The Refinery

The Refinery is a stylish bar and eatery on St Andrews Square where hours can easily slip by sipping refreshing cocktails or earthy coffees and enjoying adventurous creations or classic dishes in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

To celebrate one of my marvellous friends 25th birthday a large group of us sat down to what has been one of the best brunches i have had in a longtime. First of all the staff were fantastic; friendly and attentive and joined in the applause when we sang our atrociously pitched happy birthday.

I began with a flat white, the first thing to pass my lips that morning, my nostrils were filled with the rich aroma of the perfect morning medicine.

Once suitably caffeinated I moved onto a brunch classic: the Bloody Mary. The Refinery know sometimes simple is better and I chose a spice 4/10 so as not to be too overpowering with my food. A refreshing and favourite brunch accompaniment.

The Refinery’s brunch menu combines favourites like full scottish and vegetarian breakfasts, eggs benedict and blueberry pancakes but it was their buttermilk chicken and waffle that caught my eye.

An unusual choice for brunch but so tempting i had to try it; a thick sweet waffle topped with creamy avocado and moist chicken thickly coated in a crunchy seasoned batter, all smothered in sour cream and chilli maple syrup. Presentation alone this dish knocked it out of the park and after the first bite i zoned out and gave my full attention to this masterpiece of flavours.

Brunch is my favourite meal; getting together with friends over eggs and coffee, bubbles if you’re feeling fancy, and spending comfortable lazy hours talking and laughing. The Refinery has risen the bar and given my favourite meal a rejuvenation; injecting interesting flavours and providing exciting alternatives that have caught my attention and put going back to The Refinery at the forefront of my mind.

 

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Bentoya

Bentoya serves up some of the tastiest sushi creations i have ever had the pleasure of trying. Just off Lothian road on Bread Street it is tucked away enough that you are sure to always get a table but is well known by locals and the buzz i’ve heard from friends was enough to get me to pick up the phone.This was the next of our flat mate dinners and all three of us were champing at the bit to dine here.

We began with a selection of old favourites and new temptations; green dragon rolls, volcano rolls, takoyaki, pumpkin croquettes, chicken and vegetable gyoza and the 5 piece sashimi set.

I discovered green dragon rolls at our last flat mate dinner and haven’t looked back since; creamy avocado sat upon sweet sticky rice that encompassed savoury crispy prawn tempura topped with mayo, eel sauce and flying fish roe. My new favourite sushi go to, the crunch of the tempura gave a satisfying texture and delicious taste to this perfect bundle of taste bud joy.

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Volcano rolls are similar to dragon rolls but with a fiery twist; dried shredded chilli, spring onion and a generous helping of creamy sauce. The sauce balanced out the heat of the chilli making it a rich, indulgent mouthful with the perfect amount of kick.

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Everywhere we go there are certain dishes we always order, curious to see how they differ with each restaurant and, to be honest, because they taste fantastic. Takoyaki is one of these dishes and these were up there with some of the best; perfectly formed golden spheres of crunchy batter and sweet octopus served with mayo, warm and comforting, these will stay a firm favourite.

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Pumpkin croquettes are another of our favourites and Bentoya know exactly how to hit the balance of the crunchy bread crumb and sesame exterior to the smooth sweet pumpkin filling, drizzled with their ‘secret’ house sauce. The secret is i have no idea what it was but it was bloody delicious.

I used to be team crispy gyoza but recently, and with great thanks to Bentoya, i have definitely jumped on the soft gyoza band wagon. Neat pockets of a scrumptious chicken and vegetable filling that soak up a sharp and spicy vinegar sauce which are perfect for sharing but once you taste them you’ll wish you weren’t sharing.

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I am late to the sashimi hype, if there ever was one, and i am still on the fence; when fresh it is divine but more often or not the fish can taste overly fishy and leave an off taste in your mouth. We ordered the 5 piece set which included salmon, tuna, octopus, shrimp and surf clam. The salmon was fresh and clean, the surf clam had a strong fishy taste which is unusual, the tuna’s texture was good but the taste from the surf clam over powered the taste. The octopus tasted sweet and slightly chewy and the shrimp were similarly sweet and fleshy. I would order the salmon over and over again and possibly the tuna but i’ll happily leave the rest having tried it once.

