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Chef’s Table at The Restaurant at Blythswood: five course dinner with paired Champagne.
The Restaurant at The Principal Blythswood Square Hotel is launching an exclusive Chef’s Table next week.
The nights are drawing in and the mornings are that little bit more nippy. It’s not quite the end of the world but it’s certainly a good excuse to treat yourself.
And the good people at The Principal Blythswood Square Hotel are level seven ninjas when it comes to treating their guests.
Their latest treat-tastic idea is to host a series of luxury epicurean experiences.
The Chef’s Table is led by Zoltan Szabo, Executive Head Chef at Blythswood Square. Each dinner will be a partnership with a selection of the most in demand luxury brands on the market.
Chef Szabo will guide diners through the various cooking methods, the provenance of the ingredients and how they come together to create the perfect dish.
Chef’s Table: Moët & Chandon Champagne
The five-star hotel is launching it Chef’s Table program with a Moët & Chandon Champagne Pairing Dinner on Thursday 20 September 2018.
The chefs have selected ingredients and dishes which will highlight the characteristics of Moët and Chandon’s legendary range of Champagnes.
The five-course meal includes baked Isle of Mull scallops; Lochgilphead crab and chervil ravioli and a fillet of brill with fennel compote, roasted fennel and razor clams.
The meal finishes with a dessert of strawberry cheesecake with Moët & Chandon jelly, fresh strawberries and shortbread crumb.
Murray Thomson, General Manager of Blythswood Square Hotel, said: ‘A seat at Chef’s Table is a must for any self-confessed foodie. It is the perfect opportunity to expand your culinary knowledge in the company of like-minded individuals and the luxurious surroundings of the hotel.
‘Our team of leading chefs have used their wealth of experience to create a unique offering at The Restaurant at Blythswood Square.’
Chef’s Table: truffle dinner
Baked Isle of Mull scallops will feature on the first Chef’s Table at The Blythswood.
Each Chef’s Table takes place on the fourth Thursday of every month starting from Thursday 20 September 2018.
Never mind Westside Story. It’s all about Eastside on Edinburgh’s George Street.
It lasted almost twenty years but the Opal Lounge club on George Street has finally called it a night.
In its place is Eastside, a late night bar with pool tables and street food.
This blogger’s clubbing years are long gone. We can no longer bust a move without straining a muscle.
Edinburgh’s hottest DJs are a complete mystery. In fact, we would struggle to name three current DJs.
If we ever did show up at a nightclub. the first thing the bouncers would ask is ‘Are you here to take your daughter home?’
Eastside: dancing, drinking and eating under one roof
That said, we do know that Opal Lounge long had a rep for being pretty posh.
Not really exclusive but it seemed to be the preferred hangout for the sort of New Town student that always wore loafers; had an upturned shirt collar and didn’t blink at buying a bottle of Champagne. At one point, it had a Dom Perignon VIP lounge.
Famously, Prince William and the Crown Prince of Morocco are said to have partayed there.
While Eastside will still host DJs every night, the emphasis has definitely switched from club to late night bar.
A spokesperson for the bar told The Evening News that, ‘People have fallen out of love with the traditional bar scene and the rise in popularity for hybrid, social spaces that allow dancing, drinking, eating and conversation to happen under the one roof is what our target demographic are looking for’.
Open until 3am seven nights
The owners are billing it as ‘George Street but not as you know it’. It still stays open until 3am seven nights a week but it also aims to entice in local workers who fancy a sharpener at 5pm.
The VIP room has gone and new attractions include a drinks vending machine , craft beers, cocktails and a selection of global street food.
Chef and sometimes Spice Man Tony Singh appears to have had a hand in the menus. As well as a daal curry, there is a chicken curry, Korean bulgogi dishes, bao buns and steamed dumplings.
We look forward to dropping in to Eastside although we suspect that we’re more likely to be there after work than after midnight.
Pickled octopus, pistachio purée and basil oil at Merienda. Pic: Facebook
Opened in August, Merienda restaurant has been making quite a splash in the capital.
