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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Nepali chef serves Midlothian a Scottish curry king double

A 53 year old Nepali from Midlothian has been voted Scotland’s Curry Chef of the Year.

Ashok Ram, who commands the kitchen at the 120 cover Indian-Bangladeshi restaurant Radhuni in Loanhead’s Clerk Street, took the title at the Scottish Curry Awards gala dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow.

Trained by Matin Khan, Chief Executive and Executive Head Chef of Radhuni and its sister restaurant Itihaas in nearby Dalkeith, he was named UK Bangladeshi Chef of the Year in 2012 after live demonstrations by finalists in London. In his latest accolade he is following in the footsteps of Matin Khan who was voted Curry Chef of the Year in Scotland in 2014.

Radhuni and Itihaas were also shortlisted in the Best Restaurant in the Edinburgh area and South East Scotland respectively.

“Cooking can be described as a work of art where spices and flavours are a form of expression,” Ashok commented. “I’m delighted that the work of myself and the Radhuni team has been recognised. We try to make each dish a unique experience for the customer.”

Radhuni, whose name means ‘passionate cook’ in Bengali, opened in 2011 as Loanhead’s first Indian-style restaurant. 

Matin’s son Habibur, who manages Radhuni, said: “Ashok’s success in being named Scotland’s top curry chef is an honour for the restaurant and a tribute to the loyalty and dedication of the entire team.”

Why did he think Radhuni had triumphed? “Indian and Bangladeshi food continues to evolve,” he replied. “Ashok and his colleagues have adapted to trends and kept learning more about spices and modern styles of cooking while using only the best and most authentic ingredients.”

He added that the success had been achieved despite tough UK immigration laws which make it difficult for restaurants to obtain entry visas for chefs from the Indian sub-continent.

“In putting up these barriers, including stipulating an unreasonable minimum starting salary for a chef, the UK Government is shabbily treating an industry worth more than £4 billion to the country’s economy each year.” Habibur said. “At Radhuni and Itihaas we’re unusual in having managed to keep our team intact but around the UK many restaurants are closing or reducing the number of days they open.”

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Hotel Review - DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh - Queensferry Crossing, North Queensferry

Towards the end of last year, myself and Nicola were invited to dine at The Shore Grill & Fish House in North Queensferry. The restaurant is housed within the newly refurbished DoubleTree By Hilton Edinburgh - Queensferry Crossing hotel and in order to make the most of our visit, we were offered the chance to stay overnight at the hotel too.
DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh – Queensferry Crossing is one of 33 hotels operated by Cairn Hotel Group across the UK and sits on the north bank of the River Forth offering stunning views of the iconic Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing. 
Located just 15miles from Edinburgh, the hotel makes an ideal base for tourists and business travellers alike and after a busy day in the capital, it was just a short 30 minutes drive to the hotel where we arrived in time to grab a quick rest before dinner.

Upon arrival, we were immediately impressed by the huge reception area which looked very modern in style with marble tiling, floor to ceiling windows complete with  comfy armchairs which offered prime viewing on to the recently completed Queensferry Crossing. The check-in process was quick and efficient and after a few short minutes we were upstairs and unpacking our overnight case.

As you would expect from a recently refurbished hotel, the rooms were fresh and modern.
Our room was a good size with a queen size bed dominating the floor space while one corner was occupied by a desk area that could be used by business people to catch up on work while the other corner had a wall mounted TV and armchair. There was no shortage of wardrobe space, even taking into consideration the space taken up by the minibar and electronic safe. One of my pet hates when staying at some large hotels is having to call down to reception to request an iron & ironing board, thankfully there were no such concerns here and as Nicola enjoyed her nap, I was able to iron our clothes for dinner. 

The room was clean and comfortable however due to the minimalistic décor, we both felt that the room was more suited to traveling business people or those looking to use the hotel as a base for the nearby transport links to Edinburgh or the surrounding coastal area. 

The same can’t be said for the bathroom! If I was redecorating at home, this is exactly how I would do my bathroom. Grey slate floor and wall tiles were used to great effect to create a bathroom that would fit in any home. A huge marble sink and massive illuminated mirror screamed for attention whilst a wooden slatted area underneath provided plenty of storage space. The monsoon shower packed a huge pressure punch, which was perfect to blast the cobwebs away the morning after the night before.
Oh, one other thing that wrangles me when visiting hotels is when little or no toiletries are left in the bathroom but that wasn’t the case here as an ample range of Crabtree & Evelyn products sat pride of place by the sink. 

