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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