Glowing reviews are shooting up like fireworks and the careful presentation of the dishes means that many of the reviews are illustrated with eye-catching pics.
Merienda’s chef owner is Campbell Mickel. Chef Mickel spent eighteen months in the Philippines and the Stockbridge restaurant is named after the Filipino word for snack.
In other parts of Europe, merienda is taken to mean a light meal. In Edinburgh, Merienda draws on all of these interpretations.
At the North West Circus Place restaurant, the menus are based around small plates of seasonal ingredients.
‘Mediterranean-inspired small plates of the finest artisan Scottish produce’ is how the menus are billed.
New potato and pea pressé infused with mint, pea purée and shoots. Pic: Facebook
A veteran of several notable Edinburgh restaurants, Campbell has spent the last fourteen years running a highly successful private catering company.
Exec Chef provides boardroom dining for some of Scotland’s best known companies as well as private catering for high net worth individuals.
A little over a year ago a health scare prompted Campbell to expand his ambitions and start planning Merienda.
Merienda: ‘high end but casual’
The idea was to offer an experience that was ‘high end but casual’.
There is an argument that what many people want from a contemporary restaurant is interesting food which is sourced well, cooked thoughtfully and served in a pleasant setting by friendly, knowledgeable staff. Keeping it simple isn’t vital but avoiding fuss is.
This school of thought reckons that the days are numbered for places which provide uptight fine dining with starched tablecloths and 80 page wine lists.
Instead, there is a generation of diners that want to eat well without the fol-de-rol. If the food happens to look good on your Insta feed then so much the better.
Possible examples in Edinburgh would be Six by Nico or Fhior. It will also be interesting to see what Mark Greenaway’s new venture sets out to do.
A couple of weeks back, the chef announced that he was to close his eponymous restaurant in Edinburgh city centre and launch a venture which would ‘boldly challenge the concept of fine dining’.
Mosaic of citrus-roasted wild trout, caviar crème, chive. Pic: Facebook
Merienda is travelling in a similar direction.
Working in the kitchen alongside Campbell is Robbie Probert. Previously at the Michelin-starred 21212, Robbie has spent many a year manning the pans in top French restaurants.
The menus change on a monthly basis and each dish is beautifully presented.
As we have pointed out many a time, the 5pm Dining blog doesn’t do reviews. What we will happily say is that the dishes at Merienda are designed to taste as good as they look. From temperature to texture and from visual appeal to the layers of flavour, every aspect of each dish has been carefully considered.
For those who like to plan their pleasures a little further in advance, make a note in your diaries for Edinburgh Cocktail Week which takes place 15th-21st October.
Over 80 bars across the capital are taking part in this year’s Edinburgh Cocktail Week.
Each bar has designed a unique Signature Cocktail which can be enjoyed for just £4 with an ECW wristband. Wristbands cost £6 for a weekday band (valid Monday to Friday) and £8 for a weekend band (valid Saturday and Sunday).
The number of bars taking part has increased from 50 to 80 this year. The expanded format also sees the introduction of a new Cocktail Village at Festival Square, which is free to enter with a wristband.
Enclosed within a marquee, the Cocktail Village will act as the social hub of the week-long cocktail celebrations.
Attendees can meet up with friends here and catch up over £4 cocktails from fifteen pop-up bars run by brands such as Edinburgh Gin, Grey Goose Vodka, St-Germain, Johnnie Walker, Rumbullion Rum, Belvedere Vodka and Poco Prosecco.
As well as lots of cocktails to try, there will also be live music, DJs and drop-in style master classes and tastings to keep revellers entertained.
Edinburgh Cocktail Week: pouring all over the city
Organiser Gary Anderson commented, ‘We wanted to give the event more of a festival feel this year. We have introduced a much larger programme of things happening all around the city for wristband-holders to hop between. We have also extended the event to seven days and increased the number of bars taking part to spread footfall.
‘As a city of event-goers we all love a pop-up space to hangout in, so the Cocktail Village is an exciting new development for the event and the city. It has been designed with an outdoor festival theme to make you feel like you are in an autumnal garden while being in the comfort of an enclosed marquee.’