After a cracking sleep in a very comfy bed, we woke early to be treated to a beautiful view of the two road bridges over The Forth from our bedroom window.
Our stay included breakfast so after a quick blast from the aforementioned power shower, we made our way downstairs to the restaurant. Breakfast included a huge selection of cereals, breads, meats, cheeses and jams as well as a hot buffet breakfast selection too. 
On this particular Sunday, it’s fair to say that the kitchen and restaurant teams were taking a hammering and the waiting time for some of the hot breakfast items was perhaps a little longer than most would have expected. That said, myself and Nicola weren’t in any particular hurry so took our time, soaked up the view and managed to eat enough to keep us going though the day.

Feeling suitable fed and watered, we made our way back to the room to finishing packing then it was back downstairs for a speedy checkout. The hotel is just a short drive to the quiet town of North Queensferry so as we had never been in this part of the world before, we drove into the town before parking up for a quick photo opportunity. (I may have photoshopped my original image just a little)

Being able to look out of the hotel window and enjoy the panoramic views of the road bridges over The Forth is very pleasant but standing under the Forth Rail Bridge on a cold winters morning was quite special. Our stay at DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh – Queensferry Crossing was very enjoyable. The fact that it gave us the chance to see three iconic bridges spanning three centuries (and The Forth) was an added bonus.

We stayed as guests of the hotel however my review above is an honest account of our visit. I would have no hesitation in recommending DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh- Queensferry Crossing to anyone looking for a hotel near the capital. With easy transport links to the capital and only an short drive to nearby Edinburgh Airport, the hotel is perfectly located. Throw in the adjoining Shore Grill & Fish House restaurant and you’ve got the perfect destination for a weekend trip.

We would like to thank the staff and management for their hospitality and generosity and wish them all the best for the season ahead.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

The Milk Sommelier X Dear Green

Graham’s the Family Dairy & Dear Green whip up milk and coffee pairings


For UK Coffee Week (16 – 22 April 2018), Graham’s is on a mission to help coffee-lovers get a latte more from their pour - as the UK’s first and only Milk Sommelier paired up with top coffee roaster Dear Green to match their award-winning milk with coffee from various countries around the world.


Last year, Graham’s Milk Sommelier Doug Wood, turned his expert nose to everyone’s favourite House White to identify the notes and flavours present in some of Graham’s creamiest milks, from white chocolate and vanilla to almond and grassy tones.


Like coffee, milk has its own distinct flavour wheel. The flavours of a brewed espresso can be elevated through frothed milk, highlighting the tasting notes of the coffee’s origin and taking your flat white to another level.  Accompanied by champion barista Danny Ormonde, the two have bean busy sniffing and slurping their way through Dear Green’s coffees and have carefully chosen milks from the Graham’s range to complement their flavour profiles and maximise those macchiatos.


Doug and Danny’s Tasting Notes and Coffee Pairings:

  • Brazilian coffee has a full, rich berry sweetness and praline nuttiness which pairs perfectly with the ‘balanced and fresh’ Organic Semi-Skimmed Milk, which is a full palate with a fragrant offering of buttermilk, vanilla and a touch of almond.
  • Guatemalan coffee has excellent cup characteristics with notes of cashew, lime and cacao nibs which has a comparable profile to Semi-Skimmed Milk – a lighter milk that’s full flavoured with grassy notes and a hint of sweetness.
  • Colombian coffee beans offer a juicy mouth-watering flavour offering up notes of tropical fruits which pairs well with Gold Top and its fruity undertones and great clarity of flavour.
  • Rwandan coffee offers notes of honey, nectarine and chocolate which is elevated through ‘rich and sweet’ Organic Semi-Skimmed Milk with Cream on Top, which is oaty with a touch of almond.
  • Kenyan speciality coffee is juicy and complex with flavours of blackberry, honey and citrus blend which is amplified by the bready notes and textured depths of vanilla and toasted nuts of Gold Smooth.
  • Ethiopian coffee beans are naturally processed with a slight spritz in texture, releasing nutty flavours with a hint of complex fruit. Perfectly paired with Organic Whole Milk with Cream on Top, which is smooth and creamy with notes of white chocolate, panna cotta and a hint of grass towards the end.

 Carol Graham, Marketing Director at Graham’s the Family Dairy said: “After discovering the hidden depths of flavour and texture in our milk range, it made sense to partner up with a coffee roaster like Dear Green to see how else the flavours in milk can elevate our daily lives. Dad had great day learning his Jersey Gold Top was the baristas milk of choice for latte art, and as a coffee fan myself, I’ve loved tasting the delicious pairings chosen by Doug and Danny. I would love to hear from people who try our pairings too.”


Doug Wood, Graham’s Milk Sommelier added: Becoming the UK’s first Milk Sommelier has been a whirlwind and working with such a talented barista as Danny has been a great experience. As someone who’s beliefs are rooted in quality and provenance, I am always excited to find like-minded partners who share our passion for discovering new flavours.


