Category Archives: Diva does…

Diva will be hitting Edinburgh to review restaurants and happenings. This pleasure-fest will, as can image, be a difficult task. The things Diva does for you!

Diva does… Gardener’s Cottage

When the cupids at Match.com asked me to recommend an Edinburgh restaurant perfect for a romantic rendezvous, my mind immediately fluttered to Gardener’s Cottage.

Gardener’s Cottage opened in July 2012 and Owner Chefs Dale Mailley and Edward Murray have done a marvellous job of making Gardener’s Cottage a destination restaurant for those who know.

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Gardener’s Cottage, looks delicious from the outside too

Word about the Cottage has spread with virtually no advertising because Dale and Edward consistently deliver dinners that make you go mmmmmmmm.  It’s often fully booked even though it’s not yet well known across the piece. And it feels even more special to be indulging in a pleasure only a few have experienced.

Dale and Edward focus on using locally produced ingredients and pushing the envelope with unusual textures and flavours (more of which later) all sprinkled with the perfect amount of friendly service. Above all they’ve kept the rustic feel of the gardener’s cottage. Indeed they grow vegetables and herbs for the restaurant in the garden.

I thought I might look through the window at any moment and see Lady Chatterley’s lover chopping wood.

Find out more about the history of the building on the Gardener’s Cottage website.

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Our Menu at Gardener’s Cottage

There are two dining rooms at the Gardener’s Cottage, the main room from which you can see the kitchen and another room which, if I recall correctly, has one table for 10.

A little bit different…
The Cottage experience is not for everyone. You will be sitting on large tables, with other people. I enjoyed that aspect as it was a bit different, and totally in keeping with the ‘feel’ of the place. We exchange a few jokes with our ‘tablemates’ but other than that it was no different from being at a restaurant where the tables are close together.

And the menu is a set menu. This is a great chance to try different things and explore options you wouldn’t normally try. The Cottage ask about allergies and are happy to cater for ‘strong dislike’ too. Pete went for fish instead of deer for example.  Our waitress explained each course as she brought it. It felt more adventurous than your average restaurant experience.

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The bread – To. Die. For.

To get us started delicious freshly-baked bread. Fluffy, creamy and oh so moreish.  My mouth is watering with the memory.

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Look simple, tastes exquisite

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Because I like to spoil you, here’s another angle

The starter of asparagus, crab, cucumber hollandaise and radish was simple and tasty. The freshness of the ingredients and the perfect balance of flavours and textures, the crunch of the asparagus and the creaminess of the crab show  how much care goes into offering plates which are at the same time elegant, rustic and close your eyes divine.

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The sun goes down over Edinburgh

This is our view out across London Street. OK it’s still cold in Edinburgh. In May. Sigh. But it’s brighter. And when you’re an Edinburgher, you have to be grateful for small mercies!

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Artichoke and parsnip soup tasting better than it has any right to

Look at the tableware darlings! Vintage, quirky and showcasing a surprisingly good soup. Who knew artichoke and parsnip soup could taste so good?! It must be the lovage oil.

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The pièce de résistance – Roe Deer

For me the roe deer was the highlight. It was perfectly cooked, velvety in texture and utterly flavourful. As I chewed, I may have emitted the odd mmm, if not an aaah. I really shouldn’t be allowed out! But for you, I must subject people to me.

What made it really special were the details. The potatoes buttery, creamy and the dehydrated kale crispy and the roasted cauliflower crunchy. Oh. My. Goodness. It was pleasure overload. It really was.

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Fearn Abbey cheese with beetroot and cracker

 

Beetroot and cheese?! But again brilliantly executed and even a non-beetroot-liker ate the lot and declared he’d been ‘turned’. That’s Gardener Power.

On my earlier visit we were served a turnip sorbet. Four of were out on that occasion and 3 of us loved it. The other is remaining staunchly anti-turnip-sorbet. But what a talking point for a date. You’ll find out a lot about your potential partner at the Cottage.

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Sweet endings

Speaking of sweet endings. The lovely Calum from Crescent Supper Club is now working as a chef at Gardener’s Cottage. Well my goodness me, if I didn’t have enough reasons already for a return visit.