Last year, there were some reports that the festival’s success outstripped the ability of some venues to keep up with demand. Organisers have taken steps to minimise the risk of this happening again.
‘With this year’s expansion also came a lot of work with brands and distribution to ensure supply meets demand; a challenge some bars faced last year,’ acknowledges Gary. ‘New partnerships with brands and local distributors will ensure sufficient stock levels are in place with backup stock from local warehouses just a phone call away.’
Apart from a handful of notable exceptions, pretty much every hip and happening bar in Edinburgh is taking part.
The full list, which can be viewed here, contains many 5pm Dining members so you can book in for a bite to eat in between beverages.
The Portree-based distillery, producers of Misty Isle Gin and Tommy’s Gin, opened its doors to visitors on Monday 27 August.
The gin school features six mini stills. These accommodate groups of up to twelve gin enthusiasts keen to learn the art of craft gin distillation first-hand.
Led by brothers Alistair and Thomas Wilson, each class lasts three hours.
Gin school students will assemble and run their personal still, before progressing to learn the science behind gin distillation and the subtle flavour variations created by different combinations of botanicals.
Students will work with Thomas and Alistair to create a bespoke gin recipe according to their personal tastes. Finally, guests will bottle their gin and print a customised label.
Sessions at Isle of Skye Distillers’ Gin School are priced at £85 per still. Each still can be operated by up to two people. The Gin School experience includes all tuition, along with a 50cl bottle of personalised gin per person.
Scottish gin school in Fife
If Skye is too far away, Darnley’s Gin in Fife has added a Distil Your Own experience to its tour offering.
Visitors to Darnley’s Gin School can create their own recipe from a selection of botanicals and distil a 70cl bottle of gin to take home.
Their Scottish gin school houses six mini copper stills which visitors can use to distil their own bespoke bottle of gin.
Guests can enjoy a welcome drink and introduction to gin making before exploring the large range of botanicals available to include in their recipe. Some of them are grown in Darnley’s own cottage garden.
The hands-on experience continues as they begin distilling their one-of-a-kind gin in their own mini still.
While this is happening, guests will enjoy a tour of Darnley’s main distillery while sipping on a refreshing Darnley’s G&T and being led through a tasting of the Darnley’s Gin range.
At the end of the experience, visitors will fill and label their bottle of gin to take home and enjoy.
The experience is available on Fridays at 3pm and on Saturdays at 11am. It lasts approximately 2.5 hours and tickets are £100.
Scottish gin school in Glasgow
Get your still on at Crossbill in BAaD.
And if Fife seems a step too far, then Crossbill Gin recently located from the Highlands to a purpose built facility at Barras Art and Design in Glasgow’s Calton area.
And guess what? They have a gin school!
Under the watchful eye of Crossbill Gin’s award winning distiller and founder, guest will test and select your botanicals, create a botanical basket, then distil their very own gin in a miniature copper pot still.
Finally your bottle will be labelled with your bespoke design.
Fillet, sirloin and bavette steak from Hardiesmill at Kyloe.
Edinburgh’s Kyloe Restaurant aims to provide the ‘best Scottish steak experience’ and the beef they use from Hardiesmill in the Borders plays a major role in that ambition.
Named after an old Scots word for cattle, Kyloe has been one of Edinburgh’s top steakhouses since it opened seven years ago.
Over the last couple of years, competition in the form of major UK players such as Hawksmoor and Gaucho have arrived in the capital.
The response of John Rutter, Executive Chef at Kyloe, has been to refocus their menus to showcase the best Scottish produce they can source.
This policy goes across the board from their smoked fish to the cured meats they buy from East coast charcuterie.
‘We work with small producers,’ says the chef, ‘because they have a story to tell about their food and they have a real passion for what they do.’
Fine tuning beef production
From charcuterie to their smoked salmon, Kyloe sources from Scotland.
Taking pride of place on the revamped menus is the beef supplied by Hardiesmill Place Farm, located by Gordon in the Scottish Borders.