“Together, we’ve worked our way through numerous coffee origins, and look forward to hearing from Scotland’s coffee drinkers to see if they enjoy and agree with our pairings.”


Danny Ormonde, Dear Green’s Champion Barista said: “As a barista, milk plays an incredibly important role in serving up the perfect cup for our customers. I always knew fat content played a part in balancing out flavour and acidity in coffee but working with the Milk Sommelier has opened my eyes to complementary tasting notes in milk. We’ve had a great time learning from each other and look forward to collaborating more in the future.”


If you would like to create your own coffee milk pairings, Graham’s milk is available to purchase across all supermarkets and you can pick up a bag of Dear Green coffee Share your pairings with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagramusing the hashtag #MilkSommelier.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Park Lane Hotel’s Bennett joins The Full Range

Andrew Bennett, former Director of Food and Beverage at London’s Park Lane Hotel, has been appointed Brand Ambassador for culinary, purchasing and support business The Full Range.
Honoured with an MBE in 2009 for services to the hospitality industry and skills training, 61-year-old Bennett spent 23 years with the Park Lane (Later re-named the Sheraton Grand Hotel) before stepping down at the end of 2016.

The Full Range, established 10 years ago by George McIvor, Chairman of The Masterchefs of Great Britain, advises chefs and managers on buying the best quality and value-for-money food and beverage, and also provides a range of other culinary services. Unlike other similar organisations it is 100% supplier-funded and takes no commission from hotels or restaurants. 

“I didn’t take the decision to back The Full Range lightly and hope I can add even further to its fast growing credibility,” said Bennett, a former Banqueting Chef of the Year whose other achievements included raising £150,000 for Keech Hospice in Luton last year. “Its service and quality are high, and it’s flexible. There are no contracts or hidden fees, and it provides an excellent route for chefs to cut their F & B costs, no matter what their turnover.”

He also chairs various chefs’ judging panels in the UK and overseas and runs courses, including those at Sheffield University. 

Bennett said he would be helping promote The Full Range’s services in his daily contacts with chefs and others in the industry. “My background is very much in the five star market, but The Full Range can help and support a wide variety of food service operators across the hospitality sector,” he commented.

George McIvor, former Head Chef at Dunkeld House Hotel in Perthshire who now lives in Auchterarder, added: “Andrew commands an outstanding reputation in the UK hospitality industry, not only for his own skills and personality but for his abilities in assessing and nurturing young talent. His experience of the entire food chain, his business ethos and unswerving devotion to quality are a perfect match for The Full Range.”

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Fazenda Edinburgh Now Open


Fazenda Edinburgh on the capital’s George Street

The welcoming bar seats 40

Independent restaurant operators City District Group, founders of Fazenda Bar & Grill, opened the doors to their first Scottish restaurant on Friday 23rd February.

The £2m refurbishment of the George Street site includes 175 covers incorporating a 40-cover bar, plus a private dining room. The interiors feature banquette seating in tan leather upholstery with Brazilian flourishes reflected in the golden glow of traditional-style chandeliers. Wine is prominently displayed throughout restaurant, with dramatic displays forming a central theme.

Co-founder, Tomas Maunier said: “It has been an amazing start for us in Edinburgh. People have welcomed us with great feedback and we feel the city is a perfect match for us. Our unique dining experience is something the city has never encountered before and it's quickly becoming a favourite for both locals and tourists." 

Tomas Maunier with Scott Hastings at the launch party on Thursday 22nd February

The authentic gaúcho experience embraces rodizio dining, a unique Brazilian way of serving a selection of grilled meats carved at the table. The set menu showcases successions of prime cuts, among them chicken, lamb, pork and beef A highlight is Fazenda’s signature picanha offering- a juicy, tender and flavourful cut from the cap of the rump, popular in Brazil. Fazenda ensures the experience is easy and enjoyable by allowing diners to eat at their own pace via a start/stop control card on every table.

Fazenda Edinburgh

Diners are also invited to visit Fazenda’s outstanding gourmet sides bar offering an extensive selection of salads, sushi, smoked salmon, fresh cut vegetables, cured meats, and traditional Brazilian dishes.

Francisco Martinez, Executive Head Chef for the group, commented: “The high quality of our produce is essential in delivering the authentic gaúcho experience. We carefully select our meats, just as we would if we were cooking for our friends back in Brazil, and limit the seasoning to the minimum so the natural flavours and textures of these great cuts shine through. The beauty of the experience is that you don’t get stuck with one cut, you go through a culinary voyage that allows you to enjoy a rainbow of flavours.” 