And and and, have I said? It’s incredibly good value. I really don’t know how they do all of this for £30 per head. But they do. And we can reap the benefits of their obvious love of food in a beautiful, relaxed, rustic setting and experience the pleasure and excitement of taste sensations with every one of the 6 (yes 6!) courses. Plus the bread, we can’t forget the bread.

There’s no need to wait for a special occasion to book at table at Gardener’s Cottage. But do me a favour, keep it to yourself. It’s hard enough to get a table as it is.

Let me know your thoughts below
Have you been to Gardener’s Cottage? Would you like to go? Do you think it’s a good restaurant for a date?
If you’ve written a review of Gardener’s Cottage, please leave a link to your review in comments below. I’d love to read it.

EDINBURGH DIVA RATING: 10/10

GARDENER’S COTTAGE
1 Royal Terrace Gardens, London Road, Edinburgh EH7 5DX

0131 558 1221

MORE DIVA DOES…
Read more in the Diva does… series

 

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Diva’s week of deliciousness and peaks – Part I

Last week was the type of week I love – a delicious cocktail of cake, Martin Wishart, prosecco, beautiful peaks and lots of glorious sunshine. The kind of week when you really believe that the words Scottish and Summer were meant to be together and are not some kind of cruel joke.

So first up, a taste of sweet, sweet heaven at the Clandestine Cake Club set up by the very wonderful Lynn Hill. The Clandestine Cake Club meets in homes across the country for people who love cake. This particular Edinburgh event was organised by Edinburgh Cake Queen Alison who LOVES cake. Alison has a facebook and twitter account for fellow devotees. She has also written the definitive Edinburgh Cake Trail. I have to warn you though that following either account could have you drooling into your keyboard at 11am on a Monday morning.

The Clandestine Cake Club is responsible for my recent foray into baking. I now adore it. Delia and I have become very close. Following a very shaky start I whipped up some lovely wee numbers…

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Yes that’s two Victoria sponges, no mirrors were involved in the making of this photo. Well, why bake one when you can bake two.

And another Delia cake – the uber creamy passionfruit cake, with a filling of mascarpone cheese, fromage frais and passionfruit. Mmmmmm

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Therefore I was somewhat dismayed when I fluffed it. The Vic sponge I presented a Clandestine Cake did not look like the ones above. I was so agitated by this that it seems I don’t have a picture of it on its own! Here are just some of the cakes. Mine is second right next to the chocolate cake.

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There were so many highlights that I don’t have space for them all. My faves (and even I couldn’t taste all of the cakes!) were Lea’s fantabulous cake top (the white one), Lisa’s carrot cake the size of a pillow which was iced with the words C’mon Girls Dive In! As though we needed any encouragement.

And the rainbow cake made by Aoife – 7 layers! Legend. Aoife also runs My Home Supper Club where we had the most amazing tower of profiteroles. You too could enjoy dinner with Aoife, there are a few places left for her August events. Get in quick!

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The altar of cake. Worship daily at Fredericks Cafe. Clandestine Cake Club’s Edinburgh venue and a lovely wee cafe on Frederick Street.

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Cake Queen Alison set a new record for Clandestine Cake Club. 12 slices at one event. Now that is commitment! If you want to reacquaint yourself with your baking genius or unleash the cake fiend within you, keep your eye on the Clandestine Cake Club and for Edinburghers, Edinburgh Cake Ladies.

Part II involving Martin Wishart, prosecco, beautiful peaks and lots of glorious sunshine will be posted very soon. Watch this space.

CLANDESTINE CAKE CLUB
Clandestine Cake Club website
Clandestine Cake Club on facebook
Clandestine Cake on twitter

EDINBURGH CAKE
Edinburgh Cake Ladies on facebook
Edinburgh Cake on twitter

FREDERICKS COFFEE HOUSE
Fredericks Coffee House on facebook
Fredericks Coffee House on twitter

MY HOME SUPPER CLUB
My Home Supper Club blog
My Home Supper Club on facebook
http://twitter.com/myhomesupper

The Diva lives on!