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We had a rest break but we were far from finished, curious to try more we ordered the teriyaki chicken sizzling plate with rice and spider rolls; crispy soft shell crab and avocado roll topped with sesame, mayo, flying fish roe and tempura flakes. Another great combination of sweet and savoury but not as addictive as the dragon and volcano rolls.

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The sizzling plate was glorious; stir fry vegetables swam in a sweet glossy teriyaki sauce accompanied by sticky rice and lightly battered golden pieces of chicken, it was moreish, tasty and comforting.

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I left feeling full, satisfied and now part of the ever growing group that rave about Bentoya. I have already made plans to go back with friends with suggestions of dishes i have yet to try but are definitely on my list. Now a cemented favourite in my mind of go to places to eat this is not the last of Bentoya but merely only the beginning of a very exciting relationship with one of Edinburgh’s best sushi restaurants.

 

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The Pitt

The Pitt is Edinburgh’s newest street food market offering delicious dishes from local traders alongside cold locally brewed beers every Saturday and Sunday.

Set up in an old industrial yard each weekend The Pitt offers more than just tasty food and drinks with music from acoustic guitar to DJ sets giving the sun trap a lively atmosphere; perfect with friends or family.

I decided to take two hungover Pitt market virgins down on Sunday, promising indulgent food and cold beers that would nurse them back to health.

The line up of food for Sunday 15th included: The Buffalo Truck, La Cinquecento Pizza, barnacles & bones, Ròst Eats, MOO PIE Gelato and Haggisman.

And the drink hosts of the day were Crumbs of Portobello, The Pop Up Cocktail Kitchen, Barney’s Beer and Smith & Gertrude.

We beelined for the Haggisman truck because hungover little Pitt virgin number one craved all things cheese and haggis; nachos heaped with rich moreish haggis, salsa, guacamole and onions making a colourful and delicious mountain capable of curing the mightiest of hangovers. All washed down with a crisp pint of Polozzi beer; happy campers all round.

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Opting for something lighter i moseyed my way to Ròst Eats, the gaelic for ‘roast’, for one of their smoked salmon sushi salads; black sticky rice with avocado, smoked salmon, seaweed, baby corn and pickled carrot. This dish was sweet, fresh and completely guilt free, the perfect summer combination.

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Hungover little Pitt virgin number one treated us to Ròst Eats infamous halloumi fries, a dish i have been waiting to try and they were definitely worth the wait. Golden fingers of perfectly salty fried halloumi drizzled with yoghurt and sprinkled with sweet pomegranate seeds, each bite was better than the last. We will be going back for more, many more. We switched from Polozzi to a pint of Barney’s Volcano IPA; an earthy and dark IPA that went down far too quickly, perfect for the sunny weather.

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Finally, after fretful waiting on coal fires slowly cooking tender smoky steaks, i had my second ever Pitt ‘steak and chips’; crunchy frites topped with thick, rare slices of tender pink steak all soaking in a zesty green chimichurri. Divine. It is one of the main reasons i returned to the Pitt, one of the best things i have eaten.

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The Pitt is a hive of like minded foodies coming together to create a truly unique and wonderful space and experience where eating a burger then ice cream then nachos alongside pints and steak and chips is not only acceptable but encouraged. Mostly. I highly recommend making the journey because it is well and truly worth it and i guarantee you’ll be raving to your friends and returning for many more delicious treats in no time.

 

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Contini

Contini has recently undergone a fabulous refurbishment both aesthetically and with their menus: smaller tasty portions perfect for sharing.

I spotted their offer of 2 primi, 2 secondi and a contorno to share with Venus cocktails for two on Itison and jumped at the chance to try this family restaurant that I have heard many good things about.

Making a decision was hard but helped by the sweet and fragrant Venus cocktail; prosecco mixed with Italian wild strawberry Fragolino liquer, dried crushed strawberries and lavender. The cocktail was heaven but could have done without the dried lavender, it was a chewy mouthful that got in the way of a great cocktail.

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I began with the carbonara; not my usual choice for a starter but the combination of trofiette pasta, smoked pig cheeks, broad beans, Griersons organic eggs and pecorino sardo was too tempting to miss.

I was not disappointed; the smoked pig cheeks were wonderfully salty, coupled with the sweetness of the broad beans and mild nuttiness of the pecorino this gave a classic dish a modern and delicious revival.

