Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Haggis,Neaps,Tatties & Whisky

Food and drink in Edinburgh is world famous, and I am going to dedicate this posting to just that, by taking you into a few of the places that took our fancy. Scotland is not the place to go if you want to lose weight I can assure you! Firstly though, to whet your appetite, a short clip of 'Old Dollar Bill', a musical duo that played at our most frequented bar.

Scottish breakfasts are the stuff of legend. The traditionals are of course the full Scottish breakfast (which I shall tell you about in a short while), porridge with strawberry shortbread, or for those who need something lighter there is of course smoked salmon and scrambled egg.
As it turned out, apart from one room service treat, we never actually got to eat in the hotel because the restaurants were excellent and numerous.

The Scottish National Gallery

This superb gallery can be found at one end of Princes Street Gardens and, apart from some of the worlds finest art, is home to an excellent restaurant that looks out across the gardens. It was here that we usually grabbed breakfast as not only the setting, but the food was top notch!

Amanda either went for the fresh fruit covered in natural yoghurt with oats and a drizzling of honey or traditional porridge, a particular favourite of hers that she rarely has at home. I on the other hand always go for 'The Big One' when on holiday, probably why I always come back fatter!
The full Scottish breakfast, which consists of the following:
Haggis - Sheeps stomach filled with the heart & lungs of a lamb, either beef or lamb meat, oatmeal and various herbs and seasoning.
Black Pudding - Lots of pigs blood, breadcrumbs and suet.
Lorne Sausage - Six inch square flat sausage meat.
Bacon - Two rashers of cured and and very thick meat.
Fried Eggs - Two and perfectly cooked, the yolk just runny enough.
Mushrooms - Sliced and cooked in buttur.
Fresh Tomato - Cut in half and grilled.
Toast - Two rounds with loads of butter & marmalade
All rounded off with copious amounts of fresh coffee or tea.

The picture above is of me on our first morning in Edinburgh. We had arrived on the night that they have the huge castle firework display ( which I shall tell you more about later). This finished quite late, and afterwards we discovered 'Whiski Bar'. As you can see from my face, after a two a.m. finish and far, far too many malt whiskies, I wasn't at my best. Amanda on the other hand can drink whisky like a fish and was looking as radient and beautiful as ever!

The view from the restaurant window was magnificent, and the building in the centre of the picture above was our hotel.

The Whiski Bar

There are bars, and there are bars. Some are big, some small, some filled with all manner of curiosites, and some built just for drinking as much beer as possible...I won't go into the details of the 'Walkabout' pub chain here though.
Whiski's is just a simple and traditional Scottish pub, with the added bonus of having what must be the largest range of malt whiskies in Scotland. Along with this is a guy behind the bar who knows everything about everything to do with every whisky....alas, probably our nightly downfall, or should I say my downfall!

'Ardbeg', 'Auchentoshan 3 Wood', 'Bowmore Darkest' and 'Glenmorangie Nectar Dor', just some of the ones we tried. Names that conjure up all manner of thoughts of misty glens and mountains. Of course, if one is thirsty then there are numerous ales to hand, the one drank mostly was of course a pint of 'Tennants'. This was a pale beer that I remembered from my youth when going on pub crawls with mates, but hadn't seen for years, until now, and so occasionally I would intersperse the whisky drinking with the odd pint of this, unlike Amanda, who just kept the whisky flowing......what is it with the Scots?

Apart from what must have been well in excess of 300 malt whiskies on offer, the music was superb. 'Old Dollar Bill' were playing most evenings, and on occasion a duo where the wife played fiddle and the husband the small accordian.

On one evening 'Old Dollar Bill' were joined by three other musicians, one with an accordian, another with a lute, and the third with a fiddle...quite an exceptionally lively sound!

Amanda ready for a refill.

'Old Dollar Bill' setting up for the evening....and by this I mean that it is 10.30pm at this point!

Maxies Restaurant

Neither of us are supporters of eateries such as McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, and indeed would rather go hungry than eat at such places. We do however like to eat well whenever possible and as such will look very carefully for a nice restaurant for the evening. One such place was 'Maxies'.

It's entered through the narrow doorway from the street, and one is immediately faced with the lovely stairway down, which is flanked by either colourful cafe type paintings or stained glass screens.

To start, I had the Thai breaded butterfly prawns with a sweet chilli dip and Amanda the game pate with oatcakes. This was followed by a main for me of roast duck with spinach and fries, and for Amanda the chicken on a bed of smoked salmon and creamed leeks. There was also a side order of roasted ratatouille for us to share.......absolutely delicious!
.....and of course wine and coffee.

The Elephant House

This place has been around for years, and has a claim to fame because it is here that J.K. Rowling would sit in the days of being a very hard up woman while her kid was in school, and put together the first Harry Potter novel.

Amanda was coming here around that time as well, and may well have been sitting opposite her without even knowing of the author to be. She would tell me of her days when she lived in Edinburgh, working at the law firm Dundas & Wilson, and among other things, have what is known as an Almond Moo.