Yes she’s been away. Or rather she hasn’t been writing. And now she’s writing about herself in the third person. Well she is a diva!

I can hardly cover in one post all that has happened since my last post on er [mumbles] 26 April. I’ll do that over the next few weeks as there have been many wonderful things

I’ve been to two secret supper club – Kitchen Porters and My Home Supper Club
Cycled around Arran and eaten Arran cheese
Attended Clandestine Cake meetings and eaten lots of cake
Completed the Etape Caledonia without even a hint of sweeper van!
Lunched and dined at The Spice Pavilion, Iris, Hamiltons, The Living Room, Edinburgh Larder, Le Marche Francais, The Pillars of Hercules, Mark Greenaway, La Garrigue, Indigo Yard and others
Spent all afternoon in a vodka bar on the Isle of Bute
Danced to Europop in Spain
Seen Ben Jovi at Murrayfield
Climbed Ben Lawers and Ben Ghlass
Rocked to the Lift Shaft Incident at Whistlebinkies
Drunk bubbly at Ladies Day at Musselburgh
Cycled from Edinburgh to St Andrews. And back
Cryed at Stuart & Vivienne’s most magnificent wedding
Paintballed (yes it does hurt!) and driven in a tank
Drunk lots of Pommery at the launch of the Signet Library’s new popup champagne bar
Been to barbecues
Visited my wonderful sister in London
Tried on armwarmers
Eaten curry goat and spit roast deer on the Isle of Cara while dressed as a pirate

But more on all that later. For now I’ll stick to last week:

Lovely lunch at La Garrigue with Ann. A super menu of three courses for less than £20, I had squid to start, rabbit salad for main and cheesecake to finish. Excellent. And to whet your tastebuds…

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The highlight of last week was our Sunday Brunch Club dinner at My Home Supper Club. One of the wonderful new supper clubs in people’s homes. We enjoyed a delicious evening a la Francais. I am still salivating, indeed dreaming about, the croqenbouche. The mountain of profiteroles in all their creamy, chocolately glory. Mmmmm….

Read more about this on the SBC blog here
To book your date with My Home Supper Club check their events page Don’t wait too long though, these dinners sellout quickly.

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The croqenbouche and I, it was love at first sight

On Sunday I was out with the Sunday Brunch Club again to visit Jupiter Artland. The contemporary sculpture garden in the grounds of Bonnington House, just 30 minutes drive west of Edinburgh. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Read more about this on the SBC blog here.
It’s well worth a visit.

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The 20 metre high Love Bomb Sculpture at Jupiter Artland

Some things to try:
La Garrigue
14 Eyre Place, Edinburgh, EH3 5EP
0131 558 1608
La Garrigue on twitter

My Home Supper Club
A Secret Edinburgh location
My Home Supper Club on facebook and twitter

Jupiter Artland
Bonnington House, Kirknewton, City of Edinburgh EH27 8BB
01506 889900
Jupiter Artland on facebook and twitter

More soon dear readers. I’ve missed you.

So much to love about Cameron House on Loch Lomond

Mr Mac and I went to Cameron House to celebrate our anniversary. We had  high expectations. On the website it looks gorgeous, and a few friends have been and have raved about it.

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On arrival I was thrilled to learn that my lovely husband had booked us a suite! Apparently there are only 3 suites with a balcony and we had one of them. Further excitement, if that is possible.

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Here he is on the champagne cruise of the loch. In just his shirt! I, and our fellow passengers were wearing everything we had with us plus several blankets each (pictures below). It gets chilly once you get out on the water even though it was a beautiful sunny day on land. Can you tell he’s a Geordie?!

So here’s our room…

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With a free-standing cast iron bath. I could hardly contain myself. But there was more shrieking when I saw the bathroom.

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A fantastic wet room with two huge showerheads and room for a rugby team. Although we didn’t test that theory.

Not a very good picture I’m afraid, you had to be there. On the other side of the bathroom (not pictured) two sinks. Everything lush and lovely darlings!

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And for me the highlight: the amazing view from our balcony. One of only three in the hotel you understand! That’s balconies not views.

