Sunday, 13 June 2010

Afternoon Tea at Eteaket

It would be something of an understatement to say that I love cake. I am a cake-addict, passionate about baking and consider afternoon tea as my version of going to church. So yes, I have a mildly unhealthy obsession with cakes and when I first came across Eteaket on Frederick Street I was stupidly excited, mostly because of a sign outside proclaiming an amazing concept: take away afternoon tea in a box for £10.95. Takeaway afternoon tea, what a fantastic idea - like the best kindof picnic. As Eteaket does get quite busy around afternoon tea time, it would be perfect for a sunny day and a trip to nearby Princes Street Gardens. However, this being Edinburgh things do not always work to plan weather-wise and sadly this was not an option but as luck would have it, there was a table free for us.

Eteaket is laid out like a traditional cafe cake shop but is so much better. For instance there are a gazillion different teas on offer. There are charmingly mismatched vintage teacups and saucers which is used for service and also available to buy. It's a stylish white modern space with brightly coloured interiors which mixes well with the vintage aesthetic. The cakes on offer are all beautifully decorated and the slices are big.

Vintage crockery for sale

My choice is seemingly an easy one - afternoon tea. But there is a huge 2 page list of over 40 teas to choose from: fruit infusions, flowering, oolong, black, green or white tea and on top of this tea lattes, coffees and milkshakes. They take their tea very seriously here, and all of the loose leaf tea is available to buy in caddies too. I decide upon the Rose Flower Bloom flower tea which is described as "Premium green tea and rose petals are expertly sewn and crafted together by an artisan skilled in the ancient craft of hand-sewing leaf tea." There's the fun part of watching the bloom open up and the tea is gorgeously rose scented. My cakey companion chooses the Marvellous Green Tea: "Sencha green tea, coupled with mallow and sunflower petals, rosebuds, vanilla, strawberry and raspberry pieces with slightly sweetened, steamed milk." It looks wonderful and white and pure, smells heavenly and tastes a little bit sweeter than expected.

Rose Flower Bloom tea, about to bloom

Marvellous Green Tea latte

I am definitely sold on the afternoon tea, and my boyfriend decides to butch it up a bit and have a sandwich instead. In a pretty girly cake shop, of all the places! I hadn't even considered anything savoury, having clapped eyes on the cake display. But there is a proper food menu indeed. Breakfast is served until 11:30am with a good selection of croissants, bagels and hot breakfasts. After that is sandwiches, croissants and salads and everything is decently priced, with nothing over £5.95.e chooses the ham, cheddar and caramelised onion chutney toasted ciabatta (£5.75). It comes with a herb salad with balsamic dressing and some crisps, and frankly it looks like a pretty good rival to my afternoon tea.

But to me, there is no competition. Afternoon tea is something to be enjoyed as a ritual. working from the bottom to the top levels with maybe a few cheat nibbles inbetween. The Eteaket afternoon tea consists of sandwiches, a freshly baked scone with clotted cream and jam and some mini-patisserie.

The sandwiches were certainly not delicate crustless bite-sized affairs and were stuffed full of ham, cheese and pickle on soft white bread. They were good but I'd have been happy with just two quarters, and something a little less filling or with a bit more variety would have been nice. Having read some other reviews of Eteaket compaining about the freshness of their scones and cakes I have to say that was not something I experienced at all - the scone was fresh and the patisserie delicious.

Afternoon tea patisserie selection

To be honest, I was not overwhelmed with excitement at the selection I received: a mini cupcake, brownie and honeymoon slice. There was absolutely nothing bad about it however (and perhaps I'm just being a bit spoilt), it just seemed like a rather plain selection. With the cost at £11.95 however I can't really complain - it really was excellent value and very much enjoyed. Now I just need to wait for the weather to clear so I can enjoy my takeaway afternoon tea in a box picnic...