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My sister went for the salame; salame calabrese, roasted aubergine, mint créme fraîche, pomegranate and pistachio. This dish was light but full of flavour; the mint créme fraîche and the salame were divine together and the crunch of the pistachio gave texture to this inventive combination.

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We ordered a bottle of the 2016 Trebbiano/Gargenega, Ponte Pietra with it’s almond blossom and green apple aromas it worked well with the food and was exquisite glass after glass.

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Primi’s down and onto secondi’s we were excited to taste the next round. I chose the Milanese; Scottish free range chicken Milanese style in breadcrumbs with toasted almonds, cooked Amalfi lemons, caper berries and gremolata. The breadcrumbs were crispy, the chicken moist and it absorbed the oil and lemon beautifully. Again Contini’s use of nuts in their dishes worked perfectly, the almonds were the perfect addition to a fresh, tasty dish.

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Sister Tinto decided on the Branzino; chargrilled seabass with Pachino tomatoes and Taggiasca olives. The skin crispy and the fish cooked impeccably, we could not fault one thing about this dish.

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We chose the Zucchine as our contorno; raw ribbons of courgette and Capezzana olive oil with Parmigiano Reggiano DOP and fresh chilli. A nice idea that looked enticing on paper but could have used more chilli and the Parmigiano over powered the courgette.

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For small portions you definitely leave feeling full and satisfied, the food is colourful, fresh and delicious. I admire Contini for their bold choices and flavours because it works, so well. I will be coming back with friends to try more of their exciting dishes which are indeed perfect for sharing.

 

The Chophouse: Wild Turkey Masterclass

The Leith Chop House Steak House is the epitome of a hidden gem: a stylish refuge on Constitution Street where the barmen are dapper, the drinks inventive and the food delicious and fun.

This was our second tasting with the Compass Group, owners of The Westroom, Sygn Bar and Monteiths, and going on our first experience we were in for a treat.

I started with a Jalisco Two Step, a perfectly sharp blend of Tapatio blanco tequila, cherry liqueur, sea salt and watermelon cordial, agave and lime. 

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The girls opted for something sweeter: the Betty Do Wop. A fabulous concoction of Bombay Sapphire gin, strawberry shrub, mallow root and lemon.

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For the tasting we began with a platter of fat golden corn dogs with a tangy sweetcorn salsa; the batter crunched as we wrestled our mouths round the dogs with the sharpness of the salsa balancing out each mouthful. Alongside this we had chicken lollipops; juicy chicken legs coated in a thick, crispy layer of breadcrumbs with a blue cheese sauce that was so tangy and delicious it was hard not to drink it straight, however we politely dipped and melted.

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The cocktail paired to this mini feast was an adult take on the classic cherry soda pop: sweet and juicy with a kick to the back of your throat.

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Our second cocktail for the evening came paired with a wee paper cone of burnt caramel coated popcorn which was so moreish i sneaked some off the girls. Whiskey and caramel are a fantastic combination and this cocktail was our clear favourite.

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This was followed by beautifully tender slices of rare steak soaked in a basil and mint marinade that melted in your mouth.

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Our final cocktail was a smoky, peaty whiskey with banana and nutmeg; the perfect liquid dessert. Sitting carefully on top was a dried piece of banana that resembled sucking on a sour lemon, it acted as a great palette cleanser and left a wonderfully tart taste in your mouth.

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For three women who, prior to this tasting, avoided whiskey like the plague, we will now be actively seeking out more of the Chop House’s inventive and mouth watering cocktails to quench our new found thirst for the strong stuff. Another fun, interesting and unforgettable tasting and we can’t wait for the next one.

 

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The Kitchin

It has been a goal of mine to eat in a Michelin star restaurant and to see what all the fuss is about. My partner bought me a voucher for the set lunch for two for my birthday last year so now was the time to explore the world of fine dining.

We were presented with a variety of crispy bread sticks of different flavours including seaweed and honey and sesame, all with a creamy salmon dip; as appetisers go they were divine and perfect to nibble while we studied the wine list. We chose Little Beauty, a Pinot Gris from Marlborough, that was vibrant and fresh with floral notes.

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While we gazed at everything on the menu we were brought a thick crunchy loaf of soda bread that cracked beautifully when ripped open. Warm fluffy insides greedily soaked up the creamy golden salted butter that we generously slathered on and ate in minutes.

