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Friday, 23 August 2013

Review - Angels with Bagpipes, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

It's that time of year again and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is in full swing. In need of a break from the stresses of our recent house move, myself and Nicola took our annual pilgrimage to the Comedy Capital to see popular Irish comedian, Neil Delamere. As the weekend approached, I realised that I had completely forgotten to book somewhere for us to eat before our show, so I asked for recommendations from my Edinburgh Twitter buddies. Within seconds of asking the question, fellow blogger JDRecommended in Edinburgh came back suggesting that we try one of his favourite places to eat, Angels with Bagpipes on the Royal Mile. After a quick look on their website, I was hooked, the food looked great and the reviews were very strong too. The only downside was that it was already Thursday evening and I was hoping to sort out a table with just 48 hours notice which is no mean feat in the middle of 'festival fever'! With a couple of well versed tweets fired off to the restaurant, they kindly got back and arranged to squeeze us in for a 5pm sitting. Result!
We arrived in Edinburgh just after lunchtime and the capital was already very busy. With a few hours to spare before our early dinner appointment, we spent the time wandering around the arts and crafts at the West End Fair, before working our way up onto The Royal Mile to take in some of the street performers. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival brings a weird collective of creative minds out onto the streets, all keen to demonstrate their hidden talents whilst pedestrians look on bemused. We could have watched the street performers all all day but before we knew it, it was time for dinner so we squeezed our way through the crowds and made our way to the restaurant.

Angels with Bagpipes takes it strange name from a beautiful wooden carving that is housed within the Thistle Chapel in St. Giles Cathedral opposite the restaurant. Artist Lex McFadyen was commissioned to create a version of the angel and it is his stunning bronze sculpture that dominates the stairwell that we passed as we were shown to our seats.

The restaurant is a blend of ancient meets modern as clean lines and sharp colour fill the 16th century Old Town building. When you are part of the Royal Mile, you are part of history, and Angels with Bagpipes is no exception. The restaurant’s courtyard is known as Roxburgh’s Court and it takes its name from a man called John Roxburgh. Happily for a restaurant business, it seems that Angels with Bagpipes is continuing a well worn tradition. Roxburgh was a professional chef who lived in the building from 1635.
Rather harder to explain are the paintings which were uncovered on the ceiling of Roxburgh’s Close during renovation work. You can see them by walking through the close and looking up to the floor of the Halo Room.
Most of the Royal Mile’s history is well documented but the symbols daubed on Roxburgh’s Close remain a mystery.
As we were eating fairly early, the Table D'Hote menu was still available to us. (This great value offering is served until 5:45pm) With a choice of four starters and mains, we both had no problem ordering something that would satisfy our growing hunger.

To start, Nicola ordered the Hot Smoked Salmon Potted with Horseradish Marscapone & Caviar. Presented in it's own little vacuum seal jar, the hot smoked salmon was flaked then seasoned, mixed with dill and some other flavours that we couldn't put our finger on ,then served with little melba toasts. The starter looked and tasted great however Nicola did feel that the accompanying horseradish Marscapone could have had more kick! In fact, had she not seen the word horseradish on the menu, she doesn't think she would have identified its flavour on the plate.

I opted for the Terrine of Chicken & Leek which was served with truffle, pickled mushroom and white beans. My starter looked like summer of plate! The contrasting colours, coupled with the balance of texture and flavour was perfect, whilst the combination of flavours on the plate had my taste buds dancing! The terrine was bursting with the flavours of roast chicken, leek and asparagus, and topped off with what I believe to have been a piece of confit chicken skin. Crispy chicken skin is delicious at the best of times, this crisp yet fatty treat was divine! (Incidentally, what's the past tense translation for a French word that is already in the past tense?)

With our starters proving a hit, we sat back in anticipation for our mains to arrive. By this point the restaurant was filling up nicely and I was even more appreciative of the fact that management managed to squeeze us in on this busy early evening.
As many of you will now know, Nicola is a fish'n'chips connoisseur. No matter where we go, if her favourite dish is on the menu, then you could bet your life savings that that is what she will order. Sure enough, the AwB Fish'n'chips with crushed peas and home made tartare sauce soon arrived at the table.