Fazenda’s signature ‘picanha’ cut

Wine is also a key ingredient of the Fazenda experience, with a carefully-curated wine list offering diners a perfect accompaniment to every cut of meat. Fazenda offers a selection of award-wining wines with a focus on South America, but also including some of the great players from the old world, ensuring guests experience a culinary journey they will not forget.

Pouring Veuve Cliquot at the Fazenda Edinburgh launch party 

Tomas Maunier, continued: “We believe passion is the driving force behind a great restaurant. In South America, where we come from, life is all about sharing, and we want to share our passion for our roots and traditions with the people of Edinburgh.”

City District Group operates another three Fazenda restaurants in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Fazenda’s sister brand Picanha in Chester.

Kinrara Distillery in Aviemore announces its arrival with Kinrara Highland Dry Gin

One of Scotland’s newest micro distilleries, Kinrara Distillery nr. Aviemore, has launched its first Gin, the Kinrara Highland Dry Gin. A juniper led dry gin, combining both foraged and locally sourced botanicals. Nestled in 12,000 acres of Cairngorm National Park, just outside Aviemore, the estate offers a stunning range of flora and berries that Kinrara forage for their gins and mix with carefully sourced botanicals. Kinrara distillery prides itself on creating a handcrafted small batch spirit. From the distillation of the gin right down to the bottling, everything is lovingly done by hand, by their passionate highland team.
Stuart McMillan, Co-Founder and Director of Kinrara said: “This is a hugely exciting time for us at Kinrara. The launch sees both the end of the first stage of our journey and the beginning of an exciting future at Kinrara. We are proud to be part of a wonderful and successful industry in Scotland, and look forward to seeing Kinrara earn its place as a unique and individual brand”
Kinrara Highland Dry Gin is available to pre-purchase online only at Batch 1 is limited to one bottle per transaction, to allow as many people the opportunity to purchase a collector’s edition of the Gin. Batch 2 is on sale now also. As Kinrara grows, they will also craft single malt whisky and Scottish rums.

Monday, 19 March 2018

New 'Six By Nico Edinburgh' restaurant to bring traditional 'Chippie' to New Town

Six By Nico Edinburgh is a new restaurant concept opening this Spring and the brainchild of Chef Nico Simeone - the man behind the much-loved Glasgow restaurant in Finnieston.

Foodies will be treated to a new restaurant at the same location on Hanover Street in New Town every six weeks and now, the team have announced the theme and name of their first concept.

'The Chippie' will kick-start the series of evolving concepts - which includes a six-course tasting-menu - providing a nostalgic nod to the traditional fish and chip shop, with items on the menu including chips and cheese, steak pie, sausage supper and the classic deep fried mars bar.

The restaurant menu will showcase the flavours of the local chip shop for which the UK is framed for worldwide and acknowledges the infamous 'Salt and Sauce' condiment, peculiar to Edinburgh and Fife regions, where a mixture of malt vinegar and brown sauce is used to accompany chips or any meal from the local chipshop. 

A nostalgic nod to the past, ‘The Chippie’ will serve six dishes based on the classics found in your traditional Scottish Fish and Chip shop – each one re-imagined and re-created with a contemporary twist.

Chef Nico Simeone said, "We are very excited to launch in the capital with 'The Chippie' concept. Most people are familiar with the tastes and scents of their local chip shop and we wanted to take the idea of the everyday chippie menu and re-invent it to create a playful food experience that guests would recognise and be amazed by".

Diners can book a table now for 'The Chippie', which runs from March 30th - May 13th 2018. Open from midday, Tuesday through to Sunday, each six-course menu will be available from noon to night. The menu will be priced at £28 per person and diners will have the option to enjoy an expertly selected wine pairing for an additional £25.

He added. "We couldn't be more delighted about bringing a completely new offering and dining experience to the people of Edinburgh. By challenging ourselves to do this every six-weeks we feel we have created the perfect recipe for an exciting epicurean adventure for not just our diners, but our team too.”

Serverino designs and creative partners blk 29 have been appointed by the team to develop the new city centre restaurant and work is currently underway at the former 'Passorn Thai' brasserie site at 97 Hanover Street. Six by Nico plan to create 35 new jobs as they expand their restaurant portfolio in Scotland.

Six by Nico Edinburgh will open it’s doors on Friday March 30th 2018 becoming the latest addition to the cities burgeoning restaurant and bar scene. From it’s creative menu concepts to outstanding food and service, the venue will aim to become an immediate hit with the people of Edinburgh.

The Edinburgh restaurant promises to be as eye catching as it is delicious. It will boast a minimal design, starkly contrasted by grand fixtures and fittings with atmospheric mood lighting. The restaurant will feature a modern design open kitchen on view to all. 

To make a reservation and to book now, visit