertainment, with an atmosphere that invites visiting cats to relax and focus on the food…

The Meating Place [4]

The Meating Place [6]

For the discerning vegetarian the darkness might be a little foreboding, with delicate shades of pink light illuminating members of the animal kingdom. Even some of the wall decoration has been chosen to remind dining cats of their priorities!

The Meating Place [5]

However, a quick glance at the menu takes away any of that decision-making anxiety for vegetarian diners, who may need to conserve all of their energy for lifting knives and forks. With a bunch of appetisers, a couple of starters and one main dish, all thought processes can be reserved for managing the sensual and moral assault from the whisker preening carnivorous majority.

The Meating Place food [4]Any lapsed vegetarians will no doubt be more than grateful for their change in culinary fortunes. A starter of duck and cranberry sauce was presented in a very different format from the aromatic crispy variety so beloved by this cat’s apprentice. Don’t search the menu for this one, as they do like to present a few specials on the day…

The meating Place food [1]Then there is the historical reference of this restaurant, with a previous incarnation of Portuguese cuisine. The hanging skewers have been retained so you can have some of your dishes suspended above the table. In this visit the lamb sewer was particularly delicate and tasty…

The Meating Place food [2]I am reliably informed that carnivore junior also enjoyed the sirloin steak. And why should vegetarians feel left out when the home made chunky chips were cooked to perfection!?

The Meating PLace food [3]Call this food!Reports suggest that scavenging cats need not assemble out the back of this particular restaurant, as plates tend to be returned empty! Until we speak again this Bella would like to extend a special thanks to all the Daisy’s, Dolly’s and Donald’s who graze our green and lush countryside in order to grace the plate so extravagantly.

As a responsible cat it is also important that I state no vegetarians were harmed during the staging of this event!

Pursuit of elegance

Is this my best side?Emerging from the docklands of London, and moving to the docklands of Cardiff instilled in Juno the deep rooted need to pursue something not easily equated with the streets of former industrial heartlands… the embodiment of elegance. The interpretation of indifference has often been too easily attributed to the demeanour of cats, whereas for Juno the cool cat exterior was simply her way of communicating the natural superiority she felt over the humans whose mission it was to serve her!

On my latest work trip back to the place of her origin… Newham, East London, I was determined that some of that elegant demeanour should rub off. I and my trusty companion journeyed forth through the Isle of Dog’s and Wapping’s of the former maritime powerhouse that was once the world famous London docks, in search of elegant vitals in sublime surroundings. In the depths of the memory banks reminiscence of one St. Katherine’s Dock kept re-surfacing:

St Katherine's Dock [1]

 

Kilikya's [5]

 

A wide range of budgets and ethnic sources of restaurants and bars are available in these relaxing surroundings, but recent Turkish delights from Islington were over-powering the decision-making equipment, particularly when Kilikya’s Turkish Restaurant hove into sight, occupying a central position in one of the former dockside buildings.

The table offered a mesmerising view of water-bound tranquility…

Kilikya's [4]

… while the interior presented a subdued atmosphere conducive to the forthcoming art of consumption. The success of the pursuit had finally been confirmed by a casual glance at the wine menu, offering Cankaya, a Turkish white wine accurately described as dry, light
and elegant!Kilikya's [2]

We had most definitely achieved that ‘mission accomplished’ vibe, and it was time to surrender to the inevitable Turkish delights on offer. A selection of succulent olives and side of flatbread set up the palate for a feast. Iskender Kebap, a mix of marinated cubed chicken & lamb delicately spiced with an addition of yoghurt, a Biber Dolma presented stuffed red peppers, and even chips to die for!

Kilikya's [3]

As a midsummers evening began to give up its visual splendour we had a last opportunity to take in the elegant surroundings we had enjoyed for the past couple of hours…

St. Katherine's Dopck [4]

And all of this happened within the shadow of a true London architectural icons…

Tower Bridge at night

Until we speak again take Juno’s lead and bring some elegance into your life.

It is what colour?

ChilledIn my experience black cats are colourful in character, but there is seldom any question about confusion over their colour. Juno quickly had an eye for the colourful space, particularly one where she could survey all of the world around her from a perch on a chesterfield sofa.

But even she might have initiallyPurple Poppadom [1] baulked at the idea of poppadom’s coming in a shade of purple! So, fortified by some good prior reviews, it was time for a friend and I to venture forth in search of the Purple Poppadom and search was the operative word, as this gem is easily missed as you stroll along the main Canton thoroughfare in Cardiff. Yes it is that tiny door to that place upstairs:

Once you have found it the welcome is warm and friendly, helped by booking a quiet time of the week (early Sunday evening). And the purple decor was of the restrained variety…

Purple Poppadom [2]

 

 

Whatever you think you know about Indian cuisine, leave it at the door, as a quick glance at the equally restrained menu initially leaves you wondering ‘what is that?’ But don’t get me wrong, the menu deserves time to be spent reading it to get the twists and signatures in the dishes; while possibly drinking out of Buddha shaped beer bottles!

Purple Poppadom [3]

A reference to a starter originating from the street food stalls of Lucknow was tempting. It is a bit like the UK ‘M&S Food’ supermarkets that go in for naming the place of origin as a means of elevating the recognition of their signature dishes. Venison Pao came delicately spiced, with melt-in-your-mouth minced meat, topped off with a fried egg. Not your standard Indian restaurant dish, but after a couple of mouthfuls I resolved never to eat anything but this for the rest of my life!

Purple Poppadom [5]

It would take something rather special to stop me from just repeating the starter order. Luckily this place has plenty more temptations where that one came from. Coconut rice and Peshwari Naan should have been relatively easy to choose, but there were a few other accompaniments running them close. The Kashmiri Roganjosh and Saag Gosht provided variations on lamb that once again can only be described as melt-in-the-mouth perfection.

Purple Poppadom [7]

Purple Poppadom [4]For the record, the poppadom’s were not purple (but one of the accompanying chutneys was, alongside green and yellow varieties!)…

Juno would have been baffled, but we came out… replete. Until we speak again may your dining experiences hit a purple patch!

Dock of the bay

Another day another eating opportunity, but where am I? Oh yes, I find myself dreaming of another cool cat… Otis Redding. So I find myself sitting in the morning sun, sitting on the dock of the bay

Norwegian Church

Watching the tide rolling away, wasting time. Left my home in Atlantic Wharf, headed for the Cardiff Bay. So what is there to do with some hard earned spare time Down The Bay (previously known by my resident old git as ‘down the docks’)? Apart from napping there is always a range of culinary temptations to stroke the whiskers over, and today feels like one of those for dropping a steer…

Bayside Brasserie [1]

Bayside Brasserie [10]Bayside Brasserie [8]

 

 

 

 

Sitting here resting my bones, watching the tide roll away…

Bayside Brasserie [2]

 

Looks like nothing is going to change… then I see the menu, and I realise why two thousand miles I might roam just to make this dock my home..

Bayside Brasserie [5]

Bayside Brasserie [6]

Bayside Brasserie [3]

 

When the ambience is as laid back as this there is little else more satisfying than just sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away.

Bayside Brasserie [7]

 

 

So until we speak again this is satiated Juno finishing with some harmonic whistling.