Tasting Menus: Edinburgh and Glasgow

Recently Alex asked me to set aside a long weekend, he'd planned something to celebrate our anniversary. Four days, hmm, enough time to venture to another climate. In giddy anticipation I impulse-shopped a sun hat and a new pair of shorts. Just in case, you understand. "We're going on a Scottish city break!" he announced the night before our departure. Quietly, I tucked away the summer wear, and undertook a flurry of food research. Twitter is a fantastic resource for restaurant recommendations when you're short of time. I was happily overwhelmed with suggestions.

While I'd wrongly gauged the climate, he had very rightly gauged where to go. For years I've talked about wanting to visit Scotland's metro gems — Edinburgh and Glasgow. He listened. He planned. We went! And it only rained for half a day! We canvassed many acres of pavement throughout these two beautiful cities, and worked up quite an appetite. This is by no means a travelogue of everywhere we ate. These are the true stand-outs, the menu choices that I'll still be thinking about next anniversary.

The Kitchin
This one he chose. And he chose so very, very well. Run by a chef who was christened to cook, Tom Kitchin, the restaurant is located in Leith, a dockland area about 10 minutes from Edinburgh centre. The Kitchin's slogan is 'From Nature to Plate' and I've seen the chef on TV enthusiastically divulging how he really gets to know the people who provide the restaurant with ingredients, sometimes even accompanying them foraging or on fishing trips. His love for cooking with seasonal ingredients is evident the moment you open the menu. There is a Celebration of the Season daily specials menu, alongside the seasonally-minded a  la carte menu. The space manages to feel simultaneously decadent, friendly, buzzing, and relaxed. A huge window allows diners to watch the action in the kitchen and extends a bit of drama into the room.

The stand-out dish: North Sea red mullet coated with manioc flour and served with peas, lettuce, carrots, mousseron mushrooms and pea shoots.

It seems our meal was perfectly timed to experience the Best Fish Coating Ever. Chef Kitchin worked in Brazil for two weeks prior to our visit and brought the manioc flour back with him to use for the first time in the restaurant. In this particular dish he added a little cumin powder to the flour to compliment the flavours. This coating gave the fish a fine crunchy texture with a flavour kick. I now want all my fish to have the Scottish-Brazilian treatment!

The Ubiquitous Chip
Set in a mews in Glasgow's West End, the Chip turned 40 this year and is famous for championing seasonal, local produce well before it was en vogue. There's a feast for the eyes here before any food even arrives thanks to a fantastically quirky atmosphere which is flooded with natural light and chock full of plants, chandeliers and paintings. Upstairs the brassiere overlooks the ground floor restaurant. As it was our first visit we booked into the restaurant to try the more elaborate menu. We were there on a Monday night and it was bustling with happy diners and super friendly staff.

The stand-out dish: Rich dark chocolate delice with beetroot and chilli sorbet.

This is a case of a chef combining flavours so spectacularly it makes you proclaim your pleasure a bit too loudly in a public place. The depth of dark chocolate here is spiked with a sorbet that at first provides a cool earthy flavour, and then a warm spicy wave of chilli tingles down your throat. A delicious thrill of a dessert.

While there are seemingly endless Indian restaurants in London (and five within a five minute walk of my flat) I've always heard the best are found up North. My first Indian meal in Scotland did nothing to dampen this theory. My lunch at Mother India Cafe featured some of the most delicious Indian food I have ever eaten, and I wish it was within walking distance of my flat — I'd trade all of the others for it! The cafe (part of a small collection of restaurants, cafes, and take-away delis) serves small(ish) sharing portions, which is brilliant as you can try so much more than you might at the restaurant. We chose a spread of vegetarian dishes, and everything was sensationally fresh and properly spicy. I find Indian veggie dishes can so often lack heat, but this Mother definitely knows best.

The stand-out dish: Vegetable Kofta Curry (centre-right on plate)

Everything was sensational, our choices included Chana Dall, Garlic Mushroom Pakora, and Allo Saag Dosa (the pancake so perfectly paper thin with a bold spicy spinach filling, divine). But the Vegetable Kofta Curry was a revelation, offering a bewitching combinations of flavours, the perfect amount of heat, and the joy of eating balanced bittersweetly with the fear of it being finished and not found again.

Take a Break
Everyone needs a cuppa and a treat after treading round a city for hours. Luckily there are some lovely places to relax, revive, and re-enter these architecturally rich cities with freshly sugared zeal.

In Leith the kitschy cute Mimi's Bakehouse has a cake counter that even adults can't resist pressing their faces up against. Classics like Victoria Sponge cake sit alongside towers of Mars Bar Krispie Slice, Coconut Moments, and Caramel Shortbread. Or if you're in the university area of Edinburgh be sure to stop by Peter's Yard, a coffee shop offering fresh baked Swedish classics such as cardamom buns, crisp breads, and open-faced dark rye bread sandwiches. 

In Glasgow's West End we wandered past Coffee, Chocolate and Tea and couldn't resist popping in. A gleaming coffee bean roaster sits in the front, and it is not just for show, they use it daily to produce the freshest grounds around. Their delicate homemade chocolates were tempting (sorry, no photos), but we'll have to return and try them another time as every bit of tummy was taken up by Mother India. I found unfortunately there's only so much you can eat in four days, but we'll look forward to returning to these cities another time, ready to try more stand-out Scottish delights.

1 comment:

  1. I just learned how to comment! Ok. I want to go to Glasgow! Your meals sound amazing and your mini-break jealous making! Xo


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