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Mr Mac had organised the weather too so it was clothes off, robe on and straight out onto the balcony with the champers and strawberries.

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This is the view from our room before we headed down to dinner. The picture doesn’t begin to do it justice.

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I’ll do a separate blog about dinner as this one already has so many pictures! And I still have quite a few things to tell you about. Heightened security at Cameron House as Princess Anne was staying. Yes HRH had heard we were staying and flew in by helicopter to join us for tea.*

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I won’t win any awards for photos this trip. I’m afraid shaky hands mean that this is the best photo I have of Princess Anne. She was lovely, lovely and we were so excited to have seen her.

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So my dears, after tea with Princess Anne* we hurried along to the spa at Carrick. If you are in the area you simply must pop in. Gorgeousness.  An outdoor jacuzzi with views across Carrick Golf Course plus every possible type of steam room, sauna and shower you can imagine. Mr Mac was most taken with the pool too. If you are chomping at the bit already view the Carrick Spa website for all the details and more pictures.

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After spa-ing we felt thoroughly rejuvenated.

There was just time for a glass of champagne on our balcony before we went off for our champagne cruise on the hotel’s yacht, Celtic Warrior.  It’s a super boat, just 3 years old.

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When you visit I do recommend the cruise, it’s great to explore the vastness of Loch Lomond and our guide Ian kept us most entertained with his tales of life in the Loch then and now.

Golfers among you may be interested to learn that Loch Lomond Golf Course is offering annual membership for a cool £250,000.

Ian also told us, rather pointedly, that there is an island for naughty and/or nagging wives. Yes legend has it that mainland menfolk would deposit their wives on said island until such time as their behaviour improved. That’s the behaviour of the wives not the husbands. You can see why this story doesn’t ring true. Is this a tall tale? Can anyone verify this story. Apparently the island is called the Gaelic for heather. I think he was pulling our leg…

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And here are a few pictures of our cruise…

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Pete (pictured above) was in just a shirt. Meanwhile I was wrapped up in fleece and 2 blankets! And I wasn’t the only one! You think I’d know better than to leave my coat behind after 11 years in Scotland.

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And a final picture of the view from our balcony.

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So a super-fabulous trip. The staff were just amazing too. So looking forward to visiting again.

We paid for this trip ourselves, by the way. I do get invited for the occasional dinner (and I point that out to you) but  haven’t been offered any holidays. Yet. But of course, am open to offers!

We loved it so much we’re planning more short breaks so I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best places to stay. 
What are your favourite hotels in Scotland and why?

CAMERON HOUSE
Loch Lomond
Dunbartonshire
G83 8QZ
01389 713 281

*this might be a slight exaggeration but sounds much better than ‘after taking bad pictures of Princess Anne across the hotel foyer…’

Sublime Seafood at Ondine’s Crustacean Bar

Sometimes life is more lovely than usual. Returning from a fabulous ski holiday in Mayrhofen to an invitation to try Ondine’s new bar menu was one such time. After a superb lunch at Ondine recently I was salivating at the prospect of a return visit.

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As you may know Ondine has an enticing dinner menu for those occasions when you want to indulge and have enough time to enjoy the theatre of the full dining experience.

The launch of the bar menu offers diners the chance to enjoy that Brett magic over a couple of glasses of wine pre-show, post-shopping or whenever you want to really. It’ll be one of my go-to places for between show sustenance during the Fringe. But I won’t be waiting until August to return!

I do Ceroc dancing and went to the launch with one of my favourite dance partners, who has asked to remain incognito. I’ll call him Johnny because he’s tall, dark, handsome, would look fantastic in tight trousers and boy can he dance!

So to the food:

The menu has options from £2.75 to £10.50 and includes classics like oysters, potted shrimp, mussels and squid. There is also enough to keep non-seafood-eating friends happy with roast pigeon, duck eggs & wild mushrooms and honey and coriander lamb cutlets among others.

We ordered tapas style and here it is in pictures for your delectation…

This is the oyster rarebit. Deliciously moist and buttery. Very moreish. A quirky twist on a old favourite that really works without overpowering the delicate flavours of the oyster.

