Monday, 29 October 2012

Best Burger Quest - Mal Brasserie

Another top burger place to visit in Edinburgh, the Malmaison has long been on my list to visit.  The Mal Brasserie is frequently in the top ten of best burger lists in London so I was keen to see how their branch in Edinburgh matched up against other burgers I've tried here.  The price alone, ranging from £15-20 depending on your choice of burger, sets them apart and I had high hopes for a first-rate burger.

Arriving at the Malmaison, I was impressed with the surroundings; the monochrome chequered theme was modern but still luxurious. The Brasserie is more relaxed with brown leather, wooden panelling and exposed brickwork making it cosy and warm.  The restaurant was somewhat darkly lit with candles on the table which makes for a romantic atmosphere but, with the nights now fair drawing in, not particularly helpful for food blogging photography.  We decided not to let our food go cold trying to get a good shot so please excuse that these are a bit on the underexposed side. 

The brasserie menu has a number of local and seasonal choices, including some great seafood selections with a nod to the Malmaison's location near to Newhaven Harbour.  There are three options for burgers on the Brasserie menu - the Classic Mal Burger with bacon, gruyere and fries (at £14.95), the Burger Stack with additional foie gras slider and onion rings and a lobster burger with a fresh mango salsa, lime hollandaise and fries (both at £19.95).  I couldn't pass up trying the Classic Mal burger.

The burger was presented on a wooden board with a large steak knife, a copper pot of relish and a generous pot of french fries (amusingly marked For Your Fries Only - so hands off people!).  My first impressions were that the burger was substantial and looked moist, the toppings were few and I was pleased to note the bun was a shiny brioche. Cutting into the burger with the steak knife showed a beautifully cooked pink burger patty.   On first bite, I was even more impressed - with coarsely ground and good quality meat, it made an excellent burger and was all better for the minimal toppings.  The melted gruyere added a nicely gooey foil for the burger and the bacon an added saltiness but it was nice to have the flavour of the meat come through.  I will also award high points for the spicy relish, which complemented the burger without being overpowering. 

I decided to have try one of the seasonal autumn cocktails and had a Mal Berry Candy (£6.50).  It was one of the best cocktails I've had, with fresh berries and popping candy creating a deep rich blackberry jam flavour with a twist.  I've vowed to come back for a visit to the bar as it was just lovely and I'm looking forward to trying a Spiced Pear Martini and Smoked Apple and Blackberry Bramble on my return. 

My dining companion decided to try the lobster burger, a rather decadent burger option, but apparently the lobster choice was made with nostalgic remembrance of  visits to the west coast of America, where lobster is included in lots of other 'regular' dishes, such as macaroni cheese to great effect. The verdict?  Not quite as enthusiastic as the classic burger.  The burger itself was large and had hunks of lobster meat throughout but not quite enough to get through its sweet meaty flavour and it seemed a bit bogged down with filler. The mango salsa was, however, delightful and full of spicy flavour. 

After our plates were cleared we were asked by our charming waiter if we wanted to look at the dessert menu.  Even though our bellies were starting to groan a little we decided it wouldn't hurt to just have a wee look.  The desserts all sounded tempting and we were given a bit of time to debate what to have.  The service was helpful as well as perfectly timed; attentive but not intrusive - our water glasses remained topped up and we had an excellent recommendation for pudding - Valrhona chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream (£5.95).  This dessert, which has been know to bamboozle Masterchef contestants, was cooked to perfection with chocolate sauce oozing from its baked shell.  It was paired perfectly with salted caramel ice cream.

So dining at the Mal Brasserie was a proper experience rather than just a meal.  The lobster burger was an interesting alternative but not one that I'd recommend over the classic Mal burger which I'd highly recommend.  Is it worth the extra expense?  While it's certainly a bit pricier than your average burger, it's definitely a cut above the average burger and is actually on par price-wise with a lot of places on the Shore in Leith.  The dessert options were excellent, the service was attentive and the setting was really beautiful.  It's a perfect place to visit when you want to spoil yourself or someone else.

