Reviews

Trenchtown Caribbean Social Club

After reading rave reviews from the likes of Joanna Blythman and being bowled over with excited chatter from friends it was about time to sample the exotic and colourful food and tings Trenchtown Caribbean Social Club had to offer. Trenchtown is a stones throw away from my flat which makes it an ideal candidate for a new local favourite.

The menu is a vibrant selection of mouth watering dishes from jerk pork belly, original Trini chicken curry and curry fish but it was their Trenchtown goat curry that caught my eye. I have always wanted to try goat curry and an authentic Caribbean restaurant with rave reviews seemed like a pretty good place to start; an aromatic blend of top secret house spices, fiery scotch bonnet chilli, citrus juice and fresh ginger make the heart warming curry that was devilishly moreish and insanely hot.

I had always imagined goat to taste like lamb, perhaps because they are part of the same bleet bleet family, but the tender meaty chunks tasted like beef and were absolutely divine. The curry is served with a side of coconut rice an’ peas, sweet onion chutney, green seasoning and Caribbean dumplings; the sweet coconut in the rice worked well with the tangy spice of the curry and the dumplings, beautifully crunchy and golden on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside, were perfect torn into pieces, soaking up the rich, tasty sauce.

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To wash down this scrumptious feast we had pints of Red Stripe Draught; perfectly crisp and refreshing to combat the eye watering spice of the curry. All the flavours worked harmoniously together creating a rich and memorable dish that had me singing Trenchtown’s praises to anyone that would listen.

The guys at Trenchtown know flavour and there is a wonderful no fuss approach to their food; hearty portions of good quality ingredients, each mouthful bursting with spice and heat without taking away from the flavour of the dish. I highly recommend gathering a group, ordering a selection from their wonderful menu and i promise you will never look back.

 

 

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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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Gusto

Gusto is a gorgeous Italian restaurant at the west end of George street, peaking behind a twinkling curtain of fairy lights the restaurant draws customers into it’s warm, intimate space boasting dark glossy wooden floors and high ceilings with old black and white photographs tastefully lining the walls as you enter.

Mama T and I were meeting for a catch up and i had come across Gusto’s Itison voucher for two courses for two people with a glass of prosecco each. What’s not to love?! We were able to book straight away and were greeted with friendly, welcoming staff that sat us in one of the small alcoves. Our secluded spot was quiet enough to enjoy our conversation and there was a gentle but excited buzz amongst tables as drinks were clinked in heartfelt toasts; cutlery carefully passed between parties wobbling wonderfully with mouthfuls from courses across the menu.

We asked for our prosecco to accompany the thirsty work of making a choice between all the delicious sounding dishes; cold, crisp and the right level of sharpness, this made a wonderfully refreshing start to our evening.

I moved away from my normal go-to picks and chose the creamed garlic mushrooms topped with crispy shallots, served with char-grilled artisan bread. When I read creamed garlic mushrooms I pictured a thick, rich garlicky mushroom concoction that would be mopped up by the bread. The mushrooms were button-like and came whole; happily drowning in a heavy, garlic laden sauce, which in my book is definitely not a bad thing but i did have to add salt as i found apart from the strong presence of garlic the sauce lacked depth in flavour. The bread was slightly too char-grilled for my liking and needed a slight scraping to remove the thin black crust but the crispy shallots were gorgeous, golden brown morsels that brought a great texture to the dish.

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Mama T chose wisely, going for the Tagliatelle with smoked salmon and dill, tossed with cream, peas and spinach finished with fresh lemon. Lets just say I was green eyed with envy; it was divine and exploded with flavour. The dill and lemon harmoniously worked together to perfectly cut through the cream while still managing to compliment the delicate flavour of the salmon and sweetness of the peas. Several bites were stolen off her plate and she was lucky it was only a few small ones!

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Service was speedy and the staff attentive; wine glasses never empty and plates whisked away as soon as cutlery was placed down in defeat, our mains were presented to us before we knew it.