It didn't last long though as Nicola set upon the huge piece of crispy battered haddock and miniature bucket of golden chips. My resident fish'n'chips expert was hugely impressed by the flaky fish and crushed peas and after much deliberation she proclaimed that the chips were the 'best chips that she had ever eaten'! I did steal one to sample and have to agree that the chips were mighty impressive.
I had ordered the Beef short rib, spinach, shallot, carrot, peas & red wine, which when it arrived proved to be yet another visual wonder. This plate of food was perfectly balanced with succulent, tender beef nestled on top of the creamiest mashed potato and surrounded by a delicious red wine jus. Fresh peas, peashoots, sweet braised shallots and wilted spinach made sure that the dish had the right mix of tastes and textures. This was one of the best plates of food that I've eaten in many years!
So after two delicious courses, we finished off our wine and cast our eye back to desert menu. Nicola chose the Strawberries & Cream, gin infused Pittormie farm strawberries & vanilla panna cotta. Huge gin infused strawberries were suspended in a strawberry jelly and topped with a rich and creamy vanilla panna cotta, with grated dark chocolate on top. The botanics from the gin made sure that there was no mistake that this was a grown ups pudding.
When i first picked up the menu and seen the words 'sponge pudding', I knew that I was having a pudding. Sure enough, I opted for the Sponge pistachio & olive oil, apricot sorbet & nut crumb. Again, this was a proper adult dessert, with warm pistachio flavoured sponge pudding, which thanks to the olive oil, seemed to be a lot lighter than most other sponge puddings that I've eaten. The sponge sat on a thick bed of dark chocolate sauce and was served with an intense apricot sorbet, and topped with a good sprinkle of pistachio nut crumb. Once again, this was a masterpiece in taste and texture. The flavours were great together, soft warm sponge and nutty crumbs, sharp fruity sorbet, rich dark chocolate, this was a perfect pudding in my opinion!
The Table D'Hote menu offers two courses for £13.95, and three courses for £17.95. The menu whilst stripped back, has a enough choice for most diners, and although the menu is put together to allow the chef and his staff to provide an efficient service, (all of the starters and desserts are either prepared in advance or easy assemble at the time of ordering), you cannot take anything away from the quality of the food that is served up. We can both honestly say that the meal that we enjoyed at Angels with Bagpipes was easily one of the best meals that we have eaten, and it was definitely the best value for money meal for the high end quality that we were served.
Angels with Bagpipes is definitely somewhere that we will be returning to in the future, although next time I'll be sure to book in advance.
Keep up to date with Angels with Bagpipes on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 9 August 2013

'5 Questions' - Burger Meats Bun

The last six weeks have been crazy times. My sister wedding was at the end of June before her and her new husband emigrated to Australia with my niece. Then me and Nicola had lots of running about trying to sort out mortgage stuff, then packing before moving to our new house at the end of July. With the decorating, DIY, and the long process of unpacking all of our worldly possessions, we feel that we haven't stopped or had a decent rest in a long time and I feel that I have perhaps neglected Gerry's Kitchen over the last month so now it's time to get this show back on the road.
My head is full to bursting with information on a few places that we have eat as well as news on how myself and Nicola have been trying to live a healthier lifestyle by doing the 'Paleo' diet. I'll write more about this in coming posts, but first I want to let you know about one of the newest and coolest places to eat in Glasgow city centre - Burger Meats Bun , the brainchild of Ben Dantzic & James Forrest.
Burger Meats Bun first came to my attention through social media website Twitter, when almost from nowhere there were lots of tweets about a new burger joint that would be focussing on delivering the tastiest burger in all of Glasgow and due to open in the coming weeks. With my interest sparked, I kept an eye on the Twitter feeds, becoming more determined to sample the menu as the weeks rolled by. As opening day approached I made contact with Ben to wish them luck in their new venture as well as offering them the chance to answer '5 Questions' and despite the fact that the guys have been overrun with a huge demand for their delicious burgers and wings, the managed to find time to get their answers back.
So here's their story;
How did you get started?

James and myself have both been working in restaurants for years and worked together at The Michelin starred, The Peat Inn in Fife a few years back. We always talked about doing something ourselves and finally felt the time was right. We wanted to do something different and use the skills we have learnt from our ‘Michelin starred’ backgrounds, as well as the same quality ingredients but apply it to something more accessible and laid back.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

Be passionate about what you are doing and be prepared to work extremely hard to achieve your goals. Take pride in everything that you do, at no point allowing standards to slip. Surround yourself with good people and people that you like working with as well then treat them as you would like to be treated yourself.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

Well established as one of the leading lights in producing the best home-made, well sourced burgers and wings in the UK. It is early days so we are not getting ahead of ourselves but one or two more sites would be nice as long as the quality and attention to detail is not diluted.

If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?

One product?! Sorry but that's too difficult as we would say to properly experience BMB you have to have a burger, wings & fries! So it would have to be a Smokin' Bacon burger, Seoul wings & Thai Chilli Cheese Fries. Why?.... because they are all well tasty!

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

After much discussion and ‘debate’ we would say David Chang of Momofuku. After burgers, Asian cuisine is our favourite and our biggest influence. His passion and artistic approach is inspiring. The meal would have to be Bo Ssäm as it is James’ favourite thing to cook at home and the ideal sharing dish.

On opening day I managed to run round on my lunch break and grab a takeaway burger. The restaurant was very busy when I arrived but there seemed to be a strangely calming aura in the air and as I sat waiting on my handmade Fiery beef burger to be prepared, I watched as the waiting staff floated around as if they had been serving burgers to their customers for years!

Ten minutes later I had my burger to go and with brown paper bag in hand I ran all the way back to the office like an excited child on Christmas morning.

So was it worth the wait?........ ABSOLUTELY!! A huge well seasoned, medium cooked beef patty was served with crisp lettuce, vine tomatoes, cucumber pickles, with chipotle mayonnaise, a handful of chopped jalapeños and melted raschera cheese, all on a soft brioche bun. The flavour combination was fantastic, I especially loved the smoky chipotle mayo which added a real depth to the burger.

The 'Fiery' was one of the tastiest burgers that I have eaten, and now that my life is getting back to some kind of normal I look forward to getting back soon so that I can (as the guys said previously) 'Properly Experience BMB'

Keep up to date with Burger Meats Bun on Facebook and Twitter.