The view from The Elephant House window

An Almond Moo is a very large round mug of hot milk with almond essence mixed in and I have to say was simply delish! However, early morning and as usual I need something with caffeine in to kickstart me, but so glad she showed me the moo!

The Witchery

What can I say about this place but total indulgence. Located at the top end of the Royal Mile, this was a serious restaurant, with serious food....and needed the suit AND cufflinks!

It's entered down an enchanting walkway, where one is met first by a lady with the booking details, and then taken in hand by the maitre d.

The next two photos are the wrong way round, but this was us on leaving. The lady at the door had just managed to take the picture before one of the chefs came hurriedly bursting through a door looking panic stricken, and nearly bowled her over. Chefs running about certainly don't faze me as my father was head chef at many top hotels when he was alive, and I well remember what an athlete you have to be in that career.

The inside of the restaurant is just stunning. Crisp white linen, beautiful cutlery, gothic candlesticks and fresh flowers everywhere. The service was impeccable, as was the food. Champagne was delivered as we perused the menu.
I had the mini haggis, neaps and tatties to start, whilst Amanda had scallops with pancetta and garlic. The main for me was duck on a bed of curried pui lentils with large sauteed mushrooms and new potatoes, and for my wife roast smoked salmon with french beans and carrots in a hollandaise sauce. Both of us were by now pretty stuffed, but those darned waiters will go and bring the desert menu....blast!....just can't resist.
We went for the lemon tart with raspberry sorbet, and an orange muscat to accompany it, all in all a very nice meal indeed.

Deacon Brodies

This pub, again on the Royal Mile, is found about a third of the way down. Again, an old and traditional pub that offered us some very welcome rests (and beers) from the busy city. Always very busy, it was nice to find another pub that instead of being full of gaming machines and a juke box, has lots of people just talking, drinking, and generally communicating with one another....including strangers.

Angels with Bagpipes

I don't want to harp on a theme here, but this top place is also on the Royal Mile, and we liked it so much that we went twice.
It's owner, Marina Crolla, is the wife of the owner of the famous delicatessen Valvona & Crolla. She along with her staff made us feel very welcome and on our second visit we had a lovely conversation with her after the meal about  how she came to be here etc.

During our two visits we had wafer thin scottish beets with whipped goats cheese & barolo dressing, haggis with neaps & tatties, rare cooked lamb with creamed cabbage, speck, pesto tomatoes and garlic in a rich gravy. There was thyme roast chicken with stuffing and saffron mash, grilled halibut fillet with squid and mussel granolata, scallops with black pudding balls in apple sauce with an apple salad, lemon torte with creme fraishe sorbet and chocolate fondant mousse with Irn Bru sorbet and tiny honeycomb chunks.
We went for two of our favourites to drink with the meals......the lovely rich red Montpulciano d'Abruzzo and a quantity of Prosecco. It's a long way from the cheese and pickle sandwiches and flask of tea I take to work now!

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Wafer thin scottish beets with whipped goats cheese.

The rare cooked lamb and chicken dishes.


Jenners, the stunning department store on Princes Street, and on the fifth floor an outlet for Valvona & Crolla.....a dangerous place to get me. As I mentioned before, my father was a chef and as such liked food. Add to that the fact that he was german and you are now into dangerous territory. I was raised on salamis, sausages, pumpernickle, saurkraut, you name it...and it clogs your arteries! On this occasion I settled for some really nice bread to nibble on as we walked the city, and some coffee to enjoy the view over Princes Street Gardens with.

We didn't starve, and the mowing and hedge cutting seemed a million miles away, but at every opportunity we both found ourselves touching plant life with our hands and discussing how we might have planted something different. The next posting is going to be about the gardens of Edinburgh, both on the ground for real....and on canvas.


  1. Can one man eat that much food, a carnivorous appetite for sure. And little Amanda, a whisky drinker ? and more food and romance. I love the picture of you two all dressed up, lovely couple. I also enjoyed the band very much. Liked the guy playing his drums all over the place. Really too much fun for two people to have, very nice escape today for me. thank you, Gina

  2. Hi Gina,
    I do like to eat when on holiday, that's for sure. The two musicians were great fun. The drummer mostly used the cajon, and the guitarist sang while playing a mandolin like I have never seen before.

    Take care

  3. Dear Gary, Now, I have long considered you to be a man for your food. This posting simply confirms my opinion! I do hope that the first week back at work is not proving too demanding.

  4. Cracking gastronomic tour!

    Edinburgh is on my list of places to visit if ever I get on top of all the maintenance/DIY etc. over at this place, ha, ha.

    Those cups have Valvona & Crolla emblazened on the side. That's a deli I want to see, did you get there?


  5. Hi Edith,
    After eating cheese and pickle or ham samdwiches every day at work, I must say that whilst on holiday I do like to go a bit wild! Work is back with a bang...even working today(Saturday)....Ugh!

  6. Hi Rob,
    Great to see you on here. Edinburgh is an absolute must as soon as you get the chance.
    As for Valvona & Crolla, we set off for the main shop, but alas, arrived just after closing and we were leaving the next day and so had to visit there subsidiary outlet in Jenners instead. Still managed to pick up a few things though!