Earlier this week, the 5pm Dining blog was invited to Kyloe to meet Alison and Robin Tuke, the couple who farm Hardiesmill, and to taste their beef.
The Tukes started farming there in 2001 and, like many a sports team, have adopted a regime of continuous marginal gains to improve the beef they produce.
The fundamentals of breeding, feeding and handling are the building blocks which determine the quality of the beef at the end of the product.
What the Tukes have done is to break down every stage of the process and look at it in minute detail, examining it for strengths and weaknesses.
The attention to detail is meticulous. If you want to discuss the importance of using both diploid and tetraploid grasses (no, I don’t know the difference) in the cattle’s diet then speak to the Tukes.
While the couple are continually fine tuning the entire beef production process, they figured that the weakest link in the chain was formed of some of the final steps: the journey to the abattoir; lairage – the time spent at the abattoir before slaughter – and the processing of the meat afterwards.
Hardiesmill operate a farm to fork philosophy
They decided that the best way to deal with these problems was to build their own micro-abattoir on the their farm.
The UK has a problem with abattoirs. In 1970, there were 1,890 red meat abattoirs in the UK, but that number has now dropped to 249.
The number of abattoirs in the UK falls as the industry moves increasingly towards animal slaughter on a mass scale. Small abattoirs are closing and only large ones remain.
This is not good news. A recent report by the Sustainable Food Trust, A Good Life and A Good Death, indicated that the closure of small abattoirs has led to increased stress on animals, decreased traceability and decreased farming sustainability.
To pick up on just one aspect of this, fewer abattoirs mean cattle have to travel longer distances from the farm. This is stressful for them. Good farmers want happy animals. This isn’t a trite marketing trope. Welfare is an important concern for farmers and consumers alike. There is also the consideration that stressed animals release adrenaline and lactic acid, neither of which make for great meat.
Hardiesmill have managed those problems by creating their own micro-abattoir on their farm. Their cattle can now be slaughtered and processed on farm – no haulage, no lairage. The Tukes operate a farm-to-fork philosophy and this new development strengthens that.
They can maintain the cattle’s welfare through every stage of the farming process. Uniquely, Hardiesmill cattle will now never have to leave the farm, growing slowly on a natural diet of grass, hay and silage.
Top five in the world
Happy cows make great steak at Hardiesmill. Pic: Facebook.
The project took four and a half years and involved in-depth consultation with no less than eleven regulatory bodies. It is the first of its kind in the UK. And it may well become a model for other farmers who value quality over quantity. Other people are already in contact with the Tukes asking for advice on how to go about building their own mini-abattoirs.
Is it worth it? We had fillet, sirloin and bavette cuts of beef from Hardiesmill. They were all outstanding with a real depth of flavour and long finish.
Of course, what I say doesn’t matter. Globally recognised steak experts place Hardiesmill beef in the top five in the world. Let’s repeat that – we have a Scottish product from a small farm in the Borders which is hailed as one of the best in the world. Check out Franck Ribière’s Steak (R)Evolution film for more accolades.
Having their own abattoir on their farm is only going to improve the meat. As Robin noted, ‘It has been said that we are in the top five. It is fun to try and get the number one spot.’
Book Kyloe via 5pm Dining
Kyloe has magnificent views of Edinburgh Castle.
Owners of Hardiesmill, Robin and Alison Tuke, said: ‘Kyloe has always supported us and that is why they are the only restaurant in Edinburgh we supply. Our micro-abattoir has been four and a half, very long years in the making and it seemed only right to celebrate the opening with Kyloe during Scotland Food and Drink Fortnight. Over the years, we have built a brilliant partnership with Executive Chef, John Rutter and the Kyloe team. We are proud that the Taste of Hardiesmill is savoured by diners here and that the chefs know how special the beef is.’
Executive Chef of Kyloe and The Rutland Hotel, John Rutter, said: ‘There is no better way to celebrate Scotland Food and Drink Fortnight than to recognise a true food pioneer who champions provenance and food quality. Hardiesmill are at the forefront of beef farming and have created a philosophy to benefit the animal’s entire life. This will undoubtedly mean a better product for chefs and ultimately for diners.’