The Mal Brasserie
1 Tower Place

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Baking Sunday: Snickers Cheesecake for the Domestic Sluts Pudding Club

I love cheesecake immensely, so was super pleased when my lovely pal Sara* alerted me to the fact that this was the next Domestic Sluttery Pudding Club theme.  I haven't been baking quite as much recently so I missed out on last month's chocolate theme but can't wait to join in with Pudding Club now cos frankly, the Domestic Sluts are pure awesome.  

I'd actually just made a chocolate cherry cheesecake for the latest Edinburgh Cake Ladies meet up, a very light no-bake version.  Something very interesting happened when I made this cheesecake though - my boyfriend, a confirmed cheesecake hater, not only tried a piece but enjoyed it!  I'd made it in a loaf tin so perhaps it was the shape that bamboozled him but he hadn't realised it was cheesecake at first and was near horrified himself to learn that he'd enjoyed this unholy marriage of both cheese and cake (his main objection to cheesecake being, much like a Peter Kay sketch, that cheese and cake should have nothing to do with each other).  

So I thought I'd challenge myself to make something that he'd really enjoy.  This recipe from Marian Keyes' Saved By Cake caught my eye, mainly because it's made in a loaf tin and Snickers are my boyfriend's favourite chocolate bar.  I hate the fact it's called Blokey Snickers Cheesecake Loaf, apparently because Snickers are "blokey". It reminds me a little bit too much of Yorkie Bars not being for girls, Bic pens - For Her and the forthcoming "diet friendly" Crispello's which are marketed towards women.  But never mind, I enjoyed it plenty and still have all my lady bits intact so all is well.  More importantly, my boyfriend loved it so mission accomplished! This cheesecake is good enough to turn the cheesecake-suspicious into a cheesecake convert.

This is a baked cheesecake, with mascarpone, ricotta cheese and sour cream, which overcomes the sweetness of the Snickers but does mean it's on the rich side.  The base is a basic digestive crust but with salted peanuts added too and four snickers are cut up and mixed into the cheesecake batter.  I've adapted the recipe ever so slightly as the topping should be toffee sauce from a squeezy bottle - instead, I swirled some extra caramel sauce into the batter and added a chocolate ganache topping (just to make it more Snickers-y) but this is far from an essential step - I just love chocolate.  I also tweaked the base ever so slightly as the mix felt a bit too moist.  This cheesecake is best enjoyed with feminist gusto.

* As a side note, I was thinking about how long Sara and I have been friends and it's probably close to ten years of mutually appreciating indiepop, glitter and cats.  Blimey!  I could probably track this via the HDIF photo pages however this would just make me feel really old. 

Snickers Cheesecake Loaf
(slightly adapted from Marian Keyes Saved By Cake)


For the base
180g milk chocolate digestive biscuits
50g salted peanuts
75g butter

For the filling
250g mascarpone cheese
250g ricotta cheese
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
200ml sour cream
4 Snickers bars, chopped into chunks
Optional: Caramel sauce from a jar (I used Waitrose Caramel dipping sauce)

For the chocolate ganache topping
(Note: this is optional - Marian Keyes recipe has the loaf topped with squeezy toffee sauce out of a bottle)
100ml double cream
150g dark or milk chocolate, depending on your preference
A generous handful of salted peanuts

1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC.  Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking paper hanging over the sides. 
2. In a food processor, whizz the biscuits and peanuts so they form a rough-cut, rustic-looking mix; you should still be able to see parts of the peanuts.  
3. Melt the butter and stir it through the crumbs.  Pour the mix into the bottom of the loaf tin and pack down hard, using the base of a glass.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and cool, then refrigerate until needed.
4. To make the filling, preheat the oven again to 170ºC.  Mix the two cheeses together, then add the sugar and eggs. Pour in the sour cream, then stir in the Snickers pieces and caramel sauce. Pour in on top of the biscuit base. 
5. Bake for an hour and a half, then turn off the oven and leave it sitting there for as long as you can bear. When you eventually take it out, you’ll be delighted to see the top has developed a gorgeous fudgey look. Refrigerate overnight. 
6. To make the chocolate ganache, place the cream in a small saucepan on medium heat until it just comes to the boil.  Place the chocolate in a mixing bowl and pour the hot cream over, leaving for a few minutes to let the chocolate melt. Whisk mixture together until smooth and then smooth layer over the top of the cheesecake allowing some bits of chocolate to dribble over the side.  Scatter peanuts over the top and enjoy!