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Fishcakes with dipping sauce. Very fishy, fishcakes beautifully seasoned. So different to many of the potato filled ‘fishcakes’ I’ve had.

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Ah one of the highlights of my evening the roast pigeon with wild mushrooms. Isn’t it beautiful? Don’t you want to reach in and taste it? I quite fancy one now, perhaps I’ll pop in this evening… I digress. It is difficult to describe to you the magnificence of this wonderfully fresh, perfectly cooked, succulent bird served with a gravy I wish I knew how to make.

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The chips, double fried I think and very tasty.

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And another favourite of mine the salt and pepper squid.

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We had planned to order more but were very full after 6 dishes between the two of us (potted shrimp not pictured).

It was a most entertaining evening and not just because of the food. We were sitting next to Jo Morris of Edinburgh institution and must-read ion magazine who was utterly hilarious and just as compelling in person as in print.

Yes a most wonderful evening with excellent food, great company, friendly service and lashings of champagne. All enjoyed in the busy, buzzy environs of Ondine on a Wednesday evening.

Loved it and will definitely go back.

EDINBURGH DIVA RATING: 9.5/10

Ondine on Urbanspoon

ONDINE RESTAURANT AND CRUSTACEAN BAR
2 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1AD
0131 226 1888

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Let me know your thoughts below
If you’ve written a review of Ondine, please leave a link to your review in comments below.

The Delicious Mark Greenaway at Hawke and Hunter

I was delighted to be invited along to sample the delights of the recently launched Mark Greenaway restaurant at Hawke & Hunter. Mark recently won Rising Star Chef of the Year 2011 at the Scottish Hotel Awards and after reading the rave reviews on Edinburgh Spotlight and The List I suspected we’d be in for a treat.

Mark Greenaway Restaurant

I went along with Alison Grieve who is a super-fabulous woman, mother of twins, inventor, MD of Safetray and negotiating queen. It was the first time I’d seen her since bumping into her at Foodies Festival back in December. We had a great time catching up and she gave me some exceedingly useful tips. Thanks a million Alison!

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The restaurant is well-sized – small enough to feel intimate but large enough that the tables are well-spaced, with additional private dining areas. I like the simple and sophisticated feel with exposed stone work (which I’m partial to as we have at home), a fireplace and the statement light fittings I like so much. It’s fine dining with a relaxed vibe.

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The food was superb and at just £20 for 3 courses. It’s exceptionally good value too.

The pictures speak for themselves.

To start, Alison chose the line caught halibut raviolo in langoustine broth, with avruga caviar.

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I choose the Gressingham duck leg with hot orange jelly, beetroot carpaccio, sakura salad and raspberry dressing. This starter was mmmmmmmmmagnificent. The combination of the sweet orange jelly with the tart beetroot carpaccio worked beautifully with the duck and with the raspberry dressing it was a real triumph. As you can see it looked beautiful too. It would be interesting to see the production of beetroot carpaccio. Not one to try at home methinks, unless planning a new purple kitchen colour scheme!

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For main Alison chose the skate wing sous-vide with beetroot purée, crisps, olive mash, crispy squid and brown butter jus. It looked amazing and Alison enjoyed it.

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I chose the free range chicken with mini pomme fondants, confit garlic, onion rings, toast purée and Pied Blu mushrooms. I’d love to know how the chicken was cooked as it was so moist it was creamy. The seasoning was very good too. On this one, my picture doesn’t do it justice.

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Alison was going to go for the cheeses, until she saw this sweet being delivered to another table and knew she just had to try it. Good call. Her jam jar, rhubarb and custard with rice pudding, rhubarb and vanilla ice cream was very very good.

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And for me a divine ending to a lovely lunch with the Manjari Chocolate fondant with vanilla tuille, white chocolate mousse, orange caviar and tonka bean ice cream. Oh! My! Goodness! Where do I start? The fondant on it’s own would have been dreamy, moist and soft sponge with a hot and gooey centre, it was love at first bite. And then the chocolate cup. I so love chocolate cups for the same reasons I enjoy Easter eggs, it special in a way that chocolate bars – even the most delicious – simply don’t. And this chocolate cup was filled with a rich and creamy white chocolate mousse.