Taking over all three floors of the Assembly Roxy on Roxburgh Place, the event promises ‘the very best beers from Scotland, the UK and Europe’.
The Edinburgh Craft Beer Experience will run for five sessions over the three days with beers from over twenty breweries for visitors to taste. Some of the beers will be pouring for the first time in Scotland.
The Main Hall will feature thirteen craft breweries from Edinburgh’s doorstep and beyond.
Leith’s Pilot beers will be available and, just beyond the bypass, Dalkeith’s Cross Borders will be serving seasonal brews.
Looking past the Lothians, Ride Brewing will represent Glasgow.
Tempest and Six Degrees North are also bringing bars. Completing the line-up from Scotland will be Alchemy, Barney’s, Brewtoon, Fallen, Late Night Hype, Stewart Brewing and more.
Downstairs, in the venue’s atmospheric Snug Bar, the rest of Britain’s best breweries will be on show. From the North of England, Northern Monk and Magic Rock Brewery will be pouring.
The Kernel and Camden Town Brewery will represent London and the South. Tiny Rebel will represent Wales, with Boundary flying the flag for Northern Ireland. London based Cidersmith’s Cider will also be available.
The breweries will make their own mark on the space, bringing classic pub games for entertainment including a pub quiz during each session.
Edinburgh Craft Beer Experience: meet the brewer
Next door to the Snug Bar in the Basement Theatre, drinkers will be able to enjoy a full programme of beer-themed workshops and master classes.
As well as meet the brewer sessions, the event promises home brew master classes. Seating in these events is on a first-come-first-served basis and guests are encouraged to arrive early.
Upstairs in the Upper Theatre, Belgium and its distinctive Lambic style breweries will be represented by the country’s oldest Lambic brewery, Timmermans.
And it is not all about the beer.
Musselburgh-based Hickory Bars will be serving cocktails from its Botanical Garden Bar along with a drinks list showcasing the very best of Scottish craft spirits.
If the beer provokes a munchies attack, there will be a range of traditional and not so traditional Scottish fare in the Main Hall.
New era of beer
The Craft Beer Experience has been developed by one of the team that created the Craft Beer Revolution in previous years. The man behind the event, Richard Servranckx says:
‘Brewing has enjoyed a huge resurgence in recent years and it really has felt like a revolution, the dawning of a new era of beer. But we’re living in that craft era now. The revolution has done its job and it’s time to move on to the next stage, where we just get to drink the beer and enjoy the experience!’
As well as some of the best beers from around the globe, the stone halls of the Assembly Roxy will be filled with the musical styling of local DJs, Two Guys, aka Ross Tolley and Craig West.
Tickets include a specially designed schooner glass; a token towards your first beer; a full programme of events and brewers, as well as access to the demonstrations and master classes.
In the past, the restaurateur has played a large part in places such as Papingo Restaurant, Gamba Seafood Restaurant and the Southside’s Urban Grill.
The Botany: adding to an up and coming area
Mr Tomkins will launch The Botany alongside business partner Calum Lawson.
A former board director of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, the restaurateur believes this move could encourage more bars and restaurants to think outside the box.
He said: ‘This is a very exciting time for Glasgow. Having worked in hospitality for as long as I can remember, I’ve seen the city change and develop its attitudes towards food and drink. Options used to be very limited. Now, Glasgow’s a haven for foodies.
‘The transformation of Finnieston came because of a few anchor venues offering spectacular food and drink. Calum and I both believe we can lead a similar sea-change in Maryhill and North Kelvinside.
‘Our aim is to not only to maintain a local institution, but to attract customers from the West End, Bearsden and Milngavie. The delicious food, seasonal cocktails and fantastic atmosphere will add a lot to what’s already an up and coming area.’
John Paul Lappin is the chef in charge at The Botany. His menu aims to ‘deliver comfort food at a high level using locally-sourced ingredients’.
Highlights include a venison loin smoked in-house and a Sri-Lankan-style monkfish curry. There will also be brunch specials served on Sundays; cocktails; an extensive wine list; quality gins and whisky.