Eteaket on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Indigo Yard

A sunny afternoon, and after a lazy hour or two of wandering round town, we needed lunch, a drink or two and a comfy space to lounge about and chat. Cue Indigo Yard: perfectly placed in the west end of the city, it's a stylish bar with an impressive 8 page drinks menu and a wallet-pleasing 2 for 1 deal on main meals. There are different sections within – an outdoor wooden deck; a glass canopied bar with greenery and glowing lights; a dining area with booths and exposed brickwork; and a small mezzanine level. The bar in particular makes the venue stand out – it is airy and the natural light from the glass ceiling lifts the whole space.
We arrived for lunch on one of Edinburgh’s sunnier days and the outdoor deck was full with people enjoying the good weather (though when we left it was predictably grey again) and so we asked to be seated in a booth. Lunch is served from 12-6, with breakfast all day on weekends. There’s a good selection of bistro style lunch options and, with all main dishes under a tenner (aside from an 8oz steak with chips), the 2 for 1 deal is budget friendly. 

We decided on relatively light lunch options: the steak sandwich with onion rings and horseradish (£7.50) and crisp coated chicken with lemon and chilli noodles (£8.95). I was originally going to order the mussels starter in white wine, cream and garlic (£4.95) to share but they had run out. The portions were so large that this was a blessing in disguise. The sandwich I ordered came with fries so there was no need to order sides, however when I go back I will definitely try the zucchini fries with basil mayo (£3.00) which sounds delicious. 

The steak sandwich came in a supersize ciabatta with perfectly cooked minute steak, plenty of lettuce, horseradish and onion rings inside the sandwich. Onion rings inside a sandwich! Along with the skinny fries, it was greasy decadence. A bit more salad would’ve worked here, but it was delicious dripping juicy meaty goodness.
As for the other plate, this seemed like the neverending noodles – it was a huge portion for lunch but was surprisingly light. The chicken pieces was indeed crispy, and peppers and other veg were mixed in with the noodles. The lemon and chilli sauce was the slippy slurpy kind (technical term) that suits udon noodles so well, with fresh chilli. My boyfriend rated it very highly and finished the whole plate, a testament to how good it was (whilst I cannot bear to see uneaten food wasting away on a plate, he just stops eating when full – a happily symbiotic relationship which means I get to sample his leftovers).
As a cocktail lover, their drinks list is one of the big draws of Indigo Yard for me. The list is already impressive with a large range of range of reds and whites (ranging from £16.50 - £37.95 per bottle), 13 types of champagne, a variety of draught and bottled beers, and I’m very happy to see there is a 2 page list of cocktails available. There are mostly the classics to be found with a few specialties such Preston’s Fizz is a mix of vodka, Chamboard and raspberries, with Prosecco to top it off (£7.95), and Pretty in Pink, which sounds as supergirly as you would imagine it to be with muddled strawberries, melon and butterscotch liqueur (£6.95). We opted for the simple summery classics of a mojito (£6.95 or £8.95 with premium rum) and raspberry mule (£7.25, pictured). Both were yummy and very drinkable indeed.
After all of my talk of gut busting portions, you may be surprised that I ordered dessert. There was football to be watched at the time, and looking at the options, my extra dessert tummy kicked in and I couldn’t resist the passion fruit tart with clotted cream (£5.50). My boyfriend, sensibly, ordered a single espresso (£1.70).  The slice was not hugely satisfactory. The passion fruit curd layer was thin and the top of the tart had been bruleed but not particularly thoroughly - there were clots of unburnt sugar sat on the surface. The passion fruit flavour was nice but not enough to rescue it from a poor rating. Next time I would just order another cocktail instead.

Overall though it was a good meal and though the service was somewhat slow it was still attentive, and we left refreshed and ready for a l-o-n-g walk. Indigo Yard isn’t pretentious. It’s the kind of bar I would go to for after work drinks (and it gets very busy with these) and it’s in a great location for post-shopping refreshment. It’s not trying to be a high-end bar for city folk or a fine dining establishment and that’s just fine. This isn’t destination dining but their tasty bistro food and cocktails mean that it’s definitely worth keeping in mind for those lazy weekend afternoons.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Tasting Edinburgh and A Taste of Edinburgh

I have recently moved to Edinburgh, a city I have loved for many years and one of my favourite thing about Edinburgh is all the fabulous places to eat and shop. There are lots of websites recommending shops and restaurants but I haven't found a great resource of Edinburgh restaurant reviews on the world wide web and so I have decided to blog about all the wonderful restaurants, cafes, shops, events and foodie things in Edinburgh as I visit them. I am armed with a charming dining companion/super photographer, a copy of the List's Eating and Drinking Guide 2010/11 and extra tummy space for dessert. Always.