I went for the roast chicken breast with creamed leeks, tomato and caper dressing and fried gnocchi and boy did they deliver. The chicken was tender and moist, topped with golden crispy skin, it rested on a melt in your mouth bed of soft, buttery leeks. The gnocchi were soft, delightfully dense and perfectly browned; soaking up the rich oils from the ripe tomatoes and salty capers.

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My experienced dining companion tucked into the oven baked fillet of cod wrapped in prosciutto served with tender-stem broccoli and fresh sliced chilli. The prosciutto created a deliciously salty envelope around the delicate, flaky chunks of cod and the broccoli gave a nice snap and crunch with hints of fiery chilli in each mouthful.

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Throughout our meal we sipped on a wonderfully cold and delicious bottle of cortese, san silvestro, and out of sheer curiosity and greed, we ordered truffled fries with grana padano and Italian fried courgettes. Crunchy and perfectly seasoned on the outside, and light and fluffy on the inside the fries were highly addictive.

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The batter covering the fried courgettes had a slight crunch but were not well seasoned and cooled and softened quickly. A good dish for sharing amongst a larger party were they would be gobbled up in no time.

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I have now been here for birthdays, Christmas work parties and casual weekday dinners; Gusto caters for every occasion with ease, confident in their food, each experience has been fun and unforgettable. It is easy for time to pass in this cosy, lively bubble of lights, laughter and excellent food. Once you have dined at Gusto you’ll be instantly converted and forever a loyal fan, the minds behind the food know what they are doing and all you have to do is revel in their yummy creations.

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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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Stockbridge Market: A perfect Sunday

The Stockbridge Market is a deliciously indulgent way to spend your Sunday; held in Jubilee Gardens on Saunders Street, stalls are cosily clustered together and mouth watering smells waft through the excited, bustling crowds. In every direction creative and enticing dishes beckon, boasting flavours both exotic and classic, offering something for everyone.

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My first stop, as always, was to Harajuku Kitchen for their gyoza dumplings. I opted for their veggie gyoza with chilli and garlic, prawn sauce and coriander however their pork dumplings are also scrumptious. The gyoza were soft, steamy parcels seared on one side, bathing in the saltiness of the prawn sauce and packing a small but mighty kick of heat from the chilli. All topped with fresh coriander, one of my favourite herbs, that completed this harmonious choice of flavours.

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Now on a glorious food high i meandered through the stalls and returned to Aye Love Real Food; connoisseur of giant hand made scotch eggs. I have previously tried their traditional pork which was simple and wonderfully nostalgic in both flavour and ratio of egg to meat to bread. On this occasion i opted for their chorizo and pork, looking forward to the spice and depth of flavour chorizo brings to any dish, however i was sadly disappointed. The egg was cooked perfectly, a soft golden yolk nestled in its meaty nest, but the flavour of the chorizo didn’t punch through and fat was gristly making it a chewy affair. Although disappointed with this combination i am eager try their other flavours such as haggis and pork or Stornoway black pudding and pork.

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My final stop was outside Knight’s Kitchen, a new edition since i last visited Stockbridge Market but I had over heard a couple raving about their sweet potato and goats cheese rosti and judging by their level of excited chatter i was not to be disappointed. On one side you can watch the talented chef create the rostis freshly made to order and the other side boasts a selection of treats including Kenyan style bhajias, fritters and samosas. The rosti was a fluffy pillow of aromatic spices and heat, both crispy and soft supporting a gooey mound of rich, creamy goats cheese served with fresh rocket salad and olive oil. These guys know exactly what their doing and they do it effortlessly, their food is rich, warm and comforting and i can’t wait to try everything else they have to offer.

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I recommend going in a group and getting a selection between you, trying a bite of everything you can, as after three dishes i was happily stuffed, unable to physically eat more but still wandering around enjoying the sounds and smells of the market.

Whether you try something new, indulge in an old favourite or flat out gobble everything in your path, the Stockbridge Market and all it’s wonderful vendors have something for everyone. From nibbles and heart warming dishes to locally sourced cheeses, meats and fresh bread you can buy to take home, you will walk away belly full with a smile on our face.

 

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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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