Baba

Wonderful smells filled my nostrils as soon as i walked into Baba, on the corner of George street the colourful restaurant has been open since last November and offers a taste of the Levant; delicious dishes inspired by the cuisine from countries including Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey.

The idea is to order many smaller dishes and share, much like Spanish tapas, which works perfectly for a greedy wee foodie like myself as it means i can try many of the  tempting dishes on offer.

The beetroot hummus, whipped feta and hazelnut dukkah was sensational; the feta had that wonderful salty tang and was so creamy, the hummus earthy and slightly sweet all topped with a generous drizzle of nutty olive oil. It was fantastic with the warm soft pita, perfect for scooping up in one big bite.

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The smell of the baharat beef kofta, butternut, yoghurt and aleppo chilli reached my nose before i could even see the dish and when i did i was not disappointed; rich salty beef in sweet butternut puree, every mouthful was delicious and the fruitiness of the aleppo chilli worked wonderfully with the coolness of the fresh yoghurt.

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The baked sweet potato, zhug and crème fraîche was warm, creamy and bursting with flavour. Zhug is a traditional middle eastern spicy sauce of garlic, coriander, chilli, salt and cumin that sang with flavour and is something i will attempt to recreate at home.

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My sister ordered the squid, merguez sausage and salmorejo, a puree of tomatoes, bread, oil and garlic, which was light and rich all in one; the squid crispy and the sausage meaty and intense with flavour this was a perfect dish to steal a bite of.

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The slow-cooked pork belly, charcoal-baked celeriac and golden raisins pulled apart beautifully, the pork was so tender and moist and the raisins plump and sweet. My grandpa loved it so much i had to wrestle a bite off him but i am so glad i did, this dish was warm, comforting and the right amount of salty and sweet.

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To accompany all this exquisite food i sipped on a sweet cocktail of gin, almond, rose and egg whites decorated with gorgeous purple flowers. It was sweet, fresh and floral and the only less than perfect thing about it was that there was not enough. A heavenly treat for a fabulous lunch with some of my nearest and dearest and some of the most flavourful  food i have eaten.

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The staff at Baba were super friendly and patient, explaining every spice we had not heard of and stopping to explain the dishes they were bringing out to other diners when they noticed my wee face lit up, neck craned to have a look. Baba is great for families, a romantic dinner for two or organising that long overdue gals night to drink and laugh the night away, I can’t wait to go back and finish trying everything they have to offer.

 

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Choi Asian Street Food

I think it is pretty clear by now that i love a voucher; any bargain or deal involving food not only enables me to try new places on a budget but it is also makes a great outing with friends, family or if you fancy treating yourself to twice the amount of delicious food.

Itison is my go-to site for great deals; rich charcuterie boards paired with crisp wines, exotic cocktails alongside a delicious selection of bar bites to exquisite 5 course tasting menus, you name it they’ve got it. On this occasion i had snapped up two different vouchers for Choi Asian Street Food on Brougham Street in Tollcross, both with dumplings to share and a drink of choice alongside their main tease.

Our first deal included a bao bun and drink each with dumplings to share. We both decided on trying their fried chicken and vegetable dumplings with a ginger and soy dip; beautifully browned on one side you got the perfect combination of crunchy and soft, with meaty insides that greedily soaked up the sharp gingery sauce, each mouthful burst with flavour.

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I chose the Hoi Sin Bao; thick juicy slices of duck with a generous helping of asian salad, sweet hoi sin sauce and peanuts, all crammed into a warm soft bun. I added some sriracha chilli sauce for a spice kick but it was definitely not needed in terms of taste; the softness of the bun against the hard crunch of the peanuts and salad gave delicious levels of texture and the duck, tender and sticky with hoi sin, tore apart easily with each bite.

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The second deal was a rice or noodle bowl and a drink each with dumplings to share, so this time round we chose the steamed pork and coriander dumplings with a soy and ginger dressing. The steamed dumplings were smaller, bite-size bundles that were dunked and devoured instantly, topped with fresh spring onion and coriander they tasted marvellous but severely tested my chop stick skills!

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I went for a rice bowl with shredded duck, all the vegetables they had to offer and a hearty drizzle of sesame soy sauce. The duck was tender and moist, the vegetables crisp and fresh, a vibrant array of colours and flavours sitting upon a fluffy heap of rice smothered in nutty sesame soy sauce.

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The friendly staff in the Choi kitchen keep it simple; their food is fresh, full of flavour and effortlessly served up in fun-sized containers that enable you to take your glorious treats on the road. It was the vouchers that beckoned me through the door, but it is the mouth watering dishes that will keep me coming back.

 

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The Red Squirrel

What better way to spend a lazy, ever so slightly hungover Sunday than with friends over fruity cocktails and indulgent portions of comfort food. The Red Squirrel caters for just that, sitting at the bottom of Lothian road, the quirky bar and kitchen offers great food with friendly service; perfect for working your way through your Sunday hangover with ease.

Deciding to go down the hair of the dog route i opted for my all time favourite cocktail; the classic Margarita or a ‘Smoke in your Eyes’ as aptly named by the clever baristas at The Red Squirrel. A wonderfully tart combination of Del Maguey Mezcal, Triple Sec, fresh lime and agave syrup that instantly took the edge off my hangover.

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Red Squirrel are well known for their burgers but it was their steak ciabatta that caught my eye; 5oz flat iron steak, balsamic onion chutney, chimichurri, rocket and sweet potato fries. The steak was cut into thick juicy slices, cooked medium rare making it not only delicious but easy to eat in my delicate state and worked perfectly with the balsamic chutney. The sweet potato fries were superbly crisp and moreish, with plenty served there was no danger of leaving hungry.

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To finish off, and cleanse the palette for an afternoon of exploring, i chose a ‘Chase the Green’; a refreshing and crisp concoction of Pincer Vodka, apple liqueur, fresh cucumber, lemon juice, mint and sugar then topped with soda.

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Everyone left in a blissful haze, the effects of  good comfort food and delicious cocktails will do that to you. The Red Squirrel has become a go to in my mind from catch up drinks with family to leisurely lunches with friends so do yourself, and your inevitable future hangover, a favour and grab a table and indulge.

 

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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.

Appetizer

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.

Bread

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.

Starter

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.

Pork

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.

Lamb

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.

Chocolate Soufflee

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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