A great starting point is the A Taste of Edinburgh event held 28-30 May at Inverleith Park - a festival dedicated to food. We went on the afternoon of Saturday the 29th and, after a long day at a school fete and a few drinks to wind down, we were eager to start the afternoon of gluttony. It was a beautiful day in Inverleith Park and as we walked in we were greeted straight away with a sample of ale from Ghillie Dhu, and this set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. With over 100 exhibitors, most with free samples, we went from stall to stall seeing what was on offer.

The best of the samples has to be the Seafood Scotland stall, which produced 6 different types of fish to try - if you hung around for long enough and didn't mind queueing. We managed to get a sample of a mackerel in cous cous and cod in thai broth. Worth the wait, the fish was cooked perfectly and recipe cards were collected.

Another sample highlight was from legendary icecreamery S Luca (yes, ice cream can be legendary), with a toffee and fudge mini-scoop served from their summery looking ice cream van. How excited would I be to see this coming down my street!

There were a number of restaurants selling taster plates, little versions of their main dishes and desserts. We tried the classic burger from Malmaison (£6) and Tony's Table's Butts in Buns (I couldn't help myself - £5) - pulled Perthshire pork in foccacia bread with spiced slaw.

Though small, both were satisfyingly meaty which is what we needed to keep us going on with our many samples of wines, liqueurs and sweets. The burger was great quality with a juicy pickle tickling the savoury taste buds and the pulled pork was moist and delicious. The spiced slaw didn't quite live up to its name, it could've done with more of a spicy kick to go with the pork pitta.

Another notable stall was the Authentic American Food (available from Lupe Pintos in Edinburgh) selling gourmet US goods - a selection of barbeque and mesquite sauces (Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning anyone?) and as many jalapeno condiments as you could ever want. There were exotic looking mixes such as praline pancakes and pumpkin muffins, fruit flavoured syrups and I was tempted into buying some sour cherry preserves (£4).

There was a battle of the Edinburgh boutique chocolate shops: Coco Chocolate had a beautiful stall, as to be expected from Edinburgh's premier chocolatiers; Chocolate and Love, the new girl in town had an amazing selection of different chocolates and sweets; and The Chocolate Tree had their own artisan organic range. The chocolate coated liquorice (£6) from Chocolate and Love were delicious and they have a pop-up shop on George Street for the rest of June. Coco Chocolate was perhaps a victim of it's own success and I didn't really have the space to browse their stall sadly but it did look pretty indeed. The Chocolate Tree also had a beautiful display, pictured below, and had some delicious chocolate and hazelnut spreads.

There were also cooking demonstrations organised from L'escargot Bleu, Launceston Place, the Rutland, Hotel du Vin and Wedgwood the Restaurant. I watched the Yo! Sushi 'ninjas' for a little while however there was a distinct lack of ninja style in their sushi preparation. They could've used ninja stars to chop the salmon at least. I must confess that on such a beautiful sunny day it was far more appealing to leisurely walk around with Pimms in hand.

A Taste of Edinburgh was £12 entry, with a 'crowns' payment system used as money on the stalls. This amounted to 1 crown = 50p, with all stalls accepting crowns and a few also accepting cash. This was slightly annoying as it was obviously a ploy for punters to spend more money than they would have (and we did). But the entry fee was worth it as there was a huge variety of samples on offer.

My only disappointment was that there was not a great deal of baking stalls, this being a particular passion of mine. It was interesting to see a macaron stall there, Bougie, as macs are currently being hyped as the new dessert du jour. The samples we had were nice but not spectacular and the pricing was far too high in my opinion so I did not purchase any.

Oh, and Fire Food's Nitro sauce nearly finished off the tasting session for my boyfriend however a handy Pimms saved the day - if a hot sauce has a warning sign on it, approach with caution.

By the end of the day we were seriously impressed and very full. There was just about enough room for this divine blood orange gelato from Stewart Tower Dairy to leave us very happy Edinburgh Tasters!