It was pleasure overload and I haven’t even mentioned the orange caviar. Like eating two sweets really.  I can’t wait to do it all again.

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Mark Greenaway is a great addition to Edinburgh’s restaurant scene with exciting combinations, perfectly cooked and beautifully presented – as much a feast for the eyes as the tastebuds. I wonder if he’s available for hire…

EDINBURGH DIVA RATING: 9.5/10

Hawke & Hunter on Urbanspoon

MARK GREENAWAY RESTAURANT AT HAWKE & HUNTER

12 Picardy Place, Edinburgh EH1 3JT
Tel: 0131 557 0952
Mark Greenaway on twitter and Hawke & Hunter on facebook

MORE DIVA DOES…
Read more in the Diva does… series

And of course let me know what you think below

BLOGGERS, if you’ve written a review of Hawke & Hunter, please leave a link to your review in comments below.

Diva does… cocktails and scallops at The Voodoo Rooms

This was a most lovely Saturday afternoon whiled away in the beautiful environs of The Voodoo Rooms with my lover.

The Voodoo Rooms

If you haven't been you must go, it's a beautiful bar. Look out for the ornate ceiling in the pictures below.

On arriving at the very lovely Voodoo Rooms my eyes were drawn to this menu… 

Bewitching menu at The Voodoo Rooms

Bewitching menu at The Voodoo Rooms - This picture is insisting on being landscape despite my persuasion, aaargh!

 My darlings you know how I enjoy a cocktail and find it difficult to resist a bargain. Here the two came together deliciously. I  worked my way through cocktail specials and most pleasurable it was.

First up, the rather fabulous looking El Diablo – Arette blanco tequila, creme de cassis, lime juice and ginger ale. This was sweet and tropical. On a grey Edinburgh Saturday I tried to imagine being on a beach sipping my El Diablo. But hey, even my imagination wasn’t good enough for that.

El Diablo cocktail

Tropical flavours

Next up, the Silver Ghost – Bacardi rum, velvet falernum, lime juice, rock candy, cardamom and apple juice. This was my favourite. I like cocktails that aren’t too sweet and this was perfect, light, easy and wonderful flavours from the cardomom seeds.

Silver Ghost

Rum, lime and cardamon. A winner, my favourite of the 3!

And finally, Beauty and the Fizz – 42 Below vodka, Aperol lemon juice, passionfruit syrup topped with bubbly. This was fizzy and fruity, a perfect end to my cocktail trio.

Beauty & The Fizz

Fizzy and fruity

So by now feeling a little peckish my lover and I order a bite to eat. He went the fish and chips which he tells me was very good. Obviously, I verified the chips on your behalf and not because I gained any pleasure from it whatsoever.

Fish & chips at The Voodoo Rooms

Super, I understand

And I, of course, went for the scallops. Juicy as I like them and as you can see caramelised on the outside. They look a bit darker than normal as they had to delay service while I popped out. In spite of looks they weren’t overcooked.  They were divine. And the cauliflower and vermouth puree oh oh oh to die for!

Scallops at The Voodoo Rooms

Mmmmn heavenly

And vegetables on the side

Vegetables

Beautifully cooked

A wonderful afternoon. The staff are lovely too, young and er… very easy on the eye.

So what was the damage? The cocktails were all a special £5. Fish and chips was £10.95, scallop (starter) £6.95 and vegetable side dish £2.95. Super value. More reasons to love The Voodoo.

Afterwards we went shopping in search of a very covetable item which I can’t tell you about. 

EDINBURGH DIVA RATING: 9/10

The Voodoo Rooms on Urbanspoon

THE VOODOO ROOMS
19a West Register Street, Edinburgh  EH2 2AA
Tel: 0131 556 7060

MORE DIVA DOES…
Read more in the Diva does… series

And of course let me know what you think below

BLOGGERS, if you’ve written a review of The Voodoo Rooms, please leave a link to your review in comments below.