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We began with a boudin of Inverurie ox tongue served with peas and bone marrow; the broth was rich and salty without being over powering and each vegetable and meat morsel burst with flavour. This was my first time trying ox tongue and The Kitchin did not disappoint; the bone marrow happily melted into the broth with every bite. This dish was comforting and exciting.

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To follow we ordered  the pork and the lamb, with a menu this inviting making decisions was difficult. The crispy Clash Farm pork belly and fillet came poised on a vibrant bed of thick asparagus sauce nestled beside Eassie Farm asparagus wrapped in crispy bacon. The fillet was succulent and pink and the belly tender with a mouth watering thick and crispy fatty layer. The asparagus held their own, the right amount of crunch and freshness complimented the richness of the meat.

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The slow cooked neck of Highland lamb served on a bed of saffron risotto with lambs tongue and broad beans exuded gorgeously bold colours and earthy flavours. The lamb was melt in your mouth decadence, the risotto had a subtle floral flavour and the experience of tasting the two delighted our taste buds.

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The apple crumble souffle was cooked perfectly, risen and fluffy, and served with a creamy sweet vanilla ice cream. Once pierced, the incredible fruitness of the apples broke through; rich, tart and sweet all at once.

Apple Soufflee

I opted for a dessert from the A La Carte menu as i was craving chocolate; chocolate souffle with chocolate ice cream and dark chocolate sauce certainly satisfied my craving and then some. Another divinely indulgent and fluffy dessert; the ice cream is the best i have ever had hands down and the rich sauce cut through the lightness of the souffle in perfect harmony.

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The Kitchin’s use of colour in their dishes is fantastic and every plate indulges your senses; first you see the beautiful composition of colours and ingredients, then you smell the robust aromas. You can hear the cracking of crispy skin or the deflating of an impeccable souffle, you can feel the food as you slice, spoon and sip and finally you taste and every bite is as delicious as the last. I can’t fault anything from our meal; the staff were knowledgeable and attentive, the atmosphere relaxed and the food exquisite.

We left on cloud nine.

 

 

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The Westroom: A night of tasting

The Westroom Cafe and Bar is tucked away on Melville Street with a few seats outside that are a prime location to soak up the last of the warm evening sun. My flatmate had two tickets to one of many food and drink events hosted by the Compass Group across their different venues including The Chop House as well as The Westroom; we turned up curious and peckish.

We began with the Riesling ‘Vidal’ from New Zealand; grapes are collected from three vineyards in the Awatere Valley producing a sharp aromatic wine that went down way too easily. As this was my first wine tasting i did the whole shabang; swirling the wine round the glass and burying my nose in to deeply inhale the citrus and floral notes of the deliciously sharp first candidate.

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With each bottle we were also given a small dish from their menu that had been paired specifically to compliment the wine and, my own theory, to slow down the inevitable effects of multiple glasses of wine.

To accompany the Riesling we were presented with rich crunchy black pudding fritters with a thick glossy chilli jam. The two worked perfectly together.

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Our second contender was a 2014 South Australian Sauvignon Blanc titled ‘Starvedog Lane’. After i finished admiring the label i conducted the swirling, inhaling process; the wine had hints of asparagus and the distinctive note of fresh cut grass which made it a refreshing and crisp second glass.

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To follow we were served a miniature twist on the classic prawn cocktail; plump king prawns nestle in baby gem lettuce leaves with a healthy dollop of home made marie rose sauce. The collective silence while everyone ate concluded another good match.

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The final wine to be poured was the 2014 Chardonnay Fiano ‘Da Luca’ made in Siciliy. Being my third wine in the tasting i had near ‘mastered’ the swirl and inhale and this was the kind of wine that made your nose tingle. A complex multitude of citrus, blackcurrant and thyme makes your nostrils sing and mouth water. A definite must to try.

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Our final nibble was flaky golden pastry with chorizo and spinach topped with creamy goats cheese which echoed the wines rich body in flavour.

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As first times go The Westroom greatly exceeded my expectations on wine tastings and the whole evening flew by in a flurry of delicious wines and delectable canapes in the relaxed and friendly cafe and bar. We left happy and already planning our next trip to try more.

 

 

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